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Anni Albers at Tate Modern (photo by Steve Bowbrick via Flickr)

Nut

It must be nice to own
A strong feeling.
To walk about the towns and fields of Earth
A man of taste, a woman
Who lacks confidence
In the public and its institutions
And is therefore serious
About art. About line and color
I feel very little.
Textures make me nervous:
The trunks of trees,
The flesh of the octopus, its
Suckers, hair and horns.
What is it about the abstract
Words for feelings that bother me? Is it
The dailiness of ecstasy
Or the ecstasy of dailiness?
Rage and integrity, why do they stun?
The plastic tub of bluets
In my neighbor’s backyard
Embarrasses me.
Bodies embarrass me, as does the soul
When aflame, with grief or dolor.
A woodcut of the Magdalen,
Doughty and rough-hewn.
Though easily put off by feelings
I am not ashamed
Of my embarrassment. It is natural
To be petty about beauty,
To want to hold it in your hand
With purpose, and reduce it
To the size of a nut.
Trees in poems, especially trees
In my own poems
I am not ashamed to admit
Embarrass me.
It must be nice to live among them
Under a clear, blue sky
In October, my trees
Full of laughter and weeping,
Plagued by an idiom.
I do not envy them Poetry. Oh Lord
They can have it.

Adagia

Literature is an invention; it was
Written by men to praise war.
Economy is tragic; the economy

Comedy. What the heart feigns
The mind rehearses, circles
A river on the map, as if to say

Voilà! Now the non-linear
Has maneuvered the rational
Into position, and may rest.”

So we rewrite the old sayings—
That art achieves through effort
Ease; or that metaphor has

No prerequisite, like calling light
The data windows encrypt
And actually meaning it, right

Now, for example, to set down
Pen to paper, voice to verse
And claim that art itself is wholly

Suffix to experience, unheard
But not unheard-of. A universe
Gracelessly flashing forth.

*   *   *

Sara Nicholson is the author of What the Lyric Is (2016) and The Living Method (2014), both from the Song Cave, as well as a chapbook of stories, Mortal Tales (2018), from the Catenary Press.

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Wendy Xu

Wendy Xu is the author of the poetry collections Phrasis (Fence, 2017), winner of the 2016 Ottoline Prize, and You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013). The recipient...