Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Great Loneliness, by Mary Ruefle

It's Zach v. Zach on Poetry Crossfire! today. A Zach Attack. A Zach Down. A spice rack of Zachs inside blister packs. Why so many Zax? Simple: if you're going to ponder something as ineffable and inexorable as The Great Loneliness, you're going to need more than one.

The pundits:

Zach Savich is the author of Full Catastrophe Living, which won the Iowa Poetry Prize; Annulments, which won the Colorado Prize; and The Firestorm, from Cleveland State University Press.

Zachary Schomburg is the author of The Man Suit and Scary, No Scary, both from Black Ocean. He edits Octopus Magazine and Octopus Books and lives in Portland, OR.

The poem:

The Great Loneliness
by Mary Ruefle

By March the hay bales were ripped open
exposed in the open fields
like bloated gray mice
who died in December.
I came upon them at dusk
and their attar lifted my spine
until I felt like turning over an old leaf.
So I walked on, a walking pitchfork.
From every maple hung a bucket or two
collecting blood to be distributed across America
so people could rise from their breakfast
healthy, hoping to make a go of it again.
Now this is a riddled explanation
but I am a historian of pagan means
and must walk five miles a day
to cover the period I will call
The Great Loneliness
and the name will stick so successfully
that for years afterwards children will complain
at meals and on sunny days and in the autumn and at Easter
that their parents are unnecessarily mute
and their parents will look harshly down
upon the plates and beach towels and leaves and bunnies
and say you don't know what you are talking about
you never lived through The Great Loneliness
and if you had you would never speak.
And the children will turn away
and consider the words, or lack of them,
and how one possible explanation
might be that inside our bodies
skeletons grow at an increasingly secretive rate,
though they never mention it,
even amongst themselves.

The crossfire:

Zach Savich: Once, in a blizzard, Basho ate his own tongue to show the pleasure of eating anything off a knife. It couldn't matter. The ribcage is large enough for bunnies. Loneliness  it's just them mating.

Zachary Schomburg: Like a dead leaf, I lay down my body, The Great Loneliness, across America, spread for killing the grass — all these children, not mine, sucking blood, their own, from my billion teats. To have lived through that, everyone's shared secret.

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