Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile

Episode 92: American Literature

June 30, 2021

This episode is about allusions, Slushies. How do poems gain dimension by relying on references? Where is that ekphrastic sweet spot?  Listen in as we focus on the poems of July Westhale. Under the influence of her work, we talk glass flowers, ghost towns, road trips, and snow. Here are links to a few of the references and allusion we make on the show, inspired by Westhale’s way of seeing the world:  This is America; “My Mother is a Fish”; Teresa Leo’s Junkie; and ee cumminings [i carry your heart with me]

 

With thanks to one of our sponsors,  Wilbur Records, who kindly introduced us to the artist is A.M.Mills whose song “Spaghetti with Lorraine” now opens our show. 

At the table:

Samantha Neugebauer, Alex Tunney, Kathleen Volk Miller, Jason Schneiderman, and Marion Wrenn

 

July Westhale is an essayist, translator, and the award-winning author of Trailer Trash, and Via Negativa, which Publishers Weekly called "stunning" in a starred review. Her most recent work can be found in McSweeney’s, The National Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, CALYX, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Huffington Post, among others. She also has an inventively-named collection of salty chapbooks. When she’s not teaching, she works as a co-founding editor of PULP Magazine. www.julywesthale.com

 

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Rotten Apples Return to Harvard's Glass Flowers Exhibition

 

What you have heard is true—

something rotten once got us

from our houses, from our beds

where what was there may

or may not have been.

 

Remember, my darling, my sweet,

that a blistered and blackened

thing, a thing representing life/

sin itself, was a cause for art.

Gave a man, many men,

a lineage of pride.

 

The moon rose tonight as usual,

no spore-filled scab. As ivory

as the cut belly of an apple

sliced to share. Nothing noxious

to point to, say you.

 

The world of museums and love

are, as it turns out, through the machinations

and designations of man-made things,

defined by abstractions: Security,

beauty, even, in our worst days.

 

One day, Blaschka told his son, yes

 

American Literature

 

for Joey

 

“the silver lamp,--the ravishment, --the wonder--the darkness,--loneliness, the fearful thunder” John Keats

 

There’s a billboard with the route 66’s version of June Cleaver, holding a pie underneath block letters HO-MADE PIES, which is how dry towns get their jollies, I guess.

 

We buy coffee in cups so thin the joe becomes us and we never regain our human shapes, and I say to you I wonder where they keep the half-bull man and you shotgun back I’ve spent my life asking that like the sharp shooter you are.

 

Who wouldn’t want to be the son of a bull and a damned woman

we are all sons of bull and damn

 

     you’ve gone West to find everything or me

 

and look at girls the way I look at girls who are bad for me. Like a desert

through slatternly windows. This is America: the big-pricked statues statuary in their old-growth knowing:

in the end--spoiler alert--we’re both after the wrong bandit, the bank gets robbed, the two women who should be lovers but aren’t arc their Caddie like a rainbow into the lavish vaginal canyon at the last moment, the whale gets away, Faulkner’s pretend mother doesn’t get the burial she deserves, we have to choose between Liz Taylor in a kerchief or James Dean with his shirt stuttered open, and we can’t---

 

moon moon

 

Now there’s snow on the ocean, which is meant to confuse us

and does, though not because we are unprepared for it

but rather because the sight of it reminds us

of the static-hearted parts of our bodies as they prostrate

themselves in years-over-yonder: exploratory attempts

to find warmth—not unlike a surefooted expedition—,

in the disappearance of everything ripe—now covered

with snow’s annihilating speeches—, in the blank stares

of our children as they amputate themselves

from us, in the cloudscape of come forgotten to be enjoyed,

on the snow of a down comforter at which we’d first begun

(circle back to exhibit A), in the cold expanse following

the question am I like winter to you, in the unspooling

that happens when we, I, I mean I play a memory

over again for the too-many-ith time, in the television’s

convex and prudish eye, in the snowy sound of over-use,

in the way empty feels like brain-freeze, in the brilliant

and nearly-neon white of the sign which mourns vacancy

even if everyone around us says off-season, says they love

 

the snow, the way it makes well-conquered land possible again.

 

earthling

 

You’d never guess it (oh, good, a game!),

but here we are many days without our bouncing

blue ball, our terrestrial ball and chain, our baby

planet—not even a note as it slipped from the rearview.

Now a footnote in a book that, were we on said earth,

a man would walk door to door to sell as a collection:

The History of Aquamarine, Abridged. But we are not earthlings

any longer, with no taxonomical replacement in sights. Stars

coronate the endless black, winging it, and here we are:

the most select, the most tourist. The most inclined

to shoot the earth for the moon’s moon, to go nil,

to bankrupt because it is the most American thing to do,

though America was left behind, no matter nationality—

only the home, the journey to and from.

  Let us not

seek solace from the callousness of quietude, for it is what exiled us.

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