Thursday Jul 18

BehnRobin Robin Behn teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at The University of Alabama. Her fifth full-length collection of poems, Quarry Cross, is forthcoming in Spring 2017 from Plume Editions. Also in the spring, her new edited volume, a guide for high school and college-age writers, Once Upon a Time in the Twentieth Century: Unexpected Exercises in Creative Writing, will be out from The University of Alabama Press. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, she is a musician and librettist as well as a poet, and performs her "fiddle tune poems" at readings. 

The Writers’ Guild

And so it came to pass
that they embraced
a Project,

so that going forward
became, for them, projectile,
and “to be working” meant

to be in the process of carrying on with
the Project, a factory-feeling of
episodic dimensions and descriptions

capitulated in shifts, or fifths.
And they liked it, they liked it especially
with shifting terms or terns and/or a twist.

For one it was “The Preferences of Bark”
a years’-long accounting of what type of dog
ventured toward what type of tree,

and for another it was “Letters to Pharaoh,”
a homonymphic suite in the minor key of P, and for others
it was a book in the shape of a box that

eschewed yet embraced the
essence of box
backward which became xob or ksob or,

in one case, just sob, someone sobbing in a box
in the center of the book, a tear encased
at the end of an amber string, a bonafide

talisman or little girl’s necklace or bulging bookmark
or amulet of meaning boiled down past sound
to the material that actually bored them, just a bit,

except as how it proved, and was, their particular
Project, which the grant,
if they got it, would certainly assist them in completing

which is what they did,
complete their projects and look for another project,
anything but themselves as a project,

the project-of-self having gone
out of fashion back when they tolerated
being referred to as “new” which always

had made them imagine themselves as some insect
shedding a slightly gooey carapace it was outgrowing on
a slo-mo PBS film. They had emerged into

not emerging. But now they had a thing to do
all of a morning, many many mornings, until it was their turn to get up
in front of the guild to unveil the Project.

Some of the projects were youzas of
torque and others seemed full-swell like
the sculpted coffee and decanted carrots devoured

at the guild and someone had a Project,
it was Project of the Year,
of sorting which Projects were coffeeish, which carrotish,

and projecting it was catchy, you could certainly
contract it, it was industrious and home economical and
kept them very busy and kept the suppliers of pixels and soft-eared mice

and concrete berets very busy and everyone was content
if not content for a while,
their heads high rising Projects, and everyone knew

when they were writing what writing was,
the bliss of waking daily to palliated
parchment, embroiderings, pauses, doings, yowlings,

all you had to do was dip your nib
and find your hub, the way
I arose with Project! O my Project!

and took up The Sum Total Impression of These Projects,
while someone else, surely, was doing
The Project Years on Earth,

the dawn of which happened so quickly,
while we were dressing, while we were staring at
our lover’s sequences of flesh, blinking at

the order, the orders, of the light, breathing those
tiny documentable breaths and burgeonings,
the sense, overwhelming, of the sense of overwhelming

suddenly starting to set us free forth …

Opthalmic Imaging

[The orb, glowing planet, jellyfish, breast, cherry veins spidering from the center. After the Enterprise deploys the photon torpedoes, the alien ship-trash floats in space…]

Eye:                 I didn’t do anything.
Brain:               It’s dark in here.
Enterprise:       We did what we had to.
Lashes:            Next time we’ll be faster.
Eye:                 Good grief, I look like a breast.
Brain:               Be scenic and not seen.
Enterprise:       Mindmeld, argh….
Lashes:            Twenty. Something about noodles….
Eye:                 In my dream of roving over oceans full of dead swirling sardines
Brain:               Gross.
Eye:                 I turned into jellyfish…
Enterprise:       We are replicating a meal here.
Lashes:            Duck! Bats!!
Eye:                 For an eye.
Brain:               Shut it.
Lashes:            In our big centipede dreams...
Enterprise:       Close the hatch doors.
Lashes:            Tired of sweeping, Cinderella?
Eye:                 A film-end flapping on the real.
Brain:               What exactly made our thing through which we saw the other things become
                         a thing the others see us looking at?
Enterprise:       First contact and you blinked. Eons ago.