Caroline Crumpacker Poems




Water Understanding


What would be our understanding of form

            if water were a species of light?


There is music

both responsive          and asymptomatic

as if in answer to this question.


Atonal is not less harmonious but less registered as harmony.


            She would try anything         for love.


Psycho-jazz remembrance.


The way the saxophone lingers on

As if it carried the whole town.


Love in the same house is not love but domesticated biology.


The way it plays out my darling is washed out of town

and my darling is selling organic herbs

and my darling is on saxophone.


Today the boy next door and I said come on in like a wanton night

            did not affect the others.


The clarinet more mournful.


How do cultures use the voice or disaffect the voice?


Rape Man on the subways.


And mine says something about       strangers.

Meaning we must be strangers         on top of         everything else.


The ocean speaks first to our disarray and debts.

The river is just a little cameo.


He handed me a garden.

            The spark I felt.


At home we butcher it.

Out there in the neediness,   precision.


            Enter trombone.        


Wind instruments.

The ocean will eat us in due time.

The river is a little something of mortality

            I say like the ballad.




Small Fictive Devices: Family


1. Life in the setting of a 21st century City. A small life. A tapping. One woman living in a red building. Notice what she’s wearing today it feels so good. There is theater to modern cities. On the level of architecture and on the level of erotic encounter. She walks in. This is her real life. Meaning she has acquired a taste for it. She walks in. She is doubled over. No, that was the time before. She walks in rapt with contemplation of the narrative in which she has landed. Textual dysmorphia


2. One day the body is a different species and how does one configure the mind around this happening? Yes, little bird this is still your convocation.


3. The colors themselves invent. There is an anatomy to color, unavailable to anything but the intelligence of the colors themselves.


4. Bodice bit of violet candy. A name beginning with H, Henry, Hercule, Hector. Our fascination with flesh.  I gave my love a cherry. Cherry. Charlotte. Colette.


5. The psychology of the child. There waking alone is the first pathology, wanting.


6. In love understood as if eating a strawberry for the first time and saying “So THIS is a strawberry.”


7. Words are not merely a substitute for wordlessness; they are something else entirely. Or, to ask a more obviously psychoanalytic question, what exactly must be given up in order to speak?" Adam Phillips, The Beast in the Nursery


8. These are her first words: mama dada cat dog duck cow bottle sheep ball bath balloon more banana no apple that bubbles blocks door book choo-choo bird park bye-bye bowl avocado up home oh pool bag house help hi eggs the gas-station nurse baby hat hello high-chair please boys almond horrible.


9. Conversation ragged. Intimacy mutates with venue. I at home hereby withhold meaning. Sitting with our feet in the plastic pool, she asks me about my sex life.


10. Mix wet ingredients in a 2 cup measuring beaker: Add the wet to the dry and stir until just moistened.  Add extras, if you wish.  Spoon batter into greased or lined 12-muffin pan and bake at 325 for 25 minutes.


11.  Going to touch him. Without the support of the body. Without the contextual authority of her real life. Tap tap. After being ripped apart, the flesh cringes without the assistance of the spirit. She holds his face and is patient with the narrative she has landed in. The old story of atavistic form.


12. Her friend calls the lesson only partially welcome.


13. The Love Supreme. One bag of diapers. One tube of unpetrolleum jelly. One tube of Neosporin. One anatomical re-enactment of a week’s purchases. One bar of soap. One tub of wipes. One packet organic cheese. One pound red grapes. One world of baby objects twirling. One Chopin etude. One baby toothbrush. One box vanilla teething biscuits. One case water. One financial problem. One laughing woman coming up the stairs. One satin brassiere. One milk letdown. One bag cornstarch. Two bottles sunscreen. One small t-shirt. One pair of baby shorts. One lactation tea. One digital thermometer. One resentment against the father. One statement of need. One casual dismissal. One latte. One call to another mother. One bottle non-toxic bug repellent. One teething ring. One small telephone. One joint bank account. One act of transgression. One mis-spoken sentence.


14. Chinese verbs don’t use tense she finds in translating from Chinese to English. How does one remark on the life of the mother and the life before the life as the mother as two lives within one life, separated by time, she wonders?


15. Derivation of dada: rocking horse, double affirmative Russian, art movement.


16. Derivation of mama: me my mine milk yum.




Caroline Crumpacker lives in the Hudson River Valley. She is the curator for a bilingual reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC, an editor for Fence magazine and a contributing editor for Circumference and She was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown in 2002. Her poetry and translations have recently appeared in in jubilat, mem, Brooklyn Rail, The Germ, No, fascicle, and Logopoeia and in the Isn't It Romantic? anthology from Verse Press.





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