Three Poems from Alice Notley Week by hannah buonaguro


We went swimming in the ocean yesterday, and you couldn’t get enough kept going back in saying this might be the last time until next year. I said I have no concept of time winter will pass slowly but also so fast and before I know it, it will be the end of next summer and we didn’t have enough gatherings and they never drove down with their baby who they wanted to see the sea and I never got to ride any rollercoasters. Only finally we’ve made the Friday night fireworks a little more of a tradition and caught them at least twice a month for three months and that’s when sometimes we’d have a party or something would turn into one. I tell everyone to come over any time any time I’m home all I do is cook and write and think up ways to make money so I can keep cooking and writing. I almost am a housewife but am not quite so it’s good. But you know he used to call me wife in Hebrew, we’d only slept together a few times and he would call me wife in Hebrew and my friend told me the word came from a root word meaning “cattle.” And my friend that told me that was in my dream last night, I was visiting her and there was something about liquid. Looking back I’m like Jesus Christ what did I almost get myself into I never wanted any root word cattle associated with me and I wasn’t going back with him there it was easy to get out of because he had to go and I had to stay. But here I am in my own time—I mean why do you think I’m screaming inside? It’s not exactly that but there are other things. Here the vervain and other leaves and slotted spoons and words that topple over one another. We toppled over. We tricked something into being and it never was supposed to be. These decisions are lawless these people are monsters and I think it’s possible to have the pendulum swing the other way, as they say, I mean so many of those who think for themselves have platforms, it’s just depressing that it’s happening now but I guess that’s the result of years and years of repression and suppression. And even if it goes the other way it’s not like there hasn’t been price to pay, throughout all of this there are deaths and abuses and it doesn’t seem worth it but everyone keeps saying the pendulum will swing the other way. And I’ll need to switch and just find a lighter channel, or way to channel it all.

We’re all sad for someone but we don’t really
know how.

The coat is so big, it’s like another person in the room, on the seat with me, it embarrasses me. I was wearing it in the morning, it was cold near The Great Lake I mean, a Great Lake, but I flew into summer and it was surreal I felt like I had missed something of course, in a way I had, I never check the weather especially if I’m traveling. And it reminded me of the time I went back to Crane’s Ford and as I walked from the train, ushering myself toward the house, a parade of children in costumes marched past me. Could I be going crazy? It was a whole week past Halloween but, oh, I almost forgot part of why I’m here, the whole town flooded and my brother and friends canoed in the streets, we hadn’t done that since Floyd. Say something else to me, for me.


Eight summers ago he wrote to me after a weekend at Bernadette’s
I didn’t know who she was even though I could or should have, so I
Didn’t know to be envious of him there in the creek, her creek,
On mushrooms, I just thought it sounded fun,
Had no idea who the lady was who he was talking about,
Who graciously welcomed them all
Into her home into her creek into the creases of her words

We kept writing letters like that about our swimming and bike
Rides and mushrooms and woes
Oftentimes we didn’t even use names it didn’t matter all that much
I drew a picture once of a friend I’d lost—at that point just lost to time,
As my friends only were; not yet swept away in what seem now like
Waves of suicides and overdoses
We stayed in touch and I’ve lived with him ever since,
I half the time had no idea what was going on when I could have,
If I really wanted to pay attention,
But I never wanted to pay anything at all, you know
There were just some moments of course, a whole lot of them when
You see it all stretched out, where I would get transfixed and that would take me
Somewhere else and I might remember a name or title but certainly a feeling,
I can always remember feelings
And that seems to be on account of scent and other senses, so if I read a poem in a room
Or write one and there’s the smell of coffee and my neck is damp from rain and the
Telephone’s unplugged and I’ve just smudged the house, then of course I’ll remember
A poem like that as I’m sure you would, too
Like I said I was just whistling a memory


I was and wasn’t
Interested in what she had to say.
The radio got crazy this evening
And where is my tea?

When she revealed to me the fact that she actually liked me
My heart leapt, and I was happy.

If the post office is already closed which it is I just
Need to relax, forgive myself. There’s only so much
You can fit in in one day especially when you
Are bad with transitions, changing places.

Then this all got put off until later, until I got home….
“Hey what are you saying in there?” I said in my head
I was writing this and heard him talk in his sleep for what
Seemed like the first time but it must have happened before
I swear I heard the word “smoked” wonder if he’s thinking meat or weed.
It’s well-known that I’m a sleep talker and even wake up screaming or crying
And often experience sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, and wet dreams.
Once in Chicago she and I both had wet dreams above and below one another,
On a bunk bed at Isaac’s house, funny it actually came up in the morning.

You activate tomorrow, you sit there in towels, you bask in some
Sort of glow, I miss you right now.

He gets it, of course, but also makes sure I don’t get too carried away.
We both like the white heat of creation, getting into things for a while
And forgetting to eat, sleep. Dean is this way, the house that’s taken him years to build,
His chain smoking coffee breaks candy all over the bed I love that style he’s crazy and such
A twinkle in his eyes. He eats rockets we call them smarties here: one of my least favorite
Candies. I haven’t really eaten candy since I was a child I prefer fruits and chocolate and desserts. Honey is enough for me I do really use it for anything I wish to be sweet.
Turn around and off our washing machine moved into another room.
You knew that it was all shaken up. We had the house.
We had our stretch of time, wonderful mishaps. He’s just walking around there
Is the jingle jangle of the change but no words to accompany his question.

Did she wake up did she surrender to those sounds? Her own?
Everything I say is incoherent and wrong—you don’t need to remind me.
Sometimes I don’t have one drink and people think I’m drunk,
Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s seltzer water—I taste a liquor never brewed but
My mind is sometimes tippling the nighttime only adds to it, kind of like sundowning.

If you don’t know what it’s like
To have this be part of your body
Then I guess you just don’t know what it’s like.

Deprived of sleep, and (or but) I welcome you into my life please
Be in it and on it and around it, and if—be around if
If only. In sleep I understood you better, twin time,
We even felt that much alike. And
You could tell about the hell that happened here.

You said that because of your infrequent experiences with mainstream society
You had to hold onto that nugget of a memory—it was a lozenge you kept sucking on,
This exquisite and surreal example of the capacity to be totally merged with the interface.
I heard you and I agreed emphatically I couldn’t agree with you more, what a nugget.

And she is, and she was,

I othered myself while uttering, trying to understand you.

You don’t have to run, you don’t have to run.
Or maybe you do.

Lola is a doula now, and there’s no way she’d remember me.

She says it’s not so scary, she’s referring to something other than what I am
Thinking about.

Can you sort of care? Instead of pushing whatever it is
Deeper into the bowels of your consciousness.
Instead you outdo yourselves, chipping away at whatever integrity we had.
The vile rhetoric seeps into rules and laws and lawmakers of the land,
This land that’s been stolen, to begin with.

You have so many holes to match, voices to unravel
the telling of a tale. And Kerry says candle.
And when I’m out I can remember those feelings.

The green spots in my head get stuck, I’d have to get another one.
But I loved the way he examined my eyes and our banter back-and-forth.
And he wished me luck with Lyme and I ordered the glasses,
Always ordering glasses of something but in this case an actual pair of glasses.
Scooter, umbrella hanging off it, one if the tallest men in trench coat.
His head grazes reaches the top of the doors the doors slide closed,
Shut feels like onomatopoeia, you know? Like bang and clunk are.
I already predicted there would be more in my life thumb twiddling.
Yeah you, oh, I meddle sometimes and I’m sorry.
Sometimes it’s all I can do I’ve spent all these days alone out here, and it’s damn cold in this
Room as he snores in the other. I’ve been a waitress. I’ve been a witness.
And I’ve stood inside the storm.

If you take this ear can I come home? If you are in my bed can I join you?
I did and I held you not for very long because I was trying to cook us lunch.

Our worlds seem to be closing in on us, all that we hoped would open up is now
Shriveling up or being blown to bits, all ideas of accountability and reconciliation
We pictured in our youth are slipping away, seems like we almost
Had caught back up with history but then civility
Slipped right between our fingers now they’re all so far gone the words
Feel fake like from the lips of villains in a movie.

Jen called and was surprised when I answered, especially on the first ring
She just happened to catch me in a moment of re-collecting
Myself and my dreams, and we got right to it, enraged about the
World we’re living in it’s not that we thought we weren’t but with all
The information emerging we thought some people would be changing their minds.
No, instead they had their minds made for them, the society of the spectacle.
If we change being into having and having into appearing and we appear to
Be innocent then are we?
If we appear to be innocent despite horrendous wrongs committed, how do we sleep at night?
If we who have been harmed by these systems want to try to penetrate them
To change them, how do we?
Who do we make our complaints out to and if we want to make it in time to
The post office to send said complaints back to our ancestors and those that came before us
Urging them to seek a better way to live, but the post office is closed
Indefinitely, due to lack of federal funding well then,
Where do we go from there?

Word of mouth, word of moth, word of the month.

Crying babies
Seem most in touch
With reality.
(How many times will this
thought cross my mind?)
I am in no need of any more vessels,
I am so full.

I broke free and felt enthralled but later felt broken,
This wasn’t just some game where you get away and you’re safe,
It could always happen again.

I have you here your mothering is evocative and provocative so,
Yes of course I’m glad we met in the woods those years back just after you collapsed.

Oh back then, I wasn’t ready to hear it yet; she was still pushing
Me down stairwells and then we’d cook together.

I lend her money now, she struggles to
Pay me back I just wait patiently and it’s like
I’ve made money all over again when it gets
Added back into my account.

It is now like
Some demon inside of her has retreated.
Her life is less in shambles, somehow.
She is not selling her hands for money no one
Can speak of what that meant at the time and I was
Trying to support her in that work while at the same
Time trying to show her there were other options.

How would we be wobbly, you ask?
A dilapidated palace, like the palace in
My mother’s mouth—I fled.
I cannot watch something that alludes to these false rights.

More over than under.
Moreover, I wanted to use the compound word.

Should I end this poem with a question?

hannah buonaguro

hannah buonaguro (b 1991) is a poet and artist who lives by the sea and hosts reading and performance events in her home. she also hosts a monthly restaurant called ZAX in collaboration with Will Stewart. she has published two collections of poetry: time that does not tick and i can hear you all the way from today .