Poems and Texts


Ali Liebegott & Ariana Reines
Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Vomit-colored curtain

A little ripped

No air


Screen behind the judges

The killers’ combed white heads

We’ve eaten our burgers & fries & smoked

It’s a few seconds and counting past 4:02

MAR 25 2019 it says on the screen

I read it thru bulletproof glass

No air


Like an old fishtank

A stack of paper passes hand to hand

On the other side of the glass

I want to call what I see an empty

Sanctuary, altar destitute of gods

But I don’t know

The language

I don’t know the custom

I don’t belong here


I’ve gotten used to not belonging

The last time Albertina was in court says Juliana

While she was giving her testimony

One of her parents’ killers fell asleep

Chelsea Manning is in Solitary

My mother is in Penn Station

I’m wearing a loose flowered dress and stiletto mules

I put these on to appease my grandmother

Who is dead

For once she despaired of my sense of beauty

My neck is stained from kisses

I’m hiding my hickies behind my hair

I have never seen a genocidaire

In person. We all look drained and old

But we are beautiful, auras of an undifferentiated

Curiosity, hospitality and sweetness, or we

If I am part of this are people who would change

For the better and have sought

To. And do. We’re the kind who are curious

To live differently. Even militantly.

For love. We’re the kind

Of people they killed.

And now the judges have taken their seats.

A litany of names I hate myself for not writing down



Violencia abominismas

And articles of the law cited monotonously

Occultly and ceremonially by number

The combed white killers take notes

When it is over a chant is chanted

The names of the murdered are repeated in order

We’re all crying

Everybody is hugging and kissing

I do not belong I think gently

Absorbing it all through my broken hair

But I wouldn’t have set foot in this country

At all if my family hadn’t been murdered & more

To the point if we had figured out how rightly

To mourn. We haven’t. Maybe nobody has.

I let my heart cook

I exchange one mourning for another

I exchange one art for another

I exchange one lover for another

And then another

And one city, one country, one bed, one roof

They mark me. The mark fades

And is replaced by another

Federico, Fernando, three Julians

I don’t know. I substituted myself

For myself a long time ago.

I did it already.

I abandoned myself.

I did it first, before anyone else could.

Two men are gently jackhammering a new wall

As if to give it the distressed look of a wall

That has been lightly sprayed by bullets

It is a new wall

It is a new wall

Squatting in the breeze behind a dumpster

One genocide may hide another

Spanish inflected with Italian

Jewish eyes and indigenous hair

New flesh from which the furious

Soul gasps, looking for food

Light without light

Time without justice

Like N’s mouth, wet but devoid of moisture

Some clock running backwards inside him

Like an inverse mouth

Then I realize he’s part of that same generation

And I am too

Like bugs in amber suspended

Between mass murder and a vicious

Form of liberty, where you can see yourself

And them guarding everything you do

Suspended in a jewel the sun deigns to pass through

A baby screamed as the proceedings began

And my heart was broken then

And there was no justice then

And everyone in the room knew it

Thirty thousand children at the border

I have a border too

I live there

My left foot suspended above the frontier

Gently, my dress fluttering

They read the names of the murdered and answer for them

Present, We are present, We are here

Where forty years have wound around the pit

A baby is screaming

Bizarre ceremony dispassionate litany

Mantras of reason, code

For which there is no code

Impoverished law

Like a ruined father

It can neither give time

Nor restore life and it cannot

Produce a single adequate sentence

And as for me and my protected speech

And as for me and the end of my line

Like a sun casting its blackness upon the ridge

Of a sundial at a slanting antipodal angle

And as for my belly in which babies die

My heart cooking like meat

And the black smoke of my heart

Whose weather parched the whitening ground

That gave no shade

That offered up to me not one relative

Not one

And as for me and my little word

My flame, one letter, one word


Saying my prayer

Hiding my prayer in a hole

Ariana Reines

Ariana Reines is the author of four poetry collections and the Obie-winning play “Telephone.” She has created performances and art projects for the Whitney Museum, Works+Process at the Guggenheim, Stuart Shave / Modern Art, and more, and has taught poetry at many institutions, including Columbia, Yale, NYU, and UC Berkeley, where she was the Holloway poet. Recently a Macdowell Fellow, a Dora Maar Fellow, and a poet in residence at the T.S. Eliot House, she performs frequently around the world. Her newest collection, A Sand Book, is now available from Tin House Books.

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