BathHouse Journal

Lytton Smith & Evan Goldstein

 

Lytton Smith

 

High School Yearbook, Manzanar Concentration Camp

 

This is or not a high school yearbook from Manzanar War Relocation Center,
where Ansel Adams has been invited to document a production maybe
put on by the high school seniors, Japanese/American, “suffering under
a great injustice, and loss of property.” This is or not propaganda. Properties
carried about the stage and into the wings—a tray with the baked simulacra
of a latticed pie, maybe—and away. The practice of naming stage directions
from the actors’ perspective: stage left to the right of the audience, upstage
where the background surface is a landscape image of the western desert
reversing along a dustway, a solitary truck receding from the floodlights
which spot-beam the actors downstage in the yard, at the work-offer board,
by the wires. At pulleys. In the deus ex machina of relocation. The front
curtain is raised; a flash bulb goes off. How like a village this village is
with its observation tower, with Roy Takeno’s desk lined with books,
Miller’s Origins of the American Revolution, an Anthology of World Prose,
the Preface to Peace. Here, those who “want to look for a job” are told
“indefinite leave may be granted to permit you to go most anywhere.”
Here is or not the presence of other people coming to mean intimacy,
as in the intimation of a plot going off, the drawn sword that must be
used before the curtain drops and the children are again uncostumed.

 

 

 

On Empathy

For Brian L. Smith

 

“you are used to see war images broadcast live and in high-definition right to your living room.” —Alejandro Escalona

 

of this a guernica might mean the muting in blue drawn velvet
of the painting’s monochromatic gore might mean the tree fuero
in the basque village still there where a child could be taken
without a sense of scale might mean this bull is a bull this horse
is a horse might mean the matte house paint might mean
gernikako arbola the fractures the seeds might mean the
women&children always in parataxis might mean the itinerary of
a mural’s travel as the blasted square lingers quaint in its set back
village might mean pintoresco might mean cornstalks of
machinegun reap in azure-capped fields rooted with village
bodies might mean the weight accumulating of bombardment in
metrics might be a question of metics might be an auxiliary or a
show of the power to wield by force what cannot be coaxed
with the slight of hand of this a guernica

 

 

 

Partial Biography of the Poetry Book

for Craig Morgan Teicher

 

Sometime in a bar you answered
the point is to end up in the attic
at the end of time. Rafters and
dust and the taped box of books
in which is a poem—who knows
what about, imagine a nighttime
vigil, thoughts in the mirror; or
the way a turned bowl protests
an orthodoxy—still humming.

 

I disagree. Give me the hands
that hold the book. Your hands
around Jean Stafford’s spine,
not wishing a different ending
but wondering why. Give me
the book’s body, its gutters
and lines. Let what breaks break
now—hollow barrow wheeled
towards the following stanza.

 

Here the air is sometimes cold
& winter keeps us inside, away
from the forest’s anthology.
The crawlspaces want storage.
I can’t make of typography
a foundational mechanics,
or lift handles to lever a wheel
to motion. I can’t make green
a garden. I can’t sound

 

without the poem’s lines, not
held to the page but passed
hand to hand. How you pass
Stafford to me and I wish
my messenger bag weighted
with reading. And in the attic
at the end of time let the box
be weightless. The lines broken
between the ear and the mouth.

 

 

 

The CIA World Factbook

 

provides the major world regions in capsule version,
guide in which total area is the sum of all that lies
within American international bounds and water area
is a catchment for a fluid state of mind and capital
is only the name of a seat of government, the sleight
of hand by which the word languages part of a whole
and permits forgetting the actions of the other hand
of bodily corporations acting upon the world stage
where climate names typical yearly weather regimes
any number of a variety of situations ranging from
traditional bilateral boundary disputes to unilateral
claims of one sort or another.

 

 

 

In the Dark Room of Nineteen Eighty-Eight

after Bae Suah

 

“‘Of course I have ’89 to thank and ’89 only,’ Lei said, more drunk now.”

New Statesman, 3/16/2009

 

before the after the precursor
the body of the ayatollah
a small room housing an enlarger
I hate myself for loving you
and then a collective of books
in a sentence what matters is
precedent bleeding into result
and then the body wrapped
in a white burial shroud and
then coming late to causality
the way a memory does—say
Jimmy Carter telling the story
of being switched for shooting
with a BB gun his sister’s behind—
and then the shroud supposes
a flat wooden coffin’s joinery
the night at the Magic Lantern
theatre, supposes the Civic Forum,
supposes the Velvet Revolution
foregoing, this being the year
to come, the year before don’t
worry, be happy, before sweet child
o’ mine the year of the fatal crush
on the stadium’s terrace, the wall,
shootings in the dark streets,
the corpses bared for the people
by the army on State television.
And then a thrown image changes
the person who never retraces
the trajectory of projection.
The after is not the enlargement
nor the negative, the body tipped
from the coffin its resting place,
but the moment in hindsight balance
becomes unsustainable, the momentum
by which there a document becomes
larger and given to contrast: the ayatollah
falls out and the crowd reaches out
to him in the square the citizenry
scrambling for momentos and then
someone driving the cab of the future
comes within arm’s reach lamenting
the out-of-towners arriving at gates
after their being thrown open, hauled
down, the wall undone, the air waves
democratized and where were they all
back then and then approaching empty
flats, shops, roads as still as after
the man stood down the tank after
leaving his house on a simple errand
and before the flatbed-adapted tricycles
come to wheel away the bodies before
what some instant nostalgia on rewind
can’t find in sequence in the image

 


 

 

Evan Goldstein

 

Attic, Olympia

 

A condensing of things in a home, could
they tell the days beside them arranging
furniture, bones, a brother’s drawings

of birds. Paint swatches. Window shades. Heavy light
the northwest in summer. Crawlspace, glass cases

unembodied skins, snakes. Hole in the wall. Low ceiling.
Archive of shells arranged by color. Artifacts
or evidence of walking, having walked, slow, bowed

along sand to islands in sound. The count
of salmon nests in streams and the crescendo

of birdsong in the early morning, songs
counting, naming, each note itself a note
of colored feathers, the mottled white throat

of an ordinary parking lot sparrow.
This sequence of objects meaning to know
that they were there.

 

 

 

Grand Canyon

 

The procession stops on the plastic bridge
that separates gravity from chasm, see-thru
floor. Below your feet, distance draws

over a mile to the riverbed.
Sallow air collects
itself at sunset
and couples all
take off their sunglasses
hand their phones

to strangers:
the evening’s proceedings.

In this hour, we are who we say
we are.
You recall the time
in the living room

you sat, neglecting
to mention rain fell

outside, faces on billboards flashing
brilliant on the pale clouded ceiling

above the city.

You slack your neck
to gaze past the Plexiglas
floor. Below
your shoes, time, naked
water and friction.

 

 

 

Fishing The Gulf

 

The only living voice on the radio
in the flatlands east of the Texas line
is a preacher, alone singing gospel
from the open window
of the parked
paint-stripped car
in the shallow, sodden
scrub-grass.

A mile from the coast, rain washes
every scene. The family habit, summer day
at the edge of the gray unfolding gulf.
An egret edges to the colt 45
bottle clothed in a family-size Doritos bag.
Clownish mansions

waver beach-side
high on bowing stilts. Two boys
dip toes as they wait with reels
and watch their sister
wade in mangroves and salt grass, her long skirt
fanning to the water below the net she throws
out and reels back, dragging a crab she lifts

and sets into the plastic bucket
beside the boys
there in the low grass.

 

 

 

Bella Vita Condos

 

We have painted every wall in this new house

a bright Mediterranean blue, but when I look
at night in the mirror, the dark hall, the dog
in the yard, the yard approaching sea.

In bed imagining the ocean, too tired to walk to it. Two

of everything in an air-conditioned storage unit.
On cool nights alligators just outside the gate,
their long mouths long, open to sprinklers’ sulfur water.

When we all leave
our houses will we walk
through the gate

past new vacant lots past
dark foreclosed porches

to what’s left of the pines.

 

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Sundown,MaxicanHat,UT

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Lytton Smith is the author of two books of poetry from Nightboat Books, most recently While You Were Approaching the Spectacle But Before You Were Transformed by It. A chapbook, My Radar Data Knows Its Thing, is forthcoming from Foundlings in collaborative with the artist Steven Fitzmaurice. A novel translated from the Icelandic, Öræfi—the Wastelands by Ófeigur Sigurðsson, will be published by Deep Vellum in Spring 2018. He is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at SUNY Geneseo.

 

Evan Goldstein is a poet and photographer living in Woodside, Queens. His poems have been published once before in Gandy Dancer, a SUNY-wide literary journal, and his photography has been published on Slate.com and on other online news websites. In the summer of 2016 he received a grant from SUNY Geneseo to embark on a project crafted in the vein of photographers like Robert Frank and Stephen Shore, to travel the U.S., observing and documenting, in poems and photos, the lives and landscapes that make a picture of America’s social conditions. These pieces originate in that time, and in a month-long poetic correspondence with his mentor, Lytton Smith. Evan is currently at work on a chapbook, titled The Last Ordinary Light of Home, as the culmination of this project.