To further support Action Books’ growing community of writers and readers, we’ve decided to launch a new initiative on the Action Books Blog. Selected by our editorial staff, a recurring series called Action Fokus will highlight excerpts from 12+ radical manuscripts submitted by poets and translators during our 2022 Open Reading Period. Today we are featuring excerpts from Ellen Boyette‘s BEDIEVAL.
A poem in four parts, BEDIEVAL dissects the condition of convalescence—its history, its subjectivity, and its manifestation of identity through language and objects. While suturing various forms, the surreal world constructed here offers no tourniquet or crutch; isolation plays out like a painstaking game of Operation. Clinging to materiality while desperate for intimacy, the speaker of BEDIEVAL undergoes the process in which, deprived of mobility, the female body learns to maintain agency by navigating boredom, eroticism, violence, and the surreal through intentional speech acts. Coalescing historical torture methods with contemporary technological anxieties, BEDIEVAL taps into a specific kind of anguish whose antidote is not collapse, but community.
[In this one the derision is milk staggered with soil and I am in question as intelligentsia bewildered in dust and frayed velour]
Bray did the colts as the fanfare was abrupt, the neutered dogs all lost to flowers and sellers of flowers gone to the graves.
Longing in this case being impertinent to the garment, I took out my breast and said in truth I was hoping for coral to crush into sugar.
And meant that a witness smite me dead on the scene, a witness of that to avenge the wrongdoing and an etcher of rungs to ideally go free.
I was not smote and caw did the crows for the gutter pastries aglow with maggots and eggs of maggots speckled with glaze.
In this one the wheel could not turn and the turner of the wheel lay down with the maid.
To him she said nary a man would buy a Chevrolet and he said yes the rain shall fall upon him yes she said the end.
In this one the women performed contortion and their spines became elastic, plaster fell and they made a very beautiful statue garden.
For whom would I lay my cherry on the tomb. For whom. For whom. For whom all the livelong day for whom.
No I could not be so wise as to procure myself a duplicate, nor carve my name to oyster marble, nor pull a tooth and bury it.
For that the verdict shall be no fewer than sixty revolutions of the earth to suckle the sharp end of the compass ‘til climax or death or both.
[In this one lasik eye surgery is considered as well as lingerie but the decision is futile and I am corrupted by a number of needles]
A black cat crawls into a bassinette and places its mouth over the infant’s mouth to see what the infant might do which is not much.
It is unfortunate what must be done with cinder blocks out a window or off a dock and yet they cost no more than copper.
You might recall I said a fable is a strategy and that ropes braid for those who make beds for stomachs pre-lined with pelt and down. Well.
In this one the flautist takes three showers daily.
The townspeople being made of saline and my production of saline being above average many townspeople must fall every day.
Idle leisure corrupted by a wish for cosmetic dental. Software hangs in my affective malware hence the timid eyes.
Sixteen blue eggs sealed in translucent orange. Scrip on the cover. Behind the mirror on the lowest shelf.
Fifteen blue eggs in translucent orange. Scrip on the cover. On the counter to the right of the sink.
In this one the cuticles refuse to re-seal and fruit flies occupy the ripe hippocampus.
I have been lying here a long time posed under an array of three pronged outlets and still the young men are nowhere to be found.
Cuckoo says the clock and the figurines of lovers and swallows coordinate a dance but soon must return to the hollows with their gears.
[In this one the nurse takes my height and weight only to find I hold controversial beliefs about sunsets causing seizures]
Horses come to me in dreams as broken limbs of the young men contorted and soldered and galloping through the valley.
On sterile tile green grout rubber caulk I prefer to fix my eyes as there are many moons until the milk spills upon them.
Till the slope of my knee’s backside does the farmer back in his cuffs for another day of fruitful labor.
It’s funny how I have always been in labor and always will be.
In this one the man who sells cell phones approaches the stand and confesses to x for we have all known a long time it was him.
In this one x is my foretold day of death in this one a stoplight in this one a saltwater tank with a glint on its base that is likely a crack.
It’s funny how ransom notes can’t not be about desire.
Whose symmetric appaloosa was bred exclusively to canter over my taroted hair?
To litter my Kierkegaardian hair with scissors cans tautologies birdshit and the like?
When the townspeople crave black eyed peas they lug out the town cauldron and tilt their chins to the sky.
When will I be led to the hive hidden within the willow to slide my hand through honeycomb and push the reddest button?
[In this one the obituary is a necklace with lettered beads reading SHE ALWAYS LOVED THOSE LETTERED BEADS]
Today the townspeople cross the cobblestones in bathrobes for holiday and I observe blithely from my eighth-floor apartment.
Hardened to cast I pass my sternum off as perimeter to cicadas verbena root to strangers.
In other words, I stopped dreaming of antelopes with fangs and got my shit together.
The premises are out sick with something non-contagious but embarrassing to the point of debilitation on the part of the thinker.
I count them like this: foreground ground background precedent cedent antecedent. A syringe could mistake me for a grid.
A vein could mistake the young men for my hinges the way they do.
In this one the cut braids fly at night like eels through the reef ribbons dewed with mil and ample chatter.
In this one the debriefing is inserted before insurance runs out and after consummation.
Is this a question I ask to the young men all of us in a dim lit room and swivel chair where was I. What was I wear who was I with.
My birthday was yesterday I will say tomorrow as they lay me on the table and the table lays no fruit.
[In this one macabre is pronounced mackabray and abruptly the large party leaves their uneaten plates to go clubbing]
Delivering thistles to hangnails I do—and to the prick of noon the grasses commit to fighter loons in cheek highlighter.
In nests of ball and foot they lay—in mauve and padded waiting tanks—in brush salon and AP Lit—in senate clips—in minutes lain.
Given the many positioned bodies on forest floor—given the fishing line—trampoline flip—given the hogs in pens
I summon forces.
Derelict of haute couture—decrepit euphemistic—the townspeople these days just can’t wrap their heads around it
Though their spines remain in candy cane. Napes occurring fetal. Meager
Babe—I prithee thee come hither. Wither which way the interstate
Congestion flow—thy skort is too whose pleasing. Thy choker chain & combat boots thy ageless youth to covet. In Ariana’s words
What of it? A gif to reclaim—gift in proclamation—Givenchy in rain. Without the I mine objects vain to pivot.
Ribbit. Ribbit. Awl the rabbit
Foot found on her isolated pack in woods. And that the heft of it—the heifer and the sow—sewn no—no tale saw lo. Yawn.
[In this one pistachios fall from my mouth—woodchips into the abyss—but of course circus critics pick lint off my back at half-mast]
Youtube videos being the bane of several elite sommeliers pitiful minutes I brine away vintage snuff films from 1938 to 1938.
Little cricket—little limerick—who made thee—so saccharine and apple toed—so pliable as age goes—so stubbled in the nodes.
I look for the young men in most beat up silver F150s and I couldn’t tell you why.
The plates get smaller and smaller every day and I buy glasses for seeing and glasses for drinking—pink rimmed neither no.
Pink rimmed neither no the stars the ballots no the shallow ends the holes well the holes well.
In this one I ask the young men where babies come from and they say I might be pronouncing it wrong.
In this one the livid gesture an inflatable weathervane that spins despite the gusts and the kids all say big mood.
A fortune cookie settles on its match—the batch being ridden with bad ones—loved ones—a gun will enter shortly.
Shortly I will accrue vibrations from the microwave and transcend this shrunken form.
Formed though no one would have me except those who saw themselves in what I’d done—here the loved ones enter.
Enter does the gun into the form—then back—then glassed into the coffee table—then it’s 1938 again I’m looking at you.
[In this one I have made for the gala the dawn dress down and the nematodes lithe like an anklet or an ankle or Febreze]
Sinister the dawn was though circumspect I became parented we though they has her’st to no end and no choosing.
Then cereal. Regarding the amount of milk poured into cereal. Regarding the measuring cup used to pour said milk into said cereal.
It’s exhausting I say to the young men as they stretch my thighs to bralette so as to gain that misconstrued I an inch or two.
Despite old age. Commercial preying on the headached for Botox and what say thee I say. Spake of thee the dawn
Gone unlaid. And what birth could come of it anyway. Fourth furred sister with middle part I do not claim. Hey— whose
Fortuitous bank card silked its way into this fettered palm? Night gone oh spangled— ethereal maid—get me to the brewery
Intrepidated. Bracketed though the income tax the severance the needle pricks my father cashed out his 401k and whose sister
Still got braces? Forgo this idle chase. Forget the cartoon laces angled floral through breezeways—take verandas in shame. In this one
The young men straw dolls made my Laura and Mary, Carrie and Grace in 1878. In this one the townspeople read fodder
And fodder in food network charades while father bathes the younger ones in lye and Loreal today. Tomfoolery after tomcat may
The dictionary say. Haven’t a nickel for the alphabetized though I much prefer arraignment to basalt, calico to deign.
[In this one the prognosis was clamorous movement about the cage to provoke regret in those who refused my request to waltz]
A house is worth its disassembled furnishings so I am the agent selling keywords of unique character. Occluding the factory
Grade young men in the basement preoccupied with scrubbing. I thus ring my own bell, open to stimulate
Surprise. No one will pay me with blue jays boomeranging off the French doors. Warranty makes itself known when holding a spoon near Oncoming water, I dance it with my other hand’s knife. I long for the painting that talks back to you. Mouth along the idle noise of debriefed Commentators on the war hairbrained. Rays a more competent limb, I step on the sun. A fly beneath whose stiletto, crushed though skittering still. The townspeople too. Bathing not. Out of sun for the remainder, I know my fault
And send the dwindling young men to penance flower gathering and pressing to. From the window, see them wilting. Will not
Reply, flip over in my sty. An apple for whimpering rabbits no short-lived comfort as addendum to stew, as when, on my I
-Phone, forget I’m eating. Envelopes and doilies litter the seductive aqueducts I can only read across. Wish You Were Here,
Belatedly, Mournfully. Oh serene even-keeled townspeople, in intermittent anti-social fasting am I
Really trapped. Because of climate unkind to meat heaving in wax paper, I will not call us We—
The young men and me. Still, seek thine phantom brazen company to stave away the evening on that which was bequeathed:
Humid apothecary twin-sized organ to take my shallow exhalations in plush. Commune here cyclically, in REM,
A handful of townspeople rush across my palm to hold me through it, though part my lips, they must, if only to step in.
Ellen Boyette received her MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Alberta Kelley Fellow and Teaching-Writing Fellow. Her first book of poems, BEDIEVAL, was a finalist for the Slope Editions 2019 Book Prize judged by Solmaz Sharif as well as the CSU 2021 Lighthouse Series Book Prize judged by Shane McCrae. Her work can be found at jubilat, Prelude, poets.org, The Columbia Review, Bennington Review, and elsewhere.