On Tact, & the Made Up World


Michele Glazer’s poems take on questions of being and value, exploring not just what is, but how it is. The poems trouble bordersbetween self and other, old and young, sick and well, stranger and intimate; between physical states in processes of decay; and between line and phrase, sentence and interruption, prose and poem, resisting the desire for something irrefutable with an abiding skepticism. 

      The poems are drawn to missteps in perception and in language, those fractures ...

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Michele Glazer’s poems take on questions of being and value, exploring not just what is, but how it is. The poems trouble bordersbetween self and other, old and young, sick and well, stranger and intimate; between physical states in processes of decay; and between line and phrase, sentence and interruption, prose and poem, resisting the desire for something irrefutable with an abiding skepticism. 

      The poems are drawn to missteps in perception and in language, those fractures that promise to crack open a surface to yield some other, greater meaning:  “What is looked at is changed / what is looked for is gone.” From this collision of passion and severity come poems that are strange and darkly beautiful.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587299087
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Series: Kuhl House Poets Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 72
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Michele Glazer lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches at Portland State University, where she directs the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing. Her previous books are It Is Hard to Look at What We Came to Think We’d Come to See and Aggregate of Disturbances (Iowa, 2004).

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Read an Excerpt

On Tact, & the Made Up World

By Michele Glazer

University of Iowa Press

Copyright © 2010 Michele Glazer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-58729-908-7

Chapter One

I didn't think much about what it was

Something about the evening causes the walkers-by to walk awkwardly so that the one watching watches to see if they might grow more graceful-

Is it the wet cold earth? Or something in the child's foot as if sideways was the straightest way?

The music is background to the children. To the girl in pink moving lap to lap to lap, lifted, snuggled, patted, slapped gently. When you die you exempt yourself, you take your self with you out of the trouble the world's in. There was always a face that loved that child.

About her, these, now, in their lives: small girl, old woman, teenager in a tight shirt; "Barbie," her chest says and there's a general stumbling up the tortured grass to the orchestral War of 1812. Because it's dark. Because we're brief. A bat flies over head, squeaking and tangled in no one's hair. As if it had consequences. Shortly even so the bridge lights up.


Out of the drainage ditch and something

of how the reed reaches makes the rag

of childhood twist, the piled-up voices

rising reaffirm the ditch.



the flows meet here and blown seeds from the road's eithersides and field margins, the undigestables birds passing drop and trash passersby flip out of their rushing side-windows. A wilderness of small animal carcasses moves under the water. Murk and dross inhabit the surface. Debris sinks. The surface inhibits reflection while floating oil reflects obsolete iridescences and the ditch-

the ditch in all its mergings and musings presents itself- an incongruous estuary.


You're sped past all this. Your father is driving. Your mother's asleep in the front seat.


Past cattails ditch-ridden to the place imagined is the place felt-

the fraught blossom, the naught and requisite inkling of something down there rattles you,

you are the only body of water.


Your mother slept too much and at inappropriate times. She'd nod off suddenly. She didn't look at you enough. She didn't see you when she looked. Invisible became a way of being right.


Trace is the scar itself and the finger tip moving over the scar's lip.


Some bubbles escape from the gassy heart.

What's down there rises, a fretwork of birds. The cattails gave birth in you to the feeling of loss before loss happens.

Gave you thus: the beginnings of a romantic imagination


and the reeds seen out of the passing window made a passing landscape but you were the one moving and where I want to go with this you went-


Debris seeks its natural angle of repose

as a word is uttered,

canted to topple,

as a word suffices,


when woe won't.

Every hole in the bird blind says

match your shape to my shape head to hole, your eye to what I offer. Sure enough, a duck

here, & over there no sky, no duck.

One eye to a high hole & the sky opens to wires, & the arms of high power transmission lines.

What little I know - the formation they travel in, the little they know of solitude or progress.

Another hole lets in a pond on which the light is failing. Ducks paddle around, & coots with their unlikely feet

churn water. No two holes connect. There are people who believe that

we the people are the people (finding among themselves inevitable friendships & lovers who are their destiny),

& find themselves in one continuous scene. I want to be that one hole, low in the corner

admitting only a few grasses.

If I remove all that is not bird, I say, the landscape will jump less; he says stain

is what I let the landscape do to me.

In the lava tube

Fifty feet down the walls are wet. Scott runs ahead trying the wet rocks out, not looking back when his fingers drop down a hole the light he carries. On his legs the dark hairs repeat.

An adult hummingbird weighs as much as a copper penny

his father said. What stays with us? What texture will fact have? His father left and the boy fisted two hummingbirds, crazed suns.

The precise weight of one thing standing for another. Ape Cave is what

ever's left. Someone will enter it, someone will make sense of what molten rock made effortlessly.


I crouched low at the hole where. Prodded it with a stick where

something resembling sodden feather, or fur, found in the wild crab apple the cavity-

Lumpen, the body shifts. Loose parts in side, no more a nation. No borders there is a trembling. The everything-inside has lost its place, loose parts in slide, a nation of refugees. No knowing how to move because it is flesh disturbed. Because it has weight it will shift. How shall the self remain, how shall it self remain, unheld? But held yet in the mind - and dragged inside.

Not where you found me but where you looked,

out of the switch grass blood rushes up -flushed

Bird you say, (the mark on its tail)

Bird, and not where the mind suffers its margins of attention,

here I am all but

(slim line of white, a mark on its tail)


The couple at the next table has just met so we surmise. I was going to say so we surprise. The woman is in her late forties, blonde. Her date speaks with an accent that isn't European. I sit nearer their table than John, across from me, looking over my shoulder through the picture window at traffic passing as the woman is explaining why she is cautious. Is telling her date she wants a man she can trust. She is wondering why some people oppose social normalities - accepting a behavior - I cannot hear into their personal lives. When I ask John for his answer to the old question: "what would you do with your life if you had six months, one year to live?" he'll answer "get divorced" because he still has an idea of happiness. He carries with him the spit-cup, the slick shocking foam from the infection that lingers where the cancer is. Extinction is heard from the next table is a drag. He is in love with Ann, another friend. We know what we don't see. And I want to hear more, I want to know more about that other life, the one that's not personal.

Worm, (to a rumor of lilies)

Ach-the gravitas of the hunt.


Digestive turned blue so the woman said.

Said, I write my own islands, and red, red.

Was urinary. Under the astigmatic lens of her naked eye she followed the tracts.

Looking at worms for a long time she said A worm in its lifetime moves short distances.

She knew to follow them. How?

There is the solace of repetition. I like to think she came to worms the way one

comes for the first time to love, because sight fails.


Sight fails, love comes. There was something I couldn't see. Its systems are vivid the woman said

(I saw that), as I saw that

opened lengthwise it tended to curl, closing its borders. She pinned it open.


Secretor of Casings-

if the brain is wired for syntax you are passion's syntax made manifest,

and now my surface is changed and looked at.


Now that what is looked at is changed what is looked for is gone, and even an ancient worm in suspension in its slender test tube of formaldehyde carries an air of something imagined. And the woman driven to dig for them, they're out there they smell like lilies.


Name: Oregon Giant Earthworm (Driloleirus macelfreshi)

Status: Federal Candidate

Description: 2-foot long, pinkish-white earthworm

Overview: Oregon's giant earthworm was discovered in 1937, when a live specimen was unearthed in Salem

Distribution: Not much is known about these worms, and the extent of their distribution remains a mystery

What smelled like lilies after rain curls back.

Everything is in there.

Directions to how it works.

What do you do for a shadow? Dark earth-

how touch draws out

the something that doesn't gather up readily.


I am not fond of it. Its eyes have no interior looked at straight on in uncertain light. It stops with two daily nor do I feed it more, nor does it fatten. Nor does it waste.

I feel I should like it better. Perhaps with affection it would grow on me. Attachment is curious, I should like to get under it.

I take it onto my lap, laying, first, a pillow there and my fingers on it. This I call the passing of pleasure.

Only I feel the presence of something. Human, a trespass.

On religion, war, nature, and the horse

John's unabstracted death for me. Or to put it another way, the idea took possession of him. These things happen.

A stone bench happened so I sat down on it. Flowers nodded around me with the requisite attention to spacing and abandon. Now I seem to be, and to know what it is to disappear, to want to,


my friendships seem a little ragged today. I should study nature instead. The horse, for instance, the further away it runs the more abstract.

Or the idea of the idyllic garden. A child in a garden in Lebanon whose legs and arms suddenly mismatch- Alarmed by how they don't connect burning flesh to burning flesh- If I turn the page now how abstract is that.

Chapter Two

That Would Be Whidbey

Would that be Whidbey over there? Stare down at the water long enough & the boat moves backwards. Would there be

birds on a ferry?

There would be words,


This boat is not for sitting or sunning. It is not for us to turn & dock anywhere. I came for something. Automobiles line up like the points in the argument while all the time were you thinking of pleasure? Turn your engine off,

cormorant, and that would be Whidbey.

Whidbey, if there are crows at the river. Whidbey, where there are stumps. There is only one way to get there: departure. But the river now

is jumpy in our wake, & loneliness attends me

like the printed dress that keeps turning up one summer on different women, (different colored hair).

Distances at Sea

for S. T.

I let my eyelids hover unshut like things adrift in case a ship should pass at such distance I'd see it; mine was a small boat.

My gunwales welcomed a wash of the smaller fish casting themselves sideways, flattening, clearing the sides

like high-jumpers in order to take bites from my legs. In that vastness they smelled my weakness.

How close the ships looked though I couldn't make out a single person on board at that -what was distance now

anyway?-only the dark shape rising from the surface. I thought they should see me.

In my body I felt as big. I saw many ships, many days, and then the one that, as I waved my handkerchief

faster, turned- it grew larger. The one who spotted me might for a moment have looked up and then beckoning his mate that a man in a flat boat was-over there

look-readjusted his eye to the scope. And he would go on looking awhile

for a man among whitecaps riffling like handkerchiefs until he was convinced that he had made me up.


mattrah, place where something is thrown, mat, cushion, from taraha, to throw; both from the Arabic.


John said it was a mattress tossed there by an angry sea and I said or thrown over the embankment from the highway above by some sonofabitch and dragged down there until we walked closer and looking down from a fold of land slightly above saw that it was a slab of sandstone unlike the rest but similar and beautiful now and then I said anyway, anyway, I didn't believe in an angry sea.


The role of kiss is to never swallow what it craves; not like the heart, nothing breaks where it falls though some one is left suspended until another's mouth affixes. I don't believe in- someone says and something ordinary comes next, god, or premarital sex.

The earthworm, locking its lips, takes in what it passes through. It carves- it craves- it filibusters romance. I am troubled by belief: the kiss repeats: see how it swallows and where it lands and then the other body bending so to catch it.

The rabbi is pressed into service

annually, on Ellen's birthdate, as every year the day passes she would have turned 14, 15, now 21, and we who are wrapped,

annually, in the gaze of the officiate who in perfecting sonorous makes monotonous the journey whereof he speaks, scatter, turn

our gazes to the patterned wallpaper or that vase of carnations and the drive-by rabbi

presses on, impressing harder upon us, the assembled, the undifferentiated living, the journey as he would

have us imagine it. There is the losing and finding, with assumptions of purpose

or ending at least where there is a bed for the body and a pillow to take

the impression your head leaves and briefly, briefly keep it. Rabbi

I am not wise, I am not lost.

It is not her journey anymore.

Won't you go home now Rabbi

lay your pressed pants over the back of a chair, and say a few words to your wife?

The least amount of stirred air a figure needed

She made floating islands-

didn't all islands float? There were equivalencies of ocean on both sides so we tried to imagine

what could be holding them up. On the backs of what? We were porous and watched her scoop the burnished meringues out of the glass dish while over there lit candles made the go-

round of pounded metal spin faster and the figurines on top make a sound that was not music but was like music, with the horns in their hands and their mouths open. How she could be that unhappy and not know it.

"I'll let you get that for me" is how my mother asked for things she wanted so that what she wanted was no different in her mind from what I wanted to do for her and furthermore because what she wanted

and what I wanted were the same we were the same. Years before I could parse her phrasings I felt her claim. "Do I like this?"

she asks now. "Have I been here before?" Now turn where, to what? And how does a candle burned low

make the go-round move.


Excerpted from On Tact, & the Made Up World by Michele Glazer Copyright © 2010 by Michele Glazer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


I didn't think much about what it was....................4
Every hole in the bird blind says....................10
In the lava tube....................11
Not where you found me but where you looked,....................14
Worm, (to a rumor of lilies)....................19
That Would Be Whidbey....................24
Distances at Sea....................26
The rabbi is pressed into service....................29
The least amount of stirred air a figure needed....................31
Beds of Clandestine....................33
To the better view....................35
The least part best....................36
Say the Unseen....................37
What so ever you....................38
Fungus, with Daguerreotype....................44
aperture with wings....................45
Your drawing of a horse....................46
She would have to do what she could do with it....................48
Green Animals....................50
Metonymic Sonnet....................51
To the rückenfigur....................53
Two Descending a Staircase....................54
Child and Woman....................55
Notes on tact & the made up world....................60
How, then,....................62
Part of which is remembered and the other part is not forgotten....................64
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