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by Heather Christle


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Beauty and peril abound in new poems from this spirited poet

Heather Christle's stunning fourth collection blends disarming honesty with keen leaps of the imagination. Like the boundary between our sun's sphere of influence and interstellar space, from which the book takes its name, the poems in Heliopause locate themselves along the border of the known and unknown, moving with breathtaking assurance from the page to the beyond. Christle finds striking parallels between subjects as varied as the fate of Voyager 1, the uncertain conception of new life, the nature of elegy, and the decaying transmission of information across time. Nimbly engaging with current events and lyric past, Heliopause marks a bold shift and growing vision in Christle's work. An online reader's companion will be available.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819576927
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 629,357
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Heather Christle is the author of What Is Amazing, The Difficult Farm, and The Trees The Trees, which won the 2012 Believer Poetry Award. She has taught poetry at Antioch College, Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Emory University. She currently lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and this is her fourth book of poetry.

Read an Excerpt


A Perfect Catastrophe

To have stood midfield among the vast and livid green and never heard the grasses take their vow of silence is experience, not evidence, and meanwhile clouds descend

and buffer light. When did I arrive? I recall it came on slowly as a fever as a poem is a communicable please.
What's in charge here is the scattered light all over

and how it pulls my very blood into my hands until they graph a fat what the sun likes holding and some dumb mutter good and nails me to the bone.

In seeking to resolve a conflict between two parties
  one can assume each believes it is acting in good faith
  just as the hopeful gravel waits for your rough step

* * *

The only way to be truly alone is for there to be nothing

not even myself

* * *

In looping you rephrase after listening to what the person has to say

what the person had to say

and having the new words affirmed you wait and listen again

* * *

Myself the eager magnet for another to address

* * *

Maybe I should think this a spiral a loop that gets closer a loop that will not close

* * *

To make nothing draw a circle around what isn't there

* * *

I found a note I left in the corner of a part of the poem we rarely used

If you ever feel trapped
  it said
this is where to escape

* * *

But legally I owe you nothing I owe you at least that much

* * *

Like being haunted by the spirit of the letter

* * *

I remember my teacher's story of two teenagers who died in a blizzard trying to stay warm
  and the tailpipe blocked with snow

so I always check but it still happens
  just yesterday a man's young son in what the paper called one awful story

* * *

The light switch has a beautiful feeling when a person reaches out to make it change

and the warm quadrangles of sun on the carpet are beautiful too and red berries on the gray bush and the mail as long as it lasts

and beauty is what beauty does to you

* * *

Like trying to say a seagull inscribing a circle

over what land the day has thought to provide

* * *

to enter into agreement with yourself to lie but only out of love for the verblessness of buildings

They do not rise except once and then nothing
  how being is nothing and if there were a word after it would be a slow decay

* * *

I will love across any distance you think this has made to occur

* * *

Nothing so ruthless as a life

* * *

The day hangs low overhead and soon enough the new grass will emerge through the gravel

They have big plans to meet in the middle
  and in so doing to phase all this out

* * *

I go on
  say enough and it will blur off into sound
  look up and see that night has nearly settled in and darkness

and hope that if I look into it long enough and keep my mouth quiet
  when I look down again I'll find a settled word
  to which nothing is attached

* * *

Re: the day
  someone said
what doesn't kill you makes it longer

* * *

It's like footsteps toward you that sound for all the world like they forever move away

* * *

I keep forgetting I'm the smoke not the camera
  Then I see my dark joining sky to what's below

* * *

Like watching someone from across a river
  on such a clear day that you can see her teeth
  and at such a distance
  that you can't hear the sound

so while you know it must be screaming
  it is possible to imagine her faraway mouth

which you can see but not save

has opened — is open — to sing

* * *

After the collapse and before the dust settles
  the darkness billows and grows
  like it's describing itself to the sky
  this it says
this and much bigger
  but the sky in its sorrow
  has had to turn away

* * *

to expect praise for the beautiful apology

* * *

to imagine something other than again

* * *

Whether it is falling from a ship
  or plane or a building the human body starts its drop at roughly one rate

* * *

The book said legally
  thought the captain of the slave ship Zong
  to throw the people overboard instead of letting them starve would ensure compensation
  for his loss

* * *

And another has made the words to decay

until what remains is
  loss loss

* * *

When I go to the video it is paused close to darkness the place
  where I had last stopped and as I drag the cursor backward so it can start again
  I'm reversing into morning what was night

* * *

The three buildings in the corner begin a hypotenuse
  the dark clouds
— diligent — complete

* * *

The subsection of sympathy cards labeled words fail me
  on which we pen
sorry for your loss

* * *

The lights that come on last —
what were they resisting?

Or do they not notice as sometimes can happen

while the hours carry in the new-fallen dark

* * *

They say we have fallen a long way
  to the cold and planetary light

* * *

They say the bomb is a flower

* * *

A body falls much faster than the night

* * *

You will forgive me won't you for the lines
  I'm copying in I do not want to be alone here despite what I have said

* * *

And I have forgotten to mention the music

though it has this whole time been mentioning me

I will say it is the sound of a clock which has had all of its hours removed

* * *

The screen is dark enough now that it can perfectly reflect the facing window
  a corner of morning

* * *

And some of the lights
  they tremble trying to decide
  whether they can go on

* * *

Lights like pronouns for the buildings

* * *

to remove to go through to withdraw to slowly walk into another room

What is legally an hour?
The time it takes the king to fall asleep
  the melting of a candle in the snow

* * *

Hour like a jar in Tennessee

* * *

And yes I am afraid to be with minutes They have completely confused me

* * *

The buildings are a sort of interference
  how they stand and complicate the sky

but nothing interferes with the hour
  it is as they say
  a law unto itself

* * *

Maybe I should say that
  I am sitting in a room
  different from the one you are in now
and I am sitting at a distance from the screen
  so that the hour goes on
  and there is nothing that I can undo

* * *

Every morning the diminishing returns

* * *

And now the smoke echoes the roundness of the one building with a dome

the smoke in love and unable to do anything more than repeat

the words of another

so after I would sooner be dead than let you touch me
  it cries hopeless
touch me touch me
and then even that sound
  that shape drifts away

* * *

If I could get closer I could see the river
  reflecting back the buildings' light
  but I am placed here
at this fixed distance and the lights are fixed there

in the permanently imminent night

* * *

I know there are other cities
  other hours where you can watch the lights
copying themselves
  all neoned and strobe-hearted

* * *

I know all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusky death

* * *

Today the reflected window seems stupid
  and too bright

replacing smoke with the pale sky and the tree
  its bare branches a cracking explosion

no eye could resist

* * *

to justify desires with omens

* * *

to walk away before the morning ends

* * *

I'm counting my life I'm counting the buildings one one two

* * *

If you are in the center it means every edge you can imagine is the very same distance away

* * *

If this is my home
  If this is my screen If these are my books
  imagined companions

* * *

This is the city I can describe it
  black with power

an electricity
  forced into light

Vernon Street

At that time they made the telephone in order to say
  Come here I need you
  and nothing has changed except here now you are and I
  in order in the order that's arranged this child who passes now
  and answers an unheard question
  It means when your life is bad and you are dying you are running down a hill going
  and then the boy screams Next time I will live my life in alphabetical order Come here I need you There are ways
  to settle down There's an accidental light the grass is showing and my cat
  is so sad that the house right now divides us
  He is in the window crying but I am needed outside where I have ordered myself
  where I half expect your voice to turn me over
  and up there the quiet sky the plane is bringing noise to above my head and in it I need to show you this
  Come here come here


Today you find yourself guilty as the rim you split an egg against You press charges You spell out your name like the letters are medals for good conduct in a bad war The night moves in with you into your room until even your sleep is not your own Through the window the grass tells you to give up and you are trying but on the other hand things keep you:
the moon, the cars, cars You undress yourself more deeply down like this is the way to get to the future You let the darkness medically examine you So much can't be put back together To burn the house down to burn the house up It's the same problem in any direction You're matter You turn on the light

Realistic Flowers

At the dollar store I bought a bouquet of fake flowers and what could have been but somehow (incredibly) wasn't It only cost $2 but still that did not help
  I planted the flowers among actual flowers b/c what else can you do I was so happy I could have torn your head apart

I Am Glad of Your Arrival

Addressing the morning I say
it was good of you to come
  as if it were the sole visitor amidst scandal when in fact
  it has been endless with the trees and grass and cars and the cowbell someone's using as a wind chime
  in the winds just remnants of the storm that wouldn't stay
  I have thought to run away from what I own Who hasn't
  but what else do I have Where would I go
  The sky is everywhere at once like a big movie and though I think I know how it's going to end
  and with which music there is uncertainty enough to hold me still

It's an Empire Out There

I saw you walk past the window box and brush against one flower
  I saw you readjust your jacket saw you kiss
  Long live whatever needs our dying Whatever feeds us
  and then tells us don't exist


And This Too Comes Apart

People agree with sleep They nod into it but death they sometimes fight off until they can't
  and then from their graves they stick out their tongues

Good for them Good for the people

In the world I can see there is one tree still raining The sun blares around
  lights it up in lines alongside the spiders'

They have an arrangement a private design

When I'm arranged into a mother I will name my child
Incredulity and like it so much I'll do it again
  three or four or eight times

Stand up!
Good and straight like a tree good and stiff like the rain-darkened gravestone perpendicular
  to the quiet

Or sit down and make a nice lap nod Incredulity off into sleep

Enumerate to her the lines of the song you haven't meant yet


In every place you seem to end I have loved you

There was that small and dead and pink bird we saw

near the sidewalk with its smashed open mouth

a place to let the world in a way of not ending

I loved you so I had to crawl inside

Such and Such a Time at Such and Such a Palace

The lack of a single-word infinitive in our language is what is killing me

this morning
  A single word for all infinitives is what God is doing tonight

This is just one of many acts to have passed through the garden

Previously on this show they put a peacock back together wrong

after its demise
  Something there was in the syntax

Poor bird could feel it in his bones

Me and My Head as Pieces of Wood

Please accept my uselessness as a token of other letters


spells an occasional way to be feeling

There are limits
  These are

my limitations

I spin around I can't slide back to then

Flowers Are Also Letters

Imagine eating in one bite a rose
  or imagine eating gold
  manger de l'or
Do I?
  Do I ever!

Nature Poem

Yesterday it was marsh marigolds by the river with my mother and in the afternoon forsythia with Chris
  (he dislikes it)
and today it is grass again with ants departing
  or heading toward each other to exchange an urgent message
  Church bells are literally ringing and then oh my god the train
  and jesus christ a butterfly lovely brown with off-white tips and every now and then irregular lavender spots
  It's not necessary to write everything down

When a creature quietly tends to itself
  I am happy and by extension earlier I thought for actually a very long time about ants and the impossibility of ant masturbation

They do not love themselves enough They only love each other

They Are Leaving You a Message

[] for Arda Collins

What they are trying to tell you is you are wearing the wrong bra for your shape and situation This might not even be your life and in the midst of my thinking to tell you this a fruit fly has begun to trail me through the house as if I were its mother or as if it were the other way around and it always is and the house is on fire at some point in the simultaneity and I am leaving it to buy all the things I do and do not devour


They were erecting a conversation in the middle of the inconsequential afternoon
  like one of those unnatural flowers you drop into water and watch immediately blossom
  And then then what Has anything changed?
They were emigrating from one wall to the other
  like swans of ungodly proportions
  They were not so much humans as blood drenched with hair


Sitting in the tower munching clover with no roof
  with encircled sky a dark hole the quick stars infest

I need these stones to quiet me down I need the quiet so nouns can collect

The clover's a pulp
  as if I'm making paper lifting up linen strips from who else but the dead
  And never has this star clutch been so silent
  Forever have I darkly thee undressed

Not Much More Room in the Cemetery

I will lie down on top of the graves It will never feel okay and that is the point People beneath and people behind me with their faces and their little horns and the places from which they are shining I know there is something else that they have tried to teach me and I am sorry for all of the times I have listened and not learned it No I am not crying I'm maybe um a demon For certain I am waving this fruit fly away

As If No Light Could Warm You

A person in a nice dress

She moves into the shape

the sun makes on the floor

A nice dress
& it clamors

A voice says
I can take it

She says I take it back

They say before you know you want to move your hand
  your hand is already about to move They say in advance
  these things are decided

The box of cereal says We're so happy our paths have crossed
  but I do not think I am on one
  I think I am in a pathless field

The wind sends seeds abroad
  The most careful engineering Still these contrary gardens grow

They say it is hard to believe that when robots are taking pictures

of Titan's orange ethane lakes poets still insist on writing about their divorces

This is a poem for my husband on the occasion of Voyager
  perhaps having left our solar system perhaps about to leave it very soon
  They cannot say The message takes so long to drift to reach us

When the self-driving car wants to move it will first say so
  changing lanes
  changing lanes
  changing lanes

It hesitates it does not know it is lost or it has decided on always changing

I've heard the cat who may be alive or may be dead should expect to live forever
  progressively growing sicker and sicker

This is for my husband whom I expect to come home some time between now and the future

Let me date this very clearly This is the year after the year when people with cable began to pile Christmas lights into glass jars the year of evidence of chemical warfare clear or uncertain
  depending on where you live

One beast lives one grows sicker and sicker One dies one yowls at the door

Two days from now I will either bleed or not bleed
  I will remember

that four years ago we wed and asked for Divine Assistance
  though we neither of us pray to any god

This is for him on the occasion of the Olympian's indictment

They say he shot the one he loved
  Shot the one who through a door
  he could not see

None of this has been right but maybe a tiny electrical god has cut and spliced us together

And in this moment yes and in this moment no and in this moment all the lights go off at once and it is a bomb or it is a daughter

And this great sound replaces the others so I can hear nothing but the brightness of the field
  where I am waiting for the warm chest of my husband
  for its occasion and if they say a word now it would take years for me to know


Some Glamorous Country

In the war's geometry among the many givens the spaces of the torn away limbs articulate what
  What are they needed to prove

On the sidewalk I'm watching a full-length animation the trees made w/technical direction from the sun

We saw Batman at a matinee because who would bother to shoot so few so early in the day

It is not that my life has become interesting to me
  It is that given the terrified world how can I
  & can I resist

the things I have done in my name

In the Dumps

Just because we've broken my head doesn't mean we must glue it together There's other work to be done
  and dark grass freezing
  There is some old light to read by and large pink thumbs And with my head apart
  I think the world can get in easy
  This pound of dirt I'm holding weighs a ton


It is not that you want to be the one to make prints in the untrampled snow It is that you want to be in the snow without having touched it to be of the snow not beginning Everywhere commerce dictates the shapes that move you along that seat you at a table far from the snow far from the act of not touching It only gets worse A girl's gotta eat And your hunger's not even your own

Aesthetics of Crying

You meet someone and later you meet their dancing
  and you have to start again You like cat one
  and you like cat two and they do terrible things to each other

Once to celebrate a bad mood we broke all the clean dishes

There are pictures
  I'd like a portrait of an angry horse with his beauty and his fuming
  It's hard to know what you look like when you're mad

Crying's easier
    I have cried at times for so long that I have moved the activity in front of the mirror
            out of curiosity The information I gathered there remains thus far unused
    but let the record show my horrible face


Excerpted from "Heliopause"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Heather Christle.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
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.

Table of Contents

A Perfect Catastrophe
Disintegration Loop 1.1
Vernon Street
Realistic Flowers
I Am Glad of Your Arrival
It's an Empire Out There
Elegy for Neil Armstrong
And This Too Comes Apart
Such and Such a Time at Such and Such a Palace
Me and My Head as Pieces of Wood
Flowers Are Also Letters
Nature Poem
They Are Leaving You a Message
Not Much More Room in the Cemetery
As If No Light Could Warm You
How Long Is the Heliopause
Some Glamorous Country
In the Dumps
Aesthetics of Crying
Keep in Shape
Dear Seth
Poem for Bill Cassidy
Notes and Acknowledgments

What People are Saying About This

Srikanth Reddy

“'On the sidewalk / I’m watching a full-length / animation the trees made / w/technical direction / from the sun,' writes Heather Christle in her beautiful shadow-play of a book, Heliopause. These twenty-first-century allegories of the cave disclose ‘the dark uncovered places / of now becoming a then.’ Christle’s work makes that dark shine.”

Lisa Olstein

“With her first book, Heather Christle established herself as one of our most exciting new poets. With Heliopause, her astonishing fourth collection, it’s clear she’s one of our most essential. Smart, grave, tender, and fiercely alive, these poems vibrate with the hushed power of just-before-the-storm: magnetic, charged, eerily clear.”

From the Publisher

"With her first book, Heather Christle established herself as one of our most exciting new poets. With Heliopause, her astonishing fourth collection, it's clear she's one of our most essential. Smart, grave, tender, and fiercely alive, these poems vibrate with the hushed power of just-before-the-storm: magnetic, charged, eerily clear."—Lisa Olstein, author of Little Stranger

"'On the sidewalk / I'm watching a full-length / animation the trees made / w/technical direction / from the sun,' writes Heather Christle in her beautiful shadow-play of a book, Heliopause. These twenty-first-century allegories of the cave disclose 'the dark uncovered places / of now becoming a then.' Christle's work makes that dark shine.""—Srikanth Reddy, author of Voyager

"With her first book, Heather Christle established herself as one of our most exciting new poets. With Heliopause, her astonishing fourth collection, it's clear she's one of our most essential. Smart, grave, tender, and fiercely alive, these poems vibrate with the hushed power of just-before-the-storm: magnetic, charged, eerily clear."—Lisa Olstein, author of Little Stranger

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