Supplice

Supplice

by T. Zachary Cotler

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Overview

Supplice by T. Zachary Cotler

Published by the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University

Winner of the 2014 Colorado Prize for Poetry, Supplice is the second installment in T. Zachary Cotler’s sonnet sequence that began with Sonnets to the Humans.These are amatory sonnets, but with love and rhyme tortured into broken and boneset textures. Supplice herself, the dark lady of these poems, is difficult to pin down with an epithet. Is she the angel of reality, banality, popular culture, pornography, uncertainty, or economic and environmental crisis? She has something to do with the history of cruelty and pain, with the devaluation of traditional ideas of beauty, and with the silence and science that have replaced divinity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781885635426
Publisher: University Press of Colorado
Publication date: 11/15/2014
Series: Colorado Prize for Poetry
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 80
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

T. Zachary Cotler is the author of two books of poetry, House with a Dark Sky Roof and Sonnets to the Humans; a novel, Ghost at the Loom; and a critical monograph, Elegies for Humanism. His awards include the Sawtooth Prize and the Ruth Lilly Fellowship. He is a founding editor of The Winter Anthology.

Read an Excerpt

Supplice


By T. Zachary Cotler

The Center for Literary Publishing

Copyright © 2014 T. Zachary Cotler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-885635-42-6



CHAPTER 1

    Who on Earth
    was this not quite
    if I crossed out, this not-quite-
    possible-to-say, and yet
    the only possible to call
    a life, so too effaceable,
    this last and first
    repeating endlessly, but all
    at once,
    like a book of numberless
    pages in a wind tunnel turning
    always the same
    page of first lastness
    abyss of light.

    Struck a chime of delta clay,
    first lastness of
    a lifelong day: supplice
    sans aveu

    that the rest is the fall
    from erotic noon into
    a simple Lethe
    that is not a river but a word
    he can't recall
    by the time the bedside
    clock reads 10,
    all the out-to-sea of all
    remaining time for him
    to follow one zero.

    This alien salt,
    not of chlorine
    and sodium,
    but of lust
    and indifference
    (a twilace veil,
    across a face expressionless
    except for a trace
    of the éxpress
    .5-truth of the statement
    "this statement is false,"
    blown aside) dissolved
    in Lethe falls
    from Supplice's eyes.

    A little heap of salt.
    The breath of two asleep,
    her hand on his desert
    face, his knee
    in the bight of her waist.
    A Middle Kingdom cult.
    The death that isn't deep
    is what millennia believed
    was set aside for you, oneiric
    white sand sun lagoon.
    An arctic meter melts.
    The rest is pillars
    falling two by two: she wakes,
    he wakes, he sleeps, she sleeps.

    And sleep inside inside
    her being time, waiting for
    escape from brittle, worn
    thin metaphors
    inside their matryoshka dolls,
    it's 11 p.m. in eternity,
    and it is a patience as future-old
    as space, what is necessary now
    within now within now,
    if any being any time is to escape
    from the smallest doll,
    a patience so extended
    it would remain after all
    waiting had ended.

    Naked to you
    at the end of a long blank hall,
    his clock face
    of surrender to
    beauty is terror to you,
    and if A=B, the reverse is true
    to you
    at the end of a Louvre
    stripped of art, misconstrued
    as a safe place in which to at last
    come true, asking why if
    beauty to him is
    you, the reverse is
    to you.

    When a weathervane spins at a constant speed
    in a wind disbanding a phalanx of snapdragon
    petals tossed spindrifting over your shoulder,
    petals as ideograms for yes,
    you may touch me but
perishing, bright,
    draconian parts of your sentience blow
    out of range, out of what you call
    love at a constant speed: a petal
    for telomeres splitting to telos
    and meros, a petal for Adam-
    strands warping with Eve-
    strands and thinner, more cháotic
    ideograms in a night's weft tossed.
    Wind over Belarus, wind over Boston.

CHAPTER 2

    What if I open this?
    door at the end of a huntress-
    gatherer cry
    at the climax of supplice
    sans toi,
antithesis
    pulling thesis by
    the line of finest hair
    from Delphi down
    to Olduvai — spears
    beating in common time
    with her heart, against shields
    of stretched hide — synthesis
    beating in time with his heart in his wrist,
    flexed, with his hand on the latch.

    What if he loves what's "perfect,"
    a word that has no sense (so
    the book is incomplete), but in the city
    of abandoned sense, by the well
    of perfect waterlessness, a sense
    gets picked up from the stones
    by a public that doesn't remember
    how angry it is (it is
    an accident to them, like finding
    a piece of money), how paper-dry
    and ready to combust from thirst,
    and the sense goes into the billion
    pockets, to be perfectly forgot,
    like the Eightfold Path and the City of God.

    Place in which nothingness
    grows like a kudzu,
    nothing to rant about
    nothing to do.
    Past the edge of that place,
         a faint quintet,
    a Schumannic rite
    he believed he believed
    he could hear, ear
    to her nothinging chest
    at night. Quintet
    of not having
    eternity, of not having
    consented to not having
    you, absent eternity.

    Supplice of desiring
    godspeed telecommunion
    without older intimacies
    slipping into disunion;
    supplice of desiring a cure
    for old age, for disease,
    without the petroleum pyres
    that power the laboratories;
    supplice of democracies
    without populations
    entirely philosopher king;
    Supplice in her Artemisian skin,
    washing her painfully beautiful hair
    in the last of the potable water.

    She tells him one night of her long dead sister
    Helen, not a woman, but a narrow-
    waisted, asphodel-bedecked Idea
    with pornographic breasts
    and a mouth that shaped lies into song,
    song abducted across the sea,
    but he tells her it's children's minds,
    not his own, that he fears
    for in this noise that shapes song into money,
    the coins that break the scales that measure
    the coins that cover the eyes gone blue
    from staring into hyperlinks. She pets his knee
    and promises this noise is amniotic
    fluid of utopia, when everyone will be her sister.

    Temple of Discontinuity ...
         a single night-long sigh,
    broken by broken
    egos and Is
    of a thousand nights, he
    turning on, off, and on
    a schizophrenic light
    in the lighthouse parapet
    atop his temple by the Sea
    of Sudden Discontent, the tide
    in the bedroom doorway carrying off the broken,
          curved
    planks of a thousand ships
    made of nothing
    more than words
    for all the thousand types of subtle heart
          attacks
    one suffers wanting "Helen" back.

    Hurt but to heal, to cool — what heat,
    what real but a fake
    touch, what pulls
    away like a craft
    sans gondolier
    the tide keeps knocking
    against the pier. But real
    when the tide takes
    away what hurt but what one
    asked to feel — what never
    but what today. White shirt
    but to strip
    as you drift
    in the breakwater craft of burning one's days.

CHAPTER 3

    Vacuum tubes from old TVs:
    void-marrowed bones of the
    alembic she supplies
    to transubstantiate a lack
    of faith into a clearer lack
    of need, a liquid so devoid
    of sediment, of particles
    of protein from the heart, that she,
    humming the tune to Vive la
    Ressentiment,
consumes
    all night with total calm
    the two-cuts-
    per-second pornography
    of this particular century.

    — that she can hold his head
    like John's from Salome's
    platter or Klimt's
    Judith's Holofernes' death
    after little death after death
    held by the hair — that she exits the bed
    without waking the head,
    leaves the house in its halo of lampposts
    and moths and wanders
    side-by-side with herself,
    arrives at the water
    and, lifting a platter
    of 32 Fahrenheit glass, talks a long
    time to her own death's head faraway in the mirror.

    The other shore
    garden of untended
    heartstems, forked
    succulents, tangled,
    a seine to trammel
    all intimate talk that
    crosses. The coin-on-the-tongue
    price of crossing is that
    he retreats, she repeats
    scores of times "system
    error" has lost
    his mind at a fork
    in aortic, riparian,
    intimal talk.

    Hurt but what one asked to feel,
    I will, so they wed
    with a ring of American rain
    disbanded by wind
    blowing newsprinted "CITIZENS
    SCATTERED BY RIOT POLICE,"
    along the waterline. Supplice,
    zeitgeist succubus,
    speaks English not
    to talk but to drop
    a drop in each void,
    each unplugged incubator
    lined up like world news
    monitors along the waterline.

    Raking lace
    at the fringe of the tide,
    raking with fingers
    the English and cutwork
    and French of the froth,
    with the negative black
    dwarf sun in her eye echo
    eye mirror eye, she,
    taking his fingers,
    English and Hebrew bones,
    bobbin bones,
    to lace with her own,
    said love, if you like,
    but
abyss of light.

    Wax seal and watermark
    and copyright protection code:
    so go in through the crack
    in the aft of the ark,
    past helot pugilists
    petrified in armlock
    in the secular dark
    of the 600,000 ton hold
    with CAUTION-orange plastic crates
    of Third World aid
    and darker crates of complex
    not-exactly-shame
    and pirate gold
    and pyrite.

    Open your mouth, he will see
    ailleurs (an elsewhere slightly
    more distant than elsewhere), where, if he
    forgets his Earth, he may found
    a city of rhapsodes
    who drink from their own
    calvaria inscribed
    with circlet arguments designed
    to fail to appeal
    to all the scientists of sadness
    standing with compasses ready
    in the dawn spliced with bone-
    yellow twilight on Earth
    and nowhere else.

CHAPTER 4

    And yet what Earth was this not quite
    ailleurs, this not-quite-possible-to-lure-
    into-the-possible, and yet
    the only fleur
    de sel
to curl at night into
    a Delhi, a Los Angeles, a Mengcheng
    cluttered with sleepers, and yet, for want
    of a latterday Chuang Tzu dreaming
    a butterfly wingbeat, the wind was lost:
    for want of a wind, the cycle was lost:
    for want of a cycle, the pattern was lost:
    for want of a pattern, the system was lost:
    for want of a system, Nietzsche wept?
    For a horse beaten in a Turin street.

    And when will you be here?
    Not until "THETRILLIONTHCONFIGVRATION
    OFFORTYNINEROMANLETTERS"
    is the trillionth configuration
    of forty-nine Roman letters
    picked from a bottomless hat
    d'ailleur at random?
    Throwing letters like rice,
    salt, petals, confetti
    of dire why-not-hope
    the trillionth isotope appears
    before his doom in human
    time. Someone's singing,
    languagelessly, in the next room.
    A man built a watch.
    His children were quiet.
    A man built a chain reaction.
         The quiet
    blown open: gate to the room
    of his thousand suns, our father
    lost in a continued fraction
         burst at once into the sky,
    staring into the inverse white
    square of light in the sound
    as it opens: he paces
    toward counterfeit dawn
    on the coiled path that, if drawn
    from the — room, extends
    to the end of the desert — wound,
    will empty him of a visceral fact.

    Thousand white suns sands
    in a grain of sight
    approaching blind
    at the rim of the blown-
    away night. He returns
    to the house of impossible work
    to abandon. One
    can abandon in
    the desert least
    resistance to Supplice,
    she white doves-me-not
    petals collecting
    against the door
    in a windy eddy.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Supplice by T. Zachary Cotler. Copyright © 2014 T. Zachary Cotler. Excerpted by permission of The Center for Literary Publishing.
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

Cover Contents ONE Who on Earth Struck a chime of delta clay This alien salt A little heap of salt And sleep inside inside Naked to you When a weathervane spins at a constant speed TWO What if I open this? What if he loves what’s “perfect,” Place in which nothingness Supplice of desiring She tells him one night of her long dead sister Temple of Discontinuity . . . Hurt but to heal, to cool—what heat, THREE Vacuum tubes from old tvs: —that she can hold his head The other shore Hurt but what one asked to feel, Raking lace Wax seal and watermark Open your mouth, he will see FOUR And yet what Earth was this not quite And when will you be here? A man built a watch. Thousand white suns sands Harbor hidden in the heat On a still day, on a fallow hill One x1000 ends to one FIVE A man came down from the mountain How near now to asymptote zero He took the book Needles and snow fall behind Out the cabin window, Walking over particles She flips from mock-irenic to SIX She took him to her gallery. Drunk on liquid capital, skipping, Listening yes, Video art or an ad Away from the violently quieted Vulturine zeitgeist The mask’s eyes: SEVEN Because there was— A neural fire becomes Where are we at the edge A bed in a windowless room. House on a seaport road. And that Ship of December American rain and French lace.

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