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Güneş Terkol, Desire Passed by Band, 2010. Better Homes, SculptureCenter, 2013. Photo: Jason Mandella.
The pavilion has walls of rug when I’m a knight with blood
Foaming out my chainmail so I lie down on my cot in the cool
Darkness and when I close my eyes the falcons alight on my page’s
Glove. I’m fine to die in here, chill seeping into my bones, cold
Spring like a Carpaccio painting.
I fold my arms to compose myself like a coffinlid
Knight, a crypto knight I mean a dreamer. I mean a man
Who doesn’t exist with his rock-hard sword standing up up forever.
Foy porter honeur garder. Since I was seventeen I’ve been dreaming
I’m the maid in a house, a wide house in the mountains, and I’m
A Victorian maid, a domestic, I’m asthmatic I mean
Consumptive like Chopin or Proust and I’m honest
And servile not artistic or cruel and not clumsily
Dressed. I’m ugly in the simple way of having been made
So by my servitude and not in the unsimple way of having
Pursued what I pursued as a so to speak free woman. Do you remember
The days of slavery. I do.
I am wan and dowdy and I sleep on the floor.
Once in the dream the house belonged to my father
And a man said to me in his Schwizerdeutsch accent And Now
That You Have Entered The House Of Your Father.
I remember the ice of a nearish glacier seeming to steam
Against the blue sky. One’s eyes grow hard and gemlike
In the Alps you know, not that I am from there
Not even close. Still. In the Alps even (especially?) the dullwitted
Develop raptor eyes. My grandmother worked as the maid
To a duchess in Warsaw while her husband was gassed at Treblinka.
Then the duchess died and she my mother’s
Mother had to find a new way to hide. Hide life
Is a phrase I’ve read somewhere. In a poem maybe. I keep
Wishing I were writing about tents, walls of rug,
Walls of yak felt, yurts, lying awake in my friend’s mother’s
Bed thinking THE TEETH IN MY HEAD THE TEETH IN MY HEAD
While my heart flared BIOS BIOS BIOS how could any woman bear
The rhythm—what it takes to sustain biological life.
I was naked except for culture like everybody else in my generation
I come from a broken home like they do and I hide it, acting serene
At the joystick in the command station of my so-called self
Except I try openly to hide only badly whatever it is I think is wild that I’m
Doing my best to reveal by not really hiding, though hiding.
A poet can be a permanent houseguest like Jimmy Schuyler.
A woman can be homeless to escape her homeless mother.
A white woman can get away with certain things.
A woman who does not want her spare thoughts to be consumed
By lip implant rippling butt implant wet tongue in the sushi
Flatscreeny gangbangs in a suntan might for example choose
In order to pursue with some serenity her for example let’s call them
Literary researches, surveiling aristocratically only her own pathetic
Machinations, like one of the dogs
Shaped like Nazis in a guard tower in Maus
By Art Spiegelman while a countertenor
And a sackbut bleat Wikileaks Wikileaks and naked men
And men with hoods over their eyes and zappers on their peens
Quiver in citadels in which we The United States hid them. Yves Klein knew
That walls are sad: made to immure misery.
That is why he designed a house made of air. We only write
Because we’re nudists but not the kind you think but also not necessarily
Not that kind. Art gets
Exhausted which is why a temple, the idea of a temple, I need to go to a temple
Every now and again and in order to have a home
I had to play a trick on myself which is that it’s a temple, this house.
In a movie from the Eighties a man from California says
My body’s my temple. Okay well now in my dreams of domestic
Servitude I receive small pay. I get to go across the street
To contemplate the toiletries in an Alpine Seven
Eleven. Salon Selectives, Prell, Garnier, or Pert Plus.
My hair will look like shit. I don’t buy anything.
I go back to the kitchen to fish out of drawers three
Iron candlesticks. The dark lady who rages over the family
Near the high vaulted hearth where I slave over a hot stove
In nothing but a dirty t-shirt like a Thai baby in a National
Geographic photograph all gorgeous in the mufti of my total deprivation
This dark lady can only it seems be communicated with by me
No longer the maid, but—progress—household witch
Earning after all a salary however tiny; horse-whispering its deadest
Most psycho old bitches, sweet-talking them down from the rafters, down
Out of tantrums unthrown, unthrowable by nobody me, the inverted
V of downward-facing liberty: when you have no choice but to try to have chosen
What you never, never would choose. Sitting on a bench at the end of my exhausted
Term like a regular grownup I pictured myself shampooing my luxury
Hair in some artsy shithole, mildew streaking the torn shower curtain
Lurching across the second expanse of poverty
My ruined imagination could manage: Well I guess I could join the Israeli
Army. Why the fuck would you want to do that said
Somebody else inside my dream head. Pretty much
Dead by the time they were done needing me as their slave
I started to feel kind of American I mean like an adult sitting uncomplaining,
Torso a plain physical fact over unquivering genitals,
Just meat on a stick with the vague sense that somewhere between lavish femininity
And state violence lay a mediocre thing called liberty.
Still, to be able to sleep at all’s a procedure of waking. Everybody
Has to live somewhere being that we are here where most
Of us are not welcome. Did you know transcendental
Homelessness was a thing. But I dreamed this dream
On a physical mattress. On an actual floor in a room with a door
That I pay and pay for. If you write you can forge
A substance that is other than the woman of substance
You are. If you do it to such a point you can find
Yourself declining substance altogether. It happens. It is a danger. But there will
Always be the idea of a bath or a sleep in a bed or a dream
In the head of a woman who is even beautiful visibly
Or at least groomed, or somewhat fresh
Or like that most domestic of bugs the cockroach
Dragging his ponderous suit of armor across the floor
Or clean sheets when it’s raining and I love you so much
And I think Gimme Shelter, which is a movie I’ve never seen.
Editors’ note: “Dream House” was commissioned by SculptureCenter for the publication accompanying the 2013 exhibition Better Homes.
Ariana Reines’s books of poetry include The Cow (2006), Coeur de Lion (2007) and most recently Mercury (2011). Her first play, Telephone (2009) was performed at the Cherry Lane Theater and received two Obie Awards. Her translations include a version of Baudelaire’s My Heart Laid Bare (2009), Jean-Luc Hennig’s The Little Black Book of Grisélidis Réal: Days and Nights of an Anarchist Whore (2009), and Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials Toward a Theory of the Young-Girl (2012).
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