Poem Friday: Hera LIndsay Bird’s ‘Everything Is Wrong’ — a voice that hooks and tufts as it repeats and shifts

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Everything Is Wrong

 

Everything is wrong, I really mean it Isobel

Everything is wrong and love is wrong

I know you believe me

I know you believe me because I know you know it too

This life is changing me already

Running in the empty field behind the salmon hatchery

I think about you

I think about you and the green star of loneliness

Burning me alive

Isobel this life is a lonely life

& Billy Collins is still undressing Emily

Emily who?

She walked out of this life with white death streaming

She walked out of this life and left us her silence.

Isobel you are my best friend

Because you are teaching me to speak to pain

I thought I was mad at you, but I was mad at life

I thought I was mad at you, but I was mad at life

and what I couldn’t have of it

Oh Emily is gone, we never knew her

She wrote her book in invisible flames

And now the sun is burning and so are we

And the red flowers by the train tracks are burning too

I like to think of you somewhere far ahead

I like to think of you far ahead of me

What I say to you I say to me

I don’t care about subtlety

I don’t care about forgiveness or god

All I care about is looking at things

And naming them

The rocking horse rocking on the banks of the river

Animals in their soft castle of meat

None of us are getting out of here alive

 

 

Author Bio: Hera Lindsay Bird lives in NZ with her girlfriend and collection of Agatha Christie video games. She has a MFA in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters and can be found online here and here.

Author note: I wrote this poem when I had just moved to a small village neighboring a salmon farm, and was reading a lot of Dorothea Lasky. I’m still living in a small village neighboring a salmon farm and reading a lot of Dorothea Lasky, but a lot of things have changed since I wrote this, although I still dislike Billy Collins. As a general rule I don’t think there’s much value in explaining poetic intent, but I should say the Isobel in the poem isn’t my greatest Isobel, Isobel Rose Cairns. I tried changing the name for her sake, but it never stuck. She doesn’t have a poem yet, but when she does I’ll call it “ISOBEL ROSE CAIRNS” and emblazon it in capital letters across the top of the page. Size 30, Century Gothic. As Dorothea Lasky says: “A name has the residue of the person. So, in AWE, if I loved a person, I used their real name in the poem, because I wanted the residue of their name to carry my love with it.” I believe that, but I also believe Frank O’Hara when he says if you want to talk to someone, just pick up the phone and call them. The Isobels of poetry are very rarely ever being spoken to. Naming is usually a staged intimacy, like whispering all your secrets through a megaphone. Mainly when I think of this poem, I think of what isn’t even there: Billy Collins, standing wholly alone by the upstairs window, holding a suddenly empty crinoline and gaping like an asshole.

Paula’s note: This poem is voice — a voice that hooks and tufts as it repeats and shifts and insists and repeats again on the page. A skinny telephone wire of voice poem that snags and catches others as though it a party line. Catches the woman that may be real or invented; catches that love that may be fractured or tight as though this voice is wanting to strip away the artifice and games to get to the real thing, the intimate thing, the secret thing. I love the way the phrases reach you in rawness and bare bones, and then loop and curl one upon the other to make little flaps and creases where intimacy hides. Pain. Love. I feel like I am eavesdropping. I love the swerve of the final lines, surprising, challenging. Glorious.

3 thoughts on “Poem Friday: Hera LIndsay Bird’s ‘Everything Is Wrong’ — a voice that hooks and tufts as it repeats and shifts

  1. Pingback: Spotlight on: The New Zealand Young Writers Festival - National Young Writers' Festival

  2. Pingback: Is Hera Lindsay Bird a flash in the pan? | NZ Poetry Shelf

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