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David Weiss

Kiki Smith

Getting the Bird Out, 1992

bronze and string 10x11-1/2x7"(25.4x29.2x17.8cm),

head1-1/2x6x1-1/2"(3.8x 15.2 x 3.8 cm), bird installation dimensions variable

Photograph by Sarah Harper Gifford, courtesy Pace Gallery

Getting the Bird Out

. . . to disimprison the soul of fact – Coleridge

1 Getting the Bird Out

You could hear it under the ribs

its flutterings wet and papery

Between her lips you could see it:

seedlings tipping their dicots toward the light

The shipping manifest the suede buttons

that last look over the shoulder: all that could be pulled out

Even the flywheel could be extracted

Without much damage delicacy itself would come free

But getting the bird proved difficult

For one thing the bird was a paraphrase

It clung like motion’s most intimate movement

to the principle of no-stone-unturned

Only when we gave up did it come out

It looked like no bird we’d ever seen

a gob of slag unheaped

On its side it lay the long red cord still deep in its throat

So many things its immobility seemed to say

were now going to be a thing of the past

2 On Broil

Onset with its per second per seconds

with its crude meticulous hustle

Onset exhilaration’s unsavory twin

that invades the definite article flip-book fast


whose mounted police line the demonstration route


that roaring tit that distress emancipator

who noisies up the lacerations

who strips of of its belongings

with its eastward-aiming

and westward-rumbling voracity

Onset and its magpie inroads

its sunset effusions

pouring out like the gospel of Job

lapsed and relapsing rolling out the patterns of pandemonium

with its brass knuckled and prowling epicenters

its mortar bandwagon

its furious fury-wilting curating

bursar of the bursting

itself homeless and perishable

luscious and heady as it passes through the turnstile

rummaging through the trash

for a boot to

kick you with when you’re down

to clog your throat with thick spit

to disrupt and foreclose on

our paradigm of governance equilibrium and care

3 At Egg

We have prepared my heartbreak

a list to rhapsodize

The irreversible in thee is what I revere

You have the toll- the doll-house to consider

It’s just me who wishes and reenacts

and wanders the house

Love loves to impersonate

So put some diminutive

in yourself some

liquify some groundwork

some believe

Calcium can be startled

just as a basement can be wooded

Has elegy ever been known

to decompose

4 Reverse Frosting

Say goodbye to my hair my anyway no longer resplendent hair

(which I’ll buzz cut before the die off)

but not to my head and its galaxies

in which you burn like a star

Say goodbye to my breast the left the larger one

but not to the rites of touch

Say goodbye to my looks but not to my lips

which still spell their wishes in a braille of tongue teeth

No more the frost of familiarity

I am molten molting

Say goodbye to my lips but not to my words

mouthed like an inmate through the walls of her cell

Say goodbye to the unlashed

but not the inward eye the deep-sea eye

where etymon sends out its nomad filaments

the pump primed for redefining

The books have been written Reread them

from memory Like me they won’t ever be the same

5 Another Thing Coming

Deadlier thing let’s scale this down

to torn luminance to the strictly dynastic

You’ve ridden the rail of motherhood

exacting of upheaval malfunction mutation

And those cow bells in your daily gazette clank obsessively

Headwind cross-hatchings are all your doing

Deadlier thing

all your atmospherics are load-bearing

all your feats of docility all our ointment and our joysticks

that you have gathered up will induct us

However misty in the pond-light of late cataclysm

you don’t neglect to pick up margarine and paper towels at the corner grocery

And if you misspell Byzantium or put a cold snap on the calliope

you’re our chief engineer after all

The work itself is ours to do

Redundance wears its royal robes

and the missiles are now so easy to make

No need to fear that we’ll recant

We love the small problems to solve

the logistics

It’s heartbreak still that breaks our hearts

6 Malady Transfusion

The short of it is: preclude precluding