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

Sometimes insensitivity that fall-guy is caring itself

The hive the lost and found the ocean bottom all share progeny

all share an unrestrained unreserve

our postulate and our bounty

The circling hawk is unfamiliar with masochism

The marinade unfamiliar with impatience

Cancer with self-reflection

One after another the unspeakables fall away ruptured into harvest

O my fig partner it was henhouse lovely

the live demonstration of child time forward and backward

reciting the afterlife becalmed in delivery

The double feature at the drive-in all gravy

We still have the bill of lading

Unbearable’s the quid pro quo

mercy amerced

Our grape-cries take their place in the blackness seat

7 The Extra Mile

Sometimes you use your speaking muscle

Sometimes you scatter night like birdseed

Sometimes the algorithm sinkhole opens up and you stumble in

Sometimes you have to ask why there isn’t a state feather a state curse

Space-time means that havoc can’t be separated from translucence

grammar can’t be distinguished from classified information

The unbeatitudes are worthy of smeared mascara

The red shift with its awesome rpm’s carries us on

Sometimes when the bruises have gotten underway early

the extra mile is the only mile to go

8 Unelective Affinity

Cul de sac

with your grandchild sadness

you can’t outrun the moodiness of eternity

The clothes-pinned panties won’t align with the axiomatic

To be short-changed of one’s disgrace is a kind of amnesia

Better to thresh the dominant observation till it glows bloodshed

Cul de sac

arousal is a form of veneration a sacrament offered the abysmal

How timid the emotionally distributed how unoverlapping

No one asks the sibyl for a receipt

Middle age requires an area code and number

It’s please stay on the line and an operator will assist you

It’s book-living and head-dancing on the clash/embrace continuum

the gauzy givens flaking away like eczema

Middle age is a catering business

whose ballroom dancers resemble the metric system

Unkind the one who takes your arm unkind the one who doesn’t

It all comes down to abrogate and liquify

No redos cul de sac

no closing down for renovations

you must now pay list price

though the angels are profitable enough thrilling as fresh cement

Better to go down on your hands and knees

among the ants and their selfless reliance

No potato was ever disillusioned

Thought for all its carnivorousness is participatory

9 None of the

We said our goodbyes

to the action professions to the work-glad

to plan and pacemaker and cost-benefit analysis

where junkie malice neé wonder child is squirting lighter fluid

Build with similar

Build with crevasse

Build the antipodes of the republic

The ground rules: no one-dimensional sacrifice

no dejected doodling

no self-congratulation

Build from the phenotype

build from the startled roots

build with none of the. . .

First it’s May then June then it’s February

Crises there will continue to be

The forlorn leaves its trademark residue powdery as pollen

Where odometer and tachometer cross

goodbye will be just another word

spinning its web in the canopy of appearances

10 Unforeseeable Few

You structure the work by stringing it out over open water

Chaos is acoustic widowed by time and place

You shout your blab from the highest jewel box

and bag by hand spree and esprit and expiry alike

Like the shoplifter you take what you need

Like the paramedic you touch what you have to

No sniveling ecstacy No whining predestination

No eyewitnesses

There’s fog in the timeliness chamber

feathers on the entrenching tool

From the spigot no subterfuge comes

In the hive no schismatics

You feed the scraggly symmetries into the doodad machine

you undisgust the prefix you wiretap you miscegenate

until the Venus mosquito water-born

lifts its puzzle above the mirror stillness

already bloodthirsty

11 No Joke

And yet they come up to me moist diacritical pro tem

Leverage I tell them cash out yield but amortize never

Time abhors an anaesthetic

You have to go back to the fine print

back to when our hearts were in it

to glimpse lamentation unwrapping her skirts

back when dolphins in the fire tower drank from the dream sump

They call me plus one and sometimes unwarehoused

They come up to me insoluble credential frantic in arrears

If sheep are sheepish mice mousy tax taxing: what are you I say

Decision-making is best left to the uvula compulsion to the siphon

Pagination is surreal to the amputee

Procreation: glue-gun it on like sequins I tell them

At the speed of night some assembly may be required

They come up and call me unrealized music across water

The prolific have a bread knife ethos I say

Unhook is worth how much?

Quit is closer to quiet than acquit is to acquire

Latrine frankness strips the just war daybed of its goose feathers

They know and I know that to acknowledge is to sanction

that to inform is never informal

that out there up ahead are communion and the IV push

12 The Alto Clef Is Not for Everyone

Unhappiest urethra,

the sweeteners are graying the carcinogens nosy and gay

and the wind surfers of Bilbao lift high their crested vocals

Lowliness the Nuremberg solvent

won’t keep the headstones from dangling in the cross hairs

Chalking the body’s outline onto clouds won’t help

There’s no fretting above the timberline no central sting

In the birthing house with its votive whiskies its nudes and incredulities

the emulations of becoming elude all the bygones

Insurrection begins with the shibboleths