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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

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

Lovers eschew increments

They wash in the moonlight inferno embark on illegible assent

Purple flowers and yellow line the roadsides in August

as adoration with its publicists appears

Bury the caveats they seem to chant

it’s the comprehensive that’s incomprehensible

13 American Standard

If it were any darker here

everything would be kaput but the end —

that port of call which refuses to thaw

So: speak directly into the disruption

Demagnify above all else

and remember: some egotism is professional

some endearments involuntary

Time and materials are our m.o.

and the power to disimprison the soul of facts

Remember that night officiates at the embedding arena

but it can’t be everywhere with its ovation and its rubber stamp

That’s one thing I love about you:

the canopy of under things snapping their bright pennants

as in the open-air markets of Martinique

Everything has a beginning except the beginning

It’s so foggy in the bone marrow

Something big is in the works

Come with a screech and with your fishing creel

No one is without a disability and a wish to lay-me-down-to-sleep

Come to me without the comfort of wingspan or verisimilitude

Come to me like moisture like a bee from a steel barrel

Who else would look closely enough at the homunculus to see

its poor closed anus?

Who else crossing the blood-brain barrier would notice how

rambunctious porcelain really is?

15 Diagnosia

No skeleton’s incompetent no screw gun’s far-sighted

Hollow and holy alike grow lovesick and live

To forewarn is to unpredestine As if

There are no placebos beyond the sea wall no stoppers

Wrong to entomb the crest in the trough

Thus is it meet to unbutton the dressmaker’s dummy

meet to make sweet and broad that swath of parentheses

which is our safe house

meet to winterize the dreamers

meet to unloose the milkier among the ricochets

Debacle with its gizmos and its dumpster can always be found diagramming

the jackpot

So vote itinerant vote freshet vote eye-witness vote lioness

Where you are outlier the witch of restitution makes nervy footprints

Where you are the viol-like vials glitter like sequins

Prescribe therefore without proscription

distillate of thunderhead attar of punch line tincture of bucketful

16 The Assignation of Empires

We came through and took refuge in insubordinate spices

the bedstead submersed in lupine and childbirth

We knew heartbreak was heritable

that godsends imbibed our indiscriminating juices

Yet we dreamt the assignation of empires a life’s work

Carnations lined the parade route

even as we heard the disorganized ping the ampules breaking

hookworms outnumbering commendations

Nevertheless we normalized the disruptions

the human taxed beyond recognition

We’d always have each other we knew

and we knew that would never be enough

17 The Having Had

The November discipline touched only on the outer disease

The first illogic begot the beforehand we fell prey to the asterisk effect

Earlier when love was Boolean

you could hear it: thunder in search of lightning the preemptive yea

The second illogic dose dense all ricochet

It filled the acres with stipulations with unfinished tricycles

Doctors ago the local gods

were imperiled by drug interactions by a show of force

The psychopomp uncorked his shock wine for all to sip

Box cars uttered their archaisms

How often we said there is nothing to fear now

A tea rose mauls the lion tamer

It’s coming it will come in aerosol or liquid

By check or money order

the have had the having had

the way one might say how much or how many in schoolgirl Scythian

18 And of Course No of Course

I must work her in as a darkening speculation

as god and country quietly expire

Until then O sweet cat bacillus

bridge work I have you all to myself

here in the departure lounge

where morning is an automated call back number

Some ultimatums occur backstage others convey us

to the very edge of subsistence

The nadir gives a boost to everything

Defects may take the form of errata incunabula in absentia

Communicable is reserved for disease

Render unto reserved for uber alles

Short of annexation I don’t know what

to do except to say:

Exuberance demands it Rectitude requires it

Brilliance you undo me

Employee ID numbers and you-poor-dear

collide in the accelerator bowing prolonging

The field stones themselves shine up like searchlights

The clue is: no clue no self-defense no of course

19 Anti-Trust

Lost sister

gorgeous girlhood with your witchy servilities your histamines

with your spilled jimmies of imminence and pagan subtleties

you want to know where the “the” is in other

why the celebrants are standing chest-deep in the quaking bog

how to game the probability boudoir

Loveliest prisoner you want the heart that wonder bar to prise out

those long nails of I the numbing sobriquet

of me the hand-mown verge before the woods begin

The fractionals add up to more and more fractions

Against wrongful assent against the sweet of menace

against preciousness and painkillers

rage sister put out the moon

Pull the man handle of the one-arm bandit and watch the machinations multiply

History and the sky like tits and ass are your loss leaders

You are music and the instrument that can play it

You are metes and bounds

You are all that real giving a fuck

countersunk among the coordinates of immersion in time

20 Up to and Including

Beautiful bygone puddle

should it matter that you came out of the softest rock

Should it matter that by molten fiat iridescence was hushed up

The sieve has its own conflict of interest

Deprived of decoys how much misgiving can the silent partner bear

Hunger and disgust are so exorbitant

Ardor is as qualified to represent us as the two-party system

This is a witch hunt for those who don’t believe in witches

Ready or not we are overtaken amid the oxygen tanks the waiting rooms

Breathing out: rudimentary as an empty bushel basket

Breathing in: caramel and blood counts

The lovely bare bones lie in a puddle

Should it matter that no one comes out of this unscathed

21 Ontogeny of Hartford

Who dispenses the cold wears the mask

plays the wanderlust legato pawns the knickknacks

undoes the formulas for obedience in the name of obedience

presses the plunger

Who baptizes in creosote becalms black powder

repatriates the cartwheel

uncompresses the mustang into a jeremiad of wind shift and candelabra

Who patinas womanliness with angularities who oils angularity with provocation

makes oblivion feel churlish rebukes punctuation for its cautions

Jacks and eights pluck at the non-equivalence of odds and ends

like a harpist among the Israelites

Who gives the cold its chill bequeaths to us referendum after referendum

and rides the leukocytes down where the sugar tit is unpracticed but electric

Impenitent the grounders up the middle prolific the bootstrap glad the leapfrog

Who cubes the waters breaks spectator into turbines battens melody onto


Let overstep trump originate

Resonate and cleanse unprepossess the white caps take pleasure in the lap dance of


Stitch and unstitch it’s all the same zig-zag reallies like tolling and extolling

As for godliness let’s let that be something between a bear and its beechnuts

22 Insofar

She was at lymph

when it happened: conquest

When it happened: nightingale

she was at image

Extant the apogee that arose

Co-extensive the vows the avowels

She was at insofar so very soon

She was whomsoever

She was: Dear Sir or Madam To Whom It May Concern

turned inside out

When it happened: Hesperides

she was at blueprint at deviate at raucous

So many others there too at herald at inflation at obituary

when the absentee guarantor happened: match point

Adagio nevertheless far be it from she was at unraveling

when it happened: syzygy

Impartial was the air above the scene at Mt. Olive

She was at jet create she could speak to anyone

It kept happening: effusion

The extent: nothing less than kit and caboodle

23 The Least Bird

The mortician says: do only what you can live with

Solve for X Solve for guilt

All of us together have not figured this out

here in the dock amid the opening statements

An injury to the air bears on the fleetest emotion

An injury to the hearth numbs the furthest wanderer

So take hold of my hand even as I once took hold of yours

Here now is our nowhere Our nowhere else

On death ground among the great and the least

as among the brilliant birds and white grubs of Hawaii

we will have stood

Solve for beauty Solve for fate

The mortician says:

nothing is ever the same as they say it was

If you love you are a collaborator

If you are bound by you are a collaborator

Without the forest no furnace

Without details no immersion

You may forget but you will never be done with

Injury to the equal sign illuminates the beginning and the end

What you have given me somber precursor

you would give anyone

How long it’s taken to realize

that blame means: I am in your power

This phantom pain

in a limb that never was may not be you after all

Solve for absolution Solve for hurt

Solve for the least bird


Hole in the Head Review: The Committee of the Whole


David Weiss has published five collections of poems: The Fourth Part of the World (Ohio State University Press), Gnomon (Wolf at the Door Press), Perfect Crime (Nine Mile Press, 2017), Per Diem (Tiger Bark Press, 2019), and Little Mirror (Lynx House, 2021), and one forthcoming from Tiger Bark, No One Sleeps Tonight, and one novel, The Mensch (1998). He co-edited The Poet’s Notebook (W.W. Norton) and his essays, translations, and poems have appeared in The Atlantic, Parnassus, The New Yorker, Iowa Review, North American Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, Crazyhorse, and Ploughshares, among others. He was editor of Seneca Review for many years and taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.


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