Poetry Suite by Annelyse Gelman

Editor Carrie Ivy, Poetry, October 14th, 2013

Better to assume the impossible jewelry of love...

annelyse gelman poetry suite


Dear Matthew,
Yesterday I received another of your postcards
adorned with a perfectly round tree, laminated
against the rain. Greetings from the bottom
of the world
—they have weather stations
everywhere these days. The coldest day of the year
was warmer than I expected. I have forgotten
the order of seasons, traced your name in the sky
to watch the mist unwrite it. You must have seen this
coming, the letters you’d send me, the silence
I’d return.

………………Dear Matthew,
…………………………………..There is a puddle
in the center of the suburbs. It stays there all
summer, never gets any smaller. When I was
smaller, I thought it was an ocean. I still can’t tell
if the clouds move faster there or if we just had more
time to watch them. For a long time, I didn’t think
clouds moved at all, just hung in the sky like portraits
on a wall.

……………..Dear Matthew,
……………………………….The painters missed
a spot in the living room. A small square, white
on the off-white, as if something worth looking at
was once suspended here. You are what you can get
or get away with. I didn’t want to leave anything behind.
This is not the first letter I will not send to you.

Dear Matthew,
…………………In 1769, James Cook mapped the entire
coastline of New Zealand. The spire of the Empire
State Building was originally constructed to serve
as a mooring mast for airships. Niels Bohr was once
a professional soccer player. In one of Teller’s magic
tricks, he cuts the shadow of a rose with the shadow
of a knife, and the real flower’s petals fall to the ground.
I’ve watched it for years. I still don’t know how it’s done.

+ + +

Hypothetical No. 2

Say you are a cup
exactly the size of my hands
as full as my thirst

+ + +

Six Reconstructed Dreams

……….‘사람들의 하는 짓은 알 수 없다’
………………..-Ku Sang


My hands are gloves.
My neck is a scarf.
I gesture splintered seam
unknotting my trachea
to hollow my throat.

Two fingers slipped in
a collar. Unbuttoned
at the top, little
water left in a hose.

I open my mouth
to speak, but the sound
of my voice surprises
me speechless.


You are thinking lungs
do not have eyes, but
when a child is born
her lungs are closed

before she breathes
for the first time
and spends the rest
of her life blinking.


In the middle of the night

I start and minutes later
the phone begins to howl
so I search for my hands
but they aren’t where I
hung them on the bedpost so
the silence when you don’t leave
a message is a message. I stop

asleep and in my dream
I cannot see. I look
in the mirror: I have no eyes.
Just bright receivers, buzzing
like dialtones in the dark
that cannot be dark any more
than silence can be empty.

In the morning I think I stayed
up all night hallucinating
the sound of you coming
or of you coming home.


Rough draft rips the roof
from its roots like a tooth.

The Argentinian girl wants
to know what happens
when a brain receives a shock.
She pronounces it chalk.
He says shock is a very
general term, explains
there are two ways of being
in Spanish, speaks:

You are unfinished business.
If you want to rest in peace,
stop haunting yourself.

I apology the roof.

Estoy enferma. Motioning my unstitched skull. Soy enferma.

Usted es demasiadas personas,
dice él, y desaparece.


I start like this because that’s how dreams
are—people don’t appear, they’re just there.

She says I characterize things
by what they are not. I take this to mean
she is not there. I take this to mean

I have simply been writing the same poem
again and again. She offers me a wish
and says my endings are too tidy.

I want this to feel like falling
down a staircase then lying
dazed at the bottom
trying to assess
the damage.

But that’s not my wish. My wish is
let me do just one please
graceful thing.


By the process of elimination
I deduce the set of symbols that mean
No in a language I will never speak.

One looks like a birdbath
from a bird’s-eye-view, one a half
-built fence, waiting room chair,

a human being being
swallowed by the horizon
walking away.

+ + +


Before tragedy, Melpomene was the muse
of singing. In family albums, she’s the baby
swaddled in harpsilk, eyes wide and blue

bellflowers, suckling honeyed milk. Each night
above the birdcage of her crib, a mobile
orbited slow circles, propelled by the wingbeats

of nightingales tied to each axis, drifting
gentle breeze and gentler music over her.
No one spoke in her presence, so she never spoke

herself, only imitated the birdsong: a melody
for I love you, for I am hungry, for I want to be
alone. A new charm on her golden necklace

for every song she learned, until she could scarcely
lift her gentle head. When she outgrew the birdcage
she sang: build me a nest, for my hands, so long

nested from the world, are too tender to touch
anything but other hands. Sing please,
her parents commanded in song. She sang please.

Good girl. Feeding her sugarwater from a bottle
shaped like a flower, they gave her another charm.
But the night of the new nest the nightingales

sang strange and when she awoke the universe
above had tilted like a lame creature and a single
bird hung lifeless, having wrapped the loyal

twine that tied it to its orbit around its loyal
neck, so that as it flew the line tautened and loyal
as always did not break. Melpomene sang

I want to be alone all morning and into night
for a week. Then two. Alone she wondered in B-flat
minor how could something so blameless be so

gently touched by violence. Then in slow waltz
is there nothing we can own. Then staggering
out of her nest, scraping her cloudbare feet

on the rough wool carpet, she flung herself
to the hearth and heaved—for it was very heavy
and she very weak—her golden charm

necklace into the flames, and, filling her
bottle shaped like a flower, poured each
song molten down her tender throat.

+ + +

Poem to be Found Among my Possessions Following the Occasion of my Sudden Disappearance and Analyzed for Clues as to Where I May Have Gone and Why

In the beginning there was the word
and before the word, silence.

Lift your hand, your thumbnail
obliterates the sun. Better to assume

the impossible jewelry of love
incomprehensible as pain.

Better to take for granted
the fishbowl’s particular orange.

You are trying to find your diary.
Between silence and the word:

a thin silk thread, tightrope
for tiny gods, taut with attention.

Notice anything you remember
without understanding why:

tin box rattling buttons, thumb slipped
under shirtsleeve, and so forth.

I break everything I touch. Notice
how much is achieved through mere force

of adhesion, abomination of light,
proximity, a generous loneliness.

The tightrope walker inspires awe
or intimidation, but you cannot know

which until you see him and—ah!
Could I have written wonder

there, could I have opened myself
like a wound to the world?

Before the paint there was the wall.
Before the wall, wind.

Shark, papa, a shark
cries the boy, pointing to a white sail.

+ + +

annelyse gelmanAnnelyse Gelman is a California Arts Scholar, the inaugural poet-in-residence at UCSD’s Brain Observatory, and recipient of the 2013 Mary Barnard Academy of American Poets Prize. She currently divides her time between Portland, Oregon and Dunedin, New Zealand. Her debut poetry collection, Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone, is forthcoming on Write Bloody (Spring 2014). You can find her here.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.