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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 15, 2018.
About this Poem 
“‘The sister was not a mister. Was this a surprise. It was.’ So wrote Gertrude Stein. There are all kinds of things to say about those sentences, but on a grammatical level it’s an amazingly succinct way of reminding us that one little letter dramatically changes denotation. I’ve always loved that recombinatory power of the word, but there is also another thing—when a word starts out in a particular or plausible direction and then bifurcates, as if splitting off toward a different, secret path. Alejandra Pizarnik’s ‘not verb but vertigo’ (in Yvette Siegert’s translation) does that. That line made me hyper attentive, as I set pen to paper, to the interior and sensory life of words, so that suddenly sky seemed to be a kind of scraping. Gnomon, a mystery word, comes from the Greek, meaning ‘a carpenter’s rule,’ or, in the plural, ‘the teeth that mark the age of a horse or mule’; it’s related to know, and now means that part of the sundial that casts a shadow: the thing that knows time. It is impossible when reading or saying it not to think of gnome. These are the magical acts of language.”
Eleni Sikelianos
 

Not Verb, but Vertigo

          —after Alejandra Pizarnik
 
 
A yellow scraping across my skin when
I write the word “sky”
 
Not sky but scything :
  	to let day be scraped out
        	 by night
 
I scratched down the word “flower” & felt
   the parts draw away from the tongue.
  	Not gnomon, grown*man, but ghost :
        	to gnaw on the crisp
                    	skin once it’s been stripped
                    	down from the meat
 
the neat meat
 
hiding under the table
of the skin’s
tablatures
 
right at the juncture where day/night meet
you can see it indicated by the perforated lines
 
what parts of us that don’t cast a shadow

Copyright © 2018 by Eleni Sikélianòs. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Eleni Sikélianòs. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Eleni Sikelianos

Eleni Sikelianos

Eleni Sikelianos is the author of several poetry collections, including Make Yourself Happy (Coffee House Press, 2017). 

by this poet

poem
Saying: One night in a cloud chamber
I discovered a thing: that a thing (I used to have a crown 
of light) a thing could be more 
than True, and more again

than False, a thing 
could carry its name

with a ticket of lights 
called Possible: In a cloud chamber, particles are betrayed
by movement and water vapors
poem
A man called Dad walks by
then another one does. Dad, you say
and he turns, forever turning, forever
being called. Dad, he turns, and looks
at you, bewildered, his face a moving 
wreck of skin, a gravity-bound question 
mark, a fruit ripped in two, an animal 
that can't escape the field.
poem

The snow falls, picks itself up, dusts itself off
a sparrow flying like a leaf back up to its tree
The future does a backbend toward you, it's
what you can almost see, scrimmed
in the clouds which crowd the sky, elbowing, laughing

After that I see space and its influence in a bucket