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About this Poem 

“‘The Poem’ is a small excerpt from a very long work in progress called ‘The Speak Angel Series.’ This work contains a recurring crucifixion.”
—Alice Notley

The Poem

They leave you up there he said calling you names
As it gets dark remember for you’ve had the experience
Retaining barely a consciousness the body’d shrink away
But there’s only exposure the necessary fasting you are
     seen
They want to watch you all humans being empathic
     predators

And then I said when there is no conventional body
And little recognition of forms as in a violently painful
     half-sleep
You become your other after they have had you like a feast
This is done everywhere in many ways often subtly in an
     instant

You may so be done away with I had seen the impossibility
Of living with others yet loving for that was my condition
At the crossroads when they asked me to partake of rules
     as in
A commune of pretension I left unruly
Who stands by me now he or I say and I said last night
Holding the world together by my total recall
At anyone’s distress they are so sorry sounding like
     pigeons
They who call themselves poets and have no letters

Copyright © 2016 Alice Notley. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 Alice Notley. Used with permission of the author.

Alice Notley

Alice Notley

Born in 1945, Alice Notley received the 2007 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her book Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970–2005 (Wesleyan University Press, 2006).

by this poet

poem
"Presently" "we neared a pale beach," "narrow" "with trees behind it"
"thick & blue-black," "& lights" "many lights" "deep inside the"
"wooded land" "I touched bottom" "& walked ashore" "Then I saw"
"a final entity," "airy image, pass" "out of my body—" "from my

forehead" "A small shape," "perhaps
poem
Why do I want to tell it
it was the afternoon of November
15th last fall and I was waiting
for it whatever it would be like

it was afternoon & raining but it
was late afternoon so dark outside my
apartment and I was special in that
I saw everything through a heightened

tear, things seemed dewy, shiny
and
poem
"The water" "of the river" "was mild-temperatured," "the current
gentle" "I soon began" "to swim—" "in a moonless," "starless darkness"
"The sky held no clouds—" "no luminous" "spheres existed here"
"Yet the sky was" "a sky;" "for the river air" "was fresh & sweet"

"Then," "as I swam," "the others I