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From the Fall 2009 issue of The Kenyon Review October 2009

When You Arrived

The immigrants arrive, grave and with torches, a billion of us.
In dreams you’re compelled to be in the drama you’re in.
I was sleeping with him at his desk, each had our own greyhound
His desk was a bed, the dogs were asleep at our flanks.
O savage and tender achings. The immigrants
mean to escape his parchment breakfasts,
his rococo edicts, his bloody fingertips. I left
because I was sad. I thought, What part of the world can’t
be mine? I am an earthling, aren’t I?
Why can’t I live anywhere? The immigrants
try to escape their hellhounds; side effects are unclenched.
I have the identity of wrath. Where does it come from?
I am inconsolable under water, under your ugly armature.
We need protection and soldiers — oh no we had those at home
it doesn’t work, we are roaming the globe to get away;
they keep coming after, plastic cops
not smart enough to be bitter, or sit down with their dogs
and smoke. No immigrant makes sense; I don’t —
I wasn’t born to make sense. I remember a corpse without interest
I am the living present no one knows. No one greets
Welcome to the living present, to your infidelity to the past
I’m adorned with my nightmares to please you: what else
would I have? You once did this too, remember?
When there were no maps and you walked changing everything
This trauma kept in a medicine cabinet: I heal myself with it
I use my motion to correct my regret: I open the
motion to behold you, send postcards, play the tune
of bravado. I rub motion on all my wounds.
Is no one in love with me? Billion immigrants have
each other. What will we do with our mirrors blackened in fire?

Hotel Truth Room

I am tough and sensible the older man said

Let’s look at the map again.
I don’t think we want it now — Look where it’s taken us,
Democrat or Republican. Jealousy would make an interesting
film, not sexual jealousy
but the way a woman doesn’t want another one to succeed.
Is this a poem? he asked. Do I have to be in it? I
need to find you to let you go. He said,
I thought you were jealous of my fame.
Sometimes, I say, I just want to be you — it’s different.
Do you really think poetry is more important than film?
I don’t think that way though I don’t give a shit about

film. You look at me and see nothing but a movie.

You’re too old to be in the film he said. So why are you
talking to me? You summoned me here. But you
own the room. There’s so much light in here that I can’t see you.
What do you want from me? Words.

The room is full of ghosts for a moment ghosts of live immigrants

looking for space to breathe in. You are all me but I’m having
a private moment. One says at night it’s so
dark when I sleep I don’t dream.

More urgency the filmmaker said we really need that

his face is lined with his events, which I don’t want to know
I don’t want to know my own, except possibly from now.
The immigrants have trouble adorning themselves for each
other, when they live in squats. But they do it
Playing this beautiful instrument you can’t see, a carved drum.

But they’re not in the room he says. He smiles

You used to be blond, I say. We are uncovering
connections, standing by the window. I’m wearing
a necklace of dream-catcher baskets small and ornamental.


Alice Notley’s latest books are In the Pines; Alma, or the Dead Women; and Grave of Light. She lives and writes in

Read an exclusive conversation with Alice Notley.

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