Louise Mathias & David Dodd Lee

"Deep Traffic" (2010) was conceived as a series of dispatches from our two respective primary locations, and thus has a lot of imagery from both the Mojave landscape and the Midwest. We alternated writing sections, via email, beginning with Louise, whose sections were partially informed by reading Claire Donato’s poem Grief Ecology as well as the work of Joseph Massey.  Some final editing and polishing was done in person.
"Mare Pacificum" and "Symptoms of the Drift" (2008) were written by both us, in alternating lines, again via email. We took liberties from time to time if one person felt they had something to contribute that was longer than a line. Interestingly, we tried writing a few more of these later on that didn’t seem to succeed nearly as well.
Although these are our first “formal” collaborations, the poems are part of a long and involved conversation about aesthetics and landscape and grew organically out of that conversation rather than in some premeditated way.




Mare Pacificum

Who will vouch for the jacarandas--
breath-sensitive, meteorites in transition, something seeing,
seething, beyond the derelict gait.

It's simple declarative, the body is a con-artist.

X's and O's. Transmutation
is an ethereal second waking, stars pushing

out salt, here where she sits listing Oceans,
a crushed ring of bleeding flowers. Or is her tongue a gestation.

Ultraviolet, on the lam. Maybe she is what he told her,

nervous, The birds startled
in the wake of her licorice sweat.

After, he can't see her for the feathers,
sacrosanct, anything but sealed—

Oh but they're immune, he is; she's a cocktail of roots,
or the dusky smell that gathers on the ribcage of a shadow.

Shaft of summer down the skylight. (She counts
the muscles of his back.)

So maybe they can walk under this sky, plastered with feeling,
in other people’s blossoms.

She's retroactively wet; he's diving up through her water.


Symptoms of the Drift

Must eat its weight in nectar every day.
Passes through the mind like an idea of rain.
The idea of rain is not rain.
And this kills us, sparks in a stone closet.
Eats petals, in order to spite the pharmacist. Will not heed. 

Because the tributaries are nettles. Because
there are tender vials that no one touched.
And planets: glass pours off the girls' faces.
The general neglect of faces. Architects
who ignore the bone structure. An arbitrary

lily in its place. That’s not to say
there aren't armatures collapsing. They're darkening.
The magnolia’s entrails repeat, as if
what's given body hungers for body. As if the idea of rain
on leaves is gloss and will not heed



Deep Traffic

Doves’ eggs hatch, or don’t,
my thoughts of you
are good ones.
Bats circling back
so black
 they are actually emeralds.


But you can’t go back to that register,

the gemstone-cracked hollow . . .

They pulled the quills from your feet and the bark made a human.


Stale as an inlet that’s dryer than snow

there are cliffs to remove


The sky is the monument. Pierced

by ocotillo.

So much nothing, how can a person breathe?


By counting the flats filled with peat

Drink the moon out of the woodcock’s eye

Her mouth like a stillness of leaves

I suppose I’d make a note you can pin to that last delicate moment

Pebbles as deep as a pond

Then there is that separation of sudden . . .

the comfort of “creek”

The haunted and metaphysical weight of those bats in deep traffic


A hummingbird whirrs past my ear.

Would you like it to live in your mouth?

We could train it.

Such meticulous throat. Gorget. Gorgeous.


I might contract such a job out

--in an effort to live on next to nothing near microwavable sets of sparrow wings

Glittering here, zip code 46615 in my cornea

--I might attach them flying to your ankles and wrists

My throat isn’t west of the Rockies

--and then I’d sink deep the thermometer

It’s not a trumpet vine


I’d like to wear
bird wings
like jewels.

Gravel ghost, aster.
Terrible, tender.

Roadside blooms.


And even if the room thus swelled—conjoined.

Or perhaps the road, diverged

Out of the sand, into moss, and elms . . .

The clouds don’t roll as much as they whisper-across-everything

And you with your fingerless trees

The birds cover the breath

My voice, it covers your eyes


Voiceless, I’d pull the reeds until they wept.
Off in the distance, the squeal of tires.

What happens under sun-beaten roofs?
Flittering hands and a starling’s beady eye.


That reminds me of a genre—the story was a boat-launch noir

The birds eye the green one-person

Plastic hut with cheap vents

My baby-done-fallen-in-the-outhouse blues

I took the severed hand

And the birds pecked new holes in the now bloodless flesh

That’s one arrival

The other is pinker, and perfect

Five toes suspended in water like an eye shot flush with breathing

It was like making a nest out of blood



"Mare Pacificum" and "Symptoms of the Drift" first appeared in Parthenon West Review.


David Dodd Lee is the author of six books of poems, most recently The Nervous Filaments (Four Way Books, 2010) Sky Booths in the Breath Somewhere: The Ashbery Erasure Poems (BlaxeVox, 2010) and Orphan, Indiana (forthcoming Fall 2010, University of Akron Press). He teaches at Indiana University South Bend, and is a contributing editor to the Laurel Review.

Louise Mathias is the author of Lark Apprentice (New Issues Press, 2004) and a recently published chapbook, Above All Else, the Trembling Resembles a Forest, which was chosen by Martha Ronk for the Burnside Review Chapbook Contest.  Her website is  www.louisemathias.com .