Claudia Grinnell


As I Say This

A whale has been found with a harpoon in its body which, by its markings, showed that it must have been hurled the whale at least 36 years ago.
                                                                             From, Scientific American, April 1900

It is dead-finally and for good-having returned
again and again to this shore, at first angry and relentless,
later, gray and choking with blubber. Just
which leg did you lose to the whale
? The difference
between beginning and ending: the wound
refusing to heal, the king refusing to die even though
someone asked all the right questions, the carpenter
refusing to nail himself to the cross. Just which leg
did you lose? This whale, beached and cloudy,
an exclamation mark rising from his back, this sand
animal, this great dune, rocked back and forth
by the waves, this bulging sacrifice--just which leg?
Its body, washed and baptized again and again,
rotting and picked at by gulls, wasted, stripped
not for profit or fame, not quite right
for this place without shadows, not returning. Just.



In the Widest Sense, Everything

Is magic: a CT scan
lets you look inside yourself,
lets you believe
in a thing that doesn't exist.
The alchemists had it all
wrong: the separation
and de-solution of matter
has already been achieved:
gold was never found: fac duo
*. Angels knew this
earlier than we, as is, per definition,
the case with messengers,
and now the dull pressure
toward birthing, toward
the greatest deception.
We keep cats because of mice,
we keep birthing because
of the spirit's need to consume
itself, to keep shitting
seeds into the fertile
synapses of the brain.
We read our daily
horoscopes because
we want to be called
by our own name,
by our own birth date,
by our own sign.

*From two, make one


Advice For Getting It Done

I wanted to civilize man
since 544 AD. I was advised
to forget the bathtub, drugs,
to take the window
and (re)use this sentence.
Don't try this
at dusk. I am in love with me
sitting under a blade
like a wild animal in Katmandu
and perhaps even dangerous.
And I know, whither he said:
Let my flesh etc. Two nations
in sackcloth, fell upon him:
signs--so gather this
with a spoon or feather.
You made me
with cigarette smoke
and quite ruthless: a fist
with fear in it.


Skinner Box

The space I inhabit
                           It's not quite fall yet
is white. There are no windows
                           but the leaves are beginning to turn
or rather just one
                           and fill our spaces to the limit
very large one
                           I wait by the phone
that I try to avoid
                           each nerve strained
because gulls buzz by
                           and imagine his voice,
at regular intervals
                           captive to the small things:
to make sure that I still am
                           a rug fringe, a chipped red toe nail
making peanut butter
                           weaving themselves into form,
and jelly sandwiches--
                           demanding my attention
all in the shape of the bay.
                           like highway noise.
When they find out
                           The reality of distance settles in.
about my important function
                           We each have our own
in the corporate world
                           sunrises, and what if
they may crack
                           a line collapsed into a single point,
through the glass
                           and what if, the event horizon
as angry birds are wont
                           were right here, right now--
to do or worse-
                           would I stand, transformed,
they may give my name
                           a pillar of salt?
to the proper authorities,
                           You have a name; I do not know it
at which time
my life will be entered
                           The evening's sun still shines,
into the court's protocol.
                           carried on a black ship of clouds
I sacrifice a small feather
                           I will dream myself
and pray
                           into execution
to the white
                           and walk slowly
and eat
                           through the deep wet grass--
a raw chicken.


What You Will Find Here


A waitress, a cliché
of a waitress really: anything else, Hon?
She's 19, 20 tops, and already
50, spider-veined legs, taking classes
at night--I like helping people,
so maybe Nursing, maybe--
you need a refill
on that, Hon?

What you will find here--a fan,
slicing the light
across pages, telling
of addiction: father - daughter,
What you will find here--a screaming

baby, three secretaries plotting
a boss-less day. The asphalt
curls. Are you ready
for a new sensation?
thump, thump. I decide then
to repaint the entire inside
of my house: Pittsburgh Blanc Classe
6/84, latex mat.


Stark, raving mad
is really not an option here,
here, in the slatted light
of West Monroe's Chile Verde--
how green, how green--so I am trying
to think interesting thoughts,
something about my first kiss
on the beach in Alicante

and a boy with a sandy tongue
and sandy hands, something
about spending three nights
in a whorehouse in Dubrovnik
because my money had run out
and the madam was kind and needed
help with the front desk, something
about eloping to Copenhagen

on a sleeper train. But maybe those aren't
my thoughts--maybe those are Anna's,
my twin, ma semblage, ma soeur--the one
I can't kill, but tried to
over and over. Witnessed her crashing
through the embankment of a Mississippi bridge,
watched her get shot in a liquor store
outside Albuquerque--oh, she is

brave and blond and bountiful
like this great country
with her red sports car,
her cigarettes,
her dark glasses--always, even at night,
trying to become invisible
she says--what am I doing
with my life?


I will ask her
to walk with me
up to the Hollywood sign,
to jump
from her high point
of despair, to let go
of my hand
just before
she leaps.