archives winter 2008



At the Commencement of the Year of the Safflower Oil

Why am I dead at the scrape of a letter?
At the Choptank drop of a hat? This
is a serious matter, one for the heart—

or a man of letters. Turning away from
the mezzotint effect of your longing, I
pine (for my own longing is opaque) and

dine at the hatchery. How long, asked
Bono, must we sing this song? With a
quaver in his voice and a rasp for a

life saver: I commend you upon arrival.
To the bath-house! This fish is starting
to stink! And my nerves! My nerves say

I love you!



Writing this
like being

tied to a tree

as one unties
the aftermath.

Birds rest in
a bloodbath

and the birds
are silenced.

This, a voice
to sing with.

You, who are
my birdsong.


The Moscow linguistic circle (not to be confused with the Prague linguistic circle)

who would have thought if i had not
                had i thought it
if i had not taken part
                in the mystery of his poetics were his
name Roman Jakobson
                but it is not and he is not
a poet but a knot in our throats
                so that when we speak his name
the poet dies and he is not Roman Jakobson
                but a penguin who suffers the torments
of guessing what meaning is meant and
                if this is poetry surely
we are all doomed but
                when we call her Roman Jakobson
she dives into the ice and others dive with her
                and Roman Jakobson is lost
because our eyes cannot distinguish one
                penguin from another and when they come
to the surface they are the tide
                which brings us a new poetics
more critical than we previously imagined
                and so we continue
but differently
                calling everyone Roman Jakobson
and when they turn they look at us
                like penguins they are confused
and they do not dive but ask why
                Roman Jakobson is not yet alive
since we imagine only the name and
                 we repeat the name again
and again when we’re confused
                because the poem is a mystery
and we begin by calling out “Roman
                Jakobson! Where is your poem?”
and the world takes one last breath
                before exercising the demonstration
that is language and wrests it from
                the current belief system and
when aquarium volunteers look at its throat
                they find the knot that is Roman
Jakobson who hid from the world
                when we spoke his name but if
we had not taken part in the ritual if
                Roman Jakobson suddenly
revealed itself as the ground of being
                and this was the light of being
if Roman Jakobson took part
                in our destiny we would have
had souls we would have
                made progress we would have
written poetry and called it Grigory Vinokur



I’ve passed on, passed
on, passed
the hat around
and clapped on
the light.

Minute discus
of infallibility,
motion sickness
in the Agon,
terse mention
of my name.

I seem to project
a voice but you
state I project
a verse.

Sing, then,
of the chorus,
and ask who
is sitting next
to you, “May I take
your hand,
bend it, back,

As such, I am
named. That is
your name
for me.  


Christophe Casamassima is the proprietor and editor of Furniture Press in Baltimore, and the editor of Ambit: Journal of Poetry & Poetics. He has recently published poems in American Letters & Commentary, Cue: A Journal of Prose Poetry, The Denver Review, and 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry. He also has chapbooks available from [limited editions] (qui/etude and Mythography), above/ground press (Septology), and King of Mice Press (The Sarah Quatrains). He is currently a board member of the Towson Arts Collective and finishing his Masters at Towson University.