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Thérèse Evolving is an entirely found poem, made up of borrowings from the letters of Ezra Pound, a textbook on evolutionary biology, a cultural history of the 1970s and 1980s, a book on Roman history, and a study of Renoir’s paintings.

Thérèse Evolving

Untitled I

That’s the ticket,
I think Romains will gather more people, more writers,
just like Yeats on his ghosts.

Early changes in the human pelvis reduced the size of the birth canal,
so that it was not big enough for the large-brain babies that would evolve.

My elderly neighbor had only recently stopped riding on buses.
Bad news did her in,
the voices on the radio soothing her through another sunny afternoon.

Crust, mantle, outer liquid core, and inner solid core,
an earthquake top,
in the right hemisphere S-waves,
waves that travel as a sequence of compressions and expansions
along their ray path.

The first certified deprogrammer of Jesus freaks.
After years of “Inna Godda da Vida” Moon’s rhythmic
Manchurian Candidate seemed a relief.

Much is made of her blouse with its blue bow and elaborate lace collar,
but she was still in what we call the ungrateful age.
It’s a real treasure in bluish tones and white,
pleasant subject, alive, beautiful coloring, and well drawn.

We say that pleasure is the beginning and end of a happy life.
Perfect acts are successes,
what adornment can a household enjoy to compare with the companionship
of a man and his wife?


To run the New Yorker gaga you need Kumrad Kumminkz.
When they look at them nice old-fashioned engravins they can see a park bench
anna brothel, and besides the bloke iz in jail.

After Leib. we have either trype of derivatives from material science,
nothing a man with any real brain cdn’t do better with half an hour’s thinking
than with mucking around with printed material.

Why tax money?
Why just not issue 1/8th?
They mustn’t simply multiply and accumulate.

Cock cannot be mentioned in America.
All Americans are shocked by the English use of it.
Don’t worry about what I know.

I am afraid my popular style is rhetorical, just broad,
simple old-fashioned songs, I can no other.
Note “saxpence,” Lowland Scots for “a tanner.”

Dozens of soupeaters merely yodel about hope of ha’pence.
As to the literary reward!
Merely derivative writers with active wives are not idealist in the endowment.

First, the Chimpanzee

If 10 genes affected weight, they could combine in enough ways
to produce 59,049 different weights.

Inheritance is particulate.
Pea plants, each on a separate chromosome.
Monstrous birds of 1,000 grams down to some that were tinier than bantam      grandparents.

Yellow body,
white eyes,
echinus eyes,
cross veinless,
cut wing,
vermilion eyes,
miniature wing,
sable body,
garnet eyes,
forked bristles,
bar eyes,
clipped wing,
bobbed bristles.

Of all the great apes, the chimpanzee is the least specialized.
In size it is a neat compromise: 
small enough to get about in trees,
big enough to take care of itself on the ground against predators.
As a result, it is at home in both worlds.
It is a generalist-opportunist
and will eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetation.

The first herbalists?

Males have been observed setting out
as a small group with the clear intention
of stalking a neighbor.

The chimpanzee is scarcely a star athlete by human standards.

Brain size and tooth shape and length of leg
all evolved at different times and different rates.

A life adapted to eating large amounts of coarse, tough vegetable matter.
What is the gracile type that appears at Koobi Fora?

Combine the peculiar attributes of a hominid
with the cooperative hunting and food sharing of a social carnivore,
and the result could be a very successful hunter.

Tawana Brawley

“Kill the niggers.”
Tawana Brawley was found in a trash bag in the courtyard of an apartment      complex,
covered with feces, her hair cut and matted,
the words nigger, bitch, and KKK scrawled across her body.
“Roving bands of wild criminals”
who “roam our neighborhoods”:
Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise,
rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, riot, assault, attempted murder.

The convictions of the “Central Park 5,” as they were called, were overturned.

The Impossibility of Life

O to M
Oh Be a Fine Girl (Guy) Kiss Me:
effective temperature of roughly 41,000 K,
radiative flux,
Kuiper belt objects
between jovian planets and terrestrial planets.

HZ, gray
photosynthetic bacteria,
first 2 billion years,
greenhouse gas methane,
inclination of 90 degrees.

70% of a cell’s weight,
one amino acid is joined to the H3N+ end of the next amino acid,
fusion called polypeptides.

Always d-ribose,
where MP stands for monophosphate.

M. genitalium with 468 genes.
M. genitalium and Haemophilus influenzae.
Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA).
Minimal organism,
Los Alamos Bug:

fatty acids that in water self-assemble into a container,

peptic nucleic acids (PNA) for memory,

a fatty acid and PNA producing a simple metabolism,

and light to power the metabolism.

From Hot Pants to Hot Tubs

Drug-culture candy,

Drug toys,

Earth tones,

Hamburger Helper,

The Happy Face,

Herbal teas,

High tech,






Musk cologne,

Mysteries of the universe,

Natural foods,

The organic bathroom,


POW bracelets,

Puka shells.


The rhyming shapes of the onions and garlic,
set at different angles,
create an ebullient effect:

the warm reds, yellows, and pinks on the onions
offset the softer, cooler hues in the background.

Onions and garlics are loosely arranged
across a tabletop, placed on and off a crumpled white cloth
with a red and blue border.
They belong to a modest, relaxed southern way of life,
contrasted to the artifice of Parisian culture.

A personal sense of relief.


Caesar attempted to secure smooth passage for his legislation.
Caesar solicited the support or at least the silence of the best orator in Rome.
Cicero confirmed Caesar’s worst fears by indulging in critical remarks.
Caesar, with the co-operation of Pompey, retaliated.
Cicero refused invitations from Caesar to serve on his agrarian commission.
Cicero paid for his refusal by being sent into exile.
Cicero’s political importance was not a figment of his own vanity.
Caesar attempted to impress the body of the Senate with his sweet      reasonableness.
Caesar took all of his subsequent proposals directly to the people.
Caesar was eager to gain the province of Gaul from the Senate.
Caesar was aware that Pompey was an unreliable ally.
Caesar was tied up in Gaul and unable to cross the Alps.
Cicero lamented that neither Pompey nor Caesar had any aim but dominatio.
Caesar’s victory destroyed the system within which he wanted primacy.
Caesar achieved enough to show how widely his mind ranged.
Caesar applied traditional remedies such as the abolition of urban clubs.
Cicero complained that his own name was attached to senatorial decrees.
Caesar knew his peers disliked being kept waiting in his antechamber.
Who was there left who had seen the Republic?  Who was going to find a way out?

Instigations I

Have just bought two statuettes from the coming sculptor, Gaudier-Brzeska.
He is the only person with whom I can really be “Altaforte.”

The band’s first choices for a name were the Mad Dogs and Whoopie Cushion.
Page suggested changing “lead” to “led” so Americans wouldn’t pronounce it

Yeats is much finer intime than seen spasmodically in the midst of the whirl.
He returned $200, hence the sculptural outburst and a new typewriter of great      delicacy.

Hot pants, leisure suits, fake leather, fake fur, rabbit fur, wedgies, clogs, Earth      Shoes,
platforms, safari jackets, spandex disco pants, leg warmers, bow ties, lycra stretch      pants.

It was Tagore who poked my “Contemporariana” down the Chicago gullet.
I am profoundly pained to hear you prefer Marie Corelli to Stendhal, but I can’t help      it.

Chocolate brown double-knot blazers, “Lurex” sparkle T-shirts, Qiana scarves,
Vibram-soled hiking boots, Levi’s Pamela suits, “Afternoon Delight” sparkle T-shirts.

Besides yourself and Mrs. Henderson, who takes the art of poetry seriously?
Who in America believes in perfection and that nothing short of it is worthwhile?

Seen in hindsight, Hearts and Minds is a remarkable document of American
Scenes of football games are portrayed as warfare rituals leading to My Lai      massacres.

I have sinned in nearly every possible way, even the ways I most condemn.
I have printed too much.  I have been praised by the greatest living poet.

Burt threw himself into the talk-show circuit and had an affair with Dinah Shore.
A man who looks so macho, almost too macho.  Down-home, good-ol’-boy

“Ford to City:  Drop Dead” 

You could say it started on the subways:
unfilled light sockets, long dark shadows,
old cars painted battleship gray and flaking away.

The “collapse of critical standards,” lifelong Cold Warriors
envying the USSR where there was “no nonsense
about freedom of expression,” where the state
could arrest kids en masse and bury them in labor camps.



Don’t hold your breath, kids.  It wasn’t the kids who failed.

Bear Cult

Seven bear skulls,
all arranged with their muzzles
facing the cave entrance.


Why did inflation hit $9.98 with a $10 bill?
Because the Seattle Mariners were making more than the President.

Should Bernie Goetz (a hero) have the tip-off?
The film found another unwitting press agent.

Is Village Voice critic Jerry Saltz this generation’s Robert Parker?
In fact, he started acting like a leather-jacketed Ward Cleaver.

Did the mayhem and filth of the Bronx have lyrical names?
Rockefeller was clearly miserable as Vice President.

Have bartenders supplanted DJs as star mixologists?
Springsteen was a creation of Columbia hype and fawning critics.

Is Jamaica, Queens, far from its namesake Jamaica Bay?
Divine Light: Pain caused by pressing hard on your eyeballs.

Is ripeness all? Could we have predicted AIDS or the crack wars?
Annie Hall burst on the scene like a dizzy pot-smoking Hepburn.

Why have homeless New Yorkers been pushed out of their self-made dwellings?
McGovern’s genial running mate had undergone repeated electroshock therapy.

Will DeLillo return to New York for Cosmopolis?
By 1976 an estimated six million viewers were tuning in.


this means of unifying a canvas [canvas as the basis for landscape]

rocks at Yport at low tide looking directly out to sea [the theme of a woman reading Emma Bovary]

the distinction between blue and yellow [admirable head of golden-blonde hair]

five louis would have been so useful [beneath the fluent and informal paint surface]

the play of reflections on the water [the horizontality of the water surface]

blue, orange, and cream in the sky [and some of the whites more pink]

like that of the cat on her lap [often naked or partly naked or ceased to pose]

the aesthetic of the voyeuristic [her colorful slang and implausible storytelling]

exhausting night and Zola’s true praise [a very beautiful study of flesh]

Art and Ritual

to become bigger as hearths abound 28,000 to 10,000 B.P. a talent sprung blown out of nowhere caves have subterranean pools dark mysterious and very cold made livable by adding barriers of brushwood or animal skins signs of many generations of occupancy in France alone true caves the cave called Le Tuc d’Audobert paintings or engravings made in the least convenient places for viewing sympathetic hunting magic prowess spears and knives incomprehensible events impossible that this art should have been invented mysterious secrecy animals they wished to kill magic could dodge misfortune mortal wound during the hunt rectangular enclosures with animals trapped enormous tusks thrust beyond the snare forestall misfortune and injury and perhaps death fresh dart symbolizing actual or ritualized killing a horse’s pelvis symbolically killed 27 times a pregnant horse and lengthy notation possibly on the brink of developing arithmetic and perhaps very primitive writing every animal is an individual portrait 20,000 years to forestall misfortune injury and perhaps death it is impossible that this art should have been invented they walked always in the shadow of unpredictable and incomprehensible events seen as malign forces

The Increase in Solar Luminosity and the Continuously Habitable Zone

time is measured from the start
four hydrogen nuclei into one helium nucleus
a less massive star spectral type G5V
a life-carrying planet must orbit
while the sun has increased its luminosity
today’s habitable zone lies between 0.7 and 1.4 AU
the sun will leave the main sequence phase
at this stage present forms of life will no longer be possible

Occupation Levels

Blown dust, rising water, layers of sand and clay,
what did homo habilis find there?
Tiny shrimps flamingos eat.

E. E. Cummings

Because I want it in my profile if there lacked abundance of prudukk.
Because it may be the only way to get the Red Front printed in Eng.
I want to ram sodden mass of half-stewed oatmeal that passes for the Brit. mind.

The normal or average eye sees a certain width without heaving from side to side
he adds, whatting and becoming his raven mane
mebbe there is wide-angle eyes.

If I said anything about obscurity, it wd. fare ridere polli.
I don’t think Eimi is obscure, or not very,
obviously NOT to the Edgar Wallace virtue of the opposite hurry scurry.

Meaning of the Fossils

Piltdown man was a complete surprise.
The brain had evolved more rapidly than the body.
Piltdown man was a hoax.


It was all craft (techne).
Crafts were practiced in families.
A sculptor might prefer modeled bronze to carved marble,
and he might also be an architect (Scopas) or painter (Euphranor).

Some crafts were easily mobile.
The desire of the vase-painter to sign his work might seem unusual.
The artist’s name may be as prominent as the deceased’s.

The world of men was the gods’ proper place.
Man, the potential of a truly popular art.
Art for art’s sake was unknown and unnecessary.

A tyrant court,
concealed nationality,
immigration and inscriptions,

irrelevant to the scenes they accompanied.
Handsome well-born youths of the day
practiced lesser arts on poorer works.

Homage to Plato

A long set of arguments about the Eleatic One,
a theory of society,
a cosmology

rejecting the established media of prose or verse,
for good reason.

Self-knowledge on variations.  


Anis Shivani is a poet, fiction writer, and literary critic in Houston, Texas. His books are My Tranquil War and Other Poems (Sept. 2012), The Fifth Lash and Other Stories (Nov. 2012), Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies (2011), and Anatolia and Other Stories (2009). His debut novel, Karachi Raj, will be published in 2013, and he is at work on a new novel called Abruzzi, 1936. His work appears regularly in leading literary periodicals such as Georgia Review, Southwest Review, Boston Review, Threepenny Review, Iowa Review, Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Agni, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere.