Alice Notley



The 87th Level


I was speaking to everyone, as usual
though unconscious or asleep.
I'm telling you everything, the way I do although I'm pushed into
a deep and unmonitored closet.  So can you hear
how scary it is?  I'm supposed to descend to the 87th level
but I'm afraid.  Later I do.  Of this I retain no memory.

I'm staying with the woman who's supposedly hungrier
than I am—how could anyone know that?  How could you know
if this tale or another one was a sellout to the more
normal calculations?  Projecting the more common
and less speculative feelings?  Flattering the intellects of voles.

The hungriest woman has a baby who is obviously mine.
Wisdom is working on my headache taking care to press
above my left eyebrow.  I am joining you, newly hatched out light
I am taking you with me.

Above the 87th level I had obviously been 86ed;
but now I knew starvation was a way to galvanize spirits
one by one their palms held up with new kinds of maps on them
not what you were born or died with but your more
natural life after death.  This is a new drawing

The city within my mouth will succeed where beggary has failed.
The other prisoners are contagious too.  Despair was catching, but
so is success.  There are a lot of things for us to do:  completely clear out
the workshop and force the pods of sentences open,
which are no longer silver and metallic, but deep green.  My lines
are still famished:  bread lines?  We have a lot of bread
belonging to the ocean and to the sky.  Is it too big?  Our poems,
what do they look like now?  They aren’t guilty.  Take this.  It's
a glittering tissue, the weave unlike anything else.





It's unclear how to get from sarcasm, to celebration;
I melted into the year, now two-thirds through
I'm still brave in the absence of . . . but who wants to say it?
You're here to say things.  The warbler reckons it is fine.
We were attacked by humorous moths.  Rather they were bats
with butterfly wings, Don't Fly! Don't Fly! I shrieked at them.
I sprayed the one that hated me with the wrong spray.

That year, there were two people who hated her.  What
should she do?  The detectives don't know:  one of them
is an ebony rabbit in profile.  Immobilized now, for
no one can discover my essence, who am alone some per cent
of cogency, spared The Fog.  Mid-love the moon is tense.

Veronica, from Honduras, will catch a freight train across the border
She hopes to find work and send money back to her family.
It will be a dangerous journey and she weeps:  her pansy-shaped face beneath
wool cap.  Now you'll never be alone, someone said to a character
who has since become cynical, in the cheap silk blouse of her adornment.

A calm disposition suits you.  I am unscared, having no coat of arms
but the sun transfixing crystal rain on our boulevard, rue of whores.
These are my incredulous neighbors, who just don't get the Minister of the Interior.  I
myself excise him from within, three or four days a week;
but then he jumps out of the envelope, shouting Damaged Riddles, Love Only Me!  Is he
really as perverse as I am?  I have to have something that's my own.

I call to the slenderness of your professed obligation to guide me;
it is the glinting shaft of a monotonous rapist.  It points to the remanding
of my moronic heart to another distant authority,
returning me to the country where my emotions were first detailed
by some novelist or surgeon empowered by crackling androids.



Hotel Room—2


The reason I have so much to hide is so I can have it.  Even if I don't know
what it is, nothing perhaps.
You rarely come back to the room.
I have a better idea for a film than any of yours.  A woman in a hotel room who writes poems
that can't be filmed. 

She keeps writing the poems and once in a while he returns to the room and reads
one aloud.  Then they discuss it.  He says, for example, that it's fragmentary.
She says nothing.  Then she reads it.  It doesn't sound fragmentary
when you read it, he says.  I'm part of it, she says, and you're not.  As I'm not part 
of any of your films.  Then why do people go to them? he says
Because they're big and loud, she says. You should film me reading my poems in
this room.  So he does that
and what one notices is how the poems become more important than the room.
More important than the filmic room.  It is as if they are visual
though they're only spoken words.
The audience eventually resents the poems, which are too real, too concrete
But they stay because the film-maker, who is also a famous actor, is in the film. 


We trust each other but don’t know each other.  His face blazes with reality,
he used to be blonde, but now is gray.  He wears large-lensed glasses
I am hiding something from him, the well-known mainstream film-maker

one of several men who beckon me intensely to projects
I need to change the rules for projects
I need to be able to hide things from you, if they're mine
I need to be able to hide my real self from you.

How can I trust you you would say?  You can't.
You are my audience, so I will always conceal myself.
If I seem to accede to you, in some form of clarity, I'll hide even more. 
I crumble up the poem from the printer, as if it's of no consequence
and reread it after you've left.  It says I've gone over to you
by letting you film me.  But I'm still hiding what I sell that always stays mine.
Oh it's on film, you'll say.  What is?  You, he says, because I love you.

What mind denies its history? I am floating on present breath. I am these words.