December 2020 Poetry Feature: Virginia Konchan

This month we welcome back VIRGINIA KONCHAN with a single-author feature.

 

Table of Contents:

– Yoga Veda

– Memoir

– Beautiful

– Domestic

Yoga Veda

On the day of my coronation 
I requested a little chaos, a little filth. 
I requested a day in which I’m not dying,
and was denied.  So now, I just shut up.
How long do I have to hold this pose?

When the tiger dances, she has no partner.
Why is the bestial always subsumed?
Self-invention is a late modernist concept,
but what does that have to do with the 
undertheorization of the soul?

Beautiful blur, you are allowed to know
and not understand.  You are allowed
to protest against the dull accumulation
of years.  Consider, serf, your mounting.
Consider your proximity to the stage.  

Labor benefits the world:
contemplation benefits the mind.  
Yet when I stood before The Thinker
by Rodin, I realized all is not vanity, but dross.  
Still, I straighten my spine at the board meeting.

I nod emphatically and murmur
at the doubling down of trustees.
I loved you before you were loveable.
Because you broke the world
record for pole vaulting.

Because all you gave me was 
all I needed:  not sun, not shade,
not water nor food, but air.

 

Memoir

A cold, clear morning.
Just me and my account balances:
my assets and liabilities, otherwise
known as debts.  Fears aren’t always
omens:  omens not always fears.

And yet I see how one must have
money to make money, how I have
paid to play:  my repetitive strain
injuries are related not just to my
body, but my bottom line, my brain.

I don’t know how I feel about seeing
music live.  I mean, I know it’s realer:
I know the occasional missed note
and tech glitches are part of the charm.

But at the end of the day, I think
I am a studio-mastered kind of girl.
You call that crowd’s roar exciting?
Why would I pay to hear what I came

to see being drowned out by mere noise?
Who am I kidding.  This is a memory,
orated, from a time when I had money
to attend open-air concerts.  I think

I need a libidinal cathexis.  I think
cephalopods have long been innovators,
starting several hundred million years ago,
when they reinvented the shell. 

When words come back from
bankruptcy’s brink, I weep,
a pantomime of suffering,
for those dispossessed of possession.

But I have never inhabited a form:
never had enough vowels
to buy an item, nor an I.
How then am I to be ensouled?

After confirming my dearth
of assets, I return to the home screen,
realizing I too would be a hedonist
had I a single green dollar to spare.

Who can be blamed, really:
I thought the thought
it was possible to think
while I was standing there. 

 

Beautiful

Have a beautiful day!  the barista says to me.
Isn’t it beautiful out?  comments a passer-by.
And so the day goes—and, by day’s end,
I have been told no less than 11 times
to enjoy all that is good and wonderful
left in our one ruined world, while
that same day, the Indochinese tiger
was declared extinct, 137 women
were killed worldwide by domestic violence,
and an earthquake claimed 12 lives in Iran.
Still, as my neighbor points out to me:
the dahlias are in bloom.  Still, a local
rapist was convicted on all charges,
and a family member, hospitalized
for what they first thought was fatigue,
then encephalitis, and now lymphoma,
sat up in bed unaided for the first time
in weeks.  You should have seen his smile:
it was as if it had dawned on him that,
beyond what may or may not exist,
or only potentially exist, or exist but
as unobservable to humans, is the mind—
its own place, complete with regiments
and cavalry.  What if the day is beautiful
regardless of whether there is food to eat
or a kind face to greet you:  regardless
of my appreciation or acknowledgement
of same?  The day has no median score:
no midnight pollster average to determine
whether it was in fact beautiful or horrible
based on the ratio of healthy babies born
versus those that died alone in the womb.
Have a beautiful day, says no one during
a rolling blackout.  Have a beautiful day
said no one to the dung beetle, after
it was crushed underfoot by a man.
The plain evidence of daylight’s dynasty
isn’t enough to render this day beautiful:
like a lizard, I can sun on a rock anywhere.
Bring back buildings built hand by hand.
This is my letter to the world that never
wrote to me
, wrote Emily Dickinson.
And yet, if she’d just waited until after
death to say that, she would have drowned
in letters, which is why death is so ironic:
only in dying does commodity value soar.
If the dead could be given language for
just an hour, maybe they too would say
Have a beautiful day, only they would mean it,
not as an empty expression, but a fervent prayer.
Thank you, cloud cover.  You add up to nothing.
You have no expiry date, nor skin in the game.
When Narcissus died, Echo was disconsolate,
repeating what Narcissus himself said
before drowning in a reflective pool.
They were his words first, but she had
the last word:  Farewell, beloved in vain.  

 

Domestic

The self balks at total sacrifice. 
It looks to the self like what it is: 
annihilation.  And yet, I am not
angry anymore:  I have ceased
to exoticize pain.  The temporal lobe
kind.  The ungratified pleasure kind.
The dull, drowsy ache of midday kind,
when you realize all you are, like the ocean,
is emblematic of someone else’s dream.
Is it love, when you clothe a naked doll?
Is it love, when someone veers into your lane? 
I thought we’d be closer by now.  I thought
the chassis of your engine would look nice
wrapped around my destroyed fender.
But you preferred to play it clean.
Multiplicity is not the answer.
Categorical thinking is not the answer.
If the point of life is striving, I have strove
to produce an image that resists being seen.
The market will bear what the market will bear.
The pine tree will give of its sap until its name
bears no relation to the holy disorder of naming,
until you’re borne away with your own private
bucket to sate yourself in a hidden corner
on what Nature herself has achieved. 
The epic is there is no epic.  Just snarls
of your hair, caught in a pink plastic comb.
After your departure, the air smells terrible,
or smells like nothing at all.  I have known
sanity, and it isn’t worth the price of admission.
I have known madness, but that too ends:
ejecting one out the waterpark slide
with an unceremonious scream.
Let me shuffle off then, to become either
a collector or a collector’s item—fetishist
or fetish, it makes no difference to me.
And then you return home, face aglow
with honest labor, the kind that doesn’t mean.
Teach me, then, what there is left to teach me.
How sometimes we are just a body in motion,
imprecise in its trajectory.  How sometimes,
your embrace is all I need.

 

Virginia Konchan is the author of two poetry collections, Any God Will Do and The End of Spectacle (Carnegie Mellon, 2018 and 2020); a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift (Noctuary Press, 2017); and four chapbooks, as well as coeditor (with Sarah Giragosian) of Marbles on the Floor:  How to Assemble a Book of Poems (University of Akron Press, 2022), Virginia Konchan’s creative and critical work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Believer, Boston Review, and elsewhere.  

December 2020 Poetry Feature: Virginia Konchan

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