Two Poems by Frances Richard

BOMB 138 Winter 2017
BOMB 138 Cover

I Was Afraid

“I was afraid, for awhile, that I might kill someone. Everyone
does, at a distance. But I never killed anyone, though that was only
personally.” (Alice Notley, “In the Pines,” 2007)


time is
continuous, rocks are not                      iterating
over lossy data, full                                of incalculable unfreedom
                                                                 fed the demon

sparkly golden nectar of being lovable with a spoon

“The Lake of Great Peace was filled in
decades ago, during an
extension of the subway system”

filling with/satiety 

incalculable unfreedom

“not four-fold enough”

“objects at dusk”

bodies distributed in endless values
in range for the hardcore                       complex to exercise itself

range to or near                                      elaborate but not

if you murmur-sing
in inward falsetto with
headphones wearing a t-shirt

if you’re stopped
at the station where the handcuffed
young man, a father, was
shot in daylight and its name is symptomatic

of advertising for paradise

if very drunkenly/highly, sweetly smiling, wearing
a fishnet dress and huge dirty red
exhausted-puffy down jacket
and nothing else

you hold out your hand


The Whole


She said L-e-g-o-s, but I read l-o-g-o-s and thereby
in the homonymic problem
of lo/goss/ and lo/goes/ is rendered
the whole disaster


Cf. Lagos, Nigeria, and the incinerated
sequin in the brainstem, rancid
terror-adrenaline, anguish-adrenaline dripping
back down whence it surged

up lining the microlining of each bone—No: its name,

the placename of the village where the school is

is Chibok, 22 hours by car from the city. Simultaneously it came

sprayed from outside, hail of cupid arrows dipped
in the obliterative poison, burning nano-anti-
love. To gather sounds
from the object-map and sense them dyeing

a synapse-space with thought


Cf. rather mist of something approximating
22,000 tons mixed chemical wastes dumped in Love
Canal between 1942 and 1953, until
in 1970-something oozing

noxious colored liquids dye the yard. Disfound
the swimming pool, cause it to float
in its own Jell-O of corrosive—just like that.
But “outside”

synapse-space? Reading over

I’ve substituted “incinerated” for “incarnated.” The wavy line
identifying error persists through “jello,” “Jello,” and “Jell-o.”
Jell-O is the ugliest. But Legos
justifies itself?

Also unknown: microlining, placename, Chibok, obliterative, nano-, disfound.


Those girls’ lives—


Space understands anti-


Black glittering ball of flying-
to-pieces wrapped
in a fine-mesh despair. A wanly flickering
space or agitatedly blank, having-gone-to-a-meeting

where shaming the publicly insufficiently rigorous or perfect
aspect of self-hatred rendered hard, forged
hard—that space. Versus quiet lackadaisical
petal of non-negotiated drifting. Glasswing membrane—

where all spaces had wept slightly
in the air. Had sat there
as glasswing see-through and also rearing up
in cacophonous mud of absolutely gendered synapse, family-and-history

rage. Bleached lavender veins and ugly melted blood
of the normative volcano of having-acted, having-been-schooled
as a girl, a vein
of synapse, lavender molten, threading

cacophonous dark. And it feels apt

to explain that perfect hardness and membrane are alike

milk-silver, marked by qualities of cake
and pencil scribble—I mean this in the historical
body-mind—the flicker-space—half-melted—qualities of half-set-up
epoxy and eating a ripe peach, of infantile rage

     1) for infants;
     2) for grown men with advanced degrees and drugs;
     3) for women disappearing, abdicating, getting sick.

I’ve lost my train of thought. Those girls’ lives, their infants, anti-

love, and how

to notate distance, terror, what I thought she

said. Mass other

minds. At the meeting a call for “rage/destruction

liaisons” to manage public

ugly melted blood.


I know someone (not present at the meeting)
who could contrive to send the girls, in their detention, via poetic
language, old-style console video game pulsing screens of greenish names
of god, to be inscribed on their eyelids and inner wrists,

to fold them in a cakelike silver

forcefield of inviolable love. They could share it, beam
it around to bolster one another whispering
in tall reeds at dusk, in shadows of parked trucks, in laundry tent and food tent
and sex shelter, in the sick tent, walking between. Did they save their shoes, being woken

in the middle of the night? Bare feet

could be protected by my friend’s poem from thorns and shards of smashed beer bottle,
spent shell casings, spilled motor oil, vomit, trash. Terror-adrenaline reconstituted
via deft inventive language. They could resist, protect
their minds and not get pregnant, and run home

eventually on zero pathways through the Sambisa Forest with its many shimmering

levels of the god game. Of its silver wetlands, the Sambisa Forest
Wikipedia entry says: the animals died, the roofs leaked, weeds covered the roads, water stopped flowing, there was no power, and the whole reserve
became another derelict white elephant

white-silver leak, power-cover, flowing

Still, I know this person who could whisper through the language-rays
to girls to say that a pulsing lunar battery of
perfect touch glows in their chests and renders aid.
But I can’t say it. Not convincingly.

Frances Richard is the author of Anarch. (Futurepoem, 2012), The Phonemes (Les Figues Press, 2012), and See Through (Four Way Books, 2003). She writes frequently about contemporary art and is coauthor, with Jeffrey Kastner and Sina Najafi, of Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Fake Estates” (Cabinet Books, 2005). She teaches at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

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Essays that investigate the poetics of “no.”

Originally published in

BOMB 138, Winter 2017

Featuring interviews with Lynda Benglis, Roe Ethridge, Becca Blackwell, Antonio Campos, Robert Greene, Angie Keefer, Liz Magic Laser, Laura Kurgan, China Miéville, Michael Palmer, and Rosmarie Waldrop.

Read the issue
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