Maureen Owen




This is certainly not a painting     by Ni Tsan 
a fourteenth century master    whose obsession was 
cleanliness     his sparse landscapes   practically all
brush    & hardly any inkwash                   But more
in the style of Shen Shih-ch'ung    his milky  monochrome
The Pavilion of the Luxuriant Trees          where
two figures     discussing on a balcony      seem to be immersed
in a pile of Necco wafers
                            & you & I    go out of the house
& scream     "Fuck you!"     at each other     in an open field 
hurling a bottle of Rolling Rock      (two good sips still left!)
into the dark      all because of a paragraph   in the
New York Times magazine section      describing        a
serious young woman machinist    as    "loving the arc
of the welding torch      and the flow of the molten
steel"       & I said    "sexist"     over your shoulder     & we
left the lake early.
and a preparation of pine soot    & the pines    so thinly 
arranged      the painter gazes     out of a wicker window
into rectangular fog          Obviously no one has ever
told him    he lacks depth perception!          Below
his spongy jowls     his palms    must be sleeping
on his knees    crushed in the folds     of blue bamboo leaves.

Often the simplest words!     only take you to the edge
of the sea        where to the artist    you are merely a tall dot
who has run out of land

                        or as Frank O'Hara once said to me
as we were strolling in      the tide
                                      "Baby, this is weather! ........



the other night at dinner     when you said
"I've never known a famous writer       & I probably
never will"     I experienced    "Future Shrink"    a
wool sweater trounced in hot suds       or cotton too
long under water       like Thomas Hardy    who found out
he had fallen in love with   his own niece     not knowing
she was the illegitimate child of the illegitimate daughter
of his own mother       or saran wrap    in steam



Calmly & with an air of detachment she folded the great
ship in two      & sank it                ... no
I must have imagined that       I must have imagined 
the french fries      the wind aching over the hot rods 
night's crushed geography      where all the wrong people 
went off with the wrong people      I must have imagined the 
air off the steeple's    dark point    where in telling her story 
she seemed not to notice   that one by one all the men who 
left her    became novelists    I must have imagined    someone 
sent me her ring    in a small box    they said this is her ring 
we thought you'd want to have it    but it wasn't her ring 
I was dreaming again    I must have imagined the 
motif of confronting birds      or pigs 
who like sharks & children will put anything 
into their mouths      the world considered in terms of 
chewable & non-chewable    & then two days later the 
cartoonist's spouse    committed suicide.    I must have imagined
the paper flew up from your hands!          the milk exploded
on the stove! 	I must have imagined love was out of fashion
the spectators came to be shocked!    the knobs resembled
elephant's eyes      you always loved this weather.     Unlike 
the horse    who relies on the assumption   that no one is
there    as to the sound of hay drifting on a thought
of hay     dreamed up & sent ceiling        I must have imagined
that we	would go on calling it what it was meant to be when
we said it      & I would never need to measure the chairs to
make my point!    I who pounded on your dreams      & 
walked backwards in snow to confuse you      I must have 
imagined you were calling just to rub it in!


Novembers            or straight life

It's guys    like Emerson    that always fuck it up
Who from his journals   -marked for later use in
Social Aims under "Manners" wrote

    My prayer to women would be, when the bell rings,
    when visitors arrive, sit like statues.

Impossible!     to give passionate head   after   reading that!
Impossible      to blow you    under propelling tables!      our
beers whitecapping      on the nap    Oblivious!    of swizzle
sticks     & Cinzano ashtrays embedding      in our backs!
While the Pope hits a new low      & the Professor who is so
brief   as to be left with nothing more to say     has rectified
this once again    by repeating everything three times . . . . . even
a tree surgeon will bend over the fence     asking      "Is your
husband home?        Is your husband home?           Is your husband
home?"    as though you didn't hear him    instead of simply
choosing not to answer.      How To Talk To Assholes      was a 
possible title I was considering     in honor of the doctor 
studied my severely swollen thumb      & inquired     as to whether 
any strenuous exercise had    been taken of late     "perhaps yanking 
a fitted bedsheet over a mattress?"    he postulated. . . . . .
           "Is this a town?" I asked
           "Yes," said Uncle Alfred,   "this is Raven Brook, 
           and here is Jake waiting for us."



Well. . . . . . . . . I suppose I was talking    about how 
he said to me   "They called Jack Kerouac     a sexist!"  
So I said    I said    the thing is    I said     you 
have to decide whether     you're going to overlook any 
sexism     because you think    he's such a great writer 
So you put   the question    the whole question of sexism 
aside when    you read him   and concentrate on the value 
of the writing    itself . . . . I mean it doesn't alter the 
fact     of his being sexist    that he was holocaustically 
sexist.   He wouldn't deny it I'm sure I said.      In 
VISIONS OF CODY he talks about how     the woman takes 
the "melted marble of man's sperm"   and transforms it 
into      "a large bulky piece of   decayable meat"    and 
that as far as young women were concerned    he couldn't 
look at them    unless he    tore off their clothes one by 
one    and that   that was about all     all he could say 
about all girls . . . . "and only further refinement is their
cunts and will do"    he said.          Well . . . . . . . . . . .
But then this guy said      to me      he said      "Yeah,
but you don't think he's sexist      do you?"



Winter is so   punk.     It's Steel shades shaded tin    &these
strung-out Ash trees     their anorexic limbs   dovetailing
with the light.    I often go walking    with a second figure
we laugh    about how we both     should have taken up
painting instead.                                    Once
from an opposite crosswalk     We saluted    a man with
Fuchsia    for hair      A thatch the hue of Modern Magazine Pussy!
We chortled.                      Winter is so punk
the sunlight's raw     & all the bushes	   Seem to be
in poor health            sometimes you wish
you still knew the people you used to know

                        I was still stirring the noodles
when he threw the broccoli back into the frying pan
& the fight was on!             It must be a sign
that the disappointments of life       are setting in.
We lolled in the hay til noon    intellectually discussing
passion            You can't blame short hair for everything!
Remember when the word    moonlight    meant romance        & 
now     it just means     holding down two jobs
uncle Trap       got layed-off the track   for five years for 
doping horses       As a kid I used to hold    them for him 
Shank in hand       I'd ask    "How come you give them a shot   before 
they run?"
                    to make a constellation    he'd say    into which
or upon    which        other constellations fit     or are placed
unfitted    & are cut     by circumstance to fit
                                 other times he'd just say


for Edwin Denby

He said see

That building that 
isn't there 
that's where de Kooning 
used to live


                            for Ulysses on his high school

Just come home when you need to    or how does light get 
between the stars   if there's no electro magnetic forces 
in space

A small roaring in the foliage     of poplar  &
reed     heat throbbing upward over the damp gravel
the last clump of tulips falls apart     Grey Tropical. .
. . .  Yes it's true!     Basically     you have
to learn what life is about     from the vertebrae pattern
of a frog!    all that remains is to be mentioned    or
don't put cast iron    in a sink full of suds overnight    & 
if you can't speak to them in real language      always 
use code.     Suppose this mist centered on stage left & 
demanded our attention     because when everything was finally 
settled    one of the dates got switched    & it all had to be 
rearranged again     But O you are so beautiful      staring 
out the train window     Saying
                                "I hate Liza Minnelli!"


from "Letters to the Letters S and F"


Tuesday      the first letter

Dear S

Today I didn't agree with what I said yesterday      to you
about having children       or not having children     Except
that I love these three   Even as            she will always sing
the praises of every tiny horrible aspect of being a mother      that I
hate               Sometimes I think I've learned     everything I know
Kyran explained at breakfast     how if you have a diaper on       you
don't need to wear underwear       & WCBS New York told about a man
completely on fire     who was rescued by his wife              She

put out the flames     with a garden hose      Now & then     a spouse 
comes in handy            The air is full of light      & today I
received mail from     The Blinded Veterans Association, The American Lung
Association, Connecticut Light & Power, Bob Holman, DISCOVER (the news 
magazine of science) sub titled   "Can A Heart Attack Be Stopped,"  Katharine 
Hepburn, The Abortion Fund, Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company, Ronald 
Reagan, National Women's Health Network, The Print Center, Manuscripts from 
Albany, Lynn, MA, Columbia, & Atlanta,     a card from Helen Adam just back 
from Germany en route to Arizona     & another graced package from Tom 
Weigel   w/a note    Bob's card is a Winter Sunrise in the Grand Tetons  tho
it is August here . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

She taught herself   how to draw   in this garden   that summer.


Wednesday    November I I

Dear F

Tonight missing John Cage at the Poetry Project.   There is something
very John Cage     about missing John Cage     but I regret I am not there
to see his wisdom    and hear him chuckle at himself for appearing as

Just now you called sounding depressed. I'm no puff ball myself these 
days what with looking for a job and all.  I want to feel    like 
Patrick    who just came through the room saying he     should study for 
his Spanish final, but he'd end up watching the hockey game instead.  
"I have no control over what I do," he tells me.    "I like taking 
life as a big joke   because it is."      Myself I have always been
too serious     I boycotted the royal wedding         Refusing to even
watch the interviews with Prince C and Lady D on the telly     For 
Lynch & Doherty! in British prison          for
Bernadette McDonnell   beside her starved father
's coffin     For the desperate rioting poor    in the streets of
London!    I boycotted the royal wedding!               I wanted to call 
attention to    my cause by flying the Irish flag from the roof, but I 
couldn't get hold of a flag     I thought of posting an announcement
"WEDDING BOYCOTT HERE!"      but who would see it jetting by in their 
Subarus & pickups      So my boycott went on without notice. . . . . . 
. . . . .Except for those unlucky few    who 
had to listen to me berate them for their obvious bedazzlement with 
royalty as they sat all ears to hear prince C      nasal
his secret      on how he has managed to just not go "mad"      living 
with the eyes of the world on his every move!

                                                       Life's Tough 
all over Baby I thought      some people can't even get noticed dying 
of hunger    in an English prison
But it was over with a bang    wasn't it         & now Thanksgiving
is for certain      We will bring all delicious side effects    & wear our
Halloween costumes    I am a huge parrot w/wild red-orange    & yellow head
in my long black w/red velvet inside cape    or as someone suggested
as we were T or t ing    a volcano . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Monday   November 23

Dear F

                                                  The yellow pigments
of the marsh      were becoming blue with the tide      the air was like 
the corners of a large transparent box      those leggy reeds 
she told me were called Johnson Grass in the south      Blazed 
palomino     but despite the fierceness of the caption      "Cold" 
under the picture      I am still unable to find a place for 
Vladimir's line:      "His eyes burned like a pair of angry assholes 
in the snow."      If Arthur Conan Doyle had written like that     do 
you think Sherlock Holmes would have been changed appreciably?  
Patrick & I have just finished The Speckled Band      a grizzly 
tale of murder    & are now reading one that involves a young 
hydraulic engineer      whose thumb has been completely hacked away 
not much different than the morning news on WCBS      Except 
that Holmes is often emotional & acts like he     's just snorted
enough coke for 4 normal people                 Then coming by Cox
School    I saw      the gangster woman      with her face from the 
Dick Tracy comic strip     the same 3 deep lateral grooves on
each side                 &the same yellow hair         intense
as today's light


Copyright 1985 by Maureen Owen. Published by Sun Books.

Although Sun is no longer in operation, copies are still available from Light and Dust. $7.00 + $1.00 shipping and handling. Order along with other books from the Light and Dust Publishing section, or send check to:

P.O. Box 4190
Kenosha, WI 53143

Light and Dust @ Grist Mobile Anthology of Poetry.