E l e n i   S i k e l i a n o s


<< Six Poems from _Earliest Worlds_,

released this year from Coffee House Press >>



Sketch: Episode B at Gold City


As an aid

for apprehending the vanishing point:


(line drawing here of two

torsos in waves, 11' x 8')


Here is my

difficulting diffusing grace (lux

gratiae) in the mouth

of space & light


an empty open window through

which to view that which will be

painted there


in the walk from the walk

to the window, sound


flew in splinters across the square for "the

good things on earth" Lundis and luz


I was baptized in the symphony of fast, slow, fast, slow slow


My eyelids separated cities, with maps which moved

through fluids in heads, maps are displaced

street by street when I return to that place


ordinary light is replaced

glass is replaced (with magnets)

the human eye is replaced (with a fluorescent screen)


among the first things seen were

butter, transformers

among the fast things





My Love: Music Does


Music is a dog

that sleeps & lies & my

love lies down

with me my

true love lies

down, & he too

does possess

the capacity

for speech

& he speaks

to me he

says my true

love lies


with me hmm. What doesn't

my true

love like? Lilies. S/he

loves them. Now

she's lying on the table of L's, his

love looming

in available sunlight. His thinking thinks sunlight

and, why won't she

eat the bitter

dandelion green, hmm, we are building a house

on a catalpa flower.




Histories: The Great Handiwork (Water, & Soft, Delicious Air)


All of them the great mmm did

establish and so divide

mmm from me. So, too,

the earth was bounded by water, & the

boots to walk on to fit the river, the

transit of whole cities to heaven. Don't sleep at night solidly

as clearly night is possible. It is also possible

in a physical sense: earth was objective & dark,

floating on water. As with

the eclipse, so the conflict of water. Moistness of seeds,

semen, so we go

floating between vapor & liquid, solid, the highest

apple on the happy branch we wanted to reach


If of apple or

if of air, come,





Histories: A Woman Was Constructed

in 20 oz. Aniquity, Certainly She Existed


It is true that [         ] discovered the

clitoris in 1544, key

to heaven and

hell, viewable


to the naked eye, like


a man in the forest, or birds,

they spoke [ latin ]


"I itted it." "What

did you it?" "That," he

said, pointing. The body


is a well-oiled

machine, made


for doing things. I forgot


what I can do, she said,

talking talking She has taken the care

to change her necklace for the domination

of anyone, a female


revolutionary all jellied into action, a

living organism with sizzling

feelings. Right in the middle of something really

beautiful happening, "your frontal

lobes are scraped out with a nail file"


The beautiful thing that was

happening was happening between us; it was


the highest friable branch of the apple, like a glass

chassis in the glove of a chandelier




Histories: That Wobble of Light


I hereby cluster all day loveliness with flick

off a switch and weigh the earth, scraping

our baffled feet on sandpits of fleas

to dance. For I

said I saw a flea circus today and understood

a small planet and 20 billion frames

of families of a truth divine lording it over

the ghosts of material things which accompany human

bodies. Love walks


softly across

the surfaces, maybe of the house. The three great works of the Samians include

a 1,100-foot tunnel dug by hand under 900 rock feet. When humans finally

destroy that rock what will happen to under the after-

world's altar when presidents were pretty, porridges grand, a mole

built in the sea nearly 120 feet deep?

& in our clothes we walked on golden streets

which house and unhouse as many men & women as birds

with feathers so sharp they wound.                             Values?


Ecclesiastes subjects, I will shoot you

through the heart, Minneapolis, in my ideal country

if my hands are cold I do not build

a fire of your house.






Cities: The Last Lights off the West


In darkness a paperweight

on the twilight hum of

hum. A whole

paper-built world; all the little details rendered

in holepunch and pinking shears. Thus opens that setting.

(And) I laugh in the face of poprocks

& bottle rockets Nelson who got

three fingers blown off But he was just a kid Not a kid

from my American past but a kid just the same,

whole ships with

clouded leopards in the hold going down


This is before farming and the rise

of great cities, the first dividends

of culture, the facts divide before

the junior-sized dehydrated

city with missing women and children. Just add water

to the bite-sized city built

upon all of its histories, trilobite

and manhole cover. Nelson

the astronomical signs in three fingers

of DNA. Gold-coated casts

of the first cut marks ever. That is how

we build and end each disturbed paper

backdrop in this city. And set it aflame. Extreme regions

of the heart shut up

within them-

selves all other countries - Where

are these? (Curtains.)




Read Jono Schneider's review of _Earliest Worlds_



Eleni Sikelianos is the author of The Book of Tendons, The Lover's Numbers, and To Speak While Dreaming. She is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, two Gertude Stein Awards for Innovative American Writing, and the James D. Phelan Award for Blue Guide. Her work has appeared in many magazines and journals, including Grand Street, Sulfur, Chicago Review, and Fence. She lives in New York City.