Tracing Amnesia
a deluxe rubber chapbook
by Jennifer Drake

I>>> Disorientations

You know how a place translates you? How when you move in a place you've moved to, the air in your lungs carries new weight and the light carves land into language you can't hold and the clothes you bought last month start to chafe in odd places?

You know how it feels to be a stranger? To have no idea "what is below the level of the visible?" To have no idea how to see fields and flatlands, domed sky, histories made and undone here, where I stand?

You know what it means to come to live in the kind of town that signifies traveling through-- whistling all-night freight trains, lumbering Macks, the sweet neon of roadside hotels, American crossroads to anywhere?

Do you know what traces of itself this town has erased     hidden     knocked down     gnawed off?

"What is a (wo)man who has no landscape?"

"Nothing but mirrors and tides."


As posted in Liberty Hall and Cincinatti Gazette, we are pleased to announce that the


WILL commence on the last Monday of October 1816, on the spot and under the superintendence of the proprietors, and continue for two days, if necessary, upon a credit of one and two years.
          This Town has just been laid out upon one of the most liberal plans, as it respects healthiness and terms. It is not presumed nor intended that art can or shall counteract nature, but assist and promote her views; for any and all situations on the River Wabash either above or below Vincennes, Terre Haute is supereminently entitled to the precedency; not only from its elevated situation, being upon a high Bank of the river (from which circumstances it derives its name) immediately below Fort Harrison--the richness and depth of the soil, not only at the town but for miles of the adjacent and fertile plain, called Fort Harrison Prairie; and a country abounding with timber "fit for the builder's use," and extensive Coal Banks--Besides, it is a known and acknowledged truth, that there is no other eligible situation for a town for a number of miles above or below this site, other than the Lands owned by the proprietors of Terre Haute, and of their extensive claim they have selected the best; competition is therefore silenced. It is deemed necessary merely to observe, that the Wabash is navigable for Keels and Batteaux, at all seasons of the year, from its Rapids here, and for one hundred miles above.
          Independent of those natural advantages, there are artificial ones such as few towns possess, for the Streets are from sixty-six to one hundred feet in width. Every Lot has the advantage of an Alley of sixteen feet. And ground has been appropriated for a Court and Market-Houses, and other public buildings, Churches, Schools, &c. It is rationally and confidently expected that ere long a new county will be formed in this part of the country and that Terre Haute will in all probability be the Seat of Justice. And those who are acquainted with the Geography of the country, do not hesistate to express their belief that a public Road will shortly be opened from the State of Ohio direct to this place, and hence to St. Louis.

III>>> National Road/Route 40, 1998

teeny houses hunker down for day's slow crawl
porches stretch south at 45 degrees
walnut-paneled warrens clutch at tight shoulders
cement-blocked RVs sit lit, preoccupied--

I pass for miles on straightaways, sucking air, tailpipe kissing flat ass, looking for snow--
          I wanna tongue your snowbelt      down      a little lower--

how to say this could be beautiful

how to say this is someone's home

church on every corner, down every dirt road

tanning salons spark state highways

thick heat sutures the midwest close--

america's burning heart, burning cross--

trains flay prairie gone to corn and plow--

flayed flat land is flayed flat body planted into chemical rot fertile treeless food ooze, trains like ventricles pump pump diesel fuming night tracks bones spread to moonlight's kiss and fuck my country tis of thee whistles to sleep butchered sheep rising to sit at the right hand of thin father's tight-fisted quitting cough      jello voices gaggle and shiver tiny shoots towards greening belly, loamy muscle a sure shot for rooting tight

                    a kick in the gut, becoming

                    earth, earth-bound

twitch and sway, we're tiny tiny lights against bitter winds pleasuring stretched skies

IV>>> Orientations

learn about perspective:

drive a midwestern state highway, parallel lines to a plowpoint, roots of no return. fields are not the ocean. earth split open, black musculature heaving green and gold ears north like pressing promises, christian earthworks, ragged orchards, hybrid seed passing for breadbasket white--
          recycling as income-producer, not an earth first move--

          Thrust by which the eye penetrates space--

          Whose body follows thrust into view--

          Whose body becomes the landscape

          becomes crisp-pressed land rising receding

          whispering to make you lean      closer--                       touch me, there--


The shrinking of an object with distance implies the length of time needed to reach the object.

Or, we recognize a friend's face up to 80 feet, apprehend a body's gesture from 450 feet away.

focal points deflect,
bounce curves in the road.

buildings askew
orient people to themselves
as turning points,

what I'm remembering is what looks familiar:
stray wisps of hill, woods gripped dormant,
cricks rippling mobile homes peopling Andrew Wyeth browns:

sweet supplication, a legless sky:

place opening to home when a distant hillside restricted into panorama bursts suggestion like dappling rolled windows when I remember who wrote that song a lying down in exile river bend play it harder claims and the book about fugitives laterally bounded yet attentive to sudden shifts      and drops      in terrain renowned for relentless lengths of time--

                    abandoned farmhouses are chrysalides, desertion signifying hope.

          In cities, buildings rarely stand alone--

          Parts of rows viewed with angular distortion in passing--

          Like sides of urban canyons--

          Whose languages I hear in my hands--

V>>> Longings

Legible landscapes compose themselves to the eye through the tastebuds, kinesis, cilia and armhair, crenulated riverbanks coursing over handpainted toenails, through what kind of cloud cover allows how much light to fall at what latitude and longitude at some particular hour minute and second of a day when the sun rises at 8:03 and sets at 5:56 and tomorrow will be two minutes longer thank your diety of choice

          Legible landscapes are composed, compose me, decompose, comply, compromise, confabulate,

          Are composite functions factorable into two or more prime factors other than one and themselves--

tree soaked curl up track down fourbyfourbyfour topographical maps mound         fingerprints
clinging         red highways presumptuously belly-up         pregnant with wrinkled letters
strengthened by vitamin D         spreading fast

          cumulous, cumulo-nimbus
          pressure clipped wings

interior monologue shreds in light rain's minimalism

an eclipse distorts through magnification's backward glance

little spy holes link newsprint to even hotter afternoons

VI>>> Roads Belong in the Landscape

Which came first, the house or the road leading to the house?

Which of the two objects had been divinely ordained to be first?

He would have ordered us to put down roots---

He would have ordered us to beat a path---

                                    migrations, invasions, wanderings, face---

From that point of view, house was the right answer.

Roads serve us by taking us home.

Left to their own devices
they tend to wander
into the wider environment
and disappear.
Introducing      outsiders

(Fugitive Cain built the first city)

Disqualified by genealogy
outclassed by the prestige of private space
roads suffered from neglect,
were dismissed as unsightly
crooked spaces---
merchants         highway robbers         invading armies.

As men and women for whom path and road stand human,

we are now less interested in origins than in what comes after---


railroad lines pipelines power lines flight lines assembly lines---

                     place             freedom                place                freedom

Roads             don't lead                they are                   places

growth dispersion           magnets           growth dispersion           magnets

look around your hometown.
take your landscape with you.
study everyday margins:
cornfields and backyards
abandoned plant life
Trees of Heaven
sunflowers in railroad yards
lilies in alleys
wild lettuce on a vacant lot.
our own native flora is bred for our violence.
it goes into winter condition with a bang.

camp followers are plants and animals, not always domesticated, which choose (for very good reasons) to live near people, to follow them when they move elsewhere:

weeds and insects
rats and mice
raccoons and deer
billboards and gum wrappers
assorted birds and relatives

                       prefer full sunlight, terrain disturbed
                       dislike grass
                       hate competition from other plants
seek an environment where the soil is open and bare
from which all existent plant life has been suddenly
removed from every plowed field

unwind where you can plant wheat,
jigsaw shoulder to shoulder
room to spare

not every plant
adjusts to such open
highway cleavage
wrecking-ball cities
manicured flowerbeds

it's a vastly intricate business
which plants and people they will/
will not tolerate as neighbors,
and under what conditions.

Once upon a time,

the face of the habitable earth was everywhere

scored and crisscrossed by paths and tracks,

trails made by animals in search of other animals to eat.

Some led to waterholes, salt licks, plots of edible grass.

All the paths were bare of vegetation, and smooth,

took a meandering course.

Now we register posture, gait, how strangers respond to the presence

of others. As skill in walking---

reaction to motion along a prescribed path---

touching the sky has to do with where you are standing, how light seeps or shifts---

VII>>> Dwelling      Place

          "The verb ‘to dwell'...used to mean to hesitate, to linger, to delay . . . to pause,
          to stay for a length of time."

ABSTRACT OF ENTRIES, New Record, Page 75.


By the Register of the Vincennes Land Office,



An Entry Certificate

For the South West quarter of Section 10, Town 12, North of Range 9 West, containing 160 acres.

Dated June 3, 1816.

One-fourth of the purchase money paid

multiplied              telescoped              fast-forward

Dated July 1, 1996, 5% waitressing money    down--

Lot Number One Hundred Eighty-three (183) in Collett Park Place, a Subdivision of Lots Numbers 15, 16 and a part of Lots 18, 19, and 20 in Barbour Place, a Subdivision of the South half of Section Ten (10), Township Twelve (12) North, Range Nine (9) West, as shown by the recorded plat therof, recorded in Plat Record 5 page 37, records of Recorder's Office of Vigo County, Indiana--

I'm here--

Living America's Dream

at its unremarked crossroads,

anchored with debt for a shared room of my own--

Oh Clabber Girl, Baker to America,

thanks for the warm welcome--

give us your poor

your tired and hungry

offer your full plate              breadbasket              lift that torch high

Pub. Feb. 1999