Amish Trivedi: opening strophes from “Untitled Project”

At an edge of my severed sense, the only overwhelming
breath is not mine. Another sentence to cover this one and
another eye that

begins to heal. Normal is erasing but with
no dust left to trace through, fingers make

no more arcs. In the debutante’s crying room,

the body revolts against its housing, unwelcome
wherever it exists. There are memories of stoplights
in the places
we used to go.                I didn’t know
                                             that we die
                                             in pieces. My lungs

               I've pushed back my hair I've not had
between my teeth: I have seen the way you appear
in dressing gowns and in

another stage of atrophy. The debutante sees an image
reflecting back that belongs in another war: the science
of my hands and nails. Her desire to eat dirt
is based in a math of revolutions, her mouth
another reason to belong

behind stage near mirrors and artifacts. If she could
will her own heart to stop, her eyes would flood
her brain. It is the quietest of comments
which cause chaos.

                                             In her sexual fantasies,
                                             the debutante is a capitalist

and while the reasons
for being quiet
are underwhelming, love achieves us
anyway.           Her entrails presuppose
no wonderment at all. It is

only important           that you
are listened to. I dream of diseases
where the only cure is
another pair of arms. Rewriting

my suicide note, I see the errors
I've committed before:

letters are strangled and
words that were
never mine appear. If these are
my last words, char them neatly
and pretend the veins up your neck are streets

meant to be crossed.               Hell is not knowing
                                             what you did
                                             to deserve it: that she shows       up on film
amazes the debutante. Her story
is Nebraska's

eleventh track. If the debutante
heard you speak, your voice
would become hers. Your lips and disease,
hers alone. What others do
is done to her, every scratch
across your back is three

on hers. A tooth falls out and
the nerve remains, swallowed
in my sleep. The last thing you
want to do is stand up
in a crossfire. I wondered why
all my washed away drafts
reappeared, renewed

with a sense of purpose and
believing they meant
anything. Being in her
own space, the debutante pretends
                          to speak in tongues, in

rhymed verse that
hollowly rings through the hallways
of a discarded mansion, the drawing room
sprawled out. It's not her speech that

cannot be contained: the debutante's air
is bleeding together. A reflection    is not what bothers
                                                                        others in the house:

the way the vents are spaced and how
tragedy is a mural in only
one note. Our debutante seeks
what turns scales into harmonics, a song that won't repeat

again today. What we've surgically structured
cannot be seen with naked eyes or
flaps of skin anyplace else. Only
the debutante can see through the
unreal piercings, fillings, and
recitatives. It's in the seconds
after release that her breathing frees her,
allows the lungs to become set

in her chest again: the debutante knows peace
                         as a word and a sensation, but not

as a conceptualization. I leave myself
thinking about a need that cannot be expressed
in standard notation. The debutante

is constantly in the middle of the sentence “we're

                                             using our
                                             special occasion champagne
                                             now since no special occasion
                                             ever came.” If I could make

                         a cancer grow
                         in my body, I would
                         make it so. What rattles a debutante

is acknowledging her existence in spaces
around a time signature: a pound of flesh
feels heavy in her hands. Just another
song that's too light to be sung
on an off day, thinks the debutante's

mother, a fragile ear in a
peeled-away drowning. The
debutante's father speaks only
when his words cannot be heard, but I'm the one who

hears his thoughts. The debutante
pretends she doesn't understand

how the dynamics of her
family revolve, but at night,
when she's dying, she sees all conversations
before her as a projected verse.

[NOTE. The long poem, which the preceding lines begin, unfolds as a furious thrust forward over the length of the work still in progress, where each strophe awaits its continuation in the strophe ahead and never really lets up. Trivedi has for some time been a close associate at Poems and Poetics, some of his earlier work having appeared in the posting of February 25, 2011. Of the current project he writes:

It began with the line about capitalism. Well, it really began with the first line, but I had a good laugh when I said to myself ‘In my sexual fantasies, I am a capitalist.’ But it couldn't be I, it had to be a person who would have that kind of actual fantasy and so came the debutante. I'm sure there are other wonderful poems and projects dealing with debutantes, but in this case, I hope I'm creating someone who is utterly anti-beauty and the seeming opposite of what our culture seems to define as someone of debut age. Gender isn't important and neither is age, race or anything else. The debutante here is completely wrapped up in itself, unable on one hand to be anything beyond itself and on the other, everything because it refuses (or is unable) to define itself. The ultimate spoiled self, in a way.

Where the poem will end up, it's hard to say. Part of me wonders how much narrative will develop over the next 60, 70, or 100 pages. Should the debutante die? Should s/he/it be erased in some way and redrawn? Hard to say without it getting to where it needs to go, wherever that is.”]