for Joshua Beckman



Green as the earth

Is green,


I have made so many

False starts


Into this world.

The peripatetic X


Marks its course

Like a coffee ring,


The trees full of

Life and hollow


Anticipation of the



Bend their rubbery heads

Across the looming


Fog.  No one is here,

No one seems


To be jotting things

Down anymore.


The crescent moon is a

Smile across


An ocean of fireflied

Night.  The day, we can see,


Is not stable.  Once

I ran so far away


I couldn't find my way

Back to a loop that


Swallowed itself.

Then I cracked open


Like a nut.  The parts

That will reveal themselves


Are the parts

We find solace in.


Solace is another word

For mistake.




A traveler through

A neutral space,


The rapture and the



Is pure.  But I

Don't feel the way I used to,


The socks on my

Feet seem dingier


Somehow.  Arrested in

A moment in time,


I can tell that things

Are more automatic,


That they create a

Sort of veneer.


Stretching over the skies,

The lung-branched


Trees that hold their



Forever are a chance
I have.  But how


To describe it, how to

Define just what I mean.


I am lost, yes, but home

Is near again. 




Eyes kind enough to see,

Ears kind enough to hear,


Once I came into this world,

Without subtitles.


Cigarette smoke enwrapped me

In the dawn light,


And I screamed for all it was worth.

A black bird sang.


A cat crawled out of its insular

Place.  Directions were useless.


I didn't know anything then,

And now, I feel that all of my


Knowledge is passing

Away again.


The inhabited houses seem

To collapse around me,


And what I have to offer

Is only so much dust.


If I am reaching a point

Of crisis,


I would never know it,

And the dance


Of twigs in the spring

Breeze has become


A heaviness,  If I can relate

Everything back to


A simple idea,

Then I think I will


Go out into the May



And gather the shawls

Of May's opposite


Month around my arms.

There is so much


To say.  Or, the voices

That seemed useless


Are nuzzled into

A future snow, blanketing


These streets without me.

I can no longer pretend


That I can hang on

With my nails


To some ideal that wafts

Gently in and out


Of all the rooms

I've ever laid my head in.


Something is broken--

What is it?


I write in magic



I like the way the flowers

Mound after the rain




It's not about getting

To the end anymore,


It's not about perfecting

Myself under an iron


Rod.  It's the mess

Of flesh


And the scratching

Of nails


Across night's tapestry.

Where did it all go?


I don't understand so

Many things,


But if I had to guess,

I would say that


The morning descends

On us like doves.


I would say that there is

An unreachable place


Inside, a psychotic core

In each one of us


That is pure chaos and reaching

Toward a higher goodness.


And love—love comes

In small doses here


And wraps itself up like

A slice of pizza


For later, when the house

Is dark.


And when a man asks me

For change,


I always give when I can.

Will this keep me from


The inevitable?  No,

But it will keep me


From the other inevitable,

For which I was marked


Since birth, like a madman

Brandishing a razor.





I'd like to talk in symbols

If you will,


I'd like there to be

No confusion,


And I feel the best

Way to leave


No stone unturned

Is to let only              

Beautiful things tumble

Out of my mouth.


This is impossible

You say,


How would you say,

Pass the salt,


Or, please scratch my back?

These are neutral things,


Embodied not by beauty,

But by what is practical


And right to say.

I will tell you this:


Something, not a lamb, jumps

Out of the void


Every moment.  Becoming

What one is,


Is the vocation of each

And every one of us.


Only that.

But that.




Desperation fills the eaves,

But it is not


My desperation, not today.

Some nameless


Archipelago floats out

In the far distance,


We drink our cocktails,

No one cries.


Waiting here for a sign

Of redemption


Is much the same as insuring

A box of stuff

Of which we do not know

The price.


Little thing dancing on

Its legs,


I've seen you in the many-

Colored shapes


That line our walls.
A squall of wind


Wraps itself around this house.

Lonely pebbles bouncing


Out of our shoes scatter

Beneath the birds


That fly in a vee above us.

They fly toward, not away,


From this house that stands

And keeps on standing.




Is the we, as we

Are a people,


The answer?

The we, the royal we,


Floating off somewhere

Like a big balloon?


Is the we the answer to our

Every quiet prayer?


I don't think so, somehow,

As to stand lonely


Is the only way back.

The we helps us eventually,


But it is that soil-brown



Where one stands totally alone,

Apart from anyone or

Anything that is the most

Healing.  The inner wounds,


The blasphemy that comes

With them,


Take their toll upon a body.

And if I claim


The fertile parts of this



Lovely body, I will be

Coming back


Into the fold soon enough.

Soon enough for what?


For the voice that said

Once very faintly in the dark,


I am, and you are,






I've kept very few



On this journey.

I travel light


On purpose, never knowing

When I will have to pick up


And go.  This is how I live,

And it is not a bad


Thing at all, to be mobile,

To give almost


Everything I have away.

I like the summers


When things are clean

And clear,


And the hot sun comes

Shining in like gunfire


I used to trek through

To go to work. 


I like not having clutter

Around, but only animals


Who light up the day

Like small fires.


And if a fire ever were

To come,


I wouldn't lose much at all.

I take only what I can


Use, and let the rest

Be the decoration


That I've never been able

To fathom with these two eyes. 




To be smart is not

The same as to be wise.


Green as the world

Is green,


I am called to duty,

A frog ribbeting


Through the ancient grass.

Wisdom is fleeting,


Like a butterfly lighting

On a windshield


After someone has died.

I am in two halves,


And I waffle beneath

The cirrus clouds


That I part like hair

To meet the one I love


And I don't know where

I belong, where I fit,


In this real-life movie

That snaps like a newsreel


Tangling into piles.

Wisdom: without.


It comes once a season

And I drift endlessly


Toward, endlessly away,

From the desert of the human real. 



I am miserable

When I don't believe


In something higher

Than myself.


I cannot stand to feel

That unprotected,


To feel like I am walking

Around this earth


Without a shield.

There seems to be no


Purpose in living

When I don't have a God,


And usually, I have idols

To keep me busy, too.


The cat can be an idol, my



The color of my nails,

Just about anything.


But God to me is real,

And since I am


In a position of uncertainty,

I feel uncomfortable.

Some say, uncertainty is



A reaching toward.

I say, when you're manic-


Depressive and have lost

Almost everything


Of any importance,

Uncertainty as a stance


Is merely an attack

On sensibility.


I say, go ahead, believe,

And don't for a moment


Feel like you are just not

Cool, or that


You are less than any of

Your fellows


Who have not lost so much,

Who have not tasted


The apple of delight

Which was your poison.




When I was 25, I ran

Away with gypsies.


I was supposed to be

In NYC, looking


For an apartment and a job,

As I insisted I go


Alone, because I knew

NYC better than


My husband.  Instead,

I ran into these people


On the street, who told me

I had a curse on me,

And needed to have it removed.

Sidewalk psychics.


They turned a jar of water

Black in front of me


With their hands.  I was in a

Mania, so things dovetailed.


Three months I spent with them,

Doing their magic tricks,


Buying them tickets to Tavern

On the Green, lawn furniture,


All with my credit cards

I was to pay a lot of off


Later on.  My husband was

Frantic, looking for me,


While I stayed in an apartment

With another man, a friend,


Who I didn't touch at all.

My husband


Prayed and loved me

Back to him,


And when I came back, I found

No anger there,


Just a wish to go on with

Our lives.


He said at one point in a note

He wrote me,


This is our darkest hour together,

And it was.

He was an alcoholic who was



Since before I met him.

The gypsies


Were not kind, and it is a long

Story, but they


Almost killed me when I decided

To leave them.


The fact that I was attracted

In any way to black magic,


Even in a mania, scares me

Sometimes, makes me fear


For my soul.  But my soul

Seems to be doing okay


These days, and at least I can

Say, honestly, oh I ran


Off with gypsies once, and it

Makes my life more


Colorful when I don't zero

In on the details,


Which were horrible and ugly

And nothing to be proud of.




Coffee and cigarettes in the mornings,

The cat, spry and


Happy, going about his business.

How did I end up here


In suburbia, living this life

Of manicures and plants?


For 22 years, I lived, not overly

Clean, eating out of pots,


But always good food

Anyway.  I lived


A dream with my husband

That few people get


To live.  It was like living

Three lifetimes in one,


We were so inseparable, and

Then, gone one day,


And the five year aftermath

Of sorrow and heavy grief.  


I really feel so small in this

Green world,


But I have a need to engage

The bigger world,


To jump on top of it

Like a politician or


A madman, jumping on top

Of a car.


The car I drive now is good

On gas,


And cocktails by the creek



Later tonight, thought I don't

Partake, just drink


My soda and make small

Talk, which I've gotten


Quite good at.  Now, I am

Clean, organized


Again, waiting to see what

The next step will be.


I like it here very much,

In the sunshine or


In the rain,

Which slides off my fingers,


Unclasping from the one I love,

And hold out the hope


That I will see again someday,

But hopefully not too soon,


As I feel poised to make

My mark


In this second life I've been



And freely take, like I

Would take


His face to my face

And sit there for awhile.




Mystical x-rays of

An arm or a leg--


I wanted them to paper

My walls.


To be a doctor, to heal,

To care for.


I never wound up doing that,

But if I did,


I think life would have

Been easier


Than being an artist,

Living hand to mouth.


But I still try to care

For, to heal,


With words meant to

Cut open, sew up, soothe.


I really don't know whether

I'm accomplishing anything,


But I do know this: the tomorrows

Strung like beads


Around my neck are bright,

And the sunsets


Which used to drip down

In bloody pools

Have coagulated in my mind's

Eye into great


Purple wings, the wings of

Some prehistoric bird


Flying into inner-space.

I know that the balm


I use is purest ink

Making its way across


The blank page,

Always present,


Always suffering to be

Worked upon.




Dizzy with emptiness,

I don't know if this house


Is big enough.

The begonias sway in the wind,


We take our chances here

Like hummingbirds


On a sugar-watered finger.

We are delicate,


Easily broken.

One word can cause an


Eruption.  Yet we go along



Tracing the dirt

In the garden with our gloved


Hands.  “I put it there

Because there was nowhere else


To put it.”  It makes sense.

I am 40.


Living with one's parents is full

Of surprises,

Unanticipated things abound.

I love it, and I don't, but


What is true is that there

Is no complete satisfaction


Anywhere.  Better this, I

Sometimes think,


Than atrophying in an apartment,

No good job,


No one to help, to help

Me.  The cats are


Happy, and I can't really

Complain too much,


Because I write with complete

Impunity here.

New Jersey may be the laughing-

Stock of the Northeastern


States, but it is really quite

Beautiful here in the southern


Part.  Show, don't tell:

A man walks out of a store


On crutches, a silk poppy in

His withered hand. 




God is almost certainly

Punishing me


For taking the day off

From school


For no good reason today.

I take off for poetry


Sometimes, but that's all.

But today, I just didn't


Want to go.  So now there

Are paperwork problems,


A grand mal headache,

The cats are not getting along.


I feel horrible, and I know

That when one is truly


Disobedient, God does take



But who am I to judge

The motives of God?


It's my grandiosity again,

Always peeking through


Almost everything I do

And say.


I experience the world in large

Strokes from a painter's


Brush, and details get lost

Sometimes, as did my


Paperwork, which though not

My fault,


I'll probably never hear the end

Of at my Kafkaesque


School, where I wish I was

Right now, laughing


With and babying my students

Who are the lights of my life.






I painted my nails this

Beautiful blue


In anticipation of a poetry



Where I will be welcoming

People with my words.


I really had no idea



Thought I was capable

Of doing this,


And I am floored and

Very pleased and happy


That I will do this.

I feel badly for all the years


I was on a sort of mental

Vacation with grief,


And people got to know me

That way.


It's unfortunate, a turning point,

When so many inappropriate


People came into my life--

I was vulnerable,

I was a mess.

But good people also came,


And it is because of them,

Listening to my ranting


That I got through it

In one piece,


And came out the other side

Better off


Than I was before.

Patience is something I gained


Through the process,

Because I couldn't possibly lie


And say I occupied any space

Other than the one

I so obviously occupied.

Flowers for everyone!

All hugs and kisses!

Now I just have to figure out


Where I belong,

Where I fit,


But I've prayed so much

About it that surely


I will be shown, and I

Probably won't even have to do


Much of anything,

Just wait and take my place


Among the elements.

I need to go forth into the


Bigger world, but I'm not sure

What that actually means


In praxis.

Philosophy.  Fuck.  Metaphysics.  Fuck.


Christian T.V.  Fuck

Only a cigarette will do, as I crawl


Toward some greener world

Under the Gemini sun.




If I were to tell you

I feel like I am nothing,

It would be a lie.

However, widowed, childless,


Aging, I can tell you that

Often, I feel invisible


To other people.  Marriage

Gave me texture,


Plus all the pretty clothes,

The piercings,


Just being with a man hulking

Over me made me feel


Like I belonged.

Now, I study my life a lot


More, we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history

or music,

The poet said.


A woman alone,

Who would have guessed this


Is where I would end up?

When I was young, I paid


Strict attention to single women of

Uncertain age:


The pet groomer, the hair-

Dresser, the accountant.


They all seemed really eccentric

To me, even unbalanced.


Almost everything I've ever judged,

I've either done or become,


And that is my destiny,

But I refuse to remain eccentric,


And I've sloughed that off, mostly.

I became really tired


Of feeling like I had no

Dignity.  Then I grew up


And outgrew for all it was

Worth.  I am becoming more


Real every day I am alive,

And the houses lined in a row


Are the ones I visit with cookies

And little cakes.


So even though I feel invisible,

And I have a sneaking


Suspicion I've always felt

Invisible, that this is


In no way new, and my actions say,

I beg to be taken seriously,


Or at the very least, as a full-fledged

Member of the human race. 




It's amazing that I don't need

Anyone to tell me


To keep writing.

I needed that for so long,


Friends to sanctify my words.

I am so happy that they did,


But this is my own right

Now, insular,


Complete within itself.

I am becoming complete,


Becoming, always becoming,

As my husband reminded me


When we were twenty.

His wisdom did not die


With him, as in many ways,

We have become each other,


Blended like the crushed, dried

Petals of dandelions


In the same garden.  But this isn't

About him anymore,


This is about this green world

And all its mighty treasures


And upsets, disappointments and



The very place I feared, I inhabit

Comfortably now.

Body, always back to the body,

Houses my soul perfectly


Like a silent form outlined

In charcoal dusk. 


I am moving toward something--

What is it?


A new ontology in this darkening

Day?  My body slumps


In a chair, my body hunches over

A desk,


No one needs to tell me what

I should be doing with


My body.  Six years gone,

I still wear my ring. 





Change used to threaten me,

But now I realize


That things are constantly evolving.

The plants from last week


Have grown, and I'm not scared,

Nor do I relate it to myself,


My own life.  Time doesn't stand



Nor do I find myself paying

Much attention.


For instance, right now,

I am standing in a field


Of flowers, but not one is

A reminder of his death.


The red ones are just

As good as the purple ones,


And these twin flowers

Are utterly amazing--


I just took a picture of them

With my phone.


And I don't think, how much

Better would it be


If I had something cold

To drink.


The point is, that I don't,

And I am just as happy.




Gardening has become one

Of my great loves.


I used to think of myself

Solely as a city person,


But now, digging into the green

Earth, putting living plants


In it, has become a joy.

Tending to it, watering it,


Fertilizing it, I cannot imagine

At this moment


Life without it.  It's hard work,

But instead of maniacally


Reading book after book, writing long

Screeds, I garden.  One can say


It's my hobby,

But it seems more than a hobby,


It seems like a glittering



Which blows freely in the wind.

Who was it, Schlesinger?


Who said that in the 21st century,

Artists would return to


Their houses and putter around,

And this would be their version


Of revolution.  I am not a revolutionary.

I am 40.


I don't understand what is happening

Exactly, but I think


The world is falling to pieces,

And when it does,


I can give out fruit

And day lilies,


And some solace.

To say I have a green thumb now


Would be missing the point.

My thumb is a sort


Of brownish-white,

And the sun falls so strongly


Like the optometrist's lens

That breaks the eerie cryptogram


Of the eyechart,

And somewhere in this breeze


Where I once walked,

You can find me in the fossilizing


Murmurs of cornstalks,

Which remind me that the corn


Has not always been

This high,


The thistles not always

This light.




To say, one deserves this

Or that abstraction,


Happiness, love, success,

Implies a sense of entitlement.

Better to say, it is a blessing,

As blessings rain down


On most of us at one time

Or another.


To say, I deserve this, seems

To be a therapy-


Construct, and psychology and I

Have not been


The best of friends.

Or maybe, I do deserve some


Things, but they are so



That they are out of reach.

Only the Creator


Of the universe knows what

I deserve.


And the will to truth is

Always somewhat impure,


And the truth is savage

And dangerous. 




When I was growing up,

I used to tell stories


To my relatives,

Fool them with my tales.


There was David Latchman,

The cowboy, who used


To tango with 80 year old

Mrs. Adleman,


Eventually ran naked up and down

The halls.  My Aunt Lee


Was so upset and horrified

After my weeks of building

On this story, that she banged

On Mrs. Adleman's door


And screamed at Mrs. Adleman's

Daughter, Charnia.


Charnia was dumbfounded, of

Course, but I didn't


Get into trouble, as Aunt Lee

Was merciful.


Then, there was the president

Of France, Louise du Pain,


Who came from a long line

Of bakers and routinely


Beat her dog.  A little here,

A little there,


And my mother wound up

Believing me


And told my stepfather,

Who she was dating,


Isn't that Louise du Pain



He didn't know what she meant,

And she said, you know,


The president of France?

My stepfather answered


Stiffly, “That would be Mitterand.”

For that, I got a slap.


I told so many yarns like that,

And somehow, people believed me,


And what's amazing is that

Apart from these,


I didn't lie.  Being an only child,

I loved to find ways


To entertain myself in that



Where nothing could touch me

But a sharp heat wave


In summer, and I remained





When I was five, I wrote

A long poem about snow,


Showed it to my first-

Grade teacher, Mrs. Bergstein,


Who promptly ripped it up

Because I had written it


In pen, which was forbidden.

Mrs. Bergstein hated me,


As I was the product of divorced

Parents, and that was


A big no-no back then, even

In New York.


I cried when she ripped up my



But the thought came to me,

You can write other poems,


Better poems, and in second

Grade, I won


The city-wide dental limerick

Contest, and kept writing


On and on.  Graduate school, where

I absorbed a lot of hatred


And stress, so much so that

At the end, I was diagnosed


With lupus, never stopped me

From writing, not one iota.


In fact, it gave me the strength

To write whatever I want,


However I want, without caring too

Much what people, outside


Of my friends, think at all.

A bad review is nothing


To me, nothing, and a rejection

Is bliss sometimes.


“Paper your wall with rejection slips,”

Merwin told Berryman, and for


Awhile, I took that very

Literally.  I have a feeling


That nothing will ever stop me

From writing,


And even after death, I suspect

I might be

Putting words into the pens

Of babes. 




A star in the east,

A star in the west,


A star in the south,

A star in the north.


So many, I can't keep



They shiver until

They explode,


An intergalactic fear

Based on brands


Of frozen vegetables.  I am

Allergic to beef.


The cows are safe from me.

Now I see constellations

Of cows, browsing through

The shelves of weird


Green libraries.  I miss

The library in New York,


The one with the lions

In front of it.


Lions are such beautiful animals.

Once, a friend of mine


From Russia told me that back

Home, friends of his


Parents kept two lions as pets.

They forgot to feed them,


And the lions ate their children.

I have no comment on this.


In the glittering starlight, there is

Just too much of it to see


Past anymore.  I woke up sick

Today, and my first thought


Was an evil one.  That scared me.

In this May, 2010,


The last, sallow, wintry rays

Shivered down the window panes.


Narcissism: if I could date

Myself, I would.




Green as the earth

Is green,


I have made many false



Into this world.  The

Details don't matter


To me anymore, the Gemini

Sun makes me smarter.

The hour of the wolf

Is upon me again,


And I think no more of

Stretches of time,


Lumbering past the days

That march on like tin.


The exquisite lines on my

Face become wrinkles,


The sallow brand of home.

The origin becomes the endpoint,


But really, the endpoint

Is the origin.


Green as the world is green,

My voice will pass


Into nothing,

And I will reap the earth


With my fingers sifting,

I, I, I, I, there has to be an ending


To these fickle musings.



Self-self, going, going

Into the I, I, I, I,


Which dips and sings, lonely,

Into the blackest morning air. 



Noelle Kocot is the author of six books of poetry, most recently, Soul in Space (Wave Books 2013).  Her next book, Phantom Pains of Madness, is forthcoming from Wave Books in 2016.  She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants for her work, and has been widely anthologized, including in Best American Poetry (2001, 2012 and 2013) and in Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology.  She was born and raised in Brooklyn, and now lives in New Jersey and teaches writing in New York.