The Wanderer

Natalie Eilbert's Poetry Explores the Minutiae of Alienation

Updated May 16, 2016 7:58pm PDT
Natalie

photo by Emily Raw

Some news: The Wanderer will soon be moving to its own space. 

 

Harlot, if you missed the announcement, will be switching formats and is becoming a monthly digital magazine. With the goal of this section being to post new poetry every week, it makes sense to spin The Wanderer off on its own, which we are preparing to do. There will be more news on that front soon, but until then we will continue to publish poetry in this space while Harlot gears up for its transformation. As an editor, I am incredibly thankful for the space and leeway I've been given at Harlot, and I think what's been published so far has succeeded in proving my belief that poetry belongs in spaces like this one, that it demands space.  

If anything, we're moving because I want to make sure that work like this can stand on its own, without editorializing. I've struggled with what to say about these poems every week, and really only feel like I need to say anything because of Harlot's web layout. Sara June Woods, Ginger Ko, Kate Shapira, and now Natalie Eilbert's work really speaks for itself. Your work speaks for itself. I want to do what's best for that work, and the rest of Harlot wants to see that happen, too. 

 >Believe me, you should purchase Natalie's debut, Swan Feast, released last year by Bloof Books. I was lucky to hear her read from it in Athens, Georgia, and Natalie's poems have continued as this radical, amazing force in my mind, driving me to do better in my own practice. In addition to her book, Natalie is also the Founding Editor of The Atlas Review, which is one of our best literary magazines. Last year, it was announced that the magazine would be moving online and that The Atlas Review would also be expanding into the world of chapbooks. Their first, Mike Lala's In The Gun Cabinet, is a gorgeous hybrid of poetry and photography, reveling in the possibilities of printed books as objects. 

These new poems by Natalie... all I want is for you to read them. 

The Wanderer posts new poetry every week. Submissions are free, and publication is paid. Send 5-10 poems to the editor at wandererpoems@gmail.com.  


FOUR POEMS, by Natalie Eilbert

Panic Attack (for Wretchedness)

Regardless of my sins I return to the mess. I approach
and the mold sighs. I must check my messages. I was

afraid, even before I had teeth, that life would be another
bad entrance in a series of doors in a series of series.

At my best moment, I could look at the scar on my fist
and know the other neighbor did this and it was a dumb

accident. At my worst, I see the bald swirl of my neighbor’s
head in the tissue. I did what I was supposed to do but

that doesn’t make breath more seamless. All objects must
have a seam. I must breathe. A lily bleeds from the seam

of being touched. Me too. There isn’t much precious about me
that isn’t a result of my patriotism. Regardless of my discipline

you won’t believe me. A window inside me breathes, it
leaks ambition to leave my red interiors, it is courage

or it is ritual. That all selfless acts require defining
doesn’t bode well for me, the mimicry in the outcry

to save. I have only helped others by being my own body
and the body craves definitions the way it does lines in order

to be whole. My skin breaks open in the sun in southern California
and there are so many voices whom I’ve failed. So I breathe.

My neighbor's house. When I sat inside it I let the insects
of my childhood eat through the carpet. I killed every one of them.


Portrait of the Tongue Forgetting Itself

And so I plunge, pointing my finger in the direction
of a dead lightbulb. Instead I draw a house. It always
starts off like a dream, then a broken doll. The ceiling.
I am given a pill and shears. In the darkness with our hands
we must interpret each object as a choice. Human beings
put human beings in boxes. I ignored the letters of the one
incarcerated man I knew. In his final message, he asked
what he did wrong. There was a photo, him bloated uncomfortably
in front of a yellow backdrop. I never answered. I once
showed him the tiny heart between my legs as a girl.
To look at his face was to hear its inexorable beat. Now I talk
about darkness. And so my freedom lies in the figurative.
I am surrounded by so many doors and all of them open.
And so to announce sobriety is to acknowledge the click
of a turning knob, to note the eyes who made the tongue
of a bell scream. Yesterday I considered America’s faux
nationalism as I forked spiralized vegetables into my mouth.
Today I have a negative balance. I worry the more I stare
at screens the more reliant I will be on ego-driven “work.”
I, like America, do not possess a long history. I grow
from the seed of A-minor and the many worlds buckle.
I think too much about childhood and this thinking
is the hope of deliverance. As desire might lead to love
the hands might learn tenderness as they are also tender.
It was an accident to say anyone’s name when I wasn’t missing.
I lean on the advantage of a word like world, its immediate
empty relevance. I didn’t want to show R my world
that day but I did it on my own. He was not a criminal
for choosing to look.


Rock Missive

All the paper smells like mint. My chest
has dried into bank of seeds. I compose letter

after letter to a new geography. You tell me
to write about rocks. Well I’m stagnant now.

I’m disheartened by all that’s left, an ending
not driven by things. I repeat my fleet of subjects

but am stunned by the degree to which I’ve imagined
harm. I become vivarium, a green fundament

scores my pretty skull. You tell me to write
about rocks. Look. Today in meditation I drew

circles with my eyes shut. I lay a dotted circle
around my elbow, then my shoulder, my hip.

I attempted to center myself but all I could do
was diagram my disappearances, holes linking me

to other holes. There is joy in a series made only
for combustion. There is joy in the glitch of combustion.

We have done all we could. We have turned every
shape into a tool, every tool into a weapon.

When I lift a book to my lips, it’s all I smell.
All day I’ve thought of ways to save us. I told

my family to lift the carapace from my eyes
so they could see the way I’ve watched them

all these years. You ask me to write about rocks
so let me show you my afterlife. It is a light so light

against the eyelids I become a specimen I beg
the sun to obliterate. Please don’t obliterate me. I hold

your hand to my afterlife and tell you to meditate
the perfect shapes that cauterize me to the story. Please.


Rhythm Thirteen

Never put value in a belief. All I do is repeat.
\
I’m astonished by every mouth I’ve had. An orange
/
pushed down my throat. This afternoon I left
\
the office to run in line. My discipline is straight.
/
A crystal falls through me. Fiber drips down my chin
\
as I assess the world smashed into me. I ran
/
in a line to a window. Every object on its side
\
looks like a beached whale. I think the problem
/
with scene is my death can’t fit inside it. I’m hurt
\
by narrative, the promise of humans to be their verbs.
/
The times I’ve been intellectual, my lips were wet.
\
I pantomime in the pretty gloaming of my youth
/
and push myself through a disc so I don’t have to look
\
anyone in the eye. I need more space. I repeat.
/
I lay down in the road as a girl because I wanted
\
someone to stop me like no one stopped him.
/
Because the car never came, they called me
\
an attention whore. I’m relearning inventory
/
to repeat myself better. Tonight, Paul said the word
\
ichor in their poem. I can still feel the god blood
/
melting through the snow. My landscape flattens
\
to one without snow, without rain, without land.
/
I draw the word ichor in the steamy mirror. It drips.
\
I splash the glass with bleach. It drips.
/



Wanderer

illustration by Kiva Bay

The Wanderer is a poetry series edited by Colette Arrand and published by Harlot Media. New poems are published every Sunday, and publication is paid. If you're interested in submitting poetry or pitching a book review, send an e-mail with 5-10 poems or your pitch to wandererpoems@gmail.com. Submissions are open to all, though The Wanderer's mission at this time is to center work from poets operating outside a cis male framework. 

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Natalie Eilbert is the author of the debut poetry collection, Swan Feast (Bloof Books, 2015). She is the recipient of the 2016 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship at University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she will serve a one-year academic appointment. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, Tin House, jubilat, The Boston Review, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She is the founding editor of The Atlas Review.