Three Poems by Liz Lansdale


My Ghost’s Soubrette

Hey, I, too
am a little scary,
know a little something
about power, for instance
when to inflict the odd
paper cut, when to
trust & when to doubt,

when to snip off no more
than two buttons from
a woman’s sweater
to teach her to go without.


How to Read Books Doing Things in Imperial Rome

- flyer in West elevator of Columbia University’s Butler Library for a lecture by Joseph Howley, Associate Professor of Classics; September, 2013

The books that built cathedrals lived peaceably among themselves and married books they’d met in their childhoods. The cookbooks and red books waged wars of instruction comparable only to the footnote battles of the books of prayer. The books of the dead got wrapped up in their work but the children’s books truly got their hands dirty. The night the pop psych books pored over themselves with magnifying glasses, the comic books drew uncomfortable pictures of their old high school classmates. Those books now give lectures in Fresno and wait a moment too long at Thanksgiving to pass the peas to their sisters, the family therapist books. The books of Paris and Verona pass a cigarette over the sheets. They’re about to lose their jobs to the books of Imperial Rome, those sentinels at the top shelf of society. They are clear-headed and concise communicators, though certain textbooks find them utterly inscrutable.


No Manifesto!

“No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No O’Neill”
– Eugene O’Neill to a movie studio that asked if he’d write a screenplay for a Jean Harlow film and requested his reply in a collect telegram of no more than twenty words


No more “I’m sorry”: say no to boys! Say no to rock and roll! Say no to Nancy Reagan!

Say no to the plaza, the marketplace! Say no to the town hall, to forums, voting, democracy! Say no to heroes, say no to martyrs! Say no to vitamins! To cabbages and kings!

Quiz: 1!) Do you want a Barbie?1 2!) Do you want a teacup?2 3!) Do you want a drink?3 4!) Do you want a reference?

See evil, hear evil, speak evil if you have to! But say it to hands, to air, to love, to light, to worries! Say it farther, faster, say it to anthills and empires alike! Say not to Hemingway, & to Shakespeare! Say it to Caesar, say it to Lear!

Now say no to particles, say no to waves! Say no to science, say no to faith!

While you’re at it, say no to international diplomacy! Say no to domestic security! Say no to immigrants! Say no to emigrants! Say no to sugar and spice! Say no to the fork, say no to the spoon, say no to the cowbell, timpani, bass guitar, theremin, triangle! Say no to the rectangle! Say no to the trapezoid! Too asymmetrical!

Say no to corporate! Say no to free! Say it again! Now say it to me!

& now try this! Make a list of people you can say no to & put it in your pocket! Call them, tell them how much you love them, update them re: Important Things: the library fines you’ve ignored, the monopoly games you’ve won, the number of blueberries you’ve chosen to adorn your cereal in the achy dawns before your long train ride to work! Take the list out of your pocket & rip it into pieces! Arrange them on the floor by the dog bowl until you manage to spell “NO!” Now so they spell “maybe!” Now feed the dog! When he looks to you for more, know what to tell him!
________________________________________________________________________________________
1 No
2 No
3 No! And the next is also No!
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Liv Lansdale is an English major at Columbia University and Poetry Review Editor for poetsatwork.com. A long-time attractant of insanity, she is learning to prioritize affect over strategy. Her favorite sentence of the 18th century is written by Mary Wollestonecraft and refers to men as “bugbears.”