This week in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor Brian Blanchfield features a poem by Alli Warren. About Warren’s work, Blanchfield writes: “Since the 2013 publication of her Here Come the Warm Jets, in the City Lights Spotlight series, Bay Area poet Alli Warren has completed a second book of poems, provisionally titled I Love It Though, forthcoming from Nightboat Books, and has begun writing longer poems, putting her stamp on a running notational mode whose other practitioners include Stephanie Young, Anselm Berrigan, and Jacqueline Waters. I think you can hear the durational projects, the self-conscious day-scores, of Bernadette Mayer and of Lewis Warsh farther back in the tradition. I have the sense in ‘Scrambled Eggs’ (as with a similar poem, ‘Moveable C,’ available soon as a chapbook from Push Press) that the notebook is open for a week or two at a time, day and night. For Warren that means the record, the composition, relishing non sequitur, continues to capture and grab impressions whether the author is situated as employee or citizen or patient or intimate. The instrument is sensitive. ‘Is it possible to sort a spreadsheet while flat on your back?’ This is self-reporting, in the era of political posturing on immigration policy, self-reporting in the era, too, of FitBit. The poetic instrument is tracking it all. ‘The listening chambers on either side of my head collaborate to produce a metronome.’ Keeping time with Alli Warren.”

Scrambled Eggs

For the night, which is droning

Under the moonlight, the serious moonlight

The lawlessness of the ocean is a siren call

First comes the eye then comes the weapon

A speed bump in the midst of apprehension

A cluster bomb of red projections travels up California’s spine

Is a sign a source?

The earth bows under no geographic surveillance

Unemployment is built into the fabric of the wage relation

Flyknit health core, green juice purgatory

Another apocalyptic water dream, momentary house of unqualified desire, damp stillness of early morning

The lily at rest, receptive, the unity of its gyre

A shiny new traffic cone, a snow bright hole

I pay for the funky sour with my maladaptive grin

I stick my nose between the rusty links to get at the new jasmine

The fragrance is boisterous for entire blocks I stroll

Tongue folded back on itself like a reluctant taquito

I hand him $80 and he says happy paradigm hunting

Is this what they mean by livability?

Toast sandwich with a side of grass salad

Branding a holding pen a “welcome center”

The Asiatic Barred Zone, the Misery of Maquiladoras

First comes disgust, then comes marriage to morality

Retching into the mulberry, then adopting that retching position as ethical

They offer an endless array of congealed shit, sometimes on sale

The biomoral arc of the universe trends toward FitBit

Keeping the corporate body in shape

Harpooning the raft of those in need

Mandatory self-reporting is optional but strongly encouraged

My irrational body wills illness, interrupts production

I substitute my badly disguised morbidity for ever-present longing

Why is the playing field blue?

How does the iris find its object?

Is it possible to sort a spreadsheet while flat on your back?

Flash fried fiddlehead and a sous-vide sunchoke

The finches host their lunchtime meetings in the fir

My constant container, though it oozes and bleeds, has yet to utterly burst

“Some weep more than others, and those who do are looked up to by those who don’t”

I envy the deliberateness with which he ties his shoes, so too his untainted youth, face a tight green tendril

He works hard to ensure his consumption is visible. My tactic (the opposite) is perhaps no better

Plunder culture, culture plunder

Going into debt so as to be employable so as to slowly pay off that debt, or never, or having been born into it, or to always already be considered unemployable, or

The march was a long wet walk criss-crossing desperation and possibility

Queen Eliza-fuckface draws a blood-red X over an entire region

An endless catalog of extraction, of produced and sustained misery

They’re gold-mad, they even sweep the amber seams

Please, an apparatus against perpetual shame & hopelessness

A locatable shale gate, the field, its animal exuberance

A shovel-ready heart-shaped ass

Bare thighs on damp grass in the humidity of an evacuated August night, or true orange crush

“it is terrific / To learn something about the unknown / By dint of sheer desire for it”

There is nothing remarkable without you to see it with

What would it mean for ears to find their own will?

What I project as unattainable or impossible so there’s no need to venture into risk, so the dream’s forever cathectable

How I bemoan that Monday morning return, yet huddle off to my caving station

Pointing at the rift, the coastal range, the cognitive hill

As if sexuality were nothing but a catalog of holes

Displacing the structure onto the individual

Instrumentalized as expendable, institutionalized as disposable

The landscape woven with displacement and purled with chokeholds

The winners win by others losing by force

Some they kill slowly, others get the privilege of publicity about what is otherwise business as usual

Wraparound at the 20, bearhug at the 5

Assuming the content is static, the category knowable

The male becomes the prototype, the rest rendered invisible

Are feelings tactics? Can emotional life be radicalized? Can I Swiffer away their ideology? What will be left?

A bunch of neon yellow carnations in a blue plastic bucket molting in the desert sun

“Underdevelopment isn’t a state of development, but its consequence”

Grinding the nub, nibbling the lobe

Chelsea boot with a dogwood booty

The condo kills the neighborhood in two months flat

Your portfolio is reeking

But what is causation really?

I feast on ants in the outback and venture into the swap meet to buy back my car coat

Diamonds in the cracks and crevices, rubies under watch of a screw loose

The seepage is everywhere, you can never cut clean through

First the invention of joblessness, then the landscape envisioned as an endless succession of cellblocks

The border makes an unruly gate

A woman aboard a vessel is considered bad luck

But my right to white life is never questioned

“Those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they chose evil”

The listening chambers on either side of my head collaborate to produce a metronome

Cleanliness is secondary, the point is to drench myself in scalding hot water

He calls my thyroid beautiful then sticks a needle in my neck

It’s not a consistent type through time I want but enunciation in acts

How can I preserve my body without preserving its exploitation into labor, how can I care best for yours?

Hailing heavy gray oak hibernating like a teen in its bedroom

The curve of your clavicle, the nook for my nose

The evacuated space where your living breathing extension once thrived

& in that moment my brain is all guts

Numbing heat in the second hand tumbler followed by a burst of courage lasting about as long as the stairs extend to the street

Where matter does not take form until it is observed and the agora was never not policed

A sea vessel may fly any flag but still a flag it must fly

It may look like conducting business but I’m mapping a route back from the working dead

Do I wiggle when I walk? That’s ideology’s extension, sovereignty’s proprioception

First two incisors crumble, then I’m wearing a beanie you yank as you fill me up from behind

What does it mean to have “good boundaries”?

Fish, grain, beans, flour, fats, cheese, onions, horses, oxen, candles, soap, textiles, pine, oak, cedar, hoops, rings, & nails

A pointer parts the lips and ventures slowly past the threshold

Baby’s breath in coming green water

A Leo in the twilight of his mane

Gather around the bow and listen to the whale bark

Fidelity to the cannon, flatulence in the common soup

Satellite wrist for the patient, data management for the caretaker

The dandelions are cheerier than we are

The quake won’t shake the landeds’ grip, we need activation for that

Escape hatch from domesticity

Impenetrable, cordless meat

Hole in the leg in which to store the spirits and some bread

What’s that smell? Autonomous ooze

The breakoff column goes rogue

As long as the river’s been running

First as contingent decision, then as official history

I’m waffling looking at this blade with you

“Rather than wonder whether the ends justify the means, one must ask what the choice of those means, in itself, tends to impose” 

In place of an offer, an imperative backed by guns

The very sphere of work which makes it possible in the first place

To solve the problem by exterminating the person

I bite my tongue and try to be a pleasant patient

Clinging to the vape for dear life

Out of home boost, work ready blow

A transcription from beneath the collapsed earth

Wild mustard thriving atop what we can’t be sure is a butte

Or should I not again utter “ardor”?

What’s the difference between vulnerability and openness?

Trained to horde, but preferring to forage lightly in the grape green field

Employing my time in such activities as daytime sleep

My end zone dance is planting bulbs

Should sensuality produce guilt?

What if instead of the idea of the future what we really love is the malleability of the past?

But you know how women are

I make a barrier of my aptitude, a conundrum of my inclination

Somersault in the infield, cartwheel on the warning track, & the green between

Thumping into the life hole

The constancy of its splitting

The whole earth under long barrel

I scoop the hardened yolk from its white crib

A holler is a hill one should run from



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).