This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Ariana Reines. 


Magazine Feminism

I could not be said to have “wound
Up” anywhere but it was true

That at that time I was alone. Also
True was that I had not been fucked correctly

In what was starting to feel like a long
Time. I used the apps but did not

Show myself on them to be a person
Sipping cocktails on an inflatable dolphin

Nor was I a person about to simply say
Who she was and what she sought. I got

More attention, of course, than I could possibly
Return, and at a rate of about one in a thousand

Encountered someone with whom I felt
What is commonly termed “a spark.”

My appetite for self-advertisement having
Become, admittedly, low since the period

I had to take the university to court and the time
Before that when I was being stalked by several

Men and the ex-wife of an ex-boyfriend.
I was certainly having a profound experience

Of myself and of the light that fell on me
And my views, and the distortions of my views

And the cheaper versions of things I had done
Which shone in the light my machines gave

I just don’t even have words for what it felt like
I don’t have words for when you would rather work

Than fuck but to borrow a phrase
From an old jazz song it can happen to you

I am tired of the ruse of emptiness that fills
My sexual imagination when I feel beauty

Of a certain kind being done to me
And tired also of the job of performing

Sovereignty according to these old rules
Some of my favorite people seem to be fueled

By pure rancor. By rancor alone.
I can’t say I’m the same

The sun warms my writing hand
I forget all the time

That the sun is our friend
I often forget that I have friends

I taught myself to surrender
It was strategic, like going out

Of your body while somebody fucks you
And you don’t want it

Every woman knows what this is like
I don’t know a single one who hasn’t done it

But I taught myself another kind of surrender too
I did it in the off hours, in whatever time and space

I could steal from my career. All I can say is
Once you have surrendered like that

It becomes hard to care about magazine feminism
Though I find myself looking back at it

Like the doomed woman from the myth
And looking back at everything else too

My barbaric homeland, I beheld it from deep within a jewel
I looked down at it from airplanes

I studied it with unkindness
The way I had learned to study my own face and body

The bad ideologies through which we all
Had to move could be shaken off, and our mutual

Dependence on the machines to fill the desert
In our lives with music and bodies, ideas and fun

I would not change it for a mountain
But so many mountains had already fallen

And it may be that my despair that day
In a light of pale beaten

Gold, like something in an Attic
Vision, while an eclipse progressed

That could not be seen, it may be
That my despair was chemical or that

It was menstrual, but it was also
Mensual, actual, or it was all a bad dream

I too a product of magazines
And yet, I wanted to say, and yet

Some wild feature of my apparent docility
Is even now filling my arms

As if it were a cayenne pepper soda
I were talking to you through

But now I feel the other world pulling me down
Again. . . Goodbye



They taught us the world
Was ending but they were wrong

Rite they hardly taught us anything
Hiding themselves

In the cantaloupe
Light at the witching

Our parents, badly

Harmed, desperate
But unkind

To whatever

They could remember
From the war

And to the phrase
“Before the War”

Which they carried
Into the next

With a couple of coins

A stick
Of furniture

Hairs sprouting
From their tough old leg

He understood there
To be feeling

In it
But he did not

What feeling was

The heart has brain
Cells in it

My lover said
Since before

I reached

My country has been at war
My adulthood entered war

In parallel to the decline of her art
Which could not be protested

Only soaped like grey water down
The flocked back of a stone

Hypnosis of scents & of forms

Gag teeth
Make no sound

Poker chips
Chips you can’t eat

I’ll put my money on the crystal

Your own career
From LAX to El

Pollo Loco like all
Truly natural

Things at last

In the dark
And in silence




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).