Elizabeth Galoozis


Cento: Six Women in Five Parts

Elizabeth Galoozis

A poem can begin
with a lie.

my tools are the wrong ones
for what I have to do.

To be frank,
my muse left town and is much happier now.

Open the book.
Open the heavy book.

I don’t even have to steal
your words, you give them to me for free.

choose any ones you wish
write us a poem.

We are driving to the interior.

A woman lies buried under me,
interred for centuries, presumed dead.
You, who have often made the unnameable
nameable for others, even for me.
You are androgynous and omnipotent.

this then
is the lens
to magnify
these words, these whispers, conversations
from which time after time the truth breaks moist and green.

we could lay our losses
side-by-side, two gifts
the ocean dragged in.

one of us born again
with a brand-new address or poem
two women, eye to eye
                        a whole new poetry beginning here.

By this rising
some piece of our labor
is already half-done.
Once open the books, you have to face
the underside of everything you’ve loved.

What kind of beast would turn its life into words?

I have known
all along that
words will not do.
These words
they are stones in the water
running away.

It was an old theme even for me:
Language cannot do everything
and the past echoing through our bloodstreams
is freighted with different language, different meanings.

The present breaks our hearts.
But we, we live so much in these
configurations of the past
we drift
separate and syllabic
if we survive at all.

You can’t derange, or re-arrange,
your poems again.
The words won’t change again.

I can’t name love now
without naming its object
the trees look so queer and green
It took me a time to light the fire.

Until we find each other, we are alone.

If I could let you know—
two women together is a work
nothing in civilization has made simple

Words to a woman, joy
flying wherever
it feels like, gay!

I can’t believe you are gone
out of my life
so you are not.

I have wanted one thing: to know
    simply as I know my name
at any given moment, where I stand.
I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.

Step lightly        all around us
words are cracking.

Not just the message but the sound.
It’s green
and has come to live.

I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.

lines from (in order of appearance):

Adrienne Rich (“Cartographies of Silence,” “The Roofwalker); Maggie Nelson (“The Latest Winter”); Elizabeth Bishop (“Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance”); Maggie Nelson (“The Mute November”); Audre Lorde (“Prism”); Elizabeth Bishop (“Arrival at Santos”); Gloria Anzaldúa (“A Woman Lies Buried Under Me”); Adrienne Rich (“Twenty-One Love Poems”); Maggie Nelson (“Words to a Woman”); June Jordan (“6.3.96-6.4.96”); Adrienne Rich (“Cartographies of Silence”); Maggie Nelson (“Father’s Day”); Audre Lorde (“Girlfriend”); Adrienne Rich (“Transcendental Etude”); Audre Lorde (“Today is Not the Day”); Adrienne Rich (“Twenty-One Love Poems”); Maggie Nelson (“Poem Written In Someone Else’s Office”); June Jordan (“These Poems”); Adrienne Rich (“Cartographies of Silence”); Adrienne Rich (“Twenty-One Love Poems”); Adrienne Rich (“Readings of History”); Adrienne Rich (“Splittings”); Audre Lorde (“Thaw”); Elizabeth Bishop (“North Haven”); Adrienne Rich (“First Things”); Elizabeth Bishop (“Letter to N.Y.”); Gloria Anzaldúa (“I Had to Go Down”); Adrienne Rich (“Hunger”); Adrienne Rich (“Twenty-One Love Poems”); Maggie Nelson (“Words to a Woman”); Elizabeth Bishop (“Sonnet”); Audre Lorde (“Lunar Eclipse”); Adrienne Rich (“Double Monologue”); Elizabeth Bishop (“In the Waiting Room”); Audre Lorde (“Thaw”); June Jordan (“Problems of Translation: Problems of Language”); Maggie Nelson (“Saturday Morning”); Adrienne Rich (“Natural Resources”)

Elizabeth Galoozis is a poet and librarian living in Los Angeles. Her poetry has been published in Faultline, Mantis, Not Very Quiet, Sinister Wisdom, bee house review, and Wild Roof Journal. Her poem “The Grove” was a finalist for the Inverted Syntax Sublingua Prize for Poetry. Her scholarly work has been published in The Library Quarterly, College & Research Libraries, and ACRL Press.