Poetry: Julia Madsen


they thought we were marked by a territory within

stasis they thought

of loss

crossing one line and then another de-

ranged they thought of the limit

whose semblance or gutter

purged and not to remember

the way a blank field turns or

brackets enfold silence,

dear listener,

in the grasses, dear static,

we long for marrow

bitten flesh

hallucinatory juices

flowing through the hours

aleatory quaking

the riverbed sank into shape

slouched into the curve

of a shadow

to nestle there in recollection

of wind that is not wind

but fragrant burial

giving way to the image

of a garden unhinged of a garden

clashing out of breath and

curdling at the sound

of metal

in this territory (the territory

torn from image

there were many things

we could not contain

for instance I built a shelter

from a nest buried deep in the chest-

like cavity of a tree

but the nest didn’t remain and I

grew tired of trying to make it

enough so I took a letter knife

to etch the days of omicrons

spreading over the landscape

glyphs suggestive of an absence

the witnesses carved rust into

they said we could fall into

anachronism the clashing of metal

far away from the prairie

as middlescape of bruised fruit

falling but I too felt some funnel

of time wherein I could not (like a gyroscope

configure my own arrangements

spinning off one axis and the next

whose physics were unclear and subtly

awry they call this illness

in another dimension they call this necro-

kinesis and blood-loving my fruit

was unlike others

adhering to form, they named this

“body without organs”

and let the animal skeletons dry

in a line in a breeze

now trailing the Mississippi

where streams entangle the roots

growing heavy with time and dis-

tending the vows you take

to the land the vows you take

to soil take root in the mind

of the landscape whose vastness

infers painting or slashing of forms

the double-threaded spiral the double-

headed cadaver dog the twice

promised and forever (the lice

grew teeth on this day

that the river

gave I a way of making

sense through thickets of grasses

brushing up against the ancient mind

at the base of the skull where the dark

tunnels lead only back to water

I canted

I can’t call

but for the scar that grasps the tree

the dissolving earth

a body on which even the rats flee

following ley lines through a pasture

shaded on one side by rain,

on the other, steam,

and between them a ruse

that could make you believe

again in destiny

in Iowa a sheep prepares

to be shorn of its warmth

a syllable catches the sleeve

of a man with clippers who sleeps

and tells us that the dream is ravenous and if we stay here

we too might fall sideways into the piling heaps that keep piling for the meanwhile unending


In the fifth poem, the line “painting or slashing of forms” derives from Sandra Doller’s Oriflamme where she writes the line “painting slashing or of forms.”

Julia Madsen_PhotoJulia Madsen is a multimedia poet and educator. She received an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University and is currently a PhD candidate in English/Creative Writing at the University of Denver. Her poems, multimedia work, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, Tarpaulin Sky, Black Warrior Review, Versal, Caketrain, Michigan Quarterly Review, Alice Blue Review, CutBank, La Vague Journal, Flag+Void, Word For/Word, Entropy, Fanzine, Full Stop, Tagvverk, Dream Pop Press,and elsewhere. Her first book, The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial: Investigations into the Heartland, is forthcoming from Trembling Pillow Press.