535 West 22nd Street, 5th Floor
New York City
Tracie Morris is a poet who has worked as a page-based writer, sound poet, critic, singer, scholar, bandleader, actor, and multimedia performer. Her sound installations have been presented at numerous institutions, such as the Drawing Center, Ronald Feldman Gallery, Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument presented by Dia Art Foundation, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Kitchen, Museum of Modern Art, Silent Barn, and Whitney Biennial, all in New York. Morris is the recipient of awards, fellowships, and grants for poetry and performance, including residencies at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York, and MacDowell in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Her most recent poetry collection, Rhyme Scheme (Zasterle Press, 2012), includes a CD and her upcoming collection, handholding: 5 kinds, will be published by Kore Press in 2015. She holds an MFA in poetry from Hunter College, has studied classical British acting techniques at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and holds a PhD in performance studies from New York University. Morris is a professor and coordinator of performance and performance studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
If I Reviewed Her (excerpt)
If I reviewed her, if I reviewed her. I reviewed her. Her her button. Her boutonniere. Herbal. Her boobeleh. Her boo. Her Too. Her tuchas. Her view. Her book.
If I viewed her like I used to. I talked to. I teased her. I teach her. I reach. I rearview.
“If ‘if’ was a fifth…” Black lettres. Black pov. “res” onate. Ur-words. Sona. Salon. If I revved up, I could view her through another glass, Toklas, another poem. Whatts a smatter-shattering. That piece of bright bling attached to a cloth with sharp edges,
rounded o’er time, a button. A carafe.
What patterns clash? What suits ya? What cymbals? What Sabians, Armenians, Jews, Germans, Blacks, Latins, Americans? Euro-detritus? Ex-plights’ us? I wonder.
The “gratitude of mercy” is not explained. Isn’t made plain. The nose on your face, lalala vie en rose. What colors rise? Vie(w) finder the size of a nickel. A dime, the side of it, is the side of a button, the way it hems the pocket. The way you finger it. The pointed nature.
Blood in the face. Blood on the leaves. It’s a violet hue. It shifts from blue. White gold. A shift is a ditty dress. Dirty is yellow at points. Whitest whites not coal-colored. Not coal. What’s matter? A large box clocks handily. It cloaks. When I do count the clack that tells what I re-sign to be, ore no (t).
Lilies are white unless tiger, unless striped. Unless (la) t (i) tude. Un-less and un-still, etude. What’s the sound in that box? What kind of box is it? Harmonica, piano, coffin, shoo? Masque of red. Of Venice, of revenge, of reverb. The purpose of a box is to let things bounce around inside, not out. They’re all maracas, all boxes, all cojones. And that is why there aren’t brass ones. They’re bells and open at the bottom. Like a review.
Stepping up to the plate to review is base. It is the ground. It’s dirty. It’s around. It’s cutting corners like sports for war. It’s saying pen’s mightier: a tool, a gourd. Assessments are objects. Alchemical and base.
At the bottom is Jimmy Cobb in Miles’ kinda color. Chambers’ music from an engorged lighting in a bottleneck. The fretting comes plaited, the strings curve around the fingers S, a female shape. A dress. A Tiffany lamp, a vamp to attest, to a taste. Petit for-fours.
A swallow bubbles. Bubbles up words. Polite Tourettes’. A set of words water the mouth. They are things that take shape that glide down the throat. Taken (a)back, tobac. A carbo-nation, a turbo-nation a turn. The bubbles, Brooklyn circles sweet simple syrup. Another slender needle.
A recording. These pieces of a house of hers. Her work, her dust, her…polishing. The dark places gleam in this paperstock card house and its phoneme particles across the board. A rainbow.
Places to go red again, wheelbarrow. Another poet who knows how a black comb can be placed in the hair, how the sun sets in the wide Caribbean sea after-raining. How brilliant colors are the state of things when the daily clouds are not dark grey. The “too ra loo ra loo ral” relocate. Green as red blend in.
A blue coat is not a red coat in this regard. A blue coat is bluer and a red coat redder.
The grey is Tin Pan Alley’s. The percussive keys, New York. There is not the softness the name implies but the black and white holds up. Color? That quick rhythm. The 88 lucky numbers one hope one hits. Dark custom and no greyscale. A hardened snapshot, snaps shut.
A bedspread, a throw. A throwaway line. A carved grapevine on a chair’s feet in a drawing room. An appointed room. The man with the scythe flutters the veil. More dark custom. The facts of dark matter. The wake. This is a show, a showing. Having a seat and muted tones, tea. Scones. Dirty dishes and crumbs. After all this. After all this, heartache, this bruise, she has to do the washing too. After she sits.
After she breaks down.
They had envelopes to the bride. She goes around around in white. Puts them in her purse. Why don’t they do that at the other service? That’s when she’ll need it. That’s when she’ll need it. All she has in it: keys, lipstick, handkerchief. Small hard things, lace. She needs a crinoline in there, wrapped by a rubber band.
She holds the handle. It’s raining. Grey tears. Masque, mascara. The day replaying over suds, over seltzer, overlays. Mother of pearl handle. White hunter’s animal horn also mounted by him. Her mounted by him. The pallbearers pick him up. Both he and she are lighter. She might have been pulled up by the wind on this grained day. Streaks on the photo. She wipes.
Grape leaves, grapes stems. This motif. A universal.
A drink. Bottle, cup, glass. This earthenware variety for different means. These belongings. These things she squeezes.
She sees. She swings swigs liquid the color of rain. She mends it.
Brittle papier-mache. Construction. Card. A tree sliced thinner than cake. Still life th(r)ough. (knock would)
Origami, with eyes. Markers, crayon, wax. A seal of something. A promissory notation. A jot. Drops dropping. Still wearing her coat. Deciding.
Under that coat, a coat. Under that black, white. She is in between coats. She’s a prism. A triangle of a waist. The scythe, the window. The fire.
The sandwiches on the saucers, crustless. Mayo spreads and spreads, indistinguishable from porcelain.
Dotting the eyes daintily. Petals to the casket, the survivor. An unconscionable hue under the circumstances. A hint of a color.
A Werther’s a peppermint under the circumstances. A grandmother, a girl. An inheritance of her heir. What’s she got to give? Hard sweets now. In her eyes, a crinkle.
This one’s hair is colored. It’s a crinkle around her hat. “Tight curls.” Springs up like flowers defying gravity, the grave situation. A maid to the other lady, lays the body in the sateen. Two women. A cohesive.
Brown skin and porcelain. Salon under uncertain circumstances. Both waiting. Antoinette, Jane. Where’s Jean? Sun and grey make steam. Make rainbows, make tea.
Pauline, saltine. Watermelon crackers. Watermarks, salt deposits, street smarts. Street sweepings over graves. Someone shutters. Who gets a rise out of whom?
An uncomfortable silence, an expectoration.
Elbows placed on a table. A scene. Mesa blanca. Ectoplasm in a glass lens. Chemical processing. It did shake. Shook it.
They shooed it when it shook. They eschewed it. It was fake. Pus, hence the handkerchief to the face.
Pero, perrito slakes. He curls under the table by the shod feet of those two. Smells rosewooded grapes.
Grapes at the wrist. A delicate glass is picked to the lips. Canine settles in. Brown eyes level, minstrelly.
Blackening up, formerly used for furniture. If she can read… not furnishing. Not.
And this new Black, this newsprint, this ink on the apron, bleak. Bleak cleaning. Red all over.
The throw on the chair becomes a shawl, became shy, covered shoulders that shutter. Stole. As he did. An erress wraps the hollow up at the fringe.
The edges of frayed pages in this view. In this mediumship, in this penman. This vaulted environ.
Suppose suppose I told her, even after her repose? A typed pen silvered o’er borders on black glass where she rests.
These bronzed digits typing. I watch them take form from key strokes like a piano. The mechanisms for making, unseen. A space between utility and instrument. The hearing in the ear, a scratch of tapping nails, covered up.
The joints. The natural arthritic laying on of hands to generation. A poised angularity to to message.
Inside the peeled pencil is dark grey. Black Took letters and lead astray point of viewing. Commentate.
Black pixelate from a brown house. An address. A crackerjack to munch. Apprise inside.
Room with a review to let.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Shelagh Patterson is an activist, a poet, and a scholar. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, newspapers, magazines, journals, experimental theater, bureaucratic documents, and a feature film. She has received fellowships from the Bronx Writers Center and Cave Canem, and was a resident scholar/artist at the Urban Issues Institute at Essex County College. Recently, Patterson was the humanities partner for JACK, an arts center in Brooklyn, and developed an after-school theater arts curriculum for the city of Newark with the administration of Mayor Baraka. Patterson has an MFA in creative writing from the City University of New York, Hunter College, and a PhD in English with a focus on critical and cultural studies from the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Newark.
Any skyline rising in golden splendor of mid-afternoon sun
Newark, Manhattan, Pittsburgh
And bridges the strength of triangles in a binary world.
Glass shines. Any bird will tell you
Glass kills. Crash of not being able to pierce through
Our fragile beaks. Our fragile desires.