After reading “State of Relax” by Eileen Myles
By Patrick T. Reardon
“Cows kissing goats”
— Bible-immersed —
I see lions bedding with lambs.
Calliope of poem,
lustful, subtle —
nation un-uniting itself
“the loosest kook of all and
animals walk naked in your past.”
All the naked animals,
all the naked flowers,
all the naked stones and water bodies.
My mother constantly enlists me,
oldest of many acolytes,
to rearrange her furniture,
empty of life now 25 years.
Bas Jan Ader,
70s performance artist, performing
in small boat on rough water,
“his toes leaning
over the edges of Provincetown”
and disappearing. Here, and
Linda Nochlin’s Bathers,
Bodies, Beauty with
Courbet’s Origin of
the World and
Alice Neel by Alice
Neel and The Escape of
Rochefort by Manet and Sam
Taylor-Wood’s Fuck, Suck, Spank,
Myles ran 30 years ago for president,
They might just as well have tried
Just a thought.
And Myles was poemed
by Zoe Leonard: “I want a president,”
“I want a dyke for president.”
And a president
who didn’t have air conditioning,
who’d eaten hospital food,
who’d had an abortion,
didn’t know why
the nation’s chief executive
had to be “always
a john and never
My crowded childhood,
shorn of odd angles
and wearing an asylum jacket,
like the other many altar servers.
The cavorting states and commonwealths
— a state of play —
of the messy, slippery, punch-drunk,
grit-scratched Myles fever-dream
of the Un-united States
— Oregon sleeping in the arms of Washington —
are the baby me,
the one who dodged
the blanket of imperative,
the collar of big boy,
the bassinette constraint
— “Georgia on an eating binge” —
not me, not the one here.
bones ache to flee.
skin is electric lust for aloneness.
Call it crowdliness.
Told ugly, I stride,
grabbed as I am
by hands on
knee, elbow, nose, ear, cock, buttocks.
Joan of Arc died in flames, and, 30
years ago, Myles poemed her listening to
legends, hearing voices in
bells, and leading Charles VII to
throne, and, at 19, while still
living, she was burned at the
stake and, dying, “a dove leaped
right out of her mouth.”
Things Myles failed to note:
(a) Charles VII abandoned Joan.
(b) Susanna’s Elders stood close by to
watch the blaze strip the girl to her
skin so they could be sure she was
Never had a period.
I yearn the consolation of Washington.
I itch to be a loose kook.
But relaxation is death.
Always furniture to move.
Note: The three poems referenced here are “State of Relax” by Eileen Myles, which appeared November 3, 2020, in Art Agenda at https://www.art-agenda.com/features/359179/state-of-relax; “I want a president” by Zoe Leonard, written in 1992 and available at LTTR at http://www.lttr.org/journal/5/i-want-a-president; and “Joan” by Myles, published in 1982 and available in an audio version at poets.org at https://poets.org/poem/joan-audio-only.
Patrick T. Reardon
This poem was originally published on 1.13.21 by San Antonio Review.