CA Conrad

(Soma)tic Poetry Ritual for the Pulitzer Foundation’s
Exhibit “Art of Its Own Making”

for Nicole Eisenman

The Mona Lisa was wrapped in fine red satin and sealed in a specially designed wooden box before being transported to the countryside in 1939. Art in the middle of war needs dedicated stewards to keep it hidden from invaders. Even with the most trusted well-trained people a museum’s curators and other staff can fall prey to enemy gunfire, poison gas or drone attacks. You are in the museum alone at night and the staff’s dead bodies are stacked in the basement. You have a chance to save one piece of art before the looting begins, what do you save? What are your criteria for choosing which to save, because it’s the most valuable, the most popular, because it’s your favorite, or what? Take notes.

(Soma)tic poetry rituals provide a window into the creative viability of everything around us, initiating an extreme present. Documentary notes are not important; in fact the movements we make inside the ritual inform the way the notes come out of us, no need for exacting detail. Take notes as fast as you can, faster than you can think about what you are writing. Later type the notes into a single document, print it out then carry it around to extract lines and words to shape your poem. Approach your chosen work of art, thinking about the safest way to remove it from its mount on the wall or floor. What tools do you imagine needing? Stop to take more notes. You will live with it hidden in your attic or as a lover under the covers next to you. How will it feel seeing this coveted object each day? Take notes.

Create a password for your hidden art by first choosing an ancient god or goddess. What is your favorite home appliance? Think of the nights you turn them all on to sit and listen in the dark for the most pleasing of the chorus. Combine the god to the appliance, like Jupiter Egg Beater. Take notes. Go into a stall in one of the museum restrooms and write the password onto your naked flesh. Take notes. Write it again harder, then harder. Take more notes. Walk up to a stranger and say the password. Just say it. How do they react? Take more notes.

(Aphrodite Microwave was my password. Nicole Eisenman’s painting Breakup at the ICA in Philadelphia was my focus. How far are the doors from where it hangs? There is a subway entrance just outside the exit, but what if, and what if, okay, then here we go THIS WAY instead? The notes became a poem titled “NOW THAT THE PRESENT IS SO ENDANGERED WE CAN STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE FUTURE.”)


my grandfather died of lung cancer before retiring from the DuPont chemical factory if weakness is tender solicitous kisses I will be the weakest in the room my grandmother died a year after retiring from the flag factory I enjoy my life for them
as a kid certain poems edified me to taste my lover all the way inside striking flint a rush when poetry penetrates the world as it should trap the devil in the room to teach us everything make us so much older than last night we used to get rid of it now we keep it as long as we can wake to pheasant nailed to the boards it’s going to injure itself one day while I dirty the house with poetry our delicious animal smells made in the room carry leftovers out in pockets
I am a poet for those dead before they die if strength is cruelty apathy and murder I will collapse with another like me to suffer with flowers my aunt died of alcohol six months after retiring from the dental floss factory listen in open air for the garden of my head venerate arc of the arrow flying back with a season of wonderland visions a noble cause to rid ourselves of worry to wake and kill them all my uncle died a year after retiring from the coffin factory when you dial 911 you know it will change everything the burden and strength of poetry is in the fractures unsure if light on wall is moonlight the imposter of sunlight a curse upon all men who enslave others
when they became afraid of the thing they created to scare us it was clear we needed to be concerned

A (Soma)tic Poetry Ritual & Resulting Poem

for Candice Lin

I occupied a busy street corner in Asheville, North Carolina to bless children with bubbles that will make them queer. Not gay and lesbian, but QUEER! Bubbles of course do not have such powers, bubbles have only the power to be bubbles, and some parents knew that and thought the whole thing was funny and would say, “That’s cool, I will love my children no matter what.” I took notes for the poem.

But MOST parents were not happy about Queer Bubbles at all, “Ooo bubbles, look at the bubbles sweet heart, look at the pretty bubbles.” I would blow bubbles for their little hands and say, “These bubbles will assure that your child will grow up to be a healthy, happy, revolutionary Queer who will help rid the world of homophobia, misogyny, racism and other forms of stupidity.” Parents pulled away nervously saying “Sorry, sorry.” One mother abruptly yanked her blond son’s hand, “C’mon honey ice cream, ice cream!” The boy cried, reaching for the bubbles as she refused to look in my direction, pulling him from the queering of the bubbles. Most parents though just said “Sorry, I’m sorry” as they walked away. I took notes for the poem.

The fear of queer will not dissolve with sorry, the apology is not acceptable, especially if their children grow up to be queer. Asheville purports to be a liberal, laid back city, but Queer Bubbles pulled the veil aside for a closer look. One man said, “Jesus loves you.” I said, “I don’t think so.” His face screwed up and he yelled “YES HE DOES!” Jesus loves the queers, isn’t that nice? And his angry messenger roams the street to tell us so. WE MUST INSIST that a redistribution of wealth always include The Love. How can we be there for one another? How can we be assured that everyone gets The Love? Notes from the ritual became a poem.


I was naked
on a mountaintop
kissing someone
who loved me
people fully
clothed two
as crossed out as this cage I
say I belong to no more
the stars let me off the hook again
this is so new I don’t get it
hear myself sing with
a voice I do not recognize
the best voice to happen to
me I want it back
each night
there is nothing little about little lights in the sky
now the pronunciation is perfect for another
morning of lips performing their duty to verb
shrouding ourselves by light of
damage control stations of rhetoric
lips as piglet prepared to
be hacked apart beneath a greenery of
mansions a mess the ambulance cannot reach
there is nothing little about the cicada revving up while
we think our car horns
are so impressive