Arlene Ang’s Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu

Arlene Ang

Arlene Ang is the author of The Desecration of Doves (2005), Secret Love Poems (Rubicon Press, 2007), and a collaborative book with Valerie Fox, Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press, 2008). She lives in Spinea, Italy where she serves as staff editor for The Pedestal Magazine and Press 1. Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu, published by Cinnamon Press in 2010, is her third full-length collection.

Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu is concerned with images and perception; the intricacies and strangeness of human relationships. Her language, sometimes surreal, challenges expectations. Always sensual and inventive, this is poetry that surprises; poetry with a rapid heartbeat that demands the reader responds. Ang deploys sharp crafting and a unique voice.
“This is a fresh and remarkable work that explores relationships and perceptions with great imagination and finesse. Sometimes bold and always graceful, Ang’s poems demonstrate her true mastery of the surreal.”
– Jayne Pupek
Dream Experiments Involving Polaroids
Before my mother goes to bed
bearing the extraction of her breast, she has
to walk away from me.
She keeps slipping on the floor.
She is halfway to saying
goodbye. Instead she turns around
and takes a snapshot
of my face looking in on her
from the French window. She slips again.
The nightdress climbs her hip
and shows the moon
all the veins where the blood went
wrong. She is weeping now.
The picture in her hand has captured
only the wedge of my red shoe.
In the next five hundred dream states,
she will explain to everyone
this is how much she loves me,
that I will always remain a living person to her.
The soundtrack is that of a body crossing
itself over and over. She has
no notion of how little they understand
what she says. It’s been like this
every time: we meet, we fail
in our attempts to take photos of each other,
we don’t talk, we don’t go into details—
like which one of us is dead. Or isn’t. 
Dead Girl Found Curled Up in Snow
She is an ear.
She is a sea shell
taken—like a taste
for destruction—
from the sea.
Her body
to the beauty
inherent in snow.
The needle
splitting the vein
on her arm
has fallen into
a trance.
Her fingers curve
as if halfway
into the interpretation
of Clair de Lune.
It is time
for her to leave.
She is nameless.
The ice holds
her blue lips together.
She doesn’t wake up,
doesn’t know
the hollowed womb
she’s left
on the ground,
or later
how more snow fell
and erased all
trace of where
she didn’t belong.
Ant trails
lead to the peach on the counter. It is overripe,
and your nail has left an open wound. Streetlight bathes
the kitchen into a shipwreck. A plate—chipped
in several parts—awaits the fruit, like proof of civilization.
With age, the tendency to live birthdays alone
ingrains itself in bone. Candles are stowed under the sink
for black outs. It is customary to collide against
the fridge in the absence of light. The dreamt-of pain
rubs against your knee, picking up on reality.
What is sleep, if not a finger pressing unconsciousness
upon the body? Something always drips out:
blood, juice, tears. The counter doesn’t distinguish
your reflection from the fruit rot. After ten years,
it’s still shining and—for the granite—it’s enough to go on.
Once you’ve killed an ant, more arrive because
it is in the nature of workers to take the dead away.
The Bearded Lady
sonnenizio on a line from Ros Barber
On a morning like any other, she wakes to find
a slit in the curtains unsheathing the sun
across the bed. She calls her cat, a summons
that reverts back to silence. As she rises,
she leaves her hair behind—dark brown
and curling on the dishevelled sheets.
She undresses. The half-light gives itself
to inspecting her body. She has lost her beard
and a chunk of left breast. She has only
just begun. She turns her head to the pillow
where she had laid to sleep a husband
and two dogs. And there, she finds
what she was made to find: the dead mouse,
a sheen of blood ripening its half-closed mouth.
from Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu
(Cinnamon Press, 2010)
Order Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu.
Sarah Sloat reviews Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu on Goodreads.
Visit Arlene’s website.

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