from The Not Knot


Celia Bland





The fiber of language presses my ribs.

Life is not a walk across a field.

Life is a plowed furrow of cerebellum,

a porous condensation: that is, an idea.

“I am all fibre,” Virginia Woolf writes in The Waves.

She is interlocutor, all present tense

exhaling temporal sensuality — and yet,

it is as if she were dying and

the heightened experience of that

symphony of the mundane,

I am,

I heard, I saw —

must become, finally,

I alone.

I am alone

fashioned from clay —

even my mind — wet clay








Ghost of My Mother Not Yet Expired



Her figure was encased

in a dull

light smoothed into the puff

ball they call

a devil’s snuffbox.  Step on it and

spores flurry.  Tiny bellows.  Tiny lung.

Her ghost was this pale mushroom that smelled.

It twinkling like a puff of


exfoliating kind of frequency 

like grief

that clears air

of warmth.  Just as in

life, people moving aside,


Like a ghost not yet expired

no one can look at her features

and recognize her.

No one makes jokes: puffball

snuffbox mushroom

bellow of ash.

Will any silence fit?







Russian Criminal Tattoos and Playing Cards



Bored in the Hamburger Bahnhof

I browse the bookstore for postcards.

I don’t want Koons or Beuys.

I long for an art that scoops from darkness

the thick air of Venice, the low

Netherlandish fields, arid clarities

of Spain.  Suffering as a pictorial

talisman — a plumage

of rotting potatoes, the hollow

throat beneath a father’s

knife — that beautiful

sigh in stilled action.

I pause before a book

artfully miasmic of


and submission.  Flipping

through its catalogue of scratched

skin and paper mug-

shots, stencils patterned

for blood

hearts and diamonds

rules for games

I know like I know my

own veins.

On the tram back to Pankow,


I can shelter this scarred


of labor camps, millions lifeless

or be-numbed, I can feel I hold

a secret I must shield

from fellow


like it was porn.  Blood,

blade, slice of bread, pilfered

match heads and spit

ground to charcoal ink

for pricking.

My own skin emblazoned with a barred

window: I am a slave of fate.

The cashier is pleased when I produce

from my pocket exact change.









Celia Bland’s third collection, Cherokee Road Kill, with pen and ink drawings by Kyoko Miyabe, received the 2015 Raynes Prize.  She teaches poetry at Bard College and is Associate Director at The Bard College Institute for Writing & Thinking. 



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