from My Life: A name trimmed with colored ribbons

By Lyn Hejinian b. 1941 Lyn Hejinian
A name trimmed            They    are   seated   in    the   shadows
with colored                     husking   corn, shelling   peas. Houses
ribbons                              of wood set in the   ground.   I try to
                                            find the spot at which the pattern on               
                                            the   floor   repeats.   Pink,   and rosy,
                                            quartz. They   wade   in brackish water.
                                            The    leaves    outside    the window   
tricked the eye, demanding that one see them, focus on them,   
making it impossible to   look   past   them, and though holes   
were opened through the foliage, they were as useless as port-  
holes underwater looking into a dark sea, which only reflects   
the room one seeks to look out from. Sometimes into   
benevolent and other times into ghastly shapes. It speaks of a   
few of the rather terrible blind. I grew stubborn until blue as   
the eyes overlooking the bay from the bridge scattered over   
its bowls through a fading light and backed by the protest of   
the bright breathless West. Each bit of jello had been molded   
in tiny doll dishes, each trembling orange bit a different   
shape, but all otherwise the same. I am urged out rummaging   
into the sunshine, and the depths increase of blue above. A   
paper hat afloat on a cone of water. The orange and gray   
bugs were linked from their mating but faced in opposite   
directions, and their scrambling amounted to nothing. This   
simply means that the imagination is more restless than the   
body. But, already, words. Can there be laughter without   
comparisons. The tongue lisps in its hilarious panic. If, for ex-   
ample, you say, “I always prefer being by myself,”   and, then,   
one afternoon, you want to telephone a friend, maybe you   
feel you have betrayed your ideals. We have poured into the   
sink the stale water in which the iris died. Life is hopelessly   
frayed, all loose ends. A pansy suddenly, a web, a trail   
remarkably’s a snail’s. It was an enormous egg, sitting in the   
vineyard—an enormous rock-shaped egg. On that still day   
my grandmother raked up the leaves beside a particular   
pelargonium. With a name like that there is a lot you can do.   
Children are not always inclined to choose such paths. You   
can tell by the eucalyptus tree, its shaggy branches scatter   
buttons. In the afternoons, when the shades were pulled for   
my nap, the light coming through was of a dark yellow, near-   
ly orange, melancholy, as heavy as honey, and it made me   
thirsty. That doesn’t say it all, nor even a greater part. Yet it   
seems even more incomplete when we were there in person.   
Half the day in half the room. The wool makes one itch and   
the scratching makes one warm. But herself that she obeyed   
she dressed. It talks. The baby is scrubbed everywhere, he is   
an apple. They are true kitchen stalwarts. The smell of   
breathing fish and breathing shells seems sad, a mystery, rap-   
turous, then dead. A self-centered being, in this different   
world. A urinating doll, half-buried in sand. She is lying on   
her stomach with one eye closed, driving a toy truck along   
the road she has cleared with her fingers. I mean untroubled   
by the distortions. That was the fashion when she was a   
young woman and famed for her beauty, surrounded by   
beaux. Once it was circular and that shape can still be seen   
from the air. Protected by the dog. Protected by foghorns,   
frog honks, cricket circles on the brown hills. It was a   
message of happiness by which we were called into the room,   
as if to receive a birthday present given early, because it was   
too large to hide, or alive, a pony perhaps, his mane trimmed   
with colored ribbons.

Lyn Hejinian, “A name trimmed with colored ribbons” from My Life. Copyright © 1987 by Lyn Hejinian. Reprinted with the permission of Green Integer Books, www.greeninteger.com.

Source: My Life (Sun & Moon Press, 1987)

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Poet Lyn Hejinian b. 1941

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Subjects Nature, Arts & Sciences, Architecture & Design

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

 Lyn  Hejinian

Biography

A founding figure of the Language writing movement of the 1970s, and an influential force in the world of experimental and avant-garde poetics, Lyn Hejinian’s poetry is characterized by an unusual lyricism and descriptive engagement with the everyday. Like most Language writing, her work enacts a poetics that is theoretically sophisticated. While Language writing is stylistically diverse and, as a movement, difficult to reduce . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Arts & Sciences, Architecture & Design

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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