cynthia cruz

Cynthia Cruz on Helene Cixous

Helene Cixous’ Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing

Let us go to the school of writing, where we’ll spend three school days initiating ourselves in the strange science of writing, which is a science of farewells. Of reunitings.

I will begin with:

This is what writing is. 

I’m not sure how I came across the book. Maybe I saw it displayed in a small bookshop in the city and fell in love with the cover. I’m not sure. It is as if, by magic, or, more probably, as though my own terrible need for guidance, for a mentor, conjured the book into my life. However it appeared, it appeared in my life around ten years ago, perhaps longer. In any case, Cixous’ voice, her words, the power of her intellect fused with her passion drew me in immediately. I began teaching from the book as soon as I found it.

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Self Portrait

 I did not want my body
Spackled in the world’s
Black beads and broke
Diamonds. What the world

Wanted, I did not. Of the things
It wanted. The body of Sunday
Morning, the warm wine and
The blood. The dripping fox

Furs dragged through the black New
York snow—the parked car, the pearls,
To the first pew—the funders,
The trustees, the bloat, the red weight of

The world. Their faces. I wanted not
That. I wanted Saint Francis, the love of
His animals. The wolf, broken and bleeding—
That was me.

Cynthia Cruz

Diagnosis, Cynthia Cruz

Awkward, and almost always the idiot
Savant, mutant, retard, I

Travel my own effervescent weather,
In my underwater

Vessel, my sweet
Mars, and soundless

Daydream, magical sweep of Rimbaudian
Reverie. Always

Clumsy, and guileless, mind-
Blind, and deathly shy,

Winning every spelling bee,
Every math contest,

Done before the rest, finishing
First in science test.

Hiding the quarterly honor-roll awards
I won beneath the bed.

The shame of being
Seen consumes me.

And I fight it back,
A landowner warding off
 
Leagues of feral thieves,
With fire, handheld torch, burning back

The onslaught. In grade school,
Listening to the same Blondie song in my bedroom, over

And over for hours, days,
For years. No friends

But the one: silent, and sitting
In my head. Running laps around

The house for five, ten, fifteen
Miles, counting

Calories of everything put
Into my mouth—desperate to ward the onslaught

Off. Until I am nothing
But a body.

Burn the body down
And, with it, out goes the pilot

Blue light of the mind.
Everyone said

I was pretty back then.
Maybe, way back then,

Before I began.

If I could I would ask you to close your eyes as someone close to you—no, a stranger would be better—whispers these poems into your ear. If you could find someone on the subway, if you could step outside yourself long enough to simply ask, it should only take four minutes or so. Why the subway? Because it is closest to the experience of these poems, moving through a tunnel of light, fully contained in the pressure of the moment.
— 

Some Otherside, Some Subterranean by Nick Flynn - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

Nick Flynn has guest-edited our poetry section, and offers for your quiet, subterranean reading pleasure poems by Garrett Burrell, Cynthia Cruz, Graham Foust, and Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Strange Gospels

by Cynthia Cruz

I was locked in the linen closet, lost
In ruffles of gingham tatters and my sky
Bleached hair. I wore the
Paper crown. I wore the flimsy red
Tiara. I let them
Pin them wings on me.
The palace, I say, is burning.
And snipers masked in mandarin felt masks.
In my room, I can hear them
Breaking off of daddy’s ancient CB:
One day she’ll be a looker.
Someday, a knockout.
But all I see when I look in the mirror
Is a bright blue sky filling with F16s.

Hotel Berlin

In the rooms of a rundown palace
You said, Ruined. You said, Princess.

You said nothing to me
For three long weeks.

The color of that room
Is eel-black.

When I was a girl and still
German, I stood alone

At the end of the sea.
You may have loved me then

I sent a message through the cages
Of a great whale’s teeth.

For three weeks, I did not sleep.
I set jars of sweet milk and baskets 

Of bright berries and red 
Marmalade outside your door

In the dream
Where you come to me

I kiss your mouth
Tasting the secret 

Letters of your history.
I swear

Somewhere in Siberia
A godly ocean of bison

Still roam free.
You, kneeling before me,

In this, 
The last and final room. 

 

Cynthia Cruz

Bathysphere

by Cynthia Cruz

Our childhood was a science lab,
A brackish, incubating underworld.
An all-night pharmacy of bright pink
Pills. And the military doctor with his
Throne of medicine, an ossuary of bones.
That dead room of books and sun-bleached
Skulls. No one could protect us. Death
Lurked around the corner, a wild white
Pulse. Incessant drone, sweet hum
Of the animal. Compass with no needle,
We grew old on that waste riddled junk,
With no pilot, no anchor, no map.
Just the warm current of death
Steering us nowhere.

There has been talk, of late, of a new breed of poetry—what has been coined variously “Post-post modernism,” and “the new new sincerity,” a lyric poetry that, though neither confessional nor narrative, does not shy away from revealing that the poems are, in fact, written by a person, a poetry that utilizes the “I,” but ventures into a new room of writing, one that plays with language and does not shirk from beauty. Not surprisingly, I find this work to be exhilarating, a breath of fresh air in a large room of poetry that often trumps sterility and smarts.
—  CYNTHIA CRUZ EVERYBODY, here reviewing Marni Ludwig's Pinwheel.
Hotel Berlin by Cynthia Cruz

In the rooms of a rundown palace
You said, Ruined. You said, Princess.

You said nothing to me
For three long weeks.

The color of that room
Is eel-black.

When I was a girl and still
German, I stood alone

At the end of the sea.
You may have loved me then

I sent a message through the cages
Of a great whale’s teeth.

For three weeks, I did not sleep.
I set jars of sweet milk and baskets

Of bright berries and red
Marmalade outside your door

In the dream
Where you come to me

I kiss your mouth
Tasting the secret

Letters of your history.
I swear

Somewhere in Siberia
A godly ocean of bison

Still roam free.
You, kneeling before me,

In this,
The last and final room.

ON THE TRAIN TO VERSAILLES

by Cynthia Cruz

I.

Cracked glass of Christ
in its silver vessel, an ambulatory vitrine.

The relic of my broken
glass jar of Chanel

Vamp polish, spilled black
drug at the bottom of my leather bag.

I’m moving, again.

II.

Of anesthesia. Of tin bins of  names
piled up in numbers.

A Bela Tarr-like winter: an old water-
pocked calendar discovered among the ruins.

The blacking archive of history,
all the sweet windows finally sealed shut.

(from epiphany, winter 2014)

On Reading by Cynthia Cruz

On Saturdays when I was a young girl, my mother would drive me downtown to the Santa Cruz Public Library. Often, she would drop me off; leave me there for hours. And I was completely content to wander aimlessly, pulling books from the endless shelves. I would get myself into a small spell, walking and gathering books. Then, I’d find myself a quiet corner to sit and there, I would lose myself inside the portal of a book.

Years later, I am, again, in the library, this time, the Aptos Public Library. I am in the children’s reading room kneeling before a round wooden table upon which sits a fake board game, The Phantom Tollbooth. Here is how the game goes: I pick up a card, and whichever book is listed on its backside, that is the book I will read. I spend a week inside the kingdom of this book and then, when my mother returns me to the library, the next Saturday, I tell the librarian which books I’ve read, and she takes me by the hand and escorts me back to the magic round table, back to the board game. She disappears for a moment and then returns with a form with my name on the top. She adds the books I read that week to the long list, instructs me to spin the spinner and then I pick up a new card, and flip it over.

The pretty librarian takes my hand and leads me across the room to a shelf where she pauses, leans into the books and pulls out a beautiful red book with a black horse’s face on it. Black Beauty.

She hands me the book, the key, and I open it, and then I drop under as I enter the beautiful kingdom again.