Posted by: Rachel Mallino | October 7, 2009

Dysfunctional Batch #14 – MC Hyland

About the (dys)fucntional poet:
MC Hyland is the author of three chapbooks, most recently, Residential As In (Blue Hour Press, 2009). Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in elimae, Fairy Tale Review, and Fourteen Hills. She currently lives in Minneapolis, where she teaches creative writing and letterpress through local nonprofits, and runs DoubleCross Press.


Ballet Mécanique (i)

I had lost interest in the body,
the cold giver of light.
We traded clothes. I asked the house, who
do you think you are?
but I had to answer
for it. We wanted what we had,
but different. We wanted
our lives to happen without us.

The missionaries unlocked the word-hoard,
but wouldn’t share with us what they found there.
They gave us juice instead, in paper cups.
There may have been love,
but it masqueraded as rain
eating slowly through the abandoned schoolbus.
Then winter came on, scratchy
with stars, and we walked through the night

to stay warm. Our lungs, damp machines.
Reeling on the public lawn,
I said to the field, this body
is an emptiness bruised by sound.
The house
shuttered. The missionaries dug
in the staked-out floodplains, archaeologies
of half-truths and caution tape. Seasons
fell away, creaking on the doorjambs.

Our bodies thickened, pulled down
towards the earth. It wasn’t, exactly, death
that we feared, though our bodies
held that also. Quiet among the haut-parleurs,
I turned the crank, kept my hand steady
as a viper.

Ballet Mécanique (ii)

And then there was the radio, our
constant companion. Winter came on,
scratchy with stars, and we cut a memorial garden
from a piece of silver paper.
Egyptian birds, a lacelike tangle of root.

While the haut-parleurs
scoffed in the parlor, we changed our shoes
to climb the chainlink fence.
So many berries close to the ground!
I was looking for the lost swimming pool
when the steam began to rise.

Waiting all night for the body to rise again,
I hid my answers in upturned paper cups.
The rain fell and we measured its inches.
Our lungs, pink machines operated
in the inner darkness.

We wanted what we had, but realer.
I asked the house, who do you think
you are?
but could find no sufficient
answer. A thickening of air.
To touch the body of the air, you must keep
still as sleep in the bus depot.
You must allow the air to come toward you
in gentleness, a shy but tame thing.

Light beams on the street from erstwhile
trees, grown straight and tarry in a distant wood.
The missionaries are digging
in the staked-out floodplains.
The life outside the body is the only life.

Ballet Mécanique (iii)

Why not this night? Continuous in that
in-between falls away upon arrival.
Scrambling down a hillside, I turned sideways
toward the lost swimming pool, the public lawn.
I turned the crank, kept my hand steady.

There may have been love, but it masqueraded
as a pear tree vaguely visible
on the western horizon.
The haut-parleurs laughed their crushed bone laughs.
I blew the punchline in the joke about
the lost elephant and the space/time continuum.

The missionaries lost interest
in our bodies, their slowly weathered delights.
Locked in the parlor, we traded clothes,
unlocked the word-hoard. We wanted
to be proud of each other, but the rain
got in the way. It soaked through the wool
while we carved a memorial garden
of deer bone, a hundred tiny willows.

The problem with your life is that you don’t believe
it’s yours.
So said the house, the cool pocket
of air. Our bodies thickening, pulled down
towards the earth. We went for walks
down Seventh Avenue, and the sidewalk
threw back heat.

I asked the machines, who do you think you are,
watching from above without reference
to the human. Bound together by a common
discontent: these foolish skins, so prone
to piercing. It wasn’t, exactly, death
that we feared, though the radio had other ideas,
always asking us to dance.

I said to the radio, This body is a longing bounded by time.
A road kept tunneling through August,
blind between the high corn.
We kept walking down it, calling our names
up to the oranged night sky.



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