Poet Anne Waldman has been an active member of the “Outrider” experimental poetry community for over forty years as writer, sprechstimme performer, professor, editor, magpie scholar, infra-structure and cultural/political activist. She grew up on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village where she still lives, and bi-furcated to Boulder, Colorado in 1974 when she co-founded The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics with Allen Ginsberg at Naropa University, the first Buddhist inspired school in the West, where she currently serves as Artistic Director of its celebrated Summer Writing program. Allen Ginsberg has called her his “spiritual wife.” She is the author of over forty books of poetry including KILL OR CURE, MARRIAGE: A SENTENCE, STRUCTURE OF THE WORLD COMPARED TO A BUBBLE, and the poetic text: OUTRIDER which includes an interview with Ernesto Cardenal, and essays on Lorine Niedecker and Charles Olson. MANATEE/HUMANITY will be published by Penguin in 2009 and she will be on a reading tour in April. She has also the author of the legendary FAST SPEAKING WOMAN (City Lights, San Francisco), now translated into Italian, Czech and French, as well as the 800 page epic IOVIS trilogy (Coffee House Press), forthcoming in 2010. She is editor of THE BEAT BOOK (Shambhala Publications) and co-editor of THE ANGEL HAIR ANTHOLOGY (Granary Books), CIVIL DISOBEDIENCES: POETICS AND POLITICS IN ACTION (Coffee House) and a comprehensive BEATS AT NAROPA (Coffee House, 2009), with previously unpublished work by Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and William Burroughs, among others. A book translated into Chinese is forthcoming in 2009.
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Skin Meat Bones

- by Anne Waldman



BONES (chant)  


I’ve come to tell you of the things dear to me

& what I’ve discovered of the skin




your body waking up so sweet to me                      skin


dawn light it’s green                       skin


I’m in hungry repose



it’s getting close to motion          O skeleton


you might stretch it now                        skin


so warm, flesh


and lasting awhile



clock like a BONE creaking

memory like a BONE creaking


little laughter lines around the eyes          skin

& how the mouth’s redder than the rest      Meat

or nipples off purple rib cage of



It’s morning anywhere


O sitting and lying around in my weary tinsel skin

got to get up and walk around in my cumbersome skin

put on lightweight cotton skin

& shuffling skin slippers


the light’s going to make it raw skin

or vulnerable          Meat

or hard



I could pierce it                      skin

I’ll grow new skin, undergo big character change


please get under my skin             take hold of me

interest or annoy me intensely


jump me out of my skin!


no skin off your nose, buster

he’s thin-skinned, she’s thick

dermis & epidermis mating


Allen’s nephew once had a skin






film on surface of milk this morning


only skin deep


let’s go to the oily skin flick





okay, you’ve wounded me, but it’s only skin deep

I’m sitting down in my sweet smelling clammy skin

to eat some juicy MEAT!


one man’s meat is another man’s poison


animal flesh is tasty





Had a dream the jackals came (this was in India)

to collect the Meat of my father’s forefingers


O cloud shaped like a tenderloin steak


tree Meat


Meat of Buddha


Had a Meat sandwich     had a Meat day

everyone was carrying their Meat around, flinging

it in the breeze


Small town, downtown, spring: time to show off your Meat

go home when it’s dark and sit down with the



I live in a bare BONES room

he’s working my fingers to the BONE

my friend Steven is living close to the BONE

I’m BONING up on my Dante, William Carlos Williams,

Campion and Gertrude Stein


Why is he such a bonehead?  won’t listen to a thing I say

Why are they so bone idle? won’t do a thing I say



I’ve got a bone to pick with the senator


I’ve got a bone to pick with the Pentagon


The bone of contention has to do with whether or not

we get a lease


Our old ’68 Ford’s an old BONE-shaker

Ivory, dentine, whalebone, dominoes, dice, castanets, corset

are some of the things made of BONE


but after I die make of my BONES, flutes

and of my skin, drums

I implore you in the name of all female deities wrathful &







Lofty teacher had

put an end to his argument,

and was looking intently into my face,

if “I”

seemed satisfied


and I,

whom a new thirst was yet tormenting,

was silent outwardly, and within said:

“Perhaps the

too great questioning

I make irks him.”

I was Dante’s Hag

with dreams of a siren adorning my skirts

& he wrote—

“when the geomancers see their Fortuna Major, rising in the East, before the

dawn, by a way

which short time remains dark to it,

there came to me in a dream, a stuttering woman with eyes asquint,

and crooked on her feet, with

maimed hands, and of sallow hue”

& he wrote—

“I gazed upon her; and, as the sun comforted

the cold limbs which night weighs down, so my look

made ready

her tongue, and then set her full straight in short time,

and her pallid face even as love wills did


& I translated

When I had my tongue thus loosed, I began to sing

& I sang

“I am the sweet Siren,

who leads mariners astray in midsea,

so full am I of pleasantness to hear

I turned Ulysses from his wandering way with my song,

and whoso liveth with me rarely departs,

so wholly do I satisfy him.”

And Sis, I said to her my great Muse

and Sis, I said

I sought

the wild animal

And dared of love

vague for vestigal desire

a spare



through woods, dark



singing “Quel foco é morto”

I sang, “Quel foco é morto”

but genius weak

in that new age

the new style

came, altered

armed with rhymes

& was alive with fire

considering men

considering women

who “were” the warrior?

They wore “warrior,” a brave word

& could they both

resound in that name or frame?

This was very Greek to me

one, a huntress,

another a hearth-maker

a third avenging

and the men were loving

& going to do battle

But mothers are weepers

& cry out for the young deity

& beat their breasts

& they can find solace in the

touch of women too

who understand one another


hennaed over & break

like waves

those words

over stone

a firm rejection of prettiness, Kyprian

may she not find you harsh

or younger hag

no occasion to brag of it,

an erotic power holds over

a tongue

love’s speech

franker than any modern

woman could permit

I sing for her

how women loving women

is truth not ruse,

lucent dew,

milk-white longing,

a holy tortoise shell

made instrument made song

a pledge, a doorway,

a rite-to-sleep-by,

a tear a god might shed,

a hyacinth of bitter light,

qualities of other lights,

& moans from out the bed

& torchlight too

(touching her!)

a banquet

(Aphrodite, please come, I beg you)

a thigh gone wild

a farm girl lifting her skirt

or me saying

“I cannot work the loom”

for love of her beauty

come, darling, moist one

I will taste your flower, the white city—

Can you forget in our poetry

where love making was


& loosened my limbs?

we did many wise

things & spoke

together, now

when Adonis dies

we shriek

& tear our dresses

we cry out in a dream

& pray the night last

twice as long



got love back a second time

how thoroughly occasional

we cannot know

the precise secret of the accent,

the tonos


the bright ribbon reminds

I bite my tongue not to explode

& take a place

around the


do I still long for my virginity?

Hymen! Hymen!

It never left me, girls.

I lay out

soft pillows for your body . . .

& yet

she is subjugated before a father

subjugated before a brother

before a lover

a son speaks…




the Devil’s workin overtime

the Devil’s workin overtime

He’s workin harder’n he did a year ago

Yes, that’s sure

hmmmmmm that sure is true

the Devil he’s workin overtime

he’s workin triple time

quadruple time yeah he’s workin

yeah he work he workin

he’s got plenty a do

he’s a busy one he plenty a do

the Devil’s working overtime that’s sure

o sure that’s sure he workin he workin he is

& it’s a dark dark time he’s everywhere

& workin harder’n every minute every second

triple time quadruple time

hmmmmmmnnn he workin he workin

O you sinner man o umm huh you sinner man

you sinner woman too you a sinner too

all god’s childrun asinning asinning

& don’t you doubt it people you sinnin

he is yes he is surely working overtime

Devil Devil Devil umm huh

force of the Devil you see tween people every day

tween man & his wife, tween man & his boss, brother’n’brother

father’n’son, sister & sister mother’n’daughter

doan you see it? & you see it

so much trouble every n where

that’s the Devil & he workin overtime

tween man & his wife trouble o lord trouble

the Devil’s workin overtime you seen it all over

& you gotta push him outta here

push push against the darkness

you gotta be strong agin that devil

cause he workin overtime he is he is

& push, push against the darkness

& push push push against the darkness

go for the light


great barracuda

under there—he points—

dark shape in the shadow under sea

up for air

takes the tube out of his mouth


he says

treads water

hand suddenly out

in the air—

this big!

(the length of his stretch)



humans inhabited the area long before Columbus’s arrival

Indians, migrating northward in canoes from South America lived on St. John as early as 710 B.C.E.

They hunted & gathered food primarily from the sea


Introduced to a woman at the beach she looks up

“I’m writing a manual”


she’s channeling Emmanuel

“Emmanuel told me to take a five-year sabbatical,” the man says

the devil o yes it is



There was silence in the house. Back from a tour of duty, a “she” was relegating her eye to the empty sockets where the statues had resided. Combined with that, the journalist’s image of Afghani father with dead baby in his arms—synchronized with drought, starvation, treks toward what dark illumination?—kept the image-cloth alive, vibrant with un-resolve. O ye Museums & rich cartels of the Worlde, Where be ye now? The wrongheaded mullahs, masters of commerce & desire will never bow their heads (put their heads) together. You know how stupas & buddhas are reminders, containers of enlightenment? What living container do we be? The poet has designed and marked out her own map for augury. It contains intersecting concentric mandalas for spiritual exploration and contemplation. The page is jade, the time is contemporaneous with Genghis Khan, and with the present tense of suffering Afghanistan. The Taliban give fair warning of their Urizen—in Blake “your reason,” a dangerous patriarchal mindset. But they are unschooled children, fatherless, crude, young, unsung. They can’t see the light for the trees in a mental desolation provoked by years of heroin and rubble. And tragic lack of mother-love. They are solid in their heads about “enemy,” about heathen religion. And angry that a museum would pay for the salvation of a statue and not rescue starving children. Who were the mothers of the Taliban? Where is a woman’s kind touch in this landscape? How many of these youths are missing limbs? Writing is on the wall. The twin statues, the double towers. The persona “I; myself” begs an issue concerning psychological imprint, identity, objects of worship and revelation. The poet composed these lines with the very palpable destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in mind. The sense of the statues taking “refuge in the dust” comes in an emailed missive from Gary Snyder. The “occasion of these ruses” is Frank O’Hara’s phrase. The mushroom image is copied from a Taoist alchemical text. The Buddhas as a state of mind, the Taliban as a state of mind: which survives?


. . . then in the middle

I; myself

defending I; myself the little house


     three gates or jade residues descend further

then deep off scanner into deep jade so

jade-hue is more

than texture.


more than shape-in-hand

more than you bargain for if you ever could

maybe I; myself did (once in Vietnam)

jade is the condition for prayer

turtle Buddha manacle of jade



three animals

in the middle of jade grow cold

as in when in grass things keep shadow

on the left side


if they don’t they perish from heat

this somewhat being explanation

for coldness of day

cold spirit

& why I; myself would linger over it


pouring troubled spirit over the cases

& jewel boxes

of jade


or beautiful chill of a line beyond jealousy


I; myself in the Tao state

. . . in velvet toadstool




right sides, on the other hand, indicate

or can’t be more NOT wrong

meaning leisure takes hold more like

cough syrup


sensual delectation


[stage direction: cough here]


that my epic sense not be merely causal

but a relation of voices

hampered even by cough

or a fit & start


[cough here]


but the label carries warnings thru the door


for more huts.


more mats.


. . . more sanctuary for things seen & unseen


take this elixir when you can be resting &

prone, the label indicates. turn off the blizzard

white noise showers down on you.




perhaps a larger temple than this one


—with its children & seismographs,


toys that talk, moan

ask questions you never

have the heart to answer because


no, plastic-skin-doll, you

will never be alive like I; myself attempt to be—


is indicated. (arrogant)


house with I; myself



axis of language is rare





but a spoon falls

to the floor

the one you held a moment ago


I; myself dutifully take salutary measure of


down it! faster, faster


for pain. & so on


& so on. radical, back on the left again,

a spoon of air

in a pictorial hand.

talismanically Egyptian

it promises to help you as


you move the Asian continent to Africa

approximating spoon which is a

measure of one swallow


the anti-death potion


a night-poison—right?


hacking away at the statues by night

    [bow three times]


moon half-seen

    Big Dipper which points you

down again toward earth, go there


in your astrology religion I; myself

make much of never obfuscating

the terms of defending I; myself

from its debts to the telluric gods


I; myself defends more than gods


more than views from a ziggurat

from tent from something resembling igloo

though not of ice.


more blinds behind which I; myself

watch, an outpost of this crazy frontier


frontier that I; myself witness

going back to my jade epic again

because it unfolds like a metaphorical



  & is carved to keep the I; myself

(the occasion of these ruses)

intact for a ceremonial day


much like this one


death of poet, death of

friend, death of brother Grecian born

death of statue

illness of species the bottom left see? is

going deeper.

      Dipper digs deeper


a favorable geomancy or placement

of objects.


     I; myself resembles a clock.

I; myself

     takes the top right-hand corner for

political reasons.

     the lower far east can be



can be monologism


may be ore extract for all I; myself can make sense of



she if she is all the shes I think she is

is capable ally &


more than the summation

of her jade parts


. . . traded a cow for beans—how many? . . .


. . . a clash in fashion but they match . . .


. . . upside-down “thanks” . . .


. . . version of a book I; myself never gave the students . . .


. . . half-hour seashell installation . . .


. . . a boy who was the officer of Taliban army . . .


. . . camp-bug artwork. pathos & embroidery . . .


. . . blue plethora attached to a rabbit’s foot . . .


. . . self-portrait of the sun . . .


. . . no longer booted up for posterity . . .


. . . weapons checked at the door . . .


. . . notepad, five scribbles, dark & dangerous-looking . . .


. . . bombing plot in the little school . . .


. . . no I; myself did not say that . . .


I; myself said to be coming through the

wire of least resistance

     more permission

granted with the door out front


Anne’s wood has always been wished upon

this is her wood, lean pauper in a notebook

this is her word “ruby,” this is “eyes”

sketch of a wolf: osha root

& the qualities of wolf: cooperation

respect for others

& this is a latch to the moonroof of a Subaru

or a clamshell when it runs opaline

this is a pendant shape of tear

this is a brush with death

these are farm children who see the future

conservation of wolf

& conversations beginning

“birth” “root” “wish” “fur”


& the equitable sky surrounds

just as you exit


to save on human air


     . . . maps


     . . . memorabilia


     . . . refuge in the dust