Friday, March 25, 2011


3 POEMS FROM NIGHTS READING , a new manuscript drawing on The Thousand and One Nights, the depictions of gender and narration at stake in the tales, and the surrounding interventions and engagements of translators and other writers.

By Marthe Reed

From the annals of ‘S’

A first narration

“One of them said”

A pavilion, a cup of wine
Scent of roses

In the habit of indiscretion, she narrates an alternative account, though who said remains anonymous. Deft layering of almonds and cardamom, analogues of romance

Any palace or forbidden daughter
Any thousand truths

Has she remembered this exactly as it was said?

Water splashes into a pool at which caravans pause. Such divergence, the accretions of a random textual history, remains unspeakable.

Illicit sex, wine, even hashish

Hers a faithful mirror
The dimensions of paradise. She abandons speech for mulberries and shade

As before, the borders of the text refuse delimitation

A second narration

A merchant and the child of djinn, a murderous date stone falls from heaven: residence of doubt in which we await the arrival of a hero

Predicament of attribution, cupidity and caliph. The relation of any of these perfects enigma

A bottle of brass stopped with lead, a bottle sealed with the signet of Solomon presents itself. In a fisherman’s net

Nostalgia’s obligation, neither boat or grave

Another child, poverty’s issue, interrupts the narrative. A priori he is saved. Or she is. Possessing a talisman the djinni must obey, we forego the authority of fact

A subterranean chamber, a treasure. A beautiful girl. (Also shipwrecked.)

The instability of the text provokes a pleasing frisson of paradox: silver tray and honeyed fruit. We press such words against our palates

A third narration

containing, yes, forgeries and poisonous fruits
that which never happened is simply a lie

or made of fire
like djinn

how else transact a climax
or wear the garb of an Abbasid court

a king demands a slave-girl
text and pretext

we undertake a commission
a “passing beauty”

locating a language of comfort
passing what

the marketplace avails its remedy
kohl eyes and sherbet lips

spear-straight and slender waist
so much for literary history and orphans

she falls in love with a boy
and betrays the king

details of tongues and twined limbs
of kisses and murmurs of

pleasure merely the index and archive of

the tale devolves to swords and blood
narratives of “hard fact”

her budding bosom, her
dewy cheeks

vade mecum of market value


Marthe Reed has published two books, Gaze (Black Radish Books) and Tender Box, A Wunderkammer with drawings by Rikki Ducornet (Lavender Ink), as well as two chapbooks, (em)bodied bliss and zaum alliterations, both part of the Dusie Kollektiv Series. A third chapbook is forthcoming from Dusie Kollektiv 5. Her poetry has appeared in New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, New Orleans Review, HOW2, MiPoesias, Big Bridge, Moria, Fairy Tale Review, Exquisite Corpse, and Eoagh, among others. Her manuscript, an earth of sweetness dances in the vein, was a finalist in Ahsahta Press’ 2006 Sawtooth Poetry Contest. She has guest edited an issue of Ekleksographia and served as assistant editor for Dusie Kollektiv. Further information about her work can be found at her homepage and at the publisher page for Gaze:

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