Interview with Carolyn Srygley-Moore, Albany, New York:
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Carolyn, of all your poems, “Miracles on Market Street: the unraveling” haunts me the most. That push-pull of boundary-setting. How does writing poetry help you with this?
Carolyn Srygley-Moore: “Market Street” is essentially the portrait of a nervous breakdown. Boundary setting was a main issue and still is. The conflict with writing poetry is that while you are forming aesthetic boundaries, you are transgressing emotional ones. Form praises boundary, meaning praises boundary, but stream of consciousness hungers for fluidity. Throughout time I have run into people who violated boundary not for the purpose of beauty, but for the sake of their own gain. That is the difference.
Miracles on Market Street: the unraveling
In the first miracle she found a job she could tether
taking care of kids with Downs Syndrome a girl named Lucy pushed
her into a velveteen pond.
In the second miracle the car’s engine caught on fire
an olive camouflage Dodge a poof of smoke on the highway
as the iron vultures circled overhead.
In the third miracle she gave notice on her apartment
& where she moved there was a man
who had no sense of boundary.
In the fourth miracle eating became an impossibility she was
locked in a cellar come nighttime to piss
in an iron pot.
In the fifth miracle there was nothing to say she stood in a room & the Man
swiveled in his chair & pointed at her & said
it must be hard dealing with that.
The final miracle embraced the voices jagged of unraveling
at the hospital they examined her brain with dyes & daggers & found
something in the blood an imbalance without measure.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: In “Miracles in Court Street” you relate an incident that every parent fears but at some point is presented with: your child’s anger raging out of control to the point of becoming destructive. How difficult was this scene to write? Did if offer healing for yourself? Or a message of self-forgiveness for your readers?
Carolyn Srygley-Moore: “Court Street” relates an incident on July 4, this year. I think one must always place poetry in a realm as close to imagination as it is to the autobiography or fact. My daughter was angry, but most of all claustrophobic. We were very tired in the emergency room, it was the middle of the night; all is searing when one is exhausted, blood seems like more than blood, accident seems like fury. So yes, perhaps it was a means towards self-forgiveness, and if I was able to forgive myself, and the mess of accident, then perhaps the reader could experience the same effect.
Miracles on Court Street
In the first miracle the child pushed her fist through a wall of glass
& there was blood they drove to the emergency room like swirling sirens
like alto shrills released from the conch song aperture.
In the second miracle the emergency room played the trial
of a woman who had allegedly murdered her two year old child
placing duct tape over the pink pink mouth: they looked away.
In the third miracle they waited three hours in a small curtained chamber
as photographs wait in a locket the father answered when they telephoned home
he was caring for the lopeared rabbithole white rabbit.
In the fourth miracle the doctor arrived from Ghana with kindness he gauged
no sutures were necessary only butterfly strips of glue
& they laughed over his story of putting his hand through a window
to acquire his sister’s pink pink lollypop when he was a boy.
In the fifth miracle the child spoke to the mother loudly all the way home
in order to keep her awake while driving spoke loudly not accusing
for each was tethered by imperfections by tantrums of just fallen rain.
In the final miracle the father was waiting as cartoons played
X-Men & Avengers & the mother saw the broken glass had not been cleared
the mother sighed resignedly & went to sleep with guilt’s bloodhounds wailing.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: In “Miracles of Painting the ash pink,” you write about the urge to bring beauty and perhaps even a sense of the preposterous to the lives of the Taliban. Do you believe that poets have a place in politics?
Carolyn Srygley-Moore: I believe poets have an important voice in politics. Although each poet’s stake is different, each voice is legitimate. I am not omniscient, but I do try to comprehend each viewpoint, while acting and writing toward what I think is right. Reading the news daily is an important element of my work; it is integral towards knowing what is going on in the world. And to give voice to the marginalized, that is the directive. In this particular poem I speak of the wish to shield a child from those hard facts of life. And yet they must be introduced to those factors, although, hopefully by a compassionate guide.
Miracles of Painting the ash pink
What is beauty in the eyes of the Taliban?
I would go & paint murals the size of elephants
on the streets of their abode
but war is as factual as beauty seems.
Executions in the town square:
Sun gleams on the round faces watching.
I once worked at a pizza parlor
& a boy told me how easy it is to strangle a chicken
he took me through it step by step.
I see no chickens
but in my friend Beth’s henhouse
the eggs piled in a blue bowl upon her blue counter.
My daughter grew up on a farm my friend says.
She knows what the facts of life are.
I hope not. I wonder.
Beauty is a strange thing.
I would paint the ash of the dead pink
if I had the means.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What struck me most when reading, “Miracles of the Street of Moth Echoes & Freaks, a dream,” is your acuity with figurative language. Since this is particularly challenging for me as a writer, I’m quite in awe of how brilliantly you weave together two such dissimilar concepts to create a deeper sense of both. How do these come to you? What writers inspire you?
Carolyn Srygley-Moore: Figurative language is how my mind operates. I think it is genetic (I’m not kidding). Of course one exercises the muscles one is given, while letting others atrophy, and I have worked to develop the figurative instinct. But my mind works and operates in a kind of jumble where the dissimilar coexist. Writers who inspire me are everywhere. My favorite classic writers are Milosz and Rimbaud and Williams. I tend to veer from the more destructive writers, though once they were my passion also. I come into contact with fresh voices on-line daily. It is very exciting, the work that is being accomplished.
Miracles of the Street of Moth Echoes & Freaks, a dream
In the first miracle she found herself on the street of freaks
eating mounded mint ice cream of a man she did not love nor covet
riding a wagon of stolen guerilla books into town.
In the second miracle her tongue was flayed
a cobra’s tongue echoing as the moth echoes against
pavement’s verity & night.
In the third miracle pink intestines of Jesus spilled over the frozen earth
with the innards of rabbits & hungry she ate of them as of the trail snails leave
when escaping the wrath of the more eager insect.
In the fourth miracle the sands turned black the intestines charred
all things were not true miracles were rather the magical legerdemain
we form & are formed by.
In the fifth miracle she found her name on the inner leaf of a manuscript
of sketches yet had not signed it herself it had been calligraphied
by a choir of oaks on the other side of the street.
In the final miracle all were released from the dreamt asylum
the event ot the encroaching world war yet leaders feigned it was not war
declared as the archived atoms fell & blue missiles took flight.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: “Miracles of Glass Street” is astonishing in its beauty and power. What was your source of inspiration?
Carolyn Srygley-Moore: It is a poem about a calling, to life, to poetry. On looking back, it simply is a depiction of a woman confronting the “miracles” of having the responsibility to turn word and image into substance, for all of her days. It goes full circle: at the poem’s end, she accepts the mirror, even the child in the mirror, as ‘glass answers light.’ It is a very positive poem regarding the writer’s responsibility to gestate image into something of beauty and substance.
Miracles of Glass Street
In the first miracle there was complete departure from autobiography
she considered women who were leaders their hands trembling
like glass lanterns as the abyssal trains passed.
In the second miracle, the occurrence of death amazed
the coffins heaped with tons of red roses spilling over
the glass top for all coffins are made of glass.
In the third miracle clocks were stopped
mirrors were turned the other way
there was room for neither time nor reflection.
In the fourth miracle she knew she was pregnant
not with child but with image & would bleed for all of her days
for this cycle’s reason as if she put her belly through a window.
In the fifth miracle glass became trees
trees became voice
voice became her.
In the final miracle she stopped seeing reflection as betrayal
she could see the tomboy’s face with the white sailor cap
she could call herself by her nickname & answer
as glass answers light.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Tell me what led you to write this poem about Amy Winehouse.
Carolyn Srygley-Moore: My poem about Amy Winehouse regards not simply the singer/musician’s untimely death and the “curse’ that was spoken all over the place; but also at age 26, I nearly died and spent four days in intensive care. I was not in a coma, but heard the doctors whisper, the monitors beep, my mother weep. For three days they informed my family that I was going to die, and there was nothing they could do. One doctor leaned over the bed and said, “You must have really wanted to die, Carolyn.” The effect of untimely death on loved ones is horrendous. My mother had flashbacks for years of finding me, almost dead, in the bedroom clutching the stuffed black cat. Someone always discovers the body.
Miracles of surviving at age 27
Twenty seven is a harsh age.
Joplin died then. Cobain. Winehouse. The sky
is a butcher time is no thief but heroin may be.
I see her standing alone on a field of ice
without blood now
without blood to betray her.
The flesh peeled back like an avocado
the muscle in mounds glistening
there is no blood.
I am told when you do heroin you piss yourself.
You flail against the door & piss yourself.
You cannot see the sun.
The Updates are unconfirmed.
She was in her own home a good thing.
A photograph perhaps as she fell
held her eyes for an instant.
Not the Grammy. Outside, London
passed by draped in reds & grays.
Someone found the body.
Someone always finds the body.
They will feel that cold unyielding for years.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: When you read about devastating events in the news does writing about it reduce some of that feeling of helplessness?
Carolyn Srygley-Moore: Yes. Writing reduces my sense of helplessness about what is going on in the world, in society, in my own life. It is definitely a way of taking control, of making beauty out of what is ugly, fashioning order from chaos. Writing poetry, like any art form, is a calling. “Miracles of a child’s babble” deals with the horrific massacre in Norway. Writing the poem did not make me feel better, except that I was witnessing, and in doing so, being responsible. But if you notice the voice in the poem you’ll see that the narrator is not morally superior to anyone.
Miracles of a child’s babble
It’s not supposed to make sense I say.
Who cares what the facts were? Trees stood
like guardian vigilantes observing all.
Is it supposed to be child’s babble
the white burst at the hairline almost breathing
nonsense into the past.
I sing. I always sing.
I understand the strangest things.
The carnival is a thing of laughter’s bone.
They say he was anti-Muslim I say.
What Islam is there in Norway?
We know nothing.
Skinned night flayed light.
There is a pause. My blood is corrupt as anyone’s.