In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Still Life with Skulls and Bacon, and Landscape with Several Small Fires
  • Richard Siken (bio)

Still Life with Skulls and Bacon

A thing and a thing and a thing held still—you have to hold something still to find the otherthings. This is speculation. You will die in yoursleep and leave everything unfinished. This isalso speculation. I had obligations: hope, but hopenegates the experience. I owe myself nothing.I cut off my head and threw it on the ground.I walked away. This is how we measure, walkingaway. We carve up the world into feet and minutes,to know how far from home, how many hogsin the yard. My head just sat there. Fair enough.A map without landmarks is useless. Sciencedreams its dreams of knowledge—names it, pokes itwith equations. The crucial thing is not fiftytimes whatever but how we got these notions: howmuch, how many, how far, how long. It’s goodto give explicit answers, showing all the steps,necessary and sufficient. Finding the dots,connecting the dots. An interrogation of the dots.A pip, a point, a seed, a stone. This is philosophy.These are suppositions. If one has no apples,one has zero apples. There is, you see, no shortageof open problems. We carve up the worldand crown it with numbers—lumens, ounces,decibels. All these things and what to do with them.We carve up the world all the time. [End Page 70]

Landscape with Several Small Fires

I like dead things, says the landscape. They cannothurt me. The armies swarm the cities of the yellow fieldand burn them down. There’s not enough room for usto be ourselves, say the soldiers streaming acrossthe plains, So you will have to be pushed out of the way.

We like things related to our survival: soup, arrows—they expand the range of the species. Goldmine,goldmine, landmine. War, and the art of war, and thelandscape of war. Grant me freedom from objects,says the painting. I will help you, says the paint.

More territories. We sat in our tanks and rolledover our enemies. We trampled everything intonoise and mud. Willpower, gunpowder, concussivethunder. Pink, orange, red, orange dreaming red.I am the fire, says the fire. My body is a graveyard,

says the landscape. You’re welcome, says the landscape.Gold bodies on the red, red ground. I paint inthe wounds. Socket, says the shoulder. Shoulder, saysthe socket. Let’s kill everything, says everything else.Smeared night, smudged dawn. I saw him fall. Them,

falling. Split and felled and pounded into the ground.We knocked the heads off the statuary, deprivedthe landmarks of any meaning. Victory swellingin the occupation. History is painted by the winners.Keep your paints wet. Trust me, I have things to say. [End Page 71]

Richard Siken

Richard Siken’s poetry collection Crush (Yale University Press, 2005) won the 2004 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Thom Gunn Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, two Arizona Commission on the Arts grants, two Lannan Residencies, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His second poetry collection, War of the Foxes, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2015.