[Readings] | Nine and Ten, by Alice Notley | Harper's Magazine

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[Readings]

Nine and Ten

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By Alice Notley, from Certain Magical Acts, a collection published last month by Penguin Books. Notley won the 2015 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

Fearing loss of one consciousness in coming to another,
I woke up reanimated as a familiar agent of some state,
enjoying immunity from testifying about my previous
sufferings, since I wouldn’t remember their particulars—
the 9 and 10 of swords. I live in this building. I am a caller
of souls, or words, for you never know what bit of spirit will
be magnetized where. One man is attracted to the letters
for intention but he can’t read. I myself won’t read this
after I’ve written it, any kind of past life pains me now,
treading unnecessarily on bacteria, misspeaking, being
discriminated against as a tragic stranger.
                                                                              The devil card
has been disbanded since I can’t remember to be tempted.
I’m told that I’m Wisdom, but how would I know?

You look incorrect to me, as if you are waiting for me to err.
A partisan left over from an election. What did you
think would be won?—you weren’t running. Me, I try
to be careful. I don’t let my thoughts plan on anything,
even their completion. I once tried to select some way to be.
It isn’t a good price, that you pay for writing a poem.


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