quitter — Paula Cisewski

Nostalgia Tour
                    A Hüsker Dü Golden Shovel Poem

So smoke it. Probably what’s the difference, what’s
gone missing is missing, is going
to remain missing, even on

a reunion tour. What’s lost and budding vs. what’s
lost and rotting. Triggers for our FOMO. Going
by the logic of looped break-ups, feisty on

the fumes of former fuels, what’s
this particular crowd passing around? It’s going
to mosh pit our bedazzled coyote minds. On

second glance, those are real fucking coyotes inside.
Real coyotes, lean and loping toward a vanishing point. My
fellow feral howl monuments, a concert’s kicked off in my head.



Third Ballad from the Labyrinth

Labyrinth of my haunted
mouth.     Some birds

          maybe just cormorants     swallow stones
          to dive     the deeper river     fish slick treasure

like a cellar.     Victrola
spinning choked-down songs.

          There’s no reason to
          pretend it’s not
          happening or that
          it feels good. Or bad.

Listen, listen, the last
child on any path has
          fallen behind.

          What a name means.
          A hand-me-down, a saint
          a mother loved.
          Has it been a great
          relief—relinquish it.


Recall a summer afternoon: the crows
(just a regular murder: twenty or so birds)

peppering the neighborhood trees trying
to holler away a hawk. The hawk preening.

The hawk unruffled. The motionlessness
of one bird filling up the sky to bursting.

A definite non-moving example of moving.
A secret image inside
a body inside

a labyrinth


It’s Labyrinthitis: an inner ear
     condition     probably     not serious
          association akin to

the way think and thank spiral
          from the same vine     move
               even dizzied     like that shimmy shimmy candle wall

The whole picture stops when you stop

          while lost in any maze or tour
                    puzzle     recalling a favorite song can help

But there’s no bar
                    in here     Can she dance sober?
                         *room spins*


When there’s nothing left          Dancing at Midnight
but to walk forward                   Dancing at the Chance
All this remembering             Dancing at the Dead Sea 
A vertigo                                   Dancing at the Edge of the World

a tarantella     Dancing at the Harvest Moon
a vertigo          Dancing at the Louvre
                           Dancing at the Odinochka
                           Dancing at the Rascal Fair
                           Dancing at the River’s Edge
                           Dancing at the Shame Prom
                           Dancing at the Victory Café

keep dancing


Paula Cisewski's fourth poetry collection, quitter​, co-won Diode Editions' 2016 Book Prize and her third, The Threatened Everything, was the finalist selected for publication in the 2014 Burnside Review Book Contest. Both will appear in early 2017. Cisewski is also the author of Ghost Fargo, selected by Franz Wright for the Nightboat Poetry Prize, Upon Arrival (Black Ocean), and a chapbook of lyric prose, Misplaced Sinister (Red Bird Chapbooks). She has been awarded fellowships from the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. She teaches, both academically and privately, and curates artful literary events in the Twin Cities.