Reading Betsy Andrews

by | Sep 21, 2014 | Reading


to sound like itself is what water wants, to look like itself, to feel wet
walloped by cinderblock, spars and bottles, the wanting-locked water lay down
the wanting-locked water stank without lustre, it stank without lustre and we
cut it with knives, we cut it with scissors, the wanting-locked water, we cut it
with radars, we ginned it, the wanting-locked water was ginned and engine,
we engine and cinch-lipped and quicksilvered water; the water was baited
with nixies and bogles, it was looted of moon, it was piss-and-shit crooked;
the water engaged in protective reactions—it limped, it wore bright orange
the wanting-locked water was orange with panting, it was orange and panting,
it stank. “I want a clean cup,” interrupted the Hatter: “let’s all move one place
One place on, the octopus burrowed into a crevice of the Duotex blow-up boat,
by the recessed valve between the self-bailing floor and the thermobonded
buoyancy tube, the octopus burrowed, slender and orange, the wonderpus
burrowed, thinking, “this is coral, it’s rock crack, it’s shell”; its slot-box eyes
clanging like bells on hillocks, its ginger arms stroking; the sun beat down, the
stories were told of the last of the last of the last Martian race,
with bodies like mazes and three beating hearts; the day went on day,
the sun turned away, the octopus turned a Duotex grey, and, finally,
from the captain’s fingers it slipped, dipping its quill in its damning pot and
scribbling rage at the lot of us on the illuminated page of the ocean, fuck you
in the name of the tide pools and shrimp haunts; to eat is what the octopus
its excitable beak, its gifted locomotion, what the octopus wants is to live


the mermaids raise their hands; they would like to ask a question
they are unfamiliar with microphones, and the flotational devices of the press
but they recognize a wave when they see one—
they can mimic the speed of sound in air;
when called on, the mermaids manage their mouths into the shape of “What is
it’s a riddle twice as inflated as Texas; it’s six times the weight of the plankton
it’s a teaser rendered in styrene with the acronym PCB
it’s albatross innards decoded as omen; it’s a starfish-crossed pleas
it’s a whopper, and the flack leaves the bait on the hook
the mermaids listen up: audible distortions and the deafening roar of “No
which the mermaids jot in their books
but even if the stowaways are thrown to the squids
the commodores can’t keep a lid on the story; it’s leaked
in the driftwood, in the rookery, in the dory in the belly of the catch;
the coda is, “It’s trash”
it’s sorrow dog’s chew toy, and worse—
it’s the skeleton ship’s cargo, it’s clamshelled desires and seventy brands of
Water bottles everywhere, far, far too much to drink


sea fairy, sea wizard, water-horse, sea-bean
picked clean on long conveyor belts and sorted by shape and size
how completely the meat is scooped from the shell; the world’s fell
form the skies past the satellite that guides ships beyond reason
in the season of bone-sad tides; are they wise, the drowned,
who’ve found stillness while the rest of us flail? the Northern Passage,
the Artic’s third rail: fried fish and a polar bear rug,
our collective shrug as lethal as a blast pressure wound,
evidence forgotten as soon as it’s archived; just the rats remember
that this spit of concrete between the highway and the street was once a
they scratch at the cracks here, hoping for water, and the daughters of the
the cloud-covered mermaids, sit down with soot in their fins


It’s a planet made of ink on the arm of a sailor tricking in the head
where the slim wrist of morning is cuffed to the sink
to the bottom. The sea-dogs howl foul weather at the skies.
Whence the sea-dogs rise, there must be a kind of day,
for every dog has one; there must be some bed
where sleeping dogs lie and wake up without fleas.
When we’ve managed to pirate every molecule of the seas,
and replaced them with replicas rendered in plastic,
there, where the tail wags the sea-dog something fantastic,
will they witness our bathtub-ring finish, from space?
The face—if it’s face—turns to the observable; a purl of blue,
a dusky scratch, a naked singularity cast in a font 10 million years gone;
still, the unmistakable signature of the presence of absence;
past the moon named Egg and the moon named Eggshell,
a crack in the well of the night, hydromantic and, perhaps,
just bright enough for you to find us
humble telescope,
find us




all from Betsy Andrews’ The Bottom (42 Miles Press, 2014)—pages 16, 20, 42 and 52