May 11-17, 1998: Matthew Niblock and Michelle Ben Hur

Week of May 11, 1998-May 17, 1998

Matthew Niblock and Michelle Ben Hur

Matthew Niblock


Matthew Niblock is the publisher and editor (with Amelie Frank) of The Sacred Beverage Press [Publishers of Blue Satellite Magazine and many fine books ] Also, he cooks and sings [Sings in the band Clear; cooks, presumably at his home .we’ve heard tales of gumbo which would kill voodoo wizards ]

The following work is Copyright © 1998, and owned by
Matthew Niblock and may not be distributed or reprinted in any manner whatver without written permission from the author

I get notes on my performance from Stanislavsky

eyes should be opened except when grinding the teeth
use your hands more but control the fingers
dancing before the open door is not advised

be sure the door is open before dancing
ask yourself: why am I here and not there?
shaving your head is good

head should be shaved while dancing in the doorway
that thing you did with your lip: liked it
don’t telegraph the high notes

falsetto means false voice
use your chest

I do not recommend fucking the mike stand
unless this can be accomplished in such a way
as to indicate regret

if you must open the door
go through it
don’t just stand there

never snap your fingers unless you have to
never encourage the drummer unless he is sad
never choose the third when you could just as easily

choose the fifth

do not let the open door dissuade you from dancing
you are not a bird: do not chirp
use your chest

if you want us to believe the tea in your cup is hot
you must believe it yourself

if you want us to come through the door
open it


(thumbscrews, naaah,not this early in the game
flashlights shined into eyes, rubber hoses, not yet)

They are coming at me with polygraph
and Glenfiddich, smoothing out my grooves
with ice and highball glasses, getting
at the truth
Truth is relative, I insist, and the machine hums
confirmation Truth is an air traffic controller
Let me ask you something, he says to me, voice
all quivery and sly Do you love me? Do I inhabit
your every waking thought?

Will you answer my questions, put my doubt to rest?

Machine goes uh-huh ;attaboy you tell ’em Machine jitterbugs The technician can hardly suppress a smile We’ve been here before,
haven’t we? He winks, a watery grin Been down this road,
my machine and I
You know, I’d rather the torture than this slow acquiescence
Sure you would, my boy, sure you would You’d rather my mouth at your
crotch than in your ear You’d rather be reading a good book
Machine burbles, gulps There are wires extending the length of my arms,
connections made at the elbow There are pricks of electric blue current
snaking into my balls It’s not me! I explain This is delirium tremen,  wet
dream, sweathouse The tech giggles The cop giggles The window disguised
as a mirror is hysterical with disbelief

You can’t pass this off as hallucination, son You have got to come clean with
us We can tell when you’re lying.Every stutter and sidestep, every tremor We are a seismograph
Fine, then Read this I know no truth but what shudders in my blood No truth but the ninth floor window, or the coke I’ve been scraping off this
jewel case If you think I’m lying to you, try some exploratory surgery Cut
the sinuses right out of my head Try singing me some song I wrote (bet you
don’t know the words) Try soothing me with camphor or catnip or choral
music Man, my heart is breaking my ribs My heart is an elephant I haven’t slept in a hundred days, and you expect explanation from the spikes
in your machine? Fuck you I won’t collaborate I won’t answer You wanna
play good cop, bad cop? I’ll play
I’ll play.


my spine ends at the cuckoo clock
that ticks while I spasm
tricked out and caudal
sometimes my adverbs are collateral

you might think it trite for me
to describe my tailbone like this
in my opinion
it’s all geography under the bridge
anatomy and semantics

pinch a nerve and make it cry

recently I have been dieting
and thirty pounds have evaporated
from my frame
my gut is almost gone
and my butt fits more easily into her two hands
and most of my lower back pain
has taken a hike

I get the sciatica
(handed down from mom
along with uneven legs
and decent pitch)

when this happens
I can trace the
thin line of pain
from my sacrum to my ankle
and I ask miiko to pull my foot
so that my hip comes undone

in bed she says oh you’re so skinny!
and god you looked so good on stage last night!
and would you like to fuck?
and your butt is so cute!

and I wonder if I have grown a tail
like miranda in geek love
(so what if I have?)

so what if the bones at the base of vertebrae
barely keep my pelvis in place?

so what if I can’t even pronounce coccyx correctly
and am likely to free associate myself into a corner
thinking of cock & cockswain & cuckoo clocks?

(“coccyx” is from the greek, “kokkyx,” the cuckoo,
as the small triangular bone bears resemblance to
the bill of that bird) (or the bill of that clock)

(whichever comes first)

geography & semantics, yes
anatomy, yes

tailbone, yes

and, yes, I say to miiko
I would like to fuck
lay my thin body over yours

Michelle Ben-Hur


Michelle Ben-Hur is a staff attorney with Division Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, California She also publishes and co- edits (with E.C Archibeque) 51%, a literary journal exploring all facets of being a woman, including the male perspective She is currently a poetry student in Laurel Ann Bogen’s private master class She hopes someday to write something even she believes is good Her therapist thinks it’s only a matter of time — for the belief part at least Her three tomcats wish she would just stay home more often.

The following work is Copyright © 1998, and owned by
Michelle Ben-Hur and may not be distributed or reprinted in any manner whatsover without written permission from the author.

The Difference
(appears in Spillway, Number 7)

I did not see the swastika
on the bathroom wall I did not
have to In December, fifth grade
teacher asks the token Jew
to tell about Chanukah I oblige,
eagerly sharing my fascination
with the Festival of Lights I do not know that
someone listens too intently He rides his bike next to me
after school, forcing me
to turn down a street
I do not need, peddling me
past his home Old man sits
on the porch, Third Reich flag
emblazoned behind him, twin lightning bolts
decorating his sleeve I had seen
this image before Grandmother’s history books
passed to me as she whispered,
“Never forget, never forget, never forget I was only five, but I absorbed
the bones of my ancestors, thousands
upon thousands tangled anonymously
in unmarked ditches Standing self-righteously
nearby, Goebbels or Waldheim or Goering
or any other true believer
wearing Der Führer’s badge My schoolmate
followed me home, kicking
my front tire from under me,
pummeling my body
with the toes of his boots, sneering,
“Kike, Jesus killer, Hebe Only fifth grade, and his biceps
already sported
the symbol I never saw
on the bathroom wall
and did not have to.

Judas (appears in Blue Satellite, Vol IV, No One)

Jesus, a good Jew –
alone, forty days
and nights without provision,


he could,
if he wanted,
change sand to grain,
dead seas to gardens of

gethsemane When the
rabbi sleeps he dreams
the covenant, kneels, kisses
the Torah At the mental
hospital he eats pills,
feels his body fill up with
flesh of Christ He is not
allowed the tallis, the skullcap,
the sacramental wine
The Orange County Superior Court
has decided Kiss, kiss
Blessed are the poor in spirit
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
Blessed are the pure of heart
His torso, still, thin
as a cracker, baked
on a rock, without yeast.

The Biopsy (appears in Freedom Isn’t Free #5)

After years of untender flesh,
it came to this: A scalpel
bites off a sample of my sex
.Will I lose my sensitivity, doc?
.Will this blade remove my desire
.along with a sliver of discolored skin?

I bleed like a virgin long after
my virginity was stolen at fist-point; long after
my anger stopped dining on any swollen head
that appeared on a platter before it; long after
my heart was devoured for the second time
And then doc sews me up
In Africa, they still take rude blades and
carve away a budding woman’s clitoris
just because it exists Here, I get a warning of cancer to teach me
that this is for my own good
.Will I lose my ability to feel, doc?
.Will this shut me down completely?
They say amputees try
to scratch itchy feet for years
after the procedure
They give me a menstrual pad They give me Tylenol Even the counselor who held my sobbing hand
cannot look me in the eye as I make
the follow-up appointment-the one
where doc will see if I’ve healed okay
.She knows .She knows.

A Pessimist’s Dictionary

It starts with mother’s contractions:
the push, push, push
and then denial of the tit –
red, cracked from the insistent pull
of needy lips And you become
not the football hero,
not the National Merit Scholar,

not the boy
Your ribs tighten
until there is not enough breath
to form your own sentences You parrot
your brother, learn to build rockets,
play sports, run computers You cut off
your mane of unruly curls, those tresses
that catch in the wind, the trees,

the hands of men You give
each of these lovers a new name:
This is Notthepainter; I’d like you to meet
Notthelawyer; or, quite simply,
Notjohn, Notdavid In the mirror,

you refuse your breasts, your hips;
you bend over the toilet and vomit
until your skin is thin and chalky
and your hair falls
in clumps You stand
before your image
and repeat your mantra:

I am not thirsty; I am not hungry.

It’s The Old Cliché

Boy meets girl; boy gets girl; girl gets bored She fakes
interest in his stories, refuses to answer
her telephone, forces laughter So, boy and girl split up
and boy immediately finds new girl Old girl loses
weight, goes out with other old girl friends, bitches
about how predictable men are Boy tries to hide
new girl Everybody knows though Old girl cares —
but not really She changes
her hair color and buys a new wardrobe to fit
her single-again, size-two frame She flirts a lot
with men who don’t stand a chance
of making it into her bed
let alone her heart She plays Patsy Cline,
walks alone at night, finds Hollywood
tedious but distracting Boy’s shoulders
unconsciously slump; boy’s teeth ache
from smiling too hard Boy fucks; girl buries
herself in work, talks on the telephone,
fills her calendar with social events While driving
to them, she forgets where she’s going, ends
up at parties with people she doesn’t want
to know Boy believes he has fallen
in love again Boy proposes marriage Girl gets another cat.

Inevitability (appears in FTS #2)

On prom night in 1982, I wore
mascara for the first time
in two years We rode
Dom Perignon to the Hudson
and I might have smiled
The river flowed belly-up It swallowed my woman’s shoes
and a wrist of yellow roses
All my favorite flowers
were yellow Pressed fragile
into Encyclopoedia Brittanica
to waft down when opened later like
ashes from an urn

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