eileen joy

for Anna Klosowska

a. A Ghazal for the Reformation

Down here, in the old quarter of the city,
one heretic sits reading at a table in the square.

At the corner of the yellow building, another heretic waits,
dust gathering on the quarters stacked on the first heretic's table.

Can a heretic ever be a tabula rasa,
a tabula rasa a tuliped heretic, quartered in the square?

How many angry mobs does it take to draw a heretic
around the bend of the table in the square?

She was going to bring tulips to her,
tulips scalloped like squares of melting butter.

The one who was always waiting was melting in bed
in a room in the yellow building, dreaming of heretics.

Soon, there will be tulips in a vase on the table in the kitchen,
composed of yellow tongues composing.

How many heretics does it take to bless these tongues,
how many tongues to hereticize them?

O, you who were recently hereticized,
be like Donne, and canonize your love.

b. For Horatio, who Stooped Over Hamlet to Conquer

She was liquefying and burning at the same time,
and everything she touched would be drenched,
then burst into flames.
It was becoming a problem,
and nothing in the apartment was safe.
The porcelain teacups were brimming
with the rivulets of her tears and sighs
that ran off the edges of the saucers
and down the legs of the table
to ignite the carpet.
The neighbors were alarmed
and didn't know whether to call
the fire department or the coast guard.

She was standing on the shore of herself,
like Penelope watching the sails of Odysseus's ship
blaze in the harbor.
And to think:
she only did that by looking.

She had a body like the coastline of California,
and it was always one thing after the other:
floods, then wildfires,
and sometimes a house sliding off the edge of a canyon.

It was finally decided to make of her and her residence
a national monument.
You can see it if you're driving east
on Highway 75 through Ohio.
Be sure to glance through the passenger-side window
across the campus of the University of Cincinnati
to see the pillar of lake,
and the flames,
those small tongues,
limning its watery edges.

c. Passing Through the Straits of Denmark (after Gilles Deleuze's "The Pleats of Matter")

i. the situation

The deleuzan folds of her body were like a baroque labyrinth,
and you could never tell where matter ended,
and spirit began in her.
You will need a cryptographer
to account for her vibrations.
Below, she is pierced by windows
and above, you will find a musical salon.
Like a lake that teems with fish,
she is marbled and her shape is the sum
of a vortical velocity of curvilinearity,
her voice a tangent of perfect fluidity.
If you reach a certain speed with her,
the sea underneath you will whirl and harden,
and there will be a continuous release into luminosity.

ii. the call

There is no mechanism sufficient
to chart the territories of her enveloping,
and every liquid drop of her
encloses a garden
in which there is a swarm
waiting for an entre-deux with you.
You will find both elevation
and gravity
in her call to you to unfold.


Eileen Joy is Associate Professor of English at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where she works on Old English literature, cultural studies, and the post/human. In addition to publishing books and articles on Beowulf, Tony Kushner, suicide terrorism, saints, monsters, and the like, she is the Editor of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, and she has also published short stories and poems in journals such as Black Warrior Review, New Virginia Review, Whiskey & Fox, Sou'wester, and The Sun. She is also the Lead Ingenitor of the BABEL Working Group.