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Jill Talbot & Ira Joel Haber – August 2017

Ira Joel Haber and Jill Talbot traded art and words. Ira Joel Haber shared this untitled image with Jill:

In response, Jill wrote this poem:

Speech Therapy/ I Read Your Book At The Library Today

I cannot speak properly, I’ve got this lisp, cannot even pronounce words
like simultaneous. I cannot basically say anything, and why should I—
they think I’ve got an accent, Not from around here, they say, and I nod
because—in a way—they’re right. The cashier starts speaking Spanish
and I almost cry.

I wanted to set your poems on fire, not because
I wanted to watch them burn but because
I wanted them to have something to lose
and know it. I wanted to take out the word love
and put it on trial for fraud. I wanted to bury
every abstraction. But mostly—

Because I wish I could speak properly in at least one language. I used
to think I could translate tongues. That woman having a seizure is really
saying—Don’t let my children stay up past nine or eat cereal with too
much sugar. And I don’t get why we put an ‘s’ behind each word to mark
a multitude.

I wanted to be in your world—not my dope sick
poems, not my broken glass, not my stitches, not
my profanity. I admit, your line breaks were
flawless like ballerinas. I read your book—

And I remember in speech therapy as a child, feeling like a bad word,
I couldn’t say the bad word, even if I wanted to. Sesame Street never
teaches you how to say your own name. They always assume you already
know how to. I’ve got a friend of a friend in the emergency getting his veins
pumped full of Valium. The cops will be at his door in a week saying
they’re sorry. Everybody’s always sorry when it’s too late.

You once told me how you gained everything
out of love. I drove you to it, but I just wanted
the truth to come out. I read your book—

Now we can learn to forget. Now we can forget to learn. Canadianos are just
Americanos with an extra shot of globalization and a side of prunes. The snow
vanishes but leaves a chill. More and more people are learning the origins of
cold turkey. More and more people are learning a ghost is not a ghost
until there’s an autopsy.

But I set my poems on fire.

Sucking out the gelatin of the roasted marshmallows like heartache.

The problem with setting fires is you only get back
what can be replaced.

An autopsy of the day he left. Make sure you get that cup to go. They’ll put
your name on it if you can say it properly in a language that’s not yours.

I wanted to speak your language.

Insurance pays double when you’ve got a good pokerface.

* * * * *

Jill shared this poem with Ira Joel Haber:


Sometimes when I close my eyes
I see feathers coming out of people
like black swan—then I feel sick.

It’s making me less and less sick.

A voice from afar—Are you okay?
Do you know how you got here?

Are you sorry now? They say

I’ve lost the plot—in my story petals
fall. We’re going to a better place. Maps
and birds, I should know the names

of towns. I put a map up to remind me
the world still exists—in my first psych ward
I put up a cartoon, Kansas was overrated.

For show and tell I brought Virginia Woolf.

In the hospital the feathers lie in potted plants
in the sunroom the old woman keeps,
liking herself to staff. The crazy are just those
whose delusions are original.

In the sunroom she is in church.

The feathers come out of the mirror
piercing like thorns, my inverted thorns
have turned outwards. And you say, a rose
by any other name, but we all know

you don’t really mean it. The way I know
that feathers are nothing to be sick of but still

I’m afraid of mirrors, I see a feather already
through the backyard glare, though a foggy
window, the place where you left your note

on giving up on feathers and swans—your note
on the ugly ducking—they had it backwards
all along. And I know you’re right but nobody

likes the story where something beautiful
becomes repulsive.

Besides, it’s a bit racist, don’t you think?

My feathers are not black or white but the colour
that comes when you’ve forgotten all others.

The doctor has a snake around his neck. A glance,
a vein to elsewhere, a pretty little scar. Better than
their colouring books and tablets. My collage
of voices, notes, war-torn curtains.

Better than white sheets, hospital pajamas—
they all look the same, in every map and every
town. This is my map of anywhere but Kansas
and everything forbidden.

Everything the colour of sanity, Liberty’s cousin,
never having children. Always closer

than they think. I killed my fairy godmother
with a sledgehammer. She didn’t even budge.

Picking a feather like a flower
out of a shattered collarbone.

In response, Ira Joel Haber made this untitled image:

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