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After Reading “State of Relax” by Eileen Myles

"fever-dream / of the Un-united States"

Published onJan 13, 2021
After Reading “State of Relax” by Eileen Myles

Photo by Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

"Cows kissing goats"

— Bible-immersed —

I see lions bedding with lambs. 


Calliope of poem,

lustful, subtle —

nation un-uniting itself

and sighing,



Nebraska as

"the loosest kook of all and

animals walk naked in your past." 


All the naked animals,

all the naked flowers,

all the naked stones and water bodies.

My nakedness.


My mother constantly enlists me,

oldest of many acolytes,

to rearrange her furniture,

empty of life now 25 years.


Bas Jan Ader,

70s performance artist, performing

in small boat on rough water,

“his toes leaning

over the edges of Provincetown”

and disappearing.  Here, and

appearing/disappearing in

Linda Nochlin’s Bathers,

Bodies, Beauty with

Courbet’s Origin of

the World and

Alice Neel by Alice

Neel and The Escape of

Rochefort by Manet and Sam

Taylor-Wood’s Fuck, Suck, Spank,



Myles ran 30 years ago for president, 

openly female. 

They might just as well have tried

openly human.


Just a thought.


And Myles was poemed

by Zoe Leonard: “I want a president,”

which starts:

“I want a dyke for president.” 


And a president

who didn’t have air conditioning,

who’d eaten hospital food,

who’d had an abortion,


and Leonard

didn’t know why

the nation’s chief executive

had to be “always

a john and never

a hooker.”


My crowded childhood,

shorn of odd angles

and wearing an asylum jacket,

like the other many altar servers.


The cavorting states and commonwealths

— a state of play —

of the messy, slippery, punch-drunk,

grit-scratched Myles fever-dream

of the Un-united States

— Oregon sleeping in the arms of Washington —

are the baby me,

the one who dodged

the blanket of imperative,

the collar of big boy,

the bassinette constraint

— “Georgia on an eating binge” —

not me, not the one here.



bones ache to flee.



skin is electric lust for aloneness.

Call it crowdliness.


Told ugly, I stride,

grabbed as I am

by hands on

knee, elbow, nose, ear, cock, buttocks.


Joan of Arc died in flames, and, 30

years ago, Myles poemed her listening to

legends, hearing voices in

bells, and leading Charles VII to  

throne, and, at 19, while still

living, she was burned at the

stake and, dying, “a dove leaped

right out of her mouth.”


Right out.


Things Myles failed to note:

(a) Charles VII abandoned Joan.

(b) Susanna’s Elders stood close by to

watch the blaze strip the girl to her

skin so they could be sure she was

a girl.


Openly human.


Never had a period.


I yearn the consolation of Washington.

I itch to be a loose kook.


But relaxation is death.

Always furniture to move.


Note:  The three poems referenced here are “State of Relax” by Eileen Myles, which appeared November 3, 2020, in Art Agenda, “I want a president” by Zoe Leonard, written in 1992 and available at LTTR, and “Joan” by Myles, published in 1982 and available in an audio version at

Patrick T. Reardon, who has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, is the author of nine books, including the poetry collection Requiem for David and the history The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago. His poetry has appeared widely.

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