Sasha Steensen received the 2004 Alberta Prize for A Magic Book (Fence Books). She co-edits the journal Kiosk and co-authored (with Gordon Hadfield) Correspondence (Handwritten Press, 2004). 

After Centuries of Mistreatment

written over+                  scraped again+              painted over+
stolen from+                  smeared with glue+        singed by fire+
dribbled with wax+                                 eaten by purple fungi+ 

No wonder. Now under ourselves, and our monsters on parade.  On stage.

An olive tree leaved with sparrows sings: 

                             “a worm a worm
                             eats word
                             east’s warned” 

Turned over, the writing takes another angle.

Angrily, the chained transcriber                                       the chain of equations is

Every palm frond, parchment and prayer

Any falling from buildings and landing where
my foot, just seconds later,

will step on its artery
and nearly extinguish its trace

of a beat beyond trees’ warnings
that the weeds proceed us.

It's like having Archimedes’s brain in a box,
he declares, pushing his way

past security
ticker, cutter

method in hand
in air, as the plane

past us

On Floating Bodies

Proposition 4: A solid lighter than a fluid will, if immersed in it, not be completely submerged,
but part of it will project above the surface.

search parties
driven along
in a perpendicular direction
greater than a hemisphere 

A veteran of World War II
is being towed upriver
to Wilmington, N.C., a state
open to visitors.

how they knew a genocide was on:
the river
has risen
a southern country
sees a hand and then a foot
floating by


Just Us, Constant Tina

the folds of a sidewise sheet, little baboon,
are unique in their similarity

Look, they are setting a place for loss,
they are diagramming misplacement
they’ve already torn your tatters from your others

erased and replaced your proof with prayers
for Byzantium, in Baltimore, they are busy
cleaning, imaging and translating, erasing and unerasing

a race for a constant
in     justice

The Nightly Visitant

By heaven, and by the nightly visitant!
Would that you knew what the nightly visitant is. 
It is the star of piercing brightness.

As the method mulls this over, his bed coverings shift.
Someone slips in beside him, silently.
Someone sets a hand over his mouth, softly.
Someone lifts his teddy bear from his grip, gently.

At the Baltimore museum, the method had met an exhibit of holy-mouthed men
set upon a bundle of hog hairs.
Had they tracked him here to bristle him in his bed, he asked Allah. 

They scheme against you: but I, too, have My schemes. Therefore bear with the unbelievers,
and let them be awhile.

Sunday Morning

After a night out with the electric girls, the method wakes up late, brews his coffee, fetches his paper.
A cover story:

                                    MIX UP OF POT, HUMAN TISSUE ENDS IN ARRESTS

Special Agent in Charge Anthony Placido announced today the arrest of two individuals trafficking marijuana in the Buffalo region of New York, the seizure of approximately 140 pounds of marijuana, and the recovery of human organ tissue for transplant destined for Buffalo General Hospital. The alleged defendants inadvertently took possession of the organ transplant tissue boxes during their attempt to retrieve a shipment of marijuana. These boxes contained a pulmonary valve packaged at minus 275 degrees Fahrenheit and a saphenous vein, packaged in the same manner. SAC Placido stated: “This case demonstrates another negative consequence affecting the general public and innocent bystanders as a result of marijuana trafficking. Agents of the Buffalo District Office and members of the Niagara Frontier Transit Police Department are commended for their diligent efforts, aggressive investigating and expeditious return of the human organ tissues to proper medical authorities.” The alleged drug dealers were arrested when they attempted to return the boxes to the airport.  One of the defendants released this statement: “When we opened the box, we immediately faced a dilemma — return the valve and go to prison or bury it in some nearby wood. Pacing in my apartment, peering into the box, I concluded that burying a valve was the same as burying a living person, and the detached tissue made a trip back to the airport.”  After being returned to authorities, the valve and vein were promptly delivered to the hospital, where a 13-year-old girl, scheduled for surgery, was awaiting their arrival.  The teenager, who is now recovering from her heart surgery, wishes to thank the drug dealers for returning the tissue. The defendants, scheduled for arraignment tomorrow afternoon, face up to 20 years in prison.

The Book of Worthy Conquest

The method recalls a miniature:
The yet-to-be-conquered Hungarian castle
in the distance.
The Ottoman vizier with a large plumed turban
sitting under a decorated tent.
The commander of the castle,
hat in hand humbly meets his Conqueror.
Could this be considered worthy?
A method so thoroughly confused
checks his facts, and yes,
the Ottomans sure think so.

The method makes a reliquary

After the sack of Constantinople,
relics flood the European market. 
As a great traveler, and an unofficial relic himself,
the method naturally goes into the collecting business.
Preferring articles with bright-sadness,
he softly steals into chambers and exhibit rooms,
taking a bone from the Utmost Humiliation or Man of Sorrows,
three giants’ teeth from Annunziata, the corner of a map drawn by Columbus,
the girdle of the Virgin Mary,
a porcupine quill and a coconut shell from John, Duke of Berry,
an arrowhead from the Algonquin room, Saint Catherine’s finger,
an emerald necklace from Christie’s. 

But medieval relics, he knew, were not marvels, though both were rare, expensive, healed or harmed,
evoked wonder.  And both were read, like texts.

Very much a medieval boy, he would not open a museum. 

His collection would be a thesaurus, “treasure,” a treasury, a storehouse, a repository
of economic and spiritual capital.

Under the Lea of the Spanker

This spring the angles were returned,
placed upon the shelf as if they had never been stolen.
Sunlight somehow made its way back into the afternoon, and through the pane of glass, rested on an angle,
refracting and shining onto Archimedes’s sleeping forehead.

Archimedes took the method to his knee
until his bottom half resembled a raging fire.

Roughly copied caricature, the method thinks,
this injustice ought to make someone
somewhere stand up and do something
for something, he thinks.

He admired his sentence. Someone. Something. Somewhere.
How ambiguous can we make our enemy?  How unclear can my call to action be?
Elevated only so slightly to red, the city stops. No one moves.

Turns out, the method thinks, I’m not only angry, I’m ineffectual.

The Complete Sentence

                                    for Rob

This is a complete sentence.
It does not frighten me.
The story of the dwarf,
confined forever,
to a complete sentence,
for his robbery, robby.
We must serve.
A complete sentence.
If we do not.
Whose to say.
What a nice American Is.
Other than to say, wise.
Because my little god knows me
and he served
a complete sentence.
Winnow is what horses
do, what we do in the fields.
That is winning, what we do.
When we serve
what we wish to say, completely.
In the fields.
If we want the method
to make a sentence
He must complete the fourth grade.
He’ll be left
behind. behead.
When we watch
the dwarf
take a page.
Completely from the method.
If we say, Stop!
That is a complete
sentence.  When we complete
something we feel good.
Completion is
a self-esteem booster.
All American children
should be completers.
Without completion,
we have no progress.
Without progress,
we have no completion.
The complete sentence
is lionized.
The fiercest beast
in the jungle.
In fact, no jungle
is complete.
Without one.
When we see one,
we halt.
We waltz.
I’m utterly.
I’m completely.
In love
with the sentence.
I will serve it
You should
Serve it