Main Street Rag
“Dignity” is one of the most important connotations of the Latin word “gravitis.” Catherine Strisik in her Insectum Gravitis explores the dignity of not only the world of winged and crawling insects. In these uncanny, metamorphic parables, she also shows us how the infinitely varied dance of love and desire is a fundamental source of the dignity to be found and cherished in you and me and every living thing.
“Do what we can the summer will have its flies,” wrote Emerson. In Insectum Gravitis, Cathy Strisik makes out of those flies and that heat transcendent poetry. A sequence of poems that offers pleasures far deeper than those of science or story, her sly and witty book offers a vision of a relationship: brief, intense, and as complicated as an insect’s compound eyes—which, unlike ours, can see every direction.
Insectum Gravitis is haunted by the missing, by the spaces between, by anticipation and longing, the subtleties of transparency, and the dangers of allowing intimacy into our lives. An intensely human, deeply emotional view weaves through this collection ostensibly focusing on invertebrates. Catherine Strisik’s language is stark, compelling. It resonates with wonder and variety, and inevitably leads us from the immediate to the beyond. This is a gorgeous, powerful collection. It will lift you.
WINNER of 2017 NEW MEXICO/AZ BOOK AWARD in POETRY
3: A Taos Press
These breathtaking poems bypass the careful brain to speak a purer, distilled language of the body. Sensuous, keening, celebratory, they do more than create a chorus of voices that transform the progress of Parkinson’s disease into a kind of Greek play, although that would have been achievement enough. Poem by poem, Strisik breaks syntax and remakes it into gestures that startle and invite the reader to linger, and into cadences that reflect emotions too complex to name but are immediately searing. This collection itself is body and breath: It brings us to language by a hidden door we may not have known was there, and in this sense, it is challenging yet trustworthy at every moment.
-Leslie Ullman, Progress on the Subject of Immensity
Dopamine Agonist: Parkinson’s in Chunk Form
When did the whispering begin, in which hour did the Mistress entertain
her lips embracing the microphone would be so seductive and odd
to the listener who cannot remove his eyes from her
breath, those magenta and swollen lips. The listener, damp
with abundant dopamine, rearranges his shirt for the invitation, does
not think of a cool rock to lay his cheek upon. The Mistress
gleams with sweat, wipes her neck. In the lapse between
public words, the private matters; I love you
whispered into the canals of the listener’s body. How every sound
hints. How each undraped phrase bargains; the listener
shudders, lured by her curve. Now,
the whispers say, seduction, and she cannot let go
her whisper. The listener. All.
All. Sheer affliction.
Previously Published in Kaleidoscope
What Is My Scent?
My scent is suffering,
channel between rocks; strophed
beneath eccentric Jupiter.
beneath eccentric Jupiter,
the sense of smell is the first
Vanished in a mercurial
galaxy of taffeta.
My wane of feminine.
My scent is suffering.
And only a geological vein, a gullet,
and deliberate hymnals can smell it.
Deliberate hymnals can smell it
teased out through love oils.
Decades of my sex.
Decades of my sex
seep out a slippery perfume
as you, might you
The fasting then fleeting
beneath eccentric Jupiter.
Miss me, my scent
Previously Published in Drunken Boat
Plain View Press
The keen eye of compassion in each detail, the steady touch of its cadence in each unfolding line.
- Olga Broumas, Rave: Poems
Here is a perfect, clean and delicate (powerful and often terrifying) work of art. In its simplicity lies profound emotion, both beautiful and laden with sadness. These masterful slim poems speak with discipline and exquisite fervor. This is a very moving portrait of a land, its people, and the universal human spirit.
- John Nichols, The Milagro Beanfield War
TUOL SLENG PRISON
Please say each skull has a voice
and an appetite. When I press
my ear to their jaws, crab
shells and dried rice drop out.
Then their smells rise to me:
lemon grass, coriander,
mint leaves. Now empty
their sustenance. Disquieted
their once envied salts
and palm sugar. Please say
each skull has a voice. What can I do
with you, my sound, their tongues’ undressing.
Previously Published in Southwest Literary Center Anthology, 2006
The famous Khmer artist has placed his palm
on a murderer’s upper back near the neck, has pushed him
toward the painting on the prison museum’s wall.
Outside the perimeter the mother is mute on her knees.
Her hands cradle a beautiful fatigue
as if she had just remembered why:
a bayonet blade held upright
to catch an infant as it spins through the air.
The shade shades the body this evening
in Phnom Penh.
He cleans his brushes alone each day
in the medicinal turpentine, wipes
his palette clean, and becomes silent.
The painting is his settlement with humiliation.
You can hear the crickets’ trill in the banyans.
You can hear the whole evening is crying louder.
Previously Published in Fogged Clarity, 2009