for Sandra Simonds





To invoke has its own delay—


            as when the individual denies herself the right to shower

            or even use the toilet


            (speaking hypothetically of course)


until she has completed some distasteful task.



Seen this way, denial or withholding is the form of invocation par excellence.




But then, the act of showering turns out to be so onerous. 


Afterward, one has to select and put on one’s clothes, and dressing itself

is sometimes an act of invocation to the world


too difficult to take on.

























The poet wonders if invocation is therefore the craft of delayed gratification.


“Eat your creamed mushrooms before you get any dessert.”


and later:


“You can’t leave the table until you finish your mushrooms.”


and much, much later:


The child sits in the shadowy dining room alone with a gelatinous mess of mushrooms chilling on her plate. 


“Just go to bed.”






Isn’t the process of making a poem an invocation to

the self, and invocation to, after a fashion,

giving birth?


And isn’t the mother’s art of teaching delayed gratification in fact


a grand and prolonged practice of delayed gratification?






















The phenomenon of slamming one’s fingers in the door:


pain that requires a body to jump up and down just to


live through it.



But as the body inclines forward over its pain,


what is it living toward?



































Luckily, this writer keeps a 1967 Random House Dictionary of the English Language

beside her desk,


and opening it to locate “invocation,” the page falls to the “K”s and


“kiss of peace.”



Then, “invocation”:


to call


to call for with earnest desire


to appeal to, as for confirmation


the magic formula used to conjure up a spirit.





Or alternative and idiosyncratic:


the hesitation that brings forth


the kiss of conjuration.






















Invocation is circuitous and indirect, like the mapquest directions


that have the driver stopping at a gas station anyway to get help.




No one wants to ask for help.







No one wants the magical formula to conjure up what can’t be understood or tracked.


Which gets us back to withholding.





























To insist: all of this fits, obscurely, together. 


That is the nature of the calling out.


That is the nature of addressing all this language to a person whom the author has met only once in the crowded entry of a bookstore, and that only for a few moments.


This is the nature of the holding it in

which, as we have already established, is

the very truth of calling out.




That is: the nature of one author addressing another.
































Another example seems apropos.



History records the incident of a younger child biting his older sibling.


(“He’s a flesh-eater,” his uncle remarked.)



The child’s preschool teacher suggested that for a pre-verbal child, biting

is one way that frustration gets exteriorized.


Think about it: to bite another, to take a piece of their self into one’s mouth when

one is not yet able to speak—


well, isn’t that to invoke speech of a different order?


Isn’t that also to cause the aforementioned “invocational pain” that must simply

be lived through?






























As for withholding and invocation and delayed gratification—


this may seem a bit of a stretch—




some mythological texts suggest that in many cosmogonies a trope of “secretion” recurs.


The gods create worlds or other creatures by way of bodily secretion: spitting, shitting, weeping, bleeding.


What then are we to make of this in light of Freud’s theory of anal retention?


Gaia held it in until she could hold it no more.


            (N.B.  Virginia Woolf noted in letter to a friend that she found the act of                      
            having a bowel movement pleasureably analogous to engaging in creative            


The inevitable conclusion is that certain kinds of retentive behaviors are also richly

evocative, invocative.


The other conclusion is that we humans are made up of divine waste.
























Address is invocation:


“I write this poem to you.”



Denial and withholding are indirectly invocational:


“I write this poem to you while trying to avoid the use of personal pronouns.”






Even with the use of magical formulas meant to invoke,

we, divine waste that we are,

can foresee so little.



Yet it should not come as any surprise, and in truth is entirely predictable that

having showered before commencing this poem, I slowly got dressed

as I wrote it.