Four Poems / by ​Yaz Lancaster

in response to “Still Life with Skulls and Bacon” by Richard Siken


I cut off my head and threw it on the ground
except my head was a cobra’s
and this was a reoccurring dream I had
based on a true story
and by true story I mean
when I was seven and watched someone
cut off a cobra’s head         throw it on the ground



If you repeat the same word
over and over and
I mean really repeat the same word
over and over
does it lose
its meaning because
I’ve said a lot of words
done a lot of words and
today is one of those words
yesterday was one of those words
what I am
feeling now         is one of those words



Weeds you tear out
heads you cut off and
everything thrown on the ground
has a way of finding itself back to you
has a way of finding itself         back to you







But some days
you will feel
your pulse
in your teeth
while making coffee,
barefoot in the kitchen
because you like
how the linoleum feels.

On such occasions
you earn your laurel
discovering meaning
in dog-eared pages of books—
this is enough.






a poem that’s trying to tell me something

but it is the  atmosphere  that  makes me lean over  and  say  ‘we
should  go  to  a  psychic.’   you agree,  but  what  i meant was ‘we
should go to  a  psychic,   not actually inside,   i just want to  take
pictures of the  neon  lights for  my  instagram.’  you  look  at  me
funny but give  me  kudos  for  being  honest.   i  went  to  a  palm
reading once and the lady said something about lifelines. what i
heard  was   my   diagnosis:  the  line  is   short,   life   is    certainly
shorter.   to be  honest  with you,  i’d be  better  off  in the dark.  i
don’t want to know.  one of the itchiest feelings  is  when  you’re
driving in the  car  at night,  somewhere new,  and you get off an
exit that goes around and around and around and suddenly you
think ‘oh right,  home is just up ahead,  almost there’  but déjà vu
is strange,  memory  is  strange,  distance  is  strange.   you  didn’t
grow  up   here   but  suddenly  the   whole  world  smells  familiar. 
nothing is new.





‘-n. the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that  inhabits only one place at a time’

Listen: I don’t know if you know this but—we are floating in space. On a sphere of metal and water. Really. Look around the room. Really, look. Where does it all begin and end? Sure, there are corners and edges but nothing has outlines. No black stencil. Not like a coloring book. What keeps us on the ground? Newton’s theory of gravity? The ‘atomic weight of love’? Probably ourselves. I think if we really wanted to float away like those vagrant satellites we could. We should. But none of us want to jump. None of us want to be lost. We are too afraid—afraid of space. Of John Cage’s music and the breadth of silence. Of the outstretched muscle of time. Of all the ‘known unknown’ terra incognita of the universe. A girl was ‘staring into space’ last night at a party and everyone waved their fingers in front of her face. There she was, floating away. Why the need for temporary fortresses? Why the need for a body at all? And we brought her back—the heroes that we were—to our beloved earth. To accessible, grounded experience. To corporeality. And then we climbed up ladders to the rooftop to look at the stars and talk about the meaning of life, which I guess is a different thing, and is okay. But here is some breaking news—‘Stars [Are] Not Where They Seemed or Were Calculated to be, Nobody Need to Worry.’ This is also okay, but they are a lot farther away than we thought. This probably upsets you. We want them to be closer, to exploit the exotic beauty of starlight. We love the stars, and all things placed beautifully in the distance. We constellate and map them. This is how we exist—we map and measure and mark up the world. All the time. So let’s map the distance. If I could hold the tiny particles of light, I’d take them and draw a meridian from me to you through our zeniths all the way to the edge of the universe.


*References John Koenig, Tomaž Šalamun, Hans Zimmer, John Cage, Rebecca Solnit & a 1919 New York Times article headline.





Yaz Lancaster is a student at New York University studying music and creative writing. When she isn't violin-ing or writing, she sometimes does other things.