January Notebook

Poetry by Daniel Poppick
Super girl and romantic boys II (the window), by Nutsa Gogaladze. Copyright the artist.

Thus begins my new unemployment.


Now that I have no job, an inventory of things I might fruitfully ignore.

The starlight singing from its stump?

The ground nut singing from its nick?

The barred owl singing from its kitchen?


Today my grandfather would have been 100.


Your manner is not evasive, but your effect on me is wrought of a peculiarly lucid evasion.


The starlight terminates at the eye. The ground nut terminates at the air.

No longer poetry, a photosynthetic process concealed its blossoming meat.


Paradise has a limited vocabulary. Hell is more eloquent.


My grandfather never cared for music, but he did like animals. I saw my first horse, hummingbird, fire ant, and scorpion with him by my side. He taught me what a barred owl says.

Who cooks for you.


Not that it needed it, an eye was nevertheless injected into our creator’s face. A permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Okay Google, I have a permanent problem.

Too many behaviors.


Cassiopeia injects its massive, shitty manners into the ground nut.

A family of mice store these in your walls. You can hear them speaking to each other, eating. A living chain mail of voices at the end of a miniscule intestine. You might find this unsettling. I love it though—I might be “in love” with this discussion.


“This is my music; now that’s what I call music.” (Emerson)

No, he didn’t really say that. Still, one admires his celebrity.


Two novels I’ll never write.

A novel in which a plane boards in Tucson bound for Detroit, and little do the passengers know that this exact same congregation of people, every last one, had previously been on a flight from Pittsburgh to Boise—sitting in the exact same seats on, indeed, the very same plane. For about four hours this loose affiliation reunites in spectacularly disturbing fashion. But no one recognizes anyone, and the passengers land and deplane without incident.

A novel consisting only of text messages beginning with “lol”—a novel about laughing with your hands.


Parable of Ravel

Ravel, whose piano concerto in G major is touched off by a kind of spank, had a father who invented a loop-the-loop machine that was an immensely popular attraction until a fatal accident at Barnum and Bailey’s Circus in 1903.


But how might a spank be deployed in poetry?

Blossoms spanked his face in the light April breeze.

The news spanked him about the ears.

The reflection of the fireworks spanked the harbor. The assembled revelers cheered.

The Pyeongchang Olympics, he realized, will soon have been. His favorite event as a boy was the luge. There would be no natural ice for his children’s children. This terrible thought fell through his chest, then rose to spank him gently behind the eyes.


My grandfather’s business was air conditioning; he enjoyed local fame in Houston for designing the original cooling system for the Astrodome. His 99 years and 11 months posed a question to his industry: were Texans capable of clear thought in heat, or were they not?

I remember him telling me how he got the idea: he saw crowds fanning themselves in a line waiting for food, and he recognized a problem he could solve. He learned to manipulate the temperatures of a large indoor space in which Texans smoked thousands of packs of cigarettes an hour, and then executed his learning.

When I was 11, he was the first person to ask me to explain a poem I’d written. He quacked like a duck when he had an audience of a baby. When he was happy he sang a song that went, “Where the honeysuckle blooms so sweet it durn near makes you sick.” Once, when I was 12, as he and a near stranger were looking at a photo of a hot air balloon, he leaned into her ear and, to my horror, I heard him whisper, “Other than fucking it’s the greatest feeling there is.”

The invention of an interior climate. A luscious waste of daylight. Clear thought in cool air. No ice for his ancestors.


Parable of Solitude

I go to visit E., whom I have not seen in nearly eight years. A recluse—but one with many friends—E. lives in a cabin without electricity or plumbing set back in the woods by a marsh some miles outside the town of Liberty, Maine. She splits logs all winter that she burns to stay warm. She tells me that she will be out when I arrive, but to make myself at home.

A fresh snow has fallen. I park at the end of the icy dirt road, walk through the woods, and enter the cabin, where two logs are smoldering in the stove, over which E. has set a pot of chicory tea with a note telling me to help myself to a cup. The floor is frigid; the marsh outside is in some tentative state of thaw, though the air is well below freezing. I note the order of the books on her shelves, and the Niedecker volume she has left for me on the desk. After nearly an hour, a woman enters the cabin. For a moment I do not know her, and am alarmed. But then I realize, of course—this must be E. I hadn’t recognized her after such a long time.

When I do recognize her, I understand a number of things all at once: that I had not remembered her face accurately at all, because her absence from social media is total, and I don’t have a photo of her; that in at least eight years, and probably many more, I have not had occasion to truly forget anyone’s face; that E. has aged, as apparently have I; that having forgotten E.’s face, and only being able to half-conjure what I remembered of it upon reencountering her in this moment, overlaid with the mask of several years, makes me ecstatically sad. I feel as if I have stepped to the side of time, and yet am more deeply involved in it than I have ever been.

She smiles and asks how I am.


You become yourself when you describe him; when you imitate him you also become yourself. And then the moment passes, and, in both cases, you become someone else.


Photograph of I. A. Naman holding a pigeon, late 1930s? (goodnight, century)

Black and white on my phone, save for the faintest reflection of my own face in the glass. He looks young, probably in his 20s, but could be late teens. Sun leaning hard on his right, slacks perfectly pressed, a strong crease down the leg, and the spackled shadow of a small tree on the side of the house directly to his left. He stands very straight, just off the sidewalk. His posture says he is trying to be still. His hair is neatly shorn, and he is wearing a jacket and a vest. A bolero tie? Hard to say. Most likely just starched collar. Not smiling, but a light puff of baby fat rounds the corners of his mouth, lending him an intensely serious but permanently bemused expression. He has shoved his sense of humor into his gut so it doesn’t infiltrate his limbs. A pigeon stands in the palm of his right hand with its neck stretched up, staring hard directly into the light source. Its tail feathers dangle down his hand. His left hand dangles loosely at his side. A small patch of visible sky through the trees in the upper left corner of the frame. A smaller patch on the right. The grass is patchy under his feet. The trunks are painted white behind him.


Dream, 1/31

“Go on, that stream isn’t going to stand on itself. Don’t fool. I heard it going around you. The greatest feeling there is.”

Daniel Poppick

Daniel Poppick is the author of Fear of Description (Penguin, 2019), a winner of the National Poetry Series, and The Police (Omnidawn, 2017). He lives in Brooklyn, where he works as a copywriter and co-edits the Catenary Press.

Nutsa Gogaladze

Nutsa Gogaladze is a self-taught artist, illustrator and curator based in Tbilisi, Georgia. She received a BBA in finance from Georgian International University in 2020. In 2022, Gogaladze completed a non-formal master course in creative mediation at CCA (The center of contemporary art) and founded the social project “March Gallery” to support senior self-taught Georgian artists. In 2024 she illustrated the very first children's book called "Wish Goes home" written by Matthew K Ward, in collaboration with The Museum of The Southwest in Midland, Texas. She is currently having her first solo exhibition in the museum.