Perhaps, in your Maggie Nelson research, you’ve stumbled upon one of the rare references to her first book of poems, Pacific, which Nelson self-published in 1995. When I asked her about it via email, she replied, “It was just a DIY labor of love. I made it myself, no one published it. Poetry people told me in NYC that you should make your own book & send it out to those you admire, so that’s what I did.” The book contains 32 poems, including four sonnets, and is nearly impossible to obtain. A kind librarian at the University of Arizona Poetry Center said her copy was too fragile to scan the whole thing–she sent me a few scanned pages, and a transcription of a poem I was curious about when I saw the title in the Table of Contents–“The Surprise Ending.” When I read the poem, I noticed elements of Nelson’s future work showing here and there, even reference to the color blue. With Maggie Nelson’s permission, here it is:
THE SURPRISE ENDING
A letter with the phrase
“I miss you with a violence”
in it. Oh so deadly serious.
how to be true to it?
Infidelity of words that stick
while bodies keep coming
and going. It takes time.
I want to pulverize, classify
Press an earlobe in plastic
Label it: for a good time call.
I’m at an arm’s length, I said.
I lied. We become liars over time,
needing constant tucks and nips.
Saving face, delighting in half-phrase.
I’m lonely, you said. You lied.
The villain recurs in the plot.
Oh tiger, how I loved then stuffed
and petted you. There was not enough
blue food so we ate the sky.
Raised and inflamed and open
twenty-four hours to drag by the hair,
to break apart at the weak spot,
memory. It’s such a thrill. I love
its innocence, its shrug
of the shoulders. Wiping the blade
against your thigh, God how I wanted
more than this, I wanted more.
To crawl into your dark offices
to explore them on hands and knees
I know you keep the moon
in your socket and I want it.
It’s much quieter now. Can you
hear the detour start,
the tongue turning the corner?
I’m changing my mind.