An Excerpt from HELEN OR MY HUNGER, by Gale Marie Thompson

Gale Marie Thompson the author of Soldier On (Tupelo Press, 2015) and two chapbooks: If You’re a Bear, I’m a Bear and Expeditions to the Polar Seas (Sixth Finch). Recent work may be found in Gulf Coast, Cosmonauts Avenue, jubilat, Bennington Review, Ghost Proposal, and Foundry, among others. She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. She is the founding editor of Jellyfish Magazine and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she teaches at Grand Valley State University.


With lemon voices they called you hated Helen. They called you Eidolon, Eikon. In the cooked tin sheet I can see her face, yours, eyes scoped out and over. Sands shift, pull down into a strip. You are no one’s mother.

I have placed all of this in you, Helen. I am scratching it out, groove-voiced. This is not an embrace but a crimp, a coil. I breathe out, talk to you, am immediately not my own.

If I am a creature with a sense of time—of passage, lapse, rupture or ekstasis—I can be said to remember. I foam trees at the mouth and approach story.



The brain shores images like a hum, a churn. All I know to do is shore and accumulate, step into these long fossils like a skirt, to move from margin to margin. I am at a loss for faces, and look around for something not so sleek, not so un-grooved. Graphite lozenges between days of unbeing. Perhaps there is a different kind of container.

I can’t listen to the body anymore, store more of its spill. I nuzzle myself into that spiral form, a hard, gold scrubbing of an image. After two hours I look up from my book to find my arm clenched and rigid at my side.

You look out from the fabric of your painting, and I / into your exhausted shell.



June. Three rings of dried pineapple and a third coffee. I write “WHAT IS THE THING?” and the thing is always more instruction. More notes, a preparation. If we are both still alone in the gesture then there is no word one. Each ending a gap, a window.

What we know about Helen is her sex, her little form. A body of nouns. Irrepressible. We know that she is unravelled to be yellow-haired; the machine of Helen always was. What we know about the machine of Helen is being cited and cited and what kind of warm stone do I hold now.



Are you here or not-here
little film, icon
How still you are becoming
Wreaths strung of glance
upon glance, copied
onto a bright garden floor
The form has an oily slip
a folding-over place,
the sharp thread of disorder
Bodies as mine flinched,
becoming large in shadow
A girl inside the picture is settling,
Her hair covers up the pier-glass
She is touching the body of a leaf
A signal, like when we ask
the I in each other



The given of Helen is aperture. Whatever form is
is not here. Hair parted down the middle: this is how
the frame works.
Slash and cut. I am speaking of and for
nobody now. Nothing changes; boundaries flanked
in me still cast as boundaries, lines of devotion
to exclude the function.
I want to drop my stones to the ground,
see the grafted disorder of Helen
for what it is: fragrant and good.
Instead I build and build consequences, secretly
become to tired to be valuable