The Problem

Noah Eli Gordon

I walk into the arid desert. There are so many ways to begin.
For example, as though unsure of the instruments, a
fly bungles its liftoff from the windowsill’s thicket of dust.
I walk into the desert as into an idea of deserts. This, too,
is a beginning. A girl pointing toward an ostrich insists
that it’s something else. “That ain’t real,” she repeats twice
to an adult looking elsewhere. Our fly rounds the surface
of an orange on the kitchen counter. An idea, too, has a
surface, a skin. Of course it’s hot out here. Upon closer
inspection, there are streaks of greenish-yellow on the orange’s
corrugated exterior. An ostrich does not bury its
head in the sand; it lays its neck flat to the ground so as to
appear from a distance like a mound of earth. That facts
are innumerable is not the problem. That we tend to look
elsewhere is.

Feature Date

Series

Selected By

Share This Poem

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Print This Poem

Share on print
Noah N2 Gordon

Noah Eli Gordon was born in Cleveland, OH, in 1975, and grew up there and in South Florida, then moved to Boston where he sold jewelry from a cart for several years while attending Bunker Hill Community College, followed by UMass-Amherst, eventually graduating from their Program for Poets & Writers, before moving west and settling in Denver, CO.

Gordon has worked as a cleaner at a bowling alley, as a writing tutor, as an usher, a bookstore clerk, an adjunct instructor, and has been active in numerous activist organizations envisioning a more just world, including Food Not Bombs in Boston and Northampton’s Prison Book Project. Gordon is currently an Associate Professor in the MFA program in Creative Writing at The University of Colorado–Boulder, where he directs Subito Press.

Gordon’s books include The Word KINGDOM in the Word Kingdom, published by Brooklyn Arts Press in early 2015, The Year of the Rooster (Ahsahta Press, 2013), The Source (Futurepoem, 2011), and Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial, 2007), which was selected by John Ashbery for the National Poetry Series and subsequently chosen for the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award.

An advocate of small press culture, he co-founded Letter Machine Editions, penned a column for five years on chapbooks for Rain Taxi: review of books, ran Braincase Press, was head reviews editor for The Volta,, and co-founded the little magazine Baffling Combustions. His essays, reviews, creative nonfiction, criticism, and poetry appear widely, including journals such as Bookforum, Seneca Review, Boston Review, Fence, Hambone, and in the anthologies Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line, Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing, Poets on Teaching, and Burning Interiors: David Shapiro’s Poetry and Poetics.

Gordon currently lives in Denver, CO.

“The devil is in the details” is not a phrase that I feel I fully understood until I read Noah Eli Gordon’s clever book, Is That the Sound of a Piano Coming from Several Houses Down? The problem is, as Gordon might write, that the devil, while enjoying his/her residence among the details, has no necessary relationship to them. Injection of a strange, vivid consciousness into the bureaucratic nihilism of our times is just one of the achievements of this subtle, unflinching collection. I recommend reading it for the elegant patterns and power-washed prose, as well as for its extremely useful descriptions of the fine line between paradox and hypocrisy.
—Lucy Ives

It’s like Noah Eli Gordon brings an abacus to calculus class. To seminary. To couples therapy. To band practice. What is it for? His tabulations, his many rearrangements of the beads, sound like solving. I love their deliberateness, undeceived about how absolute the quandary continues to be.
—Brian Blanchfield

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.