The Case

Laura Moriarty

1998 • 124 pp. • $12.00
ISBN: 9781882022366

Purchase from Small Press Distribution

“The Case is a master work. Deceptively quiet and contemplative in its tone, The Case is searing, lush, austere, tender, loving and terrifying not by turns, but at once, all the way through and all the time. Laura Moriarty has for years been one of our finest poets and now she takes us to a new level. In the deepest recesses of the real, it’s impossible to escape life itself as it faces absolute limits.”
— Ron Silliman

“The Case, besides being a mystery to be solved (where is the dead beloved, what happened to him?) and a literal case or box containing items (as with Duchamp’s Boxes) pertinent to the larger work (the ‘wedding’; or past and present lives) also strikes the reader as a private enclosure in which the poet confronts herself and what has happened. This space is sometimes theatrical or artifact-like, sometimes inclusive of the natural world; real objects and present experience can take part in the confrontation. Experience is encountered not described, the present is what it’s like when it’s happening even if it’s pain. Though The Case is a private domain it isn’t exclusive: the poet is alone thinking, yet others feel nearby in their warmth. The Case is appropriately muted, but not reticent. Its colors seem wisely chosen. It’s full of light, ocean light, house light, the light of a shadow puppet show. The subject of the book isn’t at all darkness, it’s the peculiarly lit and peculiarly gracious space in which rituals of loss take place.”
— Alice Notley

“The Case of Laura Moriarty succeeds to awake by night. It is made for cutting. He dies on her birthday. She is the detective. The peeping occurs through the holes. We take pictures. The destroyed place is beautiful.”
— Bill Luoma


Laura Moriarty was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and grew up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and in Northern California. She attended the University of California at Berkeley. She was the Director of the American Poetry Archives at the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University for many years. She has taught at Naropa University and Mills College and is now the Deputy Director of Small Press Distribution. Her books include A TONALIST (Nightboat Books, 2010), A SEMBLANCE: SELECTED AND NEW POEMS, 1975-2007 (Omnidawn, 2007), ULTRAVIOLETA (Atelos, 2006), SELF-DESTRUCTION (Post-Apollo Press, 2005), NUDE MEMOIR (Krupskaya, 2000), THE CASE (0 Books, 1998), SPICER’S CITY (Poetry New York, 1998), SYMMETRY (Avec Books, 1996), L’Archiviste (Zasterle 1991), LIKE ROADS (Kelsey St. Press, 1990), and RONDEAUX (Roof Books, 1990). 



These plant epiphanies
This residence underneath
Stemmed and read
Someone at this feast

Is dead already
Is not
Me with no meaning
Is not love

Leaving life behind
Red on my hands crushed
Seeds loosely red
Read on my chest and heart

No longer
No drama presented
No law of silence
She was the secret

In this place he was
Event without article
Not a personal god
Went off without her
Without content

A stagehand carries a mirror through. It’s supposed to be hell but is just the neighborhood. A crew is here full of the illusions of their story. We don’t know them. Neither I, wandering, lanterns suspended inappropriately above me, or you, freshly dead, would care to know. Only later can one see them, only not them, but the absent performers. It will be a false memory pieced together. If time stops pounding the ears like a heart loose in the body for a moment while we watch, it will be a success. “The triumph of death” we might call it in spite of its real name. So we can call it out.

Through the window
Not falling thrown
With sudden force
The household

Tables stained chairs torn and
Wobbling anyway taken
By strangers in trucks
Used up
Lamps broken notebooks

Ink smeared
Face like the stain
Of ashes ashes on the roof
Of course this tomb
Is a house

This airless metal
Number burned circle
Doused and scattered
Plain granite
Hell is heaven is home

This goddamned leaking sieve of a pen like a slow detonation. If I could just get the right dress I could get it off me. Go back and keep it from exploding. The pool of saliva that was left like a last clear thought. Tip of the hat. Final handshake shaken repeatedly. Spit like acid. A solid lake in a terrain which can be picked up and examined. The world as model of the world. Life as ending. The sun on my table burning as I fall, as I wake up.

It goes without saying
I loved you more than god
“I am cancer. I am death.”
Neither of us wrote that
The face wrapped

The eyes gone
Stuck at the beginning
A mask clings to your face like an animal
An ordinary thing like laughter
Sleeps here

In a dream my reader tears open my stomach the better to read and I think, “Good, I’m finally dead or asleep and am cheerful because change is the only way I can tell time now.” In fact, I am laughing because I don’t know what else to do with my breath. There is so much of it. All I know. What’s here is there. Keeping up with the air.

With hidden noise
Black leather and glass
Brushed every day like teeth
Fresh widow unfastened
Reading is breathing