30 June 2006

Jay Hopler

[from Jay Hopler's Green Squall, winner of the 2005 Yale Younger Poets Prize, judged by Louise Gluck]

And the Sunflower Weeps for the Sun, Its Flower

1
There is a hole in the garden. It is empty. I envy it.

Emptiness: the only freedom there is
In a fallen world.

2
Father Sunflower, forgive me — . I have been so preoccupied with
        my backaches and my headaches,
With my sore back and my headaches and my beat-skipping heart,

I have ignored the subtle huzzah of the date palms and daisies, of
        the blue daze and the date palms —

3
                                             Or don’t forgive me, what do I care?
I am tired of asking for forgiveness; I am tired of being frightened
        all the time.
I want to run down the street with a vicious erection,
Impaling everything, screaming obscenities
And flapping my arms; fuck the date palms,
Fuck the daisies


4
As a man, I am a disappointment, I know that.
Is it my fault I was born in shadow? Through the banyan trees,

An entourage of slovenly blondes
Comes naked and begging —

5
My days fly from me as though from a murderer.
Can you blame them?
Behind us, the house is empty and quiet as light.

What have I done, Mother,
That I should spend my life
Alone?


Self-Portrait with Whiskey and Pistol

1
Of all the things this day turned out to be, a celebration of me
        was not one of them.

2
Maybe if I surrounded myself with prostitutes and strippers, my
        celibacy would feel less like a lack and more like an act
Of heroic self-denial.

3
My life and I live in the trees and share a tail.

4
Our stomach turns its peach pit to the moon!

5
Even if it’s true, what they say, that love is never a waste of time
        no matter how impossible the object,
You wouldn’t know it from living.
On this street.

6
How disappointing it all is!
The lemon trees, the banyan trees, the sky —
How disappointing it all is.

7
Look, the Great Poet of Solitude is pruning his roses!
(Even the way he does nothing is monstrous.)

8
O birds! O birds! Be not stingy with thy feathers white, I am
        washing my hands!

9
Cloudy or not, here I come —



29 June 2006

Laura Jensen

[from Laura Jensen’s Bad Boats]

Subject Matter

On the good day, it cracks out,
the recognizable fowl that falls in love with you,
nothing to offer but itself in your eyes.
When you keep walking it starts after, helpless,
unrejectable. It would never harm you, you are certain.

Someone has seen one go fighting, taking a chevron
in lieu of the humming garden. Roses are red
because their ears are burning.
Someone hears the ocean and repeats its sound.

In your favorite country, the one no one remembers yet,
the hen, the duck, the other ones that settle—
all of them are minor deities. It is with composure
that they see flocks turn to the other mothers,
the peculiar foreigners they look in the eye.



28 June 2006

Charles Simic

[from Charles Simic's Selected Early Poems]

Explorers

They arrive inside
The object at evening.
There's no one to greet them.

The lamps they carry
Cast their shadows
Back into their own minds.

They write in their journals:

The sky and the earth
Are of the same impenetrable color.
If there are rivers and lakes,
They must be under the ground.
Of the marvels we sought, no trace.
Of the strange new stars, nothing.
There's not even wind or dust,
So we must conclude that someone
Passed recently with a broom . . .

As they write, the new world
Gradually stitches
Its black thread into them.

Eventually nothing is left
Except a low whisper,
Which might belong
Either to one of them
Or to someone who came before.

It says: "I'm happy
We are finally all here . . .

Let's make this our home."



26 June 2006

Linda Gregg

[from Linda Gregg's Too Bright to See]

We Manage Most When We Manage Small

What things are steadfast? Not the birds.
Not the bride and groom who hurry
in their brevity to reach one another.
The stars do not blow away as we do.
The heavenly things ignite and freeze.
But not as my hair falls before you.
Fragile and momentary, we continue.
Fearing madness in all things huge
and their requiring. Managing as thin light
on water. Managing only greetings
and farewells. We love a little, as the mice
huddle, as the goat leans against my hand.
As the lovers quickening, riding time.
Making safety in the moment. This touching
home goes far. This fishing in the air.



19 June 2006

15 June 2006

Tomas Transtromer

[from Tomas Transtromer's Selected Poems 1954-1986]

Breathing Space July
(translated by Robert Bly)

The man who lies on his back under huge trees
is also up in them. He branches out into thousands of tiny branches.
He sways back and forth,
he sits in a catapult chair that hurtles forward in slow motion.

The man who stands down at the dock screws up his eyes against
        the water.
Docks get old faster than men.
They have silver-gray posts and boulders in their gut.
The dazzling light drives straight in.

The man who spends the whole day in an open boat
moving over the luminous bays
will fall asleep at last inside the shade of his blue lamp
as the islands crawl like huge moths over the globe.



12 June 2006

more Robert Hass

[excerpted from "Songs to Survive the Summer" in Praise]

*

The love of books
is for children
who glimpse in them

a life to come, but
I have come
to that life and

feel uneasy
with the love of books.
This is my life,

time islanded
in poems of dwindled time.
There is no other world.

*

11 June 2006

Robert Hass

[from Robert Hass's Praise]

Like Three Fair Branches
From One Root Deriv’d

I am outside a door and inside
the words do not fumble
as I fumble saying this.
It is the same in the dream
where I touch you. Notice
in this poem the thinning out
of particulars. The gate
with the three snakes is burning,
symbolically, which doesn’t mean
the flames can’t hurt you.
Now it is the pubic arch instead
and smells of oils and driftwood,
of our bodies working very hard
at pleasure but they are not
thinking about us. Bless them,
it is not a small thing to be
happily occupied, go by them
on tiptoe. Now the gate is marble
and the snakes are graces.
You are the figure in the center.
On the left you are going away
from yourself. On the right
you are coming back. Meanwhile
we are passing through the gate
with everything we love. We go
as fire, as flesh, as marble.
Sometimes it is good and sometimes
it is dangerous like the ignorance
of particulars, but our words are clear
and our movements give off light.



10 June 2006

Charles Simic

[from Charles Simic's Jackstraws]

Non-Stop War with Bugs

An ideal hideout under my bed
To make big plans, grow brazen,
Crawl in and out of my nose
As I lie with my eyes tightly shut
Dreaming of a world
Beyond these sad appearances.

Teeny dadaists on the march,
You're sly and most witty
As you disrupt my rare moments
Of calm, making me perform
Showstopping contortions
To reach after you with a slipper
In a fit of unbecoming frenzy.



09 June 2006

Samuel Beckett

[from Samuel Beckett’s Collected Poems in English and French; this 1938 poem an English one]

Ooftish

offer it up plank it down
Golgotha was only the potegg
cancer angina it is all one to us
cough up your T.B. don’t be stingy
no trifle is too trifling not even a thrombus
anything venereal is especially welcome
that old toga in the mothballs
don’t be sentimental you won’t be wanting it again
send it along we’ll put it in the pot with the rest
with your love requited and unrequited
the things taken too late the things taken too soon
the spirit aching bullock’s scrotum
you won’t cure it you won’t endure it
it is you it equals you any fool has to pity you
so parcel up the whole issue and send it along
the whole misery diagnosed undiagnosed misdiagnosed
get your friends to do the same we’ll make use of it
we’ll make sense of it we’ll put it in the pot with the rest
it all boils down to blood of lamb



05 June 2006

Charles Simic

[from Charles Simic's Wonderful Words, Silent Truth]

My poems (in the beginning) are like a table on which one places interesting things one has found on one’s walks: a pebble, a rusty nail, a strangely shaped root, the corner of a torn photograph, etc. . . . where after months of looking at them and thinking about them daily, certain surprising relationships, which hint at meanings, begin to appear. . . .

The poem is the place where one hears what the language is really saying . . .

It’s not so much what the words mean that is crucial, but rather what they show and reveal. The literal leads to the figurative, and inside every poetic figure of value there’s a theater where a play is in progress. . . .

The poem that thinks . . .

The poem is an attempt at self-recovery, self-recognition, self-remembering, the marvel of being again.




let's get this guy a van

Michael O'Connell is a long time, good friend of a good friend of mine. He has muscular dystrophy and needs a handicap-equipped van.

Marianne Moore

Melanchthon

Openly, yes,
with the naturalness
     of the hippopotamus or the alligator
     when it climbs out on the bank to experience the

sun, I do these
things which I do, which please
     no one but myself. Now I breathe and now I am sub-
     merged; the blemishes stand up and shout when the object

in view is a
renaissance; shall I say
     the contrary? The sediment of the river which
     encrusts my joints makes me very gray, but I am used

to it, it may
remain there; do away
     with it and I am myself done away with, for the
     patina of circumstance can but enrich what was

there to begin
with. This elephant-skin
     which I inhabit, fibred over like the shell of
     the coconut, this piece of black glass through which no light

can filter—cut
into checkers by rut
     upon rut of unpreventable experience—
     is a manual for the peanut-tongued and the

hairy-toed. Black
but beautiful, my back
     is full of the history of power. Of power. What
     is powerful and what is not. My soul shall never

be cut into
by a wooden spear; through-
     out childhood to the present time, the unity of
     life and death has been expressed by the circumference

described by my
trunk; nevertheless I
     perceive feats of strength to be inexplicable after
     all; and I am on my guard; external poise, it

has its center
well nurtured—we know
     where—in pride; but spiritual poise, it has its center where?
     My ears are sensitized to more than the sound of

the wind. I see
and I hear, unlike the
     wandlike body of which one hears so much, which was made
     to see and not to see; to hear and not to hear;

that tree-trunk without
roots, accustomed to shout
     its own thoughts to itself like a shell, maintained intact
     by who knows what strange pressure of the atmosphere; that

spiritual
brother to the coral-
     plant, absorbed into which, the equable sapphire light
     becomes a nebulous green. The I of each is to

the I of each
a kind of fretful speech
     which sets a limit on itself; the elephant is
     black earth preceded by a tendril? Compared with those

phenomena
which vacillate like a
     translucence of the atmosphere, the elephant is
     that on which darts cannot strike decisively the first

time, a substance
needful as an instance
     of the indestructibility of matter; it
     has looked at electricity and at the earth-

quake and is still
here; the name means thick. Will
     depth be depth, thick skin be thick, to one who can see no
     beautiful element of unreason under it?



02 June 2006

Rachel Hadas

[from Rachel Hadas's Halfway Down the Hall]

Still Life in Garden

Speechless, considering, feet well apart:
exactly how my mother would take root
deep in the garden, so you stand. It’s early;
a summer day spreads out.
Bushier by the hour, long wavering rows
form lines and paths and furrows as of thought
marking a brow.
It’s a small garden; no
reason for amazement if you tread
neatly in the footsteps of the dead.
Stealthily day by day
tomatoes, beans, cucumbers take on gloss
and heft, and everything seems effortless,
except the digging, planting, weeding—plus
the same vague tenderness,
the deep and inexhaustible green brood
you now are lost in, standing where she stood.




01 June 2006

Emily Dickinson

(779)

The Service without Hope —
Is tenderest, I think —
Because ’tis unsustained
By stint — Rewarded Work —

Has impetus of Gain —
And impetus of Goal —
There is no Diligence like that
That knows not an Until —

Carl Phillips

[from Carl Phillips's Cort├Ęge]

A Touring Man Loses His Way

With all the wreckage
of vacation, of an assembled life
in tow, we drive
into this town on
narrowing roads whose names
run verticals up whited stone markers,
suddenly there,
haunting the intersections.

To the right,
in the rush of open vents,
the map crackles idly,
draped and puckering over
her thighs, wide-slung in sleep;
the rich blue interstate prowls
over one knee, and licks
resignedly
the wobbly stick shift.

Above the dust horizon
of dash, and stranded travel-cups,
the sea comes rearing;
then we descend, and the waves

seem to rise from
the quaver of tar and heat
and broken fluorescence.
I say:
“this road,
the road, a
road”
to no one specifically.
Her head wanders from
the headrest, strays
toward the ground sheen of safety glass.

The unamazing thought occurs just
under the wheel-hum
        I have no idea what I am doing
        I have no idea where I am going.
With increasingly waning trust
I grip the wheel—this seems
primary, this feels
correct—and shoulder
by instinct into the hurtling road

that bends, unbends,
buckles through this land: a coast,
shingles flashing, weathering.