31 October 2008

Cole Swensen

[from Cole Swensen's Ours, University of California Press, 2008]

Paradise

Certain traditions claim that man and garden cannot be separated,
or if and when they are, will neither still be visible, the inverse

of those twins that you never see in the same place at the same time.
       We disappear
through a single door, unrecognized

in the morning in the park, where we sit behind the early paper
and periodically declare I can't believe

in the Middle Ages, they drew the news on cemetery walls. A long line
of bodies in silhouette that swayed. This too, they say,

is paradise because the sky touches the ground wherever the former
       has a hole in it called a hand,
espalliered mansions and guests in the millions.

The first public gardens in history were called oubliettes. As soon as
       you entered,
you were indistinguishable from the animals.

Ours (New California Poetry)

26 October 2008

Susan Stewart

[from Susan Stewart's Columbarium, University of Chicago press, 2003]

Zero

Mark a circle and start digging here.
Don't think you are clearing a space
for a foundation, just dig like a mole,
stitching in and out. Tell them your hope
goes down slanting, that everything
inevitable runs toward
the horizontal.
Dig wherever your shadow falls, a green
patch backlit by a blazing
planet -- wherever your shadow falls, dig
in the shape of your shadow falling.

Columbarium (Phoenix Poets Series)

24 October 2008

Marie Howe

[from Marie Howe's Kingdom of Ordinary Time, Norton, 2008]

How You Can't Move Moonlight

How you can't move moonlight — you have to go
there and stand in it. How you can't coax it
from your bed to come and shine there. You can't
carry it in a bucket or cup it in
your hands to drink. Wind won't

blow it. A bird flying through it won't
tear it. How you can't sell it or buy it
or save it or earn it or own it, erase
it or block it from shining on the mule's
bristly back, dog's snout, duck bill, cricket, toad.
Shallow underwater stones gleam underwater.

And the man who's just broken the neck
of his child? He's standing by the window
moonlight shining on his face and throat.

The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems

Susan Stewart

[from Susan Stewart's The Forest, University of Chicago Press, 1995]

1936

Her mother is rolling cigars in the factory.
She is best of all, even perfect. She taps
the woody threads, immaculate, into the acrid
raw silk of the wrapping.
Best of all, she can do it without thinking or asking,
could do it while talking, but doesn't ever.
And so she could never be the cackling
floor-boss or the foreman who stands there
tethered to the watch. She's in it, for good,
on the floor, for life, watching the strings
tucked into their casings, each brown bud
taut below her long white hands.
And just her one thought — this is my
machine — the shroud around the shadows.
You, genre painter, who finds in this beauty
and who, from this, would make an enduring thing,
or you who could build from this some plot strung
with ornaments, constructing a monument
at the site of its senselessness,
turn away, turn from the din and the dust,
and choose someone else — not her.

The Forest (Phoenix Poets Series)

20 October 2008

Katie Ford

[from Katie Ford's Deposition, Graywolf, 2002]

When the Trees Are Gone

Fire in the trees splits them
open like body bags. They heap
into piles, tips pointing to the blue mountains bruising
the edge of the valley, pointing to the river just
before it runs into the walled arc of the dam, to where I know
water that far off is useless.

1. What does its task to the trees is true.
2. What pulses so you can make out a body is true.

Fire in the trees splits them open,
the pine-splints clean and stripped downwards
like a photograph of something caught
falling. Is it fire, is it wood
that makes the sound of the mussel I cracked off a rock yesterday?
Only a half-body away, my hand on the rock, wrenching
an armor of white off the stone haystack.

3. A crack and then again a crack of heat, of pine, of a bag opened, of the shell.
4. What makes a sound is true.
5. In me the sound of something repeatedly done to another thing.

Fire in the trees splits them.
I took the shells from the rock, quickly as if the tide
were coming in. My arms were full because of what I did.

6. The tide was out. The tide was out.
7. The sky becomes larger, more true, becomes the shape of the body it lost, hollows everythere.

What will I have to say to the man who tells me,
when we watch the ashes cool acre by acre, the fire
having consumed each arrow-pine standing and fallen,

It was like this the evening my wife died. She filled the whole bed.
I would turn to her, then remember she
was wrapped in a blanket in the front hall. There was no
arch in her spine. The blanket had smoothed over each edge
and curve of her face like a leaf enclosing its knotted buds.
I turned to her again and again until morning, when they came to take
her away. Just wait. Tomorrow
when you wake up, you will see the trees
where they used to be.

Deposition: Poems

14 October 2008

01 October 2008