30 September 2009

Karen Volkman

[from Karen Volkman's Crash's Law, Norton, 1996]

Persephone at Home

No good reflecting on what might have been
if I'd been different -- no straying
after foreign flowers, no hunger
for bitter fruit. In the beginning --

such a child -- I thought it punishment,
not fate. It is daylight I miss
mainly. What we are granted of sun here
is a dim relentless red. I wander

the reeking river, I pat
fat Cerberus on his many manic heads.
The moldy skiff makes its incessant
prompt arrivals, so efficient,

our dutiful Charon growling orders
from the prow. Huge-eyed, uncomprehending,
the new recruits stare round. Wives still
clutching their washing, wailing children,

soldiers blood-stained and battered
from the latest engagement.
Then that blessed briny sip, welcome
oblivion -- they're blank as babies.

All nights the shrieks of the tortured serenade
our marriage bed. Once it lulled
me rigid. For years after that
first celebrated rape,

I lay cold beneath his coldness,
stiff in his stiff embrace.
I'll give no prince to this kingdom.
That thing is dead.

For years, he broke me for it.
For years, I bled and bled.
That was then. Queen
of his blasphemous backwater,

I make my claim. On earth,
I am virginal abundance, fat and full.
Here, bony and empty, I straddle
my killer, my captor, my grief, my bane,

and tear and take
the torn lip, the raked neck, the aching thighs,
that will remind me
through the long black morning

I am alive.

White Lily

Gnomish in its rounded hunch
of greeny folds, three-fourths of the year
it resembles a weed. Now spring's

unseasonable heat
brings vindication. Trumpet
over frilled, frail trumpet

spills its bone-white notes
in April air. Below, in shadow --
shrunken, overawed -- skulks

the novice rosebush
we rooted in the fall. This
spendthrift, who's squandered

brilliant buds for months,
today knows the earthy weight
of morning-after. Our double

hibiscus, also, pinkly plumed,
succumbed to a plumber's truck
that veered too soon. But the lily

in her straight ascetic's
rigid pose, white as the ember
of a low, enduring fire

takes her pleasure like
the wife of the pastor
come to bed -- prim in her cotton frock

throughout the day, precise
in her firm instructions
to the maid, who cradled

in the rough caress of muslin sheets
bares her stoic shoulders to the room
and seizes in her strong white legs

the truant moon.

29 September 2009

Anne Waldman

[from Anne Waldman's Manatee/Humanity, Penguin Books, 2009]

& in the dream it was wolves all the way down,
             wolf pack thrashing & gnawing at the corpses of other animals
cannibal heaven
a small splash, a chill

an eye caught
metallic shimmer
   cloaks & hoods of the imposters
rent apart by wolves
   "I am a youth with golden cymbals dancing"
then one, turns
              to me as in blame
would you come to my rescue?

reliable humans? would you?
  notice animals dressed as humans now, imposter humans

             strewn out on the charnel ground, clothed
battered & trying to be animal again, scratch wolf-eyes off the facade of human

images of many ravage sites flash by
       as if there is atavistic memory
creation of a perceptual world of death & destruction
long evolutionary gestation of death & destruction

                      we stopped to observe (my companion always with me now);
cougar, head snapped
entrails ripped out . . . & spread all around
those parts not eaten
cougar cups eviscerated, killer instinct or survival

what can we learn from the predatory nature of other animals
to surround the bison
down the cattle

the other way around, you said
we came first
                  so like them . . .

we in our sweet-smelling realm so like them--
pack of wolves

                        & all breaths escape to exhale in the continued plight of
wolves, loyal in their pack abode, cunning
bright-eyed ones

                                                    ride over me tonight

& manatee
you can't mix a human monster ever enough to aid the manatee

surely our conscious plans have precursors in animal brains

28 September 2009

Charles Olson



Physiology:                    the surface (senses—the 'skin': of 'Human

                                      Universe') the body itself—proper—one's own

                                      'corpus': PROPRIOCEPTION the cavity of the body,

                                      in which the organs are slung: the viscera, or

                                      interoceptive, the old 'psychology' of feeling,

                                      the heart; of desire, the liver; of sympathy, the

                                      'bowels'; of courage—the kidney etc—gall,

                                      (Stasis—or as in Chaucer only, spoofed)             


                         Today:  movement, at any cost. Kinesthesia: beat (nik)

                                      the sense whose end organs lie in the muscles,

                                      tendons, joints, and are stimulated by bodily

                                      tensions (—or relaxations of same). Violence:

                                      knives/anything, to get the body in.


To which

PROPRIOCEPTION:     the data of depth sensibility/the 'body' of us as

                                      object which spontaneously or of its own order

                                      produces experience of, 'depth' Viz

                                      SENSIBILITY WITHIN THE ORGANISM



'Psychology':                 the surface: consciousness as ego and thus no flow

                                      because the 'senses' of same are all that sd contact

                                      area is valuable for, to report in to central. In-

THE WORKING            spection, followed hard on heels by, judgment

     'OUT' OF                  (judicium, dotha: cry, if you must/all feeling may

'PROJECTION'             flow, is all which can count, at sd point. Direction

                                      outward is sorrow, or joy. Or participation: active

                                      social life, like, for no other reason than that—

                                      social life, in the present. Wash the ego out, in its

                                      own 'bath' (os)


                                      The 'cavity'/cave: probably the 'Unconscious'? That

                                      is, the interior empty place filled with 'organs'? for



                                      The advantage is to 'place' the thing, instead of

                                      it wallowing around sort of outside, in the

THE 'PLACE'                universe, like, when the experience of it is intero-

      OF THE                  ceptive: it is inside us/& at the same time does

'UNCONSCIOUS'         not feel literally identical with our own physical or

                                      mortal self (the part that can die). In this sense

                                      likewise the heart, etc, the small intestine etc, are

                                      or can be felt as—and literally they can be—

                                      transferred. Or substituted for. Etc. The organs.—

                                      Probably also why the old psychology was chiefly

                                      visceral; neither dream, nor the unconscious, was

                                      then known as such. Or allowably inside, like.




                                      This 'demonstration' then leads to the same third,

                                      or corpus, thing or 'place,' the



                                                 'one's own'-ception


                                      the 'body' itself as, by movement of its own tis-

                                      sues, giving the data of, depth. Here, then, wld be

    the soul is                  what is left out? Or what is psysiologically even

proprioceptive               the 'hard' (solid, palpable), that one's life is

                                      informed from and by one's owl literal body—

                                      as well, that is, as the whole inner mechanism,

                                      which keeps us so damn busy (like eating, sleeping,

                                      urinating, dying there, by deterioration of sd

                                      'functions' of sd 'organs')—that this mid-thing

                                      between, which is what gets 'buried,' like, the

                                      flesh? bones, muscles, ligaments, etc., what one

                                      uses, literally, to get about etc

                                                                       that this is 'central,' that is—in

                                      this 1/2 of the picture—what they call the SOUL,

                                      the intermediary, the intervening thing, the inter-

                                      ruptor, the resistor. The self.


    The gain:                   to have a third term, so that movement or action

                                      is 'home.' Neither the Unconscious nor Projection

                                      (here used to remove the false opposition of

                                      'Conscious'; 'consciousness' is self) have a home

                                      unless the DEPTH implicit in physical being

                                      built-in space-time specifics, and moving (by

                                      movement of 'its own')    is asserted, or found-

                                      out as such. Thus the advantage of the value

                                      'proprioception.' As such.


                                      The 'soul' then is equally 'physical.' Is the self.

    its own                       Is such, 'corpus.' Or—to levy the gain psychology          

  perception                   from 1900, or 1885, did supply until it didn't

                                      (date? 1948?)—the three terms wld be:


                                      surface (senses) projection

                                      cavity (organs—here read 'archtypes')

                                      unconscious the body itself—consciousness:

                                      implicit accuracy, from its own energy as a state of

                                      implicit motion.


                 identity,         therefore (the universe is one) is supplied; and the

                                      abstract-primitive character of the real (asserted)

                                      is 'placed': projection is discrimination (of the

                                      object from the subject) and the unconscious is the

                                      universe flowing-in, inside.


25 September 2009

David St. John

[from David St. John's Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems, 1994, Harper Collins]

Slow Dance

It's like the riddle Tolstoy
Put to his son, pacing off the long fields
Deepening in ice. Or the little song
Of Anna's heels, knocking
Through the cold ballroom. It's the relief
A rain enters in a diary, left open under the sky.
The night releases
Its stars, & the birds the new morning. It is an act of grace
& disgust. A gesture of light:
The lamp turned low in the window, the harvest
Fire across the far warp of the land. The somber
Cadence of boots returns. A village
Pocked with soldiers, the dishes rattling in the cupboard
As an old serving woman carries a huge, silver spoon
Into the room & as she polishes she holds it just
So in the light, & the fat
Of her jowls
Goes taut in the reflection. It's what shapes
The sag of those cheeks, & has
Nothing to do with death though it is as simple, & insistent.
Like a coat too tight at the shoulders, or a bedroom
Weary of its single guest. At last, a body
Is spent by sleep: A dream stealing the arms, the legs.
A lover who has left you
Walking constantly away, beyond that stand
Of bare, autumnal trees: Vague & loose. Yet, it's only
The dirt that consoles the root. You must begin
Again to move, towards the icy sill. A small
Girl behind a hedge of snow
Working a stick puppet so furiously the passersby bump
Into one another, watching the stiff arms
Fling out to either side, & the nervous goose-step, the dances
Going on, & on
Though the girl is growing cold in her thin coat & silver
Leotard. She lays her cheek to the frozen bank
& lets the puppet sprawl upon her,
Across her face, & a single man is left twirling very
Slowly, until the street
Is empty of everything but snow. The snow
Falling, & the puppet. That girl. You close the window,
& for the night's affair slip on the gloves
Sewn of the delicate
Hides of mice. They are like the redemption
Of a drastic weather: Your boat
Put out too soon to sea,
Come back. Like the last testimony, & trace of desire. Or,
How your blouse considers your breasts,
How your lips preface your tongue, & how a man
Assigns a silence to his words. We know lovers who quarrel
At a party stay in the cool trajectory
Of the other's glance,
Spinning through pockets of conversation, sliding in & out
Of the little gaps between us all until they brush or stand at last
Back to back, & the one hooks
An ankle around the other's foot. Even the woman
Undressing to music on a stage & the man going home the longest
Way after a night of drinking remember
The brave lyric of a heel-&-toe. As we remember the young
Acolyte tipping
The flame to the farthest candle & turning
To the congregation, twirling his gold & white satin
Skirts so that everyone can see his woolen socks & rough shoes
Thick as the hunter's boots that disappear & rise
Again in the tall rice
Of the marsh. The dogs, the heavy musk of duck. How the leaves
Introduce us to the tree. How the tree signals
The season, & we begin
Once more to move: Place to place. Hand
To smoother & more lovely hand. A slow dance. To get along
You toss your corsage onto the waters turning
Under the fountain, & walk back
To the haze of men & women, the lazy amber & pink lanterns
Where you will wait for nothing more than the slight gesture
Of a hand, asking
For this slow dance, & another thick & breathless night.
Yet, you want none of it. Only, to return
To the countryside. The fields & long grasses:
The scent of your son's hair, & his face
Against your side,
As the cattle knock against the walls of the barn
Like the awkward dancers in this room
You must leave, knowing the leaving as the casual
& careful betrayal of what comes
Too easily, but not without its cost, like an old white
Wine out of its bottle, or the pages
Sliding from a worn hymnal. At home, you walk
With your son under your arm, asking of his day, & how
It went, & he begins the story
How he balanced on the sheer hem of a rock, to pick that shock
Of aster nodding in the vase, in the hall. You pull him closer
& turn your back to any other life. You want
Only the peace of walking in the first light of morning,
As the petals of ice bunch one
Upon another at the lip of the iron pump & soon a whole blossom
Hangs above the trough, a crowd of children teasing it
With sticks until the pale neck snaps, & flakes spray everyone,
& everyone simply dances away.

Leap of Faith

No less fabulous than the carved marble inner
Ear of a lost Michelangelo & more
Blinding than the multiple courts & interior facets
Of a black diamond held up in broken moonlight

This final geography acknowledges its trunks of
Ebony & its boughs of summer rain

Though there at the gate where Dante burned his
Initials into the face of the oak shield
I hesitated before following the switchback trail up
To the precipice overlooking the canyon the abyss
So relished by philosophy & when I saw you
On the opposite cliff in your long cape & gold
Shoes with frayed thin ribbons snaking up your ankles

Like anyone approaching from the foot of a bridge
I simply stepped toward you & below the bones
Of the fallen shone in the lightning & the prayers

& certainly it was there in that country
Braced between twin brackets of stone I saw only one
Belief remains for a man whose life is spared by

A faith more insupportable than air

21 September 2009

Jed Rasula

[from Jed Rasula's The American Poetry Wax Museum, National Council of Teachers of English, 1996]

The dominant modern institutions, according to Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life, are colonization, psychiatry, and pedagogy, which focus and bring into line the renegade tendencies of the masses, the unconscious, and the child, respectively. The society of the spectacle engineers these elements into a coherent ideological motif, that of the nation, which is therefore less a polity than a fantasy. The fantasy is certified in its purity as a hegemonic "voice" at that point when individual members of the society or group appear to spontaneously exhibit the rules of order, the principles of cohesion, and reiterate in almost ritual fashion a miraculous unity of individual utterance and collective sentiment. This is the birth of the poetry workshop.

20 September 2009

Sixty Some

Today Apobiz Press published my new book, Sixty Some.

Read it in your browser or buy a copy for your favorite ebook device.

17 September 2009

Rae Armantrout

[from Rae Armantrout's Up to Speed, Wesleyan, 2004]



"Don't let the car fool you.

My treasure
is in heaven."


The material world is made up

of collisions

between otherwise
indefinite objects.

Then what is a collision?

(Or the physical world

into place

at the shock of
being seen.)


In the shorter version,

stomach swallows stomach.

In a long dream,
I'm with Aaron,

visiting his future,
helping him make choices.

16 September 2009

Robert Bly

[Robert Bly in Five Points 10, 2006]

Something About Morning Pajamas

When you've been sleeping all night in a warm bed
There's sometimes a playful odor in your pajamas
It's a bit lowlife, but satisfying
It is some sort of fragrant warmth
That your balls created during the night.
It's a mammal delight related
To the way the calf
Loves the cow's udder.
That mammal delight is one of the nouns
Of this earth.
Don't be ashamed, friends.
Don't throw the pajamas in the washer.
Don't open the window;
Forget the Pilgrims.
Think how sweet it is
That advice should come
From a source so deep.

15 September 2009

Monique Wittig

[from Monique Wittig's Les Guérillères, translated by David Le Vay, Beacon, 1969]

As regards the feminaries the women say for instance that they have forgotten the meaning of one of their ritual jokes. It has to do with the phrase, The bird of Venus takes flight towards evening. It is written that the lips of the vulva have been compared to the wings of a bird, hence the name of bird of Venus that has been given them. The vulva has been compared to all kinds of birds, for instance to doves, starlings, bengalis, nightingales, finches, swallows. They say that they have unearthed an old text in which the author, comparing vulvas to swallows, says that he does not know which of them moves better or has the faster wing. However, The bird of Venus takes flight towards evening, they say they do not know what this means.

The golden fleece is one of the designations that have been given to the hairs that cover the pubis. As for the quests for the golden fleece to which certain ancient myths allude, the women say they know little of these. They say that the horseshoe which is a representation of the vulva has long been considered a lucky charm. They say that the most ancient figures depicting the vulva resemble horseshoes. They say that in fact it is in such a shape that they are represented on the walls of palaeolithic grottos.

The women say that the feminaries give pride of place to the symbols of the circle, the circumference, the ring, the O, the zero, the sphere. They say that this series of symbols has provided them with a guideline to decipher a collection of legends they have found in the library and which they have called the cycle of the Grail. These are to do with the quests to recover the Grail undertaken by a number of personages. They say it is impossible to mistake the symbolism of the Round Table that dominated their meetings. They say that, at the period when the texts were compiled, the quests for the Grail were singular unique attempts to describe the zero the circle the ring the spherical cup containing the blood. They say that, to judge by what they know about their subsequent history, the quests for the Grail were not successful, that they remained of the nature of a legend.

There are also legends in which young women having stolen fire carry it in their vulvas. There is the story of her who fell asleep for a hundred years from having wounded her finger with her spindle, the spindle being cited as the symbol of the clitoris. In connection with this story the women make many jokes about the awkwardness of the one who lacked the priceless guidance of a feminary. They say laughing that she must have been the freak spoken of elsewhere, she who, in place of a little pleasure-greedy tongue, had a poisonous sting. They say they do not understand why she was called the sleeping beauty.

13 September 2009

Pamela Alexander

[from Pamela Alexander's Navigable Waterways, Yale, 1985]

The Garden in the Middle

Panes and eggs make fragile dozens:
two times six in cardboard nests, food
for angels who eat cake; three
times four the membranes between weathers.
Frames hold themselves in wooden hugs
that keep the world together, the glass
a cubist with twelve angles on what is:
peach tree; sea flexing; perhaps a house
being painted blue. Here, a Q:

a british line. A dozen people
wait to buy beer in the sculpture garden.
English sparrows and leaves also
stand in lines together, higher
than the humans. Big plants
digest sunlight and rumble in their juices.
People through the queue sit
to tea-cakes and quiches
at tables made of metal imitating
lace: ornate with curlicues,
the iron legs are painted white
as eggs. Dozens of dozens of windows
surround the lines of this and that:
the museum looks out, and in,
at its informal center. The courtyard

a disordered game board:
tables white squares, flagstones grey, both
scattered crazily. Couples
play hearts everywhere. Queens and
pawns and wandering knights take cues.
Jokers coin jingles
and wink. Second fiddles
fiddle with their drinks. And hundreds
of visions of the light touching things
pass through the tiny panes of eyes each

Hands hold the light up
as they gesture, conducting
conversations. When
the people in the garden talk, they are
what they say. When they are quiet
their bodies are maps of the cosmos,
hands five-pointed stars. Fish dive in the blue
streaks of their arms, angels rise
in their smiles.
Rings and bracelets flash like waves
landing, waves fragile
as glass, as white shells washed ashore.

Lynne Thompson

[from Lynne Thompson's Beg No Pardon, Perugia Press, 2007]

A Sorceress Strolls New Grass

I am neither mother nor turquoise neckwear
but you are such young women,
such new potatoes, and there is much
for me to tell you:

     that bishops joyride in the dead of night,
     that blue's favorite color is blue
     and earth is just a gaudy paragraph.

And though I am ripe as November, I can tell you

     no sorceress ever abandons midday
     and a sculptor is always better
     in a waterbed.

Of course, I'm vainglorious with my knowing and croaking --

but you women are writing your own Book of Migration
and without warning, I feel useless as an empty valise.
What you know makes the bandicoot fly and you converse
in flamingo and seashell, smell like smoke and rapscallions.

     You are tambourines
     in the stewing pot,
     a crucible of cymbals.

     Being fresh as new grass, you
     inspire me to astonish, then gloat;
     to beg no pardon, then begin.

12 September 2009

Tom C. Hunley

[from Tom C. Hunley's Octopus, Logan House, 2008]

Niagara Falls Honeymoon

In this setting, how could there be a conflict?
The water keeps breaking on the rocks, like an
an endless stream of promises. She is just
out of college. He is just out of rehab. Man
versus nature, man versus self, man versus woman.
Tonight will be her first time. It will be his first time.
He doesn't have a quarter ounce of pot

stashed in his suitcase. She isn't pregnant. I am
an unreliable narrator, but you can believe me: there
will be a climax, plenty of dialogue, a plot twist that
looks tiny at first, though it changes

everything, and keeps growing. There will be
a resolution, and much later, an ending. For now,
he sits on a rock, she sits on his lap, and his
eyes try hard to hold all this new beauty
as water falls down the crags of her cheeks.

08 September 2009

Mary Jones

[new poems from Mary Jones, my dearly-beloved 92-year-old aunt]


There’s Tommy with Rascal
and Nicky and Sam
out there on the ice,
but that’s not where I am.

Not there on the ice
in Medway, not now
though that would be nice
but saddening somehow.

I came here to Chelmsford
to live out my years
— reminiscing with photos
happiness, tears.

Looking at photos
sorting papers and stuff
brings back many memories
but that’s not enough.


There’s Lily on the river
paddling the canoe
all by herself
as often she would do.

Our long green canoe
how many it has carried
all my brothers and my sisters
even more, when they were married.

And out there on the river
out there on the brook
up to the old swimming hole
or down to the dam, to look,

out there on the river
in the long green canoe
over the sky in the river
there she is, just passing through.

01 September 2009

Edmund Wilson

[from Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle, Scribner's, 1932]

The real elements, of course, of any work of fiction, are the elements of the author's personality: his [sic] imagination embodies in the images of characters, situations and scenes the fundamental conflicts of his nature or the cycle of phases through which it habitually passes. His personages are personifications of the author's various impulses and emotions: and the relations between them in his stories are really the relations between these. One of the causes, in fact, of our feeling that certain works are more satisfactory than others is to be found in the superior thoroughness and candor with which the author has represented these relations. We feel his world to be real and complete, not merely in proportion to the variety of elements it includes, but also in proportion as we recognize these elements as making up an organic whole. From this point of view, Dostoevsky is one of the most satisfactory of novelists; Myshkin and Rogozhin thrill us because they are the opposite poles of one nature; the three brothers Karamazov move us because they are the spirit, mind and body of one man. And if we ask ourselves why even so great a novelist as Dickens does not make upon us so profound an impression as Dostoevsky, we realize that it is because in the case of Dickens, wide and varied as the world of his novels is, the novelist himself is not sufficiently conscious of the significance of what happens there, so that, except in the very best of them, he has admitted a larger conventional element than the greatest novelists ordinarily allow and has been content ot press into service melodramatic "good" characters and villains into whom he has scarcely projected himself at all. . . .

Joyce has found for this new vision a new language, but a language which, instead of diluting or doing violence to his poetic genius, enables it to assimilate more completely and successfully than that of perhaps any other poet of our age to the new self-consciousness of the modern world. But in achieving this, Joyce has ceased to write verse. I have suggested, in connection with Valery and Eliot, that verse itself as a literary medium is coming to be used for fewer and fewer and for more and more special purposes, and that it may be destined to fall into disuse.