31 May 2009

Graham Foust

[from Graham Foust's Leave the Room to Itself, Ahsahta, 2003]


I can contemplate

poverty, what gives,
my place and time there.

I can pray a lie.

What I'd kill for: now,
a limousineful

of bees. Absolutely
unmixed attention.

Whispered to a Wound

Collapse back

Keep on

keeping out
and in.


as the world
(any world

I've welcomed) would --

on thinnest ice
and medicine

and lists.

Buy Graham Foust's book @ SPD or Amazon

30 May 2009

poetry book reviews

Mayday Magazine features many responses to Kent Johnson's letter to Poetry regarding poetry book reviews.

Christina Davis

[from Christina Davis's Forth a Raven, Alice James, 2006]

The Outset


It's 7:30. It is still possible
to know where you are.

The field quiet and birded, across it a deer has fled
and then turned back
as if it left some part of itself behind,
the part that feared me.


Which is harder, do you think, the journey to paradise
or the one to the underworld,
if on either occasion you know from the outset

you will have to return?


Before there was a self, there were many hunches,

many came to the cradle
but in going began
to define me as what-does-not-go-away.


We are each what never leaves us, what we never see
the back of
is the self. But what loves us

is at the back, as Eurydice was
escorting him out
without his knowing.


It is eight o'clock, it is ten. It is time.

Home begins
in the mind, a dream

of walking.

Buy Christina Davis's book @ Amazon

29 May 2009

B. H. Fairchild

[from B. H. Fairchild's Usher, Norton, 2009]

Frieda Pushnik

             "Little Frieda Pushnik, the Armless, Legless Girl
             Wonder," who spent years as a touring attraction
             for Ripley's Believe It or Not and Ringling Brothers
             and Barnum and Bailey . . .

                         -- "Obituaries," Los Angeles Times

These are the faces I love. Adrift with wonder,
big-eyed as infants and famished for that strangeness
in the world they haven't known since early childhood,
they are monsters of innocence who gladly shoulder
the burden of the blessed, the unbroken, the beautiful,
the lost. They should be walking on their lovely knees
like pilgrims to that shrine in Guadelupe, where
I failed to draw a crowd. I might even be their weird
little saint, though God knows I've wanted everything
they've wanted,
and more, of course. When we toured Texas,
west from San Antonio, those tiny cow towns flung
like pearls from the broken necklace of the Rio Grande,
I looked out on a near-infinity of rangeland
and far blue mountains, avatars of emptiness,
minor gods of that vast and impossible pure nothing
to whom I spoke my little stillborn, ritual prayer.
I'm not on those posters they paste all over town,
those silent orgies of secondary colors -- jade,
burnt orange, purple -- each one a shrieking anthem
to the exotic: Bengal tigers, ubiquitous
as alley cats, raw with not inhuman but
superhuman beauty, demonic spider monkeys,
absurdly buxom dancers clad in gossamer,
and spiritual gray elephants, trunks raised like arms
to Allah. Franciscan murals of plentiude,
brute vitality ripe with the fruit of eros,
the faint blush of sin, and I am not there. Rather,
my role is the unadvertised, secret, wholly
unexpected thrill you find within. A discovery.
Irresistible, like sex.
                               So here I am. The crowd
leaks in -- halting, unsure, a bit like mourners
at a funeral but without the grief. And there is
always something damp, interior, and, well,
sticky about them, cotton-candy souls that smear
the bad air, funky, bleak. All, quite forgettable,
except for three. A woman, middle-aged, plain
and unwrinkled as her Salvation Army uniform,
bland as oatmeal but with this heavy, leaden sorrow
pulling at her eyelids and the corners of her mouth.
Front row four times, weeping, weeping constantly,
then looking up, lips moving in a silent prayer,
I think, and blotting tears with a kind of practiced,
automatic movement somehow suggesting that
the sorrow is her own and I'm her mirror now,
the little well of suffering from which she drinks.
A minister once told me to embrace my sorrow.
To hell with that, I said, embrace your own. And then
there was that nice young woman, Arbus, who came and talked,
talked brilliantly, took hours setting up the shot,
then said, I'm very sorry, and just walked away.
The way the sunlight plunges through the opening
at the top around the center tent pole like a spotlight
cutting through the smutty air, and it fell on him,
the third, a boy of maybe sixteen, hardly grown,
sitting in the fourth row, not too far but not too close,
red hair flaring numinous, ears big as hands,
gray eyes that nailed themselves to mine. My mother,
I remember, looked at me that way. And a smile
not quite a smile. He came twice. And that second time,
just before I thanked the crowd, I'm so glad you could
drop by, please tell your friends,
his hand rose -- floated,
really -- to his chest. It was a wave. The slightest,
shyest wave good-bye, hello (and what's the difference,
anyway) as if he knew me, truly knew me, as if,
someday, he might return. His eyes. His hair, as vivid
as the howdahs on those elephants. In the posters
where I'm not. That day the crowd seemed to slither out,
to ooze, I thought, like reptiles -- sluggish, sleek, gut-hungry
for the pleasures of the world, the prize, the magic number,
the winning shot, the doll from the rifle booth, the girl
he gives it to, the snow cone dripping, the popcorn dyed
with all the colors of the rainbow, the rainbow, the sky
it crowns, and whatever lies beyond, the One, perhaps,
we're told, enthroned there who in love or rage or spasm
of inscrutable desire made that teeming, oozing,
devouring throng borne now into the midway's sunlight,
that vanished, forever silent God to whom I say
again my little prayer, let me be one of them.

Buy B. H. Fairchild's book @ Amazon

Eileen Myles

[Eileen Myles on Harriet]

Do we have copies in poetry, do we have drag. I mean when a poet dies we all stand up and read their work and it’s always interesting to see who does a good version of Creeley or Ruykeser or whoever and who can’t sound like anything but themself or mangles the poem beyond belief and who really interestingly reinterprets the work. Nobody but a filmmaker it seems would ever take on poet drag from another century like what Hal Hartley did in Henry Fool – a kind of handsome romantic with a warbling voice gazes off into the near distance while talking to the other characters in the film. Henry, the poet character seemed torn out of or stuck onto the surface of the film whereas everyone else seemed embedded. The fake poet character created a perception of depth. I would think poetry readings would be more interesting if we either stopped doing introductions altogether and simply had the poet just begin – as if we trusted the poems themselves instead of their constructed reputations.

28 May 2009

Molly Peacock

The Lull

Deborah Digges

[from Deborah Digges's Trapeze, Alfred A. Knopf, 2004]


Let's say for that time
I was an instrument forbidding music.
That spring no thief of fire.
I tapped from the source a self sick of love,
and then beyond sickness,
an invalid of my loathing.
Yes, loathing put me to bed each night
and burned my dreams,
in the morning woke me with strong coffee.
And this was loathing's greeting --
Get up. Drink.
All this in spite of the lilacs returning,
their odor the odor of life everlasting,
another year,
another season onward, another spring.
But they bloomed of a sudden pale in unison
like lifeboats rowing into dawn,
the passengers gone mad, exhausted in the open,
even the wives, the mothers
rescued for their children,
their lives, believe me, not their own.
Boats full of lilacs drifting thus,
each grayish bush against my gray house.
But theirs is a short season, a few weeks,
rarely more.
And I was glad to be rid of them,
rid of a thing that could touch in me
what might be called "mercy."
See how one's lips must kiss to make the m,
touch tongue to back of teeth and smile.
Pity's swept clean and conscious,
an ancient room whose floors resound,
but mercy's an asylum,
a house sliding forever out to sea.
As if I were expected to wade out into the yard each night
and swing a lantern!
And just this morning, still early into autumn,
I noticed how the lilacs had set themselves on fire.
As for me, I have my privacy.
It's mine I might have killed for.
I have my solitude,
the face of the beloved like a room locked in time,
and when I look back I am not there.
It's as if the lilacs martyred themselves,
the stories of their journey
embellished or misread
or lacking a true bard, a song associate,
something with starlight in it,
blue lilac starlight
and the sound of dipping oars.
I could sing it for them now,
make it up as I go along,
a detailed, useless lyric among shipwrecked green.
In my heart is the surprise of dusk come early
to ancient shapes like cairns,
the cold rising vast, these episodes
of silence like eternity.
Sing with me a siren song,
a ferryman song.
Sing for the dead lilacs.


How ever bad it was, she must have loved the dog, their walks by the river. How the man who brought her here or what he thought no longer mattered. Say she was spindrift. That's how it felt. Nothing engaged her. Days went by before she'd bathe. She could smell the animal like anguish in her hair and reveled in it. But for the dog she might have hanged herself, or filled her pockets full of stones instead of scraps for Cerberus. Two steps at a time she took the dark staircases. Outside the gates, among the beggar dead, she'd find him, kneel, unlock his chains. He leaned against her, as they walked, his sphinx's shoulders. What he knew of her of course, no one can say.
Call it a nearness like a room you make inside yourself for sorrow. Few are invited in. And she to him? Cerberus was welcome. In spring among the trillium she longed for him. Who could believe it was a pomegranate seed secured her soul? It was the dog that kept her going back.

My Life's Calling @ poets.org

Buy Deborah Digges's book @ Amazon

27 May 2009

Ed Pavlić

[from Ed Pavlić’s Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue, Copper Canyon, 2001]

You Sound Unseen

          -- for Phyllis Hyman

A red spot burns
    a cyclone on the cymbal's
       crown. Take

the night off. Give up
    the scar between
       hindsight &

the unheard. Save
    your ears for tongue-tips
       & the things

they do well. Let's
    don't disturb twisters
       of unspoken

brass. Leave sweat
    profiles alone on the
       sheet. Step

thru tastes & stain
    in the street. & nobody
       knows what

to do at the lakefront after
    a storm. Confessions wash
       ashore. Wave set

upon wave, knee deep
    in driftwood tangled & smooth
       as hammer

handles or ankle bones.
    & holding on means fingers

means we
    braid our own


The El sickles thru.
    Sparks shriek. Then glow
       in a low pulse-

ache. Shoves a grudge thru
    tight veins toward missing limbs.
       At night,

if I smell tobacco in the breeze,
    I can still feel my granddad's
       knotted hand

tuck me in bed, the firm
    press of his Y shaped grip.
       Not a sound

from his ironworker's stride.
    He told me about cold jobs.
       and high jobs

up in the Loop that floated blue
    on morning fog blown in
       off the lake.

Said by 3:30, he could walk
    a beam of light thru a smoky
       room for a shot

& a beer. Said the beauty
    or an open coke furnace was
       you always knew

how much fire your chest
    could hold, & exactly where
       the Devil was.


An old man
    mutters into his drink
       scalp silvered

ebony, dusted
    by a three day old

Sits alone at the end
    of the bar. A carnation
       in his green

lapel. By '87, you'd already
    begun to whistle thru
       a few verses

of "Old Friend." Not fooled
    by the sequin sheen,

a missing index finger
    when a mic-swipe cleaves
       your voice.

Whispers under breath into
    the rift.    I know your
       tricks now --

From across the room,
    a waitress sees him shake
       his fist

while candle-lit couples hold
    hands at tables up front.
       He lights

a cigarette & blows a cloud
    over his glassy-eyed

The cold traps
    a curl of smoke in the glass.
       A long ash

falls to the bar. Toasts
    touché    to the whistler
       & downs

the rest. With a wince,
    slides off the stool thru a red
       cloud behind

your silhouette & Welcome to
       in the bar

mirror. Turns to go, reads
    his own lips    Punish it woman,
       punish it.

Buy Ed Pavlić's book @ Amazon

26 May 2009

Jeff Clark

[from Jeff Clark's A Little Door Slides Back, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1997]

        for Hoopy

There is about three minutes that I received from you this postal card of eleven lines -- but a silence of three years? I had fears to write you -- fears -- imagining your address to be empty, or your body.

Have you this month received a large cake with twenty-three candles, as your pen told me once it is custom there?

Yes, I see that you did get an auto. Pray, get now an airplane, that you may undertake a journey to me, to know my new person.

Have you found yet the picture of my city, of poor relief? And the plan of my country, is it clear where I am to be found? (I will go on waiting impatiently for the reliefs promised by your letter of three years past, so if you can speedily, I have desires to see your new face.)

Winter-days are gone. I go in the meadow now to no end, whereas I was passing all the days at my window, a blanket in my shoulder-tops, watching in the morning the boulevard events, at noontime the seamen row from the mud berth, in the evening the pimp on the walk, who casts and who reels back, it is typical, nothing. But the brougham of this man! Have you there a word for this auto, for its great length and luster? "Pimp-sedan"? Or simple "limousine"? Does it grow red as a noisette in your thinking, the wonderment at how such a one as a pimp -- a mack! -- should be permitted to stain my staring around, not to say my nights, my town . . . ah, but he is ever there. His name is Larousse.

Now the gibbering of his associates in the late night is such that I must close my window, and stifle.

Forgetfulness! Take up once more the envelope that bore this to you. It is so: half my name, known by you so many years, is gone from me. It was simple and the death of two birds: my head turns no more to the oft-called "Marie-Christine," and more, I delight my familiars with this fancy-exotic.

"Who, these familiars?"

-- the feathered, you remember them. (And my dictionary says that I am Mary-Pure for you now?)

Do you remember my bath songs, how they disturbed you? The hi-fi reminds me.

I have now an old stereoscope. Do you know the one? Also three stereotypes: the plaza of my city; a campanile, the bell of whom will make illusions of to and fro when the device is jostled; and the seacoast. Do you often see it? Or is this perchance no longer a predilection? I have reveries of it there, so dark and chill to the feet, the wood portions (the sea-sticks) across the sand, and the wind who pushed the cypress trees backward.

Your desire: without camera I can no more snare my image than send it to you. But if you must have me, I will tell you how to see: a gauze over the eyes, the vigor going from the hair, the breast unfirms, a tooth here and there is dark.

And! my fright when at first the telephone rings.

Also have me rushing down the stair for the mails that seldom arrive.

Will you believe that I now write, in this same hand, my more vital prayers? Especially this: "Take the Devil from my within." I place them on this table and sleep then, whereas all my life, you remember from your nights here, I was going to bed, putting out the lamp, and then making my prayers there. For me now, dialogue becomes a fright.

I am slapped, and downtrod, in so many moments by Him, and here has become another common prayer: "Let me be," or "Today I beg one furlough from your gall." Is it by bêtises and false airs I have deserved his slaps in the night? Or do you too get them? Am I an abecedarian in my suffering? Though: if you would accompany me once in my night, you would see my felonies, and would not blame Him his bruisings. But please, do not have me as a pity-wanting anchorite, knelt in the fogbow by his feet. Rather, have me in the human way: one part fear, one devotion.

(A terror to wonder: do the slaps come from the other way?)

Where does it go now, your life? Is it according to your desires, and content? When this arrives at your box, and after, into your hand, receive from me one embrace, and see me now as not so different from what memory you guard. And then, to be gracious, I will summon you to my beach, for a picnic, and then will see that the Ocean closes, for I will have waited all day!

Pray, more postal cards with lines of you. Even: navigate by wine this very night to your writing-desk. In this wish I kiss your cheek, and wave most tenderly.

Buy Jeff Clark's book @ Amazon

25 May 2009

Mary Jo Bang

[from Mary Jo Bang's Apology for Want, Middlebury College, 1997]

In Order Not to Be Eten
Nor All to Torne

The elevator mirror tells me nothing, not how
nor why -- won't even say whether I'm ready.
Quiet also are the wolves

attached to my shirt cuffs and coat hem.
No trace of a howl, their canines sewn silent
through cloth. What is sound

but music of forest storm and sea spray?
Pitiable low under sentence of death.
Come here, little kitty, come here

from two boys at the well -- one
with a mud streaked face. The audible wish
for unparalleled happiness. What is vision

but rheotrope and ruffle
of silver wolf-willow leaves? Trembling lambs,
some thick and short, some long and swift.

Framed face in the bevel-edge
mirror, wolf's snout hung at my neck
so no witch will hurt me. And what is harm?

Wolf-trees of morning -- their children dressed
in bright green. Taking more than their share
of space, leafed heads buckling the sky above.

They restrict their neighbor's portion,
push them aside. They must be held -- but surely
you know this -- by their ears.

& There He Kept Her, Very Well

Harsh orange, dull burn
of realization.
My imperfections, once subtle,

are not inadmissible.
Still he keeps me
like a pretty need-not

in this fusty dungeon.
Someone has chosen poorly:
a pale persimmon for the walls,

the ceiling, the floor.
A single window, no door.
Hands dip into the vat,

a vicarage of strings.
He's removing the seeds
installing them in egg cups.

Soon a tray of tender shoots
will phosphoresce
in the dark. He wants me

to brighten
says a well-lit face will dazzle.
Outside, the dogs

have begun to howl.
Look --
it's Hecate, a torch in each hand.

Buy Mary Jo Bang's book @ Amazon

24 May 2009

Brenda Hillman

[from Brenda Hillman's Loose Sugar, Wesleyan, 1997]

Active Magic

You want to know where you are again?
Back in the middle of the interrupted everything
third side of the double album,
the start of the night shift
as eternity's waitress;
it's dusk, many years after the war,
you've crossed the same wild fields as before;
they've started selling uniforms of the new dead soldiers,
gone back to putting peace signs on t-shirts--;
you're stepping lightly in the dream
you can afford, the magic that was
and always must have been for you--

A dusk ago,--Remember? don't you?
Remember? Look. You had
an old soul. Killdeer
landed in the fields out there,
landed in their sounds,
in what's already happening,
dee, d-dee,
near your dormitory room,
you stretched once like an oak tree,
many times like a laurel;
the ones who would be drafted
came into your room

and you had an old soul.
You had started the same soul
five times, you were good at it;
the moon watched you one of those times
peering in at you
before you had lain down, peered in
behind the loaded cypress;
the moon horizoned herself,
you told her your sexual secrets,
loved what she could not help
being farther then--

The ones who would be drafted
came into the room (it's still possible,
the never happening); you thought
you'd been sent to earch to rescue them,
said, leave them alone, they already have tenses;
they draped blue workshirts over chairs--;
the moon was doing her best imitation,
old waitress, tilting herself like a tray,
said to the war, leave them alone,
they have what they want,
they don't need a future
when they have a soul . . . And why

shouldn't they have. (Headlights
shattered them. Loud
white damage of oncoming cars.)
You thought you'd been sent to earth
to help them not to fight--
when they rained with the rain,
when they clouded,
they were the little bit almost,
a little bit Sacramento, in love
with the magic of the active ground,
and you rode north or south with them,
on the backs of Triumphs, in the vans--

You afraid? Not really.
You afraid? Not really no.     OK OK
if you get afraid just tell me--
till you stopped in the middle of orchards
with little hard crosses, in love
with the magic of the active ground;
why, every seed moved!
Shook and shook.
Even the necklacey Woolworth's ones
the spiders loved--and why
shouldn't they have. Night
was coming on--

it was dusk
between the stages of the war. You
would save them. Dusk lifted you
with 2 fingers like a field mouse
and set you down 2 hawks from here
where you had done the other game,
pawn to queen four, the being
active till you loved
the mind and body of their world,
and lay in the low thin dormitory
boats of those beds of theirs,
their noisy hands all over you--;

you know how mercury shakes?
You know how mercury shivers
like tomorrow when you break
the end off the thermometer?
You see your own face in the silver.
Active magic. You could
become like that.
They gave you a body
before they left, made love to you
so easily it felt like spending money;
after the marching and the shouting
they left the voices in your flesh . . .

Some of them got free. Some left. Some died.
One fought the war in you.
When they rained with the rain,
when they clouded, in eaches
and whens, the water streaming
from their bodies as they left,
when their faces lay,
when your mouth lay, when their
mouths lay down in the it
with you . . . You were home
from that time, and why
shouldn't you have been?

Imperialism failed. Such
startled years for the world.
Medium countries swelling,
little countries bleeding, big
countries turning into little countries
as they have since the start of time.
You stared out at the coast--
radio flowers of sound from Los Angeles,
boats dragging accidents
that hadn't happened . . . A gull flies
through two thirds of the shadow
of another gull . . .

You can't keep another person,
you know that. You had
to give them up--couldn't save them;
You lean left in the hut
and right in the magic. It's years
since you have missed them,
missed them most of all
while you were with them.
You broke free and spilled out
all the unreflected light they left
like the moon who has already
healed her nothing--

wasn't she triumphant
in her slim smile,
like one stripe peeled off a lighthouse;
they had added to your shadow
where you were,
you had become a little bit them
and were proud of the reflection,
proud of the crossing,
could expect to be recognized
where the day was undoing the day
and let the magic spread--

                                               L.S.--Berkeley     1969-1994

Cheap Gas on fort.org

Buy Brenda Hillman's book @ Amazon

23 May 2009

Roberto Harrison

[from Roberto Harrison's Counter Daemons, Litmus Press, 2006]

[Live Chat]

¿are you
on the other side
for alarms
in a desert
of sleepless

¿are you
beside yourself
in the aisles
that distance
makes shorter

than light waves
in the daylight
that pounds
a lead slab
in the soup
that the winter

¿are you
the signal
that another plane
carves into wings
in rounded contusions
of a late afternoon
full of sparks
that the night hurries out
on Locust and serial
in shiny costumes?

¿are you
a circle
like juntas
that the winter makes clear
on the shaved orbiting molecule
that the ear revolves
in a retreat
of explosive fossils?

¿are you
the connections
between the hand
and the foot
and the torso
in reverse
of the automatic?

¿are you
the unknown
without weather
to increase
the planet

¿are you
the insurance claims
that parkas
and snow equips
with sutures
and hand grenades?


¿are you
the tackle box
full of piers
to widen the sea
and shorten
full of trees?

¿are you
feeding the unworn
through a parallel
in desert blooms
on the roots
of a tarp
milking masks?

¿are you
the world
as a breathing
action doll?

¿are you
calm for knots
like the guardian bell
that a sewer makes
for angels
in their last testimony
like the pony

¿are you
freezing in the open
course that half
of everything
like clouds?

¿are you
unwound in a fear
that a jacket
for feed, in easy
and rented
faces on the pain
of entry?

¿are you
like ovens?

Buy Roberto Harrison's book @ SPD or Amazon

22 May 2009

Erin Belieu

[from Erin Belieu's One Above & One Below, Copper Canyon, 2000]

I Can't Write a Poem about Class Rage

Too prosaic, didactic,
purely political, the cause lacking
a certain loftiness, unlike homelessness
or domestic abuse, those subjects
newly upholstered with the necessary,
American-style noblesse oblige.

Maybe if I were writing in
an Eastern European language with
a translator who caught all the verve
of my colloquial phrasing, writing
from a tradition that believes in options
other than the exhausted, ethical
tepidity of Art for Art's Sake,

the verbal icon spinning away
unsullied in some universal nook,
clean as Ol' Possum's toilet bowl,
that preatomic mode that's so outre
but keeps on spreading anyway,
then maybe I could get away with it.

But I can't write a poem about class rage.
Who likes to read about the real-
life troubles of the undistinguished poor,
a bunch of luckless, disinherited,
trailer-trash folk and their relentlessly
shitty lives? Even Keats, purged of his Cockney
accent, couldn't salvage a poem out of
my best friend's nephew, a kid too broke
to buy even half a billable hour, buried

away in the country lockup of some
corner of Oklahoma, falsely accused
of raping an infant since the baby's
crank-addled mother had a score to settle
with the nephew's ex-wife. That won't
melt one stick of butter with
the versifying trust-fund crowd.

So I can't write a poem about class rage
without my own (no doubt) illicit motives
being called into question, and who am I
to take such a hectoring tone, to rant,
about someone else's baby or nephew,
and where are my credentials? What makes me
think I could throw a legislator's stone?

Choose Your Garden

When we decided on the Japanese,
forgoing the Victorian, its Hester
Prynne-ish air of hardly mastered urges,

I thought it would be peaceful.
I thought it would relax my nerves,

which these days curl like cheap gift wrap:
my hands spelling their obsessions, a nervous
tic, to wring the unspeakable from
a silent alphabet.

I thought it would be like heaven: stern,
very clean, virtuous and a little dull --

but we had to cross the bridge to enter
and in the crossing came upon a slaughter
of camellias, a velvet mass-decapitation
floating on the artificial lake,

where, beneath its placid surface, a school
of bloated goldfish frenzied, O-ing
their weightless urgency
with mouths too exact to bear:
           O My Beloved,

they said to the snowy
petals and to the pink petals soft as
wet fingers,
           O Benevolent Master,

they said, looking straight up at us
where we stood near the entrance, near
the teahouse half-hidden in a copse of ginkgo,

where even now, discreetly and behind
its paper windows, a woman sinks down
on all fours, having loosened the knot
at the waist of her robe.

Buy Erin Belieu's book @ Amazon

21 May 2009

Mark Wunderlich

[from Mark Wunderlich's Voluntary Servitude, Graywolf, 2004]

Town, Gone

He touched the back of his neck,
forked his fingers through red hair,
and the trees breathed their dioxide in the street,

and the gulls waved their cuts,
in the air, and I asked if this
was what he meant, the static,

and he nodded, and I looked down
at my hands touching
the only skin they'll own,

and he moved to touch my hair,
hair grown pale in the winter, silver
like the iced trees in half-light

and I asked what could break
or trouble the form
our lives had taken and he said

he didn't know, but I knew
that this was how it would be
and the town in my head

where my inventions moved
in their elaborate machines, their dramas
and re-enactments, their closing doors

and sweeping, their papers
rifled through and tested for accuracy,
that town began to empty

until the room was full of that population,
and they were of me and I
was of them, and they

broke into pieces, a windshield
gone through, and left
in fragments through the window

I cracked to let out the smoke,
left me looking down at my hands
and I knew I'd never hear them again

and that they were the smoke
and -- town gone, vast catastrophe --
I was what they left behind in the fire.

Read It's Your Turn to Do the Milking, Father Said @ Post Road Magazine

Buy Mark Wunderlich's book @ Amazon

20 May 2009

D. A. Powell

[from D. A. Powell's Chronic, Graywolf, 2009]

clutch and pumps

if you were in your shoes, you purse your mouth
but you were never in my shoes, chinaberry
nor I in yours: the cherry ash of fags
burns your path down the scatty streets

your smile wraps round pumps with a smack
the jawbone of a mighty red croc
who served up his behind to your toes
jagged bite marks: the hem of your frock

tombs, sister, you've got lithic tombs for hips
one chimney stack where a bbq pit should be
you say that I'm in janitor drag this year: as last
do these tits go with these shoulders? why ask me?

those talons you cultivate I do admire
the chchineal cheeks the flirty lashes
I don't want to live in a clutch purse town
you snap: and yet everything matches

cosmos, late blooming

already the warm days taper to a plumate end: sky, where is your featherbed
some portion for me to fall to, in my contused and stricken state
not the extravagant robe I bartered for: tatters, pinked edges, unpressed

lord, I am a homely child, scrabbling in the midden for my keep
why should you send this strapping gardener, hay in his teeth, to tend me
now that the showy crown begins to dip like a paper saucer

surely he'll not content with corrupted flesh that dismantles daily
so singular this closing act: spectacular ruin, the spark that descends in air
might he find no thrill in this trodden bower.     ragamuffin sum of veins

in my mouth the mausoleum of refusal: everything died inside me
including fish and vegetables, language and lovers, desire, yes, and passion
how could I make room in this crypt for another sorrow: caretaker:

lost man, these brambles part for your boots, denizened to my lot
your hand upon my stem now grasps the last shoots of summer
choose me for your chaplet, sweetheart.     wasted were my early flowers

Centerfold in Boston Review

Continental Divide in Poetry Magazine

Buy D. A. Powell's book @ Amazon

19 May 2009

Dan Beachy-Quick

[from Dan Beachy-Quick Mulberry, Tupelo, 2006]


calm the sentence the lake
will calm // breath at pivot
breath gathers itself in a comma
a comma informs the wave

weave new panic into water
so calm will curl the new
dead leaf red as dusk
settling this sun
drowned lonely in the crest

of cardinal I cannot quite
catch nor quiet
mars in rust my breath in rose
breasted grosbeak flees
the wound it wears I wear
the calm lake winged into scarlet wave

the panting wave

panten to breathe hard and quickly
borrowed perhaps shortened
from pantaisier
oppressed with nightmare struggle
for breath during nightmare
from phantasioûn to form
images subject to hallucination

nightmare tangent to reeds
why wind in me
sings my lung the lake
surface in unblessed rage
not for order     scavenging
lullaby     the gullswings
darken at tips into crows
my rate and one reed
sings Childe and I reply My Lord

it sang     awemore awemore

gulls in water madden memory
into mist the furious
lake in certain light stands
up and is the sky

a cocoon of unknown origin
oak gall or berry
seed or shell
of mussel or of clam not
nest the shell of an egg
a word on loan

woven in cloud to dim
swell or darken
burst the not
sun nor rain the crow

called open my
grandmother's hand her palm
the bed of the whole
lake she breathed
"Danny" a needle spinning north
in one eye // the whole lake
in her palm // the waves
she unfolded into shroud
and put the dark lake on

my wife shoulder my madness

nights I wake screaming

her hand a comma curled inside
me calm // calm

calme from calma from kaûma
the heat of day
time for rest     stillness from
kaíein to burn

the red-winged blackbirds calm
at noon in reeds weave flame

weave in the sunlit pattern
or plunged in shadow the days
each with the scarlet

thread through the whole warp
and wave of the design
time almost disappearing in its dark
cocoon then bright
silk emerging at the full inspiration
woke with the worm in my mouth
gulls panic the god contagious
fear in water
the cloud denies my eye
formed dust into delight

my wife in lake her hand
opening into ripple     love
I won't remember I won't
wrist my wish
back to her body her pulse
quicker than lake records
with wave her heart gathering
in panic // those gulls // her pulse
panting wings her lips
parting from water and what
water imagined water was
for me // sky cloud love // wife
who in pain who in panic
the gullswings struck her hand
in water to rise from water
her hand by touching
her hand with flight died

the whole vibration repeating
the scarlet lake at dusk
shimmers furious before it calms
and cloaks soft that breath
my breath exhaled the framework
in delay I fill my lungs
again I see the indestructible
work of breath is breath
not to be lost sight of again

Buy Dan Beachy-Quick's book @ SPD or Amazon

18 May 2009

Elizabeth Arnold

[from Elizabeth Arnold's The Reef, University of Chicago, 1999]

I [excerpt]

Unlike Bacon's other portraits -- George Dyer's face
stuck in a table in Paris,
or Isabel Rawthorne's primal nose holes (minus the noes),
the mouth pulled like a sloppy rubber band
across her face, each picture
starting some new ghost
or fury, as if he saw no limit to its interaction with the meat --

the 1973 self-portrait, as if the man
were all one piece, holds still,
a yellow plastic watch around the wrist, the face
like it's been smashed but nothing's broken,
its flesh pulled like some putty, up,
and dented. But then the hands,
trying to hug the knees, are blurred and even disappear in places,

moving the eye back to the face that, in another study,
was half blown away,
leaving only Bacon's own characteristic cobwebbed x-rayed look,
where everything that happens
happens into nothingness.
                         As in this later portrait,
where below the yellow watch the hands go out.
And then the shirt (you see it now) and what arises

from the table farther over, from the hat
or bowl -- our everydayness -- unstopped
by the edges of the canvas, a column of blackness

threatening, now that he's older, to fill in the whole
window Bacon's opened, for himself, for us,
of himself fearing falling through.

Buy Elizabeth Arnold's book @ Amazon

Eileen Myles

[from Eileen Myles's blogpost on Harriet]

. . . I had received a grant that year for poetry so naturally I bought an electric bass. It was kind of hot for poets at that moment to be in a band. I had one lesson

. . . My whole poetic education if I think about it was all about suturing and using.

. . . the intervention of the imagination on the transcription process. The form of the poem seemed to arise out of my own response to the materials I chose. The materials were the occasion of the poem. The meaning was an accident, arbitrary.

. . . if I can take poetry really literally and think of the cut up and improvisational techniques I practiced on and practice as a kind of making that is full of accidents well I like that kind of craft. I like stuff.

. . . There’s no me at all. Just a writing self.

. . . now is perfect, is beautiful, though deeply flawed. I believe in a historically assembled moment and a poem is a reflection of that. An assemblage. It’s made out of time, literally.

. . . the Duchampian thing where the audience completes the work. You shouldn’t steal the reader’s right to silence. So in honor of that you don’t complete thoughts for the reader.

17 May 2009

Tessa Rumsey

[from Tessa Rumsey's Assembling the Shepherd, University of Georgia, 1999]

Poem for the Old Year

January. The archer aims at himself.
His target is the eye of a fish. River
is frozen. Field rises in mists of lost
desire and steams the sealed sky open.
Fish be ruby-weeping. Fish be nailed
through scale onto door of silver birch.
Over the mountain beaten boy searches
for his teeth inside a clump of brambles.
The sound of thorns through his skin
is mercy. The sound of a beautiful fish
being nailed to a door is mercy, mercy.
Nobody knows the origin of music,
or who wind pitches for between rock
and rock like a bronco heart kicking
in its cage. Breeze seduces bow. Bow
abandons arrow. Boy finds shelter
in thicket and hears music of his breath
through ugly, twisted thistles. come
home. It's time to begin again. A boy
is nailed to the door and a fish is aimed
at an archer, mountain is weeping rubies
onto frozen river while wind grinds
two new teeth. Who are you
inside the music of another's suffering?
When I was a nail I loved only
the hammer. When I was a breeze I died
on a door. When I was a fish
I swam without knowing not yet, or last
breath, or shore.

Buy Tessa Rumsey's book @ Amazon

16 May 2009

Eleni Sikelianos

[from Eleni Sikelianos's The California Poem, Coffee House, 2004]

Follow the foot-
prints inside the nerve cell; they lead to a bright
door: tiny patch of memory

a fiery trailer home amidst earlier construction
Action heroes collapsing into dust The bus stops
here; there is no buck in this story, not for this hero
except in purely silver quarters smuggled out of the house in the mouth, king
caught in jars

Shields are up. Come the
collectors into the vast comma of our tiny trailer. We are collecting
dust. They want money. They want to tell us we are not allowed to live in
     fields in the black
thorax of the bull-infested land

In this dream I will make you take the train
to you dressed up as miles of wooded ocean and coast-
lines with no one on them. You can't see
old people here because of the sunlight.

Earlier, I had my elbow in the yellowest California, we talked
about the coin-shaped trapdoors on gastropods, as the possible versions
of a virgin California slipped away from me
into the geranium, scraggly
nasturtiums on the fire escape. Here in this living-
room there is no sea. Who

cares about the sea?

I do

because the sea
makes us land-like but think
sea-like             because I can only ever think

about things swimming there; Delphinidae, which herald love, diligence
and swiftness

(and the constellation delphinus in the sky)

Issuing from the mouth of this animal is a flower: jessant, of a
jerkwater town at the back
of a branch-line train

where runny stars rain by
like eggs, golden
& locked, a hometown is a waiting place, a waiting place is
static inside the heel

I therefore developed longer toes for walking on floating vegetaion (jacanidae)
the ancient celadon-and-shining agave lining the path all the way down to the

In California, we put crystal-clear
marbles in our ears
so we can't hear

the richochet of neighbors fighting
feet crunching through the underbrush
thumb harps, fiberglass padding being pulled from drywall

In other hoods they heard
     the jacuzzi cover sliding back
sound of plastic kissing itself off water

just as Agamemnon's shimmering mask
     lying quiet in the secret sweaty chamber
             slides back to reveal the thrill

of blacking out in the lackluster days     Can I sell you this

room of unusual weather
this brain made for pleasure
these deluginous rains of diluvial California crashing
             catywampus through the world

Buy Eleni Sikelianos's book @ SPD or Amazon

15 May 2009

Raymond McDaniel

[from Raymond McDaniel's Murder [A Violet], Coffee House, 2004]


continent's face turned from the sun
posture rotation to her nighttime hours

show me

and indigo the killer steps barefoot and backwards to the abbey wall
walks one foot behind the other
counters corners and breech

four-cornered fortification around the abbess

whose gaze never slips from indigo incapable of misstep or pause
lifting her foot from the scorpion unseen yet spared

(proffer poison
onyx armament and arch)

it is very beautiful

the penitent nods

hastens her heel to the scorpion's body:


describes the action of a wheel

Once when I was a child I played in an empty barrel
the satisfaction

not the filth or that it was forbidden
but the sensation

of scampering along the walls of the barrel --
knowing my weight

would roll the barrel over as I climbed --
that to feel

as if I were scaling the interior wall would last
only so long

as I stopped short, lest the barrel tumble with my weight --
I mention this because

she keeps dreaming of a cliff so high and so sheer
that to scale it

she must eat into the rock with her fingers --
but in the dream

the higher she climbs the more manageable the angle
becomes, until the cliff

is flat, until she could stand upright and walk it clean --
yet as she walks

the wall continues to rotate, until the stone is heaven
bearing down

and her back is to the upended vault of the moon.
In the dream she never

falls, but just continues upward, until up is even,
up is down and

then up again, sky slowly spun empty and filled.
I am trying to tell you something

about this woman -- who has asked me to explain
how, if the world

is on a wheel, she can ever learn
to fall.

the academy

appearing initially by twos or threes
to seduce with service or satin

janissaries of the academy appear

as amber as heat leonine
from alien climates through which
the plainly simple simply step:

to the academy and companionship

east of warp wave and burgundy ocean

west of cloud wall artificed
and engineered into pillar and fortification

wall as daily lesson and martial memory

embedded as graduate and assassin

so that this along with other worlds entire
becomes what I did before I came here

Buy Raymond McDaniel's book @ SPD or Amazon

14 May 2009

Karen Volkman

[from Karen Volkman's Nomina, BOA, 2008]


What are wounds for? Anticipants accrue
void to your harrow-vowel. Syllable
stammered and ordered, unitary will
deformed, divisible, consumptive blue

blotch is the gangrene weather! pall, ague
you atomize, cauterize -- patient, shill . . .
Oh burn the blight. Just stanch it. Vatic pill
not noun, not idem -- scarred flat phonemic hue

blinking its tinctures. Caligrams we rue
and twine with veins. The sap seeps. Currents kill
the network, clockwork. Contingency's true

prank is unit, frail fraction, fault we fill
with sever-auger, failing into new
blame-blooms, pain-rhumes, contusions. Make it ill.


Show me the body that brides its quest,
that sleeps its seemings, tremblant inconnue,
jeweled Ophelia of diaphanous hue
in all her slippings, weed-wedded, water-dressed,

the sluice and swooning of her semblant rest --
the river ruptures, the weeds branch blue --
day's jaune eyes (wide lucencies) bleed new
hollow spaces where the breathings nest,

irised mnemosyne, rumored as a rune.
Oh roared red pulse, errata, when you die
maiden-postured, murmur in the wrist,

tendrilled syllables the waters twist,
or innered element (it is an I)
the dead girl blurring in the blooded noon.

Buy Karen Volkman's book @ Amazon

13 May 2009

Christopher Isherwood re W. H. Auden

[Christopher Isherwood from W. H. Auden edited by John Haffenden, Routledge, 1997]

He was very lazy. He hated polishing and making corrections. If I didn’t like a poem, he threw it away and wrote another. If I liked one line, he would keep it and work it into a new poem. In this way whole poems were constructed which were simply anthologies of my favourite lines, entirely regardless of grammar or sense. This is the simple explanation of much of Auden’s celebrated obscurity.

DéLana R. A. Dameron

[from DéLana R. A. Dameron's How God Ends Us, University of South Carolina, 2009]

Body, an Elegy

    Suddenly the body says night.
                                  Cyrus Cassells

The body is not
an insomniac, some
twilight sleepless walker.
It turns to lie down
as it pleases, at times
against your will.

The body chooses
its separate departures
to backrooms of the house.
Goodnight heel, boomerang
of bone and tendons.
Goodnight feet, arch-less
pestle-crush of earth.

The doctors come
to chop you down
and cover you with strips
of white linen. See,
your legs, your trunks
of redwoods stripped
of their flesh bark
are endangered. Goodnight
kidney, fallen already
to a deep coma,
needing machines to eat
and drink. For it,
there is no waking.

Your left arm long
retired and under the
sheets. Uncle, lay
your perfect right
that never knew shunt
or needle, lay it down
so the I.V. can land. Together,
we say goodnight to the heart
that has failed you once.

But the eyes, they refuse.
Your mouth does not
wish to go so soon. So
speak your farewells, Uncle.
Speak your hundred more
farewells. Watch this holy
body of birds flap
across your window.

The Leaving

If we had time enough, my left hand
would float to the nape of your neck,
smooth the globe knot I imagine
as jade or something cool to touch.

If we could stay in this microcosm
called summer, my tongue would traverse
the terrain just behind your ear. It would
curl to the vale below the apple, flicker
the landscape, lap the salt and delight.

This rapture would be called morning.
I would hesitate to walk from our secluded
universe, sweat careening the creases

like a river where your lips taste --
and you wait with figs and persimmons.

Buy DéLana R. A. Dameron's book @ Amazon

12 May 2009

Carol Peters

Whidbey Island Spoils


A crab has cracked, belly from back,
its shell missing a wedge
lifted by wrack.


Some child’s forgotten her Kermit
sifter clotted with sand,
taken her bucket.


All gauze and ommateum, flies
guzzle at a Douglas fir’s
tumultuous capsize.


A Golden Crackling sparkler grazes
a Pepsi-Cola can, a
flowerpot crazes.


Kelp macrames sticks and stones,
pigeon guillemots scour
a salmon’s bones.

Joshua Beckman

[from Joshua Beckman's Things Are Happening, American Poetry Review, 1998]

Purple Heart Highway [excerpt]


One day you are like an animal.
You have a routine.
There are certain places that attract you
and others that repel you
and the next you are a kite
at the mercy of every slight tide of wind
forced into quick decisions,
your string attached to the hand of a stranger
your body moving wildly, your heart batted around
by the fastest notes of indecision
and the sky and the world still, unbreakable,
a gray grinning calmness
from which you can get nothing to wake.


Down at the beach
early this morning
the surfers and then lightning
brought them in on their bellies
men washing up on shore
I guess we've all had dreams like that.
Then Frank shows up
off the back part of the beach,
an angel in every landscape,
drawing them in
with his warm steadiness.

He is the scientific talk
of the even sounds of rain
and when I reach the parking lot
he has painted everything
the right color of memory.
Sand the color sand was.
Water the color it will always be,
and they are huddled around him
bent over like flowers
surfboards about the beach
as if they peeled off trees
a minute before.

Buy Joshua Beckman's book @ SPD or Amazon

Eileen Myles re fawning over Updike's poetry

Eileen Myles disses John Updike and the NYT.

11 May 2009

Saskia Hamilton

[from Saskia Hamilton's Divide These, Graywolf, 2005]

Year One

The pear in the bowl a week now.
Three days too long. The dark bruise
spreads and everything else
softens, as if in assent. The fifth
analysis, the sixth analysis
on the table. Still to be got to.
And alongside, the stacks of books
for the day to be got to,
the summer day, the winter day, the mind

sitting in the center of the body,
the body in the center of the house,
what pauses naturally,
what hesitates after
a comma and moves on.
Notice the breath caught
as if on a thorn in the thicket:
that is where your intelligence
is to be gathered.

Buy Saskia Hamilton's book @ Amazon

10 May 2009

Kwame Dawes

[from Kwame Dawes's Midland, Ohio University, 2001]

Map Maker [excerpt]


It is harder, though, to chart the smell of a country,
the concentric mixing of the mud-washed
market with its brown earth-heavy scent
of vegetables bleeding; yams, like elephantine
fingers, white and seeping where the knife
cuts; the impotent regularity of lime green
okras; the glowing violet of obscene garden eggs.
How do you sketch the rotting scent of a mammal's
carcass dangling from rusty hooks, trying
to suck in the salt sea spray to preserve itself
from the crawl of maggots? How do you write
the city's stench, the gutters breeding mosquitoes
as huge as wasps, giddy drunk and brazen like flies?
This earth defies the cartographer's even lines,
the tidy predictability of shapes, the neat names with precise
capitals, no smudge, no uncertainty of the hand. It is hard to tell
that the land has shifted, blooming new contours.
The charts cannot change as fast as the ironic jungle.
We have come this way before, I am certain,
but the landmarks are not exactly what they were.

The river is now a bow, now a crescent where once
it was straight, or so it seemed. The natives ask no questions;
they sniff the air, move their eyes, and live.
The cartographer, I know, understands the fiction
of this telling, the lines are myths, dream-stories
in the faces of his crew. The only constant is the psychotic
lament of Wagner and a bloody warrior from the Warrau soldier
who has followed the scent of this march for weeks like a breeze.
The notes of music are caught in the foliage.
On the way back, they have only just begun to drop
like shed leaves in the blackened creeks of this hinterland.

Buy Kwame Dawes's book from Amazon

09 May 2009

Thomas Lux

[from Thomas Lux's God Particles, Houghton Mifflin, 2008]

Early Blur

occurs, I say to Mary, when we catch the outline
of something and think we know it
and then we fill in the parts we don't see
with hope. I say this
to Mary, Mary of the late slant of autumn,
Mary by the lake of wolverines,
Mary by the lake beneath which drowned a wall,
Mary of the first snow, I say to Mary,
I say: I am the river
and you are its blue, burning current.

Buy Thomas Lux's book @ Amazon

Craig Arnold

[from Volcano Pilgrim, April 26, 2009]

Danger has a way of cutting through melancholy, the real fear blinding you to the fear dimly imagined. If you could only always just have escaped death, you would never be sad again.

Tom Sleigh

[from Tom Sleigh's Space Walk, Houghton Mifflin, 2007]


Oh yes, banality of mind to think
itself safe just because out there you
can see the first faint green of unkillable

weeds spring up in the sidings,
thistles that by summer will shake
and sway in breeze the trains

set swirling . . . oh yes, this fool's
paradise my mind lives in, thinking
to make itself secure: moving through

the days, rounding each corner,
nerve-endings like radar scan
the ether for this new tremor

passing in a dream through the body
of a soldier or through my wife's hand
lifting to drink a glass of water,

unnoticed in the day-to-day crisis chatter --
an animal alertness sensing in the air
some predator closing, the soft footpads

setting off minute vibrations so infinitely
penetrant they cleave earth's core
so that trees coming into leaf quake with it

so subtly nobody can see, only sense
that quaking until you feel it
upsetting some balance tipping

tipping, gone suddenly too far, tumbling
over and over, arms reaching
out to grab grabbing only air.


read the caption on a protest sign --

but where, oh where is the holy idiot,
truth teller and soothsayer, familiar

of spirits, rat eater, unhouseled wanderer
whose garble and babble fill rich and poor,

homeless and housed, with awe and fear?
Is he hiding in the pit of the walkie-talkie,

its grid of holes insatiably hungry,
almost like a baby, sucking in the police sergeant's

quiet voice as he calls in reinforcements?
Oh holy idiot, is that you sniffing the wind

for the warm turd smell on the mounted policemen
backing their horses' quivering, skittish

haunches into the demonstrators' faces?
Oh little village among the villages,

the wild man, the holy Bedlamite is gone,
and nobody, now, knows where to find him . . .

Lying in mud? lying caked in mud, hair elfed into knots?
Some poor mad Tom roving the heath

for a warm soft place to lay his body down,
his speech obsessed with oaths, demons,

his tongue calling forth the Foul Fiend, Flibbertigibbet
as the horses back slowly, slowly into the crowd

and he eats filth, he crams his ravenous mouth with filth --
and then he sits on his stool in the trampled hay

and deep-rutted mud, he anoints himself
with ashes and clay, he puts on his crown

of fumiter weed and holds his scepter
of a smouldering poker and calls the court to order.

Buy Tom Sleigh's book @ Amazon

07 May 2009

Rusty Morrison

[from Rusty Morrison's The True Keeps Calm Biding Its Story, Ahsahta, 2008]

please advise stop

I was dragging a ladder slowly over stones stop
it was only from out of my thoughts that I could climb stop
not from the room please

my father's dying offered an indelicate washing of my perception stop
the way the centers of some syllables scrub away all other sound stop
his corpse merely preparing to speak its new name at the speed of    nightfalling please

each loss grows from a previously unremarkable vestigial organ stop
will I act now as if with a new limb stop
a phantom limb of the familial please advise

please advise stop

the coat-rack's narrow arms rise up empty and flourishing stop
the quiet pulls an empty swing until it seems to move stop
keep one hand free to feel for the parts suddenly lost and moving away stop

the spoonful of honey goes on grinding its bees stop
brush away the interviewing but keep the intervening light please
the day beveled with chaos ripening routine stop

each wild iris invested with the exact countermovement of my observation    stop
the mistranslation thick with clocks ticking an inaudible patience stop
again took up the begging bowl of self-explanation please advice

Buy Rusty Morrison's book @ SPD or Amazon

06 May 2009

Kaisa Ullsvik Miller

[from Kaisa Ullsvik Miller's Unspoiled Air, Fence, 2008]

Drawn To

Inside our lies are memories from past lives. they are experiences of a
hand we feel strongly drawn to today. Many people manifest you, see
without judgment. You may not have even been aware
of who seems oddly familiar.

Violence, death, and trauma: the effects regression allows you to recall
continue to exert an influence over your present reality, physical problems,
innate creative abilities.
Where can you record anything? anymore
for a memory from a different lifetime.

Envision your body being filled, operating under a substitute for living in
the present, nothing
you see or hear will harm you. but you
will. you still exist.

Sometimes Anxiety

the social gathered awkward, uncomfortable, chances and alone, the
social gathered enjoyable, especially surrounded people company
sometimes anxiety and self-consciousness sometimes wishing we were
everyone else.

the truth is shy and awkward on occasion. the social gathered focus
intimidating and overwhelming
you feel nervous if you want to try.

the social gathered someone who is standing alone. the social gathered
someone who is standing alone. the social gathered someone who is
standing alone. someone who is going up

the social gathered radiate seek protective, everyone felt feeling
remember occasions can feel ready you in your. you have so lovingly and
connected even feel

accepting people might actually. yourself surrounded your own zone
people being everyone people can't help

the social gathered people yourself the social gathered when we where
you were when the people you attend were We around you

acceptance attending, closed deeply the social the social focus feel ease
forget loving, for making.

the social gathered speaking less radiating openness insecurities some
place everywhere like having of good feelings. Try to next time

we end very surely that we
is to on to the people
help you are kind that has overcome yourself
. arrived
you can make.
love can

Unspoiled Air @ SPD or Unspoiled Air @ Amazon

05 May 2009

Ruth Stone

[from Ruth Stone's In the Dark, Copper Canyon, 2004]

Menty Ears Ago

Menty ears ago the dummer was sappy in my harms
but I was yawning and spawning and twenty.
What tears I let down in my beers of plenty.
What sleet in his goat's beard tickled my sweat.
Not a fret left in its own key, every morning
when we were ferning and fronding and yorning.

On the Dangerous Way

In the white-flocked woods, shy trash,
like trillium. Late snow speckles the raw
mud lots. Big earthmovers rest on their treads;
Archaeopteryx among guinea hens.

Slap of tires on slush and low click of termites
sucking stumps in the great cut forests;
passing methane gas.
Frost billows from a long brotherhood of trucks.

Eyes closed, the Chinese painting unrolls.
Tenuous bridge over mist to mountain;
one hairline path along the precipitous edge.
A single traveler climbs in the blowing snow.

In the Dark

04 May 2009

Adam Zagajewski

[from Adam Zagajewski’s Mysticism for Beginners, tr. Clare Cavanagh, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997]

I Wasn’t in This Poem

I wasn’t in this poem,
only gleaming pure pools,
a lizard’s tiny eye, the wind
and the sounds of a harmonica
pressed to not my lips.


Dances beautifully
and has great desires.
Seeks the road.
Weeps in the woods.
Is killed by dawn, fever,
and the rooster.

From Memory

The narrow street rears up from memory —
let it be this poem’s larynx —
and the thick gray smoke above the coking plant,
casting sparks into the sky like a volcano,
repaying its debt to the stars.

My street: two proud old maids
with narrow lips — they’d survived Siberia
and Stalin; a young actor, craving fame,
and Professor G., who’d lost an arm in the Uprising
and wore his empty shirtsleeve like a sail.

I don’t know anything yet, nothing’s happened,
not counting the war or the massacre of the Jews.
In winter gray snow lurks on rooftops,
alert as an Indian, dreading spring.
Vacation comes, a peeled orange.

A greedy priest gulps Gospels
in the crimson, Neo-Gothic church;
oh, heart of hearts, Christ’s wounded breast.
Thank God for cream puffs after Mass
to help erase your Latin tortures.

In the barracks new recruits are training,
one of my friends plays the trumpet
like Miles Davis, only better.
Young ladies promenade
in wide starched skirts.

The ugly earth, gashed by flat
black rivers, scarred
like a German student’s cheek,
held still all day; at night
it crooned in two languages,

and we also lived in two idioms,
in the cramped jargon of the commonplace, of envy,
and in the language of a great dream.
At noon the clouds’ eye gently
opened, the eye of tears and light.

Mysticism for Beginners

02 May 2009

Fran Quinn

[from Fran Quinn's The Goblet Crying for Wine, Blue Sofa, 1995]

Delano's Bar and Restaurant,
Amherst, Mass., Good Friday, 1984,
1:25 p.m.

They always leave it . . .
that small circle of wine
in the bottom of the glass

as if there's something
down there they can't take in.
The dregs, they call it; the bottom
is what's there . . .

the finish, the
end. It's yours
when you take it
all in.

My father greeted death this way:
he waited until we were alone,
his last words long gone,
five or six days of pure silence,

four tears,
then a smile,
but nothing left --
no little circle,

the glass
handed to me

The goblet crying for wine

Kimiko Hahn

[from Kimiko Hahn's The Narrow Road to the Interior, Norton, 2006]

The Orient [excerpt]

. . .

The zuihitsu, spatial in every way, differs from the nikki, a "poetic diary" which differs from the Western -- that is, differs from documenting fact unless we mean an emotional fact. Differs from what is really true.

Translated at running brush, I love the way the zuihitsu runs with the content.

But even with a hint of narrative, the form also relies on sensibility and spatiality -- and a way to identify with the most important writers in the world, who happened to be Japanese women. I love them.

Like some teas? she asks. Or drinking your usual? I smile and reply, the usual -- but I do like the tease. She grins back.

I love the unabashed first person -- it almost risks the confessional quality that a diary exudes, or that diary-like information can contain in a conventional poetic form. Even the tone becomes altered by the form.

(What is true here?)


I return home after rewriting a short story. Peel off a sweaty unitard. Shower and slip on a velvet skirt and loose cotton top. I sit at my computer to see where the words have taken the heart. The brain enters now.


From Ki no Tsurayuki we know that kokoro and kotoba combine as the basic dynamic in Japanese poetics: the heart and the words produce passion, even if subtly placed.


On my way to Harvey's book party I stop by the cafe for a takeout decaf. It's evening. Cicely remarks from a table of girls where she's hanging now, off hours. You're confusing me, she continues. I smile and reply, Sweet.

From confusion to clarity. From clarity to ambiguities, blurs, fuzziness. Haze.

In her Gender Trouble, Judith Butler asks, How does language construct the categories of sex? Does "the feminine" resist representation within language? Within a language of presumptive heterosexuality, what sorts of continuities are assumed to exist among sex, gender, and desire? Are these terms discrete?


I am wired from Cicely's caffeine-mixed decaf.

Otherwise -- what?


Maybe I am attracted to this elegant mongrel because it blurs categories: those "grade B" forms of the Western canon: letters, diaries -- even gossip. Plus lists, fiction, criticism, online sites. I love blurs. I appreciate categories but as I grow older, have less of a need for the absolutes I sought in my twenties. The form suits this desire to blur.

She asks what I'd like. I ask for more caffeine. To wire the whole room.

Let me get something straight: I love cocks and often men to whom they're attached; and I've never even slow-danced with a woman. But I'm increasingly drawn.

the pulse --

the impulse --

The impulse is to categorize: bi, lesbian-wannabe, a gay man in a straight woman's body, queer but straight --

Maybe she thought that ex-boyfriend was a girl? Or a gay man? Is he?

Curious how crazy straight guys are about lesbians -- as if women's sex and sexuality are destined to be about the male. For me there's no quiver in seeing a gay porno flick. It isn't about my desire.

And this isn't about coming out. But emotional truths. . . .

Conspiring with Shikishi
     tanka inspired by Shikishi and her predecessors
     — with grateful acknowledgment to the translator, Hiroaki Sato —


     Looking at the moon, I feel sad in a thousand ways, though the
           autumn isn’t mine alone
               — Oe no Chisato

     Evening mist forming in the depths of my heart, the autumn as it
           wanes is mine alone
                                        — Shikishi

The evening mist dampens his heart, I know. He will not see his
           way through this missed.

The evening mists and my face is wet — ah, to be both mother and
           daughter; bereft.

The evening mist forming in my heart: the one daughter runs off
           into that dark. The other watches.


     Loneliness is the habit of this house: I gaze at the leaves with frost
           spread over them
                                         — Shikishi

Loneliness is the habit of this apartment — this bowl of flowers that,
           outside, would still root in the frost.

Spring is the habit of this apartment: each morning I rub the mist
           off the bathroom mirror so I can see us both brushing and


     The reality of the dark, of leopard flower seeds, wasn’t at all better
           than reliable dreams!
           — Anonymous from Kokinshu

     Not even knowing the reality of the fleeting dark, I wander along
           from dream to dream
                               — Shikishi

The reality of day lilies twisting into brown froth — I can cry for my
           mother in any season.

The seeds of those leopard flowers I do not know — nor what takes
           root in your breast that you pluck out — in order to live with
           me, my daughter.


     Painful to think of her without her knowing it: I wish it would
           show in color like the safflower!

                                         — Anonymous from Kokinshu

     My sleeves are wet and I keep this secret, yet how would I deal with
           the safflower?
                                         — Shikishi

Painful to think the safflower already knows: soon I will leave one
           man for the other.


     You must have seen the high plum branches of my house; so unex-
           pected has been your visit
                     — Taira no Kanemori

     At my house, since high plum branches flowered I’ve been waiting,
           though for whom I can’t say
                     — Shikishi

The blossoms on the highest plum branch cannot be seen from
           here — but the daughter who looks back may recall them in
           years to come.

The blossoms on the highest plum branch — I can just see them. I
           can worry about her distance.

The uppermost plum blossoms cannot be clipped — except by the
           downpour forecast and arriving. I wish she were home.

She writes of the highest branch — but what are they — those


     I’m waiting, I tell others, for the moon to rise above the foot-
           wearying mountain, but it’s for you I wait

                                         — Anonymous from Manyoshu

     Waiting for you I do not go into my bedroom. Do not shine on its
           cypress door long, moon near the hills
     — Shikishi

Who cares about the moon after all — the street lamp over the
           corner pay phone is bright till dawn.

Who cares about the moon over the skyline — who cares about
           him — and who cares about what I thought was my heart —

The Narrow Road to the Interior: Poems