30 May 2011

Julie Carr

[from Julie Carr's Sarah – Of Fragments and Lines, Coffee House, 2010]

Western Wind: An Ode

One's mother's brain's
like one of those egg sacs

that lists by slack waves of seaweed and gull-prints –
still speaking abundance – found washed up to rotting

wood of a trap

Trees without leaves and dogs without leashes
simmering wheels of company cars

The body's a hole through which other bodies move

Lines for a Storm

So he plucked out his feathers, went and sat by a tradesman's shop
and wept.

With the sunflower nodding and the sirens on steady, she wakes to
answer the phone.

Kissing the deck with superstitious ardor, the hand with his cap on
is filmed.

And he walked the globe with feet of lead, and she in a window
of dust.

Pale blue lines between banks of dark cloud had no choice but to
become America.

Wept and wailed until he lost his senses – when the cook came by he
gave her pepper when she asked for salt, wheat when she asked for rice.

Two thousand soldiers in the Union army suffering from nostalgia.

And though many of the afflicted were hospitalized, the most serious
cases were allowed to return home.

Running as ocean-froth or cloud-wisp in storm-wind, a memory of
her small lap her salt scent her blue beads and her eye, blinking.

Parents, advised to train their children to master their emotions, sent
them from home so they might grow accustomed to movement and loss.

And she, in this torrent, dissolves.

Julie Carr

23 May 2011

Elizabeth Alexander

[from Elizabeth Alexander's Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010, Graywolf, 2010]


Virginia Woolf, incested
through her childhood, wrote
that she imagined herself
growing up inside a grape.
Grapes are sealed and safe.
You wouldn't quite float
in one; you'd sit locked
in enough moisture to keep
from drying out, the world
outside through gelid green.
Picture everyone's edges
smudged. Picture everyone
a green as delicate
as a Ming celadon. Pic-
ture yourself a mollusk
with an unsegmented body
in a skin so tight and taut
that you'd be safe. You could
ruminate all night about
the difference between "taut"
and "tight," "molest" and "incest."
"Taut" means tightly-drawn,
high-strung. What is tight
is structured so as not to
permit passage of liquid
or gas, air, or light.

Six Yellow Stanzas [excerpt]


my yellow moon-
pie face, yellow baby
screaming in the middle of the bed.
You could pass for Spanish,
a man says, as a compliment.
You a high-yella gal, and I like that,
says a suitor. Yellow!

I dreamed I had a yellow baby.
In the dream I didn't feed it.
It dried flat on the blacktop
like an old squashed frog.
I tried to revive it with lemonade
by the dropperful,
but that was the end
of my yellow dream baby.


My thigh next to your thigh.
Your black thigh
(your dark brown thigh)
next to my black thigh
(which is "yellow"
and brown, and black).
Sunless flesh or sunshine flesh.
I startle myself
with my yellowness
next to your black
but say none of this,
and lick your skin 'til yellow-
black sparks fly,
a hive of bumblebees
which hum at your body
and do not sting.


Egg yolk, crocus, buttercup, butter,
dandelion, sunflower, sunbeam, sun,
chicken fat, legal pads, bumble-bee stripes,
a bowl full of lemons, grapefruit peel,
iris hearts, pollen, the Coleman's mustard can,
the carpet and sheets in my childhood bedroom:
things that are yellow and yellow alone.

Elizabeth Alexander

21 May 2011

Samuel Amadon

[from Samuel Amadon's Like a Sea, Iowa, 2010]

The Barber's Fingers Move October

If I watch two white cats play in a window
which is not the window I should be watching

when a window I watch through is the window
I should be washing, then we know today

is going to be a difficult to listen to all his talking
when his shirts are open, when is face is

pulsing. Would anyone like to see my thumbs
lonely, or growing from one leg to the next

brownstone overflowing with people unprepared
for how happily I'm going to be making lunch

look like a portrait of milk next to seventy-two
days of tomato soup, each peppered

with less cooking makes for opportunity to see
my foot pressed against Grant's Tomb

which is just to say mustache. But
could landmarks be what I've been neglecting

to mention, how unproductive never leaving
the house might actually be what you were

meaning? I'm sorry. Sometimes listening takes
stealing a bus, or finding a way to parking lots

large enough in which to fishtail.
A reason for snow having not come. This year

is going to be a good idea becomes better
after sharing it with stringers, or settle down

before you worry yourself into a newspaper
subscriber who won't take the time to more

than rinse a mug. Isn't water what we were after
all I can't remember, but believe as a child

I was a vision of not really the strongest swimmer
on his hands, collecting grass for filters because enough

with the ceiling fan it's summer Sam no one but me will
believe you are robot
who prefers a beach in tight

khakis with no belt because it's back home holding
his project in rotation, which is sort of like me

now, see how I can make my chair stop or keep
my chair spinning, either way I must be up for something

has made one white cat try hard his face against
the glass until a vein appears which, followed, leads

us back to apparently my bicycle was taken off
the shelf. What if I rode it with my knees spread down

the four flights of stairs out this building
into the street without checking the car's side

mirrors for if I still pedal with my mouth open?
Better you leave it too precarious in the doorway

for me to follow after the door is knocked
by the wind from a window I will open now

that it's safe to say this has been a full morning
of staring through the half-reflection of my face

figuring out how it would sound
to understand every word you were saying.

Samuel Amadon

20 May 2011

Heather McHugh

[from Heather McHugh's Upgraded to Serious, Copper Canyon, 2009]

About the Head

In the old days it was all
phrenologists and mentalists,
feelers for speed bumps.

Several rubbers later there was lunch,
and the diamonded mind
and the spaded heart
were equally sedated,

and the club,
the club in whose name
so much was done, the club that could trace
its roots back to an ash tree,
and its branches up to an ash cloud,

the club that let in and that disallowed
the thoughts of so many –
ingeniously giving members
bullhorns for our little voices,
leather for our liabilities of skin –
the products of its expertises hooking
dugs to suction-cups
and penises to clever
lover-tubes, docilities
to stanchions – keeping the consumer
from those messy overflows – oh yes,

the clickogenic club – it's now on its way
out, going the slope of the oil- and
cowmen, under a wave of nouveau
spunk, as reproduction comes
in plastic, tungsten,
dazzleworks of circuitry – no
boring boards! The club with all its antique
codes and codicils will have to

club itself out, out of courtesy, on the path
to a virtually productive heaven – let the gentlemen
agree. Their sons, the slackers with the liquor, hand it on
to generation Z, that need not multiply or sleep. The stock
of alphabets runs out, the line of swollen lifetimes hits
the point of several seconds flat, and any smidgen
beats a bludgeon. Just a blip behind the eyes

works better than a bruiser with a bat.

Heather McHugh

17 May 2011

Chase Twichell

[from Chase Twichell's Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems, Copper Canyon, 2010]

Snow Light

I stop, winded, the air sifting down.
Here is the peculiar light I hoped for.
The branches of the pines are lobed with snow,
each shape intact, and brightened from within.

I walked among these flickering trunks in fall,
the grass grown stiff and noisy underfoot,
and found a mystery, a tree, a flowering quince,
all pale and fragrant, out of season.

It gave off this light.
What is holy is earth's unearthliness.
Love, could we describe it,
would break apart, lucency and force.

A starling rasps from his white precinct.
Far back in the woods, the snow is falling again,
perhaps into your life. The wind returns
to chisel its drifts and ribbing.

Forgive the rounded burdens of the branches.
They do not suffer, suffused in this light.
They are not sorrows,
though that is the meaning we give them.

Six Belons

The ruckled lips gaped slightly, but when
I slipped the knife in next to the hinge,
they closed to a stone.
The violence it took to unlock them!
Each wounded thing lay in opalescent milk
like an albino heart,
muscle sliced from the roof-shell.
I took each one pale and harmless
into my mouth and held it there,
tasting the difference between
the ligament and the pure, faintly
coffee-colored flesh that was unflinching
even in the acid of lemon juice,
so that I felt I was eating
not the body but the life in the body.
Afterward my mouth stayed greedy
though it carried the sea rankness
away with it, a taste usually transient,
held for a moment beyond its time
on mustache or fingertip.
The shells looked abruptly old,
crudely fluted, gray-green, flecked
with the undersea equivalent of lichens,
and pearly, slick, bereft of all their meat.
The creatures themselves were gone,
the succulent indecent briny ghosts
that caused this arousal, this feeding,
and now a sudden loneliness.

Chase Twichell

14 May 2011

Timothy Donnolley

[from Timothy Donnolley's The Cloud Corporation, Wave, 2010]

No Mission Statement, No Strategic Plan

When loathing's narwhal thrusts its little tusk
      deep into the not-for-profit of my thought
and anchors in the planks across which I have

stomped unfathomable hours, and thanklessly;
      when I feel the panic of it struggling to dislodge
and all the damage done to the ship thereby –

the prow, to be exact, if we agree this is a ship,
      and now I fear we have no choice – when lost
in drear blue Baffin Bay, if night's first voice

says Quick, we're sinking, yank that narwhal out,
      it must be night's second, less impetuous voice
saying Not so fast. Why not leave it where it is?

Montezuma to His Magicians

If they are gods, if they have
divinity in them, then why

when we lay at their feet
garlands of quetzal feathers

and gold coins do they leap
upon the gold as dazzled

monkeys might and tread
on sacred plumage like dust?

Globus Hystericus [excerpt]


Daybreak on my marshland: a single egret, blotched,
trudges through the froth. I take its photograph
from the rooftop observation deck from which I watch

day's delivery trucks advance. I take advantage of
the quiet before their arrival to organize my thoughts
on the paranormal thusly: (1) If the human psyche

has proven spirited enough to produce such a range
of material effects upon what we'll call the closed
system of its custodial body, indeed if it's expected to,

and (2) If such effects might be thought to constitute
the physical expression of that psyche, an emanation
willed into matter in a manner not unlike a brand-

new car or cream-filled cake or disposable camera,
and (3) If the system of the body can be swapped out
for another, maybe an abandoned factory or a vale,

then might it not also prove possible for the psyche
by aptitude or lather or sheer circumstance to impress
its thumbprint on some other system, a production

in the basement, or in a video store, as when I find you
inching up steps or down a shady aisle or pathway,
dragging your long chains behind you most morosely

if you ask me, the question is: Did you choose this, or was it
imposed on you, but even as I ask your hands move
wildly about your throat to indicate you cannot speak.

Timothy Donnelly

13 May 2011

Maureen N. McLane

[from Maureen N. McLane’s World Enough, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010]

Passage III [excerpt]

wavelap and lakeslap lick
         the ear; the air carries
                  stripes in the
         low precincts of sky –
a mower blares somewhere
         above A and
                  shuts off a
         shock of
into which the wave-
         slaps surge

to enter the water
in Mayan
to die

over there the gray
                  sheath meant
but our private sun
         continues to sign-
post a clear day at least
         for us.
an earthquake
         in China
         precisely what
                  to me
         wondered Adam Smith –
the world disappearing
         the instant my tooth aches: Sartre

my skin some days
         as wide as the sea
and the waves of the world
         roll through, equable
but I am living this narrow
         life and no other
         except yours I imagine
                  some days we’re graced
                           or grazed by a shared bullet

today no thrush silvered the air
         in the woods
the wind blowing hard
         against the bike
passing a stretch of field
         where tractors for miles around
                  come to die
the iron congregation rusting
         faithful as the grass.
the cows at Saywards Farm seemed
         too confined
why aren’t they grazing in the field and why
         are their calves
                  wired in –
late last night
         after the sunset
         I did not see
the lake took on that babyish hue
         I so love and I saw
a sole balloon aloft lifting over Vergennes
         puffing by Camel’s Hump
and heading east –
         we have harnessed the air
                  for our pleasure
                  our leisure a rhyme
         with the weather
                  clearing as if the
                  skies cared
                  or could

radios and weathervanes
conduct the air
disperse manes

mountains deforested
         by distance
Hokusai shapes cut
         against the
         sky the clouds
                  address just
and through the same air
                  the radio pours
         its usual brew of cheer & death
         what wonder little schizo
                  you reel so
         in the fractured world
the sky bends to my way
         and to yours and to home
         sweet home

03 May 2011

Terrance Hayes

[from Terrance Hayes's Lighthead, Penguin, 2010]

Anchor Head

Because keyless and clueless,
because trampled in gunpowder
and hoof-printed address,

from Australopithecus or Adam's
dim boogaloo to birdsong
and what the bird boogaloos to,

because I was waiting to break
these legs free, one to each
short, to be head-dressed in sweat,

my work, a form of rhythm
like the first sex, like the damage
of death and distance

and depression, of troubled
instances and blind instruction,
of pleasure and placelessness,

because I was off-key and careless
and learning through leaning,
because I was astral and pitchforked

and packaged to a dim bungalow
of burden and if not burden,
the dim boredom of no song,

I became a salt-worn dream-
anchor, I leaped overboard
in my shackles and sailed

through my reflection on down
to ruin, calling out to God,
and then calling out no more.

Deborah Digges

[from Deborah Digges's The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart, Knopf, 2010]

Dance of the Seven Veils

I did not pick one violet
this year nor place each small bouquet
in little china pitchers
shaped like flutes or doves.
But hid among the dandelions,
long fields of green and dandelions,
islands of gold.
Oh my sirens, my harbingers of spring.
And since I'm not Odysseus
and unafraid, my small boat sallied sideways
on the sand.
They came in droves to greet me.
I took my sisters' faces in my hands.
We crept the cliffs and sang the peasant's clock,
a rainbow locked, diphthong of lust,
peacocks' fanfare,
voices outrun the holy.
And thus we called the mighty in.
And true indeed, unfaithful every one –
the men – and who could blame them?
We were so beautiful, the very center of us edible,
our lion hair, our leaf-like swords,
all of us swinging lanterns,
dancing the dance of the Pleiades,
the seven sisters weaving silk out of our stories,
dance of the seven veils.
They thought of us – imagine -
their korasions, their robber brides.
Possessed they were and we would have it so.
And when the men, they stayed
too long, when we grew tired of them –
each fat in love, drunk on our milky wine,
we let our hair shriek white,
the filaments that shine like fog
over a dawn sea, sparks at sunrise,
ready we were to just be old again and bald.
We shook our heads, let go the seeds,
slid fast and empty to the underworld.
But as they slept across the decks,
half in, half out of hammocks, ransacked the hulls,
we did, repaired their masts.
And heaved their ships to other oceans.

01 May 2011

Kathleen Graber

[from Kathleen Graber's The Eternal City, Princeton, 2010]

The Third Day

        And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb
        yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his
        kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was
        so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding
        seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed
        was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
        And the evening and the morning were the third day.

        – Genesis 1:11-13

This morning I locked myself out again, realizing just
as the door of the complex's communal laundry clicked shut
behind me that my keys were still atop the triple loader.
I'd been thinking about the senator I'd seen last night on television
& the language – terroristic, Islamo-fascist enemies of freedom
he'd used to describe those whose ideologies conflict so starkly
with his own. And Augustine's question: is evil a thing in itself,
or merely, as he came to argue in the end, the absence of good.
Later, when I finally find a neighbor – glad she's home,
glad she is willing to lend me her keys so I can retrieve mine –
we stand a few minutes chatting. She's from Minnesota
& dislikes the winters here. Her eyes rest on a plastic toboggan
& the bicycle beside it, training wheels rusting in three inches
of mud. It's February & we've had rain all week. The temperature
is already above fifty & although the limb-whips of the willow
are bare, its trunk is splotched & spongy with pale green moss.
I can see that the kids who like to roughhouse after school
have shattered someone's terra cotta planters & a small holly –
its roots dressed now in only their own black ball of dirt,
its carnelian beads aglitter – has been tossed out onto the walk.

Augustine was haunted by his gang's adolescent theft of pears,
a transgression nearly without motive: the pears were so hard
& so ugly, inedible, in fact, that he knew, even as he took them,
that there were better ones at home. It's difficult to say
what he means by unmaking, but this is what sin is & does,
he warns, as we stray disordered, away from the perfection
which made us toward the nothing from which we are made.

By late afternoon, the sky brightens & they are all at it again,
using slingshots made from forked twigs & rubber bands
to pelt one another with the sharp pods of the sycamores.
What would we do without our fellows? Adam,
the Saint argues, took the apple even though he knew
the serpent had deceived her, for he could not bear imagining
Eve lost in the wilderness alone. A small child is beating a tree
with a baseball bat trying to knock more ammunition loose,
& the prickly spheres, which horticulturalists call fruit,
dance & dangle – like the thurible the Monsignor swung
sometimes at mass. I sat in the pew beside my grandmother.
The words being spoken were Latin. I studied the bright cloaks
in the windows & the scuffs on my shiny black shoes.
Across the open field, a beagle, caught up too tightly
in the rope which has been used to tether him to a porch,
starts to howl & the squirrels scatter. And an old nest, dull
& high up – still holding only a few fists of air – begins to quake.

Kathleen Graber

Sandra Beasley

[from Sandra Beasley's i was the jukebox, Norton, 2010]


The day before his appointment they went
to the orchard. They always went in June,

and driving up they listened to Patsy Cline
because they always listened to Patsy Cline.

He stayed in the trees until she said Come down
and on the last rung this new thing – her hand

pressed against his back, as if he were a child
who needed catching. He hated her. And

she lifted the basket of cherries to show him
their pale skins, hemorrhaged with sweetness.


Before he would leave he'd empty his pockets
onto the dresser and she'd seen it, that last night,

every coin landing face down. Don't go, she'd said.
And he'd laughed like he always did at her signs:

crows on the lawns, a hang-up call, salt on the floor.
He'd left before dawn, wanting her to sleep in.

She should have known as soon as she broke eggs
for an omelet and the pink embryos cam sliding out;

she should have cleared out her freezer, knowing
the casseroles would come. With all her signs,

why did she put on the cheap bra that morning?
She remembers the chaplain at her door,

holding his hat like an apology. How he'd
placed his hands on her shoulders and she'd said

God. Under his hands, her flesh welling past
nylon straps: that dumb beast in harness, that hope.

Sandra Beasley