30 May 2008

Beth Ann Fennelly

[two sections from a 15-section poem from Beth Ann Fennelly's Unmentionables, 2008]

Say You Waved: A Dream Song Cycle


Free will is the question, to me & most.
How much can we fault our dead dads?
If I'd allow, the AA book
would say "disease," of rage unpurple me. Confess,
JB: willed you to be a night-mayor
of the flesh?

Can I lay blame — "'42: Marries Eileen . . . '47: First infidelity . . ."?
And if I can't, how praise my stallion solely
rutting apple-munching me?
Stabled. (Sugar-cube teeth beyond the fence
have I desired? Natch. But no touch-touch.)
(Not much.)

"Free Willie" is the question, a U.S. flick
about a whale I saw previewed in London,
where "willie" is slang for "dick."
Free Willie. Like whales the giggles breached.
Is accountability just that, some cosmic
inadvertent joke?


Of your strict stanzas only nuns should speak,
& of your crumpled syntax only imbeciles
& armadillos, mystics,
children, & those who dream
of Calder mobiles piloted through wind tunnels
by angels on LSD.

In roadside Mexico a man macheted pineapple,
sprinkled it with salt & lime & hellborn chili dust.
It cost less than a buck.
Don't eat it, a fellow tourist warned, coming off the bus.
I ate it. So with your words
my lips sweetburn.

I get (ish) it. I pumped my swing at six
so hard my sneakers toed the sky. You
know, don't you,
what happened next — after the swing set's stiff legs
rocked thrice — but before I hit the ground —
I flew.

[for the entire poem, go to Blackbird, Fall 2007 Vol. 6 No. 2]

Unmentionables: Poems

29 May 2008

Valerio Magrelli

[Valerio Magrelli translated by Dana Gioia from New European Poets edited by Kevin Prufer and Wayne Miller, 2008]

I have often imagined that glances
survive the act of seeing
as if they were poles,
measuring rods, lances
thrown in a battle.
Then I think that in a room
one has just left
those same lines must stay behind
sometimes suspended there and criscrossed
untouched and overlaid like the wooden pieces
in a game of pickup sticks.

New European Poets

28 May 2008

C. D. Wright

[from C. D. Wright's Deepstep Come Shining, 1998]

After the iridectomy
the slow recognition of forms

A shirt on the floor looked like
the mouth of a well

Spots on a horse
horrible holes in its side

The sun in the tree
green hill of crystals

Moon over Milledgeville
only a story

Saucer of light on the wall
the hand of god

. . .

Early every evening she sits on the steps of her trailer. The
dirt yard raked. Caterpillar fording the furrows. Mercy,
Louise. If it wasn't hot hot hot. Cornlight. Eyes drink the
color and are refreshed. Images seen but not interpreted.
Thanks to her lovely twin trees the water she drew was cool.
Cool the water she drank from the pump.

Deepstep Come Shining

Daniel Nathan Terry

[from Daniel Nathan Terry's Capturing the Dead, 2007]

Noah Williams

Harvest of Death
Negative by Timothy O'Sullivan
5 July 1863 Gettysburg

Spread-eagle on the field
of Gettysburg
the dead arch their backs

as if the ground they lie upon
won't forgive them
and wants them gone,

as if pulled
by ropes hooked
into their breastbones.

Their torsos swell
toward Heaven
as if the Lord

has only this
small mercy left.
Or is it as simple

as the grip of death
and decay:
muscles tensing

before finally letting go,
hollow bellies
full of vapor? Is it as natural

as the orchard in the valley —
these windfall men
ripened and ready

for the camera to commence
its thorough
and slow gathering?

A. R. Ammons

[from A. R. Ammons Collected Poems: 1951-1971, 1972]


Honor a going thing, goldfinch, corporation, tree,
          morality: any working order,
       animate or inanimate: it

has managed directed balance,
          the incoming and outgoing energies are working right,
       some energy left to the mechanism,

some ash, enough energy held
          to maintain the order in repair,
       assure further consumption of entropy,

expending energy to strengthen order:
          honor the persisting reactor,
       the container of change, the moderator: the yellow

bird flashes black wing-bars
          in the new-leaving wild cherry bushes by the bay,
       startles the hawk with beauty,

flitting to a branch where
          flash vanishes into stillness,
       hawk addled by the sudden loss of sight:

honor the chemistries, platelets, hemoglobin kinetics,
          the light-sensitive iris, the enzymic intricacies
       of control,

the gastric transformations, seed
          dissolved to acrid liquors, synthesized into
       chirp, vitreous humor, knowledge,

blood compulsion, instinct: honor the
          unique genes,
       molecules that reproduce themselves, divide into

sets, the nucleic grain transmitted
          in slow change through ages of rising and falling form,
       some cells set aside for the special work, mind

or perception rising into orders of courtship,
          territorial rights, mind rising
       from the physical chemistries

to guarantee that genes will be exchanged, male
          and female met, the satisfactions cloaking a deeper
       racial satisfaction:

heat kept by a feathered skin:
          the living alembic, body heat maintained (bunsen
       burner under the flask)

so the chemistries can proceed, reaction rates
          interdependent, self-adjusting, with optimum
       efficiency — the vessel firm, the flame

staying: isolated, contained reactions! the precise and
             necessary worked out of random, reproducible,
         the handiwork redeemed from chance, while the

goldfinch, unconscious of the billion operations
             that stay its form, flashes, chirping (not a
         great songster) in the bay cherry bushes wild of leaf.

Collected Poems 1951-1971

15 May 2008

Laure-Anne Bosselaar

[from Laure-Anne Bosselaar's A New Hunger, 2007]


this is the viscous heart I hide from you:
gnashing, polluted, hooked to my ribs
like a burr, stuck there and stinging,
and it's only 4:14 in the morning.

Those sudden shudders my waking alarm,
then the daily discipline of shutting away that heart,
shambling through the house, touching things,
stroking their shapes as if it could help me

not be the Bad Sower's daughter each morning:
the pit from a seed he sowed and left to parch,
and no crows would feed on it. So I lived. I don't
want to explain this further, I'm done with it.

But this for you: on the days I hold your books,
read your letters, recall a gaze, the delicate
dangle of an earring, or the throwing
back of a head in laughter,

it's you seeding the first beat into the heart
I open. And as the sun heaves daylight
into the parched tree by my window,
and rats burrow away, when pigeons come

down to feed on dust and pizza crusts, I thrum
the lit syllables of your names on my sill with all
ten fingers, typing them firmly into the brick,
and counting their beats, counting their beats.

A New Hunger

14 May 2008

Steve Gehrke

[from Steve Gehrke's Michelangelo's Seizure", 2007]

Renoir, Arthritic

He's up early, considering the body,
its wetness, the bladder
like a puffer fish, the bowels
swallowing and swallowing,
mucus, come, blood, the soft crab
of the heart, darkly breathing,
the lungs spread out in the chest
like wings of a manta-ray,
not to mention the rich coral
of brain, the whole body
a trapped sea, netted in the skin,
perception itself just the motion
of the waves, the boat-wake
of experience healing into memory,
so that lying there, waiting to ring
the tiny silver bell that brings the nurse,
he feels his arthritis like a drought
inside of him, knowing the curative waters
at Bourbonne are no good, no good
the medicinal drip, his hand bruised
this morning where the brush was
strapped to it, though perhaps a bit of cloth
might be used between his fingers
and the wood, so that he can
continue to paint, to become
his rose-filled models, to feel
the elasticity of them, their fluidity
even in the hard desert-turtle
of his hand, so that he can continue
staring through the three-pronged
compass of the easel, until he gives
the signal and the canvas is raised
before him, like a sail, and he begins
to work, leaning forward, squinting,
drifting toward the horizon that he makes.

Michelangelo's Seizure (National Poetry Series)

12 May 2008

Kimberly Johnson

[from Kimberly Johnson's Leviathan with a Hook, 2002]

Divine, Dredge

Severe the light, and in the ether
rough weather settles.
Ramshackle, headstrong valley,
headlands bare of tree, tired starts
of olive branching along the foothills.
Cisterns breached, water stands
in the path, taking on rust, a smell of turpentine,
red leaves moored against the shallows.

A quiver -- a red lizard on a rock:
I catch him, halve him with a knife.

Two slippery sagittal lizards, veins
interrupted, spilling into my hands,
second skin starting to buckle.
I thumb an edge, pull back
the scales . . . another pale lizard,
soft flesh, lidless eye
reflecting my abject, adjectival, earthbound, blessed body.

Leviathan With a Hook: Poems

10 May 2008

Kimberly Johnson

[from Kimberly Johnson's Leviathan with a Hook, 2002]

Cold Front

At sunset, virga turns orange,
a fire infolding itself, its downwardness
sucked in, turned skyward and dense
in the cold atmosphere. Gold fire
on the wet fields, fire on the hemisphere.

The maple upturns porous leaves, barometric.
At the river, reeds rattle together, daylilies
yielding their petals to night.
Clearance lights necklace the hilltop in rubies.

In the thickening air, little firefly, light.
Lightning will shutter past midnight, and you
as in discourse, unshutter your small, candent
body, greening my eye-green.

Tomorrow morning morning's minstrel
will raise its brazen jackdaw cry,
bullfrogs shrieking at the river,
cattails bumping a clapboard symphony.

Leviathan With a Hook: Poems

the pope

on drugs

[AP] Pope Condemns Contraception, Warns Sex Can Be a 'Drug'

01 May 2008

Federico Garcia Lorca

[from Federico Garcia Lorca's Collected Poems, 2002; translated by Catherine Brown]

Ghazal of Dark Death

I want to sleep the sleep of apples,
far away from the uproar of cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who wanted to cut his heart out on the sea.

I don't want to hear that the dead lose no blood,
that the decomposed mouth is still begging for water.
I don't want to find out about grass-given martyrdoms,
or the snake-mouthed moon that works before dawn.

I want to sleep just a moment,
a moment, a minute, a century.
But let it be known that I have not died:
that there is a stable of gold in my lips,
that I am the West Wind's little friend,
that I am the enormous shadow of my tears.

Wrap me at dawn in a veil,
for she will hurl fistfuls of ants;
sprinkle my shoes with hard water
so her scorpion's sting will slide off.

Because I want to sleep the sleep of apples
and learn a lament that will cleanse me of earth;
because I want to live with that dark child
who wanted to cut his heart out on the sea.

The Collected Poems: A Bilingual Edition (Revised)