30 April 2010

Alan Dugan

[from Alan Dugan's Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry, Seven Stories, 2001]

Perverse Explanation for Mutilated Statuary

Her hair was made of poisonous snakes
and her mouth was an open scream,
so when they put their pricks in it
they had the feeling of having come
into nothing at all but a scream,
and the feeling of having been stung
all over. Then, as her teeth closed,
and they opened their eyes to stare,
they turned dead white and froze.

How else did they get there,
set up around Medusa's crypt,
those white statues of sound
young men with the missing pricks,
or with fig leaves over the wound?

25 April 2010

Edward Dorn

[from Edward Dorn via Tom Clark in Jacket 16, “Poetry as a Difficult Labor,” November 1998]

The habit of considering personal expression or ‘lyric” as something that strives for compassion with all of the artifices which make up a poem, is in many ways a loathsome instrumentation that leads you into dishonesties and lies and pretenses that are damaging. It is damaging to the ability to absorb reality. In order to write a poem of any interest whatsoever, it should be beyond how one feels, which is largely a condition so freighted with lack of interest on anybody [else’s] part. You really have to educate yourself and the poem at the same time. That’s where it’s work, it’s labor.

24 April 2010

Edward Dorn

[from Edward Dorn's Way More West, Penguin, 2007]


Red house.   Green tree in mist.
How many fir long hours.
How that split wood
warmed us.   How continuous.
Red house.   Green tree I miss.
The first snow came in October.
Always.   For three years.
And sat on our shoulders.
That clean grey sky.
That fine curtain of rain
like nice lace held our faces
up, in it, a kerchief for the nose
of softest rain.   Red house.

Those green mists rolling
down the hill.   Held our heads
when we went walking on the hills
to the side, with pleasure.
But sad.   That's sad.   That tall grass.
Toggenburg goat stood in, looking, chewing.
Time was its cud.   Oh
Red barn mist of our green trees of Him
who locks our nature in His deep nature
how continuous do we die to come down
as rain; that land's refrain
no we never go there anymore.

19 April 2010

John Wheelwright

[from John Wheelwright's Collected Poems, New Directions, 1983]

Train Ride
          for Horace Gregory

After rain, through afterglow, the unfolding fan
of railway landscape sidled on the pivot
of a larger arc into the green of evening;
I remembered that noon I saw a gradual bud
still white; though dead in its warm bloom;
always the enemy is the foe at home.
       And I wondered what surgery could recover
our lost, long stride of indolence and leisure
which is labor in reverse; what physic recall the smile
not of lips, but of eyes as of the sea bemused.
       We, when we disperse from common sleep to several
tasks, we gather to despair; we, who assembled
once for hopes from common toil to dreams
or sickish and hurting or triumphal rapture;
always our enemy is our foe at home.
       We, deafened with far scattered city rattles
to the hubbub of forest birds (never having
“had time” to grieve or to hear through vivid sleep
the sea knock on its cracked and hollow stones)
so that the stars, almost, and birds comply,
and the garden-wet; the trees retire; We are
a scared patrol, fearing the guns behind;
always the enemy is the foe at home.
       What wonder that we fear our own eyes’ look
and fidget to be at home alone, and pitifully
put off age by some change in brushing the hair
and stumble to our ends like smothered runners at their tape;
       We follow our shreds of fame into an ambush.
       Then (as while the stars herd to the great trough
the blind, in the always-only-outward of their dismantled
archways, awake at the smell of warmed stone
or to the sound of reeds, lifting from the dim
into their segment of green dawn) always
our enemy is our foe at home, more
certainly than through spoken words or from grief-
twisted writing on paper, unblotted by tears
the thought came:
                            There is no physic
for the world’s ill, nor surgery; it must
(hot smell of tar on wet salt air)
burn in a fever forever, an incense pierced
with arrows, whose name is Love and another name
Rebellion (the twinge, the gulf, split seconds,
the very raindrop, render, and instancy
of Love).
       All Poetry to this not-to-be-looked upon sun
of Passion is the moon’s cupped light; all
Politics to this moon, a moon’s reflected
cupped light, like the moon of Rome, after
the deep wells of Grecian light sank low;
always the enemy is the foe at home.
       But these three are friends whose arms twine
without words; as, in a still air,
the great grove leans to wind, past and to come.

18 April 2010

Noelle Kocot

[2 sestinas from Noelle Kocot's The Raving Fortune, Four Way Books, 2004]

Why We Go to Couple's Counseling

In spite of all common sense, I make my home in the rotisserie
Of your teeth. This was all prewritten on the gravity
Of a giant planet, and those slightly corrupted
Particles of light that formed the stars.
You say the Eternal. The eternal is not mine but has a Big Mission.
Despite our differences, we manage to create a hoax

Of nice weather, an unresolved moment. But the hoax
Is that I search for warmth within the cave of you, a dry rotisserie
Chicken with a mission.
I eat myself and plunge my bones into the gravity
Of crop circles filling with stars.
Our love has been corrupted.

But not corrupted
As one might deem a warped roll of flim, a hoax
Of UFO pictures submerged in an ocean of fireflied stars,
But love that hangs on a rotisserie
In a Chinese restaurant, where the waiter brings our check with a
Whose mission

Is known only to us, who won't be missionary
Later that same night amid readings of Trakl's autumn and black
What a weighty word! And what if Newton's apple were a hoax,
Nothing more than the stuff in a pig's mouth on a rotisserie
Casting itself up into the stars

To forge a new constellation? I admit, I'm starry-
Eyed when I look at you, every moment seems a mission
Where I am the pig on the rotisserie,
Every oink I oink to you corrupted.
Surely I'm a hoax
And a half laid out in resourceful capsules, but I am in grave

Error if I believe the gravity
Of our rhetoric reaches beyond a drawing of a house with cut-out stars
Above it, some stick figures of cats and children. A hoax
It may be but my mission
Is not complete until I corrupt
All that's been said and search for warmth within my own private

And remember that in the last horizontal hoax of my mission's
Superfluous event, the gravity of my lion paws stretch across the ruins
      of the stars
And lie corrupted in your teeth's rotisserie.

Rushing through the House I Behold the Numinous Dark
of Forks, the Light-Bearing Phenomenology of Sunrise

They say the wind was born, bearing its beautiful teeth of light.
They say it is impossible to mingle with a Snuffelufagus
Because nobody else can see it. Nobody could see the prophet
In the man I met, the wandering Christ in long Franciscan robes.
I invited him in and he advised me on semiotics
And the nuances of pop music.

The fact that he stunk to high heaven did not detract from the music
Of his speech, or should I say speech acts? It was all in the way the
Hit the room, bounced off his hair in a just-so way, to invite the
Of this newest mania into my brain, he was a Snuffelufagus
Having fun with my hell-mind, enrobed
With the fateful words of prophets

Gone awry. In his vision I, too, would be a prophet
Someday, drinking in the reckless breath of music
Like a tray of tiny baritones in oversized robes
Singing "We're in treble now." See, it was all wrong, the light
Was not light at all, it was another bloody sunset where
Got sent to the abbatoir in an acrostic made of arrows, drooling the

Of a Rimbaud poem while I did not sleep off the semiotics
Of my newest fancies. Now I have all but forgotten the man, his
Might as well be oatmeal, O pretty Snuffelufagus,
Take this and eat it, this is my body . . . You see, I'm on the
      sentimental fringe of musical
Daydreams, I have dumbed down my brief renaissance into particles of
Into doo-wop promises that trickle in among the stars. My robes

Fly open at the slightest suggestion that I've got my lute in hand,
      and while I know disrobing
Is the right thing to do, I feel unsure of the semiotics
Of the horse-flavored cheesecake I ordered once in a restaurant, how
      to step lightly
Or to have fun with my new mind, flapping up and down its
Like a toupee in well-water. Somebody help. I know that music
Won't, the Snuffelufagus

Might, but even the Snuffelufagus
Is making horrible crying noises to go home, wherever home is. My
Sweeps the floor of grains of bitterness, a wrecking ball sans music.
I know that if I start to take the semiotics
Of my newly-sibilant esses too seriously, I will get varicose zones
      of speech, I will fall asleep in prophesies
Swinging from vainglorious vines, and my mind will not resound into
      lute-filled light.

Music is magnificent, splendiferous, whereas the discussion of the
Of my illness is boring. Snuffelufagus, you wear my robes obliquely
As an invitation to the prophets, bearing their beautiful teeth of

Tan Lin

Bomb interview with Tan Lin about his new book Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004 The Joy of Cooking.

14 April 2010

Cecily Parks

[from Cecily Parks's Cold Work, Poetry Society of America, 2005]


Eunuchs gather as groves
in a sultanate of snow,
shadowing each cow
as she grazes, starves or calves

before calving-time.
Weathers, deaths, rivulets
away, discarded velvet,
gummed by blood’s birdlime,

will frill saplings and deadfall:
moss ottomans
and racket share one season.
Until then, one bull

descends. His tracks: cleft.
His path:
harem-culled, swath-
cut. His antlers’ heft:

one wet meadow,
sixty swelling bellies,
the bells of sego lilies.
Especially now, his rivals grow.

13 April 2010

Jillian Brall

[from Jillian Brall's Wet Information, ZoeWo, 2009]


This sacred stuff.
Doesn't it scare you stiff?
While you log and categorize
your resistances and right angles,
animals are hatching from a variety of shells,
satellites are being installed in house craniums,
and you are staring at something sweet
that someone has thrown in a sewer.

This stone stuff.
Doesn't it sculpt you as you sculpt it?
While you log and categorize
your skills and deficiencies,
the sad saga sags on,
the stories of other people,
the splendor of success.
It makes you stupid.

This sharp stuff.
Doesn't it shape you like Moses' staff?
While you log and categorize
your potential and probable downfalls,
slogans are shoving their way through your showerhead,
there's more to the scum you scrape than you thought,
and the stickiness is something scientists and patent offices dream of.

This soapy stuff.
What does it conceal beneath its film?
While you log and categorize
your measurements and magnetism,
the sun seeps through the blinds
and you slither on the floor.
Sure, we all know
standing stinks.

12 April 2010

Sylvia Plath

[from Sylvia Plath's Ariel: The Restored Edition, Harper Collins, 2004]

The Rabbit Catcher

It was a place of force —
The wind gagging my mouth with my own blown hair,
Tearing off my voice, and the sea
Blinding me with its lights, the lives of the dead
Unreeling in it, spreading like oil.

I tasted the malignity of the gorse,
Its black spikes,
The extreme unction of its yellow candle-flowers.
They had an efficiency, a great beauty,
And were extravagant, like torture.

There was only one place to get to.
Simmering, perfumed,
The paths narrowed into the hollow.
And the snares almost effaced themselves —
Zeroes, shutting on nothing,

Set close, like birth pangs.
The absence of shrieks
Made a hole in the hot day, a vacancy.
The glassy light was a clear wall,
The thickets quiet.

I felt a still busyness, an intent.
I felt hands round a tea mug, dull, blunt,
Ringing the white china.
How they awaited him, those little deaths!
They waited like sweethearts. They excited him.

And we, too, had a relationship —
Tight wires between us,
Pegs too deep to uproot, and a mind like a ring
Sliding shut on some quick ting,
The constriction killing me also.

11 April 2010

Ted Hughes

[from Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters, FSG, 1998]

The Afterbirth

Huddled on the floor, the afterbirth
Was already offal.
There was the lotus-eater's whole island
Dragged out by its roots, into the light,
And flopped onto blood-soaked newsprint — a tangled
Puddle of dawn reds and evening purples,
To be rubbished. You were laughing and weeping
Into the glare. A tear-splitting dazzle
Like the noon sun finally stared at
Had burst into the bedroom when the Gorgon
Arrived and ripped her face off
And threw it to the floor. Such a shocking
Beauty born. I saw it flash up
That sunburned German with all his strength
Slamming the sea-tripes of the octopus
Hard down onto our honeymoon quay —
In the blue-blackish glare
Of my sunstroke.
                             You were weeping
Your biggest, purest joy. The placenta
Already meaningless, asphyxiated.
Your eyes dazzling tears as I thought
No other brown eyes could, ever,
As you lifted the dazzler. I eased
The heavy, fallen Eden into a bowl
Of ovenproof glass. A bowl with a meaning
All to itself — a hare crouching
In its claret — the curled-up, chopped-up corpse
That weeks before I had jugged in it. I felt
Like somebody's shadow on a cave wall.
A figure with a dog's head
On a tomb wall in Egypt. You watched me
From your bed, through the window,
As I bured the bowlful of afterbirth
In a motherly hump of ancient Britain,
Under the elms. You would eat no more hare
Jugged in the wine of its own blood
Out of that bowl. The hare nesting in it
Had opened its eye. As if some night,
Maybe with a thick snow falling softly,
It might come hobbling down from under the elms
Into our yard, crying: "Mother! Mother!
They are going to eat me."
                                           Or bob up.
Dodging ahead, a witchy familiar, sent
To lock error beyond repair when it
Died silent, a black jolt,
Under my offside rear wheel
On the dawn A30. You heard nothing.
But it bled out of my pen. And re-formed
On my page, The hieroglyph of the hare.
You picked it up, curious.
And it screamed in your ear like a telephone —
The moon-eyed, ripped-up flower of it screamed.
Disembowelled, a stunned mask,
Unstoppably, like a burst artery,
The hare in the bowl screamed —

Cole Swenson

[from Cole Swenson, The Book of a Hundred Hands, University of Iowa, 2005]


As it carves its world
from the aerodrome of nerve and dream, additional dimensions and
of the thing, enormous, internal
and verdant
becomes this
                         acreage paced, this mile after mile
that the hand each day travels as it waves,
or covers a yawn, or sweeps, or puts down
a baton. The orchestra conductor wears an odometer
instead of a watch.

10 April 2010

Fred Chappell

[from Fred Chappell's Midquest, Louisiana State, 1981]

Firewood [excerpt]

. . . what God has joined together
let no man put asunder, where the wedge not
an inch in an hour of hitting goes in and the
arms quiver exhausted, sweat soaking the crotch
of the twist shorts, and nothing, this baby
simply don't give & don't even promise just
like the nice girls back in high school, remember?,
going to be married to this flint round of
wood forever, till finally fin;al;ly it bust loose
to show the dagger-shaped knot hid in the
heart of it, black and ochre and dark red, looks like
a trawler steaming up the stream of veins,
or a stubborn island in the colorful river, what
secret part of my life is it? so resisting and
so in tight upon itself, so bitter bitter hard
until at last torn open shows that all the secret
was merely the hardness itself, there's no true
shame worth hiding but some knot of hurt
hardly recalled, yet how can I say it
is not beautiful this filigree of primaries,
its form hermetic in the flow of time the
rings transcribe, I will set it down amid
the perfect things, alongside the livid day
lilies here and the terrapins I brought home
as a child . . .

09 April 2010

Robert Adamson

[Robert Adamson's The Goldfinches of Baghdad, Flood, 2006]

Brahminy Kite

Humidity envelops my boat, black mould
embellishes its trim. There are mullet-gut stains
on the seats. Tides flood in across the mudflats
and small black crabs play their fiddle-claw
with a feeble left bow, day in, night out.
My hand swoops to catch a lure.
Talons pierce scales and a heart.

We grasp the core only gradually
of each other’s compressed midnights —
black roses flowering in sandy-eyed dawns,
memories stowed to starboard, where a
brahminy’s wings catch first light.
How did we manage it, sailing
on — weathering

leagues of years? We’re a far cry now from
beating wings and arched poetic myths:
the swell’s escalator takes us up over the top
of the world into white crests and gull-squawk.
Now there are fields of light to relinquish
and dolphin fish skittering around
markers, slicing apart an oily sea.

Off Barrenjoey, the kite hits thermals,
then lifts into a triple rainbow stained with
yellowtail blood and slime. Its beaked head fits over
my face, sea-spray stings my eyes. In the haze
beyond tiredness, its wings cut through
an atmosphere thick with salt
and the glint of fish scales.

03 April 2010

John Ashbery

[from John Ashbery's Rivers and Mountains, Holt, 1966]

Blessing in Disguise

Yes, they are alive and can have those colors,
But I, in my soul, am alive too.
I feel I must sing and dance, to tell
Of this in a way, that knowing you may be drawn to me.

And I sing amid despair and isolation
Of the chance to know you, to sing of me
Which are you. You see,
You hold me up to the light in a way

I should never have expected, or suspected, perhaps
Because you always tell me I am you,
And right. The great spruces loom.
I am yours to die with, to desire.

I cannot ever think of me, I desire you
For a room in which the chairs ever
Have their backs turned to the light
Inflicted on the stone and paths, the real trees

That seem to shine at me through a lattice toward you.
If the wild light of this January day is true
I pledge me to be truthful unto you
Whom I cannot ever stop remembering.

Remembering to forgive. Remember to pass beyond you into the day
On the wings of the secret you will never know.
Taking me from myself, in the path
Which the pastel girth of the day has assigned to me.

I prefer “you” in the plural, I want “you”
You must come to me, all golden and pale
Like the dew and the air.
And then I start getting this feeling of exaltation.

Edward Dorn

[one of Edward Dorn's "Twenty-four Love Songs" from Way Out West, Penguin, 2007]


And then, if you come
to the mountains, what
is there more, ore in mines
ore in veins, or more fully than
you might have had it elsewhere.
Call them the Rockie mountains.
They aren't yours and
you never thought they were because
you lived in them too sometime,
someplace ago and know better.
There is a vast smell of marriage
not lightly said, some place
some time ago I was there too.
I've been everywhere.
This afternoon I thought why not,
why not get Jenny into something
and we both fly off to meet,
well, almost anyone. Away
from the flat rancorous smell
of their insinuation, which is
just this: you've done the thing —
you've presumed your body
as well as your mind, your mind
we like to watch go through its sideshow
lifted up in the bright creative air
but when you made other arrangements
for your body, baby go away, that's it

[excerpt from Dorn's Gunslinger]