Monday, December 28, 2009

Sonnet on Mirth - Jennifer Michael Hecht

Of mirth the poets counsel little after
that present it be loved for present laughter.
Also that fool hearts, alone, let themselves belong in
the house of it; the wise, the house of mourning.
Why such divergent answers from such teachers?
Life seemed cruelly short to bard; cruelly long to preacher.
Yet true times as rivers flow or candles burn,
long in the stretches, short on the turns,
and mirth with bitter herbs is better taken
than meals of mirth alone or years of it forsaken.
Does sweet improve when mixed with strain,
or is it that the acrid in that blend begins to fade?
Much endures while youth slips away like a thief;
mirth is a wine well pressed in the house of grief.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Hunt in the Forest - John Burnside

How children think of death is how the shadows
gather between the trees: a hiding place
for everything the grown-ups cannot name-
Nevertheless, they hurry to keep their appointment
far in the woods, at the meeting of parallel lines,
where everything is altered by its own
momentum – altered, though we say transformed -
greyhound to roebuck, laughter to skin and bone;

and no one survives the hunt: though the men return
in threes and fours, their faces blank with cold,
they never quite arrive at what they seem,
leaving a turn of phrase or a song from childhood
and waiting, while their knives slip through the blood
like butter, or silk, until the heart is still.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Selecting a Reader - Ted Kooser

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hunger - Jack Gilbert

Digging into the apple
with my thumbs.
Scraping out the clogged nails
and digging deeper.
Refusing the moon color.
Refusing the smell and memories.
Digging in with the sweet juice
running along my hands unpleasantly.
Refusing the sweetness.
Turning my hands to gouge out chunks.
Feeling the juice sticky
on my wrists. The skin itching.
Getting to the wooden part.
Getting to the seeds.
Going on.
Not taking anyone's word for it.
Getting beyond the seeds.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day - Michael Blumenthal

Things are not as they seem: the innuendo of everything makes
itself felt and trembles towards meanings we never intuited
or dreamed. Take, for example, how the warbler, perched on a

mere branch, can kidnap the day from its tediums and send us
heavenwards, or how, held up by nothing we really see, our
spirits soar and then, in a mysterious series of twists and turns,

come to a safe landing in a field, encircled by greenery. Nothing
I can say to you here can possibly convince you that a man
as unreliable as I have been can smuggle in truths between tercets

and quatrains on scraps of paper, but the world as we know
is full of surprises, and the likelihood that here, in the shape
of this very bird, redemption awaits us should not be dismissed

so easily. Each year, days swivel and diminish along their inscrutable
axes, then lengthen again until we are bathed in light we were not
prepared for. Last night, lying in bed with nothing to hold onto

but myself, I gazed at the emptiness beside me and saw there, in the
shape of absence, something so sweet and deliberate I called it darling.
No one who encrusticates (I made that up!) his silliness in a bowl,

waiting for sanctity, can ever know how lovely playfulness can be,
and, that said, let me wish you a Merry One (or Chanukah if you
prefer), and may whatever holds you up stay forever beneath you,

and may the robin find many a worm, and our cruelties abate,
and may you be well and happy and full of mischief as I am,
and may all your nothings, too, hold something up and sing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

You know, I think more and more often - Tadeusz Borowski

You know, I think more and more often
that I should go back.
Maybe I'll meet you. And happiness?
Happiness is being sad together.

So I look through the moonlit window
and listen.
Nothing. A breeze stirs somewhere.
Alone among the leaves - the moon.

Like a golden wheel it rolls
above the windblown leaves.
Such moons, only paler,
shone over the Wisla.

Even the Big Dipper on its course
stops in a tree at midnight,
just like at home. But why here?
Truly, I don't know.

What's here? Longing and sleepless nights,
unknown streets and somebody's verse.
I live here as a nobody:
a Displaced Person.

I think of you. I know I must leave.
Perhaps we can return to our past,
but I know neither what youth will be like
nor where you are.

But I'm yours or no one's
forever. Listen,
listen, read this poem
if somewhere you are alive.

Time and Materials - Robert Hass


To make layers,
As if they were a steadiness of days:

It snowed; I did errands at a desk:
A white flurry out the window thickening; my tongue
Tasted of the glue on envelopes.

On this day sunlight on red brick, bare trees,
Nothing stirring in the icy air.

On this day a blur of color moving at the gym
Where the heat from bodies
Meets the watery, cold surface of the glass.

Made love, made curry, talked on the phone
To friends, the one whose brother died
Was crying and thinking alternately,
Like someone falling down and getting up
And running and falling and getting up.


The object of this poem is not to annihila

To not annih

The object of this poem is to report a theft,
In progress, of everything

That is not these words
And their disposition on the page.

The object o f this poem is to report a theft,
In progre ss of everything that exists
That is not th ese words
And their d isposition on the page.

The object of his poe is t epor a theft
In rogre f ever hing at xists
Th is no ese w rds
And their disp sit on o the pag


To score, to scar, to smear, to streak,
To smudge, to blur, to gouge, to scrape.

"Action painting," i.e.,
The painter gets to behave like time.


The typo would be "painting."

(To abrade.)


Or to render time and stand outside
The horizontal rush of it, for a moment
To have the sensation of standing outside
The greenish rush of it.


Some vertical gesture then, the way that anger
Or desire can rip a life apart,

Some wound of color.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

From 'Notes on the Sea's Existence' - Agha Shahid Ali

It pulls me to itself,
the reflection, no, not mine:
I know the water's fidelity,

its utter transparence. The sea
becomes me like nothing
else: I wear it like skin.

Who pulls me with such
ease? A dead ancestor,
a lost friend, or

the shell's hollow cry?
The weeds wrap me, like arms.
I'm pulled down, down, to the tip of the sky.

I hold the world as I drown.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Late Spring - W.S. Merwin

Coming into the high room again after years
after oceans and shadows of hills and the sounds of lies
after losses and feet on stairs

after looking and mistakes and forgetting
turning there thinking to find
no one except those I knew
finally I saw you
sitting in white
already waiting

you of whom I had heard
with my own ears since the beginning
for whom more than once
I have opened the door
believing you were not far

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Archipelago Of Kisses - Jeffrey McDaniel

We live in a modern society. Husbands and wives don't
grow on trees, like in the old days. So where
does one find love? When you're sixteen it's easy,
like being unleashed with a credit card
in a department store of kisses. There's the first kiss.
The sloppy kiss. The peck.
The sympathy kiss. The backseat smooch. The we
shouldn't be doing this kiss. The but your lips
taste so good kiss. The bury me in an avalanche of tingles kiss.
The I wish you'd quit smoking kiss.
The I accept your apology, but you make me really mad
sometimes kiss. The I know
your tongue like the back of my hand kiss. As you get
older, kisses become scarce. You'll be driving
home and see a damaged kiss on the side of the road,
with its purple thumb out. If you
were younger, you'd pull over, slide open the mouth's
red door just to see how it fits. Oh where
does one find love? If you rub two glances, you get a smile.
Rub two smiles, you get a warm feeling.
Rub two warm feelings and presto-you have a kiss.
Now what? Don't invite the kiss over
and answer the door in your underwear. It'll get suspicious
and stare at your toes. Don't water the kiss with whiskey.
It'll turn bright pink and explode into a thousand luscious splinters,
but in the morning it'll be ashamed and sneak out of
your body without saying good-bye,
and you'll remember that kiss forever by all the little cuts it left
on the inside of your mouth. You must
nurture the kiss. Turn out the lights. Notice how it
illuminates the room. Hold it to your chest
and wonder if the sand inside hourglasses comes from a
special beach. Place it on the tongue's pillow,
then look up the first recorded kiss in an encyclopedia: beneath
a Babylonian olive tree in 1200 B.C.
But one kiss levitates above all the others. The
intersection of function and desire. The I do kiss.
The I'll love you through a brick wall kiss.
Even when I'm dead, I'll swim through the Earth,
like a mermaid of the soil, just to be next to your bones.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Before - Sean O'Brien

Make over the alleys and gardens to birdsong,
The hour of not-for-an-hour. Lie still.
Leave the socks you forgot on the clothesline.
Leave slugs to make free with the pansies.
The jets will give Gatwick a miss
And from here you could feel the springs
Wake by the doorstep and under the precinct
Where now there is nobody frozenly waiting.
This is free time, in the sense that a handbill
Goes cartwheeling over the crossroads
Past stoplights rehearsing in private
And has neither witness nor outcome.
This is before the first bus has been late
Or the knickers sought under the bed
Or the first cigarette undertaken,
Before the first flush and cross word.
Viaducts, tunnels and motorways: still.
The mines and the Japanese sunrise: still.
The high bridges lean out in the wind
On the curve of their pinkening lights,
And the coast is inert as a model.
The wavebands are empty, the mail unimagined
And bacon still wrapped in the freezer
Like evidence aimed to intrigue our successors.
The island is dreamless, its slack-jawed insomniacs
Stunned by the final long shot of the movie,
Its murderers innocent, elsewhere.
The policemen have slipped from their helmets
And money forgets how to count.
In the bowels of Wapping the telephones
Shamelessly rest in their cradles.
The bomb in the conference centre's
A harmless confection of elements
Strapped to a duct like an art installation.
The Premiere sleeps in her fashion,
Her Majesty, all the princesses, tucked up
With the Bishops, the glueys, the DHSS,
In the People's Republic of Zeds.
And you sleep at my shoulder, the cat at your feet,
And deserve to be spared the irruption
Of if, but and ought, which is why
I declare this an hour of general safety
When even the personal monster -
Example, the Kraken - is dead to the world
Like the deaf submarines with their crewmen
Spark out at their fathomless consoles.
No one has died. There need be no regret,
For we do not exist, and I promise
I shall not wake anyone yet.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Love on the Farm - D.H. Lawrence

What large, dark hands are those at the window
Grasping in the golden light
Which weaves its way through the evening wind
At my heart's delight?

Ah, only the leaves! But in the west
I see a redness suddenly come
Into the evening's anxious breast —
'Tis the wound of love goes home!

The woodbine creeps abroad
Calling low to her lover:
The sunlit flirt who all the day
Has poised above her lips in play
And stolen kisses, shallow and gay
Of pollen, now has gone away —
She woos the moth with her sweet, low word;
And when above her his moth-wings hover
Then her bright breast she will uncover
And yield her honey-drop to her lover.

Into the yellow, evening glow
Saunters a man from the farm below;
Leans, and looks in at the low-built shed
Where the swallow has hung her marriage bed.
The bird lies warm against the wall.
She glances quick her startled eyes
Towards him, then she turns away
Her small head, making warm display
Of red upon the throat. Her terrors sway
Her out of the nest's warm, busy ball,
Whose plaintive cry is heard as she flies
In one blue stoop from out the sties
Into the twilight's empty hall.

Oh, water-hen, beside the rushes
Ride your quaintly scarlet blushes,
Still your quick tall, lie still as dead,
Till the distance folds over his ominous tread!

The rabbit presses back her ears,
Turns back her liquid, anguished eyes
And crouches low; then with wild spring
Spurts from the terror of his oncoming;
To be choked back, the wire ring
Her frantic effort throttling:
Piteous brown ball of quivering fears!
Ah, soon in his large, hard hands she dies,
And swings all loose from the swing of his walk!
Yet calm and kindly are his eyes
And ready to open in brown surprise
Should I not answer to his talk
Or should he my tears surmise.

I hear his hand on the latch, and rise from my chair
Watching the door open; he flashes bare
His strong teeth in a smile, and flashes his eyes
In a smile like triumph upon me; then careless-wise
He flings the rabbit soft on the table board
And comes towards me: ah! the uplifted sword
Of his hand against my bosom! and oh, the broad
Blade of his glance that asks me to applaud
His coming! With his hand he turns my face to him
And caresses me with his fingers that still smell grim
Of the rabbit's fur! God, I am caught in a snare!
I know not what fine wire is round my throat;
I only know I let him finger there
My pulse of life, and let him nose like a stoat
Who sniffs with joy before he drinks the blood.

And down his mouth comes to my mouth! and down
His bright dark eyes come over me, like a hood
Upon my mind! his lips meet mine, and a flood
Of sweet fire sweeps across me, so I drown
Against him, die, and find death good.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rock and Hawk - Robinson Jeffers

Here is a symbol in which
Many high tragic thoughts
Watch their own eyes.

This gray rock, standing tall
On the headland, where the seawind
Lets no tree grow,

Earthquake-proved, and signatured
By ages of storms: on its peak
A falcon has perched.

I think, here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,

But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final

Life with calm death; the falcon's
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive

Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Possible City - Joel Toledo

For Doc Ed, who stayed

Of all the things we had found
in that twilight we never did catch
until the last day, homebound,
we'd all remember
this one: the glint of a beer can
washed up on the shore.

All of us welcomed its arrival;
it swaggered its way towards us
from beyond the horizon
whose day-glow and contours
we had all memorized.
It was just there--eyeing us
in the disappearing sun's playful ember,
like the god of mischief himself.
Brewed by the sea
and now cradled by the foam
but empty,
past the islets of rocks
and the careless tip-toeing.

We had hoped it was still unopened,
that some good-spirited genie was inside,
keeping the key to this twilight place,
this unmapped island of Bacchus,
this possible city drunk from too much sea.
Our wishes would have been as unanimous
as the wicked grin brimming on our faces.

We lined up on the seawall much, much later,
the last drops of once-bottled sentiments
now spilt on each other's tongues.
There was nothing else but the whispering waves
and the imagined tink of a beer can
occasionally hitting the rocks:
now filled, now half-filled,
now empty.

Monday, November 16, 2009

If I Believe - E.E. Cummings

if i believe
in death be sure
of this
it is

because you have loved me,
moon and sunset
stars and flowers
gold crescendo and silver muting

of seatides
i trusted not,
one night
when in my fingers

drooped your shining body
when my heart
sang between your perfect

darkness and beauty of stars
was on my mouth petals danced
against my eyes
and down

the singing reaches of
my soul
the green--

greeting pale
departing irrevocable
i knew thee death.

and when
i have offered up each fragrant
night,when all my days
shall have before a certain

face become

from the ashes
thou wilt rise and thou
wilt come to her and brush

the mischief from her eyes and fold
mouth the new
flower with

thy unimaginable
wings,where dwells the breath
of all persisting stars

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Curiosity - Alastair Reid

may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.

Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.

Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die--
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.

Only the curious have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.

Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Untitled - Allan Peterson

I remember being made
to stand in the corner for punishment
because it would be dull and empty
and I would be sorry.
But instead it was a museum of small wonders,
a place of three walls
with a weather my breath influenced,
an archaeology of layers, of painted molding,
a meadow as we called them then
of repeatable pale roses,
an eight-eyed spider in a tear of wallpaper
turning my corner.
The texture. The soft echo if I talked,
if I said I am not bad if this is the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Winter - John Burnside

Imagine I loved you still and nights like these
were visitations,
an endless Pentecost of lips and hands
and bodies resurrected in their beds,
not mine, or yours, but given, like a snowfall.

Out in the dark, the woods are from a map
that someone has left unfinished: hand-coloured signs
for birch, or deer, and nothing to explain
the new red of a kill, or how the silence
wells around a fallen sycamore;

But here, where we lie down in differing weather,
the night fades on our skins while we are dreaming,
and winter is the self, day after day,
ghosting a life from the nothing it knows by heart.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Limits - Jorge Luis Borges

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Need Me Less And I'll Want You More - Marilyn Hacker

You did say, need me less and I'll want you more.
I'm still shellshocked at needing anyone,
used to being used to it on my own.
It won't be me out on the tiles till four-
thirty, while you're in bed, willing the door
open with your need. You wanted her then,
more. Because you need to, I woke alone
in what's not yet our room, strewn, though, with your
guitar, shoes, notebook, socks, trousers enjambed
with mine. Half the world was sleeping it off
in every other bed under my roof.
I wish I had a roof over my bed
to pull down on my head when I feel damned
by wanting you so much it looks like need.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Invisible Dreams - Toi Derricotte

La poesie vit d’insomnie perpetuelle
—René Char

There’s a sickness in me. During
the night I wake up & it’s brought

a stain into my mouth, as if
an ocean has risen & left back

a stink on the rocks of my teeth.
I stink. My mouth is ugly, human

stink. A color like rust
is in me. I can’t get rid of it.

It rises after I
brush my teeth, a taste

like iron. In the
night, left like a dream,

a caustic light
washing over the insides of me.


What to do with my arms? They
coil out of my body

like snakes.
They branch & spit.

I want to shake myself
until they fall like withered

roots; until
they bend the right way—

until I fit in them,
or they in me.

I have to lay them down as
carefully as an old wedding dress,

I have to fold them
like the arms of someone dead.

The house is quiet; all
night I struggle. All

because of my arms,
which have no peace!


I’m a martyr, a girl who’s been dead
two thousand years. I turn

on my left side, like one comfortable
after a long, hard death.

The angels look down
tenderly. “She’s sleeping,” they say

& pass me by. But
all night, I am passing

in & out of my body
on my naked feet.


I’m awake when I’m sleeping & I’m
sleeping when I’m awake, & no one

knows, not even me, for my eyes
are closed to myself.

I think I am thinking I see
a man beside me, & he thinks

in his sleep that I’m awake
writing. I hear a pen scratch

a paper. There is some idea
I think is clever: I want to

capture myself in a book.


I have to make a
place for my body in

my body. I’m like a
dog pawing a blanket

on the floor. I have to
turn & twist myself

like a rag until I
can smell myself in myself.

I’m sweating; the water is
pouring out of me

like silver. I put my head
in the crook of my arm

like a brilliant moon.


The bones of my left foot
are too heavy on the bones

of my right. They
lie still for a little while,

sleeping, but soon they
bruise each other like

angry twins. Then
the bones of my right foot

command the bones of my left
to climb down.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Homesteading - Jack Gilbert

It would be easy if the spirit
was reasonable, was old.
But there is a stubborn gladness.
Summer air idling in the elms.
Silence hunting in the towering
storms of heaven. Thirty-two
swans in a København dusk.
The swan bleeding to death
slowly in a Greek kitchen.
A man leaves the makeshift
restaurant plotting his improvidence.
Something voiceless flies lovely
over an empty landscape.
He wanders on the way
to whoever he will become.
Passion leaves us single and safe.
The other fervor leaves us
at risk, in love, and alone.
Married sometimes forever.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Exceptions and Melancholies - Ralph Angel

Never before
had we been so thin and so clear
and arranged always
and in the same way gazing and listening
over the rooftops
to tin cans of flowers and strange
music. For an hour or more
I turned the same corner
and felt like a criminal farther and farther out to sea
among the racks of shoes and old clothes
but now looking
back I should never have
unpacked. A street
crowned with chestnut trees
ends at the sewer. You go to a theatre
and find yourself a house
outside the city
and walk the shore
forever. I don't have much
talent for poetry. When I see a wrecking ball
dangling from a crane I mean it
literally. I mean
I don't mean the world's fallen apart
or that a wrecking ball
symbolizes the eye my world-weary sister
couldn't know to turn away
from. The hospital's
exhausted. The little church is boarded up.
We leaned against the limestone
and liked the fact that tea
sweetens gradually
and that the wildflowers
beneath the shade of trees gone shivering
have really livened up the cemetery
and that the tall grass and the garbage
and especially the piled-up
newspapers and the rooftop pool
fit right in among
these windowless buildings
having gathered
as we are in the flesh again
and leading another life

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ode to Psyche - John Keats

Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
Even unto thine own soft-conched ear:
Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see
The winged Psyche with awaken'd eyes?
I wander'd in a forest thoughtlessly,
And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
Saw two fair creatures, couched side by side
In deepest grass, beneath the whisp'ring roof
Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran
A brooklet, scarce espied:
'Mid hush'd cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian,
They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass;
Their arms embraced, and their pinions too;
Their lips touch'd not, but had not bade adieu,
As if disjoined by soft-handed slumber,
And ready still past kisses to outnumber
At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love:
The winged boy I knew;
But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
His Psyche true!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Postcard from Kashmir - Agha Shahid Ali

Kashmir shrinks into my mailbox,
my home a neat four by six inches.

I always loved neatness. Now I hold
the half-inch Himalayas in my hand.

This is home. And this the closest
I'll ever be to home. When I return,
the colors won't be so brilliant,
the Jhelum's waters so clean,
so ultramarine. My love
so overexposed.

And my memory will be a little
out of focus, it in
a giant negative, black
and white, still undeveloped.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Slow Children at Play - Cecilia Woloch

All the quick children have gone inside, called
by their mothers to hurry-up-wash-your-hands
honey-dinner’s-getting-cold, just-wait-till-your-father-gets-home-

and only the slow children out on the lawns, marking off
paths between fireflies, making soft little sounds with their mouths, ohs, that glow and go out and glow. And their slow mothers flickering,
pale in the dusk, watching them turn in the gentle air, watching them
twirling, their arms spread wide, thinking, These are my children, thinking,
Where is their dinner? Where has their father gone?

The Deer - B.H. Fairchild

Amid the note cards and long, yellow legal pads, the late
nineteenth-century journals containing poems by Swinburne or
Rossetti or Lionel Johnson, the Yeats edition of Blake with its
faded green cover and beveled edges, I and the other readers in
the British Library began to feel an odd presence. We lifted our
eyes in unison to observe the two small deer that had entered
the room so quietly, so very discreetly, the music of their
entering suspended above us, inaudible, but there, truly, as the
deer were there. They paused, we could hear their breathing,
or so it seemed, and no one moved. What could we do, there
were deer in the room, and now hundreds of deer reflected in
our eyes. The silence was unbearable at first, and the librarian
in the linen blouse, her long fingers trembling, began to weep.
The deer sensed this and, without seeming to move at all,
came closer, licking her elbows, sniffing the soapy fragrance
in the well of her neck, staring into her watery eyes. At some
point beyond memory we could no longer distinguish her from
the deer, it was all stillness anyway, everywhere the silence
covered us like a silken net, and the books began to darken and
crumble with age. We had all found our place, our eyes were
full of deer, and our sadness was without cease.

On Stone - Jack Gilbert

The monks petition to live the harder way,
in pits dug farther up the mountain,
but only the favored ones are permitted
that scraped life. The syrup-water and cakes
the abbot served me were far too sweet.
A simple misunderstanding of pleasure
because of inexperience. I pull water up
hand over hand from thirty feet of stone.
My kerosene lamp burns a mineral light.
The mind and its fierceness lives here in silence.
I dream of women and hunger in my valley
for what can be made of granite. Like the sun
hammering this earth into pomegranates
and grapes. Dryness giving way to the smell
of basil at night. Otherwise, the stone
feeds on stone, is reborn as rock,
and the heart wanes. Athena's owl calling
into the barrenness, and nothing answering.

My Love - Richard Shelton

when the crows fly away
with their compassion
and I remain to eat
whatever is left of my heart

I think of my love
with the odor of salt
of my love who holds me in her eyes
as if I were whole and beautiful

and I think of those
who walk the streets all night
frantic with desire and bruised
by the terrible small lips of rain

I touch you
as a blind man touches the dice
and finds he has won

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What I See - Muriel Rukeyser

Lie there, in sweat and dream, I do, and “there”
Is here, my bed, on which I dream
You, lying there, on yours, locked, pouring love,
While I tormented here see in my reins
you, perfectly at climax. And the lion strikes.
I want you with whatever obsessions come—
I wanted your obsession to be mine
But if it is that unknown half-suggested strange
Other figure locked in your climax, then
I here, I want you and the other, want your obsession,
Whatever is locked into you now while I sweat and

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nest of Devils - Matthew Francis

When we moved into the old house
we found a nest of devils in the cellar,
like cats with horns and covered in red fur.

They were too fast to catch.
you had to watch their spiked tails,
and one of them gave me a painful bite.

It was only defending its young, I suppose,
the little devils. Their eyes weren't open yet.
At night the mother devil sang to them.

There was always a lot of noise in that cellar.
They spoke Latin or some language
that was all long words and clanging sounds,

like dropping something heavier than aitches.
Sometimes they came upstairs at night
and we heard them whispering on the landing.

A man from the council came but they liked the poison.
A priest came and told them to get behind him,
and a few Hell's Angels came to worship them.

We thought they'd lower the value of the house.
They were a fire risk, anyway. Sometimes
things burst into flame when they touched them,

but they always looked guilty. (Or was that just their colour?)
I used to think they were trying to communicate.
They would stare very hard and wave their pitchforks.

And then one morning they were gone.
Perhaps the cellar got too cold for them
or too many people had told them to go to hell.

But some nights I pause as I pass the cellar
thinking maybe the species has been misunderstood,
and what if right now I smelt brimstone behind the door –

would I be tempted to leave them there? You know, I think I would.

I Have No Gun But I Can Spit - W.H. Auden

Some thirty inches from my nose
The frontier of my Person goes,
And all the untilled air between
Is private pagus or demesne.
Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes
I beckon you to fraternize,
Beware of rudely crossing it:
I have no gun, but I can spit.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dirty Valentine - Richard Siken

There are so many things I'm not allowed to tell you.
I touch myself, I dream.
Wearing your clothes or standing in the shower for over an hour, pretending
that this skin is your skin, these hands your hands,
these shins, these soapy flanks.
The musicians start the overture while I hide behind the microphone,
trying to match the dubbing
to the big lips shining down from the screen.
We're filming the movie called Planet of Love-
there's sex of course, and ballroom dancing,
fancy clothes and waterlilies in the pond, and half the night you're
a dependable chap, mounting the stairs in lamplight to the bath, but then
the too white teeth all night,
all over the American sky, too much to bear, this constant fingering,
your hands a river gesture, the birds in flight, the birds still singing
outside the greasy window, in the trees.
There's a part in the movie
where you can see right through the acting,
where you can tell that I'm about to burst into tears,
right before I burst into tears
and flee to the slimy moonlit riverbed
canopied with devastated clouds.
We're shooting the scene where
I swallow your heart and you make me
spit it up again. I swallow your heart and it crawls
right out of my mouth.
You swallow my heart and flee, but I want it back now, baby. I want it back.
Lying on the sofa with my eyes closed, I didn't want to see it this way,
everything eating everything in the end.
We know how the light works,
we know where the sound is coming from.
Verse. Chorus. Verse.
I'm sorry. We know how it works. The world is no longer mysterious

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reports from the Palace - Ian McBryde

The abandoned hospital
was a godsend. We are
exhausted, and short on hope.


Dusty coverlets on carefully
made beds stretching
down the many wards.


Those of us with
training in medicine
have been taken aside
and whispered to.


October. No word from you.
The old cities glowing
sickly, remotely, to the east.


Armed guards
around the morphine.


Seasons slowing down.
Two of the scouts
have still not returned.


As yet there have
been no relays from
the south tower.


In the emergency bay
someone has erected
a sculpture fashioned
from used syringes.


The ravaged, upper sections
sealed off. No one allowed
above the third level.


Nightly, a rage of flame
on the horizon. The smell
of temples on fire.


Linen missing. Frost
on a heap of wheelchairs
stacked in the back field.


Another scout gone.
The meeting reset
for tomorrow.


Just before dawn.
All my transmissions
to you coming back
to me, unanswered.


Someone has been
on the roof again.
Footprints. Palmprints.
Evidence of signaling.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ten Ways to Avoid Lending Your Wheelbarrow to Anybody - Adrian Mitchell


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
I didn't lay down my life in World War II
so that you could borrow my wheelbarrow.


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
Unfortunately Lord Goodman is using it.


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
It is too mighty a conveyance to be wielded
by any mortal save myself.


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
My wheelbarrow is reserved for religious ceremonies.


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
I would sooner be broken on its wheel
and buried in its barrow.


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
I am dying of schizophrenia
and all you can talk about is wheelbarrows.


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
Do you think I'm made of wheelbarrows?


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
It is full of blood.


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
Only if I can fuck your wife in it.


May I borrow your wheelbarrow?
What is a wheelbarrow?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Cast of a Smokestack - Adam Atkinson

It's the future, and there are future men
in jumpsuits walking through a forest
behind a little future girl's house.

They've just excavated an enormous
smokestack from underground, and they're carrying it
away with laserbeams. The little girl's parents
get big bags of money from the government,
and the mother is jumping up and down.

When everything calms down, the little girl slips
away to the forest clearing. It is the largest hole
she has ever seen. Looking at the hole is like looking down
the barrel of a gun, but there aren't any guns in the future
so the girl climbs in like an innocent little bullet.

The shape of the smokestack's ladder, scaling
the height of the hole, is perfectly preserved in a cast
of soil, leaving little notches for little fingers.
Each day the girl climbs down a little further before
she second guesses herself and climbs up again.

Finally she reaches the bottom, and it smells like chemicals,
but things don't smell like chemicals in the future
so she lights a match to get a better look and bursts into flame.
The girl is now a hot cloud of smoke, shooting into the sky
at rapid speed. She expands and expands until she looms.

The little future girl has never loomed before. Everyone
looks up at the only dark cloud in the clean future sky;
her mother, her father, her dog, the future men in pantsuits
who are now in a neighbor's forest and have put down
their laserbeams to look up, everyone. It's the best feeling.

The girl knows she will die soon, but for now she expands
and expands. She looks down on the earth and watches
as her shadow grows larger than any of the holes in the ground.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Archaeology - W. H. Auden

The archaeologist's spade
delves into dwellings
vacancied long ago,

unearthing evidence
of life-ways no one
would dream of leading now,

concerning which he has not much
to say that he can prove:
the lucky man!

Knowledge may have its purposes,
but guessing is always
more fun than knowing.

We do know that Man,
from fear or affection,
has always graved His dead.

What disastered a city,
volcanic effusion,
fluvial outrage,

or a human horde,
agog for slaves and glory,
is visually patent,

and we're pretty sure that,
as soon as places were built,
their rulers,

though gluttoned on sex
and blanded by flattery,
must often have yawned.

But do grain-pits signify
a year of famine?
Where a coin-series

peters out, should we infer
some major catastrophe?
Maybe. Maybe.

From murals and statues
we get a glimpse of what
the Old Ones bowed down to,

but cannot conceit
in what situations they blushed
or shrugged their shoulders.

Poets have learned us their myths,
but just how did They take them?
That's a stumper.

When Norsemen heard thunder,
did they seriously believe
Thor was hammering?

No, I'd say: I'd swear
that men have always lounged in myths
as Tall Stories,

that their real earnest
has been to grant excuses
for ritual actions.

Only in rites
can we renounce our oddities
and be truly entired.

Not that all rites
should be equally fonded:
some are abominable.

There's nothing the Crucified
would like less
than butchery to appease Him.


From Archaeology
one moral, at least, may be drawn,
to wit, that all

our school text-books lie.
What they call History
is nothing to vaunt of,

being made, as it is,
by the criminal in us:
goodness is timeless.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Water Picture - May Swenson

In the pond in the park
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and
wriggle gently. Chimneys
are bent legs bouncing
on clouds below. A flag
wags like a fishhook
down there in the sky.

The arched stone bridge
is an eye, with underlid
in the water. In its lens
dip crinkled heads with hats
that don't fall off. Dogs go by,
barking on their backs.
A baby, taken to feed the
ducks, dangles upside-down,
a pink balloon for a buoy.

Treetops deploy a haze of
cherry bloom for roots,
where birds coast belly-up
in the glass bowl of a hill;
from its bottom a bunch
of peanut-munching children
is suspended by their
sneakers, waveringly.

A swan, with twin necks
forming the figure 3,
steers between two dimpled
towers doubled. Fondly
hissing, she kisses herself,
and all the scene is troubled:
water-windows splinter,
tree-limbs tangle, the bridge
folds like a fan.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sonnet 116 - William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Evacuation - Mitsuye Yamada

As we boarded the bus
bags on both sides
(I had never packed
two bags before
on a vacation
lasting forever)
the Seattle Times
photographer said
so obediently I smiled
and the caption the next day
Note smiling faces
a lesson to Tokyo.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Idiot Thoughts - Feng Menglong

My handsome fatal foe,
why are you gone so long?
I can’t stop my heart from trembling, missing you.
You put some sugar on the tip of my nose.
I cannot lick it,
though it smells so nice.
You leave something sweet behind
and let me think about it slowly.