Thursday, June 25, 2009

Letter from Town: On a Grey Morning in March - D.H. Lawrence

The clouds are pushing in grey reluctance slowly northward to you,
While north of them all, at the farthest ends, stands one
bright-bosomed, aglance
With fire as it guards the wild north cloud-coasts, red-fire
seas running through
The rocks where ravens flying to windward melt as a well-shot lance.

You should be out by the orchard, where violets secretly darken the earth,
Or there in the woods of the twilight, with northern
wind-flowers shaken astir.
Think of me here in the library, trying and trying a song that is worth
Tears and swords to my heart, arrows no armour will turn or deter.

You tell me the lambs have come, they lie like daisies white in the grass
Of the dark-green hills; new calves in shed; peewits turn after the plough -
It is well for you. For me the navvies work in the road where I pass
And I want to smite in anger the barren rock of each waterless brow.

Like the sough of a wind that is caught up high in the mesh
of the budding trees,
A sudden car goes sweeping past, and I strain my soul to hear
The voice of the furtive triumphant engine as it rushes past like a breeze,
To hear on its mocking triumphance unwitting the after-echo of fear.

The Marriage of Faustus and Helen - Hart Crane


The mind has shown itself at times
Too much the baked and labeled dough
Divided by accepted multitudes.
Across the stacked partitions of the day—
Across the memoranda, baseball scores,
The stenographic smiles and stock quotations
Smutty wings flash out equivocations.

The mind is brushed by sparrow wings;
Numbers, rebuffed by asphalt, crowd
The margins of the day, accent the curbs,
Convoying divers dawns on every corner
To druggist, barber and tobacconist,
Until the graduate opacities of evening
Take them away as suddenly to somewhere
Virginal perhaps, less fragmentary, cool.

There is the world dimensional for
those untwisted by the love of things
irreconcilable ...

And yet, suppose some evening I forgot
The fare and transfer, yet got by that way
Without recall,—lost yet poised in traffic.
Then I might find your eyes across an aisle,
Still flickering with those prefigurations—
Prodigal, yet uncontested now,
Half-riant before the jerky window frame.

There is some way, I think, to touch
Those hands of yours that count the nights
Stippled with pink and green advertisements.
And now, before its arteries turn dark
I would have you meet this bartered blood.
Imminent in his dream, none better knows
The white wafer cheek of love, or offers words
Lightly as moonlight on the eaves meets snow.

Reflective conversion of all things
At your deep blush, when ecstasies thread
The limbs and belly, when rainbows spread
Impinging on the throat and sides ...
Inevitable, the body of the world
Weeps in inventive dust for the hiatus
That winks above it, bluet in your breasts.

The earth may glide diaphanous to death;
But if I lift my arms it is to bend
To you who turned away once, Helen, knowing
The press of troubled hands, too alternate
With steel and soil to hold you endlessly.
I meet you, therefore, in that eventual flame
You found in final chains, no captive then—
Beyond their million brittle, bloodshot eyes;
White, through white cities passed on to assume
That world which comes to each of us alone.
Accept a lone eye riveted to your plane,
Bent axle of devotion along companion ways
That beat, continuous, to hourless days—
One inconspicuous, glowing orb of praise.


Brazen hypnotics glitter here;
Glee shifts from foot to foot,
Magnetic to their tremulo.
This crashing opera bouffe,
Blest excursion! this ricochet
From roof to roof—
Know, Olympians, we are breathless
While nigger cupids scour the stars!

A thousand light shrugs balance us
Through snarling hails of melody.
White shadows slip across the floor
Splayed like cards from a loose hand;
Rhythmic ellipses lead into canters
Until somewhere a rooster banters.

Greet naively—yet intrepidly
New soothings, new amazements
That cornets introduce at every turn—
And you may fall downstairs with me
With perfect grace and equanimity.
Or, plaintively scud past shores
Where, by strange harmonic laws
All relatives, serene and cool,
Sit rocked in patent armchairs.

O,I have known metallic paradises
Where cuckoos clucked to finches
Above the deft catastrophes of drums.
While titters hailed the groans of death
Beneath gyrating awnings I have seen
The incunabula of the divine grotesque.
This music has a reassuring way.

The siren of the springs of guilty song—
Let us take her on the incandescent wax
Striated with nuances, nervosities
That we are heir to: she is still so young,
We cannot frown upon her as she smiles,
Dipping here in this cultivated storm
Among slim skaters of the gardened skies.


Capped arbiter of beauty in this street
That narrows darkly into motor dawn,—
You, here beside me, delicate ambassador
Of intricate slain numbers that arise
In whispers, naked of steel;
religious gunman!
Who faithfully, yourself, will fall too soon,
And in other ways than as the wind settles
On the sixteen thrifty bridges of the city:
Let us unbind our throats of fear and pity.

We even,
Who drove speediest destruction
In corymbulous formations of mechanics,—
Who hurried the hill breezes, spouting malice
Plangent over meadows, and looked down
On rifts of torn and empty houses
Like old women with teeth unjubilant
That waited faintly, briefly and in vain:

We know, eternal gunman, our flesh remembers
The tensile boughs, the nimble blue plateaus,
The mounted, yielding cities of the air!

That saddled sky that shook down vertical
Repeated play of fire—no hypogeum
Of wave or rock was good against one hour.
We did not ask for that, but have survived,
And will persist to speak again before
All stubble streets that have not curved
To memory, or known the ominous lifted arm
That lowers down the arc of Helen’s brow
To saturate with blessing and dismay.

A goose, tobacco and cologne
Three winged and gold-shod prophecies of heaven,
The lavish heart shall always have to leaven
And spread with bells and voices, and atone
The abating shadows of our conscript dust.

Anchises’ navel, dripping of the sea,—
The hands Erasmus dipped in gleaming tides,
Gathered the voltage of blown blood and vine;
Delve upward for the new and scattered wine,
O brother-thief of time, that we recall.
Laugh out the meager penance of their days
Who dare not share with us the breath released,
The substance drilled and spent beyond repair
For golden, or the shadow of gold hair.

Distinctly praise the years, whose volatile
Blamed bleeding hands extend and thresh the height
The imagination spans beyond despair,
Outpacing bargain, vocable and prayer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When I Can’t Sleep - Dorianne Laux

I listen to the boxcars coupling, the exhaled crush like air
squeezed through a ragged metal hole or wind unwinding

in an abandoned drainage pipe, like the one we used to hide in
when we were kids, drawing cocks dripping tears with a stolen

lipstick, rippling vaginas with a black magic marker, scrubbing
our names onto the pocked cement with broken coal, dusk making

a cameo at one end of the tunnel. A rough thunder. A sluggish
crash. The undercarriage screech. If I close my eyes I can see

blue sparks the steel wheels make as they grind the rails. The smell
of oil mixed with dust. Weeds between the ties bend low, blown

sideways in the gust, then pop back up and stand there like nothing
happened. Saddest sound in the universe: coupling. Like loneliness

itself. Something about the yielding machinery and the stuff of bodies
hurtling through space. Nothing emptier than an empty boxcar, doors

cranked open on both sides, the blurred landscape rushing through,
warehouses, backyards, slipping by.

The Wound - Judith H Montgomery

has come to visit, dragging its little wheeled cart
of sharp-eyed needles, blanched bandages behind.
The Wound parks its load by an appalled sofa,
clambers awkward up the tea table’s shrinking
legs. Squats close by the sugar bowl, smack
in the center of the tray. Fine bone china cups
tremble in their saucers. Unattended sweetcakes
flinch away. The Wound, the color of liver, rolls
over to reveal its split belly. All available light
sucks toward that begging heart. Which pulses
like lips about to stutter. In the airless air, a quiver,
a thumping murmur: within the bone cages hung
about the parlor, each attending heart begins
to stammer, beat for beat a match to the Wound’s.
Teatime worries into muted dusk. The guests, too,
mute. The locked cart of bandages and balm hums.
Hums and glows. Hitched exactly out of reach.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Witch Burning - Sylvia Plath

In the marketplace they are piling the dry sticks.
A thicket of shadows is a poor coat. I inhabit
The wax image of myself, a doll's body.
Sickness begins here: I am a dartboard for witches.
Only the devil can eat the devil out.
In the month of red leaves I climb to a bed of fire.

It is easy to blame the dark: the mouth of a door,
The cellar's belly. They've blown my sparkler out.
A black-sharded lady keeps me in a parrot cage.
What large eyes the dead have!
I am intimate with a hairy spirit.
Smoke wheels from the beak of this empty jar.

If I am a little one, I can do no harm.
If I don't move about, I'll knock nothing over. So I said,
Sitting under a potlid, tiny and inert as a rice grain.
They are turning the burners up, ring after ring.
We are full of starch, my small white fellows. We grow.
It hurts at first. The red tongues will teach the truth.

Mother of beetles, only unclench your hand:
I'll fly through the candle's mouth like a singeless moth.
Give me back my shape. I am ready to construe the days
I coupled with dust in the shadow of a stone.
My ankles brighten. Brightness ascends my thighs.
I am lost, I am lost, in the robes of all this light.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Surrender - Dorianne Laux

Supine under branches
and blossoms, eavesdropping
on a hummingbird,
the high-pitched flutter
of her seed-sized heart.
Drunk on the scent of apricots.
My spine's thirty-three stones
lined up on the new grass.

I'm a rosy dot on a map's
patch of green, my naked toes
pointing east below gobbets
of buttery sun. Between journeys,
obstacles: water and rock, iron
and chalk dust, the white ribs
of the fence and the gopher's
freshly dug holes.

Petals in tatters on my bare thigh.
the screen door's wheeze
doesn't bother me, the news
still rolled in its red rubber band.

Right now I'm nowhere and no one
cares. Nothing needs me but the dirt
beneath me. The sky gazes down
and doesn't see me. Even the wind

is like a mother, thinking of her lover,
as she parts my hair.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Describing Paintings - Adam Zagajewski

We usually catch only a few details —
grapes from the seventeenth century,
still fresh and gleaming,
perhaps a fine ivory fork,
or a cross's wood and drops of blood,
and great suffering that has already dried.
The shiny parquet creaks.
We're in a strange town —
almost always in a strange town.
Somewhere a guard stands and yawns.
An ash branch sways outside the window.
It's absorbing,
describing static paintings.
Scholars devote tomes to it.
But we're alive,
full of memory and thought,
love, sometimes regret,
and at moments we take a special pride
because the future cries in us
and its tumult makes us human.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Love After Love - Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sonnet XVII - Pablo Neruda

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Narcissists Anonymous - Teresa Leo

A jackal among hedgehogs. At the meeting,
N. looked around, not sure why him,

why he was forced to occupy a room
with these almost-but-not-quite paragons

of beauty, all magnificently groomed,
but whacked in a way he knew he was not.

And N. knew their grooming was the artifice
of grooming, the way some animals lick their paws clean

after stepping in shit. But they visually appealed
and he didn't mind looking at them,

one in particular, the more-and-better
of her elongated neck, the kind men sculpt statues

to immortalize, in the row before him.
When her neck moved, the woman's shirt moved,

lifted to show the black line of a G-string
and the tip of an angel tattoo. N. liked the way

the wing's veins etched low on the woman's hip,
the dark lines that arced in and out of view.

He liked imagining the tattoo's complexity,
the pain it must have caused her,

and began thinking of ways he'd follow the neck,
from curve to hip, cast the angel earthward

before the night was through. Then, N. got distracted
by the pristine condition of his own hands,

the length and width of his delicate fingers.
He thought of how the woman

would notice his hands first, the way all women did,
and how she'd be unable to stop herself

from thinking about what those fingers
would feel like inside her, which would force her

to shift in her seat, which would raise her shirt,
expose the G-string, and play in N.'s mind

like the opening of a sonata, which in turn would
thunderbolt down his torso to the backs of his knees,

and, for a second, feel something like shame.
It passed. The meeting broke. The woman

stood and turned. He was already thinking
of the beautiful and various ways he could leave her.