Friday, July 31, 2009

The Copious Dark - Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

She used to love the darkness, how it brought
Closer the presence of flesh, the white arms and breast
Of a stranger in a railway carriage a dim glow—
Or the time when the bus drew up at a woodland corner
And a young black man jumped off, and a shade
Moved among shades to embrace him under the leaves—

Every frame of a lit window, the secrets bared—
Books packed warm on a wall—each blank shining blind,
Each folded hush of shutters without a glimmer,
Even the sucked-sweet tones of neon reflected in rain
In insomniac towns, boulevards where the odd light step
Was a man walking alone: they would all be kept,

Those promises, for people not yet in sight:
Wellsprings she still kept searching for after the night
When every wall turned yellow. Questing she roamed
After the windows she loved, and again they showed
The back rooms of bakeries, the clean engine-rooms and all
The floodlit open yards where a van idled by a wall,

A wall as long as life, as long as work.
The blighted
Shuttered doors in the wall are too many to scan—
As many as the horses in the royal stable, as the lighted
Candles in the grand procession? Who can explain
Why the wasps are asleep in the dark in their numbered holes
And the lights shine all night in the hospital corridors?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Bowl Of Warm Air – Moniza Alvi

Someone is falling towards you
as an apple falls from a branch,
moving slowly, imperceptibly, as if
into a new political epoch,
or excitedly like a dog towards a bone.
he is holding in both hands
everything he knows he has-
a bowl of warm air.

He has sighted you from afar
as if you were a dramatic crooked tree
on the horizon and he has seen you close up
like the underside of a mushroom.
but he cannot open you like a newspaper
or put you down like a newspaper.

And you are satisfied that he is veering towards you
and that he is adjusting his speed
and that the sun and the wind and rain are in front of him
and the sun and the wind and rain are behind him.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Bitterness - Mary Oliver

I believe you did not have a happy life.
I believe you were cheated.
I believe your best friends were loneliness
and misery.
I believe your busiest enemies were anger
and depression.
I believe joy was a game you could never
play without stumbling.
I believe comfort, though you craved it, was forever a stranger.
I believe music had to be melancholy or not at all.
I believe no trinket, no precious metal, shone so bright as your
I believe you lay down at last none the wiser and unassuaged.
Oh, cold and dreamless under wild, amoral, reckless, peaceful flowers of the hillsides.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Night songs and day songs - Jack Gilbert

Light is too bare, too simple for her. She has lived
in the darkness so long, she prefers it. Sits among
the shrubs in the woods at night, singing of Orpheus,
who sings prettily but innocently. She knows we are
rendered by time, by pain and desire, so makes a home
always in the present. He still dotes on what was lost
and the losing of it, his cracked voice singing of his
young voice singing about love. The dark has derived
an excitement from her. Eurydice sings of passion
as a foreign country. Says candles made from birds
and tigers, from tallow of fox and snake, burn with
a troubling radiance. Orpheus sings about the smell
of basil growing in the rusting five-gallon can
on the wall between his vineyard and the well.
Eurydice tells of animals searching each other
on the bed meanwhile, shameful and vibrant.
He sings of soup cooking in the dented pot.
Of how fine it was out there in the stony fields,
eating and grieving and solitary year after year.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Thing Is - Ellen Bass

To love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Thought on His Desire for Three Days - Linda Gregg

“I draw circles around me and holy boundaries” – Nietzsche

I chose this man, consciously, deliberately.
I thought on his desire for three days
and then said yes. In return, it was summer.
We lay on the grass in the dark and he placed
his hand on my stomach while the others
sang quietly. It was prodigious to know
his eagerness. It made me smile calmly.
That was the merging of opposite powers.
He followed me everywhere, from room to room.
Every single thing was joyous: storms, meals,
the story about the face that was the world.
There was the sound of Chicago buses stopping
near my house according to winter, summer,
raining. Shadows moved over the floor
as the sun went across the sky. I was a secret
there because you were married. I am here
to tell you I did not mind. Existence
was more valuable than that. When I was
a very young woman. I wrote: A new spirit/
I have a new spirit/I made it myself/I dance
now alone before the mirror/There is a flower.
The leaves are a little sad/No light comes
out of the black part/with its five purple
dots of color/near the center/Oh, my dead thing/
I have a new spirit/I made it myself
. In Chicago,
a police siren ran through my heart even though
it was not for me. I was strong, I knew where
I was. I knew what I had achieved. When the wife
called and said I was a whore, I was quiet,
but inside I said, “perhaps.” It has been raining
all night. Summer rain. The liveliness of it keeps
me awake. I am so happy to have lived.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Colours - Yevgeny Yevtuschenko

When your face
appeared over my crumpled life
at first I understood
only the poverty of what I have.
Then its particular light
on woods, on rivers, on the sea,
became my beginning in the coloured world
in which I had not yet had my beginning.
I am so frightened, I am so frightened,
of the unexpected sunrise finishing,
of revelations
and tears and the excitement finishing.
I don't fight it, my love is this fear,
I nourish it who can nourish nothing,
love's slipshod watchman.
Fear hems me in.
I am conscious that these minutes are short
and that the colours in my eyes will vanish
when your face sets.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Holy Longing - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
Because the massman will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
What longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
Where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
A strange feeling comes over you
When you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
In the obsession with darkness,
And a desire for higher love-making
Sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter,
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
And, finally, insane for the light,
You are the butterfly and you are gone.

And so long as you haven't experienced
This: to die and so to grow,
You are only a troubled guest
On the dark earth.

The Art of Poetry - Jorge Luis Borges

To gaze at a river made of time and water
And remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness—such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there’s a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Essay on the Personal - Stephen Dunn

Because finally the personal
is all that matters,
we spend years describing stones,
chairs, abandoned farmhouses—
until we're ready. Always
it's a matter of precision,
what it feels like
to kiss someone or to walk
out the door. How good it was
to practice on stones
which were things we could love
without weeping over. How good
someone else abandoned the farmhouse,
bankrupt and desperate.
Now we can bring a fine edge
to our parents. We can hold hurt
up to the sun for examination.
But just when we think we have it,
the personal goes the way of
belief. What seemed so deep
begins to seem naive, something
that could be trusted
because we hadn't read Plato
or held two contradictory ideas
or women in the same day.
Love, then, becomes an old movie.
Loss seems so common
it belongs to the air,
to breath itself, anyone's.
We're left with style, a particular
way of standing and saying,
the idiosyncratic look
at the frown which means nothing
until we say it does. Years later,
long after we believed it peculiar
to ourselves, we return to love.
We return to everything
strange, inchoate, like living
with someone, like living alone,
settling for the partial, the almost
satisfactory sense of it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Letters from Exile—II - Hemant Mohapatra
It's snowing in New York

It wasn't just the snow
eating up the suburban baroque,
or that you had just walked in,
cold as a welldigger's heart.
It wasn't the twilight leaving us
with our loneliness, or the night
unfreezing fireflies. It wasn't you,
with your elbows shored up
on old sienna tables, nor me,
keeling my way to the moon.
It wasn't the television
drooling relentless channels.
It was us: we were never geared
for love. The regularity was too dull.
Imagine the earth in orbit,
and this giant circumference
of light slowly slipping west:
everyone on that edge, waking
up together, lovers, still in bed,
entering each other and leaving
in fierce automobiles. It was
that routine we couldn't live.
We were like a dog
in love with his bone.
You throw it to the far end
of the field and he races off,
not to recover the piece
but just to clear
the distance in between.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Litany in which certain things are crossed out - Richard Siken

Every morning the maple leaves.

Every morning another chapter where the hero shifts

from one foot to the other. Every morning the same big

and little words all spelling out desire, all spelling out

You will be alone always and then you will die.

So maybe I wanted to give you something more than a catalog

of non-definitive acts,

something other than the desperation.

Dear So-and-So, I'm sorry I couldn't come to your party.

Dear So-and-So, I'm sorry I came to your party

and seduced you

and left you bruised and ruined, you poor sad thing.

Your want a better story. Who wouldn't?

A forest, then. Beautiful trees. And a lady singing.

Love on the water, love underwater, love, love and so on.

What a sweet lady. Sing lady, sing! Of course, she wakes the dragon.

Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly

flames everywhere.

I can tell already you think I'm the dragon,

that would be so like me, but I'm not. I'm not the dragon.

I'm not the princess either.

Who am I? I'm just a writer. I write things down.

I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure,

I sink the boat of love, but that comes later. And yes, I swallow

glass, but that comes later.

And the part where I push you

flush against the wall and every part of your body rubs against the bricks,

shut up

I'm getting to it.

For a while I thought I was the dragon.

I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was

the princess,

cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,

young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with


but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess,

while I'm out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,

and getting stabbed to death.

Okay, so I'm the dragon. Big deal.

You still get to be the hero.

You get the magic gloves! A fish that talks! You get eyes like flashlights!

What more do you want?

I make you pancakes, I take you hunting, I talk to you as if you're

really there.

Are you there, sweetheart? Do you know me? Is this microphone live?

Let me do it right for once,

for the record, let me make a thing of cream and stars that becomes,

you know the story, simply heaven.

Inside your head you hear a phone ringing

and when you open your eyes

only a clearing with deer in it. Hello deer.

Inside your head the sound of glass,

a car crash sound as the trucks roll over and explode in slow motion.

Hello darling, sorry about that.

Sorry about the bony elbows, sorry we

lived here, sorry about the scene at the bottom of the stairwell

and how I ruined everything by saying it out loud.

Especially that, but I should have known.

You see, I take the parts that I remember and stitch them back together

to make a creature that will do what I say

or love me back.

I'm not really sure why I do it, but in this version you are not

feeding yourself to a bad man

against a black sky prickled with small lights.

I take it back.

The wooden halls likes caskets. These terms from the lower depths.

I take them back.

Here is the repeated image of the lover destroyed.

Crossed out.

Clumsy hands in a dark room. Crossed out. There is something

underneath the floorboards.

Crossed out. And here is the tabernacle


Here is the part where everyone was happy all the time and we were all


even though we didn't deserve it.

Inside your head you hear

a phone ringing, and when you open your eyes you're washing up

in a stranger's bathroom,

standing by the window in a yellow towel, only twenty minutes away

from the dirtiest thing you know.

All the rooms of the castle except this one, says someone, and suddenly


suddenly only darkness.

In the living room, in the broken yard,

in the back of the car as the lights go by. In the airport

bathroom's gurgle and flush, bathed in a pharmacy of

unnatural light,

my hands looking weird, my face weird, my feet too far away.

And the the airplane, the window seat over the wing with a view

of the wing and a little foil bag of peanuts.

I arrived in the city and you met me at the station,

smiling in a way

that made me frightened. Down the alley, around the arcade,

up the stairs of the building

to the little room with the broken faucets, your drawings, all your things,

I looked out the window and said

This doesn't look that much different from home,

because it didn't,

but then I noticed the black sky and all those lights.

We walked through the house to the elevated train.

All these buildings, all that glass and the shiny beautiful

mechanical wind.

We were inside the train car when I started to cry. You were crying too,

smiling and crying in a way that made me

even more hysterical. You said I could have anything I wanted, but I

just couldn't say it out loud.

Actually, you said Love, for you,

is larger than the usual romantic love. It's like a religion. It's

terrifying. No one

will ever want to sleep with you.

Okay, if you're so great, you do it—

here's the pencil, make it work . . .

If the window is on your right, you are in your own bed. If the window

is over your heart, and it is painted shut, then we are breathing

river water.

Build me a city and call it Jerusalem. Build me another and call it


We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not

what we sought, so do it over, give me another version,

a different room, another hallway, the kitchen painted over

and over,

another bowl of soup.

The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.

Unfortunately, we don't have that kind of time.

Forget the dragon,

leave the gun on the table, this has nothing to do with happiness.

Let's jump ahead to the moment of epiphany,

in gold light, as the camera pans to where

the action is,

lakeside and backlit, and it all falls into frame, close enough to see

the blue rings of my eyes as I say

something ugly.

I never liked that ending either. More love streaming out the wrong way,

and I don't want to be the kind that says the wrong way.

But it doesn't work, these erasures, this constant refolding of the pleats.

There were some nice parts, sure,

all lemondrop and mellonball, laughing in silk pajamas

and the grains of sugar

on the toast, love love or whatever, take a number. I'm sorry

it's such a lousy story.

Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently

we have had our difficulties and there are many things

I want to ask you.

I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,

years later, in the chlorinated pool.

I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have

these luxuries.

I have told you where I'm coming from, so put it together.

We clutch our bellies and roll on the floor . . .

When I say this, it should mean laughter,

not poison.

I want more applesauce. I want more seats reserved for heroes.

Dear Forgiveness, I saved a plate for you.

Quit milling around the yard and come inside.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

against conformity and averageism - Richard Brautigan

I hate,

they are evil
as habitual hunger
in a child's stomach,

who try
to change man
the hunter for truth
a castrated cow
in the peace
of mental death.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Place Message Here - Richard Jackson

I knew that somewhere Jesus wept.
--Larry Brown, Dirty Work

That was when our love began for me, though late,
the way a flock of darkness settles over your shoulders.
I remember the muted reflections that smudged the water
prowling among the lingering rocks, a snail crawling
out of its shell, the drizzle of light, the blackened windows.
It was when that the sun peeled away the dark from the air,
the surface of the water, then the soul. It was only then
that I could read the shadows that followed our words.
It seemed that the whole planet was taking aim at our future.

I thought, then, that I could see your own soul in the constant
waves tearing unconcerned at the impenetrable dunes.
I wanted, then, to believe the moon is a flower,
fragrant, its stem tossed across the water. It was then
that I entered some other world, the way your life wakes
suddenly in the middle of the night to find your own
worn-out dreams lying in sheets around you, an empty bottle
on the table, and yet some voice stumbling down the hallway
of the wind trying the locked doors of the heart, calling out your name.

It was then on that shore after I heard the news of my friend's
heart tearing open like a wet paper bag. I was standing
where Marconi sent his messages which seemed to fill the air,
still, like swallows. There is always another life in the corner
of our eyes, one that begins because our poor words have never
said what we meant at the time. Today, here, ladybugs fill
my porch screen trying to reach the early sun that radiates
through the fine mesh. They halt there like messages never
received, empty husks of some abandoned future we can never know.

Why is it we love so fully what has washed up on the beaches
of our hearts, those lost messages, lost friends, the daylight stars
we never get to see? Bad luck never takes a vacation, my friend
once wrote. It lies there among the broken shells and stones
we collect, a story he would say begins with you, with me,
a story that is forever lost among the backwaters of our lives,
our endless fear of ourselves, and our endless need for hope,
a story, perhaps an answer, a word suddenly on wing, the simple
sound of a torn heart, or the unmistakable scent of the morning's fading moon.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Slant - Stephen Dunn

Yesterday, for a long while,
the early morning sunlight
in the trees was sufficient,
replaced by a hello
from a long-limbed woman
pedaling her bike,
whereupon the wind came up,
dispersing the mosquitoes.
Blessings, all.
I'd come so far, it seemed,
happily looking for so little.

But then I saw a cow in a room
looking at the painting of a cow
in a field -- all of which
was a painting itself --
and I felt I'd been invited
into the actual, someplace
between the real and the real.

The trees, now, are trees
I'm seeing myself seeing.
I'll always deny that I kissed her.
I was just whispering into her mouth.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Last answers - Carl Sandburg

I wrote a poem on the mist
And a woman asked me what I meant by it.
I had thought till then only of the beauty of the mist, how

pearl and grey of it mix and reel,
And change the drag shanties with lighted lamps at eve-
ning into points of mystery quivering with color.

I answered:
The whole world was mist once long ago and some day
it will all go back to mist,
Our skulls and lungs are more water than bone and tissue
And all poets love dust and mist because all the last
Go running back to dust and mist.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Untitled - Izumi Shikibu

Even if I now saw you
Only once,
I would long for you
Through worlds,
Wind - Shinkichi Takahashi

Give it words,
Stick limbs on it,
You won't alter essence.
Whereas the wind-

I'll live gently
As the wind, flying
Over the town,
My chest full of sparrows.