Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sheep in Fog - Sylvia Plath

The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.

The train leaves a line of breath.
O slow
Horse the colour of rust,

Hooves, dolorous bells -
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,

A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.

The Astronomer and the Poet - Jessica Piazza

1. Why I stargaze

We share ninety-eight percent of our genetic code
with rats. Over half with grain. The stars, then,
must contain us somehow in their burning.

Something must contain this burning. Uptown,
our physics building is sequestered in a bubble
of certainty. And Harlem explodes around it.

We gaze because we’re so small, despite
our need for choosing. We look skyward
to leave the best question hanging—why

an amazing woman is always amazing, even
with her head in her hands. It’s true; there is no
way to know how small we are, or large.

2. Why I study the text

There is the same assurance in the open
page as in the open fist: closure
must happen eventually.

In the open-ended argument we find
one truth. This is all of us, we are so large
that another person’s story can lacquer the soft

wood of history. We are so like the weed,
so like the blade of grass that our organic parable
is biblical. There is no need to believe in us.

I believe what is written: that a wind lifted
from a bay in Asia can travel a long and haunted
journey to touch his face, to slip through my fingers

and loose a lock of hair from my forehead
as it sinks into my tired palms. I believe in
the inevitable. We read the texts closely

because we are so large that the answers locked
in our most sacred physiology are not our own.
They are buried in the skin we choose to reach for.

3. How they are logical

He knows how things work. This moves her.
This is what makes her perpetually
move. On his desk, a Newton’s Cradle—
silver balls always in motion. She will make
the long trip uptown and back again and again
to sit with him. She cannot understand how

we relate to stars, but she finds clues in small things,
the mark a fingertip will leave on every object, the fine
film of breath slicking surfaces. We are so large

there is something of ourselves in everything we touch.
They talk for hours. He speaks of lenses and women
and beyond. She is full of ink and bindings, the unknowable

we find in form, in limit. She reaches for his papers soaked
in symbol, gauging the weight of planets. He fingers
the square notebook she carries. They leave a trail of skin,

a path for them to follow to each other. Always,
her voice reaches him and he is lifted. Returns to her
again. She listens, and is lifted. Crashes back.

4. How they are illogical

Imagine a corner so large that being backed into it
does not mean an ending, but the beginning of a journey
toward the wall, toward the place where walls meet.

Sometimes it is impossible to know how things work.
If there is perpetual motion why does he lie so still
sometimes, why does she become hard and unmoved?

They lay their bodies down inside a telescope so large
it’s like a tunnel—observers, if permitted, would see the planets
of their bodies orbiting. It is the only motion they both understand.

The World Outside - Denise Levertov

On the kitchen wall a flash
of shadow:
swift pilgrimage
of pigeons, a spiral
celebration of air, of sky-deserts.
And on tenement windows
a blaze
of lustered watermelon:
stain of the sun
westering somewhere back of Hoboken.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Michiko Nogami (1946-1982) - Jack Gilbert

Is she more apparent because she is not
anymore forever? Is her whiteness more white
because she was the color of pale honey?
A smokestack making the sky more visible.
A dead woman filling the whole world. Michiko
said, "The roses you gave me kept me awake
with the sound of their petals falling."

Self-Portrait with a Balloon, Western Novel, and Duel - Matthew Dickman

My brother floats like a balloon as we walk through the city,
he's in love and I have to pull his pant cuff
to keep him near me.

Near me is a streetlight turned green.
Near me is a bus stop where a transvestite is sleeping.
Near me is the corner on Sixth and Lavaca.

Austin, Texas was once Something, Mexico
and two Mexican brothers walked
through the city while one of them began to float into the air.

I am becoming the dust-jacket of a pulp Western novel,
a shadow colored in,
how I am sitting in this portrait wearing a poncho & sombrero,

lighting a wet cigarillo in the rain.

Whoever said love lifts us up where we belong was a genius.

It does.

Whoever cried La Vida Loca before it was held down
and beaten into a meaningless song was a philosopher.

It is crazy.

The river is running through the city like a dog that has just torn
through the screen door, wild in the yard,

and I am holding a pistolero in my hand,
near the corner of Eighth and Lavaca,
hoping that my brother will float back down before I have to draw
the gun from its holster, hoping that if it’s between me and the river

it will be me getting up in the morning.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A visit - Elaine Feinstein

I still remember love like another country
with an almost forgotten landscape
of salty skin and a dry mouth. I think
there was always a temptation to escape
from the violence of that sun, the sudden
insignificance of ambition,
the prowl of jealousy like a witch's cat .

Last night I was sailing in my sleep
like an old seafarer , with scurvy
colouring my thoughts , there was moonlight
and ice on green waters.
Hallucinations. Dangerous nostalgia.
And early this morning you whispered
as if you were lying softly at my side:

Are you still angry with me ? And spoke my
name with so much tenderness, I cried.
I never reproached you much
that I remember, not even when I should;
to me, you were the boy in Ravel's garden
who always longed to be good,
as the forest creatures knew, and so do I.

Friday, September 18, 2009

You Reading This: Stop - William Stafford

Don't just stay tangled up in your life.
Out there in some river or cave where you
could have been, some absolute, lonely
dawn may arrive and begin the story
that means what everything is about.

So don't just look, either:
let your whole self drift like a breath and learn
its way down through the trees. Let that fine
waterfall-smoke filter its gone, magnified presence
all through the forest. Stand here till all that
you were can wander away and come back slowly,
carrying a strange new flavor into your life.
Feel it? That's what we mean. So don't just
read this—rub your thought over it.

Now you can go on.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh Mercy - Tony Hoagland

Only the billionth person
to glance up at the moon tonight
which looks bald, high-browed and professorial to me,

the kind of face I always shook my fist at
when I was seventeen
and every stopsign was a figure of authority

that had it in for me
and every bottle of cold beer
had a little picture of my father on the label

for smashing down in parking lots
at 2 AM, when things devolved
into the dance of who was craziest.

That year, if we could have reached the moon,
if we could have shoplifted the paint and telescoping ladders,
we would have scribbled FUCK YOU

on its massive yellow cheek,
thrilled about the opportunity
to offend three billion people

in a single night.
But the moon stayed out of reach,
imperturbable, polite.

It kept on varnishing the seas,
overseeing the development of grapes in Italy,
putting the midwest to bed

in white pajamas.
It's seen my kind
a million times before

upon this parapet of loneliness and fear
and how we come around in time
to lifting up our heads,

looking for the kindness
that would make revenge unnecessary.

Friday, September 11, 2009

2 A.M. - Dorianne Laux

When I came with you that first time
on the floor of your office, the dirty carpet
under my back, the heel of one foot
propped on your shoulder, I went ahead
and screamed, full-throated, as loud
and as long as my body demanded,
because somewhere, in the back of my mind,
packed in the smallest neurons still capable
of thought, I remembered
we were in a warehouse district
and that no sentient being resided for miles.
Afterwards, when I would unclench
my hands and open my eyes, I looked up.
You were on your knees, your arms
stranded at your sides, so still --
the light from the crooknecked lamp
sculpting each lift and delicate twist,
the lax muscles, the smallest veins
on the backs of your hands. I saw
the ridge of each rib, the blue hollow
pulsing at your throat, all the colors
in your long blunt cut hair which hung
over your face like a raffia curtain
in some south sea island hut.
And as each bright synapse unfurled
and followed its path, I recalled
a story I'd read that explained why women
cry out when they come -- that it's
the call of the conqueror, a siren howl
of possession. So I looked again
and it felt true, your whole body
seemed defeated, owned, having taken on
the aspect of a slave in shackles, the wrists
loosely bound with invisible rope.
And when you finally spoke you didn't
lift your head but simply moaned the word god
on an exhalation of breath -- I knew then
I must be merciful, benevolent,
impossibly kind.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Their Faces Shall Be As Flames - G.C. Waldrep

That was the spring the bees disappeared, we didn’t know
where they went, where they’d gone, where they were going, it was a
rapture of the bees, only the weak, the young, the freshly dead
left behind, a rapture of bees, my neighbor with the ducks had begun to walk
like a duck, Follow follow follow Sam he sang as he walked, and they followed,
it was that simple, of course I thought of the Piper, although
this procession was more benign, my neighbor’s I mean, though he intended
to have each for dinner, eventually, and he did not name them,
as we don’t name bees, because we don’t see clearly enough
to distinguish them as persons, person in the grammatical sense, first second
or third, which is why we refer to them in the collective, usually,
they breed, they swarm, they milk their honey for us
in the collective, and they vanish collectively, is this then the true
rapture, was the one true God after all a god of bees, and now she is taking
them home, is this any more comforting than all the other proposed explanations,
pesticide, fungus, mites, electromagnetism, even the infrasound the giant
windmills make, that sends the bats and raptors
to their deaths, all invention gone awry, hive after hive
suddenly empty, as if they’d all flown out less than purposefully, casually,
and somehow forgotten to come back, held up at the doctor’s or the U-Haul
dealer’s, swarms of them, hundreds, thousands vagabond
in some other landscape, or rising, we shall meet them in the air,
at the post office to mail a letter to a woman who might or might not be my love
because a rate change had caught me with insufficient postage
I had to wait, the clerk was preoccupied with a sort of crate
made of wire mesh, through which I could see bees, Resistant the clerk said
as she filled out the forms and sent them, registered parcel post, somewhere
else, only then did she sell me the stamp I needed,
or thought I needed, or hoped to need (there is a season
when one hopes to need), and I thought about what it would be like
to mail a crate of bees, Resistant, to my love, if I had a love, and have them
vanish en route, the mesh crate arriving dusty, empty, one or two
broken, desiccated bodies rattling lightly around inside, like seeds in a gourd,
or like a child you’ll never have, that is, the possibility of that child, the rattling
blood of it, a different sort of vanishing, we would all like to believe
in the act, that Houdini was a man, only a man, as he proved in the moment
and by the precise circumstance of his death, and the fact of his body,
lifeless but extant, rattling around the arcade, the park, the amusement pier
of disturbing coincidences, while in Missouri another hobbyist beekeeper
walks out to her tomblike hives on a spring morning
to find nothing there, just boxes, empty boxes, a sort of game
a child might invent, this rapture, same sort of funny story
a child will invent, when shown a photograph, This is the policeman,
and this is the woman with two heads,
and this, which looks like a modest
red house in a suburb, this is really the ghost of the bees,
a small ghost, a modest ghost, like the ghosts of the locusts and the elms,
not a ghost to trouble us, until (in the photograph) the house spreads its wings
and vanishes, as houses do, or as houses will when the rapture extends
to architecture, the god of small houses having, first, existed, and then wed
the bee god, so that we are left sleeping alone again, and out of doors, in spring,
as one more source of sweetness is subtracted from this world
and added to another, perhaps, as we would like to think, one of the
more comforting ideas, a sort of economics, a grand
accounting, until what angel of houses or of bees blows what trumpet,
and we fall as mountains upon the insects, devour them as seas,
scorch the houses as with fire, we become the ground that hollows beneath
them and the air they fly through, their wormwood star, as all the bees of heaven
watch from heaven and all the houses of heaven lean down
for a closer look, and the smoke drifts upward, and we are the smoke, we are
only the smoke, inside of which my neighbor walks, with his ducks, and sings,
and they follow, and my hive lazes, drowses as if they or it were dreaming
us, as if they or us were touchable, simple as a story, an explanation,
any fiction, as if they thought of us, or were praying, or were dancing,
or were lonely, as if they could be, or would be, touched.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Endless-peace Arrowhead Song - Li Ho

Among lacquer ash, bone dust, cinnabar river-stone,
ancient bitter-ice blood spawning bronze blossoms,

rain dissolved white feathers and thin gilt bamboo:
nothing left but a battered old three-spine wolf fang.

I took two horses, scoured a battlefield, flat rocky
fields east of a post-station, below weed-choked hills,

sun cut short. Wind blew on and on, stars moaning,
black cloud-banners hung drenched in empty night,

spirits and ghosts everywhere, emaciate, crying out.
I offered sacrificial cream, a jarful, and roast lamb.

Insects silent, geese sick, spring reeds red. Tangled
gusts bid a traveler farewell, feeding shadow-flames.

I searched antiquity in tears, and found a loose barb,
tip broken, cracked red. It sliced through flesh once,

and in South Lane at the east wall, a boy on horseback
wanted my bit of metal, offered me a bamboo basket.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Untitled - Hsu Yun

This is an exquisite truth:
Saints and ordinary folks are the same from the start.
Inquiring about a difference
Is like asking to borrow string
when you've got a good strong rope.
Every Dharma is known in the heart.
After a rain, the mountain colors intensify.
Once you become familiar with the design of fate's illusions
Your ink-well will contain all of life and death.