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.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

II. 16 - Horace

When storm clouds closing in darken the sea
and cover the moon and hide the stars that might
have guided him across rough waters, the sailor
prays for peace;

the battle-weary Thracians pray for peace,
the Parthians with their fancy daggers
pray for peace, but peace cannot be bought
with purple, gold or gems;

and peace cannot be won with rank or money,
neither one can ease the soul's distress,
the worries and the nagging fears that flit
about in paneled rooms.

A man can please himself with little, a salt dish
handed down for generations can gleam upon
his table, and his sleep will not be ruined by
the sordidness of greed.

So why do we waste our time chasing down
possessions? Why do we leave home and head south
to a foreign land, a foreign sun? Who really
can escape himself?

Troubles leap aboard the rich man's brigantine,
outruns the fastest horse, the nimblest deer,
is swifter than Eurus, the bad-weather wind
responsible for storms.

We should be happy in the here and now
and unconcerned with what the future holds;
we should blunt the edge of sorrow with a smile.
There is no perfect joy.

Achilles met with death when he was young,
Tithonus lived on to be the shadow of
his former self; and fate might give to me
what it withholds from you.

Your fields are filled with lowing herds of prime
Sicilian cattle, and from your stable you
can hear the whinnies of your racing mare;
the clothes you have are made

of wool twice-dyed in African purple, whereas
it is my lot to have a smallish house,
a gift for turning Greek verse into Latin,
and scorn for the envious.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Draft of a Modern Love Poem - Tadeusz Różewicz

And yet white
is best described by gray
bird by stone
in December

love poems of old
were descriptions of the flesh
described this and that
for instance eyelashes

and yet red
should be described
by gray the sun by rain
poppies in November
lips by night

the most tangible
description of bread
is a description of hunger
in it is
the damp porous core
the warm interior
sunflowers at night
the breasts belly thighs of Cybele

a spring-clear
transparent description
of water
is a description of thirst
it produces a mirage
clouds and trees move into
the mirror

Lack hunger
of flesh
is a description of love
is a modern love poem