Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Black Forest - Christopher DeWeese

A boorish silence fills the forest
like a carpet around the rich.
Trees fall just to be chivalrous,
maiming highwaymen.
The forest is full of syphilis,
I don't care who caused it.
Tax incentives for dying
make me worry about the government,
but it is a human thing
to worry over my penis,
what a human thing it is
to hold your children
as bandits dismember the night
and feed it to their hounds.
It is a soundless terror
inscribed against the ice,
where swineherds mistake laundry
for drowned ghosts.
It is a tiny map I swallow.
"Between one castle and another,
the world is a moat,"
says my coachman.
His words float like leaves,
a trail behind me.
"In times of peace,
it seems quite foolish
to harness your chest
against a giant, heavy flag,"
says my soldier.
When we stop at a crossroads
we all weep like philosophers,
automatically regretting
the anatomical future
our decisions sketch ahead of us,
the premonition of etiquette
and its attendant colonies
stretching rumors
of damp, paranoid vacations
amongst our number.
"On an island, you can't trust anyone,"
says my artist,
who is also an inventor.
One solution is to ride furiously,
blurring what should be scenic
into a genealogy of wind,
branches ripping gently
as if the trees were rehearsing
a modern war.
Another is to part ways forever
under the same name,
confronting scholars
with alternate endings
which are exactly the same
but for the question of a beard.
It's been done before.
As I ride Eastward,
I can hear my biographer
furiously dictating
his own adventures,
enthusiastically citing swans
like a boring lake.
Alone, the forest becomes a room,
the moss turned down
and the brambles tamed.
I stop at a clearing
and the snake inside me
whispers that I should get naked,
slithering over dead leaves
until who I have been
is a crisp windsock,
a trumpet made of tissue,
a translucent cathedral
where all the little villains go to play.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lying - Jane Hirshfield.

He puts his brush to the canvas,
with one quick stroke
unfolds a bird from the sky.
Steps back, considers.
Takes pity.
Unfolds another.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The New Bride Almost Visible in Latin - Jack Gilbert

We want to believe that what happens
in the dark bedroom is normal.
Pretending that being alive
is reasonable keeps the door shut
against whether maggots, nematodes,
and rot are also created in God’s image.
Our excess is measured, our passion
almost deliberate. As we grow up,
we more and more love appropriately.
When Alicia got married, the priest
conducted the Mass in English because
it was understandable. He faced us
as though we were friends. Had us
gather around the altar afterwards.
She hugged and kissed each one until me.
The bride, fresh from Communion,
kissed me deeply with her tongue,
her husband three feet away.
The great portals of our knowing
each other closed forever. I was flooded
by the size of what had ended.
But it was the mystery of marriage
and its hugeness that shocked me,
fell on me like an ox. I felt
mortality mixing with the fragrance
of my intimacy with her. The difference
between the garden of her body
and the presence of her being was the same
distance as the clear English of the Mass from
the blank Latin which held the immensities.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Incandescence at Dusk - Edward Hirsch (Homage to Dionysius the Areopagite)

There is fire in everything,

shining and hidden—
Or so the saint believed. And I believe the saint:
Nothing stays the same
in the shimmering heat
Of dusk during Indian summer in the country.

Out here it is possible to perceive
That those brilliant red welts
slashed into the horizon
Are like a drunken whip
whistling across a horse’s back,
And that round ball flaring in the trees
Is like a coal sizzling
in the mouth of a desert prophet.

Be careful.
Someone has called the orange leaves
sweeping off the branches
The colorful palmprints of God
brushing against our faces.
Someone has called the banked piles
of twigs and twisted veins
The handprints of the underworld
Gathering at our ankles and burning
through the soles of our feet.
We have to bear the sunset deep inside us.
I don’t believe in ultimate things.
I don’t believe in the inextinguishable light
of the other world.
I don’t believe that we will be lifted up
and transfixed by radiance.
One incandescent dusky world is all there is.

But I like this vigilant saint
Who stood by the river at nightfall
And saw the angels descending
as burnished mirrors and fiery wheels,
As living creatures of fire,
as streams of white flame. . . .

1500 years in his wake,
I can almost imagine
his disappointment and joy
When the first cool wind
starts to rise on the prairie,
When the soothing blue rain begins
to fall out of the cerulean night.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mahler in New York - Joseph Fasano

Now when I go out, the wind pulls me
into the grave. I go out
to part the hair of a child I left behind,

and he pushes his face into my cuffs, to smell the wind.
If I carry my father with me, it is the way
a horse carries autumn in its mane.

If I remember my brother,
it is as if a buck had knelt down
in a room I was in.

I kneel, and the wind kneels down in me.
What is it to have a history, a flock
buried in the blindness of winter?

Try crawling with two violins
into the hallway of your father’s hearse.
It is filled with sparrows.

Sometimes I go to the field
and the field is bare. There is the wind,
which entrusts me;

there is a woman walking with a pail of milk,
a man who tilts his bread in the sun;
there is the black heart of a mare

in the milk—or is it the wind, the way it goes?
I don’t know about the wind, about the way
it goes. All I know is that sometimes

someone will pick up the black violin of his childhood
and start playing—that it sits there on his shoulder
like a thin gray falcon asleep in its blinders,

and that we carry each other this way
because it is the way we would like to be carried:
sometimes with mercy, sometimes without.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Unwittingly - John Burnside

I've visited the place
where thought begins:
pear trees suspended in sunlight, narrow shops,
alleys to nothing
but nettles
and broken wars;
and though it might look different
to you:

a seaside town, with steep roofs
the colour of oysters,
the corner of some junkyard with its glint
of coming rain,

though someone else again would recognize
the warm barn, the smell of milk,
the wintered cattle
shifting in the dark,

it's always the same lit space,
the one good measure:
Sometimes you'll wake in a chair
as the light is fading,

or stop on the way to work
as a current of starlings
turns on itself
and settles above the green,

and because what we learn in the dark
remains all our lives,
a noise like the sea, displacing the day's
pale knowledge,

you'll come to yourself
in a glimmer of rainfall or frost,
the burnt smell of autumn,
a meeting of parallel lines,

and know you were someone else
for the longest time,
pretending you knew where you were, like a diffident tourist,
lost on the one main square, and afraid to enquire.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Jumblies - Edward Lear


They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, 'You'll all be drowned!'
They called aloud, 'Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
'O won't they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
In a Sieve to sail so fast!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, 'How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


And all night long they sailed away;
And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
In the shade of the mountains brown.
'O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a Sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
In the shade of the mountains brown!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, 'How tall they've grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore!'
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And every one said, 'If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,---
To the hills of the Chankly Bore!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.