Tuesday, May 31, 2016

There Is Always by Hester Knibbe

There Is Always

There is always a first
head that you draw
with two
eyes no
mouth yet
arms and legs no
hands and feet. There is

always a first
mouth that appears
in the slapdash
head without
though you quickly
learn that


is how smiles are drawn
how sadness seems.

Even when the nest
is a mishmash
of chance
the egg gets laid
and breaks
in the end.

What you’re after is

not the shell
that protects you
but a frail
brokenness: daring
that movement
without awareness of
repetition boredom


Meanwhile the egg
scratches its happiness and
rightness together,
as the hand belonging to
the slapdash
starts an uncompleted

curve: it’s time it’s time it’s

time for études cantatas
aubades quatre-mains
escapades a nimble-fingered
exploration of questions with the whole
body fervently confessing
the complete catechism
of love and

answering: yes
that’s why.

There is always a first

doubt: what for. Knocked at the gods’ door, but
they were not in, had other hassles to manage: grass
that modified, suddenly denigrated its roots wanted no more to do
with them, air was enough for it. I dug and dug in the earth
constantly finding under and under but once exhumed it was
a mountain where each answer every surprise
had to find itself among the others.

Then I went walking in wind and into a light
that did not cease as long as I walked in that light
as long as it skimmed over my earth. It had
no above or below, no left or right, nowhere
a middle, I could not put my hand on it, it laid
itself on my hand and my head and slipped sparkling
from under my feet when I tried to walk over it.

Like a jay bird
setting stores for winter I keep
a stock of snatched moments. In that

photo they are far
stronger than us, power flexes
in their muscles and we stand by like

their begetters: marginal figures

who re-read even now, shut books
search in cupboards for passwords,
who—their heads a woozy place for drifters and the blind—still

know how to crack codes, retrieve
the most fleeting names in a tangle of webs.

Now that the land is being robbed of foliage
the trees stand dressed in their evening wear of bark

the honey sugars and we
scrape summer’s fruit from the jam pots

something in us inaudible as snow begins

to loosen. The eye in the slapdash
head, without the burden of hands and feet, finds the way

to the path by the buckthorn, above it
a flight of drunken birds, walks back into a light that

just won’t, sees in that light banally prophetic: there is always a final

breach of membrane and shell.

Let us burn

the old letters, watch all the beautiful
rain-drenched sun-bleached words and lines
go up in flames while shamelessly

retaining their contents. We’ve been
lucky, oh what we’ve been—
                                                        Let us
explore other cities, wander through new
streets, past buskers and rough sleepers,
get used to leaving.
                                                        Let us

eat there and drink and give

the singer enough to get drunk on
the beggar what he deserves.

(Translated by Jacquelyn Pope)


Out of Eden by Marie Ponsot

Out of Eden

Under the May rain over the dug grave
my mother is given canticles and I who believe
in everything watch flowers stiffen to new bloom.

Behind us the rented car fabricates a cave.
My mother nods: Is he? He is. But, is? Nods.
Angels shoo witches from this American tomb.

The nod teaches me. It is something I can save.
He left days ago. We, so that we too may leave,
install his old belongings in a bizarre new room.
I want to kneel indignantly anywhere and rave.

      Well, God help us, now my father’s will is God’s.
      At games and naming he beat Adam. He loved his Eve.
      I knew him and his wicked tongue. What he had, he gave.

I do not know where to go to do it, but I grieve.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ceremony After A Fire Raid by Dylan Thomas

Ceremony After A Fire Raid


The grievers
Among the street burned to tireless death
A child of a few hours
With its kneading mouth
Charred on the black breast of the grave
The mother dug, and its arms full of fires.

With singing
Darkness kindled back into beginning
When the caught tongue nodded blind,
A star was broken
Into the centuries of the child
Myselves grieve now, and miracles cannot atone.

Us forgive
Us your death that myselves the believers
May hold it in a great flood
Till the blood shall spurt,
And the dust shall sing like a bird
As the grains blow, as your death grows, through our heart.

Your dying
Child beyond cockcrow, by the fire-dwarfed
Street we chant the flying sea
In the body bereft.
Love is the last light spoken. Oh
Seed of sons in the loin of the black husk left.


I know not whether
Adam or Eve, the adorned holy bullock
Or the white ewe lamb
Or the chosen virgin
Laid in her snow
On the altar of London,
Was the first to die
In the cinder of the little skull,
O bride and bride groom
O Adam and Eve together
Lying in the lull
Under the sad breast of the head stone
White as the skeleton
Of the garden of Eden.

I know the legend
Of Adam and Eve is never for a second
Silent in my service
Over the dead infants
Over the one
Child who was priest and servants,
Word, singers, and tongue
In the cinder of the little skull,
Who was the serpent's
Night fall and the fruit like a sun,
Man and woman undone,
Beginning crumbled back to darkness
Bare as nurseries
Of the garden of wilderness.


Into the organpipes and steeples
Of the luminous cathedrals,
Into the weathercocks' molten mouths
Rippling in twelve-winded circles,
Into the dead clock burning the hour
Over the urn of sabbaths
Over the whirling ditch of daybreak
Over the sun's hovel and the slum of fire
And the golden pavements laid in requiems,
Into the bread in a wheatfield of flames,
Into the wine burning like brandy,
The masses of the sea
The masses of the sea under
The masses of the infant-bearing sea
Erupt, fountain, and enter to utter for ever
Glory glory glory
The sundering ultimate kingdom of genesis' thunder. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Want by Eduardo C. Corral


abandoned by his coyote, my
father, sand seething beneath
his sneakers,                trekked
through       southern Arizona:
maze of acacia         and cholla
cold sweat cut       his face like
a razor    in his pocket: a fine-
tooth comb,    dice, & a photo
of a girl playing a violin      on
the third day,      he picked up
a rock,        killed a blue lizard
with a single strike   he tore it
apart,      shoved guts & bones
into his mouth             the first
time I knelt for a man,       my
lips         pressed to his zipper,
I suffered             such hunger


Ode on a Cowboy’s Ass by Derrick Austin

Ode on a Cowboy’s Ass

As if from faded tintypes, wanted signs,
and film, symbol of the Wild West, proud man
without a cattle drive, and lacking all
intent to prove your worth, except with rake
and gardening gloves, God bless those Wranglers
pressed against your ass. Strutting to the shed,
your gait is clipped (friction’s way of saying
strike a pose). You’re the real deal: belt buckle,
farmer’s tan sans T-shirt. I’d pay a grand—
a million to build the Lone Star State
a Louvre, to see you statuesque and nude.
Darling, let’s get Aristotelian.
The space between denim seams divided
by our distance equals a golden mean.

But there’s no time for symmetry and math.
You work fast. Etymology will do—
not “cowboy” but those globes of  yours. That ass,
I’ve wasted too much time on wit, conceit.
Bless the sailor sick of rot and salt, blue-
balled on the docks, who caught an arse so snug
in whites he clipped the useless letters off.
Off they went to explore each other’s worlds
until their stars were spent, at last exhaust
the possibilities of tongue. But seas
and language mean nothing to you, trimming
hedges under the wax-white summer sun,
shirtless but for threads of sweat and pale grass.
All men need new beginnings and here’s yours:

You pound elements into submission,
no time for airs when earth must be molded
and made useful. Your ass plows vacant plots.
Your ass builds nations. Your ass is epic
in dirty jeans like James Dean’s in Giant.
In the age of cant and kitsch, can beauty
be heroic? You bend to weed your lawn,
ripping crabgrass heads like ragged denim
as muscle fibers fray and mend, borders
of a nation, your body one country
I see myself moving in. My cowboy,
is this how men are made? Rolling in dirt?
Your end is where I begin. Pen in hand:
Sing, O muse, of the ass of Achilles.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Alla Breve Loving by C. D. Wright

Alla Breve Loving

Three people drinking out of the bottle
in the living room.
A cold rain. Quiet as a mirror.

One of the men
stuffs his handkerchief in his coat,
climbs the stairs with the girl.
The other man is left sitting

at the desk with the wine and the headache,
turning an old Ellington side
over in his mind. And over.

He held her like a saxophone
when she was his girl.
Her tongue trembling at the reed.

The man lying next to her now
thinks of another woman.
Her white breath idling

before he drove off.
He said something about a spell,
watching the snow fall on her shoulders.

The musician
crawls back into his horn,
ancient terrapin
at the approach of the wheel.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Symptom Recital by Dorothy Parker

Symptom Recital

I do not like my state of mind;
I'm bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn's recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the gentlest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I'm disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I'd be arrested.
I am not sick, I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore;
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men....
I'm due to fall in love again. 


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Roll Call by Dan Pagis

The Roll Call

He stands, stamps a little in his boots,
rubs his hands. He’s cold in the morning breeze:
a diligent angel, who has worked hard for his promotions.
Suddenly he thinks he’s made a mistake: all eyes,
he counts again in the open notebook
all the bodies waiting for him in the square,
camp within camp: only I
am not there, am not there, am a mistake,
turn off my eyes, quickly, erase my shadow.
I shall not want. The sum will be in order
without me: here for eternity.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Personal Letter No. 3 by Sonia Sanchez

Personal Letter No. 3

nothing will keep
us young you know
not young men or
women who spin
their youth on
cool playing sounds.
we are what we
are what we never
think we are.
no more wild geo
graphies of the
flesh. echoes. that
we move in tune
to slower smells.
it is a hard thing
to admit that 
sometimes after midnight
i am tired
of it all. 


Sunday, May 22, 2016

And the days are not full enough by Ezra Pound

And the days are not full enough

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
      Not shaking the grass 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

From the Peninsula by Ishion Hutchinson

From the Peninsula

The old trees shake out medals at midday
to the ship paused for a meteor’s blunting
glimpse in the windy yellow of the water,

partway to inventing another world.
Through the window’s tiger slats,
the bakery pumps smoke, years between

her irretrievable shawl, which crimsons
what I see, watching further and further,
until canisters shatter into nitrate stars,

late at night, saluting an unforgiving song.
I tilt down on her iron bed and cluster
haunted basil, the scent rifts morning open

to argon of cobwebs, the dim cargo, the bent
hills, the black gold, her hands, clasped
shut her children, long gone, under the sea.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Coming Home, Detroit, 1968 by Philip Levine

Coming Home, Detroit, 1968

A winter Tuesday, the city pouring fire,
Ford Rouge sulfurs the sun, Cadillac, Lincoln,
Chevy gray. The fat stacks
of breweries hold their tongues. Rags,
papers, hands, the stems of birches
dirtied with words.
                                        Near the freeway
you stop and wonder what came off,
recall the snowstorm where you lost it all,
the wolverine, the northern bear, the wolf
caught out, ice and steel raining
from the foundries in a shower
of human breath. On sleds in the false sun
the new material rests. One brown child
stares and stares into your frozen eyes
until the lights change and you go
forward to work. The charred faces, the eyes
boarded up, the rubble of innards, the cry
of wet smoke hanging in your throat,
the twisted river stopped at the color of iron.
We burn this city every day.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Leave Me Hidden by Anne Michaels

Leave Me Hidden

I was having trouble deciding 
which to watch: Night 
of the Living Bloggers, or 
Attack of the Neck-Brace People. 
In the end I just went for a walk.

In the woods I stopped wondering why 
of all trees 
this one: my hand 
pressed to fissures 
and ridges of

bark’s hugely magnified 
fingerprint, forehead 
resting against it 
finally, feeling 

a heartbeat, vast, silently 
booming there deep in 
my hidden leaves, blessed 
motherworld, personal 
underworld, thank you  

thank you.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Error by Don Paterson

The Error

As the bird is to the air
and the whale is to the sea
so man is to his dream.

His world is just the glare 
of the world’s utility 
returned by his eye-beam.

Each self-reflecting mind
is in this manner destined
to forget its element,

and this is why we find
however well we listen
that the skies are silent. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Wonder as Wander by Sharon Olds

Wonder as Wander

At dusk, on those evenings she does not go out,
my mother potters around her house.
Her daily helpers are gone, there is no one
there, no one to tell what to do,
she wanders, sometimes she talks to herself,
fondly scolding, sometimes she suddenly
throws out her arms and screams—high notes
lying here and there on the carpets
like bodies touched by a downed wire,
she journeys, she quests, she marco-polos through
the gilded gleamy loot-rooms, who is she.
I feel, now, that I do not know her,
and for all my staring, I have not seen her
—like the song she sang, when we were small,
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,
how Jesus, the Savior, was born for, to die,
for poor lonely people, like you, and like I
—on the slow evenings alone, when she delays
and delays her supper, walking the familiar
halls past the mirrors and night windows,
I wonder if my mother is tasting a life
beyond this life—not heaven, her late
beloved is absent, her father absent,
and her staff is absent, maybe this is earth
alone, as she had not experienced it,
as if she is one of the poor lonely people,
as if she is born to die. I hold fast
to the thought of her, wandering in her house,
a luna moth in a chambered cage.
Fifty years ago, I’d squat in her
garden, with her Red Queens, and try
to sense the flyways of the fairies as they kept
the pollen flowing on its local paths,
and our breaths on their course of puffs—they kept
our eyes wide with seeing what we
could see, and not seeing what we could not see


Monday, May 16, 2016

Praise by Ilya Kaminsky


. . .but one day through the gate left half-open
there are yellow lemons shining at us
and in our empty breasts
these golden horns of sunlight
pour their songs. 

          -- Montale 

Time, my twin, take me by hand
through the streets of your city;
my days, your pigeons, are fighting for crumbs - 

A woman asks at night for a story with a happy ending.
I have none. A refugee, 

I go home and become a ghost
searching the houses I lived in. They say - 

the father of my father of his father of his father was a prince
who married a Jewish girl 

against the Church's will and his father's will and
the father of his father. Losing all, 

eager to lose: the estate, ships,
hiding this ring (his wedding ring), a ring 

my father handed to my brother, then took. Handed,
then took, hastily. In a family album 

we sit like the mannequins
of school-children 

whose destruction,
like a lecture, is postponed. 

Then my mother begins to dance, re-arranging
this dream. Her love 

is difficult; loving her is simple as putting raspberries
in my mouth. 

On my brother's head: not a single
gray hair, he is singing to his twelve-month-old son. 

And my father is singing
to his six-year-old silence. 

This is how we live on earth, a flock of sparrows.
The darkness, a magician, finds quarters 

behind our ears. We don't know what life is,
who makes it, the reality is thick 

with longing. We put it up to our lips
and drink. 

I believe in childhood, a native land of math exams
that return and do not return, I see - 

the shore, the trees, a boy
running across the streets like a lost god; 

the light falls, touching his shoulder. 

Where memory, an old flautist,
plays in the rain and his dog sleeps, its tongue 

half hanging out;
for twenty years between life and death 

I have run through silence: in 1993 I came to America. 

America! I put the word on a page, it is my keyhole.
I watch the streets, the shops, the bicyclist, the

two women strolling along the water front.
I open the windows of an apartment 

and say: I had masters once, they roared above me,
Who are we? Why are we here? 

the tales they told began with:
"mortality," "mercy." 

A lantern they carried still glitters in my sleep,
confused ghosts who taught me living simply. 

-- in this dream: my father breathes
as if lighting a lamp over and over. The memory 

is starting its old engine, it begins to move
and I think the trees are moving. 

I unmake these lines, dissolving in each vowel,
as Neruda said, my country 

I change my blood in your direction. The evening whispers
with its childlike, pulpy lips. 

On the page's soiled corners
my teacher walks, composing a voice; 

he rubs each word in his palms:
"hands learn from the soil and broken glass, 

you cannot think a poem," he says,
"watch the light hardening into words." 

I was born in the city named after Odysseus
and I praise no nation 

but the provinces of human longing:
to the rhythm of snow 

an immigrant's clumsy phrase
falls into speech. 

But you asked
for a story with a happy ending. Your loneliness 

played its lyre. I sat
on the floor, watching your lips. 

Love, a one legged bird
I bought for forty cents as a child, and released; 

is coming back, my soul in reckless feathers.
O the language of birds 

with no word for complaint! -
the balconies, the wind. 

This is how, while darkness
drew my profile with its little finger, 

I have learned to see past as Montale saw it,
the obscure thoughts of God descending 

among a child's drum beats,
over you, over me, over the lemon trees 


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Resolution by Tadeusz Dąbrowski


Today I chose myself an eye from your nude photo
and enlarged it to the limits of the screen, to
the limits of resolution (and that’s high enough
for one to believe in you). I enlarged

your right eye, wanting after the final mouse click
to jump to the other side, to examine your soul
or at least my own clicked-on self. Around
the forty-fourth enlargement

I saw my own foggy silhouette,
at the sixty-sixth the outline of the camera,
readable to me alone. But beyond that
there was nothing but grey rectangles

neatly laid like the bricks in a house, like the
stones in the wailing wall I stand in front of
day and night, doggedly swelling the cracks
with notes filled with my poems.

(Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm by Wallace Stevens

The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Rowing by Anne Sexton


A story, a story!
(Let it go. Let it come.)
I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender
into this world.
First came the crib
with its glacial bars.
Then dolls
and the devotion to their plastic mouths.
Then there was school,
the little straight rows of chairs, 
blotting my name over and over,
but undersea all the time,
a stranger whose elbows wouldn’t work.
Then there was life
with its cruel houses
and people who seldom touched –
though touch is all –
but I grew, 
like a pig in a trenchcoat I grew,
and then there were many strange apparitions,
the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison
and all of that, saws working through my heart,
but I grew, I grew,
and God was there like an island I had not rowed to, 
still ignorant of Him, my arms and my legs worked,
and I grew, I grew,
I wore rubies and bought tomatoes
and now, in my middle age,
about nineteen in the head I’d say,
I am rowing, I am rowing
though the oarlocks stick and are rusty
and the sea blinks and rolls
like a worried eyeball, 
but I am rowing, I am rowing,
though the wind pushes me back
and I know that that island will not be perfect,
it will have the flaws of life, 
the absurdities of the dinner table,
but there will be a door
and I will open it
and I will get rid of the rat inside of me, 
the gnawing pestilential rat.
God will take it with his two hands
and embrace it.

As the African says:
This is my tale which I have told,
if it be sweet, if it be not sweet,
take somewhere else and let some return to me.
This story ends with me still rowing.