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"A tale, like the universe, they tell us, expands ceaselessly each time you examine it, until there is finally no telling exactly where it begins, where it ends, or where it places you now."
--Chang-Rae Lee


"Who Understands Me but Me"
They turn the water off, so I live without water,
they build walls higher, so I live without treetops,
they paint the windows black, so I live without sunshine,
they lock my cage, so I live without going anywhere,
they take each last tear I have, I live without tears,
they take my heart and rip it open, I live without heart,
they take my life and crush it, so I live without a future,
they say I am beastly and fiendish, so I have no friends,
they stop up each hope, so I have no passage out of hell,
they give me pain, so I live with pain,
they give me hate, so I live with my hate,
they have changed me, and I am not the same man,
they give me no shower, so I live with my smell,
they separate me from my brothers, so I live without brothers,
who understands me when I say this is beautiful?
who understands me when I say I have found other freedoms?

I cannot fly or make something appear in my hand,
I cannot make the heavens open or the earth tremble,
I can live with myself, and I am amazed at myself, my love, my beauty,
I am taken by my failures, astounded by my fears,
I am stubborn and childish,
in the midst of this wreckage of life they incurred,
I practice being myself,
and I have found parts of myself never dreamed of by me,
they were goaded out from under rocks in my heart
when the walls were built higher,
when the water was turned off and the windows painted black.
I followed these signs
like an old tracker and followed the tracks deep into myself,
followed the blood-spotted path,
deeper into dangerous regions, and found so many parts of myself,
who taught me water is not everything,
and gave me new eyes to see through walls,
and when they spoke, sunlight came out of their mouths,
and I was laughing at me with them,
we laughed like children and made pacts to always be loyal,
who understands me when I say this is beautiful?
--Jimmy Santiago Baca


"The point of having a child is to be rent asunder, torn in two. Years before I had my son I heard of an artist explaining why she had decided to become a mother: I didn't want to reach the end of my life intact. Imperious, I judged this to be sentimental--permanently damaged by a chronic illness, I considered myself already ruined and misunderstood by the healthy and normal. And what is more normal than the ability to give birth? But motherhood is a different sort of damage. It is a shattering, a disintegration of the self, after which the original form is quite gone. Still, it is a breakage that we are, as a species if not as individuals, meant to survive."
--Sarah Manguso, "The Grand Shattering"


"Lying My Head Off"
Here's my head, in a dank corner of the yard.
I lied it off and so off it rolled.
It wasn't unbelieving that caused it
to drop off my neck and loll down a slope.
Perhaps it had a mind of its own, wanted
to leave me for a little while.

Or it was scared and detached itself
from the stalk of my neck as a lizard's tail
will desert its body in fright of being caught.
The fact is, I never lied. The fact is,
I always lied. Before us, we have two mirrors.
At times, they say, one must lie in order

to survive. I drove by the house, passed
it several times, pretending it was not
my own. Its windows were red with curtains
and the honeyed light cast on the porch
did not succeed in luring me back inside.
I never lied. I drove by the house,

suckling the thought of other lovers
like a lozenge. I was pale as a papery birch.
I was pure as a brand new pair of underwear.
It will be a long while before I touch another.
Yet, I always lied, an oil slick on my tongue.
I used to think that I was wrong, could

not tell the truth for what it was. Yet, one
cannot take a lawsuit out on oneself.
I would have sworn in court that I believed
myself and then felt guilty a long time after.
I hated the house and I hated myself.
The house fattened with books, made me

grow to hate books, when all the while
it was only books that never claimed
to tell the truth. I hated him and I hated
his room, within which his cloud of smoke
heaved. I disappeared up narrow stairs,
slipped quick beneath the covers.

My stomach hurts, I told him, I was tired.
I grew my dreams thick through hot nights:
dear, flickering flowers. They had eyes
which stared, and I found I could not afford
their nurture, could not return their stare,
Meanwhile, liars began their parade

without my asking, strode sidewalks inches
before my doorstep. I watched their hulking
and strange beauty, their songs pregnant
with freedom, and became an other self.
I taught children how to curse.
I bought children gold pints of liquor.

I sold my mind on the street.
1 learned another language. It translates easily.
Here's how: What I say is not what I mean,
nor is it ever what I meant to say.

You must not believe me when I say
there's nothing left to love in this world.
--Cate Marvin


"And if I Am to Forgive You"
trigger warning: abuseCollapse )
--Sierra DeMulder


"For Memory"
Old words:  trust   fidelity
Nothing new yet to take their place.

I rake leaves, clear the lawn, October grass
painfully green beneath the gold
and in this silent labor thoughts of you
start up
I hear your voice:   disloyalty   betrayal
stinging the wires

I stuff the old leaves into sacks
and still they fall and still
I see my work undone

One shivering rainswept afternoon
and the whole job to be done over

I can't know what you know
unless you tell me
there are gashes in our understandings
of this world
We came together in a common
fury of direction
barely mentioning difference
(what drew our finest hairs
to fire
the deep, difficult troughs
unvoiced)
I fell through a basement railing
the first day of school and cut my forehead open--
did I ever tell you? More than forty years
and I still remember smelling my own blood
like the smell of a new schoolbook

And did you ever tell me
how your mother called you in from play
and from whom? To what? These atoms filmed by ordinary dust
that common life we each and all bent out of orbit from
to which we must return simply to say
this is where I came from
this is what I knew

The past is not a husk   yet change goes on

Freedom. It isn't once, to walk out
under the Milky Way, feeling the rivers
of light, the fields of dark--
freedom is daily, prose-bound, routine
remembering. Putting together, inch by inch
the starry worlds. From all the lost collections.

--Adrienne Rich


The daily things we do
For money or for fun
Can disappear like dew
Or harden and live on.
Strange reciprocity:
The circumstance we cause
In time gives rise to us,
Becomes our memory.
--Philip Larkin


"A Work of Fiction"
As I turned over the last page, after many nights, a wave of sorrow enveloped me. Where had they all gone, these people who had seemed so real? To distract myself, I walked out into the night; instinctively, I lit a cigarette. In the dark, the cigarette glowed, like a fire lit by a survivor. But who would see this light, this small dot among the infinite stars? I stood a while in the dark, the cigarette glowing and growing small, each breath patiently destroying me. How small it was, how brief. Brief, brief, but inside me now, which the stars could never be.
--Louise Glück


"Questionnaire"
1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.
--Wendell Berry


"In Middlemarch love enables knowledge. Love is a kind of knowledge. If Fred didn't love Mary, he would have no reason to exercise his imagination on her family. It's love that makes him realize that two women without their savings are a real thing in the world and not merely incidental to his own sense of dishonor. It's love that enables him to feel another's pain as if it were his own. For Eliot, in the absence of God, all our moral tests must take place on this earth and have their rewards and punishments here. We are one another's lesson, one another's duty."
--Zadie Smith, "Middlemarch and Everybody"


"While melancholy is a state of vague dreaminess, never deep or intense, sadness is closed, serious, and painfully interiorized. One can be sad anywhere, but sadness grows in intensity in a closed space while melancholy flourishes in open spaces. Sadness almost always stems from a precise motive and is therefore concentrated, whereas there are no exterior causes for melancholy. I know why I am sad, but I do not know why I am melancholy."
--Emil Cioran, "On Sadness"


"The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things--the beauty, the memory of our own past--are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."
--C. S. Lewis


"After Many Springs"
Now,
in June,
When the night is a vast softness
Filled with blue stars,
And broken shafts of moon-glimmer
Fall upon the earth,
Am I too old to see the fairies dance?
I cannot find them any more.
--Langston Hughes


"The poet Osip Mandelstam talked about the revision process as being like the process of memory: that a glimpse of the whole piece comes in a flash and the writer spends months and years trying to remember it exactly."
--Stephen Dobyns, "Deceptions"


"When we come upon beautiful things--the tiny mauve-orange-blue moth on the brick, Augustine's cake, a sentence about innocence in Hampshire--they act like small tears in the surface of the world that pull us through to some vaster space; or they form 'ladders reaching toward the beauty of the world,' or they lift us (as though by the air currents of someone else's sweeping), letting the ground rotate beneath us several inches, so that when we land, we find we are standing in a different relation to the world than we were a moment before. It is not that we cease to stand at the center of the world, for we never stood there. It is that we cease to stand even at the center of our own world. We willingly cede our ground to the thing that stands before us."
--Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just


To look hard at something, to look through it, is to transform it,
Convert it into something beyond itself, to give it grace.
For over 30 years I've looked at this meadow and mountain landscape
Till it's become iconic and small
And sits, like a medieval traveller's triptych,
                                                                     radiant in its disregard.


--Charles Wright, "Looking Around III"


"Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note"
Lately, I've become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus...

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars,
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter's room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there...
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands.
--Amiri Baraka


"No two stories ever go the same way, although in different hands one story might possibly go any one of a thousand ways; and though the woods may look the same from outside, it is a new and different labyrinth every time."
--Eudora Welty, "Place in Fiction"
 
 
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: "Lenin," by Arcade Fire
 
 
03 July 2015 @ 06:48 pm
"Chalk Dust on the Air"
for Gary Simmons

Our hero explains what lines behave as waves
also behave as particles depending upon the presence
of observers, a market of admirers, etc. Think of sifted
sands Tibetan monks spend months to whisk in minutes:
their attack on nostalgia. Think of Milky Ways of water
damage on the bedroom ceiling. The Apollo module
on the dresser and the Ring Nebula is the blur where
Mom tried to clean expletives crayoned on the wall.
Whorls beyond, imagine a can of Krylon ship-shaped
with braided-rubber-band-propeller roped out to
the nosebleeds in the murk of heaven's hood. The spray
can tags earth's dewy rooftop with synesthetic stars,
foamy scars that welt the blue and melt like meringue
in the dusk, a residue of light in the periphery. Winged seeds
from silver maples at the feet of unshaven sheriffs
offering fists of baby's breath. They smile with cigar stubs
plugging the breach. Renegade lines unleash the hounds,
shake the weight of undressed eye. When some lines try
to pass for the color behind the color they came in, our hero
attempts no intervention. When he orders the lines disperse,
one sheriff's bullhorn blast unsacks a rain of feathers
--Gregory Pardlo


"For Which It Stands"
For a flag! I answered facetiously. A flag of tomorrow,
fluent in fire, not just the whispers, lisps, not just the still there
of powdered wigs, dry winds. Who wants a speckled
drape that folds as easy over smirch as fallen soldier?
This is rhetorical. Like, "What to the Negro
is the fourth of July?" A flag should be stitched with a fuse.

Jefferson said for each generation a flag. Maybe
he said Constitution. I once raised a high-top flag
of my hair, a fist, a leather medallion of the motherland.
I studied heraldry and maniples (which are not
what you might guess), little sails and banners
down to the vane of a feather. Because his kids were
rebel cities my father loved like Sherman. Because
I wanted history I could touch like the flank of a beast.

My wife's people are from San Salvador. They sent us
with a guard, his AK shouldered like a mandolin, among
anil-tinted shawls and jerseys, across tiled and pocked
concrete, and the gated stalls of El Centro. I felt sacred
as a goat there, too, as I did below the Mason-Dixon
where our only protection was the Fourteenth Amendment.

Afraid our Yankee plates would be read aggressive as a Jolly
Roger we rented a compact in Atlanta. Charleston, Savannah,
Montgomery, and after Birmingham we were broke.
Skipped Selma. Slept at B&Bs where my dreams power-
washed layers of footnotes and Februaries, revealing
the surreal sheen of Apollo Creed's trunks, the apocalyptic
Americana of Jacko moonwalking around a tinfoil Buzz
Aldrin planting the corporate ensign. Years passed. I grew
youthless in my dad-pants, but still puffed at pinwheels
and windsocks, launched glyphs of grillsmoke and one day
it came to me, as if commissioned, Theater Gates's Flag
from old fire hoses, a couple dozen, like vertical blinds, no,
like cabin floorboards of canvas colored rusty, brick dust, some
cheerless drab-and-custard, beside a medley of vespertine
blues, hoses evoking landscapes of sackcloth and gunny,
texture of violence and tongues inflamed by shine, holy ghost.

Ross, Duchamp, Johns, et al., are integrated here with officers
of the peace, their dogs, and, in evidence, their pretend
tumescence Gates has hung to cure like pelts
or strips of jerky.

How did it feel to shield spirit with flesh? I mean,
what did it do to the body, water furry as the arm
of an arctic beast? What thirst did it ignite?

Gates's salute is a torch song, a rhythm
of hues marching over a pentimento of rhyme.
I approve its message, its pledge to birth a nation
of belonging and to teach that nation of the fire
shut up in our bones.
--Gregory Pardlo
 
 
Current Mood: hungryhungry
Current Music: "Bach: Largo for Violin," by Emilie Autumn
 
 
dear Antigone,
I take it as the task of the translator
to forbid that you should ever lose your screams
--Anne Carson, from "The Task of the Translator of Antigone," Antigonick


"One of my earliest memories is of trying to peel off the wallpaper in my room, not out of animosity but because it seemed there must be something fascinating beyond the surface pattern of galleons, globes, and telescopes."
--John Ashbery


"Marginalia"
for Colin Channer

"sing the union cause, sing us,/the poor, the marginal."
--Robert Hayden, "Homage to Paul Robeson"

Preamble

Note the confection of your body
salt on the breeze, the corn-
silk sky. Olmstead's signature
archways and meadows. Kite
strings tensing the load of a saddle-
backed wind. This is Prospect Park,
Brooklyn, where limbs tickle
and jounce as if ice cubes shiver
along the shirtsleeves of evergreens. Pond
water whispers, and the echoes of Yankee
fifes linger in wind and in the shirring jazz
hands of leaves, and those shirts,
the skins, the human retinue converging
on the uneven playing fields. The African
drum and dance circle sways the pignut
tree into a charismatic trance as
Orthodox women walk powerfully by, jogging
shoes blinking beneath the billows of their
skirts, children rollerblading, trailing
tzitzits. Take heart in the percussion
structuring the distance like prophetic
weather, a shelter of vibrations:
the last conga note a bolt tapped into
the day's doorframe and you are no less,
no more home here than in the corridors
you return to in your dreams. Illusory,
altogether babel-fractured, a single word
from you might bring the verdant fun-house
down. Listen like a safecracker, navigate
the intricate ruptures by ear: the Latin
patios of picnickers, the Slavic tongues
of lovers replacing your mouth with self-
conscious silence. You are Caliban
and Crusoe, perpetual stranger with a fork
in the socket of life's livid grid,
stunned and bewildered at the frank
intrusion of the mosquito on the hairless
back of your hand. You are stranded
at the limit, extremity and restriction,
jealous for that elusive--the domestic, yes,
you're thinking: not the brick and mortar, but
the quickening backfill of belonging, the stranger-
facing, the neighbor-knowing confidence and ease
with the ripple that diminishes as it extends
over the vast potential of immovable thirst.
You are home now, outsider, for what that's worth.
--Gregory Pardlo


"Problema 2"
"My Father they have killed me."
--Chinua Achebe

Consider throwing the baby from the window a figure
of speech barely reaching across the fence separating
expression from intent. For all our sake, I tell my wife,
I'm going to throw the baby out the window now,
as I rise from the sofa in response to the midnight
wail of another footie uprising heard among
the moans and whines of our neighbors' appliances
and the various alarms of the city's eternal self-soothing.
The ancient hardwood floor in the bedroom upstairs
groaning under thirty-pound footsteps for the fourth time
tonight. It is nearly July in Brooklyn. Windows are open.
Consider the neighbors grimacing, pillowing
their ears against the little one's battle cry.

Because I am teaching Euripides in the fall, I am
reading him now between commercial breaks, and
imagining far-flung Brooklyn quorumed in the armories
and in streets beneath the gingkoes and buttonwoods,
crowds gathering to mandate I quiet my lamb eternally.
What if my neighbors read my hyperbole as oath, made me
keep my word? Who would I betray? Would I smuggle
my mewling daughter to Canada, flee this land? I do love
Brooklyn so. I have lent a neighborly ear to elderly
West Indians on the B44 from Bed-Stuy to Flatbush.
Heard them lament Yankee reluctance to use
old-country discipline, which, they claim, is the only real
solution to this climate of "gang foolery." Spanking. Yes.
The sacramental rod tanning backsides of the elect few,
a ritual hazing to appease the divinity of the unknowable
and omnipresent urban populace. Consider the vanity
of sacrifice, the paper tiger of blind devotion fanning
the dander of a timid hand. Consider Agamemnon,
victim of pride and contagion, raising that hand
against his child at Aulis, the inexorable machinery of tribalism
grinding away the primacy of paternal love. Beware the prophet,
the genie, the divine stranger who, with a wink, unmasks your
arrogant self-images, who finds the harmonic note that gathers
your most discordant emotions toward the mute
accumulation of will. What I do this night
I do for you, Brooklyn,
I offer,
as the banister whimpers beneath my trembling hand.
--Gregory Pardlo


"Four Improvisations on Ursa Corregidora"
after Gayl Jones

trigger warning: abuse, intimate partner violenceCollapse )
--Gregory Pardlo
 
 
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
Current Music: "Sorrow," by the National
 
 
"What I do know is that love reckons with the past and evil reminds us to look to the future. Evil loves tomorrow because peddling in possibility is what abusers do. At my worst, I know that I've wanted the people that I've hurt to look forward, imagining all that I can be and forgetting the contours of who I have been to them.

"Like good Americans, I told Grandma, we will remember to drink ourselves drunk on the antiquated poison of progress. We will long for 'shall's' and 'will be's' and 'hopes' for tomorrow. We will heavy-handedly help in our own deception and moral obliteration. We will forget how much easier it is to talk about gun control, mental illness and riots than it is to talk about the moral and material consequences of manufactured white American innocence.

"We will lament the numbers of folks killed in mass murders in the United States. There's a number for that. We will talk about the numbers of people killed in black-on-black murder. There's a number for that. We will never talk about the number of unemployed and underemployed hard-working black folks living in poverty. We will never talk about the numbers of black folk in prison for the kinds of nonviolent drug-related offenses my white students commit every weekend. We will never talk about the number of human beings killed by young American military men and women draped in camouflage, or the number of human beings murdered by drones across the world. We will never talk about the specific amount of money this country really owes Grandma and her friends for their decades of unpaid labor. We will never talk about the moral and monetary debt accrued by the architects of this Empire. There are shameful numbers for all of that, too."
--Kiese Laymon in an essay you can read here


"Night"
The cold remote islands
And the blue estuaries
Where what breathes, breathes
The restless wind of the inlets,
And what drinks, drinks
The incoming tide;

Where shell and weed
Wait upon the salt wash of the sea,
And the clear night of stars
Swing their lights westward
To set behind the land;

Where the pulse clinging to the rocks
Renews itself forever;
Where, again on unclouded nights,
The water reflects
The firmament's partial setting;

--O remember
In your narrowing dark hours
That more things move
Than blood in the heart.
--Louise Bogan


"Grey Eyes"
When she speaks it is like coming onto a grave
at the edge of a woods, softly, so we
do not enter or wholly
turn away. Such speech
is the breath a brush makes through hair,
opening into time
after the stroke.

A tree is bending
but the bird doesn't land.

One star,
earthbound, reports a multitude of unyielding
others. It
cannot help its   falling   falling
into the dull brown earth of someone's back yard,
where, in daylight, a hand reaches
in front of the mower and tosses it, dead stone,
aside. We who saw it fall

are still crashing with light into the housetops,
tracing in the mind that missing
trajectory, rainbow of darkness
where we were--children
murmuring--'There, over there!'--while the houses
slept on and on.

Years later she is still nesting on the light
of that plundered moment, her black hair
frozen to her head with yearning,
saying, 'Father, I am a colder green
where the mower cut a swath
and I lay down
and the birds that have no use for song
passed over me
like a shovel-fall.'

She closed her eyes. It was early morning. Daybreak.
Some bees
were dying on my wing–humming
so you could hardly hear.

--Tess Gallagher


"Learning a Language"
She's reading your minds
as you pass by, the

dipsomane déguisée en rose

While she waits
for her date
to turn up, the moon
in the man...

She know exactly what is going to happen

she'll be guided
upstairs
to a bedroom, and turning around
he will show her his
gun

He'll ask if she would like to
hold it,
which she will

amazed
at its lightness
and beauty
this thing

it must have taken 4 million years to make

squeezing it she will feel cold
and invisible light flowing
into her spine

So there is a door out of here after all

And to visit a new place creates one
in the brain

How do you say no

How do you say anything
to throw up in

Can I use this room to cry

Radiant fuel
body
of water

along which she walks, she is
walked

Why
did we leave, and how
are we ever getting back--
--Franz Wright


"Lonesome Pine Special"
I was walking out this morning with rambling on my mind.
--Sara Carter

There's a curve in the road, and a slow curve in the land,
Outside of Barbourville, Kentucky, on U.S. 25E,
I've always liked
                            each time I've passed it,
Bottomland, river against a ridge to the west,
A few farmhouses on each side of the road, some mailboxes
Next to a dirt lane that leads off through the fields.
Each time I'd think
                                How pleasant it must be to live here.
 
                                    _____
 
In Kingsport, when I was growing up,
Everyone seemed to go to Big Stone Gap, Virginia, up U.S. 23,
All the time.
                      Everyone had an uncle or aunt there,
Or played golf, or traded cars.
They were always going up there
                                                      to get married, or get liquor,
Or to get what was owed them
By someone they'd been in the service with.
 
Lone went up there more often than anyone else did,
Part of his territory for State Farm,
                                                         somebody said,
Without much conviction.
 
When the talk turned to whiskey,
                                                      and everyone dusted his best lie off,
We all know, or thought we knew, where Lone went
With his funny walk and broken back
He could hit a golf ball a ton with,
                                                        even if he did stand sideways
Like a man hauling a body out of the water,
Being the real owner, we thought, of that gas station out on the Jonesboro highway
You went to the back of
                                        for a pint after 10 p.m.,
Lone getting richer and richer until the Moose Lodge
Started to take his business away
                                                    by doing it legal, and during the daylight.
 
So Lone went back, we all thought,
To stumping around the golf course, still
Hitting it sideways, still selling whatever he could
To anyone foolish enough to play with him and pay him,
Old Lone, slicker than owl oil.
 
                                    _____
 
It was all so American,
The picket fence of wrought iron a hundred years old,
Lilacs at every corner of the lawned yard
                                                                  in great heaps and folds,
A white house and wild alfalfa in scattered knots
Between the fence the cracked sidewalk,
The wind from the Sawtooth Mountains
                                              riffling the dust in slow eddies along the street
Near the end of June in Hailey, Idaho,
The house where Pound was born,
                                                        with its red maple floors
And small windows two blocks from Idaho 75,
Hemingway ten miles on up the same road between two evergreens,
Nobody noticing either place
                                                as the cars went through town
All night and all day, going north, going south . . .
 
                                    _____
 
Another landscape I liked
Was south of Wytheville, Virginia, on U.S. 52
Just short of the Carolina line,
                                                 a steel bridge over the New River,
Pasture on both sides of the road and woods on the easy slopes,
Big shrubs and trees lining the riverbanks like fur,
The road and the river both
Angling back toward the Iron Mountains,
The valley bulging out to the east
                                                       in a graceful swirl,
The dead chestnut trees like grey candles
Wherever the woods began . . .
 
What is it about a known landscape
                                                          that tends to undo us,
That shuffles and picks us out
For terminal demarcation, the way a field of lupine
Seen in profusion deep in the timber
Suddenly seems to rise like a lavendar ground fog
At noon?
                What is it inside the imagination that keeps surprising us
At odd moments
                            when something is given back
We didn't know we had had
In solitude, spontaneously, and with great joy?
 
                                    _____
 
Today, at midsummer noon, I took the wooden floats
To the Yaak River, the small ones I'd carved from the larch
And cedar chips,
                             and loosed them downstream
To carry my sins away, as the palace gardians did each year at this time
In medieval Japan,
Where the river goes under the new bridge
                                                                      on County 508
And the first homesteaders took up their quarter sections.
From Sam Runyan's to Susie Speed's
Through white water and rock and the tendrilous shade
Of the tamaracks,
                              out into rubbery blotches of sunlight,
The floats' shadows hanging beneat them like odd anchors
Along the pebbled bottom, the river slowing and widening,
The floats at great distances from one another
Past Binder's cabin under the black
                                                          of the evergreen-covered dam
And over the falls and gone into foam and next year . . .
 
                                    _____
 
In the world of dirt, each tactile thing
                                                             repeats the untouchable
In its own way, and in its own time.
Just short of Tryon, North Carolina, on U. S. 176,
Going south down the old Saluda Grade,
                                                                   kudzu has grown up
And over the tops of miles of oak trees and pine trees,
A wall of vines a hundred feet high, or used to be,
Into South Carolina,
That would have gone for a hundred more with the right scaffolding,
Rising out of the rock and hard clay in thin, prickly ropes
To snake and thread in daily measurable distances
Over anything still enough long enough,
                                                                  and working its way
Out of the darkness and overhang of its own coils
To break again and again
Into the sunlight, worthless and everywhere,
                                                                        breathing, breathing,
Looking for leverage and a place to climb.
 
                                    _____
 
It's true, I think, as Kenko says in his Idleness,
That all beauty depends upon disappearance,
The bitten edges of things,
                                            the gradual sliding away
Into tissue and memory,
                                       the uncertainty
And dazzling impermanence of days we beg our meanings from,
And their frayed loveliness.
 
Going west out of Kalispell, Montana, on U.S. 2,
If you turned at Kila,
                                   and skirted the big slough
Where Doagie Duncan killed three men some seventy years ago
After a fight over muskrat hides,
Then turned south toward the timber
                                                            and higher ground
On the dirt road to the Flathead Mine,
Past Sundelius' homestead and up toward Brown's Meadows,
Then swung down where the mine road
                                                                branches right and doubles back,
You'd come through the thinning spruce and fir
And lodgepole pine to suddenly open hillsides
And deep draws
                           of the Hog Heaven country
And start to see what I mean, the bunchgrass and bitterroot
And wild clover flattening under the wind
As you turned from the dirt road,
                                                      opened the Kansas gate
And began to follow with great care
The overgrown wagon ruts through the blowing field,
                                                                              the huge tamarack snag,
Where the tracks end and the cabin is,
Black in the sunlight's wash and flow
                                                             just under the hill's crown,
Pulling you down like weight to the front door . . .
 
The cabin is still sizable, four rooms and the walls made
Of planed lumber inside,
                                         the outside chinked with mud
And cement, everything fifty years
Past habitation, the whole structure
                                                          leaning into the hillside,
Windowless, doorless, and oddly beautiful in its desolation
And attitude, and not like
The cold and isolate misery it must have stood for
When someone lived here, and heard, at night,
This same wind sluicing the jack pines
                                                                and ruined apple trees
In the orchard, and felt the immensity
Loneliness brings moving under his skin
Like a live thing, and emptiness everywhere like a live thing
Beyond the window's reach and fire's glare . . .
 
Whoever remembers that best owns all this now.
After him it belongs to the wind again,
                          and the shivering bunchgrass, ad the seed cones.
 
                                    _____
 
There is so little to say, and so much time to say it in.
 
Once, in 1955 on an icy road in Sam's Gap, North Carolina,
Going north into Tennessee on U.S. 23,
I spun out on a slick patch
And the car turned once-and-a-half around,
Stopping at last with one front wheel on a rock
                                                                            and the other on air,
Hundreds of feet of air down the mountainside
I backed away from, mortal again
After having left myself
                                        and returned, having watched myself
Wrench the wheel toward the spin, as I'm doing now,
Stop and shift to reverse, as I'm doing now,
                                                                       and back out on the road
As I entered my arms and fingers again
Calmly, as though I had never left them,
Shift to low, and never question the grace
That had put me there and alive, as I'm doing now . . .
 
                                    _____
 
Solo Joe is a good road.
It cuts southwest off Montana 508 above Blacktail Creek,
Crosses the East Fork of the Yaak River
                                                                 and climbs toward Mount Henry.
Joe was an early prospector
Back in the days when everything came in by pack string
Or didn't come at all.
                                    One spring he shot his pet cat
On the front porch with a rifle between the eyes
As she came through the cabin door.
He later explained she was coming for him
                                                                      but he got her first.
He drank deer's blood, it was said, and kept to himself,
Though one story has him a gambler later downriver near Kalispell.
Nobody lives there now,
But people still placer-mine in the summer, and camp out
Illegally on the riverbank.
No one knows anything sure about Joe but his first name
And the brown government sign that remembers him.
And that's not so bad, I think.
                                                 It's a good road, as I say,
And worse things than that will happen to most of us.
 
                                    _____
 
The road in is always longer than the road out,
Even if it's the same road.
I think I'd like to find one
                                          impassable by machine,
A logging road from the early part of the century,
Overgrown and barely detectable.
I'd like it to be in North Carolina,
                                                       in Henderson County
Between Mount Pinnacle and Mount Anne,
An old spur off the main track
The wagons and trucks hauled out on.
Blackberry brambles, and wild raspberry and poison ivy
Everywhere; grown trees between the faint ruts;
Deadfall and windfall and velvety sassafras fans
On both sides . . .
                              It dips downhill and I follow it.
It dips down and it disappears and I follow it.

--Charles Wright


"Lot's Wife"
And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.
--Anna Akhmatova, translated from the Russian by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward
 
 
Current Mood: awakeawake
Current Music: "Easy," by Nicki Minaj ft. Gucci Mane & Rocko
 
 
"There Is No Shelter"
Each evening, the sins of the whole world collect here like a dew.
In the morning, little galaxies, they flash out
And flame,
                   their charred, invisible residue etching

The edges our lives take and the course of things, filling
The shadows in,
                      an aftertrace, through the discards of the broken world,
Like the long, slow burn of a struck match.

--Charles Wright


"The Body as Metaphor"
We only imagine it ends
like childhood, or rain:
fever, the purl in the bone, the amended
lustre of the self, all shell and glitter,

as if I had long been decided
that flesh is a journey,
something immense in the blood,
like a summer of locusts,

or something not quite visible, but quick
as birchseed, or the threading of a wire
through sleep and rapture, gathering the hand
that reaches from the light, to close, or open.
--John Burnside


"The Asians Dying"
When the forests have been destroyed their darkness remains
The ash the great walker follows the possessors
Forever
Nothing they will come to is real
Nor for long
Over the watercourses
Like ducks in the time of the ducks
The ghosts of the villages trail in the sky
Making a new twilight

Rain falls into the open eyes of the dead
Again again with its pointless sound
When the moon finds them they are the color of everything

The nights disappear like bruises but nothing is healed
The dead go away like bruises
The blood vanishes into the poisoned farmlands
Pain the horizon
Remains
Overhead the seasons rock
They are paper bells
Calling to nothing living

The possessors move everywhere under Death their star
Like columns of smoke they advance into the shadows
Like thin flames with no light
They with no past
And fire their only future
--W. S. Merwin


"Moonbeam"
The mist rose with a little sound. Like a thud.
Which was the heart beating. And the sun rose, briefly diluted.
And after what seemed years, it sank again
and twilight washed over the shore and deepened there.
And from out of nowhere lovers came,
people who still had bodies and hearts. Who still had
arms, legs, mouths, although by day they might be
housewives and businessmen.

The same night also produced people like ourselves.
You are like me, whether or not you admit it.
Unsatisfied, meticulous. And your hunger is not for experience
but for understanding, as though it could be had in the abstract.

Then it's daylight again and the world goes back to normal.
The lovers smooth their hair; the moon resumes its hollow existence.
And the beach belongs again to mysterious birds
soon to appear on postage stamps.

But what of our memories, the memories of those who depend on images?
Do they count for nothing?

The mist rose, taking back proof of love.
Without which we have only the mirror, you and I.
--Louise Glück


"Amber"
It never mattered that there was once a vast grieving:

trees on their hillsides, in their groves, weeping--
a plastic gold dropping

through seasons and centuries to the ground—
until now:

On this fine September afternoon from which you are absent
I am holding, as if my hand could store it,
an ornament of amber

you once gave me.

Reason says this:
The dead cannot see the living.
The living will never see the dead again.
The clear air we need to find each other in is gone forever, yet

this resin
collected seeds, leaves, and even small feathers as it fell
and fell,

which now in a sunny atmosphere seem as alive as
they ever were,

as though the past could be present and memory itself
a Baltic honey--

a chafing at the edges of the seen, a showing off of just how much
can be kept safe

inside a flawed translucence.
--Eavan Boland


"One Night"
I am scared of one night. One night might come upon me while I sleep. One night might kiss me & never unzip its lips. I never try to leave the bed, never try to sit up. One night is always there like a tumor: a drum machine fear. I've known one night my whole life. It chases me off the edge of the screen at the end of each act. It speaks & I listen with all my wounds & all my fingerprints. I want an operation to connect me to one night. It is lost in the dark, surely alone, surely shivering, & there is nothing I can do to protect it.
--Mathias Svalina
 
 
Current Mood: discontentdiscontent
Current Music: "You," by TV on the Radio
 
 
"With Ruins"
Choose a quiet
place, a ruins, a house no more
a house,
under whose stone archway I stood
one day to duck the rain.

The roofless floor, vertical
studs, eight wood columns
supporting nothing,
two staircases careening to nowhere, all
make it seem

a sketch, notes to a house, a three-
dimensional grid negotiating
absences,
an idea
receding into indefinite rain,

or else that idea
emerging, skeletal
against the hammered sky, a
human thing, scoured seen clean
through from here to an iron heaven.

A place where things
were said and done,
there you can remember
what you need to
remember. Melancholy is useful. Bring yours.

There are no neighbors to wonder
who you are,
what you might be doing
walking there,
stopping now and then

to touch a crumbling brick
or stand in a doorway
framed by the day.
No one has to know you
think of another doorway

that framed the rain or news of war
depending on which way you faced.
You think of sea-roads and earth-roads
you traveled once, and always
in the same direction: away.

You think
of a woman, a favorite
dress, your old father's breasts
the last time you saw him, his breath,
brief, the leaf

you've torn from a vine and which you hold now
to your cheek like a train ticket
or a piece of cloth, a little hand or a blade--
it all depends
on the course of your memory.

It's a place
for those who own no place
to correspond to ruins in the soul.
It's mine.
It's all yours.
--Li-Young Lee


"When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else."
--Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace


"In the afternoons, when the shades were pulled for my nap, the light coming through was of a dark yellow, nearly orange, melancholy, as heavy as honey and it made me thirsty. That doesn't say it all, nor even a greater part. Yet it seems eve more incomplete when we were there in person. Half the day in half the room.
--Lyn Hejinian, "A name trimmed with colored ribbons"


"We are the learned or ignorant caretakers of several memories. When I write, language remembers without my knowing or indeed with my knowing, remembers the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, the whole of literature, each book.

"Then, I who write, I inscribe an additional memory in language--a memory in progress--of what I have read personally, noticed, retained from a text or a language to the other. And the whole is poured back, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, into the river I sail."
--Hélène Cixous


"It had been quiet in Estha's head until Rahel came. But with her she had brought the sound of passing trains, and the light and shade and light and shade that falls on you if you have a window seat. The world, locked out for years, suddenly flooded in, and now Estha couldn't hear himself for the noise. Trains. Traffic. Music. The stock market. A dam had burst and savage waters swept everything up in a swirling. Comets, violins, parades, loneliness, clouds, beards, bigots, lists, flags, earthquakes, despair were all swept up in a scrambled swirling."
--Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things


"Occasionally, when [she] listened to songs that she loved on the radio, something stirred inside her. A liquid ache spread under her skin, and she walked out of the world like a witch, to a better, happier place. On days like this there was something restless and untamed about her."
--Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things


"I believe that one can only begin to advance along the path of discovery, the discovery of writing or anything else, from mourning and in the reparation of mourning. In the beginning the gesture of writing is linked to the experience of disappearance, to the feeling of having lost the key to the world, of having been thrown outside. Of having suddenly acquired the precious sense of the rare, of the mortal. Of having urgently to regain the entrance, the breath, to keep the trace."
--Hélène Cixous, translated by Deborah Jenson


"We're thirsty, thirsty. We're salt water and sweet. And the bitter and the sad mixes with the dulce. It's as if we're rivers and oceans emptying and filling and swelling and drowning one another. It's frightening and wonderful all at once. For once, I feel as if there's not enough of me, as if I'm too small to contain all the happiness inside me."
--Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo
 
 
Current Mood: restlessrestless
Current Music: "Echo Gallery," by Amanda Palmer
 
 
"Frame, an Epistle"
Most of the things you made for me--blanket--
chest, lapdesk, the armless rocker--I gave
away to friends who could use them and not
be reminded of the hours lost there,
not having been witness to those designs,
the tedious finishes. But I did keep
the mirror, perhaps because like all mirrors,
most of these years it has been invisible,
part of the wall, or defined by reflection--
safe--because reflection, after all, does change.
I hung it here in the front, dark hallway
of this house you will never see, so that
it might magnify the meager light,
become a lesser, backward window. No one
pauses long before it. But this morning,
as I put on my overcoat, then straightened
my hair, I saw outside my face its frame
you made for me, admiring for the first
time the way the cherry you cut and planed
yourself had darkened, just as you said it would.
--Claudia Emerson


Under the heart of grass, dew is heavy.
Along the path, a barefoot child carries
an open basket of strawberries.
And through a window I watch him--
as if he's hauling a basket of dawn.

How I wish a path would run my way,
how I wish I held a basket that swayed.
Then I wouldn't long for a far-off realm,
I wouldn't envy what someone else had.
And I would never--really--come back home.
--Arseny Tarkovsky, translator unknown


"Gravity"
After Carrie Mae Weems's "The Kitchen Table Series"

I. THE STRAW

Can you throw this away Maybe you should hire more Black staff
Where are you really from You’re not busy are you You look ethnic today
Where's the African American section Can you turn the music down
Fasterfasterfaster Let me see those eyes Beautiful If you were mine
I'd never let you leave the house It's like you went straight to Africa
to get this one Is that your hair I mean your real hair Blackass
Your gums are black You Black You stink You need a perm
I don't mean to be
racist

But
You're scarred over, I'm the one bleeding
You're just going to rip apart whatever I say
You've said sorry only two times
We tacitly agreed
Then dead me


II. THE CAMEL'S BACK

When you born on somebody else's river in a cursed boat it's all
downhill from there. Ha. Just kidding. I'd tell you what I don't have
time for but I don’t have time. Catch up. Interrogate that. Boss. Halo.
I juke the apocalypse. Fluff my feathers. Diamond my neck. Boom,
like an 808. One in a million. I don't want no scrubs. You don't know
my name. Everything I say is a spell. I'm twenty-five. I'm ninety. I'm
ten. I'm a moonless charcoal. A sour lover. Hidden teeth beneath the
velvet. I'm here and your eyes lucky. I'm here and your future lucky.
Ha. God told me to tell you I'm pretty. Ha. My skin Midas-touch the
buildings I walk by. Ha. Every day I'm alive the weather report say:
Gold. I know. I know. I should leave y'all alone, salt earth like to stay
salty. But here go the mirror, egging on my spirit. Why I can't go back.
Or. The reasons it happened. Name like a carriage of fire. Baby, it's
real. The white face peeking through the curtain. Mule and God. I'm
blunted off my own stank. I'm Bad. I dig graves when I laugh.
--Angel Nafis


"The present is not marked off from a past that it has replaced or a future that will, in turn, replace it; it rather gathers the past and future into itself, like refractions in a crystal ball."
--Tim Ingold, "The Temporality of the Landscape"


"To Be Alive"
To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That's crudely put, but...

If we're not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?
--Gregory Orr


"It's not enough that a poem extol the virtues of survival and overcoming. What if the poet never overcomes? What if the poet hears the same bitter verdict when testimony after testimony has been given? What if that poet--and this is the ultimate emotional transgression that repels the reader who takes comfort in literature as forgiveness--still feels a shadow of hate and it is that hate that disfigures song into something broken? But see, the only way to get at that inalienable grief is to disfigure song."
--Cathy Park Hong, "Against Witness"


"This first, which might doom everything: poetry is the closest literary form we have to silence. I think about prose too sometimes. What I think is--prose is made almost completely of words. And poetry is not. I keep coming back to this notion in more visceral ways, especially these warmer mornings, the windows open, all the early neighborhood silence rushing in. But of course that silence, like poetry's, isn't silence at all. I hear all manner of birds--the robin's clear push-me, pull-me song, the whirl of the wren and the house finch, the plaintive two or three notes of the chickadee, the two-note hiccup rush of the titmouse. Count more: the thump of the paper on the porch, the guy across the street slamming his car door once, twice. [...] Such an ordinary world. Not the sound of poetry. Not yet anyway. Still, the wayward, sometimes urgent sound of such a world is specifically--to me--a poetic sound, neither the mind's nor the heart's but some weird hybrid, a rhythm out to discover what is knowable and, more aptly perhaps, what is not."
--Marianne Boruch, "The Sound of It"


"In this rhetoric s/m becomes reparative or restorative; and the formalization of its practices suggests a ritual that is repeated in order to recuperate losses or heal the wounds of life. S/m, then, implicitly begins to take on the shape of an art form that is counterpoised to life, and in this opposition its acting out becomes an artistic performance that is more 'real' than life itself. 'Above and beyond the boundaries of time, the boundaries of life and death, there is a greater truth in visions,' Thompson writes. In this way s/m becomes expressed as a journey in which there is no truth prior to the experience but one at the journey's end. Nonetheless this 'end-truth' is somehow always already there, for it is a presupposition of the desire to make the journey itself. In this sense s/m takes on both a redemptive and pastoralizing tone, partaking in the discourses of sacrifice, amendment, atonement. Not, however, in the service of those who have 'sinned,' but as compensation for those who have been sinned against."
--Lynda Hart, Between the Body and the Flesh: Performing Sadomasochism


"Between takeoff and landing, we are each in suspended animation, a pause between chapters of our lives. When we stare out the window into the sun's glare, the landscape is only a flat projection with mountain ranges reduced to wrinkles in the continental skin. Oblivious to our passage overhead, other stories are unfolding beneath us. Blackberries ripen in the August sun; a woman packs a suitcase and hesitates at her doorway; a letter is opened and the most surprising photograph slides from between the pages. But we are moving too fast and we are too far away; all the stories escape us, except our own."
--Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses


"I Am an Only Child (Am I Only a Child)"
Occasionally, there is a herd of mares outside my window.
They shout my name over & over. I say back, I say, I don't have
any stories to tell you. They become angry. They throw their
bodies at the walls of my home. Finally I dig a moat. I dig it
deep. All night, there are horses drowning outside my window.
They cry, How could you do this to us? They cry. I lower the blinds
& sleep for a long, long time. When I awake, my bedroom is full
of limp horse bodies. Who put these in here? Who?
but not a single mare stirs. I lift the blinds. The moat is empty.
The face of the water gleams in the sun. I leap out. I lower
my body into the moat. Finally I am alone, I say to myself. I dip
my muzzle into the water, & drink.
--Anaïs Duplan


"Take away my affections and I should be like sea weed out of water; like the shell of a crab, like a husk. All my entrails, marrow, juice, pulp would be gone. I should be blown into the first pubble and drown. Take away the love of my friends and my burning and pressing sense of the importance and lovability of human life and I should be nothing but a membrane, a fibre, uncoloured, lifeless..."
--Virginia Woolf, from a letter to Ethel Smyth


"The future is only an indifferent void no one cares about, but the past is filled with life, and its countenance is irritating, repellent, wounding, and to the point that we want to destroy or repaint it. We want to be masters of the future only for the power to change the past."
--Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting


"A story with a single ending seems to us a bare and diminished thing, like a tree with a single branch; and each ending seems to us an expression of something that is buried deep within the tale and can be brought to light in that way and no other."
--Steven Millhauser, Little Kingdoms


"Drag"
The dress is an oil slick. The dress
ruins everything. In a hotel room
by the water, I put it on when
he says, I want to watch you take it off.
Zipping me up, he kisses the mile
markers of my spine. I can't afford
this view. From here, I see a city
that doesn't know it's already
drowning. My neck shivers from
the trail of his tongue. I keep my
eyes on the window, just past
his bald spot. He's short. I can see
the rain that has owned us for weeks
already. The dress will survive us.
The dress will be here when men
come in boats to survey the damage.
He makes me another drink, puts
on some jazz, and the dress begins
to move without me. Slow like some-
thing that knows it cannot be stopped,
the dress seeps. The dress slides
with my body floating inside,
an animal caught in the sludge.
If he wraps his arms around me,
it will be the rest of his life.
I don't even know what I am
in this dress; I just sway with
my arms open and wait.
--Saeed Jones


"Night, the Poem"
If you find your true voice, bring it to the land of the dead. There is kindness in the ashes. And terror in non-identity. A little girl lost in a ruined house, this fortress of my poems.

I write with the blind malice of children pelting a madwoman, like a crow, with stones. No--I don't write: I open a breach in the dusk so the dead can send messages through.

What is this job of writing? To steer by mirror-light in darkness. To imagine a place known only to me. To sing of distances, to hear the living notes of painted birds on Christmas trees.

My nakedness bathed you in light. You pressed against my body to drive away the great black frost of night.

My words demand the silence of a wasteland.

Some of them have hands that grip my heart the moment they're written. Some words are doomed like lilacs in a storm. And some are like the precious dead--even if I still prefer to all of them the words for the doll of a sad little girl.
--Alejandra Pizarnik, translated by Cole Heinowitz


"IX Shooting Back"
You load, focus, aim.
The shutter falls like a tiny axe,
Reopens, a blinking eye washed in light.

An image enters the world
Premature, wet, lit like a miracle. The holier ones
Exploit darkness, develop like secrets.

Only the faithful possess
Nerve enough to stand this long, arms crossed,
Fearlessly posed, in the line of fire.

Every shot attempts to capture
The will-to-survive of its target:
High-top fades, hooded sweats, hard stares,

A Gucci background, a wicker chair.
--Thomas Sayers Ellis


"The Corn Baby"
They brought it. It was brought
from the field, the last sheaf, the last bundle

the latest and most final armful. Up up
over the head, hold it, hold it high, it held

the gazer's gaze, it held hope, did hold it.
Through the stubble of September, on shoulders

aloft, hardly anything, it weighed, like a sparrow,
it was said, something winged, hollow, though

pulsing, freed from the field
where it flailed in wind, where it waited, wanted

to be found and bound with cord. It had
limbs, it had legs. And hands. It had fingers.

Fingers and a face peering from the stalks,
shuttered in the grain, closed, though just a kernel

a shut corm. They brought him and autumn
rushed in, tossed its cape of starlings,

tattered the frost-spackled field.
--Mark Wunderlich
 
 
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "City Water," by the 1900s
 
 
"An Urban Convalescence"
Out for a walk, after a week in bed,
I find them tearing up part of my block
And, chilled through, dazed and lonely, join the dozen
In meek attitudes, watching a huge crane
Fumble luxuriously in the filth of years.
Her jaws dribble rubble. An old man
Laughs and curses in her brain,
Bringing to mind the close of The White Goddess.

As usual in New York, everything is torn down
Before you have had time to care for it.
Head bowed, at the shrine of noise, let me try to recall
What building stood here. Was there a building at all?
I have lived on this same street for a decade.

Wait. Yes. Vaguely a presence rises
Some five floors high, of shabby stone
--Or am I confusing it with another one
In another part of town, or of the world?--
And over its lintel into focus vaguely
Misted with blood (my eyes are shut)
A single garland sways, stone fruit, stone leaves,
Which years of grit had etched until it thrust
Roots down, even into the poor soil of my seeing.
When did the garland become part of me?
I ask myself, amused almost,
Then shiver once from head to toe,

Transfixed by a particular cheap engraving of garlands
Bought for a few francs long ago,
All calligraphic tendril and cross-hatched rondure,
Ten years ago, and crumpled up to stanch
Boughs dripping, whose white gestures filled a cab,
And thought of neither then nor since.
Also, to clasp them, the small, red-nailed hand
Of no one I can place. Wait. No. Her name, her features

Lie toppled underneath that year's fashions.
The words she must have spoken, setting her face
To fluttering like a veil, I cannot hear now,
Let alone understand.

So that I am already on the stair,
As it were, of where I lived,
When the whole structure shudders at my tread
And soundlessly collapses, filling
The air with motes of stone.
Onto the still erect building next door
Are pressed levels and hues--
Pocked rose, streaked greens, brown whites.
Who drained the pousse-café?
Wires and pipes, snapped off at the roots, quiver.

Well, that is what life does. I stare
A moment longer, so. And presently
The massive volume of the world
Closes again.

Upon that book I swear
To abide by what it teaches:
Gospels of ugliness and waste,
Of towering voids, of soiled gusts,
Of a shrieking to be faced
Full into, eyes astream with cold--

With cold?
All right then. With self-knowledge.

Indoors at last, the pages of Time are apt
To open, and the illustrated mayor of New York,
Given a glimpse of how and where I work,
To note yet one more house that can be scrapped.

Unwillingly I picture
My walls weathering in the general view.
It is not even as though the new
Buildings did very much for architecture.
Suppose they did. The sickness of our time requires
That these as well be blasted in their prime.
You would think the simple fact of having lasted
Threatened our cities like mysterious fires.

There are certain phrases which to use in a poem
Is like rubbing silver with quicksilver. Bright
But facile, the glamour deadens overnight.
For instance, how "the sickness of our time"

Enhances, then debases, what I feel.
At my desk I swallow in a glass of water
No longer cordial, scarcely wet, a pill
They had told me not to take until much later.

With the result that back into my imagination
The city glides, like cities seen from air,
Mere smoke and sparkle to the passenger
Having in mind another destination

Which now is not that honey-slow descent
Of the Champs-Élysées, her hand in his,
But the dull need to make some kind of house
Out of the life lived, out of the love spent.
--James Merrill


"Humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle."
--G. K. Chesterton


"God could be only the fruit of our anemia: a tottering and rachitic image. He is mild, good, sublime, just. But who recognizes himself in that mixture redolent of rose water, relegated to transcendence? […] Because he overflows with life, the Devil has no altar: man recognizes himself too readily in him to worship him; he detests him for good reason; he repudiates himself, and maintains the indigent attributes of God. But the Devil never complains and never aspires to found a religion: are we not here to safeguard him from inanition and oblivion?"
--Emil Cioran, A Short History of Decay
 
 
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "My Friends," by Laura Marling
 
 
"Hoplophobia"
The most common manifestation of hoplophobia
is the idea that [weapons] possess a will of their own.

--Colonel Jeff Cooper


trigger warning: violence, war, guns, murderCollapse )
--Jamaal May


"How to Disappear Completely"
You are quarter ghost on your mother's side.
Your heart is a flayed peach in a bone box.
Your hair comes away in clumps like cheap fabric wet.
A reflecting pool gathers around your altar
of plywood sub flooring and split wooden slats.
You are rag doll prone. You are contort,
angle and arc. Here you rot. Here
you are a greening abdomen, slipping skin,
flesh fly, carrion beetles.
This is where bullets take shelter,
where scythes find their function, breath loses
its place on the page. This is where the page is torn
out of every book before chapter's close,
this is slippage, this is a shroud of neglect
pulled over the body, this
is your chance to escape.
     Little wraith,
bend light around your skin until it colors you clear,
disappear like silica in a kiln, become
glass and glass beads, become
the staggered whir of an exhaust fan:
something only noticed
when gone. Become
an origami swan. Fold yourself smaller
than ever before. Become less. More
in some ways but less
in the way a famine is less. They will
forgive you for not being satisfied
with fitting in their hands.

They will forgive you
for dying to be

a bird diminutive enough
to fit in a mouth and not be crushed.

--Jamaal May


"Fire Graffiti"
Throughout those dismal months my life was only sparked
alight when I made love to you.
As the firefly ignites and fades, ignites and fades, we follow the flashes
of its flight in the dark among the olive trees.

Throughout those dismal months, my soul sat slumped and lifeless
but my body walked to yours.
The night sky was lowing.
We milked the cosmos secretly, and survived.
--Tomas Tranströmer, translator unknown


"Words"
What has happened?
language eludes me
the nice specifying
words of my life fail
when I call

Ah says a friend
dried up no doubt
on the desiccated
twigs in the swamp
of the skull like
a lake where the
water level has been
shifted by highways
a couple of miles off

Another friend says
No no    my dear    perhaps
you are only meant to
speak more plainly

--Grace Paley


"The Abyssal Plain"
Here beneath the last revenant of light
that falls the way a man might fall asleep,
drawn through the part that hallucinates
eel and angel, the strange blue fin that sweeps
a camouflage of dust into the camera,
what good is desire. The lamps of fish
have all gone cold, dark, their exotica
scattered in tiny particles of flesh.
What this world needs is a place to drown
its refuse: old ships, derricks, nuclear waste,
the leviathan of grief. A place like time
which, in truth, heals nothing. It forgets,
taken in like a pill that makes us calm
and dreamless, beneath the silence of the rain.
--Bruce Bond


"Self Portrait"
I did not want my body
Spackled in the world's
Black beads and broke
Diamonds. What the world

Wanted, I did not. Of the things
It wanted. The body of Sunday
Morning, the warm wine and
The blood. The dripping fox

Furs dragged through the black New
York snow--the parked car, the pearls,
To the first pew--the funders,
The trustees, the bloat, the red weight of

The world. Their faces. I wanted not
That. I wanted Saint Francis, the love of
His animals. The wolf, broken and bleeding--
That was me.
--Cynthia Cruz


"Elegy for a Walnut Tree"
Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world.
--W. S. Merwin


"Desires are already memories."
--Italo Calvino, translator unknown


The world has tired of tears.
We weep owls now. They live longer.
They know their way in the dark.
--Natalie Diaz, "Prayers or Oubliettes"


"Awaking in New York"
Curtains forcing their will
against the wind,
children sleep,
exchanging dreams with
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a
rumor of war,
lie stretching into dawn,
unasked and unheeded.
--Maya Angelou


"I feel that I am just earth, soil lying helpless to move myself, but thinking. I seem to hear herds of big beasts like horses and cows thundering over me, and rains beating down; and winds sweeping furiously overall acting upon me, but me, well, just soil,
feeling but not able to take part in it all. Then a soft wind like love passes over and warms me, and a summer rain comes down like understanding and softens me, and I push a blade of grass or a flower, or maybe a pine tree--that's the ground thinking. Plants are ground thoughts, because the soil can't move itself."
--Zora Neale Hurston, "John Redding Goes to Sea"


"To write by shreds, by storm clouds, by visions, by violent chapters, in the present as in the archpast, in pre-vision, in the true chaos of verbal tenses, crossing over years and oceans at a god's pace, with the past on my right and the future on my left--this is forbidden in academies, it is permitted in apocalypses. What joy it is."
--Hélène Cixous, Stigmata: Escaping Texts


"Herman Finley"
I didn't tell you that, in the end, he begged
For the end. Death like the bed after
The bedtime story. Death like a widening
Crack of light beneath the door.
He begged them to let him
Go so he could go. Said I want
To die. Then said kill me. Please.

You and I endure that first pain.
We just want to die. People with that
Other ultimately physical agony say
Kill me and know they won't discuss it
In therapy. Kill me. I'm thinking
Of him today because I want to die
And I am ashamed to say it. My thinking

Is red and sticky. Rather than kill me,
I'd like you to listen as I live
In a perpetual whine. Can't I still be
Somebody's baby? Say yes for yourself.
Call me some time. Every day I wish to die,
Remind me how he insisted.
Kill me. And I'll live again.
--Jericho Brown


"I suppose it is submerged memories that give to our dreams their curious air of hyper-reality. But perhaps there is something else as well, something nebulous, gauze-like, through which everything one sees in a dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust is a desert, a grain of sulfur in the blood is a volcanic inferno."
--W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn


"Cocktails with Orpheus"
After dark, the bar full of women part of me loves--the part that stood
naked outside the window of Miss Geneva, recent divorcée who owned
a gun, O Miss Geneva where are you now--Orpheus says she did

not perish, she was not turned to ash in the brutal light, she found
a good job, she made good money, she had her own insurance and
a house, she was a decent wife. I know descent lives in the word

decent. The bar noise makes a kind of silence. When Orpheus hands
me his sunglasses, I see how fire changes everything. In the mind
I am behind a woman whose skirt is hiked above her hips, as bound

as touch permits, saying don't forget me when I become the liquid
out of which names are born, salt-milk, milk-sweet and animal-made.

I want to be a human above the body, uprooted and right, a fold
of pleas released, but I am a black wound, what's left of the deed.
--Terrance Hayes


"The secret of understanding poetry is to hear poetry's words as what they are: the full self's most intimate speech, half waking, half dream. You listen to a poem as you might listen to someone you love who tells you their truest day. Their words might weep, joke, whirl, leap. What's unspoken in the words will still be heard. It's also the way we listen to music: You don't look for extractable meaning, but to be moved."
--Jane Hirshfield


"sideshow"
trigger warning: violence, guns, racism, suicideCollapse )
--Danez Smith


"My medium is poetry; my tool is American English, a language I adore for its shorthand syntax, its outrageous slop, its mongrel weirdness. I think and dream and feel in this language like the wiry old rose bush that pushes its way out from my front yard to splay its blooms above the cracked sidewalk."
--Cate Marvin


"I Don't Miss It"
But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven't left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It's impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.
--Tracy K. Smith


"Snow at Night"
I prefer it even to love,
alone and without ghost
it falls a hard weather,
a withdrawing room
that revives me to stolen daylight
in which I feel no wish
to brush a gleaming finish
over the sheen-broken glass
I've arranged and rearranged,
an apprentice of mosaics
who will not be taught but asks
to be left alone with the brittle year
so carnivorous of all I'd made.
But the snow I love covers
my beasts and seas,
my ferns and spines
worn through and through.
I will change your life, it says,
to which I say please.
--Katie Ford


"Two Men & a Truck"
Once, I was as large
as any living creature could be.

I could lift the world and carry it
from my breast to its bath.

When I looked down from the sky
you could see the love in my eye:

"Oh, tiny world, if anything
ever happened to you, I would die."

And I said, "No!" to the hand. Snatched
the pebble from the mouth, fished it out

and told the world it would choke!
Warned the world over & over! "Do

you hear me? Do you want to choke?!"

But how was the world to know
what the truth might be? Perhaps

they grant you special powers, these
choking stones. Maybe

they change the child into a god, all-swallowing.


For, clearly, there were other gods.
The world could see

that I, too, was at the mercy of something.
Sure, I could point to the sky

and say its name, but I couldn't make it change.
Some days it was blue, true, but others

were ruined by its gray:
"I'm sorry, little world--

no picnic, no parade, no swimming pool today ... "

And the skinned knee in spite of me.
And why else would there be

such terror in the way she screamed, and the horn honking,
and the squealing wheels, and, afterward, her cold

sweat against my cheek?

Ah, she wants us to live forever.
It's her weakness ... Now I see!


But, once, I was larger
than any other being--

larger, perhaps, than any being
had any right to be.

Because, of course, eventually, the world
grew larger, and larger, until it could lift

me up and put me down anywhere
it pleased. Until, finally, I would need

its help to move the bird bath, the book-
shelf, the filing cabinet. "And

could you put my desk by the window, sweetie?"

A truck, two men, one of them my son, and
everything I ever owned, and they

didn't even want to stop for lunch.

Even the freezer. Even the piano.
("You can have it if you can move it.")

But, once, I swear, I was ... And now
this trunk in the attic to prove it:

These shoes in the palm of my hand?
You used to wear them on your feet.

This blanket the size of a hand towel?
I used to wrap it around you sleeping

in my arms like this. See? This
is how small the world used to be when

everything else in the world was me.
--Laura Kasischke


"A Reason"
That is why I am here
not among the ibises. Why
the permanent city parasol
covers even me.

             It was the rains
in the occult season. It was the snows
on the lower slopes. It was water
and cold in my mouth.

            A lack of shoes
on what appeared to be cobbles
which were still antique

           Well wild wild whatever
in wild more silent blue
 
           the vase grips the stems
petals fall    the chrysanthemum darkens

           Sometimes this mustard feeling
clutches me also. My sleep is reckoned
in straws

            Yet I wake up
and am followed into the street.

--Barbara Guest


"Tender Arrivals"
Where ever something breathes
Heart beating the rise and fall
Of mountains, the waves upon the sky
Of seas, the terror is our ignorance, that's
Why it is named after our home, earth
Where art is locked between
Gone and Destination
The destiny of some other where and feeling
The ape knew this, when his old lady pulled him up
Off the ground. Was he grateful, ask him he's still sitting up there
Watching the sky's adventures, leaving two holes for his own. Oh sing
Gigantic burp past the insects, swifter than the ugly Stanleys on the ground
Catching monkey meat for Hyenagators, absolute boss of what does not
Arrive in time to say anything. We hear that eating, that doo dooing, that
Burping, we had a nigro mayor used to burp like poison zapalote
Waddled into the cave of his lust. We got a Spring Jasper now, if
you don't like that
woid, what about courtesan, dreamed out his own replacement sprawled
Across the velvet cash register of belching and farting, his knick names when they
let him be played with. Some call him Puck, was love, we thought, now a rubber
Flat blackie banged across the ice, to get past our Goli, the Africannibus of memory.
Here. We have so many wedged between death and passivity. Like eyes that collide
With reality and cannot see anything but the inner abstraction of flatus, a
biography, a car, a walk to the guillotine, James the First, Giuliani the Second
When he tries to go national, senators will stab him, Ides of March or Not. Maybe
Both will die, James 1 and Caesar 2, as they did in the past, where we can read about
The justness of their assassinations
As we swig a little brew and laugh at the perseverance
Of disease at higher and higher levels of its elimination.
We could see anything we wanted to. Be anything we knew how to be. Build
anything we needed. Arrive anywhere we should have to go. But time is as stubborn
as space, and they compose us with definition, time place and 
condition.
The howlees the yowlees the yankees the super left streamlined post racial ideational
chauvinists creeep at the mouth of the venal cava. They are protesting 
fire and
Looking askance at the giblets we have learned to eat. "It's nobody's heart," they
say, and we agree. It's the rest of some thing's insides. Along with the flowers, the
grass, the tubers, the river, pieces of the sky, earth, our seasoning, baked
throughout. What do you call that the anarchist of comfort asks,
Food, we say, making it up as we chew. Yesterday we explained language.
--Amiri Baraka


"Register of Eliminated Villages"
trigger warning: warCollapse )
--Tarfia Faizullah
 
 
Current Mood: okayokay
Current Music: "Clarion," by Guillemots
 
 
"Consider the Space between Stars"
Consider the white space
between words on a page, not just
the margins around them.

Or the space between thoughts:
instants when the mind is inventing
exactly what it thinks

and the mouth waits
to be filled with language.
Consider the space

between lovers after a quarrel,
the white sheet a cold metaphor
between them.

Now picture the brief space
before death enters, hat in hand:
vanishing years, filled with light.
--Linda Pastan
 
 
Current Mood: touchedtouched
Current Music: "Rosie," by Tom Waits
 
 
" 'You hold that anger,' Mistress Weatherwax said, as if reading all of her mind. 'Cup it in your heart, remember where it came from, remember the shape of it, save it until you need it. But now the wolf is out there somewhere in the woods, and you need to see to the flock.' "
--Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky


" 'Need each other as much as you can bear,' writes Eileen Myles. 'Everywhere you go in the world.'

"I felt the wild need for any or all of these people that night. Lying there alone, I began to feel--perhaps even to know--that I did not exist apart from their love and need of me.

"Of this latter I felt less sure, but it seemed possible, if the equation worked both ways.

"Falling asleep I thought, 'Maybe this, for me, is the hand of God.' "
--Maggie Nelson


now what were motionless move(exists no

miracle mightier than this:to feel)
poor worlds must merely do,which then are done;
and whose last doing shall not quite undo
such first amazement as a leaf-here's one

more than each creature new(except your fear
to whom i give this little parasol,
so she may above people walk in the air
with almost breathing me)-look up:and we’ll

(for what were less than dead)dance,i and you;

high(are become more than alive)above
anybody and fate and even Our
whisper it Selves but don't look down and to

-morrow and yesterday and everything except love
--e. e. cummings


"Prayers"
1.
We pray
and the resurrection happens.
Here are the young
again,
sniping and giggling,
tingly
as ringing phones.
2.
All we ask
is that our thinking
sustain momentum,
identify targets.
The pressure
in my lower back
rising to be recognized
as pain.
The blue triangles
on the rug
repeating.
Coming up,
a discussion
on the uses
of torture.
The fear
that all this
will end.
The fear
that it won't.
--Rae Armantrout


"All witches are selfish, the Queen had said. But Tiffany's Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine!"
--Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men


"The Unexplorer"
There was a road ran past our house
Too lovely to explore.
I asked my mother once--she said
That if you followed where it led
It brought you to the milk-man's door.
(That's why I have not travelled more.)
--Edna St. Vincent Millay


"Let me begin by telling you that I was in love. An ordinary statement, to be sure, but not an ordinary fact, for so few of us learn that love is tenderness, and tenderness is not, as a fair proportion suspect, pity; and still fewer know that happiness in love is not the absolute focusing of all emotion in another: one has always to love a good many things which the beloved must come only to symbolize; the true beloveds of this world are in their lover's eyes lilac opening, ship lights, school bells, a landscape, remembered conversations, friends, a child's Sunday, lost voices, one's favorite suit, autumn and all seasons, memory, yes, it being the earth and water of existence, memory."
--Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms


"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."
--Henri J. M. Nouwen


i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother's itch
took it to breast
and named it
History.
she is more human now,
learning language every day,
remembering faces, names, and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.
--Lucille Clifton


"I learned a long time ago that life introduces young people to situations they are in no way prepared for, even good girls, lucky girls who want for nothing. Sometimes, when you least expect it, you become the girl in the woods. You lose your name because another one is forced on you. You think you are alone until you find books about girls like you. Salvation is certainly among the reasons I read. Reading and writing have always pulled me out of the darkest experiences in my life. Stories have given me a place in which to lose myself. They have allowed me to remember. They have allowed me to forget. They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds."
--Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist


"Could Have Danced All Night"
The wolf appointed to tear me apart
is sure making slow work of it.
This morning just one eye weeping,
a single chip out of my back and
the usual maniacal wooden bird flutes
in the brain. Listen to that feeble howl
like having fangs is something to regret,
like we shouldn't give thanks for blood
thirst. Even my idiot neighbor backing out
without looking could do a better job,
even that leaning diseased tree or dream
of a palsied hand squeezing the throat but
we've been at this for years, lying exposed
on the couch in the fat of the afternoon,
staring down the moon among night blooms.
What good's a reluctant wolf anyway?
The other wolves just get it drunk
then tie it to a post. Poor pup.
Here's my hand. Bite.
--Dean Young


"[W]e are not looking for a perfect analysis, but we are looking for
the mark of vulnerability which makes a great text not an authority
generating a perfect narrative, but our own companion, as it were, so
we can share our own vulnerabilities with those texts and move."
--Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak


"A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead."
--Graham Greene, The End of the Affair


"I don't believe in freedom. I think it's an illusion. A nightmare. I think it's bad. I think we depend on the air to breathe, that animals die so that we can eat them, that some one cares for us so that we feel secure, that everything is o.k. so that we have peace. I think we are all dependents! I do think that we have the possibility to have the keys to our own cell, to our own prison. I want to be the owner of my own prison keys. But I don't want to be 'free'. Trying to be 'free' is like trying to be a lone-standing star. The stars shine, but they do not give warmth. And they are very distant. I want heat! I want to be near to others. I want to be human, a prisoner to life."
--Concha Buika


"Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That's where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go."
--Rebecca Solnit


"Please Stand a While Longer in the Vast, Amazing Dark"
Maybe don't for another minute be afraid
of anything. Because swimming is really useful
against drowning which you didn't know until
you tried it. And then your life was just massive
regret. And then you thought about three
purple blossoms in the hair
of a beautiful girl. But that's not the part
that aches in a deep kind of place
inside you. Like if your dinner caught fire
in your stomach and then you ran
to the river which was dry. And your friend
was a jerk who doesn't share resources
including a hose. Most things lose
interest when you are quiet
and small. Most things want to be
around other majestic things that make
noise or beauty. Wind plucks a flower
for sailing. You stand there in the presence
of whatever you are not.
--Wendy Xu


"The feeling that something is missing never, ever leaves you--and it can't, and it shouldn't, because something is missing. The missing part, the missing past, can be an opening, not a void. It can be an entry as well as an exit. It is the fossil record, the imprint of another life, and although you can never have that life, your fingers trace the space where it might have been, and your fingers learn a kind of Braille.

"There are markings here, raised like welts. Read them. Read the hurt. Rewrite them. Rewrite the hurt."
--Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?


"If books could have more, give more, be more, show more, they would still need readers who bring to them sound and smell and light and all the rest that can't be in books. The book needs you."
--Gary Paulsen, The Winter Room


"We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light."
--St. Hildegard von Bingen, translator unknown


"Watch This"
1.
Small flame wandering
on its wick.

2.
I had wanted
intimacy, for you to see
what I saw
in my mirror.

3.
Pleasure preferred
in semblance,

sibilance
--Rae Armantrout


"There Are Birds Here"
For Detroit

There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
between buildings
and buildings. No.
The birds are here
to root around for bread
the girl's hands tear
and toss like confetti. No,
I don't mean the bread is torn like cotton,
I said confetti, and no
not the confetti
a tank can make of a building.
I mean the confetti
a boy can't stop smiling about
and no his smile isn't much
like a skeleton at all. And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone.
I am trying to say
his neighborhood
is as tattered and feathered
as anything else,
as shadow pierced by sun
and light parted
by shadow-dance as anything else,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the ruins,
how ruined the lovely
children must be in that birdless city.
--Jamaal May


"Poetry wants to make things mean more than they mean, says someone, as if we knew how much things meant, and in what unit of measure."
--Rae Armantrout


"Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me."
--Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow


"What is a quote? A quote (cognate with quota) is a cut, a section, a slice of someone else's orange. You suck the slice, toss the rind, skate away."
--Anne Carson, "Foam (Essay with Rhapsody): On the Sublime with Longinus and Antonioni"


"[...] in trying to heal that wound that never heals, lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man's work."
--García Lorca, "Theory and Play of the Duende," translated by A. S. Kline


"The Muse stirs the intellect, bringing a landscape of columns and an illusory taste of laurel, and intellect is often poetry's enemy, since it limits too much, since it lifts the poet into the bondage of aristocratic fineness, where he forgets that he might be eaten, suddenly, by ants, or that a huge arsenical lobster might fall on his head--things against which the Muses who inhabit monocles, or the roses of lukewarm lacquer in a tiny salon, have no power.

"Angel and Muse come from outside us: the angel brings light, the Muse form (Hesiod learnt from her). Golden bread or fold of tunic, it is her norm that the poet receives in his laurel grove. While the duende has to be roused from the furthest habitations of the blood."
--García Lorca, "Theory and Play of the Duende," translated by A. S. Kline


"I believe that words uttered in passion contain a greater living truth than do those words which express thoughts rationally conceived. It is blood that moves the body. Words are not meant to stir the air only: they are capable of moving greater things."
--Natsume Soseki, Kokoro


"The more I wonder, the more I love."
--Alice Walker, The Color Purple
 
 
Current Mood: relievedrelieved
Current Music: "Sonata," by Arcade Fire
 
 
"Scary Parents"
trigger warning: heroin, child abuseCollapse )
--Michael Dickman


"The things I steal from sleep are what I am."
--Theodore Roethke


"The Difficulty"
This film, like many others,
claims we'll enjoy life
now that we’ve come through

difficulties, dangers
so incredibly condensed
that they must be over.

If the hardship
was undergone by others,
we identified with them

and, if the danger was survived
by simpler life forms,
they're included in this moment

when the credits roll
and we don't know
when to stand
--Rae Armantrout


"A riot is the language of the unheard."
—Martin Luther King Jr.


"Poem That Wants to Be Called the West Side Highway"
You can do the work just by starting it. You can
do whatever you want. A bill
is drafted on a train to Albany, or in a black
limousine. Like how one day I walked
the entire length of Manhattan, except I didn't.
I didn't finish. Not nearly. How could I?
Stopped as I was by the boat basin. These
credit cards fill with gin
and tonic. They pool with the stuff. Maybe
I get a little lost sometimes,
start thinking I went to Yale. Once I swam
to Governors Island, between the ferries
and freighters. It was like a job you should've seen
me quit. Maybe they looked for me. Maybe
it wasn't someone else's shift, and then
it was. Sometimes people are just turnstiles.
You have to tell them to keep
turning, keep turning into someone else. The rain
crashes across a cab, and the road
has filled. We're waterborne. Or whatever
the word is for that little moment
when the heart lifts. Why don't you devote
yourself the way you once did? It's
an old answer, and an early
one. The alarm goes off for a while after it
stops. In your face in the bathroom
mirror. You play that little song to look at
your teeth. My teeth. They haven't been cared for.
The class giggles at my age. This is
my hearing. The chances taken on a new face.
--Samuel Amadon


"Perpendicular"
It would have been a fine path for a lizard to cross
but I saw none. Brambles and sweet briar grew
on the town side, poppies and wild grasses on the river.
Too hot for birds, the ducks were out, in water and mud,
and frogs were out, by the hundreds it seemed, saying,
Way, Way, in their deepest voices. It was beautiful there
but I'd seen beauty and its opposite so often
that when warmth broke over my skin I remembered winter,
the way fresh grief undoes you the moment you're fully awake.
When she turned two, I asked my young friend
what she would serve at her birthday party and she said,
Tofu and cupcakes. When she was three and I was very sad
she called and said, What are you doing? Picking flowers?
She talked in poems like she was dreaming all the time
or very old or Virginia Woolf. More often in the first world
one wakes from not to the nightmare. When I dreamed I lost
my love I willed myself awake because I would not
survive the pain again, even dreaming. Which is responsible
for that mercy, Doktor, the conscious or the un-? I want
the poppies picked and I want the poppies left where they grow.
Like looking through the window of a moving train
at someone walking up a road lined with poplars
and being someone walking up a road lined with poplars.
The train and the trees, a shower of petals and bees,
sun on the glass and the train perpendicular to the road.
Things entirely themselves arriving in the deep
double shadows of the grass and passersby.
--Kathy Fagan


"At the Fishhouses"
And the black water under the boats with their pools
of bilge rainbowed out like rinds
of steak fat, the salt thick
in my nostrils, but pleasant, too: details
I still remember from Bishop's poem, everything
else about it lost. At the docks,
I watched my friend slip
in her rubber boots; the wide, wet planks
glossy with mosses. You must walk
duckfooted to get to the boats, the black and orange
fishing barrels, the air with its tang
of rusted metals. There are always hooks
and anchors to be found, nets and scrapings
of wood planed by chisel, the way
my great-grandmother was said
to have worked, employed as a shipwright
on the city's waterways in the '30s according
to the newspaper clipping my grandmother
photocopies for me each Christmas.
The description of her gunmetal hair
and slim torso clad in overalls, the hands
she held out for the Times reporter
("Callused," he noted, "strong as a man's")
does not recall the woman
I remember for her farm in Bothell
before it became a Seattle suburb, helping me gather
raspberries from the long canes
she planted by her porch. We spent an afternoon
together sweating in the same long-sleeved
checkered shirts she'd sewn us, according
to the photo I no longer have, and cannot remember
whether is the source or confirmation
of this memory: only the papery, gray-green
streaks of road dust on the canes, a bowl
of chipped porcelain inside of which
were raspberries. Very red, very sweet, furred
like my friend's upper lip I remember
between my teeth as we stood
on the docks. The smell
of iron and winter mist, her mouth
like nothing I have tasted since.
--Paisley Rekdal


"Proof of Poetry"
I wanted first to end up as a drunk in the gutter
and in my twenties I almost ended up there--

and then as an alternative to vodka, to live

alone like a hermit philosopher and court
the extreme poverty that I suspected lay in store for me anyway--

and there were the years in which

I needed very badly to take refuge in mediocrity,
years like blunt scissors cutting out careful squares,

and that was the worst, the very worst--

you could say that always my life
was like a patchwork quilt always ripped apart--

my life like scraps stitched together in a dream

in which animals and people,
plants, chimeras, stars,

even minerals were in a preordained harmony--

a dream forgotten because it has to be forgotten,
but that I looked for desperately, but only sporadically

found in fragments, a hand lifted to strike

or caress or simply lifted for some unknown reason--
and in memory too, some specific pain, sensation of cold or warmth.

I loved that harmony in all its stages of passion

the voices still talking inside me . . . but then, instead of harmony,
there was nothing but rags scattered on the ground.

And maybe that's all it means to be a poet.
--Tom Sleigh


"Strindberg Gray"
He was trying to teach me to economize with my language. Strindberg gray
he said, instead of

              and I thought, sad stuff; plays. Okay: born, rented room,
to Dad & Mom business & bar, how could you not? Or thought,
I cannot be your Lithuania nor her other Armenia,
emptied into river if not skein-tangled senseless. He won't say her name
and not a word of the thitherings. Only that she was lost. Don't speak
the heavy hinges, the crushed-bud breaking of taste
from language. That sort of excess has no place in the new economy.

Strindberg gray, say, when one thinks only January, January, January.
Of the Occurrence as recurrent. A single gunshot
in Dempster's cistern, the echo chambers of sleep. The gray lot
of days in low-light hospitals, Strindberg.

I'll call him gray, his sitting heavy. And her so Strindberg with veil and rose,
her poised in shadow at the door. Funereal nails sunk
into knees would be dripping were they not so goddamn gray.

Excess was for days when my mother sat turning grape leaves
with three sets of pockets: Turkish, English, & Armenian, plus lemon to dry it all out.
By ten, they'd sewn up two; said one is more than enough.

"English, only, Sanossian.
You will speak what we speak."

I don't know what it’s like to lose
a language. Instead,

Strindberg gray, I say, when I want to bring his lost girl back. Strindberg gray,
though I cannot take from him January, July, or the months of coping between.
When my mother leafs through me in her memory banks, bits of face are missing;
sometimes I'm limbless or smear. Gray even scentless, and still all Strindberg.

I tell him, I raise her: be darlings and come scream with me
from all the pockets sewn over. Maybe by late summer we'll be humming:
Tennessee yellow; Tennessee, Tennessee.

--Knar Gavin


"Quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean 'love' in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again."
--Joan Didion, "Goodbye to All That"


"Boy in a Whalebone Corset"
trigger warning: child abuse, homophobia, homophobic and misogynistic slursCollapse )
--Saeed Jones


"My Grandmother's Grave"
When my grandmother died
I thought, "She can't die again."
Everything in her life
happened once and forever:
her bed on our roof,
the battle of good and evil in her tales,
her black clothes,
her mourning for her daughter who
"was killed by headaches,"
the rosary beads and her murmur,
"Forgive us our sins,"
her empty vase from the Ottoman time,
her braid, each hair a history--

First were the Sumerians,
their dreams inscribed in clay tablets.
They drew palms, so dates ripen before their sorrows.
They drew an eye to chase evil
away from their city.
They drew circles and prayed for them:
a drop of water
a sun
a moon
a wheel spinning faster than Earth.
They begged: "Oh gods, don't die and leave us alone."

Over the Tower of Babel,
light is exile,
blurred,
its codes crumbs of songs
leftover for the birds.

More naked emperors
passed by the Tigris
and more ships . . .
The river full
of crowns
helmets
books
dead fish,
and on the Euphrates, corpse-lilies floating.

Every minute a new hole in the body of the ship.

The clouds descended on us
war by war,
picked up our years,
our hanging gardens,
and flew away like storks.

We said there isn't any worse to come.

Then the barbarians came
to the mother of two springs.
They broke my grandmother's grave: my clay tablet.
They smashed the winged bulls whose eyes
were sunflowers
widely open
watching the fragments of our first dreams
for a lifetime.

My hand on the map
as if on an old scar.
--Dunya Mikhail


"The Chart"
trigger warning: racismCollapse )
--Rafael Campo


"You remember having friends who used to lampoon the world so effortlessly, crouching at the verge of every joke and waiting to pounce on it, and you remember how they changed as they grew older and the joy of questioning everything slowly became transformed into the pain of questioning everything, like a star consuming its own core."
--Kevin Brockmeier, The View from the Seventh Layer


"Before You Switch Us Off"
An assembly line somewhere
is still churning out husks
of zinc and cadmium like us
but I guess we shouldn't expect to remain
useful after our arms of cable rust over.
So come

collect us for scrap, grind us up
in the gear-laden belly of one of us.
Let it be your hand that pries the access door
with a flat edge of knife, your hand
holding fistfuls of wire, pulling until LEDs go dim.
What if we are analog?

What if our insides are the inner workings
of some clock you don't realize is necessary
until the blade gets stuck,
and a current scrambles up fingertips
in a hurry to your heart, remembering
to fry and shut
down every nerve
ending on its way?

What if the chassis left clicking and buzzing
in a Detroit scrap yard is still
brimming with circuit and hum?
What if armor--

An assembly
line somewhere is
still churning out husks of zinc
and cadmium like us but
I guess we shouldn't
expect to remain useful after
our arms of cable rust
over. So
come.
--Jamaal May


"It's not 'natural' to speak well, eloquently, in an interesting articulate way. People living in groups, families, communes say little--have few verbal means. Eloquence--thinking in words--is a byproduct of solitude, deracination, a heightened painful individuality."
--Susan Sontag, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals & Notebooks 1964 - 1980


"Night Walk"
The all-night convenience store's empty
and no one is behind the counter.
You open and shut the glass door a few times
causing a bell to go off,
but no one appears. You only came
to but a pack of cigarettes, maybe
a copy of yesterday's newspaper--
finally you take one and leave
thirty-five cents in its place.
It is freezing, but it is a good thing
to step outside again:
you can feel less alone in the night,
with lights on here and there
between the dark buildings and trees.
Your own among them, somewhere.
There must be thousands of people
in this city who are dying
to welcome you into their small bolted rooms,
to sit you down and tell you
what has happened to their lives.
And the night smells like snow.
Walking home for a moment
you almost believe you could start again.
And an intense love rushes to your heart,
and hope. It's unendurable, unendurable.
--Franz Wright


"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind."
--Kahlil Gibran


"[...] all we see of each other is a speck, like the wick in the middle of that flame. The flame goes about with us everywhere; it's not ourselves exactly, but what we feel [...]"
--Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out
 
 
Current Mood: draineddrained
Current Music: "Blue," by Cat Power
 
 
"Limbo: Altered States"
No sooner does the plane angle up
than I cork off to dream a bomb blast:
A fireball roiling through the cabin in slo-mo,
seat blown loose from its bolts,
I hang weightless a nanosecond
     in blue space

then jerk awake to ordered rows.
And there's the silver liquor cart jangling
its thousand bells, the perfect doses
of juniper gin and oak-flavored scotch
     held by a rose-nailed hand.

I don't miss drinking, don't miss
driving into shit with more molecular density
than myself, nor the Mission Impossible
reruns I sat before, nor the dead
space inside only alcohol could fill and then
      not even. But I miss

the aftermath, the pure simplicity:
mouth parched, head hissing static.
How little I asked of myself then--to suck
the next breath, suffer the next heave, live
till cocktail hour when I could mix
       the next sickness.

I locked the bathroom door, sat
on the closed commode, shirtless,
in filmy underpants telling myself that death
could fit my grasp and be staved off
while in the smeary shaving glass,
I practiced the stillness of a soul
      awaiting birth.

For the real that swarmed beyond the door
I was pure scorn, dead center of my stone and starless
universe, orbited by no one. Novitiate obliterate, Saint
Absence, Duchess of Naught...
A stinging ether folded me in mist.

Sometimes landing the head's pressure's enormous.
When my plane tilts down, houses grow large, streets
lose their clear geometry. The leafy earth soon fills my portal,
and in the gray graveyard of cars, a stick figure
becomes my son in royal blue cap flapping his arms
as if to rise. Thank god for our place
in this forest of forms, for the gravitas
that draws me back to him, and for how lightly
      lightly I touch down.

--Mary Karr


"On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous"
i


Tell me it was for the hunger
& nothing less. For hunger is to give
the body what it knows

it cannot keep. That this amber light
whittled down by another war
is all that pins my hand

to your chest.


i


You, drowning
            between my arms--
stay.

You, pushing your body
             into the river
only to be left
              with yourself--
stay.


i


I'll tell you how we're wrong enough to be forgiven. How one night, after
backhanding
mother, then taking a chainsaw to the kitchen table, my father went to kneel
in the bathroom until we heard his muffled cries through the walls.
And so I learned that a man, in climax, was the closest thing
to surrender.


i


Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade.
      Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn.
Say autumn despite the green
      in your eyes. Beauty despite
daylight. Say you'd kill for it. Unbreakable dawn
      mounting in your throat.
My thrashing beneath you
     like a sparrow stunned
with falling.


i


Dusk: a blade of honey between our shadows, draining.


i


I wanted to disappear--so I opened the door to a stranger's car. He was divorced. He was still alive. He was sobbing into his hands (hands that tasted like rust). The pink breast cancer ribbon on his keychain swayed in the ignition. Don't we touch each other just to prove we are still here? I was still here once. The moon, distant & flickering, trapped itself in beads of sweat on my neck. I let the fog spill through the cracked window & cover my fangs. When I left, the Buick kept sitting there, a dumb bull in pasture, its eyes searing my shadow onto the side of suburban houses. At home, I threw myself on the bed like a torch & watched the flames gnaw through my mother's house until the sky appeared, bloodshot & massive. How I wanted to be that sky--to hold every flying & falling at once.


i


Say amen. Say amend.

Say yes. Say yes

anyway.


i


In the shower, sweating under cold water, I scrubbed & scrubbed.


i


In the life before this one, you could tell
two people were in love
because when they drove the pickup
over the bridge, their wings
would grow back just in time.

Some days I am still inside the pickup.
Some days I keep waiting.


i


It's not too late. Our heads haloed
       with gnats & summer too early
to leave any marks.
       Your hand under my shirt as static
intensifies on the radio.
       Your other hand pointing
your daddy's revolver
       to the sky. Stars falling one
by one in the cross hairs.
       This means I won't be
afraid if we're already
       here. Already more
than skin can hold. That a body
       beside a body
must make a field
       full of ticking. That your name
is only the sound of clocks
       being set back another hour
& morning
       finds our clothes
on your mother's front porch, shed
       like week-old lilies.

--Ocean Vuong


"Dinosaurs in the Hood"
Let's make a movie called Dinosaurs in the Hood.
Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happyness.
There should be a scene where a little black boy is playing
with a toy dinosaur on the bus, then looks out the window
& sees the T. Rex, because there has to be a T. Rex.

Don't let Tarantino direct this. In his version, the boy plays
with a gun, the metaphor: black boys toy with their own lives,
the foreshadow to his end, the spitting image of his father.
Fuck that, the kid has a plastic Brontosaurus or Triceratops
& this is his proof of magic or God or Santa. I want a scene

where a cop car gets pooped on by a pterodactyl, a scene
where the corner store turns into a battle ground. Don't let
the Wayans brothers in this movie. I don't want any racist shit
about Asian people or overused Latino stereotypes.
This movie is about a neighborhood of royal folks--

children of slaves & immigrants & addicts & exiles--saving their town
from real-ass dinosaurs. I don't want some cheesy yet progressive
Hmong sexy hot dude hero with a funny yet strong commanding
black girl buddy-cop film. This is not a vehicle for Will Smith
& Sofia Vergara. I want grandmas on the front porch taking out raptors

with guns they hid in walls & under mattresses. I want those little spitty,
screamy dinosaurs. I want Cicely Tyson to make a speech, maybe two.
I want Viola Davis to save the city in the last scene with a black fist afro pick
through the last dinosaur's long, cold-blood neck. But this can't be
a black movie. This can't be a black movie. This movie can't be dismissed

because of its cast or its audience. This movie can't be a metaphor
for black people & extinction. This movie can't be about race.
This movie can't be about black pain or cause black people pain.
This movie can't be about a long history of having a long history with hurt.
This movie can't be about race. Nobody can say nigga in this movie

who can't say it to my face in public. No chicken jokes in this movie.
No bullets in the heroes. & no one kills the black boy. & no one kills
the black boy. & no one kills the black boy. Besides, the only reason
I want to make this is for that first scene anyway: the little black boy
on the bus with a toy dinosaur, his eyes wide & endless

                            his dreams possible, pulsing, & right there.

--Danez Smith


"Flirtation"
After all, there's no need
to say anything

at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares

like a tulip on a wedgewood plate
Anything can happen.

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven't heard in years!

Quiet's cool flesh--
let's sniff and eat it.

There are ways
to make of the moment

a topiary
so the pleasure's in

walking through.
--Rita Dove
 
 
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "32 Flavors," by Ani DiFranco
 
 
"[Persian Letters]"
Dear Aleph,

Like Ovid: I'll have no last words.
This is what it means to die among barbarians. Bar bar bar
was how the Greeks heard our speech--
sheep, beasts--and so we became
barbarians. We make them reveal
the brutes they are, Aleph, by the things
we make them name. David,
they tell me, is the one
one should aspire to, but ever since
I first heard them say Philistine
I've known I am Goliath
if I am anything.
--Solmaz Sharif


"Lament of the Conductor"
All the pretty things you do
the way you lean outward
against the window of the train everyday
none of it is mine
    (Only the train is mine)

--Molly Russakoff


"How to Draw a Perfect Circle"
I can imitate the spheres of the model's body, her head,
Her mouth, the chin she rests at the bend of her elbow
But nothing tells me how to make the pupils spiral

From her gaze. Everything the eye sees enters a circle,
The world is connected to a circle: breath spools from the nostrils
And any love to be open becomes an O. The shape inside the circle

Is a circle, the egg fallen outside the nest the serpent circles
Rests in the serpent's gaze the way my gaze rests on the model.
In a blind contour drawing the eye tracks the subject

Without observing what the hand is doing. Everything is connected
By a line curling and canceling itself like the shape of a snake
Swallowing its own decadent tail or a mind that means to destroy itself,

A man circling a railway underpass before attacking a policeman.
To draw the model's nipples I have to let myself be carried away.
I love all the parts of the body. There are as many curves

As there are jewels of matrimony, as many whirls as there are teeth
In the mouth of the future: the mute pearls a bride wears to her 
wedding,
The sleeping ovaries like the heads of riders bunched in a tunnel.

The doors of the subway car imitate an O opening and closing,
In the blood the O spirals its helix of defects, genetic shadows,
But there are no instructions for identifying loved ones who go crazy.

When one morning a black man stabs a black transit cop in the face
And the cop, bleeding from his eye, kills the assailant, no one traveling
To the subway sees it quickly enough to make a camera phone 
witness.

The scene must be carried on the tongue, it must be carried
On the news into the future where it will distract the eyes working
Lines into paper. This is what blind contour drawing conjures in me.

At the center of God looms an O, the devil believes justice is shaped
Like a zero, a militant helmet or war drum, a fist or gun barrel,
A barrel of ruined eggs or skulls. To lift anything from a field

The lifter bends like a broken O. The weight of the body
Lowered into a hole can make anyone say Oh: the onlookers,
The mother, the brothers and sisters. Omen begins with an O.

When I looked into my past I saw the boy I had not seen in years
Do a standing backflip so daring the onlookers called him crazy.
I did not see a moon as white as an onion but I saw a paper plate

Upon which the boy held a plastic knife and sopping meat.
An assailant is a man with history. His mother struggles
To cut an onion preparing a meal to be served after the funeral.

The onion is the best symbol of the O. Sliced, a volatile gas stings
The slicer's eyes like a punishment clouding them until they see
What someone trapped beneath a lid of water sees:

A soft-edged world, a blur of blooms holding a coffin afloat.
The onion is pungent, its scent infects the air with sadness,
All the pallbearers smell it. The mourners watch each other,

They watch the pastor's ambivalence, they wait for the doors to open,
They wait for the appearance of the wounded one-eyed victim
And his advocates, strangers who do not consider the assailant's funeral

Appeasement. Before that day the officer had never fired his gun
In the line of duty. He was chatting with a cabdriver
Beneath the tracks when my cousin circled him holding a knife.

The wound caused no brain damage though his eyeball was severed.
I am not sure how a man with no eye weeps. In the Odyssey
Pink water descends the Cyclops's cratered face after Odysseus

Drives a burning log into it. Anyone could do it. Anyone could
Begin the day with his eyes and end it blind or deceased,
Anyone could lose his mind or his vision. When I go crazy

I am afraid I will walk the streets naked, I am afraid I will shout
Every fucked up thing that troubles or enchants me, I will try to murder
Or make love to everybody before the police handcuff or murder me.

Though the bullet exits a perfect hole it does not leave perfect holes
In the body. A wound is a cell and portal. Without it the blood runs
With no outlet. It is possible to draw handcuffs using loops

Shaped like the symbol for infinity, from the Latin infinitas
Meaning unboundedness. The way you get to anything
Is context. In a blind contour it is not possible to give your subject

A disconnected gaze. Separated from the hand the artist's eye
Begins its own journey. It could have been the same for the Cyclops,
A giant whose gouged eye socket was so large a whole onion

Could fit into it. Separated from the body the eye begins
Its own journey. The world comes full circle: the hours, the harvests,
When the part of the body that holds the soul is finally decomposed

It becomes a circle, a hole that holds everything: blemish, cell,
Womb, parts of the body no one can see. I watched the model
Pull a button loose on her jeans and step out of them

As one might out of a hole in a blue valley, a sea. I found myself
In the dark, I found myself entering her body like a delicate shell
Or soft pill, like this curved thumb of mine against her lips.

You must look without looking to make the perfect circle.
The line, the mind must be a blind continuous liquid
Until the drawing is complete.
--Terrance Hayes


"Ophidiophobia"
Because:

            a garter snake slid over my bare foot

            a copperhead played dead on Spooks Branch Road

            a yellow python hugged a heavy scarf around my neck

            a cottonmouth came charging through a creek I was canoeing

            a black racer at the Nature Center teased a mouse for half an hour
                        then swallowed it

            in the Temple of Doom, the belly of a snake split open, spilling
                        snake-shaped babies

            I used to dream in snakes--I couldn't move for stepping on them

            a snake exists that wears a fish's body

            a man I shouldn't love wore snakeskin boots

--Jessica Reed


"Sheets"
After I.F. Annensky

First the sky was yellow
then white snow followed.

On a hand
was an amethyst: a cube of  lilac in hospital light.



Whose fault is it when no one visits?



Last night I dreamed
I was in a peaceful place
but woke up
freezing and ashamed.

On a side street (on my sheets)
one I loved passed
as a shadow.
Maddish, reddish, his fist
clenched for a fight.



I recalled
his body color
being soft like a child.
The drunken nipples.



Honey I called.
We were too late.
God and the gods have moved
outside the jeweled air
and sun motes   ...    

to where a star is:
an amethyst minus a poet.
--Fanny Howe


"Luz"
Warp (v): To thrust (one's hand) forth; to lay (hands) on; to cast (one's head) down;
to strike (a stroke). Obsolete.


Her blood was water:
there was water all over the floor

when I found her I ran
hands through her damp hair

ran to the street ran my eyes
up to the muscled sky, a thigh flexed

squatting over us, God--as a nurse
with her fingers already on the bone

snapped ándale, get over here
and help me lift the body

to disinfect the wound. Before
she died her blood laid its hands

on the steps and on the rain barrel,
on the tile in the garden. Te riego

I heard her tell the lime tree
flowering in the yard.

Before that before she fell before
she died she swelled:

her ankles and her fingers grew
like pale tubers, thrust

from the soil too soon.
She salted everything she ate

until her rings bit into her skin
and her skin grew over them.

In the church I saw her
sanding the feet of Jesus

from a crucifix to collect the sawdust
in her handkerchief, and so she salted

her tea and her tortillas
with, she said, a holy salt,

a tasteless salt from her pocket
pinched and sprinkled

on cakes and on eggs and in milk
until she swelled so much she prayed

for us to bury her but let her keep
her rings, her wedding ring.

When she fell in the garden
watering the plants

she prayed and fell
against the garden wall with her hands

full of soil and salt
like seeds.

We disinfected water to disinfect
the wound: the blush

of iodine droplets in a bowl
clarified to nothing

more than prayer: te ruego
to the water, to the nurse,

and on her lips I heard her
say te riego.

In the church I always saw her,
absentminded, touch her own hands

as if to touch something under the skin.
At the funeral

her hands were laced
in gloves to hide the stitching

where a finger was
sliced off to take a wedding ring.

If, in the church, there was blood
her blood was colorless

on the white lace and on her skin
there was no mark

to recognize by blood
our hands can hold water

or gold or seeds, our hands can hold
our hands hold earth.
--Laura Bylenok


"Tired"
I am so tired of waiting.
Aren't you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two--
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.
--Langston Hughes


"Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors."
--Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, translator unknown


"Listeners, I do not know everything about Carlos, and he does not tell me everything. That is okay. We are not one person. How lonely that would be; a couple who has made themselves one so completely that they are once again alone. We are two people, separate, unique, and joined only where we choose to join. I don't know what is his affiliation truly to the University of What It Is, perhaps I will never know. But I can know about the taste of food he has made me, or the feeling of his hand in mine, or the absence of his hand not in mine. I can feel the distance between us and I can know that that distance, viewed properly, is no distance at all."
--Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Welcome to Night Vale


"If Death Is Kind"
Perhaps if Death is kind, and there can be returning,
We will come back to earth some fragrant night,
And take these lanes to find the sea, and bending
Breathe the same honeysuckle, low and white.
We will come down at night to these resounding beaches
And the long gentle thunder of the sea,
Here for a single hour in the wide starlight
We shall be happy, for the dead are free.
--Sara Teasdale


"What I'm Looking For"
What I’m looking for
is an unmarked door
we’ll walk through
and there: whatever
we’d wished for
beyond the door.

What I’m looking for
is a golden bowl
carefully repaired
a complete world sealed
along cracked lines.

What I’m looking for
may not be there.
What you’re looking for
may or may not
be me. I’m listening for

the return of that sound
I heard in the woods
just now, that silvery sound
that seemed to call
not only to me.
--Maureen N. McLane
 
 
Current Mood: rejuvenatedrejuvenated
Current Music: "Barcarolle," by Tom Waits
 
 
"Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chains not so that man may bear chains without any imagination or comfort, but so that he may throw away the chains and pluck living flowers."
--Karl Marx, "Towards a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction"


"November Philosophers"
Nothing is nothing, although
he would call me that, she was nothing.
Those were his words, but his hand was lifting
cigarettes in chains and bridges
of ash-light. He said he didn't want his body to last.
It wasn't a year I could argue
against that kind of talk, so I cut the fowl
killed on the farm a mile out--brown and silvery, wild--
and put it over butter lettuce, lettuce then lime.
I heated brandy in the saucepan, poured a strip of molasses
slowly through the cold, slow as I'd seen
a shaman pour pine tincture over the floor
of my beaten house.
She seemed to see my whole life
by ordinance of some god
who wanted me alive again.
Burnt sage, blue smoke. Then sea salt shaken
into the corners of violent sadness.
She wrote my address
across her chest
to let everything listening know
where my life was made.
We waited, either forgetting what we were
or becoming more brightly human in that pine,
in her trance, in the lavender I set on the chipped sills,
not a trance at all but my deliberate hand cutting
from the yard part of what she required.
Now wait longer, she said, and I did as I would
when the molasses warmed over the pot enough
to come into the brandy,
to come into the night
begun by small confessions--
that this was just a rental, and mine just a floor,
that the woman he loved was with another man,
his mother mad, his apartment haunted in the crawl space.
Then I told of the assault at daybreak between
the houses. Heat, asphalt, all of it and my face toward
the brick school where the apostolate studied first-century script
and song. There must have been chanting,
as it was on the hour.
What we said was liturgy meant only for us
and for that night. Not for anyone else
to repeat, live by, believe. Never that.
Our only theories were inside of our hands,
flesh and land, body and prairie.
I reached to smoke down his next-to-last,
which he lit and made ready.
The poultry like a war ration
we ate all the way through.
What we wished, we said.
What we said, we found that night
by these, and no other,
means.
--Katie Ford


"Empty Chairs"
Empty empty empty
so many empty chairs
everywhere. They look
charming in van Gogh's paintings.

I quietly sit on them
and try to rock
but they don't move--
they are frozen
by what's breathing inside them.

Van Gogh waves his paintbrush--
leave leave leave
there's no funeral tonight.

He looks straight through me,
and I sit down
in the flames of his sunflower
like a piece of clay to be fired.
--Liu Xia, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern


"The Song of the Happy Shepherd"
The woods of Arcady are dead,
And over is their antique joy;
Of old the world on dreaming fed;
Grey Truth is now her painted toy;
Yet still she turns her restless head:
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.
Where are now the warring kings,
Word be-mockers?--By the Rood
Where are now the warring kings?
An idle word is now their glory,
By the stammering schoolboy said,
Reading some entangled story:
The kings of the old time are dead;
The wandering earth herself may be
Only a sudden flaming word,
In clanging space a moment heard,
Troubling the endless reverie.

Then nowise worship dusty deeds,
Nor seek, for this is also sooth,
To hunger fiercely after truth,
Lest all thy toiling only breeds
New dreams, new dreams; there is no truth
Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then,
No learning from the starry men,
Who follow with the optic glass
The whirling ways of stars that pass--
Seek, then, for this is also sooth,
No word of theirs--the cold star-bane
Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain,
And dead is all their human truth.
Go gather by the humming sea
Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,
And to its lips thy story tell,
And they thy comforters will be,
Rewarding in melodious guile
Thy fretful words a little while,
Till they shall singing fade in ruth
And die a pearly brotherhood;
For words alone are certain good:
Sing, then, for this is also sooth.

I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,
With mirthful songs before the dawn.
His shouting days with mirth were crowned;
And still I dream he treads the lawn,
Walking ghostly in the dew,
Pierced by my glad singing through,
My songs of old earth's dreamy youth:
But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou!
For fair are poppies on the brow:
Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.
--W. B. Yeats


"I Was Reading a Scientific Article"
They have photographed the brain
and here is the picture, it is full of
branches as I always suspected,

each time you arrive the electricity
of seeing you is a huge
tree lumbering through my skull, the roots waving.

It is an earth, its fibres wrap
things buried, your forgotten words
are graved in my head, an intricate

red blue and pink prehensile chemistry
veined like a leaf
network, or is it a seascape
with corals and shining tentacles.

I touch you, I am created in you
somewhere as a complex
filament of light

You rest on me and my shoulder holds

your heavy unbelievable
skull, crowded with radiant
suns, a new planet, the people
submerged in you, a lost civilization
I can never excavate:

my hands trace the contours of a total
universe, its different
colors, flowers, its undiscovered
animals, violent or serene

its other air
its claws

its paradise rivers
--Margaret Atwood
 
 
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: "Little Bird," by Lisa Hannigan
 
 
"The Earth"
God loafs around heaven,
without a shape
but He would like to smoke His cigar
or bite His fingernails
and so forth.

God owns heaven
but He craves the earth,
the earth with its little sleepy caves,
its bird resting at the kitchen window,
even its murders lined up like broken chairs,
even its writers digging into their souls
with jackhammers,
even its hucksters selling their animals
for gold,
even its babies sniffing for their music,
the farm house, white as a bone,
sitting in the lap of its corn,
even the statue holding up its widowed life,
but most of all He envies the bodies,
He who has no body.

The eyes, opening and shutting like keyholes
and never forgetting, recording by thousands,
the skull with its brains like eels--
the tablet of the world--
the bones and their joints
that build and break for any trick,
the genitals,
the ballast of the eternal,
and the heart, of course,
that swallows the tides
and spits them out cleansed.

He does not envy the soul so much.
He is all soul
but He would like to house it in a body
and come down
and give it a bath
now and then.
--Anne Sexton


"Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror"
We have seen the city; it is the gibbous
Mirrored eye of an insect. All things happen
On its balcony and are resumed within,
But the action is the cold, syrupy flow
Of a pageant. One feels too confined,
Sifting the April sunlight for clues,
In the mere stillness of the ease of its
Parameter. The hand holds no chalk
And each part of the whole falls off
And cannot know it knew, except
Here and there, in cold pockets
Of remembrance, whispers out of time.
--John Ashbery


"Forgetfulness"
Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders.
Forgetfulness is like a bird whose wings are reconciled,
Outspread and motionless,--
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly.

Forgetfulness is rain at night,
Or an old house in a forest,--or a child.
Forgetfulness is white,--white as a blasted tree,
And it may stun the sybil into prophecy,
Or bury the Gods.

I can remember much forgetfulness.
--Hart Crane


"Wintering"
I am no longer ashamed
how for weeks, after, I wanted
to be dead--not to die,

mind you, or do
myself in--but to be there
already, walking amongst

all those I'd lost, to join
the throng singing,
if that's what there is--

or the nothing, the gnawing--
So be it. I wished
to be warm--& worn--

like the quilt my grandmother
must have made, one side
a patchwork of color--

blues, green like the underside
of a leaf--the other
an old pattern of the dolls

of the world, never cut out
but sewn whole--if the world
were Scotsmen & sailors

in traditional uniforms.
Mourning, I've learned, is just
a moment, many,

grief the long betrothal
beyond. Grief what
we wed, ringing us--

heirloom brought
from my father's hot house--
the quilt heavy tonight

at the foot of my marriage bed,
its weight months of needling
& thread. Each straightish,

pale, uneven stitch
like the white hairs I earned
all that hollowed year--pull one

& ten more will come,
wearing white, to its funeral--
each a mourner, a winter,


gathering ash at my temple.
--Kevin Young


"Saint Francis and the Sow"
The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
--Galway Kinnell


"Conversation"
For Maud

--How old?

--It was completely inadvertent. 
  It was more or less late afternoon
  and I came over a hilltop
  and smack in front of me was the sunset.

--Couldn't you have turned around and gone back?

--Wherever you turn, a window
  in a childhood house fills with fire.

--Remember the pennies we put on the track,
  how the train left behind only the bright splashes?

--Everything startles with its beauty
  when assigned value has been eradicated,
  especially if the value assigned is one cent.

--Does the past ever get too heavy to lug around?

--If your rucksack is too full it could
  wrestle you down backwards.

--Does it ever get lighter?

--It might if so-called obsolete words
  falling off the back end of the language.

--Is it easier to figure things out when you're old?

--I once thought so. Once I said to myself,
  "If I could sit in one place on earth
  and try to understand, it would be here."

--Nice thought.

--Yes, but where was I when I thought it?

--Where do you think you might have
  ended up had you turned around?

--Where the swaying feet of a hanged man
  would take him, if he were set walking, nobody knows.

--Maybe only half of you is a hanged man.

--Each individual consciousness would be much
  more dangerous if it had more than one body.

--Do you feel a draft?

--It could be a lost moment, unconnected
  with earth, just passing through.

--Or did I forget to shut the front door?

--Maybe a window exploded.

--Have you noticed the light bulb in the cellar
  blows out about every two months?

--When ordinary things feel odd
  and odd things normal, be careful.

--I like life best when everything's
  doing what it's supposed to do.

--Kissers kiss, roofers roof, matter matters.

--Don't forget to call your friend in Des Moines.

--I called him. He said he's feeling good.
  He said he had just finished eating an orange.

--Where would you like to be right now?

--I'd like to be at McCoy Stadium
  watching a good game of baseball. And you?

--Me, too. I like it when there's a runner on third.
  At every pitch he starts for home
  and then immediately scurries back.

--If it's a wild pitch, he hovers
  a moment to be sure it's really wild
  and then is quick--like a tear,
  with a tiny bit of sunlight inside it.

--Why the bit of sunlight?

--It would be his allotment of hope.
--Galway Kinnell



"And Then It Was Less Bleak Because We Said So"
Today there has been so much talk of things exploding
into other things, so much that we all become curious, that we
all run outside into the hot streets
and hug. Romance is a grotto of eager stones
anticipating light, or a girl whose teeth
you can always see. With more sparkle and pop
is the only way to live. Your confetti tongue explodes
into acid jazz. Small typewriters
that other people keep in their eyes
click away at all our farewell parties. It is hard
to pack for the rest of your life. Someone is always
eating cold cucumber noodles. Someone will drop by later
to help dismantle some furniture. A lot can go wrong
if you sleep or think, but the trees go on waving
their broken little hands.
--Wendy Xu


"Mushrooms"
Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.
--Sylvia Plath


"Conversation"
for Robert Lowell

We smile at each other
and I lean back against the wicker couch.
How does it feel to be dead? I say.
You touch my knees with your blue fingers.
And when you open your mouth,
a ball of yellow light falls to the floor
and burns a hole through it.
Don't tell me, I say. I don't want to hear.
Did you ever, you start,
wear a certain kind of silk dress
and just by accident,
so inconsequential you barely notice it,
your fingers graze that dress
and you hear the sound of a knife cutting paper,
you see it too
and you realize how that image
is simply the extension of another image,
that your own life
is a chain of words
that one day will snap.
Words, you say, young girls in a circle, holding hands,
and beginning to rise heavenward
in their confirmation dresses,
like white helium balloons,
the wreaths of flowers on their heads spinning,
and above all that,
that's where I'm floating,
and that's what it's like
only ten times clearer,
ten times more horrible.
Could anyone alive survive it?
--Ai


"Centrifugal"
The spider living in the bike seat has finally spun
its own spokes through the wheels.
I have seen it crawl upside down, armored
black and jigging back to the hollow frame,
have felt the stickiness break
as the tire pulls free the stitches of last night's sewing.
We've ridden this bike together for a week now,
two legs in gyre by daylight, and at night,
the eight converting gears into looms, handle bars
into sails. This is how it is to be part of a cycle--
to be always in motion, and to be always
woven to something else.
--Douglas S. Jones


"Genealogy"
I carry you, a fleck, to Jamaica At the Chinese temple in Kingston
I am sick daily Victor leads me upstairs, says this floor was once
Nights, I hold the bed's edges full of beds where men off the boat
a raft on the rolling sea slept, ate, washed sea salt from their skin,
You inside me, all this hope prayed at the jade altar with two lions
Sweet speck, what will you be? that too, had shipped from China.
Too new to be anything We drive to the old cemetery, not before
I say nothing Victor pays the wild-eyed boy who "guards" the car.
the way I stay silent He might hurt us, the vodka bottle he holds is
about my grandfather made of blue glass. His lips are red and sore.
who beat all his children I stand on my grandfather's small grave,
with a strap pen in hand. I am allowed to write his name on since
The sun burns the cemetery floor the marker has been chipped off,
I am woozy marble sold. Wow crazy day huh, Victor says. An honor
I don't know why I'm here to pay your filial duty to your grandfather?
--Hannah Lowe
 
 
Current Mood: coldcold
Current Music: "Weary Memory," by Iron & Wine
 
 
THE SONG OF THE NEEDLES

Needles have the sudden beauty
of a first line.
They're always new and surprising
as they burst from their paper covering.
They sing as they hit the air.

You catch sight of them
out of the corner of your eye,
glinting softly to themselves
as they contemplate their next move.

What they're suggesting is inspired,
but a certain sadness
attends their description
of what is going on.
You don't know whether to look away,
or accept what they're saying.

If you're lucky you'll feel a pop
as one of them enters your fistula
and a cool feeling of recognition
spreads up through your arm.
--Hugo Williams, "Notes from Dialysis"


"Cymothoa Exigua"
trigger warning: racism, lynching, bodily mutilationCollapse )
--Roger Reeves
 
 
Current Mood: crushedcrushed
Current Music: "Mr. November," by the National
 
 
26 September 2014 @ 11:16 pm
A not admitting of the wound
Until it grew so wide
That all my Life had entered it
And there were troughs beside--

A closing of the simple lid that opened to the sun
Until the tender Carpenter
Perpetual nail it down--
--Emily Dickinson


"Real isn't what they try to tell you. Time isn't. Grown-ups hammer down all these markers, bells, schedules, coffee-breaks, to stake down time so you'll start believing it's something small and mean, something that scrapes flake after flake off of everything you love till there's nothing left; to stake you down so you don't lift off and fly away, somersaulting through whirlpools of months, skimming through eddies of glittering seconds, pouring handfuls of hours over your upturned face."
--Tana French


"Bridlepath"
It was quiet in the old house.
The plants were all upstairs
           and it was sunning.
There was gin somewhere but who can find it?
At the edge of the white forest they saw
the old house, the house of that part.
Well it was never so rundown, but it
           was shelter
and they looked so lovely in its lavender.
They talked all the time of "the eve"
and as they rocked and creaked they swore
            but so softly. In the air
the house had continually renewed itself
up the hill until it looked quite haggard,
and it looked newer this way which depressed
the considerate tourists who never whittled
the trees any more because the house looked
more interesting, blue with the shadow of twigs.
          Something is going to happen,
but they won't be walking this way.

--Frank O'Hara


"Human feeling is like the mighty rivers that bless the earth: it does not wait for beauty--it flows with resistless force and brings beauty with it."
--George Eliot


"Miles Away"
I want you and you are not here. I pause
in this garden, breathing the colour thought is
before language into still air. Even your name
is a pale ghost and, though I exhale it again
and again, it will not stay with me. Tonight
I make you up, imagine you, your movements clearer
than the words I have you say you said before.

Wherever you are now, inside my head you fix me
with a look, standing here whilst cool late light
dissolves into the earth. I have got your mouth wrong,
but still it smiles. I hold you closer, miles away,
inventing love, until the calls of nightjars
interrupt and turn what was to come, was certain,
into memory. The stars are filming us for no one.
--Carol Ann Duffy


"Password"
A key broke its neck
in the lock. Around
back, a nest of blue

bombing jays would peck
at our ducking
heads and flash

away with our hair
in their beaks. Yellow-
jackets blocked the way

to the basement
with a quiver of stings.
There was something

sharp and striped curled
around a rung
of the ladder. The mud-

spattered skylight
was cracked
by webs, and half-

sleeping bats
lined the chimney
with the angles

of their ears. If only
the windows knew us
from a storm

or a thief who would bash
in the glass and spirit
away what is ours--

away over the petrified
prints that waited
deep down under the grass.
--Carolyn Guinzio


"sorrows"
who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be

beautiful         who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals

that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin


sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls         clicking their bony fingers

envying our crackling hair
our spice filled flesh

they have heard me beseeching
as I whispered into my own

cupped hands       enough not me again
enough       but who can distinguish

one human voice   
amid such choruses of desire

--Lucille Clifton


"After Apple-Picking"
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
--Robert Frost


"Jubilee"
By now I know the miles my blood travels
each year. I know the mendicant's hunger--

hollowness moves in, my body becomes
the cave I am seeking. I drag the jaws

of a dead wolf from its den for the meat between
his teeth. I am red and reeking with the journey.

I am a ravening animal weeping for the angel
with broken hands standing sentry over the ossuary.

I am harrowed, hallowed. I am stone, stone,
I have not trembled. Love nails me to the world.
--Traci Brimhall
 
 
Current Mood: okayokay
Current Music: "Cryptomnesia," by Cold War Kids
 
 
09 September 2014 @ 10:58 pm
"under a soprano sky"
    1.

once i lived on pillars in a green house
boarded by lilacs that rocked voices into weeds.
i bled an owl's blood
shredding the grass until i
rocked in a choir of worms.
obscene with hands, i wooed the world
with thumbs
                        while yo-yos hummed.
was it an unborn lacquer i peeled?
the woods, tall as waves, sang in mixed
tongues that loosened the scalp
and my bones wrapped in white dust
returned to echo in my thighs.

i hear a pulse wandering somewhere
on vague embankments.
O are my hands breathing?    I cannot smell the nerves.
i saw the sun
ripening green stones for fields.
O have my eyes run down?    i cannot taste my birth.

         2.

now as i move, mouth quivering with silks
my skin runs soft with eyes.
descending into my legs, i follow obscure birds
purchasing orthopedic wings.
the air is late this summer.

i peel the spine and flood
the earth with adolescence.
O who will pump these breasts?    I cannot waltz my tongue.

under a soprano sky, a woman sings,
lovely as chandeliers. 

--Sonia Sanchez


"Self-Portrait as a Chimera"
I am what I have done--

A sweeping gesture to the thorn of mast jutting from my mother's spine--spine a series of narrow steps leading to the temple of her neck where the things we worship demand we hurl her heart from that height, still warm, still humming with the holy music of an organ--

We do. We do. We do and do and do.

The last wild horse leaping off a cliff at Dana Point. A hurtling God carved from red clay. Wings of wind. Two satellite eyes spiraling like coals from a long-cold fire. Dreaming of Cortés, his dirty-beard and the burns it left when we kissed. Yet we kissed for years and my savage hair wove around him like braids of smoke.

Skeletons of apples rot the gardens of Thalheim. First snow wept at the windows while I held a man's wife in my arms. I palmed her heavy breasts like loot bags. Her teeth at my throat like a pearl necklace I could break to pieces. I would break to pieces. Dieb.

A bandit born with masked eyes. El Maragato's thigh wound glittering like red lace. My love hidden away in a cave as I face the gallows each morning, her scent the bandana around my face, her picture folded in the cuff of my boot.

The gravediggers and their beautiful shoulder blades smooth as shovel heads. I build and build my brother a funeral, eating the dirt along the way--queen of pica, pilferer of misery feasts--hoarding my brother like a wrecked Spanish galleon. I am more cerulean than the sea I swallow each day on the way to reaching out for him, to sing his name, to wear him like a dress made of debris.

These dark rosettes name me Jaguar. These stripes are my slave dress. Black soot. Red hematite. I am filled with ink. A codice, splayed, opened, ready to be burnt in the square--

I am. I am and am and am. What have I done?
--Natalie Diaz
 
 
Current Mood: pissed offpissed off
Current Music: "I'll Take New York," by Tom Waits
 
 
"He Marries the Stuffed-Owl Exhibit at the Indiana Welcome Center"
He marries her mites and the wires in her wings,
he marries her yellow glass eyes and black centers,
he marries her near-total head turn, he marries
      the curve of each of her claws, he marries
the information plaque, he marries the extinction
       of this kind of owl, he marries the owl
that she loved in life and the last thought of him
in the thick of her mind
        just one inch away from the bullet, there,
                            he marries the moths
who make holes in the owl, who have eaten the owl
almost all away, he marries the branch of the tree
that she grips, he marries the real-looking moss
and dead leaves, he marries the smell of must
that surrounds her, he marries the strong blue
       stares of children, he marries nasty smudges
of their noses on the glass, he marries the camera
that points at the owl to make sure no one steals her,
so the camera won't object when he breaks the glass
while reciting some vows that he wrote himself,
he screams OWL instead of I'LL and then ALWAYS
LOVE HER, he screams HAVE AND TO HOLD
and takes hold of the owl and wrenches the owl
away from her branch
            and he covers her in kisses and the owl
thinks, "More moths," and at the final hungry kiss,
"That must have been the last big bite, there is no more
of me left to eat and thank God," when he marries
the stuffing out of the owl and hoots as the owl flies out
under his arm, they elope into the darkness of Indiana,
Indiana he screams is their new life and WELCOME.
They live in a tree together now, and the children of
Welcome to Indiana say who even more than usual,
and the children of Welcome to Indiana they wonder
where they belong. Not in Indiana, they say to themselves,
the state of all-consuming love, we cannot belong in Indiana,
       as night falls and the moths appear one by one, hungry.

--Patricia Lockwood


"The Feeling of Needing a Pen"
       Really, like a urine but even more gold,
       I thought of that line and I felt it, even
between two legs I felt it, the legs I wrote
just now, a panic, a run-walk to the private
              room with a picture of a woman
on the door, or else the line was long, too long,
I barged into the men's, and felt stares burning
hard like reading or noon, felt them looking
me up and over, felt them looking me over
and down, and all the while just holding their
pens,
      they do it different oh no they don't,
they do it standing up, they do it at the window,
they do it so secret in a three-hour bath, they do it
      aloud to someone else, their wife is catching
every word and every word is gold. What you eat
      is in it, blackberries for breakfast are in it,
fat atoms of Shakespeare and Hitler are in it.
The sound of water makes me need to: Atlantic,
Pacific, Caspian, Black. I feel it so much because
I am pregnant, I am pregnant with a little self,
                                 all of its self
is that spot on a dog that causes its leg to kick.
It kicked and I felt and I wrote that last line. Even
now it's happening. I eat only asparagus like arrows,
I am famous for my aim. I get almost none on my hands,
almost. Under my feet the streets, under the streets
              the pipes. Inside the pipes a babble sound.

--Patricia Lockwood


"Nessie Wants to Watch Herself Doing It"
Doing what, I don't know, being alive. The green
of her is a scum on the surface, she would like
to look at herself. Should I have a memory?
she wonders. Of nothing washing my frogskin
in muddy water? I do not have that memory.
My near-transparent frogskin? Mother washing
it with mud to keep it visible? I do not have that
memory, almost, almost. Warmblooded though
she knows for a fact, and spontaneously generated
from the sun on stone, and one hundred vertebrae in every
wave of the lake, as one hundred vertebrae in every wave
of her. All of her meat blue rare blue rare, a spot
on her neck that would drive her wild if anyone ever
touched it, and the tip of her tail ends with -ness and
-less. So far all she knows of the alphabet is signs
that say NO SWIMMING.
             So far all she knows is her whereabouts.
Has great HATRED for the parochial, does the liver
of the lake. Would like to go to universe...al...ity?
        She has heard there is a good one in Germany.
They stay up all night drinking some black sludge,
and grow long beards rather than look at them-
selves, and do thought experiments like: if I am not
in Scotland, does Scotland even exist? What do I look
like when no one is looking? She would listen to them
just as hard as she could with the mud-sucking holes
in her head--and they, she thinks, would listen back,
with their ears so regularly described as seashell.
The half of her that is underwater would like to be
under a desk, the head of her that is underwater
would like to be fully immersed.
                                I will be different there,
she thinks, with a powerful wake ahead of me.
When will the thinkers come for me. Visited only 
here by believers. Is so deep-sea-sick of believers.
When will the thinkers come for me here, where
the green stretches out before me, and I am my own
front lawn. The green is a reflective green, a green
in the juicy shadows of leaves--a bosky even green--
a word I will learn to use, and use without self-
consciousness, when at last I go to Germany. I have 
holed myself away from here, sometimes I am not here
at all, and I feel like the nice clean hole in the leaf
               and the magnifying glass above me.
She looks to the believers on the shore. A picture
               it would last longer! shouts Nessie.
Does NOT believe photography can rise to the level
of art, no matter how much rain falls in it, as levels
of the lake they rose to art when Nessie dipped
her body in it. Nessie wants to watch herself doing
it. Doing what, I don't know, being alive. The lake
bought one Nessie and brought her home. She almost
died of loneliness until it gave her a mirror. The lake
could be a mirror, thinks Nessie. Would be perfectly
                                  still if I weren't in it.

--Patricia Lockwood


"Factories Are Everywhere in Poetry Right Now"
We are watching a crayon being made, we are children,
           we are watching the crayon become crayons
and more crayons and thinking how can there be enough
room in America to make what makes it up, we are thinking
all American is a factory by now, the head of it churning out 
       fake oranges, the hand of it churning out glass bottles,
                  the heel of it churning out Lego men.
We are watching lifelike snakes get made, we are watching
lifelike rats get made, we are watching army men get made;
         a whole factory for magic wands, a whole factory
for endless scarves, a whole factory, America, for the making
of the doves, a whole factory, America,
                             for the making of long-eared
rabbits and their love of deep dark holes. We are watching
a marble being made, how does the cat's eye get in the marble
and how does the sight get into that, how does the hand get
on it, how does the hand attach to the child, how does the child
attach to the dirt, and how does the dirt attach to its only name,
America. The name is manufactured here by rows of me in airless
             rooms. Sunlight is accidental, sunlight is runoff
from the lightbulb factory, is ooze on the surface of all our rivers.
Our abandoned factories make empty space and our largest
factory produces distance and its endless conveyor produces miles.
And people in the basement produce our underground. Hillbilly
     teeth are made here, but hillbilly teeth are made everywhere
maybe. The factory that makes us is overseas, and meanwhile we,
America, churn out China, France, Russia, Spain, and our glimpses
of them from across the ocean. Above the factory billowing clouds
       can be seen for miles around. Long line of us never glances up
       from the long line of glimpses we're making, we could make
       those glimpses in the dark, our fingertips could see to do it,
                          all the flashing fish in the Finger Lakes
have extra-plus eyes in America. The last factory, which makes last
lines, makes zippers for sudden reveals: a break in the trees opens
    ziiiip on a view, the last line opens ziiiip on enormous meaning.

--Patricia Lockwood


"The Hornet Mascot Falls in Love"
Piece human, piece hornet, the fury
of both, astonishing abs all over it.
Ripped, just ripped to absolute bits,
his head in the hornet and his head
in the hum, and oh he wants to sting
       her. The air he breathes is filled
with flying cheerleader parts. Splits
flips and splits, and ponytails in orbit,
the calm eye of the panty in the center
of the cartwheel, the word HORNETS
--how?--flying off the white uniform.
Cheerleaders are a whole, are known
to disassemble in the middle of the air
and come back down with different
thighs, necks from other girls, a lean
gold torso of Amber-Ray on a bubbling
bottom half of Brooke. The mouths that
cry GOOD HANDS GOOD HANDS.
The arms he loves that make the basket,
the body he loves that drops neat
                           into them.
Oh the hybrid human and hornet, who
       would aim for pink balloons.
Oh the swarm of Cheerleading Entity,
who with their hivemind understand
him. Rhyme about the hornet, her tongue
in her mouth at the top of her throat! Clap
one girl's hand against another's. Even
              exchange screams in the air.
The pom-poms, fact, are flesh. Hornet
Mascot is hungry, and rubs his abs, where
the hornet meets the man. Wants to eat
       and hurl a honey, in the middle
of the air. (No that is bees I'm thinking of.
Like I ever went to class, when the show
was all outside.) The hornet begins to fly
toward the cheerleaders. "Make me
the point of your pyramid," he breathes.
And they take him up in the air with them
and mix and match his parts with theirs,
and all come down with one gold stripe,
      and come down sharp and stunned,
and lie on the ground a minute, all think-
ing am I dead yet, where am I, did we win.

--Patricia Lockwood


What happens when the body goes slack?
When what anchors us just drifts off toward....
What that is ours will remain intact?

When I was young, my father was lord
Of a small kingdom: a wife, a garden,
Kids for whom his word was Word.

It took years for my view to harden,
To shrink him to human size
And realize the door leading out was open.

I walked through, and my eyes
Swallowed everything, no matter
How it cut. To bleed was my prize:

I was free, nobody's daughter,
Perfecting an easy weightless laughter.
--Tracy K. Smith, from "The Speed of Belief"


Of all the original tribes, the Javan has walked into the dappled green light.
Also the Bali, flicking his tail as the last clouds in the world dissolved at his back.
And the Caspian, with his famous winter mane, has lain down finally for good.
Or so we believe. And so I imagine you must be even more alone now,

The only heat of your kind for miles. A solitary country. At dawn, you listen
Past the birds rutting the trees, past even the fish at their mischief. You listen
The way a woman listens to the apparatus of her body. And it reaches you,
My own wish, like a scent, a rag on the wind. It'll do no good to coax you back

From that heaven of leaves, of cool earth and nothing to fear. How far.
How lush your bed. How heavy your prey. Day arrives. You gorge, sleep,
Wade the stream. Night kneels at your feet like a gypsy glistening with jewels.
You raise your head and the great mouth yawns. You swallow the light.
--Tracy K. Smith, from "The Speed of Belief"


"Keno"
Leroy drove to the casinos to play keno, boring keno.
It had cooled down to the 90s by the time he got there;
he needed to go somewhere and not lie. If he could just keep his
mind on the numbers; not talk to any strangers. Anyway it's no fun

to lie to a stranger--no consequences. Leroy had been lying so
much he couldn't think straight. He'd told one woman her son
smoked weed, every single day, by the river. He'd told a man he'd seen
his wife in her black and white dress at the Red Dog. It was all fibs.
Or was it, as soon as he said it it felt true. Leroy had dark hair

making a peninsular shape down on his forehead; wavy hair;
he wore glasses, though he'd never read a word in his life.

He told everyone Marie was some sort of witch or crazy person--
he meant she too was inventing the world, and they
were in competition. He let her bring her dogs into the store,

every day, and fill a gallon bottle with tap water. He
couldn't help it. He couldn't help helping her. She wore a dark
long skirt, a brown long-sleeved shirt, and a hat, so you
couldn't see how dirty she'd get. Or maybe so you just

couldn't see her--He told someone she was scarred on the front
of her body; that he'd seen the scars above her shirt, lacey and white.
No one believed it of course, but it was true.
--Alice Notley, from Culture of One


What is a lie? I think it's whatever you say about a physical
thing, like yourself.
--Alice Notley, "Ruby" from Culture of One


"Unplanted, I"
The universe drifts inside a mind, like a seed that doesn't think where
to go. Snakebitten, I'm delirious; who will believe me if I survive?
Who believes anything but their own lies? or someone else's,
the universe drifts inside a brain, a tissue of lies, a structure in space formed by eyes,

before I first lied. What am I afraid of? Ruby died. That, and that
nothing will stay still--like in a real world. I'm hovering, turning
above the blue-green river, enraptured by my pain. I always
knew it, the worst would come--what kind of cosmos is that?
I didn't ask to be a liar; I didn't ask to be dignified or not; to realize
the truth or not; to be a decent man or not; to be meaningful to you--
      Who the hell are you?

--Alice Notley, from Culture of One
 
 
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: "Sun in an Empty Room," by the Weakerthans
 
 
31 August 2014 @ 12:29 am
" 'What do you want to change in the world?' she continued her recitation, looking away. 'What do you want to preserve? What is the thing you're searching for? What are you running from?'

" 'Nothing,' he said. 'And nothing. And nothing. And...nothing, at least that I know.'

" 'You have no purpose?'

" 'I want to get to Bellona and--' He chuckled. 'Mine's the same as everybody else's; in real life, anyway: to get through the next second, consciousness intact.' "
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


"But the real mind is invisible: you're less aware of it, while you think, than you are of your eye while you see...until something goes wrong with it. Then you become aware of it, with all its dislocated pieces and its rackety functioning, the same way you become aware of your eye when you get a cinder in it."
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


" 'I've never wanted to kill myself,' he said. 'Never in my life. Sometimes I thought I was going to--because I'd gotten some crazy compulsion, to jump off a building or throw myself under a train, just to see what dying was like. But I never thought that life wasn't worth living, or that there was any situation so bad where just sitting it out wouldn't fix it up--that's if I couldn't get up and go somewhere else. But not wanting to kill myself doesn't stop me thinking about death. Say, has this ever happened to you? You're walking along a street, or sitting in a room, or lying down on the leaves, or even talking to people, and suddenly the thought comes--and when it comes, it comes all through you like a stop-action film of a crystal forming or an opening bud: 'I am going to die.' Someday, somewhere, I will be dying, and five seconds after that, I will be dead. And when it comes it comes like--' he smashed cupped palms together in the air so sharply she jumped--'that! And you know it, know your own death, for a whole second, three seconds, maybe five or ten...before the thought goes and you only remember the words you were mumbling, like 'Someday I will die,' which isn't the thought at all, just its ashes.' "
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


"But I realized something. About art. And psychiatry. They're both self-perpetuating systems. Like religion. All three of them promise you a sense of inner worth and meaning, and spend a lot of time telling you about the suffering you have to go through to achieve it. As soon as you get a problem in any one of them, the solution it gives is always to go deeper into the same system. They're all in a rather uneasy truce with one another in what's actually a mortal battle. Like all self-reinforcing systems. At best, each is trying to encompass the other two and define them as sub-groups. You know: religion and art are both forms of madness and madness is the realm of psychiatry. Or, art is the study and praise of man and man's ideals, so therefore a religious experiences becomes just a brutalized aesthetic response and psychiatry is just another tool for the artist to observe man and render his portraits more accurately. And the religious attitude I guess is that the other two are only useful as long as they promote the good life. At worst, they all try to destroy one another. Which is what my psychiatrist, whether he knew it or not, was trying, quite effectively, to do to my painting. I gave up psychiatry too, pretty soon. I just didn't want to get all wound up in any systems at all."
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


" 'You meet a new person, you go with him,' Kid mused, 'and suddenly you get a whole new city.' "
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


"Swinging up into the cab of a truck, miles north of Florida, and the driver asking how long you've been hitching, and the sunlight fills his lime-splattered lap and your rank jeans and he lets the radio play pop music for a while, for a while country; then twists the dial; your forearm burns on the outer edge of the door, your hair snaps and your cheek freezes, and the motion is spindled on the rush of music. So you sit, just breathing, to hear and to move through the red and green country, with the sun in the tree-tops a stutter of bright explosions.

"The City suffers from the lack of it.

"But most of us /have/ come here by way of it."
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren
 
 
Current Mood: restlessrestless
Current Music: "How Near How Far," by ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
 
 
"I don't subscribe to the notion that a poem is doing its job when people get angry, no. The idea of a poem 'doing its job' is a really foreign one to me. It's not a kitchen implement, that either works or doesn't. It's not a machine whose function is to manufacture human reaction, and if it manufactures enough of the right kind of reaction then it can be judged successful. It's a place that goes onto the map if people return and return to it over a long period of time. Its job is to be there, for the people who want to come to it."
--Patricia Lockwood


"Commander Vimes didn't like the phrase 'The innocent have nothing to fear', believing the innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like 'The innocent have nothing to fear'."
--Terry Pratchett


"How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it's just words."
--David Foster Wallace, The Pale King


"Tell me the best fantasy lands aren't deep, deep conversations. The one you had when everyone else was asleep at a slumber party when you were nine years old on the basement floor covered by a green outdoor rug next to her brother's barbell stand. Or the one you had on the bus with that boy when you were fourteen who said girls didn't go out with him because he had a paunch and didn't play football. And you admitted a few things about yourself that didn't sound good. Or the one that kept you in the dining hall so you missed all your afternoon classes in college. Or the one that led you to elope. Or the one last week when you talked about how you felt about failing and failing again until one of the children came running in because you'd forgotten dinner. Tell me, aren't the best fantasies where you have those conversations you don't want to leave, like an island, ancient volcano, surrounded by jeweled waters, warm in the sunlight, icy in the shadow of its caves--a place you remember best for being rare, for being far in the middle of the sea, uninhabitable, or unbearably too inhabitable, left before we ruined it."
--Jimin Han


"Manifesto"
trigger warning: wartime violenceCollapse )
--Catalina Ferro


"Missed Time"
My notebook has remained blank for months
thanks to the light you shower
around me. I have no use
for my pen, which lies
languorously without grief.

Nothing is better than to live
a storyless life that needs
no writing for meaning--
when I am gone, let others say
they lost a happy man,
though no one can tell how happy I was.
--Ha Jin


"I like people who dream or talk to themselves interminably; I like them, for they are double. They are here and elsewhere."
--Albert Camus
 
 
Current Mood: uncomfortableuncomfortable
Current Music: "Lucky Girl," by Joni Mitchell
 
 
"I'm free, I think. I shut my eyes and think hard and deep about how free I am, but I can't really understand what it means. All I know is I'm totally alone. All alone in an unfamiliar place, like some solitary explorer who's lost his compass and his map. Is this what it means to be free?"
--Haruki Marukami, Kafka on the Shore



"The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory."
--Henri Bergson, qtd. by Haruki Murakami in Kafka on the Shore



"The Weather in Space"
Is God being or pure force? The wind

Or what commands it? When our lives slow

And we can hold all that we love, it sprawls

In our laps like a gangly doll. When the storm

Kicks up and nothing is ours, we go chasing

After all we're certain to lose, so alive--

Faces radiant with panic.
--Tracy K. Smith



"My God, It's Full of Stars"
1.
We like to think of it as a parallel to what we know,
Only bigger. One man against the authorities.
Or one man against a city of zombies. One man

Who is not, in fact, a man, sent to understand
The caravan of men now chasing him like red ants
Let loose down the pants of America. Man on the run.

Man with a ship to catch, a payload to drop,
This message going out to all of space.... Though
Maybe it's more like life below the sea: silent,

Buoyant, bizarrely benign. Relics
Of a outmoded design. Some like to imagine
A cosmic mother watching through a spray of stars,

Mouthing yes, yes as we toddle toward the light,
Biting her lip if we teeter at some ledge. Longing
To sweep us to her breast, she hopes for the best

While the father storms through adjacent rooms
Ranting with the force of Kingdom Come,
Not caring anymore what might snap us in its jaw.

Sometimes, what I see is a library in a rural community.
All the tall shelves in the big open room. And the pencils
In a cup at Circulation, gnawed on by the entire population.

The books have lived here all along, belonging
For weeks at a time to one or another in the brief sequence
Of family names, speaking (at night mostly) to a face,

A pair of eyes. The most remarkable lies.


2.
Charlton Heston is waiting to be let in. He asked once politely.
A second time with force from the diaphragm. The third time,
He did it like Moses: arms raised high, face an apocryphal white.

Shirt crisp, suit trim, he stoops a little coming in,
Then grows tall. He scans the room. He stands until I gesture,
Then he sits. Birds commence their evening chatter. Someone fires

Charcoals out below. He'll take a whiskey if I have it. Water if I don't.
I ask him to start from the beginning, but he goes only halfway back.
That was the future once, he says. Before the world went upside down.

Hero, survivor. God's right hand man, I know he sees the blank
Surface of the moon where I see a language built from brick and bone.
He sits straight in his seat, takes a long, slow high-thespian breath,

Then lets it go. For all I know, I was the last true man on this earth. And:
May I smoke? The voices outside soften. Planes jet past heading off or back.
Someone cries that she does not want to go to bed. Footsteps overhead.

A fountain in the neighbor's yard babbles to itself, and the night air
Lifts the sound indoors. It was another time, he says, picking up again.
We were pioneers. Will you fight to stay alive here, riding the earth

Toward God-knows-where?
I think of Atlantis buried under ice, gone
One day from sight, the shore from which it rose now glacial and stark.
Our eyes adjust to the dark.


3.
Perhaps the great error is believing we're alone,

That the others have come and gone--a momentary blip--

When all along, space might be choc-full of traffic,

Bursting at the seams with energy we neither feel

Nor see, flush against us, living, dying, deciding,

Setting solid feet down on planets everywhere,

Bowing to the great stars that command, pitching stones

At whatever are their moons. They live wondering

If they are the only ones, knowing only the wish to know,

And the great black distance they--we--flicker in.


Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,

Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on

At twilight. Hearing the engines flare, the horns

Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want it to be

One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial.

Wide open, so everything floods in at once.

And sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,

Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.

So that I might be sitting now beside my father

As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe

For the first time in the winter of 1959.


4.
In those last scenes of Kubrick's 2001
When Dave is whisked into the center of space,
Which unfurls in an aurora of orgasmic light
Before opening wide, like a jungle orchid
For a love-struck bee, then goes liquid,
Paint-in-water, and then gauze wafting out and off,
Before, finally, the night tide, luminescent
And vague, swirls in, and on and on....

In those last scenes, as he floats
Above Jupiter's vast canyons and seas,
Over the lava strewn plains and mountains
Packed in ice, that whole time, he doesn't blink.
In his little ship, blind to what he rides, whisked
Across the wide-screen of unparcelled time,
Who knows what blazes through his mind?
Is it still his life he moves through, or does
That end at the end of what he can name?

On set, it's shot after shot till Kubrick is happy,
Then the costumes go back on their racks
And the great gleaming set goes black.


5.
When my father worked on the Hubble Telescope, he said
They operated like surgeons: scrubbed and sheathed
In papery green, the room a clean cold, and bright wide.

He'd read Larry Niven at home, and drink scotch on the rocks,
His eyes exhausted and pink. These were the Reagan years,
When we lived with our finger on The Button and struggled

To view our enemies as children. My father spent whole seasons
Bowing before the oracle-eye, hungry for what it would find.
His face lit-up whenever anyone asked, and his arms would rise

As if he were weightless, perfectly at ease in the never-ending
Night of space. On the ground, we tied postcards to balloons
For peace. Prince Charles married Lady Di. Rock Hudson died.

We learned new words for things. The decade changed.

The first few pictures came back blurred, and I felt ashamed
For all the cheerful engineers, my father and his tribe. The second time,
The optics jibed. We saw to the edge of all there is--

So brutal and alive it seemed to comprehend us back.
--Tracy K. Smith



"The Museum of Obsolescence"
So much we once coveted. So much
That would have saved us, but lived,

Instead, its own quick span, returning
To uselessness with the mute acquiescence

Of shed skin. It watches us watch it:
Our faulty eyes, our telltale heat, hearts

Ticking through our shirts. We're here
To titter at the gimcracks, the naïve tools,

The replicas of replicas stacked like bricks.
There's green money, and oil in drums.

Pots of honey pilfered from a tomb. Books
Recounting the wars, maps of fizzled stars.

In the south wing, there's a small room
Where a living man sits on display. Ask,

And he'll describe the old beliefs. If you
Laugh, he'll lower his head to his hands

And sigh. When he dies, they'll replace him
With a video looping on ad infinitum.

Special installations come and go. "Love"
Was up for a season, followed by "Illness,"

Concepts difficult to grasp. The last thing you see
(After a mirror--someone's idea of a joke?)

Is an image of the old planet taken from space.
Outside, vendors hawk t-shirts, three for eight.
--Tracy K. Smith



"Cathedral Kitsch"
Does God love gold?
Does He shine back
At Himself from walls
Like these, leafed
In the earth's softest wealth?

Women light candles,
Pray into their fistful of beads.
Cameras spit human light
Into the vast holy dark,

And what glistens back
Is high up and cold. I feel
Man here. The same wish
That named the planets.

Man with his shoes and tools,
His insistence to prove we exist
Just like God, in the large
And the small, the great

And the frayed. In the chords
That rise from the tall brass pipes,
And the chorus of crushed cans
Someone drags over cobbles
In the secular street.
--Tracy K. Smith



"The Largeness We Can't See"
When our laughter skids across the floor
Like beads yanked from some girl's throat,
What waits where the laughter gathers?

And later, when our saw-toothed breaths
Lay us down on a bed of leaves, what feeds
With ceaseless focus on the leaves?

It's solid, yet permeable, like a mood.
Like God, it has no face. Like lust,
it flickers on without a prick of guilt.

We move in and out of rooms, leaving
Our dust, our voices pooled on sills.
We hurry from door to door in a downpour

Of days. Old trees inch up, their trunks thick
With new rings. All that we see grows
Into the ground. And all we live blind to

Leans its deathless heft to our ears
                                    and sings.

--Tracy K. Smith



"Old Food"
A woman stands in a dreamed cemetery where her daughter lies.
It was Marie; one of them was. A woman stands near a rectangular
plot marked off in pencil. Now the color deepens to turquoise.
Surrounded by dusty gold calligraphy gone past its meaning.

Marie lived in a gully at the dump on the outskirts of town, in a palm-
frond shack, with her dogs. She walks to the Buy-Rite: past a real cemetery,
towards the tracks, but turns; she enters the Buy-Rite. Leroy, the liar,
sells her food, then tells lies to everyone about her; years later
no one remembers the lies. Wasn't Leroy counterfeit like all kings.

Marie isn't counterfeit: nor is where you are now, in this thicket
of polished ribbony ink spelling near-certainty. Okay, Marie is dead.
She inhabits the texture of everything, even manuscripts. An angel

flowers whitely before you. You've got to make a life, you can't die,
nothing dies. One lie, that she cooked lizards and ate them.
She got everything at the Buy-Rite; she didn't have money, did she?
Something must have come in the mail. Or he gave her old food.
--Alice Notley



"I'm Watching"
I'm watching the show on a rotten TV, catching the story
through red and blue specks--images double often, and
the sound's dubbed, they're made to speak a foreign language.
This is one of my favorite kinds of art. What's going on?

Eve Love is Marie's reprobate daughter, or is she? Is Leroy
vicious, even bad? Should I keep calling him by his real name?
Who am I?
         Momma didn't like the name Ruby--
it sounded cheap--though she liked a particular woman
with that name: I'm avoiding telling you some things about

really real people, realer than I am. Leroy told her Ruby'd
died, and Momma was shocked--I told you she was sick, he said;
but Momma hadn't known that she should believe him that time.

Me, I'm not very real. I've worked at that: I can't stand
the fiction of living. I'd just as soon be like Marie, my one
remaining hero. Real. She died out there at the dump
and wasn't anything like I'm saying. Once, a woman from town
gave her a ride and asked her if she was happy. She said she
was doing what she wanted to do. She wasn't crazy you see.

Eve is not Marie's daughter, though maybe someone is.
Is there Mercy? An image of Tara once arose from my chest to help me out...
But I'm not crazy, though sometimes women I dream about
imply that I am. I'm intact. Really intact. Are you?

--Alice Notley



"Hell"
Hell was dripping with the blood from the sores on my thighs--

The girl said let me tell you you are a monster. I refused to
put on her monster mask; I have my own culture. But she put the mask
in her eyes. Then I entered hell.

Your face is made of rotten wood and your eyeholes are gouged out;
you have sores on your thighs because you're ugly; you
will never look like poetry because they aren't healed. You're too old.

There's too much food in hell; a man's in charge of sharks for our food,
some of which are still alive. He says he'll poison those. I have to get out of
your hell; I suppose the sharks bit my thighs; I have nothing against them.

The problem with the girls: they're afraid of this. Though they cast me into it. It's just hell. I give up
on being afraid and on sequential time. Everything's happening all around me,
not in a line. Anyone but me

Anyone but me gets to be the human. Well then I won't be. Join a different
company. Room of luminous visionary beings: why not?
--Alice Notley



"Nothing Like the Earth"
If it is winter in the book
spring surprises me    when I look up    and though I know
there is nothing like the earth    though I know
the lilies in the yard    throw open the doors of the heart
with wondrous force    and I am a buck-merino    a dandy little
buck-merino    jumping with felicity over the fence
and I shall not want    He maketh me lie down on the bed
to read    so I do not know which is the ephemera
the lilies    or the boy in winter whose fate is at a toss
Can anything save the appalling youth brightened with
intense pulse or that deep & wailing cry allotted to his crow?
Yea, though I walk through the valley of these things
there is a rich fever    that never foams
a swatch of fastidious root fastened to a rock
like a hand gripping a doorknob    unable to move
a tentacle of intent that may yet restore
the song of the lute to the lily    or the glory of the crow
to the boy

--Mary Ruefle



"Zettel"
A piece of paper fell out of the book
and drifted to the floor.
It was the first time I had witnessed
a birth, and I was shocked.
What a magnificent cause.
My entire brain plunged into thoughts
connected with the tiny object.
Do people become people for different reasons?
Ever yours. Evermore the imperial tether of
adult tenderness, the full radius of listening
at night, paired with horses grazing on ice:
the way a snow flea jumps on snow, following
one hoof, one print, one word, one minute
to the next. You need never know.
It was very quiet then for a long time,
after I bent down and picked it up.
--Mary Ruefle



"Concerning Essential Existence"
The horse mounted the mare slowly and precisely
and then stopped.

He was profoundly disturbed by a piece of straw.

He was profoundly distracted by the sad toy
upside down in the tree.

He was profoundly disengaged by half a cloud
in the corner of his wet eye.

And then he continued.

Nothing is forgot by lovers
except who they are.
--Mary Ruefle
 
 
Current Mood: hungryhungry
Current Music: "Joy Surrender," by the Ark
 
 
"To Music"
Music: breathing of statues. Perhaps:
silence of paintings. You, language where all language
ends. You, time
standing vertically on the motion of mortal hearts.

Feelings for whom? O you the transformation
of feelings into what? - : into audible landscape.
You stranger: music. You, heart-space
grown out of us. The deepest space in us,
which, rising above us, forces its way out, -
holy departure:
when the innermost point in us stands
outside, as the most practiced distance, as the other
side of the air:
pure,
boundless,
no longer habitable.
--Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell


"I am a product [...of] endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass."
--C. S. Lewis


"Gringo"
trigger warning: racismCollapse )
--Brandon Courtney
 
 
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: "I Want to Be Brave (Madeleine)," by Sarah Slean
 
 
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could."
--Louise Erdrich


"We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women. We do not finish breakfast without being dependent on more than half of the world. When we arise in the morning, we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge which is provided for us by a Pacific Islander. We reach for soap that is created for us by a Frenchman. The towel is provided by a Turk. Then at the table we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese, or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs we are beholden to more than half the world.

"In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."
--Martin Luther King, Jr., "The Man Who Was a Fool"
 
 
Current Mood: touchedtouched
Current Music: "Honest Goodbyes," by Bic Runga