Sunday, June 30, 2013

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Alone With Everybody

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
but keep
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than

there's no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular

nobody ever finds
the one.

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill

nothing else

Friday, June 28, 2013

Robert Pinsky

Samurai Song

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

Robert Pinsky

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Charles Simic

Eyes Fastened With Pins

How much death works,
No one knows what a long
Day he puts in. The little
Wife always alone
Ironing death's laundry.
The beautiful daughters
Setting death's supper table.
The neighbors playing
Pinochle in the backyard
Or just sitting on the steps
Drinking beer. Death,
Meanwhile, in a strange
Part of town looking for
Someone with a bad cough,
But the address somehow wrong,
Even death can't figure it out
Among all the locked doors...
And the rain beginning to fall.
Long windy night ahead.
Death with not even a newspaper
To cover his head, not even
A dime to call the one pining away,
Undressing slowly, sleepily,
And stretching naked
On death's side of the bed.

Charles Simic :

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Penny Harter


On this continent time is a whiteout
waxing and waning with the ice
that doubles in each six month night.

Snow of a million years,
snow falling upon snow
fills the valleys,
caps the mountains.

Empty as the moon,
silent as the wind,
this is a land of hostile cliffs,
a white abyss where coastlines host
the only life there is.

Yet here we set up bases,
flag the Pole, abandon garbage
which will not decay–here,
where the Earth archives dust,
and holds our ancient air
in bubbles under ice.

In Antarctic waters,
blue whales sound the depths,
penguins dive from ice floes,

and seals feed on krill
which feed on plankton
which may die from too much
ultraviolet light.

I think of an astronaut
walking in space, the umbilical
connecting him to the mother ship
all that he has.
And then the disconnect.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Gwendolyn MacEwen (1941-1987)

Memoirs of a Mad Cook

Gwendolyn MacEwen
From: The Armies of the Moon. Toronto: Macmillan, 1972

Thre's no point kidding myself any longer,
I just can't get the knack of it ; I suspect
there's a secret society which meets
in dark cafeterias to pass on the art
from one member to another.
It's so personal preparing food for someone's
insides, what can I possibly know
about someone's insides, how can I presume
to invade your blood?
I'll try, God knows I'll try
but if anyone watches me I'll scream
because maybe I'm handling a tomato wrong,
how can I know if I'm handling a tomato wrong?

something is eating away at me
with splendid teeth

Wistfully I stand in my difficult kitchen
and imagine the fantastic salads and soufflés
that will never be.
Everyone seems to grow thin with me
and their eyes grow black as hunters' eyes
and search my face for sustenance.
All my friends are dying of hunger,
there is some basic dish I cannot offer,
and you my love are almost as lean
as the splendid wolf I must keep always
at my door.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

And as it's Going

And as it's going often at love's breaking,
The ghost of first days came again to us,
The silver willow through window then stretched in,
The silver beauty of her gentle branches.
The bird began to sing the song of light and pleasure
To us, who fears to lift looks from the earth,
Who are so lofty, bitter and intense,
About days when we were saved together.

Anna Akhmatova

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bob Kaufman (1925-1986)

Round About Midnight

Jazz radio on a midnight kick,
Round about Midnight.

Sitting on the bed,
With a jazz type chick
Round about Midnight,

Piano laughter, in my ears,
Round about Midnight.

Stirring up laughter, dying tears,
Round about Midnight.

Soft blue voices, muted grins,
Excited voices, Father's sins,
Round about Midnight.

Come on baby, take off your clothes,
Round about Midnight.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gerald Stern

Lucky Life by Gerald Stern

Lucky life isn't one long string of horrors
and there are moments of peace, and pleasure, as I lie in between the blows.
Lucky I don't have to wake up in Phillipsburg, New Jersey,
on the hill overlooking Union Square or the hill overlooking
Kuebler Brewery or the hill overlooking SS. Philip and James
but have my own hills and my own vistas to come back to.

Each year I go down to the island I add
one more year to the darkness;
and though I sit up with my dear friends
trying to separate the one year from the other,
this one from the last, that one from the former,
another from another,
after a while they all get lumped together,
the year we walked to Holgate,
the year our shoes got washed away,
the year it rained,
the year my tooth brought misery to us all.

This year was a crisis. I knew it when we pulled
the car onto the sand and looked for the key.
I knew it when we walked up the outside steps
and opened the hot icebox and began the struggle
with swollen drawers and I knew it when we laid out
the sheets and separated the clothes into piles
and I knew it when we made our first rush onto
the beach and I knew it when we finally sat
on the porch with coffee cups shaking in our hands.

My dream is I'm walking through Phillipsburg, New Jersey,
and I'm lost on South Main Street. I am trying to tell,
by memory, which statue of Christopher Columbus
I have to look for, the one with him slumped over
and lost in weariness or the one with him
vaguely guiding the way with a cross and globe in
one hand and a compass in the other.
My dream is I'm in the Eagle Hotel on Chamber Street
sitting at the oak bar, listening to two
obese veterans discussing Hawaii in 1942,
and reading the funny signs over the bottles.
My dream is I sleep upstairs over the honey locust
and sit on the side porch overlooking the stone culvert
with a whole new set of friends, mostly old and humorless.

Dear waves, what will you do for me this year?
Will you drown out my scream?
Will you let me rise through the fog?
Will you fill me with that old salt feeling?
Will you let me take my long steps in the cold sand?
Will you let me lie on the white bedspread and study
the black clouds with the blue holes in them?
Will you let me see the rusty trees and the old monoplanes one more year?
Will you still let me draw my sacred figures
and move the kites and the birds around with my dark mind?

Lucky life is like this. Lucky there is an ocean to come to.
Lucky you can judge yourself in this water.
Lucky you can be purified over and over again.
Lucky there is the same cleanliness for everyone.
Lucky life is like that. Lucky life. Oh lucky life.
Oh lucky lucky life. Lucky life.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

John Brandi

Holy is Every Man's Angel
Where Hides the Mirror of Perfection

Sometimes my tongue wanders
among ruins, feels a word lost under the skin
wants to define the touch, the abyss
the whole nervous theater
as seen from within.

Sometimes my eye exists
without me, and I am carried
everywhere at once until the center is far away
and in the blackness, distant as an undiscovered star
you are closer than you've ever been.

You are my life, my death, my limb.

Like an ocean turned to blood
I find you in what didn't exist—
the moment is carnelian, it runs from the painting
back onto the brush, and I am with you
completely with you without me.

Sometimes there is no punctuation
to the land at the end of the point.
The surf doesn't pound, the shore only speaks
when we leave. It is you, then —in me, under
and around, who opens into a burning page
and fills the storm with silence.

It is we who write our names
purposely close to the tide's edge
that we may find ourselves in what disappears,
leaving the world to begin, far outside
the painting's frame.

Copyright © 1998 John Brandi.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)

To His Own Beloved Self

Ponderous. The chimes of a clock.
“Render unto Caesar ... render unto God...”
But where’s
someone like me to dock?
Where’11 I find a lair?

Were I
like the ocean of oceans little,
on the tiptoes of waves I’d rise,
I’d strain, a tide, to caress the moon.
Where to find someone to love
of my size,
the sky too small for her to fit in?

Were I poor
as a multimillionaire,
it’d still be tough.
What’s money for the soul? –
thief insatiable.
The gold
of all the Californias isn’t enough
for my desires’ riotous horde.

I wish I were tongue-tied,
like Dante or Petrarch,
able to fire a woman’s heart,
reduce it to ashes with verse-filled pages!
My words
and my love
form a triumphal arch:
through it, in all their splendour,
leaving no trace, will pass
the inamoratas of all the ages!

Were I
as quiet as thunder,
how I’d wail and whine!
One groan of mine
would start the world’s crumbling cloister shivering.
And if
I’d end up by roaring
with all of its power of lungs and more –
the comets, distressed, would wring their hands
and from the sky’s roof
leap in a fever.

If I were dim as the sun,
night I’d drill
with the rays of my eyes,
and also
all by my lonesome,
radiant self
build up the earth’s shriveled bosom.

On I’ll pass,
dragging my huge love behind me.
On what
feverish night, deliria-ridden,
by what Goliaths was I begot –
I, so big
and by no one needed?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

Last Words

I do not want a plain box, I want a sarcophagus
With tigery stripes, and a face on it
Round as the moon, to stare up.
I want to be looking at them when they come
Picking among the dumb minerals, the roots.
I see them already--the pale, star-distance faces.
Now they are nothing, they are not even babies.
I imagine them without fathers or mothers, like the first gods.
They will wonder if I was important.
I should sugar and preserve my days like fruit!
My mirror is clouding over ---
A few more breaths, and it will reflect nothing at all.
The flowers and the faces whiten to a sheet.

I do not trust the spirit. It escapes like steam
In dreams, through mouth-hole or eye-hole. I can't stop it.
One day it won't come back. Things aren't like that.
They stay, their little particular lusters
Warmed by much handling. They almost purr.
When the soles of my feet grow cold,
The blue eye of my turquoise will comfort me.
Let me have my copper cooking pots, let my rouge pots
Bloom about me like night flowers, with a good smell.
They will roll me up in bandages, they will store my heart
Under my feet in a neat parcel.
I shall hardly know myself. It will be dark,
And the shine of these small things sweeter than the face of Ishtar.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bruce Cockburn

Wondering Where The Lions Are

Sun's up, uh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as frightening as they were before
But I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

Walls windows trees, waves coming through
You be in me and I'll be in you
Together in eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

Up among the firs where it smells so sweet
Or down in the valley where the river used to be
I got my mind on eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...

Huge orange flying boat rises off a lake
Thousand-year-old petroglyphs doing a double take
Pointing a finger at eternity
I'm sitting in the middle of this ecstasy

Young men marching, helmets shining in the sun,
Polished as precise like the brain behind the gun
(Should be!) they got me thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...

Freighters on the nod on the surface of the bay
One of these days we're going to sail away,
going to sail into eternity
some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Martha Braniff

Joan's Question

In the stone church
of Lesser Towne,
Joan of Arc, Lorraine’s maid,
prostrate on the transept floor,
her womb, a sacred sepulcher
of slandered witches.
As French armies fall, she prays
in a chapel where walls rage
with men-crushing dragons,
dead children hanging
on knights’ silver shields,
Savior dragging gilded cross,
horses flying into heaven,
and a spiked halo
on a statue of the Bishop.
Her mother, the organist,
and her father, the janitor,
dissuade Joan from listening
to the Angels who exhort her:
Beat the English.
March to Paris.
Send a hot epistle
to the Bishop of Beauvais,
insisting he remain
a loyal Frenchman.
A letter ignored at first,
then saved for her burning.
At her trial,
the Bishop’s accusation:
Joan dresses as a man.
Her last words, a simple query:
How can a woman fight a war,
if she wears a dress?

Copyright © 2004 Martha Braniff

Friday, June 14, 2013

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)


Gabriel whispered in mine ear
His archangelic poesie.
How can I write? I only hear
The sobbing murmur of the sea.

Raphael breathed and bade me pass
His rapt evangel to mankind;
I cannot even match, alas!
The ululation of the wind.

The gross grey gods like gargoyles spit
On every poet's holy head;
No mustard-seed of truth or wit
In those curst furrows, quick or dead!

A tithe of what I know would cleanse
The leprosy of earth; and I -
My limits are like other men's.
I must live dumb, and dumb must die!

Aleister Crowley

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012)

Children of Our Age

We are children of our age,
it's a political age.

All day long, all through the night,
all affairs--yours, ours, theirs--
are political affairs.

Whether you like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin, a political cast,
your eyes, a political slant.

Whatever you say reverberates,
whatever you don't say speaks for itself.
So either way you're talking politics.

Even when you take to the woods,
you're taking political steps
on political grounds.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and above us shines a moon
no longer purely lunar.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
And though it troubles the digestion
it's a question, as always, of politics.

To acquire a political meaning
you don't even have to be human.
Raw material will do,
or protein feed, or crude oil,

or a conference table whose shape
was quarreled over for months;
Should we arbitrate life and death
at a round table or a square one?

Meanwhile, people perished,
animals died,
houses burned,
and the fields ran wild
just as in times immemorial
and less political.

Wislawa Szymborska

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Molly Gaudry


Emerge, lion-maimed. Expand
a monstrous mouth. Between awe
and the child without a face, know

of the wolf. Remark: “Shame
in its creature heart,” but never
needle it. That emits bones, notes

its tongue. A lizard has her dividing
masks, will also voice means: if that
was at the atrium, the sister terrarium’s

difference is picture crystals: common
peaches. The icicles: glass cinders.
A water flame unfurled, a child

face, a window circle, a rose voice,
a lizard figure, a capitalized sun dot—
not a word painting. The grass hovel

where mercury wanders but points
monolithically treats intimately
this written wheezing, becomes

still, looks south against the last.
Know when. Take back. Awe in.
Do for. Eat there. Call to. Gather

my Dorothea. Trust always
her broken-signal stillness,
the broken paper bird, if it appears.

Notice the child. Awe. Know her
name: Dorothea. Take this name:
Dorothea. Take her name.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dara Wier

Invisible in the Torn Out Interiors

A man looked at us across his little dish
Of watercress and peas and said he’d wasted
Five years. We couldn’t ask him doing what?
He said he knew he’d let some thing alive die
And didn’t know how to get it back again now
That it was gone. He looked as if he were
About to cry, as if a fresh death wanted him
To mourn. He talked as if the place he’d been
Had so unwelcomed him it had ruined his soul,
As if it were a place into which drained an
Absolute dead air. He said he’d left no friends
Behind, no one who’d notice he was gone.
And here he was without a job, no place his to
Live, no one his to love. We said welcome home.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Margaret Atwood


Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

The edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

Margaret Atwood

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A..D. Winans


sitting here
at Martha’s Coffee Shop
my eyes lock in

on a petite young woman

with a body only the young possess

my mind on fire

with lost adonis visions

my body bartering for time
she seemingly unaware

of my eyes undressing her

she oozing sex

me an old man with groaning limbs

a once proud hawk turned

into a buzzard groveling

for road kill

she with near perfection

picks up her cell phone

speaks in an angel’s voice

a smile on her lips

my imagination undressing her

tasting the rose between

her legs

the warmth of flesh

the warmth of youth surrenders

to this old man

who becomes young in mind

the rhythm in my blood

strong as a young hawk tasting

the wind on his wings

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sherman Alexie

The Powwow at the End of the World

By Sherman Alexie

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon
waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia
and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors
of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River
as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives
in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after
that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws
a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire
which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told
by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon
who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us
how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;
the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many
of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing
with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

Mayakovsky in 1913

I didn’t know you when you were in your full glory,

I only saw your fiery ascent,

But, maybe, today I have the right

To remember that day from years ago.

How sounds braced the lines of your poetry

With voices like we’d never heard…

Your young hands didn’t rest,

And the scaffold you built was terrifying.

Everything you touched

Seemed transformed,

Whatever you wanted to destroy—collapsed,

A life or death sentence in every word.

Alone and never satisfied,

You tried to rush fate along.

You had already freely and willingly accepted

That soon you’d have to go out and join the great struggle.

I can still hear the answering roar

When you read to us,

The rain slanted its angry eyes,

You started a wild fight with the city.

And your still-unknown name,

Flew into the stuffy lecture hall like lightning,

So that today, cherished everywhere in this country,

It could ring out like a battle cry.

–Анна Ахматова, 1940

–Anna Akhmatova, 1940

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1940)

Call to Account

The drum of war thunders and thunders.
It calls: thrust iron into the living.
From every country
slave after slave
are thrown onto bayonet steel.
For the sake of what?
The earth shivers
and stripped.
Mankind is vapourised in a blood bath
only so
can get hold of Albania.
Human gangs bound in malice,
blow after blow strikes the world
only for
someone’s vessels
to pass without charge
through the Bosporus.
the world
won’t have a rib intact.
And its soul will be pulled out.
And trampled down
only for someone,
to lay
their hands on
Why does
a boot
crush the Earth — fissured and rough?
What is above the battles’ sky -
When will you stand to your full height,
giving them your life?
When will you hurl a question to their faces:
Why are we fighting?

Vladimir Mayakovsky (1917)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Anne Sexton (1928-1974)

A Curse Against Elegies

Oh, love, why do we argue like this?
I am tired of all your pious talk.
Also, I am tired of all the dead.
They refuse to listen,
so leave them alone.
Take your foot out of the graveyard,
they are busy being dead.

Everyone was always to blame:
the last empty fifth of booze,
the rusty nails and chicken feathers
that stuck in the mud on the back doorstep,
the worms that lived under the cat's ear
and the thin-lipped preacher
who refused to call
except once on a flea-ridden day
when he came scuffing in through the yard
looking for a scapegoat.
I hid in the kitchen under the ragbag.

I refuse to remember the dead.
And the dead are bored with the whole thing.
But you - you go ahead,
go on, go on back down
into the graveyard,
lie down where you think their faces are;
talk back to your old bad dreams.

Anne Sexton

Monday, June 3, 2013

Dorianne Laux


By Dorianne Laux

Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor —
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes —
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

The Beekeeper's Daughter

A garden of mouthings. Purple, scarlet-speckled, black
The great corollas dilate, peeling back their silks.
Their musk encroaches, circle after circle,
A well of scents almost too dense to breathe in.
Hieratical in your frock coat, maestro of the bees,
You move among the many-breasted hives,

My heart under your foot, sister of a stone.

Trumpet-throats open to the beaks of birds.
The Golden Rain Tree drips its powders down.
In these little boudoirs streaked with orange and red
The anthers nod their heads, potent as kings
To father dynasties. The air is rich.
Here is a queenship no mother can contest ---

A fruit that's death to taste: dark flesh, dark parings.

In burrows narrow as a finger, solitary bees
Keep house among the grasses. Kneeling down
I set my eyes to a hole-mouth and meet an eye
Round, green, disconsolate as a tear.
Father, bridegroom, in this Easter egg
Under the coronal of sugar roses

The queen bee marries the winter of your year.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Are You Drinking?

washed-up, on shore, the old yellow notebook
out again
I write from the bed
as I did last
will see the doctor,
"yes, doctor, weak legs, vertigo, head-
aches and my back
"are you drinking?" he will ask.
"are you getting your
exercise, your
I think that I am just ill
with life, the same stale yet
even at the track
I watch the horses run by
and it seems
I leave early after buying tickets on the
remaining races.
"taking off?" asks the motel
"yes, it's boring,"
I tell him.
"If you think it's boring
out there," he tells me, "you oughta be
back here."
so here I am
propped up against my pillows
just an old guy
just an old writer
with a yellow
something is
walking across the
oh, it's just
my cat

Charles Bukowski