Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012)


They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.

True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.

Hence the indispensable
silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.

Wislawa Szymborska

Saturday, March 30, 2013

D.A. Levy (1942-1968)

dedicated towards an expanding city

this book is for richard krech
who is one of my brothers on
the transparent sun-boat

for drwagner who is one of my
brothers who rode the airplane
spoon & ate peanut-butter sand-
wiches with e.r. baxter for

for rjs & tlk who helped build
the first road thru swamp erie
& jrs who could never get enuf

for roger sauls who sat in a
red room – for ed sanders whose
mouth spurts flowers from the
amer-egyptian underground & for
tuli kupferberg who ate the draft

for bud who lived it before it
was hip & forgot it & for ron
who receives & transmits but
doesnt talk anymore.

for terrible tom who gave me my
winter coat with a flower & a sun
drawn on it

for don thomas of poverty press
who has survived the last few
years in the sunless suburbs

this book is for all the women
ive eaten & laid in dreams & in

the book is for cleo malone who
is stoned on god & works like a
motherball & for tony walsh who
is civilized

for mike brophy,stan heilbrun and
bill bowser who had their dreams
murdered by the local gestapo

for jesus and his impossible
bullshit dream of compassion & for
milarepa who was poisoned by an
old lady & for padma-sambhava
who did-it & got enlightened & got
stoned by the peasants for doing-it

& last, this book is for the insecure
Cleveland police dept, because they
carry guns & their dogs dont bark
at all.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)


Accuse me not, beseech thee, that I wear
Too calm and sad a face in front of thine;
For we two look two ways, and cannot shine
With the same sunlight on our brow and hair.
On me thou lookest with no doubting care,
As on a bee shut in a crystalline;
Since sorrow hath shut me safe in love's divine,
And to spread wing and fly in the outer air
Were most impossible failure, if I strove
To fail so. But I look on thee--on thee--
Beholding, besides love, the end of love,
Hearing oblivion beyond memory;
As one who sits and gazes from above,
Over the rivers to the bitter sea.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

Dark Wood, Dark Water

This wood burns a dark
Incense. Pale moss drips
In elbow-scarves, beards

From the archaic
Bones of the great trees.
Blue mists move over

A lake thick with fish.
Snails scroll the border
Of the glazed water

With coils of ram's-horn.
Out in the open
Down there the late year

Hammers her rare and
Various metals.
Old pewter roots twist

Up from the jet-backed
Mirror of water
And while the air's clear

Hourglass sifts a
Drift of goldpieces
Bright waterlights are

Sliding their quoits one
After the other
Down boles of the fir.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Seth Howard


That time, it seems like long ago
I went out for a walk, it must have been spring
Just another day in the life of one who lives too far away
Traversing the path I’d always taken
That I knew, like I knew myself
Across the far stretch leading out
Cars whirling by, by my side
The restaurants, the bars
The old liquor shops, I passed
As life passes us by
I knew the life I lived was full of questions
I knew the reason why

Then I had reached that curving road
That leaned around the bend
So many familiar places
Though no familiar faces
On this slightly cloudy day

But then, I must have taken a wrong turn
I found myself in an altogether different place
An unfamiliar road, fields where vegetables grew
And a cold wind, I had only just noticed, blowing through
Was this spring weather? I asked myself
But further still, I thought about the summers
In Hokkaido, that seemed to feel this way
That peculiar chill, where you expect there to be warmth
Those greying skies, overcast, clouds setting in
I could not find the sun, it hid so well away

It was as if I had been displaced to a different
Time, and place, fields where city structures should be
And a winter wind, that was tolerable only due
To the absence of warmth—I watched as
The wind swept across the fields
Caressing the tall grasses in waves
Was it rice perhaps? It must have been
But there, a car, turning
It seemed to be leading me out
Of the tunnel, I could see a light
In the distance, however far

Monday, March 25, 2013

Angela Jackson

The Gulf of Blues
The Gulf of Blues
By Angela Jackson b. 1951 Angela Jackson
On the other end of the line
he sounds like my brother
but is my father
telling me about Coony who is fat.
His whole body like a stomach
round all round, fat even on his head.
Eighty and heavy.
How he joked Coony about his weight,
joking him about a tow truck he’d need
to haul him out of the tub
like an old sunken ship pulled out of
the gulf of blues,
leaving whirlpools in the porcelain.

“Quit all that eating and drinking,”
my daddy say he said to him.
“Quit pointing in that garden and reach down
to get it.” My daddy say he joked him,
ribbed him good.
(And I know my daddy laughed gap-toothed,
his mouth, throat, chest, and gut wide
open for the signifying jest.
His gray hair striking back time.)

He sounds like my brother when he was
a little boy, digging in the encyclopedia
for the cause of something obscure, occult,
trying to figure out how old Coony slipped
in the bathtub that was always there
and died like that. Baby Sister called
to tell it first and she wasn’t joking
after all like my daddy thought she was,
Death a sad trick children pull.

On the other end of the line
my father sounds like my brother now.
I know how
Dying, bitter or tender, is the dark water that keeps
us young.
And this gulf of blues, deep and shiny,
the only place to be
between Time and Eternity.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Anna Swir (1909-1984)

The Greatest Love

She is sixty. She lives
the greatest love of her life.

She walks arm-in-arm with her dear one,
her hair streams in the wind.
Her dear one says:
"You have hair like pearls."

Her children say:
"Old fool."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941)

To Asya

Evening noise in the burning sunset
On twilight of winter day.
The third call. Hurry, remember me,
You that are going away!
Emerald wave is awaiting you,
Splash of an oar of blue,
To live our life underground, difficult,
Was not possible to you.
Well then, ahead, that our murky struggle
Into our ranks never calls,
If the transparent wetness appeals to you
Flight of the silver seagulls!
Give my regards to the hot, the brilliant,
Burning sun,
Your question pose to all strong and bright -
Answer will come!
Evening noise in the burning sunset
On twilight of winter day.
The third call. Hurry, remember me,
You that are going away!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Gottfried Benn (1886-1956)

Beautiful Youth

By Gottfried Benn
Translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

The mouth of the girl who had lain long in the rushes
looked so nibbled.
When they opened her chest, her esophagus was so holey.
Finally in a bower under the diaphragm
they found a nest of young rats.
One little thing lay dead.
The others were living off kidneys and liver
drinking the cold blood and had
had themselves a beautiful youth.
And just as beautiful and quick was their death:
the lot of them were thrown into the water.
Ah, will you hearken at the little muzzles’ oinks!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Will Alexander

The Impalpable Brush Fire Singer

he is not an urn singer
nor does he carry on rapport
with negative forces within extinction

he is the brush fire singer
who projects from his heart
the sound of insidious subsduction
of blank anomaly as posture
of opaque density as ash

he distanced from prone ventriloqual stammer
from flesh
& habit
& drought

the performer
part poltergeis & Orisha
part broken in-cellular dove
part glance from floating Mongol bastions

where the spires are butane
where their photographic fractals are impalnted with hypnosis

because he allegedly embodies
a green necrotic umber
more like a vertical flash or a farad
posing like a tempest in a human chromium palace

therefore his sound
a dazed simoom in a guantlet
a blizzard of birds burned at the touch of old maelstroms

because he gives off the ordour of storms
this universal Orisha
like a sun that falls from a compost of dimness
out of de-productive hydrogen sums
out of lightless fissures which boil outside the planet

he sings at a certain pitch
which has evolved beyond the potter’s field
beyond a tragic hummingbird’s cirrhosis
surmounting primeval flaw
surmounting fire which forms in irreplaceable disjunction

under certain formations of the zodiac he is listless
he intones without impact
he synodic revelations no longer of the law
of measured palpable destinations
because he sings in such a silence
that even the Rishis can’t ignore

as though
the hollow power which re-arises from nothingness
perpetually convinces
like a vacuum which splits within the spinning arc of an
intangible solar candle

such power can never be confusedly re-traced
it adumbrates & blazes
like a glossary of suns
so that each viral drill
each forge
casts a feeling
which in-saturates a pressure
bringing to distance a hidden & elided polarity

like a subjective skill
corroded & advanced
he sings
beyond the grip of a paralytic nexus
where blood shifts
beyond the magnet of volume
where the nerves no longer resonate
inside an octagonal maze
stung at its source by piranhas

(from Above the Human Nerve Domain, 1999)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tomas Transtromer

April and Silence

Spring lies deserted.

The velvet-dark ditch

crawls by my side without reflections.

All that shines

are yellow flowers.

I’m carried in my shadow

like a violin in its black case.

The only thing I want to say

gleams out of reach

like the silver

in a pawnshop.

Monday, March 18, 2013

William Morris (1834-1896)


Love is enough: though the world be a-waning,
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
Though the skies be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder,
And this day draw a veil over all deeds passed over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter:
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Li-Young Lee

The Gift

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he'd removed
the iron sliver I thought I'd die from.

I can't remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy's palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife's right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he's given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Li-Young Lee

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Jane Kenyon 1947-1995

Alone for a Week
By Jane Kenyon
I washed a load of clothes
and hung them out to dry.
Then I went up to town
and busied myself all day.
The sleeve of your best shirt
rose ceremonious
when I drove in; our night-
clothes twined and untwined in
a little gust of wind.

For me it was getting late;
for you, where you were, not.
The harvest moon was full
but sparse clouds made its light
not quite reliable.
The bed on your side seemed
as wide and flat as Kansas;
your pillow plump, cool,
and allegorical. . . .

Friday, March 15, 2013

William Blake (1757-1827)

A Dream
From Songs of Innocence

Once a dream did weave a shade
O'er my angel-guarded bed,
That an emmet lost its way
Where on grass methought I lay.

Troubled, wildered, and forlorn,
Dark, benighted, travel-worn,
Over many a tangled spray,
All heart-broke, I heard her say:

'O my children! do they cry,
Do they hear their father sigh?
Now they look abroad to see,
Now return and weep for me.'

Pitying, I dropped a tear:
But I saw a glow-worm near,
Who replied, 'What wailing wight
Calls the watchman of the night?'

'I am set to light the ground,
While the beetle goes his round:
Follow now the beetle's hum;
Little wanderer, hie thee home!'

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Francisco Alvim


On top of the dresser
a can, two jars, some things
among them three old prints
On the table, two folded tablecloths
one green, the other blue
a sheet, also folded, books, a keychain
Under my right arm
a black-covered notebook
In front, a bed
whose headboard has cracked wide open
On the wall some paintings

A clock, a cup

—Translated from the Portuguese by Dana Stevens

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Do It Again- Steely Dan


In the mornin you go gunnin'
For the man who stole your water
And you fire till he is done in
But they catch you at the border
And the mourners are all singin'
As they drag you by your feet
But the hangman isn't hangin'
And they put you on the street

You go back Jack do it again
Wheel turnin' 'round and 'round
You go back Jack do it again

When you know she's no high climber
Then you find your only friend
In a room with your two timer
And you're sure you're near the end
Then you love a little wild one
And she brings you only sorrow
All the time you know she's smilin'
You'll be on your knees tomorrow


Now you swear and kick and beg us
That you're not a gamblin' man
Then you find you're back in Vegas
With a handle in your hand
Your black cards can make you money
So you hide them when you're able
In the land of milk and honey
You must put them on the table

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hezy Leskly (1952-1994)


If you want spaghetti bolognese
you’ll get all the spaghetti bolognese in the world.
If you want all the spaghetti bolognese in the world,
you’ll just barely get an envelope with this note:
“The bolognese package was lost en route
from Haifa to Marseilles;
Maybe it was lost at sea
Maybe it was snatched by wild Uzbeks
Maybe it exploded accidentally.”

If you want love,
You’ll just barely get a blank
empty envelope.
After weeping and sleeping you’ll figure out
that you can
use this empty envelope
and put something in it:
Maybe a glass shard
Maybe a bent ring
Maybe a lock of hair. Something.

If you ask for an empty envelope,
you’ll get love,
all the love in the world.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gordon Henry jr.

November Becomes the Sky With Suppers for the Dead

By Gordon Henry Jr.
I am standing outside
in Minnesota
ghost wind recalling
names in winter mist

The road smells
of dogs two days dead

White photographers talk in
the house of mainstream

I can’t articulate
the agony of Eagle Singer’s
children to them.

We celebrate the old
man while another
generation shoots
crushed and heated
sells baskets,
the fixtures yet to be
installed in the house,
yet to be heated
by the tribal government,
for another night
stolen by the stupors
and the wondrous
pleasure of forget
everything medicines.

Back inside
Uncle Two Dogs rolls me
a smoke out of
organic American Spirit

I look to a last cup
of coffee.

The way home
fills with snow
our tracks
human and machine.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bert Almon

The Muse In The Surgical Theatre

Bert Almon

My muse watches with the transplant team
as they wait for the exuberant moment
when the first golden drop of urine
forms at the end of the cut ureter
of the newly-grafted kidney

Then she smiles behind her mask
remembering the day that Pegasus
dug his moon-shaped hoof
into the slope of Mount Helicon
and the first drops of water
formed in the Hippocrene Spring
These are moments of equal beauty

My muse doesn't flinch or turn away
as she contemplates a drop of urine
so absolutely pure
that it falls without harm
into the body cavity of the patient
Now the surgeon can finish the work
that looked so much like violence

Friday, March 8, 2013

Roo Borson

Ten Thousand

Roo Borson
From: Night Walk, Selected Poems. Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1994.

It is dusk. The birds sweep low to the lake and then dive
up. The wind picks a few leaves off the ground
and turns them into wheels that roll
a little way and then collapse. There's nothing like branches
planted against the sky to remind you
of the feel of your feet on the earth, the way your hands
sometimes touch each other. All those memories,
you wouldn't want them over again, there's no point.
What's next, you ask yourself.
You ask it ten thousand times.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Milton Acorn (1923-1986)

The Island

Milton Acorn

Since I'm Island-born home's as precise
as if a mumbly old carpenter,
shoulder-straps crossed wrong,
laid it out, refigured
to the last three-eighths of shingle.

Nowhere that plowcut worms
heal themselves in red loam;
spruces squat, skirts in sand
or the stones of a river rattle its dark
tunnel under the elms,
is there a spot not measured by hands;
no direction I couldn't walk
to the wave-lined edge of home.

Quiet shores -- beaches that roar
but walk two thousand paces and the sea
becomes an odd shining
glimpse among the jeweled
zigzag low hills. Any wonder
your eyelashes are wings
to fly your look both in and out?
In the coves of the land all things are discussed.

In the ranged jaws of the Gulf,
a red tongue.
Indians say a musical God
took up his brush and painted it,
named it in His own language
"The Island".

Monday, March 4, 2013

Anne Spencer (1882-1975)

Letter to My Sister

It is dangerous for a woman to defy the gods;
To taunt them with the tongue's thin tip,
Or strut in the weakness of mere humanity,
Or draw a line daring them to cross;
The gods own the searing lightning,
The drowning waters, tormenting fears
And anger of red sins.

Oh, but worse still if you mince timidly--
Dodge this way or that, or kneel or pray,
Be kind, or sweat agony drops
Or lay your quick body over your feeble young;
If you have beauty or none, if celibate
Or vowed--the gods are Juggernaut,
Passing over . . . over . . .

This you may do:
Lock your heart, then, quietly,
And lest they peer within,
Light no lamp when dark comes down
Raise no shade for sun;
Breathless must your breath come through
If you'd die and dare deny
The gods their god-like fun.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shel Silverstein

God's Wheel by Shel Silverstein
GOD says to me with a kind
of smile, "Hey how would you like
to be God awhile And steer the world?"
"Okay," says I, "I'll give it a try.

Where do I set?
How much do I get?
What time is lunch?
When can I quit?"

"Gimme back that wheel," says GOD.
"I don't think you're quite ready YET."

Friday, March 1, 2013

Leonard Cohen

Beneath My Hands ("In my hands, your small breasts ...") from "The Spice-Box of Earth"
Beneath my hands
your small breasts
are the upturned bellies
of breathing fallen sparrows.

Wherever you move
I hear the sounds of closing wings
of falling wings.

I am speechless
because you have fallen beside me
because your eyelashes
are the spines of tiny fragile animals.

I dread the time
when your mouth
begins to call me hunter.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want to summon
the eyes and hidden mouths
of stone and light and water
to testify against you.

I want them
to surrender before you
the trembling rhyme of your face
from their deep caskets.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want my body and my hands
to be pools
for your looking and laughing.