Saturday, August 31, 2013

Al Purdy (1980-2000)

The Dead Poet

Al Purdy
From: Beyond Remembering - The collected poems of Al Purdy. 2000.

I was altered in the placenta
by the dead brother before me
who built a place in the womb
knowing I was coming:
he wrote words on the walls of flesh
painting a woman inside a woman
whispering a faint lullaby
that sings in my blind heart still

The others were lumberjacks
backwoods wrestlers and farmers
their women were meek and mild
nothing of them survives
but an image inside an image
of a cookstove and the kettle boiling
— how else explain myself to myself
where does the song come from?

Now on my wanderings:
at the Alhambra's lyric dazzle
where the Moors built stone poems
a wan white face peering out
— and the shadow in Plato's cave
remembers the small dead one
— at Samarkand in pale blue light
the words came slowly from him
— I recall the music of blood
on the Street of the Silversmiths

Sleep softly spirit of earth
as the days and nights join hands
when everything becomes one thing
wait softly brother
but do not expect it to happen
that great whoop announcing resurrection
expect only a small whisper
of birds nesting and green things growing
and a brief saying of them
and know where the words came from

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

The Tollund Man in Springtime
Published in Metre, Spring 2005.

"The soul exceeds its circumstances". Yes.

History not to be granted the last word

Or the first claim ... In the end I gathered

From the display-case peat my staying powers,

Told my webbed wrists to be like silver birches,

My old uncallused hands to be young sward,

The spade-cut skin to heal, and got restored

By telling myself this."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ed Sanders

Mary Ellen tapes,
While Ed Sanders recites.
Poems about common sense,
and everyone's rights.

The right to recite
whatever we please,
That was bought by heroes,
blood sweat and tears.

That is protected
for all and one,
by the freedom to own
and cherish our guns.

Mary Ellen records
for posterity to hear,
a poem about the rights,
we Americans hold so dear.

The right to a press
that is free,
to report all the news
to you and me.

That these days tells
only half of the story,
and sensationalizes
with whatever is gory.

Mary Ellen is shocked
and surprised to learn,
that where criminals
are concerned...

Rapes, robberies, murder
and all manner of harm,
increase when only
criminals are armed.

The people of Cambodia, Russia,
and Germany believed they'd be safe,
when their leaders said, guns are bad,
give yours to the state.

The second amendment
for Americans ensures
that all of the others
for all time shall endure.

Gwendolyn MacEwen (1941-1987)

Dark Pines Under Water

Gwendolyn MacEwen
From: The Shadow-Maker. Toronto: Macmillan, 1972

This land like a mirror turns you inward
And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
You dream in the green of your time,
Your memory is a row of sinking pines.

Explorer, you tell yourself, this is not what you came for
Although it is good here, and green;
You had meant to move with a kind of largeness,
You had planned a heavy grace, an anguished dream.

But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper
And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
In an elementary world;
There is something down there and you want it told.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Milton Acorn (1923-1986)

I Shout Love

Milton Acorn
From: I Shout Love and other Poems, .

I shout love in a blizzard's
scarf of curling cold,
for my heart's a furred sharp-toothed thing
that rushes out whimpering
when pain cries the sign writ on it.

I shout love into your pain
when skies crack and fall
like slivers of mirrors,
and rounded fingers, blued as a great rake,
pluck the balled yarn of your brain.

I shout love at petals peeled open
by stern nurse fusion-bomb sun,
terribly like an adhesive bandage,
for love and pain, love and pain
are companions in this age.

June, 1958.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Perhaps not to be is to be without your being.’

Perhaps not to be is to be without your being,
without your going, that cuts noon light
like a blue flower, without your passing
later through fog and stones,
without the torch you lift in your hand
that others may not see as golden,
that perhaps no one believed blossomed
the glowing origin of the rose,
without, in the end, your being, your coming
suddenly, inspiringly, to know my life,
blaze of the rose-tree, wheat of the breeze:
and it follows that I am, because you are:
it follows from ‘you are’, that I am, and we:
and, because of love, you will, I will,
We will, come to be.

Pablo Neruda

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Denise Leavertov (1923-1997)

An excerpt from "Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus"


Praise the wet snow
falling early.
Praise the shadow
my neighor's chimney casts on the tile roof
even this gray October day that should, they say,
have been golden.
the invisible sun burning beyond
the white cold sky, giving us
light and the chimney's shadow.
god or the gods, the unknown,
that which imagined us, which stays
our hand,
our murderous hand,
and gives us
in the shadow of death,
our daily life,
and the dream still
of goodwill, of peace on earth.
flow and change, night and
the pulse of day.

Denise Levertov

Saturday, August 24, 2013

George Bacovia (1881-1957)

Sic transit …


There, where there is no one,
Not even shadows,
there to where
multitudes of years go,
and the din of the day,
and the silence of the night …
Where all things are known …
There, say travelers,
Only outbursts of fire
Denounce themselves
dismally, metallically,
From minute to minute.
There, where there is no one
and no more need
For any words.


And look, we've been surprised by evening,
Which is nothing by day.
Just like
So many times before.
Tales …
of work,
the banquet in the shadows,
Or a time of happiness.
And look, we've been surprised by evening,
which is nothing by day.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Kim Maltman


Kim Maltman
From: Branch Lines. Thistledown Press, 1982.

Tina comes down to the pumphouse by the river.
In a small backwater where heat is poured out from the generators
she watches him, the man she brought here with her.
He swims about lazily, with power, but she stays near the shore,
bobbing slowly up and down, letting herself in
each time only to her chin. She knows this place and how
the warmth ends suddenly, you stray a foot too far
and you're in freezing river water. As it
tumbles down to the shore behind her,
Tina starts to talk. Sometimes it's her father talking,
showing up again after a year or so, in need of money,
or her mother who never drank and always
covered her bruises, and loved her daughters
(and her god) so much she sent them away from it all
to convent schools where the nuns were no better,
strutting around all the time with canes. This
when Tina was 14. Tina had a child at 16, at 18
took too many pills. Now Tina is 21, has been in love
often. She wants not to trust this man, but who could blame her if she did.
And the man, he knows there's only so much he is capable of
giving, which he thinks of as being honest with her,
so he just listens and says nothing and keeps
paddling around, letting out sporadic yelps as he misjudges
the water for the tenth time, and watching
how she dips, each time, exactly to her chin. He is fascinated,
but Tina mostly stays in one place, never straying from the warmth,
not even after dark. It is a beautiful evening, quiet,
she thinks, and stays in one place. Instinctively
she knows the boundaries.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Margret Atwood

Backdropp Addresses Cowboy

Starspangled cowboy
sauntering out of the almost-
silly West, on your face
a porcelain grin,
tugging a papier-mache cactus
on wheels behind you with a string,

you are innocent as a bathtub
full of bullets.

Your righteous eyes, your laconic
people the streets with villains:
as you move, the air in front of you
blossoms with targets

and you leave behind you a heroic
trail of desolation:
beer bottles
slaughtered by the side
of the road, bird-
skulls bleaching in the sunset.

I ought to be watching
from behind a cliff or a cardboard storefront
when the shooting starts, hands clasped
in admiration,

but I am elsewhere.
Then what about me

what about the I
confronting you on that border
you are always trying to cross?

I am the horizon
you ride towards, the thing you can never lasso

I am also what surrounds you:
my brain
scattered with your
tincans, bones, empty shells,
the litter of your invasions.

I am the space you desecrate
as you pass through.

Margaret Atwood

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

Four Seasons Of the Year

I shall return today right there,
Where I had been at spring.
I’m neither sorry, nor unfair -
I only darkness bring.
It’s very deep, it’s like velvet,
It’s dearest to us
Like a dry leaf from a tree fled,
Like a wind’s whistle, that’s lone spread
Over the smooth of ice.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sharon Olds

Japanese-American Farmhouse, California, 1942

Everything has been taken that anyone
thought worth taking. The stairs are tilted,
scattered with sycamore leaves curled
like ammonites in inland rock.
Wood shows through the paint on the frame
and the door is open--an empty room,
sunlight on the floor. All that is left
on the porch is the hollow cylinder
of an Albert's Quick Oats cardboard box
and a sewing machine. Its extraterrestrial
head is bowed, its scrolled neck
glistens. I was born, that day, near there,
in wartime, of ignorant people.

Sharon Olds

Monday, August 19, 2013



I knew three conductors
Charles, Eric and Pierre
in their own way
were contraire,
one a tyrant,
another a sycophant
the third would rant
like a dictator
and rave with his paws
up in the air
demanding his students
would behave in silence
and only his audience
would hand out applause
and chants,
not from me
a ruffian and rebel
to whom nothing is illegal,
like Till Eulenspiegel,
an egalitarian,
not for any sectarian laws
nor rules of a totalitarian
who believed
in musical 12 toned liberty,
when it was my turn
for my recital in class
there were no panegyrics
from my quotes,
as I turned to poetry
combining free jazz
without being metrical
yet easy to tackle,
(while knowing the classics
like Virgil Georgics,
refined with Bloomsbury’s
Swinburne Sapphics),
which alas, burnt up
the authorities
by blowing alto sax
with only improvisation,
yet from my musical notes
got everyone to relax.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bruce Cockburn

Waiting for a Miracle

Look at them working in the hot sun
The pilloried saints and the fallen ones
Working and waiting for the night to come
And waiting for a miracle
Somewhere out there is a place that's cool
Where peace and balance are the rule
Working toward a future like some kind of mystic jewel
And waiting for a miracle
You rub your palm
On the grimy pane
In the hope that you can see
You stand up proud
You pretend you're strong
In the hope that you can be
Like the ones who've cried
Like the ones who've died
Trying to set the angel in us free
While they're waiting for a miracle
Struggle for a dollar, scuffle for a dime
Step out from the past and try to hold the line
So how come history takes such a long, long time
When you're waiting for a miracle
You rub your palm
On the grimy pane
In the hope that you can see
You stand up proud
You pretend you're strong
In the hope that you can be
Like the ones who've cried
Like the ones who've died
Trying to set the angel in us free
While they're waiting for a miracle

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Li-Young Lee


In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?
just to hear his sister
promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,
just to hear his brother say,
A house inside a house,
but most of all to hear his mother answer,
One more song, then you go to sleep.

How could anyone in that bed guess
the question finds its beginning
in the answer long growing
inside the one who asked, that restless boy,
the night's darling?

Later, a man lying awake,
he might ask it again,
just to hear the silence
charge him, This night
arching over your sleepless wondering,

this night, the near ground
every reaching-out-to overreaches,

just to remind himself
out of what little earth and duration,
out of what immense good-bye,

each must make a safe place of his heart,
before so strange and wild a guest
as God approaches.

Li-Young Lee

Friday, August 16, 2013

Linda Pastan

Emily Dickinson

We think of hidden in a white dress
among the folded linens and sachets
of well-kept cupboards, or just out of sight
sending jellies and notes with no address
to all the wondering Amherst neighbors.
Eccentric as New England weather
the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle,
blew two half imagined lovers off.
Yet legend won't explain the sheer sanity
of vision, the serious mischief
of language, the economy of pain.

Linda Pastan

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Albert Huffstickler (1927-2002)

The Way of Art

It seems to me that,
paralleling the paths of action, devotion, etc.,
there is a path called art
and that the sages of the East would recognize
Faulkner, Edward Hopper, Beethoven, William Carlos Williams
and address them as equals.
It’s a matter of intention and discipline, isn’t it? —
combined with a certain amount of God-given ability.
It’s what you’re willing to go through, willing to give, isn’t it?
It’s the willingness to be a window
through which others can see
all the way out to infinity
and all the way back to themselves.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Charles Simic

A Book Full of Pictures

Father studied theology through the mail
And this was exam time.
Mother knitted. I sat quietly with a book
Full of pictures. Night fell.
My hands grew cold touching the faces
Of dead kings and queens.

There was a black raincoat
in the upstairs bedroom
Swaying from the ceiling,
But what was it doing there?
Mother's long needles made quick crosses.
They were black
Like the inside of my head just then.

The pages I turned sounded like wings.
"The soul is a bird," he once said.
In my book full of pictures
A battle raged: lances and swords
Made a kind of wintry forest
With my heart spiked and bleeding in its branches.

Charles Simic

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ruth Stone (1915-2011)


Cylinder sacks of water filling the oceans,
endless bullets of water,
skins full of water rolling and tumbling
as we came together.
As though light broke us apart.
As though light came with the rubble of words,
though we die among the husks of remembering.
It is as we knew it would be
in the echoes of endless terminals,
in the slow scaled guises of ourselves
when we came together in the envelopes of ourselves,
the bare shadow, the breath of words invisible;
as slight errors repeating themselves;
as degradation passes like madness through a crowd.
It was not ordained.
It was one drop of salt water against another.

Ruth Stone

Monday, August 12, 2013

Marge Piercy

A Work of Artifice

The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.

Marge Piercy

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Leonard Cohen

"Sisters Of Mercy"

Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long.
Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned.

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Al Purdy (1918-2000)

Married Man's Song

Al Purdy
From: Beyond Remembering - The collected poems of Al Purdy. 2000.

When he makes love to the young girl
what does the middle-aged long-married
man say to himself and the girl?
— that lovers live and desk clerks perish?

When neons flash the girl into light and shadow
the room vanishes and all those others
guests who checked out long ago
are smiling
and only the darkness of her may be touched
only the whiteness looked at
she stands above him as a stone goddess
weeping tears and honey
she is half his age and far older
and how can a man tell his wife this?

Later they'll meet in all politeness
not quite strangers but never friends
and hands touched elsewhere may shake together
with brush of fingers and casual eyes
and the cleanser cleans to magic whiteness
and love survives in the worst cologne
(but not girls' bodies that turn black leather)
for all believe in the admen's lies

In rare cases among the legions of married men
such moments of shining have never happened
and whether to praise such men for their steadfast virtue
or condemn them as fools for living without magic
answer can hardly be given

There are rooms for rent in the outer planets
and neons blaze in Floral Sask
we live with death but it's life we die with
in the blossoming earth where springs the rose
In house and highway in town and country
what's given is paid for blood gifts are sold
that stars' white fingers unscrew the light bulbs
the bill is due and the desk clerk wakes
outside our door the steps are quiet
light comes and goes from a ghostly sun
where only the darkness may be remembered
and the rest is gone

Friday, August 9, 2013

Steve Dalachinsky

set 2 pc. #1

kith kin
beneath skin
the amber waves
stretching toward stretching
mts of highways of
mts of
bricked up crazy waking evening
cooing warble of ghost
of middle passion
blown thru interior of
body contained in long long line that is a country’s breath
locked down tight frenzy of the skull’s transition
allaholymessomissinglinks apeak & chirpin inta foward
upascape & down another scaling the tipper scales the falling light
a skyhook caught across acoming tongue of stripe-jacketed monumoments
cycling as a solo jaggedz thru a tunnel-o-tunes
tipsy, conductor snoops last stop the night that pass amidst its passage
of pith & spin
& cold flattened metal
oh the headshot
& the long dark march
toward the bottom of the sky
mts of highways of mts of climbers &
jumpers & skiers & droppers &
pushers & ash spangled
the song of off-scale sorrow beyond the beauty of sorrow
above the murderous hurtling joys of flesh
scarification of witness to the scrappers
now fell from the mouth of the world
now scraped from the tongue of the world
so let them lie make love & dream atop the straw
the soft soft straw
that only barely saturates their tender skins.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gerald Stern

Swan Song

A bunch of old snakeheads down by the pond
carrying on the swan tradition -- hissing
inside their white bodies, raising and lowering their heads
like ostriches, regretting only the sad ritual
that forced them to waddle back into the water
after their life under the rocks, wishing they could lie again
in the sun

and dream of spreading their terrifying wings;
wishing, this time, they could sail through the sky like
their tails rigid, their white manes fluttering,
their mouths open, their sharp teeth flashing,
drops of mercy pouring from their eyes,
bolts of wisdom from their foreheads.

Gerald Stern

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mary Karr

A Perfect Mess
By Mary Karr b. 1955

For David Freedman

I read somewhere
that if   pedestrians didn’t break traffic laws to cross
Times Square whenever and by whatever means possible,
the whole city
would stop, it would stop.
Cars would back up to Rhode Island,
an epic gridlock not even a cat
could thread through. It’s not law but the sprawl
of our separate wills that keeps us all flowing. Today I loved
the unprecedented gall
of the piano movers, shoving a roped-up baby grand
up Ninth Avenue before a thunderstorm.
They were a grim and hefty pair, cynical
as any day laborers. They knew what was coming,
the instrument white lacquered, the sky bulging black
as a bad water balloon and in one pinprick instant
it burst. A downpour like a fire hose.
For a few heartbeats, the whole city stalled,
paused, a heart thump, then it all went staccato.
And it was my pleasure to witness a not
insignificant miracle: in one instant every black
umbrella in Hell’s Kitchen opened on cue, everyone
still moving. It was a scene from an unwritten opera,
the sails of some vast armada.
And four old ladies interrupted their own slow progress
to accompany the piano movers.
each holding what might have once been
lace parasols over the grunting men. I passed next
the crowd of pastel ballerinas huddled
under the corner awning,
in line for an open call — stork-limbed, ankles
zigzagged with ribbon, a few passing a lit cigarette
around. The city feeds on beauty, starves
for it, breeds it. Coming home after midnight,
to my deserted block with its famously high
subway-rat count, I heard a tenor exhale pure
longing down the brick canyons, the steaming moon
opened its mouth to drink from on high ...

Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn
All Our Dark Tomorrows lyrics

The village idiot takes the throne
His the wind in which all must sway
All sane people, die now
Be lifted up and carried away
You've got no home in this world of sorrows'

There's a parasite feeding on
Everybody's bag of rage
What goes out returns again
To smite the mouth and burn the page
Under the rain of all our dark tomorrows

I can see in the dark its where I used to live
I see excess and the gaping need
Follow the money see where it leads
Its to shrunken men stuffed up with greed
They meet and make plans in strange half-lit tableaux

Under the rain of all our dark tomorrows

You've got no home in this world of sorrows

Monday, August 5, 2013

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Another Day

having the low down blues and going
into a restraunt to eat.
you sit at a table.
the waitress smiles at you.
she's dumpy. her ass is too big.
she radiates kindess and symphaty.
live with her 3 months and a man would no real agony.
o.k., you'll tip her 15 percent.
you order a turkey sandwich and a
the man at the table across from you
has watery blue eyes and
a head like an elephant.
at a table further down are 3 men
with very tiny heads
and long necks
like ostiches.
they talk loudly of land development.
why, you think, did I ever come
in here when I have the low-down
then the the waitress comes back eith the sandwich
and she asks you if there will be anything
snd you tell her, no no, this will be
then somebody behind you laughs.
it's a cork laugh filled with sand and
broken glass.

you begin eating the sandwhich.

it's something.
it's a minor, difficult,
sensible action
like composing a popular song
to make a 14-year old
you order another beer.
jesus,look at that guy
his hands hang down almost to his knees and he's
well, time to get out.
pivk up the bill.
go to the register.
pick up a toothpick.
go out the door.
your car is still there.
and there are 3 men with heads
and necks
like ostriches all getting into one
they each have a toothpick and now
they are talking about women.
they drive away first
they drive away fast.
they're best i guess.
it's an unberably hot day.
there's a first-stage smog alert.
all the birds and plants are dead
or dying.

you start the engine.

Anonymous submission.

Charles Bukowski :

Sunday, August 4, 2013

B.Z. Niditch


Your eye spots
a hungry tottering man
whose thumb is crushed
though he held out

part of his hand
as an offering
mostly in a futile manner
an audible voice pierces
from an unshaven landscape
even the trees avert him.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Vasko Popa

A Forgetful Number

Once upon a time there was a number
Pure and round like the sun
But alone very much alone

It began to reckon with itself

It divided multiplied itself
It subtracted added itself
And remained always alone

It stopped reckoning with itself
And shut itself up in its round
And sunny purity

Outside were left the fiery
Traces of its reckoning

They began to chase each other through the dark
To divide when they should have multiplied themselves
To subtract when they should have added themselves

That's what happens in the dark

And there was no one to ask it
To stop the traces
And to rub them out.

Trans. Anne Pennington

Vasko Popa

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Li Young-Lee

Out Of Hiding

Someone said my name in the garden,

while I grew smaller
in the spreading shadow of the peonies,

grew larger by my absence to another,
grew older among the ants, ancient

under the opening heads of the flowers,
new to myself, and stranger.

When I heard my name again, it sounded far,
like the name of the child next door,
or a favorite cousin visiting for the summer,

while the quiet seemed my true name,
a near and inaudible singing
born of hidden ground.

Quiet to quiet, I called back.
And the birds declared my whereabouts all morning.

Li-Young Lee