Friday, June 24, 2016

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Sunday Morning

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Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.


Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.


Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.


She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.


She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.


Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.


Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.


She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bernadette Mayor

The Invisible Structure

                      The invisible structure was E = mc2
             ……… in the original experience it is not identified
          as the vague. it is a function of the whole situation,
                 & not an element in it, as it would have to be
in order to be apprehended as vague
                              the outcome of a process
                 no experience is a unity unless it is aesthetic
        is it true?
                          exploitation of the energy characteristic of
    the material used as a medium
          a tape of many people saying the same word
              people sitting on the stage, actions on tape
 something that changes with the weather or day
                six performances
 colors become more vivid when seen with the
                           head upside down.

Nicole Callihan

The End of the Pier

I walked to the end of the pier
and threw your name into the sea,
and when you flew back to me—
a silver fish—I devoured you,
cleaned you to the bone. I was through.
But then you came back again:
as sun on water. I reached for you,
skimmed my hands over the light of you.
And when the sky darkened,
again, I thought it was over, but then,
you became water. I closed my eyes
and lay on top of you, swallowed you,
let you swallow me too. And when
you carried my body back to shore—
as I trusted that you would do—
well, then, you became shore too,
and I knew, finally, I would never be through.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Alice Fulton (b.1952)

Doha Thing Long Thought and Kind

Alice Fulton, 1952

A gift is a risk. Let roses be the prodrome.
It’s like it dropped a gold and a silver

ring with its name on it
in my brain. That was the gift

before the storm. It sent you a stumbling
block. Just scribble yes or no

on the form. Now every time the doorbell
rings I think someone’s sent me one.

A gift is a guess. Did it come close?
It’s what you need most

that turns you nerve side out. Right
now I think I’m growing something

long thought and kind of
clumsy. Just wrap it in drafts with awk

in the margins. Stuff it
in a wooden pillow with a drawer.

A gift is a task. It could be oxblood
or puce. You have to decide

whether to send those flowers that drop
whole from the stem or

the ones whose petals fall one
by one. You know how rain will

turn the roses nerve side out?
A gift is a test. They need to know that.

When she wrote their thorns
are the best part of them I can’t begin

to tell you how many kinds of
right she was. Now I think I’m growing

something long thought
to be the prerogative of certain

entitled individuals. Wings
or thorns. When all I wanted was

a more subtle pulse
at the throat bone. Well what size

do you wear? I am smelting you a surprise.
Not another luminous lyre

cum lint remover. Take it
from me. If you depend on gifts

for what you need you’ll end up with
a gold and a silver shoe both

for the same lame foot.

Copyright © 2015 by Alice Fulton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

On The Marriage Of A Virgin

Waking alone in a multitude of loves when morning's light
Surprised in the opening of her nightlong eyes
His golden yesterday asleep upon the iris
And this day's sun leapt up the sky out of her thighs
Was miraculous virginity old as loaves and fishes,
Though the moment of a miracle is unending lightning
And the shipyards of Galilee's footprints hide a navy of doves.

No longer will the vibrations of the sun desire on
Her deepsea pillow where once she married alone,
Her heart all ears and eyes, lips catching the avalanche
Of the golden ghost who ringed with his streams her mercury bone,
Who under the lids of her windows hoisted his golden luggage,
For a man sleeps where fire leapt down and she learns through his arm
That other sun, the jealous coursing of the unrivalled blood.
Dylan Thomas :

Monday, June 13, 2016

Jay Wright (b.1935)

Journey to the Place of Ghosts

Wolbe dich, Welt:
Wenn die Totenmuschel heranschwimmt,
will es hier läuten.

Vault over, world:
when the seashell of death washes up
there will be a knelling.
—Paul Celan, Stimmen (Voices)

Death knocks all night at my door.
The soul answers,
and runs from the water in my throat.
Water will sustain me when I climb
                                  the steep hill
that leads to a now familiar place.
I began, even as a child, to learn water's order,
and, as I grew intact, the feel of its warmth
in a new sponge, of its weight in a virgin towel.
I have earned my wine in another's misery,
when rum bathed a sealed throat
and cast its seal on the ground.
I will be bound, to the one who leads me away,
by the ornaments on my wrists, the gold dust
in my ears, below my eye and tied to my
                        loincloth in a leather pouch.
They dress me now in my best cloth,
and fold my hands, adorned with silk,
                            against my left cheek.
Gold lies with me on my left side.
Gold has become the color of distance,
                              and of your sorrow.

Sorrow lies, red clay on my brow.
Red pepper caresses my temples.
I am adorned in the russet-brown message
the soul brings from its coming-to-be.
There is a silken despair in my body
that grief shakes from it,
a cat's voice, controlled by palm wine
                                 and a widow's passion.
It is time to feed the soul
         —a hen, eggs, mashed yams—
and encourage the thirst resting
near the right hand I see before me.
                  Always I think of death.
                            I cannot eat.
                  I walk in sadness, and I die.
Yet life is the invocation sealed in the coffin,
and will walk through our wall,
passing and passing and passing,
                     until it is set down,
to be lifted from this body's habitation.
I now assume the widow's pot,
the lamp that will lead me through solitude,
to the edge of my husband's journey.
I hold three stones upon my head,
darkness I will release when I run
from the dead,
with my eyes turned away
                     toward another light.

This is the day of rising.
A hut sits in the bush, sheltered by summe,
standing on four forked ends.
We have prepared for the soul's feast
with pestle, mortar, a strainer, three
hearthstones, a new pot and new spoon.
Someone has stripped the hut's body
and dressed it with the edowa.
Now, when the wine speaks
and the fire has lifted its voice,
the dead will be clothed in hair,
                        the signs of our grief.
Sun closes down on an intensity of ghosts.
It is time to close the path.
It is time for the snail's pace
of coming again into life,
               with the world swept clean,
               the crying done,
and our ordinary garments decent in the dead one's eyes.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Maiko Sugimoto

Sleeping Women
breathing of the sleeping women in a shared bedroom
ever unsynchronised, gradually, transforms
into conversation,
stirred air,
plays with bangs, to be                
an insomniac, an outcast,                 
by that declaration in the dead of night
whether we’re always alone,
or, please                                                   
converse, bringing one who sleeps to the river, barefoot
to dance, to play ducks and drakes
god forbid
and your whereabouts, ladies, have yet to be disclosed
by the Kinugawa river, whose course is gradually enclosed, shall
solidarity be brought into being, quietly, maybe
one, two, flocks of sheep have obscured our being,
so we, with guilty conscience,
have slaughtered so many of them (haven’t we?), as a dream, like a sentence
is given only once,
I’ll roll those weighty female bodies
and move them like snaking logs,
—and those faintest snores, breaking voices,
even a whispering rustle of cloth, I shall
inspect them all, for tomorrow, when
I return them to you, gentlemen

translated from the Japanese by Sim Yee Chiang and Sayuri Okamoto

Susan Glickman

Poem About Your Laugh

Susan Glickman
From:   Henry Moore's Sheep. Montreal: Véhicule Press, 1990.

When you laugh it is all the unsynchronized clocks
in the watchmaker's shop
striking their dissident hours.
It is six blind kittens having the nipples plucked
from their mouths.
It is the ecstatic susurrus of prayer wheels.

When you laugh innumerable
pine trees shed their needles at once on one side
of the forest, indefinably altering the ecosystem.
A thousand miles away
two sharks lose their taste for blood,
mate, start a new species.

When you laugh your mouth
is the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky
and I can curl up there among the bats
intercepting their sonar.
Oh, your mouth is a diver's bell;
it takes me down untold fathoms.

And when you laugh, old dogs limp
to new patches of sunlight
which they bury for later, knowing something
about need.

Dante Alighiere (1265-1321)

Sonnet: My Lady

My lady carries love within her eyes;
All that she looks on is made pleasanter;
Upon her path men turn to gaze at her;
He whom she greeteth feels his heart to rise,
And droops is troubled visage, full of sighs,
And of his evil heart is then aware:
Hates loves, and pride becomes his worshipper.
O women, help to praise her in somewise.
Humbleness, and the hope that hopeth well,
By speech of hers into the mind are brought,
And who beholds is blessed oftenwhiles.
The look she hath when she a little smiles
Cannot be said, nor holden in the thought;
'Tis such a new and gracious miracle.

Dante Alighieri :

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Steely Dan (Donald Fagen)

I recall when I was small
How I spent my days alone
The busy world was not for me
So I went and found my own
I would climb the garden wall
With a candle in my hand
I'd hide inside a hall of rock and sand

On the stone an ancient hand
In a faded yellow-green
Made alive a worldly wonder
Often told but never seen
Now and ever bound to labor
On the sea and in the sky
Every man and beast appeared
A friend as real as I

Before the fall when they wrote it on the wall
When there wasn't even any Hollywood
They heard the call
And they wrote it on the wall
For you and me we understood

Can it be this sad design
Could be the very same
A wooly man without a face
And a beast without a name
Nothin' here but history
Can you see what has been done
Memory rush over me
Now I step into the sun CHORUS