"to share those wings
and those eyes--
What a sublime end
of one's body, what
an enskyment; what
a life after death."

       -Robinson Jeffers

 

 

 

Enskyment now

welcomes up to

three poems by

each invited poet, thanks to an increased archival capacity. Poems by invitation only.

 


 

 

~an anthology of print and online poetry~

-Dan Masterson, editor 

Electronic tracking has recorded worldwide readership of Enskyment in the following countries and territories:

Albania - Algeria - Anguilla - Antigua and Barbuda - Argentina - Aruba - Australia - Austria - Bangladesh - Barbados - Belarus - Belgium - Bhutan -
Bolivia - Bosnia and Herzegovina - Botswana - Brazil - British Virgin Islands - Bulgaria - Canada - Chile - China - Colombia - Costa Rica - Côte d’Ivoire -
Croatia - Czech Republic - Denmark - Djibouti - Dominican Republic - Ecuador - Egypt - El Salvador - Ethiopia - Finland - France - Germany - Ghana -
Greece - Guam - Guatemala - Hong Kong - Hungary - Iceland - India - Indonesia - Iran - Ireland - Israel - Italy - Jamaica - Japan - Jordan - Kenya -
Kyrgyzstan - Latvia - Lebanon - Libya - Lithuania - Luxembourg - Macedonia (FYROM) - Malawi - Malaysia - Malta - Mexico - Moldova - Morocco -
Myanmar (Burma) - Nepal - Netherlands - Netherlands Antilles - New Zealand - Nigeria - Norway - Pakistan - Palestine - Panama - Peru - Philippines -
Poland - Portugal - Puerto Rico - Romania - Russia - Rwanda - Saint Kitts and Nevis - Saint Lucia - San Marino - Saudi Arabia - Senegal - Serbia - Serbia -
Seychelles - Singapore - Slovakia - Slovenia - South Africa - South Korea - Spain - Sri Lanka - St. Vincent & Grenadines - Sudan - Sweden - Switzerland -
Syria - Taiwan - Tanzania - Thailand - Trinidad and Tobago - Turkey - U.S. Virgin Islands - Uganda - Ukraine - United Arab Emirates - United Kingdom -
United States - Uruguay - Venezuela - Vietnam - Zimbabwe.





Featured Poets: H - M - Click on a name below... Index
H to M
MARilyn hacker MARK HALPERIN JAMES HARMS MICHAEL S. HARPER Van Hartmann
Brooks Haxton TODD HEARON ALLISON ADELLE HEDGECOKE Michael Heffernan William Heyen
Brenda Hillman Edward Hirsch TONY HOAGLAND DANIEL HOFFMAN Cynthia Hogue
John Hoppenthaler Andrew Hudgins T. R. Hummer Collete Inez Mary Jean Irion
MAJOR JACKSON Richard Jackson Reamy Jansen Mark Jarman Peter Johnson
ANNA JOURNEY DONALD JUNKINS JULIA KASDORF SUSAN A. KATZ JUDY KENDALL
X. J. Kennedy JANE KENYON GALWAY KINNELL Peter Klappert Ron Koertge
Maxine Kumin Dorianne Laux RODNEY LAY David Lazar Sydney Lea
HAILEY LEITHAUSER Julia Levine Philip Levine lyn lifshin TIMOTHY LIU
John Logan William Logan RICHARD Long suzanne lummis PETER MAKUCK
Greg McBride ShaRa Mccallum Gerald McCarthy JILL McDONOUGH ELIZABETH McFARLAND
Rebecca McLanahan PETE MACKEY Al Maginnes Dan Masterson GAIL MAZUR
W. S. Merwin Nadine Sabra Meyer judith Moffett MIHAELA MOSCALIUC Carol Muske-Dukes


 

 
space space   GLOSE Indexspace space space
space space space  
space space space space

GLOSE

Blood's risks, its hollows, its flames
Exchanged for the pull of that song
Bone-colored road, bone-colored sky
Through the white days of the storm
                                                      Claire Malroux "Storm"
                                                  Translated by Marilyn Hacker

Once out of the grip of desire,
or, if you prefer, its embrace,
free to do nothing more than admire
the sculptural planes of a face
(are you gay, straight or bi, are you queer ?)
you still tell your old chaplet of names
which were numinous once, you replace
them with adjectives : witty, severe,
trilingual ; abstracting blood's claims,
blood's risks, its hollows, its flames.

No craving, no yearning, no doubt,
no repulsion that follows release,
no presence you can't do without,
no absence an hour can't erase :
the conviction no reason could rout
of  being essentially wrong
is dispelled. What feels oddly like peace
now fills space you had blathered about
where the nights were too short or too long,
exchanged for the pull of that song.

But peace requires more than one creature
released from the habit of craving
on a planet that's mortgaged its future
to the lot who are plotting and raving.
There are rifts which no surgeon can suture
overhead, in the street, undersea.
The bleak plain from which you are waving,
mapped by no wise, benevolent teacher
is not a delight to the eye :
bone-colored road , bone-colored sky.

You know that the weather has changed,
yet do not  know what to expect ,
with relevant figures expunged
and predictions at best incorrect.
Who knows on what line you'll be ranged
and who, in what cause, you will harm ?
What cabal or junta or sect
has doctored the headlines, arranged
for perpetual cries of alarm
through the white days of the storm ?

                                          -Marilyn Hacker
                                                Bloom
                            (Pushcart Prize Anthology XXX)



HAZAL: min al-hobbi ma khatal

for  Deema Shehabi
You, old friend, leave, but who releases me from the love that kills?
Can you tell the love that sets you free from the love that kills?

No mail again this morning. The retired diplomat
stifles in the day's complacency from the love that kills.

What once was home is across what once was a border
which exiles gaze at longingly from the love that kills.

The all-night dancer, the mother of four, the tired young doctor
all contracted HIV from the love that kills.

There is pleasure, too,  in writing easy, dishonest verses.
Nothing protects your poetry from the love that kills.

The coloratura keens a triumphant swan-song
as if she sipped an elixir of glee from the love that kills.

We learn the maxim: "So fine the thread,
so sharp the necessity" from the love that kills.

The calligrapher went blind from his precision
and yet he claims he learned to see from the love that kills.

Spare me, she prays, from dreams of the town I grew up in,
from involuntary memory, from the love that kills.

Homesick soldier, do you sweat in the glare of this check-point
to guard the homesick refugee from the love that kills ?

                                         -Marilyn Hacker
                                          Massachusetts Review


FOR DESPINA


Why is it I don't like closing the curtains?
Even pinning pans of blue voile together
cuts me off too much from the winter morning's
comings and goings

and the tall, reassuring neighbors' windows
some with window boxes, some with their shades down
some cracked open from last night, so cold air could
refresh a sleeper.

Pick the stitch up, there in the place I dropped it.
Weave the ravelled sides of the day together
if December sun in a bedroom window
calls for a garment.

There are alphabets I could still decipher,
learn to read a stanza, or write my name in.
There are conjugations of verbs instructing
speech, song and silence.

Fear or hope or both of them made of me a
child who thought I'd probably be abandoned
if I misbehaved, if I lied about my
parents - or didn't.

How are you a Jew ? asked the young Greek woman
First, because I haven't the choice to not be.
Those who thought they chose found the same unchosen
barbed wire and ashes.



How am I a Jew? Through my mother's birthright,
turned into a death-warrant once;  excuse to
seize the farms and villages of a people
"exiled by exiles."

You, the dead, my interlocutors, whether
friends or strangers - child on a no-man's land, her
satchel and school uniform clear in gunsights,
riddled with bullets --

while I clutch the moment, with a safe childhood
as my history, no grandparents' village,
no street where her father made shoes, his mother
measured out barley.

Strange that all I know of them is - religion?
Not if they had land, sent their sons to cheder;
Not which ones spoke Yiddish, Hungarian, or
Polish, or German.

Not which child, renamed, fed the pigs and dug up
frozen mud for potatoes; not whose notebook
browned inside a cupboard, while trains moaned through the
Galician winter.

Must a murdered child, after generations,
be avenged by gunning down other children
far away from winter and pigs, potatoes
and nameless railroads?

If a Jew may not deconstruct the question
(two Jews, didn't we say, and three opinions?)
if they call the peacemakers anti-Semites,
who are my cousins?

Lost lands which I never would call my country.
How are you American ? she might ask me.
Language, economic determination.
Once, it was lucky.


                                                      -Marilyn Hacker
                                                      Prairie Schooner

As always, I drift off.  They’re playing Bach.  As the new spaces in his music keep opening, I find myself recalling Jan, dead less than ten months.  Years ago, when he danced, he’d find, in falling, ways to land no one expected, as Bach does, to our delight.  I remember how friendship outlasted his skirts, sex-roles, our many differences—and we were writing twice a week, until the cancer ate away his breath.  And then the music’s back, Bach’s roller-coaster.  I’m tapping my foot, the man to my right not sure where to place me.  Opening after opening.  I think of my mother: rather than ask me why I was here again, a place she thought of as dangerous, she’d have tried her worry out on a dozen friends.  She died not knowing I planned to come back again.  The man to my left doesn’t care for the violinist in the trio.  He shakes his head.  They’re playing Strauss, now, pure schmaltz.  What’s the Russian for that?  What’s the English?  All I can’t hear gives me trouble now, as the dead do, falling through the music.

 

Mark Halperin              Sentence 6, 2007

 

 

A NEW TOWN

 

How easy getting lost is,

not so much in a fog as

 

among constant distractions,

beacons, appeals.  The eye numbs,

 

stunned by a fence, each paling

topped with a turret, the sting

 

of car fumes and sea salt—views,

horizons.  If you could choose

 

to, you’d choose to misread signs,

landmarks, take the road that climbs

 

still higher, but by day three

you automatically

 

turn right at the right corner,

not looking up to check for

 

the street, slip in the unsigned

entrance to your courtyard, find

 

you’ve climbed the stairs, fished out

your key and stand there about

 

to twist it in the lock, not

having thought where your route

 

led, attention waning, on

auto-pilot, as often  

 

            fading in as out, ahead

            as behind yourself.  You dread

 

            what is coming, even as

            now, turning the knob, you pause.

 

           

Mark Halperin              New Letters, Vol. 73, No. 4/2007

 

 
  Lynda (Singing Chet Baker , 1988) Index
 

 

           

After surviving, what arrives?

Some phrases are eighth notes ,

some trills , frost on the lawn , a flint

of moonlight in the grass.

Others sweeten breath

like blue noise in the deeper shade.                                    

Like the jeweled beret she found

in a Little Rock thrift store,

the beer in her voice:  I saw

streetlight through the tips

of her fingernails, the way

she stood slack-armed at

the window fronting High

Street:  neon and gas lamp,

the elementary sadness

of downtown lights. 

Let’s get lost , she said—

we don’t need to start

remembering until tomorrow.

All ascent takes the shape

of smoke leaving the body,

the body losing its shape.

To burn a word is a sin

unless it’s still in someone’s

throat.  In the backseat

of Aleda’s convertible

the music seemed wrapped

in a flapping flag , torn

and muffled , though the sound

of a blown-apart embouchure

and a junkie’s croon

were reassembled in the wind

by her voice singing along.

 

                           --James Harms

                               Crazyhorse

 

 

We Started Home , My Son and I

 

            after Jaan Kaplinski

 

We started home , my son and I.

Evening beginning.  The small stains

of streetlight spreading across the sidewalk ,

thinning to darkness every few yards.

My son paused at the edge of each

then leapt , one hand in mine ,                                                 

to the next.  Ahead , his mother

touched the meat twice before

turning it , rinsed the lettuce , called out

for his sister to wash her hands.

He said each spot of light

was a great land , each span

of darkness the sea.  And we

followed his map home

out past the edge of town where night

filled the long blocks between

streetlights with oceans.

We rowed when we could , swam

the last few miles.  Until the moon

reared up like an old man

startled from his nap.  And once

again the roads of the world rose

beneath us.  Before long , my son

and I were home.  I watched him climb

the brick stairs to the front door ,

whose key I no longer owned.

His mother waved as he fell

into the house , the bright rooms

splashed with light.  The ottoman

covered with horsehair; a damask

draped over the sofa: I couldn’t see                                                          

these or any other emblems of my

previous life.  I felt the waters rise                                                                       

around my feet , heard in the distance

the loose rigging in the wind , a buoy bell.

So far from the sea , I rolled up

my trousers , wading in

for the walk back .

                                     -James Harms

                                      West Branch

 

 

Cary Grant

 

                You know, I have about the same interest in jewelry

                that I have in politics, horseracing, modern poetry,

                or women who need weird excitement: none. 

                                                                                                --John Robie, To Catch a Thief

 

The last time I saw Cary Grant, he was tearing apart bread

at the marina , a cloud of gulls around him.  He let me

try on his glasses , those heavy black specs he wore

toward the end , and I bought a pair just like them ,

though I didn’t look like Cary Grant, so I went back to not trying. 

 

The night before he died, Cary called from Iowa to talk ,

just to talk.  He said about David Niven:  “He never

wore blue out of doors though every pair of pajamas

was a different shade of sky.”  When his voice dropped

I thought a flock of sparrows had landed all at once

somewhere on the line between Davenport and Los Angeles . 

 

“Sometimes ,” he said , “David held my hand while we talked

over coffee , while we smoked on his patio; he had a lovely pink house

on Amalfi Drive .  Sometimes we just sat there watching the gardener

prune the bougainvillea , listening to traffic on Sunset Boulevard.

It was as if only half of what he was saying could be put into words.” 

 

Cary was quiet a while before he said , “Goodnight , my dear.”

I sat without hanging up and listened to the dial tone , waiting

for the sparrows to lift , to go find another voice.  What did Dudley say

to the Bishop at the end , a little wistfully as he watched the window

for a last look at Julia ?   “I want to be far , far away from here.”

 

Away from what , I’ve always wondered , though that’s the half

that can’t be said:  a dial tone , a hush , a blue hum in a sky

filled with gulls.  I didn’t ask for his glasses that morning

at the marina , he just handed them over. “Wait till you see

what I see ,” he said.  And he held my hand while I looked .

 

                                                                                    --James Harms

                                                                               The Gettysburg Review

 

spacer spacer   RICHARD DAVIS'S TRAMPOLINES Indexspacer spacer spacer
spacer spacer spacer  
spacer spacer spacer spacer

 

(Chicago, 1994)

He has many;
women in small
towns make them
special
and his touch
on the balls
of the digits
give rise
to a younger man:

too happy to fall apart
in the open,
or in his office,
where he has his tramp;

he travels light,
by car when possible,
but he has his tramp,
and so close
to Chicago
where he had to walk
around Hyde Park
as a boy,
he now drives.

The program,
with Don Byron
on clarinet,
foreshadows movies;
q & a features
the best he knows;

well, Gunther
Said Sassy
had the best pipes
in this century;
this isn't Gunther's
idiom, on this campus
or any other

but Mr. Bassman
goes on to say
he toured
5 1/2 years with St.
"Divine," then moves
to another question,
emanations off the beat
in "Mr. P.C."
Trane's tune for
Paul Laurence Dunbar Chambers:

both men avoided
pimps, gangsters, dressage,
getting to practice,
and being beat up
while protecting
their instruments:

he would die for it
getting to Miles
so modalities
would register
in half-measures.

Byron, who hates
the middle-class,
greets fusion
as styles/alloys;

he was told
he could never
master the classics,
his narrow lips
too thick
for modulations;

grads and undergrads
twittered:
Davis, who was late
to work,
had to get home
to Madison
to tune up;

the rest went to dinner
off Michigan Avenue;
we got paid;
for an extra day
I went out of the neighborhood,
got towed
from an all-night
foodlot,
retrieved my rental
in the snow;

Richard knew better
than to stay:
"Billie's Bounce,"
"Off minor,"
"Scrapple from the Apple,"
the best place to be:

Scarface, with "Fatha"
Hines playing only
the black keys
paid top dollar
if he liked you;

this seminar'
with vertical theory/
horizontal living proof
is aerobicly over: thanks to Richard.

 

@Michael S. Harper
copyright reserved
Yaddo News Letter

 

USE TROUBLE

for Jacob Armstead Lawrence
1917-2000, in memoriam

You told this to the children
when they confessed their works

were incomplete your dignity grace
a mapped space for trouble

your migration series at 23
synaptic code for having nothing

as you built off the backs of the poor
your symmetries where paint was talk

"gumbo yaya" Hayden (your collaborator)
coined it about his native paradise valley

a nourishment of the Detroit ghetto
while you were content with Harlem

a sixty-block walk to MoMA
for filial instruction

of the Italian Renaissance:
now in Seattle they lay you down

those parts Indian of your heritage
in Chief Seattle's words:

"This we know---
All things are connected like the blood"

migraines at gunpoint
bullet-ridden love song as migrants

to the highest plane
a vast battlefield of tones

over vegetation of the visible
where there is no insurance

yet in retrospective fantasy
to remake the spirit in your name

 

Michael S. Harper
@copyright reserved
The American Scholar

 

Year of the FirePig in Chinese New Year

Seven years back I lost a friend who died at home but ate no pig
(he was no muslim and no "firehorse" and he loved to cook)

Today we have leg of lamb in the oven in his honor to heal his bruises
(his son and namesake has his own "blues" over these seven years also)

A girl sat at his table holidays 'big-legged women with manners was his downfall'
(he extracted a promise from his physician-wife to provide exit-pills at his end)

I saw his daughters from that marriage 'go blank' at busstops near Brown's campus
(others who loved him his mother first murdered by a 'salesman' in her own home)

The Chinese in Chinatown in my favorite city eat FirePig in their own family restaurants
(I knew a Mei-Mei and Mei-Ling and Yin-Yin as a boy in Fillmore supple as ginger)

Later to breathe all night at Permanente Kaiser through E. Coli 'neonatology' cell
('the enemies of promise' everywhere fomenting eugenics in W. S. where all get eaten)

The second wife withheld the pills to ease my friend's last breaths
(a Hippocratic oath or a Jamaican rubirosa cigar an island getaway fully furnished)

This is all in code for I was born in the year of the Tiger lost my neighborhood 'duplex'
(never recovered from the deceit of the beloved and watched men fail warned or not)

The Pig is one thing but the FirePig once every sixty years is "Beauty Shell" covenant
(a lifetime of dread the spit open [NOT THIS PIG] upside down, eyes open)

Sing Sing and Treasure Island full of lifers 'dead in the hole'-then let out to kill
(mandarin writings "Message from the Nile" sphinx all at high table FirePig)

 

Michael S. Harper, 2007
@copyright reserved
Oregon Literary Review


space space   ASPENS Indexspace space space
space space space  
space space space space


 
We rode single file, climbing sheets of rock
on slender equine limbs, thin air
stealing our breath, plumes of smoke
exhaling from the creatures' nostrils;
saddles creaked and lurched,
hooves struck a muffled beat against the stone,
lulling us as the lake sank
to a silver pebble a thousand feet below.
You were the better rider,
freer to feel your horse's muscles
between your thighs, freer
to inhale the cold smell of the mountain;
I see it on your face in the photograph.

You looked up first when the ridge broke open
to expose a sunlit grove of swaying aspens,
bark crudely carved, black hieroglyphs
on white papyrus, or hollow painted poles
in which Aborigines bury their dead,
except these rustled and shimmered
and angered me to find graffiti
in this wild abandoned place.
Our guide explained that shepherds
working their flocks left messages
for each other and themselves.

"Where do they go," you asked me.
"Most have probably died."
"No, the messages, in the winter
when the mountains fill with snow
and no one can read them.
Do they still whisper?"
"I don't know," I answered.
"Someday the snow will cover me," you said.
"and you will have to brush it off to read my name."

                     -VAN HARTMANN
                    Red Wheelbarrow

SEQUINS  
 
Today I took the dog to search for you
along the path we walked last winter,
in that brief lull between the storms,
and recalled the lines you loved
from Doty's poem, "no such thing,
the queen said, as too many sequins."
We both agreed it should have been your theme song.
As the dog and I approached the sign
that always made you stop and do the bump,
because, you said, that's what it said to do,
a gust of autumn wind engulfed a grove
of nearby elms and gave them such a shake
they rained a shower of sequins,
amber, crimson, emerald, gold,
upon our heads.  The dog went wild
with chasing bits of fractured light.
I almost heard you laugh. Outrageous, you,
who once picked up your wine and placed it
briefly on the table next to you
because the pill you had to take
said "do not mix with alcohol."
Undaunted, you who told the hospice nurse
you had to walk because you knew
that if you stopped you'd die, 
and so, like tireless Hobson in Milton's poem,
you walked and walked and walked
until the nurse gave up all hope
of ever laying you discreetly to your rest.

Then you stopped.  Rude impossibility.
You whose laugh could crack apart
the morning sky became a silence
full of sequins, missing everywhere.

                               Van Hartmann

                          -The Texas Review


SAFE HOUSE


John Scarborough haunts this house.
He seeps through the broad pine floorboards,
wraps about the beams of winter light,
hangs in the air like incense after mass. 
He came with our dial tone
late one afternoon while we were out
or inattentive or making love,
brought by a honeyed voice
sunny as dogwood, serious as clay,
persistent as kudzu, trolling by phone
from some cubicle down south,
sliding its filament of tidewater
accent through the static,
dangling a hook of sweet supplication,
fishing for one lucky bite from the lost
elusive wayward deadbeat John.

Like an abandoned sweetheart
she entreated him to call
about his delinquent account. 
We erased the tape,
but the lady returned;
message followed message,
clogging the machine, invoking
John Scarborough, John Scarborough.
Month after month she persisted,
always while we were out
or inattentive or making love.
Thus he took up residence in our house.
It became our joke. We the abettors.
John the outlaw. John on the lam. 
John of the underground railroad,
she the pursuer of fugitive slaves.
John the communist redistributing
Master Card's wealth.  John the invisible.
John the invincible.  John the transcendent.
John's libidinous disembodied virtual
self surfing the shopping channels
while we were out or inattentive
or making love, until one evening
we joined him, knocking down
shots of Captain Morgan in Anguilla,
sailing a sloop in Barbados,
tanned and untamed in Tahiti,
carving curves in the snow at Chamonix,
betting the house at Monte Carlo,
charging it all to John's account,
stepping out, inattentive, making love,
becoming ageless, beyond loss,
beyond grief, cut free like astronauts,
lifelines severed, the paltry earth
falling away, receding, shrinking,
slipping into silence.

The calls have stopped, but John lingers.
We never betrayed him, never
put his pursuer off her false scent. 
Instead we give him this safe house
in exchange for the secrets
he whispers in the deep night about
what is possible and what is not.

                                   -Van Hartmann

                                    Confrontation

  GIFT Index


    All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;
    and we all do fade as a leaf ...  Isaiah 64:6

After my mother's father died,
she gave me his morocco Bible.
I took it from her hand, and saw
the gold was worn away, the binding
scuffed and ragged, split below the spine, 
and inside, smudges where her father's
right hand gripped the bottom corner
page by page, an old man waiting, not quite
reading the words he had known by heart  
for sixty years: our parents in the garden,
naked, free from shame; the bitterness of labor;
blood in the ground, still calling for God's
curse -- his thumbprints fading after the flood, 
to darken again where God bids Moses smite
the rock, and then again in Psalms, in Matthew
every page.  And where Paul speaks of things
God hath prepared, things promised them who wait,
things not yet entered into the loving heart,
below the margin of the verse, the paper
is translucent with the oil and dark
still with the dirt of his right hand.
 


                                        -Brooks Haxton
                                          The Atlantic

  ANCESTORS Index

 

 

     The shadow of a wasp

swung like a pendulum, back and forth

across the kitchen table in the light of five

o'clock where seven loaves were steaming.

 

It was the past, could have been many pasts.

I recognized it gradually as mine.

Besides, the dead that sat around the table were mine

and rose to make me welcome.

 

It was not as it is written

in almanac or album:  wasp-

thin, they were not wasted

but bright, and hale.

 

The madness, the bad blood had gone.

Here were the gracious accents.

Here the old talk, of crops, children.

Here were the hands of snow.

 

I sat down, we all sat down together.

One offered grace, I saw the fingers fall

over the loaves that never can be broken

though they be shattered, pulled apart as loves.

 

Todd Hearon

Ploughshares

THE SINGERS

 

                        They are not angels

 

though they have the hollow look

 

            of beings bred on ether.  There's an air

 

of cool removal from your life, the hawk's

 

            indifference to the hare's terror.

 

You see it in their palms, raised casually

 

            against the fresco's surface, as to glass

 

of submarine or spacecraft, and you see

 

            it in their eyes, oracular, that let you pass

 

alone to unknown agony.  The song

 

            they sing is merely time.

 

Todd Hearon

Poetry

 

WHAT IS MAN THAT THOU ART MINDFUL OF HIM

 

Man is a weapon of mass destruction –

Eliminate man you dont eliminate

the Problem.  As dog to its own filth, so man returns

 

a swarm, a fungus, feeding on destruction

as when a child I fed upon my dreams

adrift in a pool rainbowed with chemicals

 

a child already dead, intent on death.

Think of the thousands I marshaled to destruction

five hundred years, having fed upon the earth

 

(there is no better rhyme with death than earth)

I tore the heart from Montezumas bride.

I saw Bikini as a nippled blast.

 

Moon rises at moth rise.  I dream a jungle

from my fruitless cot.  I dream my father

spidering the walls of the house in anger.

 

I think back to my mother.  I think

I was a man, born on earth of woman.

Woman is a weapon of mass destruction.

 

I sleep.  I dream my feudal fruitless wars.

I dream of peace the dovewhite dawn explodes.

Man is a weapon of mass destruction.

I know this now.  Mans the best rhyme for war.

 

Todd Hearon

Slate

  America I Sing Back Index

AMERICA I SING BACK       
 (a tribute for Phil Young, my father Robert Hedge Coke,
 Whitman, and Hughes)

  America , I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
 Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
 Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

 Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
 held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
 My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
 held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,
nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason 
broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood-veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries 
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine. 

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak, 
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.
Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing
the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,
day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—
Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so.

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America , I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

                                                           -Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
                 (originally included in Memorias, 2005 -
                 Poetry   of  the  International Poetry Festival
                of   Medellin , Colombia )




WHEN THE ANIMALS LEAVE THIS PLACE

Underneath ice caps, once glacial peaks
deer, elk, vixen begin to ascend.
Free creatures camouflaged as
waves and waves receding far

from plains pulling

upward slopes and faraway snow dusted mountains.
On spotted and clear cut hills robbed of fir,
high above wheat tapestried valleys, flood plains
up where headwaters reside.

Droplets pound, listen.

Hoofed and pawed mammals
pawing and hoofing themselves up, up.
Along rivers dammed by chocolate beavers,
trailed by salamanders—mud puppies.

Plunging through currents,
        above concrete and steel man-made barriers

these populations of plains, prairies, forests flee
in such frenzy, popping splash dance,
pillaging cattail zones, lashing lily pads—
the breath of life in muddy ponds, still lakes.

Liquid beads slide on windshield glass

along cracked and shattered pane,
spider-like with webs and prisms.
“Look, there, the rainbow
touched the ground both ends down!”

Full arch, seven colors showered, heed
what Indigenous know, why long ago,
they said no one belongs here, surrounding them,
that this land was meant to be wet with waters nearby
not fertile to crops and domestic graze.

The old ones said,

“When the animals leave this place
the waters will come again.
This power is beyond the strength of man.
The river will return with its greatest force.”

No one can stop her.
          She was meant to be this way.
                       Snakes in honor, do not intrude.

The rainbow tied with red and green like
that on petal rose, though only momentarily.
Colors disappear like print photographs fade.
They mix with charcoal surrounding.

A flurry of fowl follow

like strands, maidenhair falls,
from blackened clouds above
swarming inward
covering the basin and raising sky.

Darkness hangs over

the hills appear as black water crests,
blackness varying shades.
The sun is somewhere farther than the farthest ridge.
Main gravel crossroads and back back roads

slicken to mud, clay.
Turtles creep along rising banks, snapping jowls.

Frogs chug throaty songs.
The frogs only part of immense choir
heralding the downpour, the falling oceans.
Over the train trestle, suspension bridge with

current so slick everything slides off in sheets.

Among rotten stumps in black bass ponds,
somewhere catfish reel in fins and crawl,
walking whiskers to higher waters.
Waters above, below

the choir calling it forth.

Brightly plumed jays and dull brown-headed cowbirds
fly as if hung in one place like pinwheels.
They dance toward the rain crest,
the approaching storm

beckoning, inviting, summoning.

A single sparrow sings the stroke of rain
past the strength of sunlight.
The frog chorus sings refrain,
melody drumming thunder,

evoked by beasts and water creatures wanting their homes.
Wanting to return to clearings and streams where ash, or
white birch woods rise, tower over,
quaking aspen stand against
storm shown veils—sheeting rains crossing

pasture, meadow, hills, mountain.
Sounds erupt.
Gathering clouds converge, push,
pull, push, pull forcing lightning

back and forth shaping
windy, sculptured swans, mallard ducks, and giants
from stratocumulus media.
As if they are a living cloud chamber,
As if they exist only in the heavens.

Air swells with dampness.
It has begun.

                                     -Allison Adelle Hedge Coke                                 
                                       (Charlie  and  Thelma  Willis  Memorial
                                                    Award Editor’s Choice  - Cid Corman-
                                                  Abiko Quarterly International. Japan.)



           

We Were in a World

 

We were in a world, in a world, in a world. Sure, we had our glyphs, but we were providential. Once, some alphabet believers, glass purveyors, Ursus Arctos killers, sent all bailiwick on cursed course far faster gyration backspin, birling intrinsic angular momentum—boson melts. Spinning, it careened away iceberg, iceberg, iceberg; glacier braced time traced yesterday unshak­able base—all below flushed alluvion torrent, Niagara pour, special spate, flux, flow, until their coastal citadels moldered from cyclone, tsunami, hur­ricane gale. Tornadoes tossed turf wherever they pleased. Eruptions molded Her back into something She deemed worthy. Not to mention quakes. And the people, the people, the People, pushed into cataclysm, a few generations from alphabet book imposed catechism, soon were calamity tragedy storm splinters, fragmented particles of real past, in a world gone away from oratory, song, oraliteratures, orations into gyrations reeling. Soon hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot. Hot, dying mangroves, disappearing Waimea Bay, Dengue fever, butterfly range shift, meadow gone forest, desert sprung savan­nah, caribou, black guillemot, bats, frogs, snails—gone. What will Sandhill Cranes crave? Winged lay early. Reefs bleach. Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, snow, snow, snow, fires flaming fiercely, fascinated in their own reflecting glare. Marmots rise early. Mosquitoes endure longer, lasting biting spreading West Nile. Polar bears quit bearing. Robins, swallows, enter Inuit life. Thunder finds Inupiat. Here, it is said, glyphs left rock wall, stone plates, bark, branch, leapt animated into being, shook shoulders, straightened story, lifted world upon their wing bone, soared into Night, to place World back into socket eased sky—stilled us. Some say the soup leftover was worded with decolonized language. Some say the taste lingers even now.

 

Allison Hedge Coke

Sentence Magazine

 

writing poetry writing poetry   AJAR IN TENNESSEE Indexwriting poetry writing poetry writing poetry
writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry
writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry

 

 


A conspicuous freedom came out of everywhere.
Slower traffic kept right, against the glare,
before we got to Exit 133 and
Birdsong Road,
on the edge of the first array of slovenly lumps
through which the river of rivers in Tennessee
bore islands into a ripply inland ocean.
We came to Cuba Landing and the Parkway Café,
sitting down to onions and buttered bread.
We spoke about how the fragrant air
would spill over our faces as we stepped
into a summer morning in Tuscany.
How different it was there than in Tennessee,
then or now. It’s certainly nice to be here,
don’t get me wrong, but Italy was sweeter,
you ventured. I looked over your shoulders
at the curtains covered with chickadees.
Are those chickadees or thrush do you think? I asked you.
Maybe finch, you suggested. I think they could be finch.
Background music swept over us from the background.
We took to the road again, constantly eastward
as the afternoon sped toward us awfully.
I decided it was time I read Deuteronomy.
The part about the man with loosed shoes is enough
to reveal real weirdness and negligible wisdom
from the blessed curmudgeon so prominent in this old book.
It seemed all day we drove beside smallish trees
through all of Tennessee
.  Brown water spread amongst the woods.
Fine old wackyjack balsams were the dominant boscage.
One had a board nailed to it and above that a platform
like the floor of a treehouse, probably a deer stand, you said.

Thousands of others showed no such sign of people.
Immaculate ideas played over us through the windows.
You lit another cigarette. We stopped for gas, having become
an astonishment, a proverb, a byword among the nations.

 

                                                                        -Michael Heffernan

                                                                        The Kenyon Review

  Young Man Jack Index

 

My old man the electrician

lost his taste when young—

current burned to cheekbone,

blackened his tongue

 

My old man the carpenter

lost an eye when young—

his chisel broke its collar,

its blade sprung

 

My old man the logger

lost an arm when young—

bees attacked chainsaws,

a drunk revved & swung

 

My old man the preacher pleaded

kneel in the river & be saved—

he ministered to doves in bed

who cooed while my mother cawed

 

My old man the soldier

lost his faith when young—

drafted into war,

Cong / blood / bong

 

My old man the accountant

lost his reckoning when young—

cooked books for market,

hummed his corporate song

 

These enlightenments of Father Time,

or whimsies of soul & nature—

by stricken heart & severed limb,

he scythes our way to prayer,

 

but now of course we hope again,

& trust our young to school

to fathom work & reason,

curriculum’s web & sell …

 

but Grandson Jack turns five next week

(who rhymes my old men back),

sweet boy who will amend our luck,

Jack turns five next week

 

 

                        William Heyen

                        The Ontario Review

 

FROST SONG

 

You weren't going to go insane, you said,

after your son's suicide--no matter what,

you'd endure.  Now that you're dead,

we find the true center of your art

 

akin to stones you pried from ground

that often conspired (even for one versed

in country things) to fuse your exiled

heart into intonement, into sound.

 

                          William Heyen
                          San Diego Reader 
 

 


 

  WIND TREATIES Index




Between church bells

I held its breath:

air coming from half-states

it has visited where

dread meets ecstasy’s skidmark.

Allow us, mighty and

bruised oxygen. And I

imagined a black square

made of ariadne-thread

around the great city,

winds coming from corners

such that talking would

never cease. Talking should

never cease, heads bent

over documents allowing distinction

or zhivagoing solitudes, stitches

at the edges of

dignity. Decades of give-it-away

while these winds worked.

Lamps flickering in the

stable districts. Symbolic weight

being added to bodies

walking in ordinary courtship

outfits, in a park.

 

- Brenda Hillman
Literary Imagination

 

  BRANCH LIBRARY Index



I wish I could find that skinny, long-beaked boy
who perched in the branches of the old branch library.

He spent the Sabbath flying between the wobbly stacks
and the flimsy wooden tables on the second floor,

pecking at nuts, nesting in broken spines, scratching
notes under his own corner patch of sky.

I'd give anything to find that birdy boy again
bursting out into the dusky blue afternoon

with his satchel of scrawls and scribbles,
radiating heat, singing with joy.


-Edward Hirsch
Poetry
 

 

  AND THE MEN Index
 

 

AND THE MEN
want back in:
all the Dougs and the Michaels, the Darnells, the Erics and Josés,
they’re standing by the off-ramp of the interstate,
holding up cardboard signs that say WILL WORK FOR RELATIONSHIP
Their love-mobiles are dented and rusty.
Their Shaggin’ Wagons are up on cinderblocks.
They’re reading self-help books and practicing abstinence,
taking out Personals ads that say
         “Good listener would like to meet lesbian ladies,
                                       for purposes of friendship only”
In short, they’ve changed their minds, the men:
They want another shot at the collaborative enterprise;
Want to do fifty-fifty housework and childcare;
They want commitment renewal weekends and couples therapy.
Because being a man was finally just too sad-
in spite of the perks, the lifetime membership benefits;
And it got old,  telling the joke about the hooker and the priest
at the company barbeque,  discussing the beer and
squeezing the shoulder of your friend
                  in a little overflow of
homosocial bonhommie--
Now they’re ready to talk, really talk about their feelings.
In fact they’re ready to make you sick with revelations of
                               their vulnerability--
A pool of testosterone is spreading from around their feet,
it’s draining out of them like radiator fluid,
like history, like an experiment that failed.
So here they come, on their hands and knees, the men.
Here they come. They’re really beaten. No tricks this time.
                No fine print.
Please, they’re begging you. Look out.
                                                                   -TONY HOAGLAND
                                     Reprinted from Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty,
                           Graywolf Press 2010

 

JASON THE REAL

If I was a real guy,
said my friend Jason,
and I got an e-mail like that,
-what would you do?
Someone had told him he was a big sexy dreamboat
and he was trying to figure out
if he should buy a sports car and a condom
or take an Alkaseltzer and go to bed
to recover from the agitation.
You remember what that was like, don’t you?
to be excited by an unexpected  pleasure
that is almost immediately turned into a problem?
My friend Jason, gentle guy
with the blood galloping around inside his head
like a wild pony,
changing his shirt thirteen times;
doing the victory dance of the eligible bachelor,
combing his hair and falling over furniture.
That girl had knocked him out of focus
with her sweet words
about finding him pretty  
and now he was standing on the Continental Divide
i.e., whether to remain continent or not--
But he didn’t like having to decide. 
It is so human to turn a freedom into pain  
and it is so sweet when life
comes to teach you suffering 
by giving you a choice,
and you twist and turn
in the little flames of possibility.
--But that is how you build your castle.
That is how one earns a name
like Jason the Real.
                                -Tony Hoagland
   Reprinted from Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty,
                                          Graywolf Press 2010

 

SENTIMENTAL EDUCATION

and when we were eight, or nine,
our father took us back into the Alabama woods,
found a rotten log, and with his hunting knife
pried off a slab of bark
to show the hundred kinds of bugs and grubs
that we would have to eat in time of war.
“The ones who will survive” he told us,
looking at us hard,
“are the ones who are willing do anything.”
Then he popped one of those pale slugs
into his mouth and started chewing.
And that was Lesson Number 4
in The Green Beret Book of Childrearing.
I looked at my pale, scrawny, knock-kneed, bug-eyed brother,
who was identical to me,
and saw that, in a world that ate the weak,
we didn’t have a prayer,
and next thing I remember, I’m working for a living
at a boring job
which I’m afraid of losing,
with a wife whose lack of love for me
is like a lack of oxygen,
and this dead thing in my chest
that used to be my heart.
Oh, if he were alive, I would tell him, “Dad,
you were right! I ate a lot of stuff
far worse than bugs.”
And I was eaten, I was eaten,
I was picked up
and chewed
and swallowed
down into the belly of the world.
                             - Tony Hoagland
 Reprinted from Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty,
                                           Graywolf Press 2010



 

 

writing poetry writing poetry   TODAY Indexwriting poetry writing poetry writing poetry
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          TODAY

Today the sun rose,as it used to do
When its mission was to shine on you.
Since in unremitting dark you're gone,
What now can be the purpose of the sun?

                                -Daniel Hoffman
                                       Poetry


       OTHER BODIES

In their grand
inmpurturbability the planets
must have their own

fish to fry. Why should they
worry about what they shine on
down here, though we

send up satellites in manned
and unmanned orbits prying
into their business--suppose

we let those other
bodies find
their own solutions

to problems
of astronomical
proportions

the way they give
carte blanche to us
to cope with ours.


                         -Daniel Hoffman
                         Mad Poets Review

BANDS

 

"As her finger swelled they cut and bent this off."
He looked at it.  "Well, it will be
Small, might fit her pinky."  Why?  Had they
Chopped out a piece?  With a magnifying
Glass he peered inside and read,
"D.G.H. to E. Mc
                        5, 1948."

"Oh, that should read E. McF., 22nd of May--See,
Here's mine, we gave them to each other."
He said, "I've had bands like this before, I've filled
The gap by soldering a cross to join
The broken ends.  It helps to know
Her finger size."  I said, "She won't be wearing it"

--I'll put it with her ashes in the urn
And bury it beneath the weathered stone,
Maine granite quarried by Dave Buell.
In June, Jack Jackson will have carved her name
And dates and the inscription--
As in her slanting hand across the leaf
Of her first gift to me, she wrote
"Like gold to aery thinness beat,"
Knowing I knew the line it followed,
"Our two souls, therefore, are one."
When hers is done he'll have the time
To letter on my matching stone,
"It's more-than-lifelong love that joins us two
With serendipity, as in a rhyme."
Addition of my final date
Will let our legend be conmplete--

"I'll have this mended in a week,"
He said, and gave me the receipt.

 

                      -Daniel Hoffman
                       First published in The Hudson Review, Vol. 59, No.3 (Autumn 2006), (c) 2006 by Daniel Hoffman.
                       Reprinted by permission of the author.

 

space space   THE NEVER-COMPLETED WISH Indexspace space space
space space space  
space space space space


 

For an origin, to find (found)
a beginning that was absolute
was never absolute. A series of stops more
like it, desire a body could handle, all skin
and goose-bumps, all to the good of nerves
(though bad tonight and bad last night
and possibly bad tomorrow): ample
evidence nothing’s a-
miss then.

Who what why was
speaking in a high and nasal voice
loudly and also laughter. I wanted peace
which came in rag-tag pieces
I could not reassemble, the room
filling with the scraps, silence
I tried to pick out of thin air and place
around me until I got a sense of form
back. That was all in no special
order, no respite, the pressing-

pressure of the real,
nothing personal though
malleable, reachable, with good reason
from someone else for whom “Temperament
is a curious thing. The question of what one
can LEARN in regard
to general outlook on life.
When I think objectively
about the course of my life happiness
does not seem a just-
ified response.”

She promised to show me an actual
beautiful thing, an earthly depression
where song gathers
its dreams to cradle, to croon
to stones that stymied a comet’s
impact with stubborn granite
will. In the crater creosote tickles
their jutting rock chins,
lazily coochee-cooing for years
to no response. Then suddenly they crack
a smile. Suddenly, they’re totally

breaking up.
 

-Cynthia Hogue
Hotel Amerika

from someone else for whom “Temperament
is a curious thing. The question of what one
can LEARN in regard
to general outlook on life.
When I think objectively
about the course of my life happiness
does not seem a just-
ified response.”

She promised to show me an actual
beautiful thing, an earthly depression
where song gathers
its dreams to cradle, to croon
to stones that stymied a comet’s
impact with stubborn granite
will. In the crater creosote tickles
their jutting rock chins,
lazily coochee-cooing for years
to no response. Then suddenly they crack
a smile. Suddenly, they’re totally

breaking up.
 

-Cynthia Hogue
Hotel Amerika

 

  ICE Index


t this time of year, even the apple tree
        
         lets purpose fall. 

When I was eight, maybe nine,
I picked up an autumn apple
and was stung by a drunken bee
sheathed in fragrant rot underneath.

         And that was the first time.

Pulling spent tomato plants,
my father stopped, loped across the lawn
and led me inside.  He pulled an ice cube
from the freezer, put it in my palm,
closed his hand over mine
until pain sluiced through our fingers.

         Twenty years later he died.

I was far away and it was winter.
Uneventfully, red and brown leaves had fallen.
Ice glazed the highway and clicked
in the plastic cup of bourbon on the plane,
which banked away from Pittsburgh
to shudder through the clouds.
The shorter stewardess was kind,
and we dropped from the sky like sleet.

          I filtered through the wake

all night, picked my way through relatives
             and deli platters,
but when I touched his cold hand the next morning,
just before they closed the lid
             and the censer swung wisps
of perfumed smoke in our faces,

          something melted through.

Outside, it threatened more snow.
Rock salt crunched underfoot.
The bees lay dormant, sleeping it off, dreaming
          under a slick gloss of ice,
if they dream at all, of spring, sweet arrival--

         the inevitable blossoms of apple trees.

                                                -JOHN HOPPENTHALER
                                                        Tar River Poetry

Siple Dome
 


After three years of drilling, we reached
bedrock, two-thirds of a mile under
the hump-backed bulge of winter.
Each season, six fresh inches of ice

put us closer to Jesus on one side,
machinery to whatever else on the other.
Sometimes the scientists gave us trash
chips to splash in our gin & tonics–

you could hear bubbles of air & ash,
dust that’s fifty thousand years old crack
& pop. There’s so much pressure at bottom,
it squeezes a whole century into an inch-

thick wafer of time. Neanderthals roamed
Europe. Homo sapiens still hadn’t left
African plains when that sliver of core
was last exposed to the pale, thin light.

Now pieces break off the Antarctic cap
at rapid rates & float out to sea. Coastal
cities could be swamped in just a few
centuries. Sure I was drunk, but one

afternoon after work had stopped, wind
sliced through the rigging, & I’d swear
I heard singing. It was the last day
before the end of what passes for summer.

We’d soon leave for home. I spit a nickel
I’d kept warm in my mouth down the shaft
& wished. Like every hole that’s opened,
we fill, or hope something will come out of it.


-John Hoppenthaler
Tar River Poetry

 

Ghirardelli: San Francisco 

                             “Studies show women crave chocolate

                                      more than any other food”

                                                                          –newspaper clipping    

    

At the start of the 17th century, pious

Mexican women sipped hot chocolate in church

 

Bittersweet warmth filled their earthly bodies,

 

& their spirits levitated above the cloistered

drone of mass.  In their eyes, the transported                                                    

glassiness of sexual gratification.  Jealous

 

of such passion, the bishop forbade the practice.

His imminent death was bliss, poison slipped

into his own bowl of cocoa before matins.

 

Montezuma thought it an aphrodisiac & quaffed

dozens of goblets a day.  Bronze & doomed,

in the throes of ecstasy he’d picture the certain

 

swoop & rise of condors behind the shut

wings of his eyelids.  At Fisherman’s Wharf,

I buy a sampler box for Valentine’s Day,

 

anticipate your teeth marks on every piece.

The one shaped & grooved like a seashell

might cause you to grow unpredictable

 

as the Pacific.  Inside the perfect, dark square,

the tropical swell of coconut or oh, please,

yes sugar drift of caramel.  Will you place

 

a wafer laced with praline on my tongue?

Back from a New World, I’ll come like Columbus

to Fernando’s court & offer the innocent gift.

 

                                   -John Hoppenthaler

                                         Chelsea

 

  PLAYING DEAD Index


 
Our father liked to play a game.
He played that he was dead.
He took his thick black glasses off
and stretched out on the bed. 
 
He wouldn't twitch and didn't snore
or move in any way.
He didn't even seem to breathe!
We asked, Are you okay?
 
We tickled fingers up and down
his huge, pink, stinky feet-
He didn't move; he lay as still
as last year's parakeet.
 
We pushed our fingers up his nose,
and wiggled them inside-
Next, we peeled his eyelids back.
Are you okay? we cried.
 
I really thought he might be dead
and not just playing possum,
because his eyeballs didn't twitch
when I slid my tongue across 'em.    
 
He's dead, we sobbed--but to be sure,
I jabbed him in the jewels. 
He rose, like Jesus, from the dead, 
though I don't think Jesus drools.
 
His right hand lashed both right and left. 
His left hand clutched his scrotum.    
And the words he yelled-I know damn well
I'm way too young to quote 'em.

Andrew Hudgins 

Poetry
 

  EPHEMERON Index

                       

Those are windflowers glowing in the outer darkness

      Just beyond the gateposts.  If I squint,

I see them clearly: white windflowers, flicker of stargas,

Bridal-veil nebula—an infinity bent

      By the gravity of dawn and rain, but opening.

It astonishes me again: I am fifty and pregnant,

And beyond the bedroom window September is gathering

      Its cosmological light.  A child, the windflower says.

What’s that?  Nothing.  Or hardly anything

Five weeks beyond conceiving.  And that monstrous

      Morning star above the neighbor’s gable mutters,

Enough.  What’s one more human?  Heartless,

These elemental things, mist on the sidewalk, litter:

      And so there are gods again, suddenly.

The windflower opens its oblivious scripture

As the sun advances degree by omniscient degree.

      In the street a shadow of sparrows echoes the oil slick

Left by yesterday’s downtown express.  Details gather ominously,

And that is the point, precisely, a god’s favorite trick—

      The accrual, like money in the bank, of our undoing.

But an arm’s-length away, the anti-entropic

Womb of my sleeping wife is growing

      A consciousness.  Listen, zygote.  The windflower’s true name:

Anemone.  Its true vocation: to be blowing

Against a wooden gate at 6 a.m.

      In the broken dawn-light of the fiftieth September

Of a man old enough to refuse to be ashamed

Of his own joy.  And the windflower’s fate?  No matter.

      It is enough, now, to watch it being.

It is enough to be, myself—again almost a father,

Watching the newsboy wander the street—feeling,

      Almost, the old gods’ abstract hearts contract.

I smell them gather above me like ravens, wheeling

Over the promise my body makes.  Black-

      Hearted godhood has left them hungry.

But it is they who assemble, in the amniotic sac,

Bits of star-grit, skeins of DNA, the holy chemistry

      Of existence.  What can I do but leave them to it, even

Knowing what I know?  My spiritual autobiography

Is a shambles-in-progress, my unfinished Confessions

      A creaking stylized fiction from a distant century—

It reads like a pirated version of a bad translation

Of a novel the young Balzac wrote, then threw away.

      No god forgives such things.   The gods have taste.

Smelling an uncouth sulfur in the aura of the coming day,

The Supreme Will wrinkles the Great Face.

      The Gaze averts, and here’s our chance.  A space

Opens – ambiguous territory, zygote.  A  vacancyOur place.

 

-T. R. HUMMER

The Kenyon Review

 

  EVE'S SOLILOQUY Index



When I was riddled with pizazz
and hot to trot,
gnats and mosquitoes didn't
bother me, after all it was heaven,
but now I'm past the middle
of that carrying on,
so long immunity.
Bugs bite
parts once sleek
as that trickster snake,
and still fair,
the blush of apples,
where curves quiver.
So says the mower
in our garden.
Adam gone soft
in the middle hasn't solved
the riddle of love
any more than I have,
pulls me by the hair,
wants his dessert
when I want mine
while time, bent and warped
in its space time event,
prepares to blow
the lights
of our tryst
with incalculable pi.


-Colette Inez
Ploughshares

 

THE CHAIRS

Our faces caught in the mirror
above the piano soften,
hands resting on each other's
shoulders after we clear the dishes.
With a flourish you call
my attention to the four chairs
upholstered in my absence,
deep burnt sienna, color
of the wine we decant.
"This reminds me of..." you say,
lifting your glass.
Chairs, accept our humble bodies
heavy with memory and longing.
Once we sat on stones
on an island in the north,
seeking the key
to Spinoza's infinitely
infinite universe.
Love, the hour grows short.
What was the comparison?


-Colette Inez
Louisville Review
 

  THE GREEN GATHERERS AT SOUNION Index


writing poetry  

Three old women draped in black
cross themselves and bow, K-rees-to,
just outside Poseidon's temple,
then part and hunch along like crows
bent on a solemn search for supper.
Each one parts her grasses, peering,
moving, parting, peering, pulling,
slowly filling her apron, spilling it
over and over onto the common pile.

Working different parts of the maze,
they do not talk or pay any mind
to the buzzing infestation of tourists.
Like the same old shepherds, same old sheep,
these are at work the same as their mothers:
grasses for salad with olives and feta,
grasses for boiling to go with the lamb,
grasses for selling. Grasses are threading
mothers like beads who thread thousands of years.

They will never leave by ship, have never
gone. They will never throw themselves
over and down the long cliffs to the
sea, breaking on points of stone;
nor read themselves into an epic poem.
They'll thank whatever gods may be
before they wilt; and dip and tilt,
leaving their wake in green, three old
black sails. So the white news prevails.


-Mary Jean Irion
Poetry
 

  SAID THE TRANSLATOR Index

 

Said the Translator

 

Plato would be easier, said the translator, and thus,

Began the factory tour.  One had to understand the language

Of Astro Turf dotted with cannons or the non-alcoholic joy

Subway-watching a woman two-finger such eyewear

Firmly up the bridge, all that rollicking uncertainty

Like a root beer. Who cares about splitting hairs

When what’s at stake is merely the history of robes?

The clock read 12:13, exactly when no seven were alike.

Yet, give him a pencil and the knotholes of other mouths

Make a soft hollow noise. But he knows everything he looks at.

 

--Major Jackson

 Tuesday Journal   

 

Yellow Fever

after Ahmad Jamal

 

Had I possessed the poise to kick

aside my faraway thirst for mornings or the wide

solo in a listening glass, emptied of speech. Had I

possessed the incorruptible sermons

of windowpanes, had I danced a little more in the lush

inscriptions of your gaze . . . I, who believe in the fauna

of dreams, in the hand that tunes a guitar, in the will

of pages, might have journeyed to you

like ash and abandoned all my fires, and named the epic

light over your shoulders and seized your tumbledown rapture.

 

--Major Jackson

                                                                 Asheville Poetry Review

 

  PERSONALS Index



Sometimes I am just waiting for the road to get here.
Sometimes I think I exist in a parallel world, like this morning
on this certain September Sunday in New York City.
The way Confucius felt beginning his career as a corn inspector.
You just have to find something to occupy your time.
Like this story in the paper about fish: Grouper are
Born female and become male later on. Doesn’t that say
Something about our sexual confusion? Not mine, of course.
It’s like Tieresias who gets to do it one way, then another.
It’s the way they now say the universe bounces along
from one Big Bang to another. The whole theory
looks like the graffiti someone painted over on Bowery Street.
It doesn't matter because you can still hear the moon
rub its back against the stars. The meanings are
all caught in someone’s throat. A baby robin eats 14 feet
of earthworms in a day. That gets me wondering about—
well, I’m not sure, but if I wrote it in here it must be
important. Don’t you see? The windows are all borrowed.
I am listening to Kenny Burrell's jazz guitar as it slides into
each corner of the room. The air sags. Walls slump.
I wonder if Tomaz will be at supper after the reading.
Some people say he walks on air. Some say he has wings.
It has been a long time since I myself have walked on water.
He is probably dreaming about his favorite Tiepolo or Fra Angelico.
I prefer Caravaggio and all his victims he painted as saints and
prophets. He must have been the cloud hovering over them as
they begged for help. 300 million cells die in the body
every minute without anyone’s help. “Hang in there,”
Paul Watson said in the room the other day, but “hang”? and
From where? Not the sky that keeps wenching itself down
Closer and becomes my ceiling. That doesn't mean heaven is
any closer. Heaven is just a sin away goes the old Kendall’s song.
Or a whisper away goes another version. Who knows? No one
Knows what Jesus wrote in the dirt, either. Pica is
a disease where you eat dirt. Sexsomania is a disease where
you have sex while sleeping. This saves a lot of time.
All the clocks in Pulp Fiction are stuck at 4:20. Opossums
reign in the woods behind my house in Tennessee. They have
cloudy eyes and would be ferocious if they weren’t
so stupid, and realized how sharp  their fangs and claws are.
The ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain. It resembles
The brains of wall street that shrink with every rumor.
An ostrich can kick you to death but you can fly further.
Not like my dog Maggie who is afraid of the wind.
If you have enough diversions, or a good spin doctor,
you don't have to face the truth. Hence, this poem.
And who would ever check what these things stand for like
The underground river beneath the Nile but is six times
bigger. To testify meant originally to swear by holding
your testicles. There are only two things I’ve made up
in this poem, but really, only the future can reveal them.
The future is the hawk I heard but couldn’t see high
in the trees harassed by crows defending their nests.
The past is a chain saw. There's no fear that cannot be
translated into a form of love. 21% of frogs in suburban CT.
have become hermaphrodites. They drink too much
herbicide, flame retardant and pesticides just like us.
Black Olives, those are my favorite. They are stars that have
burnt themselves out. Sometimes the streetlights are aligned
so you have two shadows.  You have to watch the other one
so you don’t lose yourself. A Chimera is a person who has two
sets of DNA. I never know where my other self wanders
or what she says. Some of my students think I am Marvin Bell
but I don’t understand why they fail to see Marvin is really me.
A starfish can turn itself inside out and hide its own feelings.
What are these words but the shed skins of some snake
that has warmed itself all afternoon on a desert rock?
That’s Marvin who just took us to the desert, not me.
The sunlight that strikes the earth each moment there weighs
as much as an ocean liner. I wonder if Terri and Kari will
return before I have to leave. I'll just wait. At rest we generate
100 watts of electricity, but if we harnessed it we would be
victims of spontaneous combustion. There’s no reason
we can’t be in two places at once. Everything seems a memory
like boarded up store fronts. Just now, Kenny Burrell's
guitar is exploding before he mellows out into Soul Lament.
I can burn this CD for you. His music is like a photograph.
The world keeps sticking to his retina. Everything seems to stop.
When galaxies stop spinning they topple over like broken wheels.
These words are like Borneo frogs that have no lungs.
The emperor moth smells a female at 7 miles.
It always knows when the end is near. One wall of graffiti is
always painted over another. Maybe there is no end.
We could go on here forever. But now everyone has arrived.
It’s possible we’ll be late for the reading, but the poem has to  
end, like a trash truck loaded with excuses, headed for the dump.

                                                                -Richard Jackson
                                                                  Brilliant Corners

COULD HAVE, SHOULD HAVE

I could have been one of those Summerians
who read the future in the language of footprints
left by birds in the muddy banks of the Euphrates.
Instead, I’m trying to decipher what the shadows
of bees caught between window panes and flitting over
the words on this paper really mean. Petrarch compared
poetry to the honey from bees. I want to embrace
the purple shoots of your Bromeliad succulent
that suddenly appear in all that green. I want these words
to fly off like owls gliding from one story to another,
disrupting the other words, picking up roadside trash
like the other DUI’s, sleeping in an open drainpipe,
appearing in some lipstick ad, because we never know
what use they’ll be put to, turning up, apparently,
in the cry of the woman holding her child who has been
roasted alive in her Darfur Village, burrowing through
the husks of dreams the raped woman of the Congo
still clutch, each word leaving its trace like blood spatter
at a crime scene unless they collide with other words and
change direction, like these that are following the shadow of
that stray bee trying to slide off the page. My words mean
only what they want to mean, nothing more, nothing less,
says Alice’s White Rabbit. But I want them to mean
everything. What is the name of that salamander whose limbs
grow back each time it loses one? All we want is
what steps into the mirror as we turn away. Even our shadows
eventually become fossils. Tree frogs throw their voices
to confuse predators. That way they are in two places
at once. I haven’t forgotten about those women, but what words
of mine really have the courage to face that?  Metka’s painting,
Chalice (1985), pictures two bodies sharing the same head.
It’s why we laugh at tragedy, cry for happiness.
When you walk out walk out backwards so I’ll think
You’re walking in, goes one song, -- I wish I were in Dixie,
but she’s out of town, goes another. Maybe we measure tragedy
by the number of clown faces we draw. Apparently those bees
know that the random stories they trace on this page are
connected. It’s late fall so they are not looking for honey.
I want my own heart to stop stuttering. Is that my shudder or yours?
My friend, Jack Myers, would say they are the same.
Jack knows Zen, a word the Chinese say as Chan, derived
from the Sanskrit which means meditation and doesn’t need words,
so enough of that here.  I’ll stick with metaphor the bees
point out: the sun is passing overhead on a stretcher. Everything is
wilting. It hasn’t rained here in weeks. It has never rained
in Calma, Chile. In the Bible Deborah thought the rain
fell through the spouts of stars. In Genesis the chicken
comes before the egg. Georgia wants to shift its borders
so it can drain water from the Tennessee River. It has
something to do with a faulty survey almost 200 years ago.
Because the earth is slowing down 2008 is one second longer
than 2007. We never know where we are. I could have been
a Summerian. I could have been a Zen master. Presumably,
I want my compass to point in one direction near the end here
if this is to make any sense.  A million years ago we’d be living
on a continent called Godwana. Everything we’ll see is
everything we see. Except for W.I.M.P.S.  which are not
wimps after all but Weak Intensity Massive Particles, a phrase
which also doesn't make any sense, though its particles pass
through us like wind through a screen. The bees are nervous.
Light fills the air with the color of wet straw, or there’s
a disconsolate rain on the way. We could be dying from things
we never said, a life never lived, the sky refusing or not refusing
the desires neither we not the bees have any word for.

 

                                                        -Richard Jackson 
                                                          Indiana Review


EVEN SO

I don't know how I found myself strolling into tomorrow
today. Nothing was in place yet. None of these words
even existed. I rode the bike I didn't have to a store
that hadn't opened. I could see the weather report needed
correcting. At least there were no more ruts to be
stuck in. The sun had gotten ahead of itself, starting
to burn up like when Phaeton took its reins from Apollo.
Apollo is the god of poetry. In the future everyone believes
in myth because today doesn't exist the way we think it should.
Nothing is saved. Today was just a house of cards.
The hawk on the branch outside my window looks back
at me then disappears. This whole thing began when
I started wondering about where we would travel next--
Tuscany, Slovenia, the land of Milk and Honey. Even
Moses never made it that far. What was the name of that
Italian Film where the Sicilians coming to America dream
they are swimming in streets of milk?  Tomorrow we dreamt
someone plagiarized today. We have answers to questions
we never asked. I figured I was on the verge
of immortality until I realized one day is missing.
One theory has terrorists offering a ransom, another has
a ponzi clock, or a leveraged rainbow with no end.
I put in a new mailbox just in case. You can't be too careful.
No one takes responsibility anymore. Even the rocks
that decorate the mailbox base can claim plausible deniability.
Tomorrow, wheels and echoes are forbidden. Mockingbirds
outlawed.  Serpents no longer coil up. Only the crickets
provide a kind of assurance you get from forgetting.
I don't see why I have to apologize for what follows --
effects without causes, afters with no befores, waking
without sleep. Even so, I sometimes hear a knocking
at the door which wakes me up. I think of Macbeth, but realize
I haven't killed anyone yet. You'd  think there'd be something
on the TV news, but I'll have to wait till some other time
to be sure. Meanwhile, the hawk flies off. The milks sours.

 

                                                                  -Richard Jackson
                                                                  New Ohio Review

 

 

writing poetry writing poetry   HOW I BECAME A SENSITIVE SOUL Indexwriting poetry writing poetry writing poetry
writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry
writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry

 

 


I listened to Peter and The Wolf on my 78.


Each time I played the last side I hoped the duck would finally get out.

I believed my mother when she told me I could see the faeries dancing in the snow down below my bedroom window.

My first school was dark and expensive. I was dazed for two years.

I kept hoping we would pick pumpkins in the garden kids talked about
but couldn’t see.

I would dance in my soft brown Capezzios when Miss Staples played “Country Gardens”

on the piano in our first grade classroom. The public school I could walk to.

The conductor was Serge Koussevitzsy.

I believed my mother would write a book.
She said she would, I should write a book, she said. About cheeses, she said.

I wanted to pat my baby sister on the head. My aunts said no it would hurt her.
Be gentle they said.

My first doctor was a woman.

My mother said you haven’t lived if you haven’t sailed.

My father taught me how to pour wine at dinner.

I collected leaves for a book, maple, oak, dogwood, sassafras, cherry.

The voice was Richard Hale.

I saved early for my mother for Christmas. Tea spoons one year.
Chinese vases the next.

I watched the blue window as sunset carved the light from my room.

I should write a book. About wine my mother said.

I watched my father use big scissors to cut out green pieces of paper.
Are you making money, I said.

One morning my mother raised a red flag and waved.

My father and I drove to the Bronx Zoo. I sat in the front both ways.

I inventoried the trees in our yard. Three oaks, three elms, six pines, a dogwood, and

two dying hollies. Both the same sex.

I mustn’t wake my mother up in the afternoon. She sleeps naked on the chaise longue.

I should write a book about cheeses. You haven’t lived until you’ve had
Camembert.

My odalisque.

I planted a garden by myself on the east side of the house. I cultivated the soil.

From seed packets I planted dusty millers, marigolds, blue morning glories, yellow asters,

black-eyed susans.

We write our names in tar in the street with sticks.

I hit my best friend with a metal rod. My mother said I would go to a reformatory.

My father told me the secret to a good martini.

I memorized the string quartet that was Peter. In C.

I sang O Holy Night at the school recital. My candle was a small bulb attached to a

D battery I could just hold.

I got a Kodak Brownie and took pictures of my sister and our dog.

I punched my friend Bobby in the head.

You pass the cap of the Vermouth bottle over the shaker.

Sides 3 and 4, Victor Red Seal Records, of Peter and the Wolf broke.

The broken record is what I have.

I was called The Terrible Tempered Mister Bangs.

Also Ferdinand the Bull who sat in the shade of a cork tree and smelled the clover.
I forgot that.

I threw the hardest pitches of anyone but was afraid of teams.

I planted mint for my parents’ clear drinks.

We had a currant bush in our garden. You haven’t lived until you’ve made jam
my mother said.

I still have the album. Peter faces front, his round face smiling. 

He’s wearing a red jacket, a black cap and boots. His arms are out like he’s going to float.

My neighbor saw my garden and gave me a pot of Scottish bluebells.
I planted them in the shade of an oak and tended them for years.

Outside, a kid said, don’t you know who that is that’s reamy jansen.

A photo of my mother and me I tore in two. Her side she found in my waste basket.

I had to tape them together. I’m listening to Steve Reich, It’s Gonna to Rain.
The voice is Brother Walter’s.

I should write a book on wine my mother said.

                                                                                                    

-REAMY JANSEN

                                       Unpleasant Event Schedule

Two Ways of Not Hearing

First, bits of things begin to go,
a swatch of sound here, another there
like condensation in the mirror,
as you squint to see your face.
Students you ask to repeat themselves,
you knowing they can't pronounce a thing,
knowing your wife is just talking to herself
only sometimes and mouth somewhere else,
assuming you'll pick it up, but you don't,
and give out with a nod, a dumbshow of
apprehension to hide the panic.
But she's not worried because you tell her
the first alto is Benny Carter, now ninety six,
the next is Johnny Hodges, and the last, Bird.
But you know you've memorized all that.
Still, you can recognize Szigetti on violin
and Bartok on piano, but this knowledge, too,
comes with the bacon grease pops of the remastered 78s,
but imperfections can't be separated from art anyway.
And you can hear the bright, enameled sound of her laugh,
so who really cares about the rest?

In the second, so much simpler,
someone's taken an eraser to the board
and you can just make out blurs and foggy smears
but it's not exactly a palimpsest of sounds
and memory doesn't help you here.
And you know later, late at night when
you're asleep someone will come in with a pail
of dirty water and a wet rag and begin
to wipe it all away.


                                               -Reamy Jansen
                                                   32 Poems

 

  INTERESTING TIMES Index



Everything's happening on the cusp of tragedy, the tip of comedy,
the pivot of event.
You want a placid life, find another planet. This one is occupied
with the story's arc:
About to happen, on the verge, horizonal. You want another planet,
try the moon.
Try any of the eight, try Planet X. It's out there somewhere,
black with serenity.
How interesting will our times become? How much more interesting
can they become?

A crow with something dangling from its beak flaps onto a telephone
pole top, daintily,
And croaks its victory to other crows and tries to keep its morsel
to itself.
A limp shape, leggy, stunned, drops from the black beak's scissors
like a rag.
We drive past, commenting, and looking upward. A sunny morning,
too cold to be nesting,
Unless that is a nest the crow has seized, against the coming
spring.

We've been at this historical site before, but not in any history
we remember.
The present has been cloaked in cloud before, and not on any holy
mountaintop.
To know the stars will one day fly apart so far they can't be seen
Is almost a relief. For the future flies in one direction--toward
us.
And the only way to sidestep it--the only way--is headed this way,
too.

So, look. That woman's got a child by the hand. She's dragging
him across the street.
He's crying and she's shouting, but we see only dumbshow. Their
breath is smoke.
Will she give in and comfort him? Will he concede at last? We do
not know.
Their words are smoke. In a minute they'll be somewhere else
entirely.
Everyone in a minute will be somewhere else entirely. As the crow
flies.


 

-Mark Jarman
Poetry
 

  THE CITY Index


Meanwhile back at the branch, the long-awaited return of the cardinal
while two saxophones butt heads in a nearby warehouse . . . City, my
city! I’ve spent all day raking leaves from last fall, dodging two
yellow jackets that haven’t learned how to avoid people. But I have. Even
in a neighborhood where prowlers pee in our backyard, or leave behind
condoms and Dunkin’ Donut bags. Today, I scattered rocks at the base of
our fence. At night I opened our bedroom window, waiting to hear a
tibia’s sweet crack, the “shit, goddamit, shit,” from the creep who broke
my driver’s side window, stealing our Linda Ronstadt CD. Thirty years
ago, when he stole Santana Abraxis--the same guy, I swear it--I taped
razor blades to the base of my 8-track stereo, one night forgetting the
genius of the idea, shredding my calf while mounting a woman I would
love but not marry. Meanwhile, somewhere in the country--Simplicity: an
old man in his bathroom shaking off his penis for the fifth time, his
granddaughter asleep on the back porch, watching stars flame up in a
minute-by-minute account of the universe. Somewhere moose and little
beasties run wild, while people sleep soundly, deliriously happy to be part
of Nature’s puny plan. But I’m happy, too, gripping the handle of a
pellet gun, crouched half asleep beneath my bedroom window, humming the
lyrics to Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou.”

Peter Johnson

- Boulevard

Neighbors

Street prophet, soothsayer, stargazer extraordinaire.  In fact, he’s the local loony dressed in a red beret, sky-blue shirt and red pants.  Every day the same outfit, pacing the same sidewalk, mumbling to himself or swearing at passersby as if his balls are on fire.  One day he screamed at my infant and made him cry.  “The next time,” I said, “I’ll kill you.”  I told him to imagine a noose swinging from the tree he was leaning on.  “I’ll lynch you,” I yelled.  Quite surprisingly, we became good friends.  I can’t make sense of his mumbling, yet follow him with the baby jogger every Sunday as he eviscerates cans of garbage lining our street.  He’s collecting doomsday articles, one about strangelets, tiny cosmic missiles that weigh tons and travel at 900,000 miles per hour, yet are only the size of pollen grain.  In 1993 one entered the Earth in Antarctica and blasted out 23 seconds later in the Indian Ocean.  No wonder he ducks a lot, and why bother changing your clothes when a little ball bearing might tear a tiny hole in your head, exiting your left testicle one nanosecond later.  I explain this phenomenon to an old guy walking his nasty black mongrel.  A year ago, his dog leapt out of nowhere, snapping at us.  “I’m going to kill your dog,” I yelled, which made us enemies for a very long time.  But now he tags along―three wise men, amusing ourselves as the Earth takes a terrible beating. 

        -Peter Johnson

           Boulevard

Snails

I admire the brute dampness of snails.  I ate them once in a little restaurant outside Toronto.  A medium-sized war was going on, and I was dating a girl I skipped school for.  We’d go to the zoo and watch the orangutans regurgitate.  We’d toss peanuts to the elephants, or wave to giraffes, hoping for their approval.  Sometimes we’d end up in Canada, cubes of hash hidden in the studs of our jeans as my 59’ Rambler American lurched across the border. Unlike most stories, this one’s true, full of youth and trouble, but mostly confusion, especially about God, whom I began calling “God the Forgetful,” saddened that one baby could be born armless, another with two heads.  It had become hard to like God, or depend on Him for the simplest chores.  Even now wars rage on, babies still exploding from wombs minus arms and legs. You can’t even turn on the TV without hearing someone’s daughter explain to a wide-eyed audience how she had sex with nine guys and one woman to earn money for a home entertainment center.  Makes me want to revert to Plan B.  Makes me wonder why I’m back in Toronto, outside a jazz club, eating snails, watching an unmarked aircraft descend upon the city. 

          -Peter Johnson

                 5 a.m. 

 

  AUTOBIOGRAPHY AS ENDLESS CALICO Index

It never bothered me the little Dutch girls had no faces—
my quilt—a pink appliquéd length of them
 
bonneted blind. Or the fact they had no fingers
or elbows—hands folded to snowballs
 
on their still bells of skirt. Each one a mockery
in miniature, made of my mother’s childhood
 
dresses. My favorite among them, mild as wheat, a scrap
of aged yellow, my calicoed rose.
 
No radical sweetness, no radish-mauve
billow of baby skin—it was the natural perfection
 
of sunned cotton, calla lily sprung late in the shade—
the last patterned girl I saw each night before sleep.
 
With dawn the old woman on my chest withdrew
to the blood-cherry rise of my teak cabinet’s stain.
 
Nightmare trails—she was never really there. At eighteen
I worked the rigid calico of the garden section
 
at a hardware shop, cement floors the color
of night terror. It was a kind of disturbed sleep,
 
the cash register’s awful chimes. A man looking for the exotic
clematis asked me through daydream if I knew
 
the Pre-Raphaelites. He said I looked as if I’d stepped out
of an oil to stand beside the plastic display fountains. I said, yes
 
with the hiss of water in my red ears, my cherubim
ran off with my bonnet and left me with nothing
 
but the whiteness of my sun-blocked sulk, my red hair,
my beguiling eyes. I didn’t say that. I squinted
 
for sun, deadheaded stalked shells of geraniums,
offered my childhood another dried bouquet.

                                        -Anna Journey
                                            Gulf Coast


My Great-Grandparents Return to the World as Closed Magnolia Buds
 
They’re not quite buried
in this cemetery, though they follow the afternoon
noise of bulldozers like tip after tip
 
of white tailed deer disappearing.
They’re back
by the soybeans edging the delta from the dead,
 
keeping their clammy petals pulled
shut like Klan hoods. A language
they labored to forget—Swedish was Natchez silt,
 
loam in the throat
their children never spoke.
 
I know the spicebush swallowtails flutter like angels
over the wood ducks’ pond,
 
that the scum’s slow ripple
is the alligator case of my grandfather’s harmonica
and its chromatic shift
 
back and forth to sharp.
 
Though magnolia buds are too awkward
and pungent for angels, I know
 
they could hold the blood of a woman
or a man
like the gauze pads
 
she used in Germany to patch shrapneled
eyes of soldiers before knowing
the right place. Because this is the right place,
 
the wrong time,
the lapse of decades a salt brine between us—
four generations
 
of women linking arms. In the photograph—with me,
unborn, the bark hardening on a sycamore, dry wind
over the bayou,
 
the palsied cotton just about to fall.

                               -Anna Journey
                                     Field


Sappho on the Edge of the Bayou
 
Coughed up the jazz band’s brass throats,
weddings are a hollow music
pressed thickly around curls
of the wrought iron gate,
the cast solid magnolia. There is rust
coppering down the fine
edges of everything here
in this violet light—the white pickup’s
eaten paint, rose ash of cinderblocks,
the one cool sting
of dill on my palm. I wave
goodbye to you as the stone
face of the swamp refuses
your far-off reflection. It’s better
this way. As you leave under
that snow of thrown rice, your veil
is the thinnest fishing net. Gongyla, arm
and arm with a man whose vow
grows heavier midair—it hangs
there like a darkening
smile, sweat on the edges
of your gown. Goodbye, my rose—
This is the song I write
for your wedding, love, as pyramids
rise and weather: when willows
strangle the water pipes, a kiss
of cornmeal on your brow.
Now, I wipe a stone bird’s wings, now
the washboards miss a beat. With this
song I am snapped
loose like the sheep-gut
strings of a lyre.
 

                 -Anna Journey
                       Sycamore Review

 

space space   APPROACHES TO BLUE HILL BAY: CHART NO. 13313 Indexspace space space
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Late June, walking the deer runs

to Goose Pond after supper,

summer begins. Sidestepping

stormblown poplars,

dry-wading the slash from the pulpers' camps

ten years ago, keeping the imaginary

straight line from Duck Island Light to the north side

of Goose Pond Mountain in our minds' eyes, poking

our fish poles through young hackmatack

straight-arms, trying to keep from snagging

the green fur, the purple stars in the schooldesk landscape

of the nautical chart.

                                 Yellow, blue.

The island woods are yellow. The evening sun

sprays through from the other side of the evergreens.

Woodcolors, our first grade pegs

arranging. We push for the first view

of the marsh-edged shore, spruce stumpsticks

edging deep water trout

neverminding the cold. We know where we are:

a mile straight in on the yellow.

We lose our way. My son climbs a blue spruce

to see where we've been: the two Sisters,

Long Island Plantation. On the left, the Baptist

church in Atlantic. We head into the sun.

 

Late June, walking the deer runs

to Goose Pond after supper,

summer begins suddenly. We can hear

the creeing of gulls. Beyond the trees

they are landing, taking off, landing.

Saltwhite. Freshblue. It is all

prearranged. In a minute now

we will see the pond. Nothing has changed.

 

                                 Donald Junkins

The New Yorker

 

KITING:  A REVERIE

 

The only play is for keeps: the way the red-tailed hawk

curls a thousand feet over the stream and hurls himself in a chalk-

line down to bunch against the magnified neck, a minuscule drifter

stark in the pebbly waters of the stream-brain; the way Ophelia

 

herself weeps neither for wage nor the lover’s eye, leaving

 

the wings for good, the play forever, the irretrievable comfort of make-

believe; the way we drop in dreams to take

our place in the kingdom of the lost, to wonder beside the great stones

at the mica glints, the lost gazing before the shroud hovers in bones

 

of light over the back of our head, takes our neck in its mouth

 

to do with what it will; the way we drop into each other’s arms

from the day’s events, the hours polishing the table at the empty farm

for the love of gods, for mercy’s sake, the human dream.

 

This must go on we say, this keep-in-touch, this tangled play

 

of lobes and nipple burls, this fingering light

play of flesh opening and closing down from a great height,

handing ourselves over—oh, yes, to the hawk’s breath

on our fragile neck, and our tongue’s  stealth.

 

                                                         —Donald Junkins

The New Yorker

 

SEPTEMBER SONG

 

Butternut squash flowers bloom on the edges of the late

picked fields, and the hurricane season languishes

in the glow of Penn Warren's hundredth year, the anguish

of New Orleans in the autumn air, our state

of mind. His Band of Angels tracks us down

again,"sold down the river" in high yellow season

again, the nation's old theme. Long fuses, vines

bursting into trumpet flames, Amanda, brown

become "yaller," the genitalia of the map

the slave journey's end. Robert of Kentucky knew

King Louis' delta earth, the fecund sap

of life: mockingbirds, trombones, the brew

of bodies intertwined. When the walls came tumbling

down, the angels wept, fearing at the rumbling.

 

Donald Junkins

Shawangunk Review

 

 

  POETRY IN AMERICA Index

 

 

The Barnes and Noble in Evansville, Indiana, mostly sells coffee

though the manager said ten or twelve showed up once for a local author.

One, besides my friend Laura, came for me.  I thought of priests

who must pronounce the full Eucharist even if no one goes to mass,

thought Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde looked kind of pained

as Barnes and Noble posters, and facing fifteen empty folding chairs,

I suggested we all just go downstairs for coffee.  I was hopeful—

I hate bookstore readings which pay nothing but constant interruptions:

Customer service on line eight.  Does one keep reading in that case, or pause

to incorporate the line into her poem?  “No way!  I came to hear poetry!”

said a woman in walking shorts and sandals with socks.  “I’m a poet, too.

Can’t help the disease.  It’s either write or go mad.”  She had bangs

and plastic glasses like Ramona the Pest.  “I’m Barbara.  Don’t write

much now, too busy working and labor organizing at the Whirlpool plant.

Come from Henderson, Kentucky, over the river.  You hear of a white person

committing a crime in Henderson, that would be my relative.

But let’s get going.  I’ve got things to do yet tonight.”  So I got going.

 

Sometimes Barbara moaned as if she’d tasted something delicious or cried,

“Hey, that was a good one.”  People walking by eyed us the way

they look at preachers in bus stations.  A woman and little girl sat in back.

The mom held a book about women who love too much in front of her face

like a mask, the girl imitated with a Madeline storybook, but sometimes

she peeked at me, and they stayed almost to the end.  Barbara took my book

from the stack waiting to be returned.  “Wouldn’t buy it if I didn’t like the work,”

she said as I signed, then walked out with us.  “You know, it’s still 73 cents

to the dollar.  No matter how much education you have, you’re working harder

and making less than a white man.  For women of color, it’s worse.

And now all we get is backlash.  Well, I’m a 50-year-old woman, and

they can kiss my ass.”  That spring, Barbara fasted for 19 days at the gates

of the governor’s mansion because he’d turned Kentucky’s community colleges

into trade schools.  “Do you know what that means?” she jabbed me with her bird eyes.

“No history, no political science, no literature, no going on for a college degree

like I did, and you watch, it’s coming to other states.  Evil bastards will call it

job training, but it’s just one more way to keep poor people down.”  Outside,

light mist was falling on cars in the parking lot, softening neon signs down the strip.

“Take care of yourself,”  she waved a blessing.  “Where the hell is your umbrella?”

 

Julia Kasdorf

Plaiedes

 

Double the Digits                                          

 

we called the game Jenny made up driving

back roads through West Virginia

 

at twice the speed on signs.  Foot on

the gas, foot on the brake, she’d take

 

a 25 mile-an-hour curve at 50, triumphant

until something thudded under the hood,

 

then hissed as we drifted to the berm;

engine black cracked, her dad’s Peugeot

 

left for the wrecker, sold for scrap.

She never could tell him how girls,

 

16 and 18, could get so bend on speed

they’d ignore an oil light’s warning.

 

When my dad’s Plymouth Fury hit 78,

weightless, on a crested curve of Route 136

 

and nearly flew into the grill

of a soda delivery truck, we swerved

 

toward a pole on Donna’s side then

were gone before the guy hit his horn.

 

We never said it, but close calls

like that made us see state troopers

 

on front porches, hats in hand, moments

before our mothers open the door.  Yet

 

we played that game every chance

we got until college separated us

 

from our fathers’ cars.  Jenny divorced,

then married a canoe guide up north.

 

Because Donna married a black man,

she can’t set foot on her home farm.

 

And now, I can barely stay in the lines

so I keep going back, as if those times,

 

half a life ago, could explain why some women

get driven by a dumb desire for flight.

 

Julia Spicher Kasdorf

The Paris Review

 

 

Bat boy, Break a Leg

 

The student with two studs in his nose

and a dragon tattoo crawling from his collar,

                        who seems always ready to swoon

                        from bliss or despair, now flits

At my office door.  I will look at his poem

drawn onto a music score and find nothing

                        to say about chance or HIV.

                        Only later I’ll think to tell him

the night before I left home, I slept

sadly in our old house until a wing

                        touched my cheek, tenderly as a breeze.

                        I woke to black fluttering at my feet,

and a mind fresh from the other side

said don’t turn on the light, don’t

                        Wake the man, don’t scream or speak.

                        Go back to sleep.  The next morning

I remembered that people upstate

whack them with tennis rackets, that

                        the Chinese character for good luck

                        resembles the character for bat—

both so unsettling and erratic—

but it’s bad luck to say good luck

                        in China, as on stage where they say

                        Break a leg, so delicate bats

must be woven into silk brocade

and glazed onto porcelain plates.

                        Next morning, I found a big-eared mouse

                        with leather folded over his shoulders

hanging from claws stuck in a screen.

All day, my work made me forget, but

                        then I’d remember, passing the window

                        where he slept, shaded under the eves.

He was fine.  I was fine.  Then at dusk,

he was gone, suddenly.  Pale boy dressed in black,

                        Maybe the best that can be said for any of us is that

                        once we were angelic enough to sleep with strangers.

He touched my cheek.  I opened the screen.

He flew in his time.  We did no harm.

 

Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Poetry in America

 

 

 

writing poetry writing poetry   TOO NEAR A CERTAIN DEATH Indexwriting poetry writing poetry writing poetry
writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry writing poetrywriting poetry
writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry

 

 

TOO NEAR A CERTAIN DEATH

Moonlight mounts the windowsill
a ghostly blade of light that cuts
across the carpet, sliding toward
the bed where you are curled
in sleep and I, awake, watch
as it moves unimpeded down the length
of bed, hallowing the space
between us;  somewhere

I have read that lovers
sleep like seeds warm in the soil
of one another's embrace; we have always
turned our backs in search of solitude;
at first, I wondered if we feared we might
divulge some secret through
our skin, or touch
a wound that hidden had not healed, awake

we bend often toward love; probing
the spot where pain and pleasure
merge, giving, taking back, forgiveness
like a benediction on our lips, and prayers;
and on those softer
nights explore, exposing gently what
in sleep we choose to hide; some call it

courting lies, this back
to back focusing on silent corners
of the room, as if believing that the body comes
to truth in sleep, and in a way it does;
always too near a certain death, one needs
to privately embrace the cold, one needs
to face the prospect of the grave, only
when we are still warm from where our hands
have left their mark, are we that brave.

                                              -Susan A. Katz
                                             American Scholar


WHY SHE DIED
           -for Mother

Because she could no longer see
the sun; past care
or caring, locked in the cell
of her insanity she cursed
the doctors and cried
into the tapioca; too tough
she muttered and remembered
something that mattered.

     Because in Long Beach ants
     invaded the back porch she boiled
     water, steam rising to curl
     her hair and dumped it on them;
     they died in hordes, black bubbles
     rising to the surface of that
     temporary lake, already draining
     through the boards.

Because there was no room left
in the family plot, we had to dig
the rhododendron out; by adding
her death to the rest, we tried
to make it matter less.

                          -Susan A. Katz
                    Manhattan Poetry Review


HALFWAY TO NOWHERE

Distance separates us from ourselves
and one another; divide a space in half
and half remains, we come
together but we never
touch, imagination fuels
our passions and incites
our fantasies to bridge
the gap.

We meet halfway
to nowhere, like a dream begun,
unfinished by our waking; the game
is played out in our heads, our hands
hold air, our fingers feel
what isn't there.

What's real is what we think
is real and if space halves
itself then so must time and death's
preposterous since nothing stops
and nothing starts and if
we cannot meet
we cannot part.
                           -Susan A. Katz
                     West of Ireland Anthology
                            Enright House
 

 

  REMEMBERING KOBE Index

 

 

The worst is afterwards,

departing before early light from Kyoto

on what is left of the railway line to go

as far as you can to Kobe,

packs laden with blankets, food, drink, clothes

along the cracked unrecognisable roads,

like Urashima no Ko back from his charmed palace

three hundred years too late,

and the nights turn blacker than you knew they could,

but you must walk still four hours more uphill

to what was once a Kobe university

and spend one hour of greetings how are you?

how many are the missing now, the dead?

handing out your gifts of clothing, comfort, bread,

before returning on land marked with holes and rubble

and no landmarks,

the worst part being the last

before the railway line is breached,

when the light runs out

and the torches fight the dark

and you struggle on alone,

trying to keep to the way,

trying to believe that there is a way

back home.  

                                                     -Judy Kendall

                                                      Smiths Knoll 

 

Driving To Noto  

Men are better says Toshi I know 

no they are not says I (I also know)

and so we argue to the tip of Noto

 

To Suzu where the wood huts slump in shock

plopped suddenly in frocks of snow

and the sea is whipped to icicles of frenzy

 

Over a nabe pot of fish and cabbage

(Toshi warns me not to call it cabbage

for it is the vastly superior hakusai)

our host asks me my age

 

Taken aback

(I`m older than he thought

more single), he inquires

don't you like men?

 

So I assure him

only frequent country-moving

has prevented me from choosing

one of them

 

The returning road is white, wide as a field

the ditches spread themselves with frosting

and the windscreen blanks out like a blizzard

 

Toshi scrapes at the iced-up wipers singing

to himself, waving me in

 

Midwinter hangs in the boughs

 

The pine trees are bent nearly in two

laden with second helpings    

                                                  -Judy Kendall

                                                         Ambit


Dandelion Vision

 

someone is having a barbecue,

voices carry more than a mile over grassland

 

from the sunken road

the meadow rises to eye-level,

its raggedy green, its crop of dandelion heads

solid and light as balls

 

dandelions

 

dragged from the lawns

turfed out of the cornfields    

                                                     -Judy Kendall

                                                     Proof; Equinox

 

  Gulf Coast Incident Index

 

 

In the laundromat, breathing steam,

Women were slapping flies

With sandals.  Out front a graybeard

Backed pickup into parked car, stove in

The trunk.  Cop said, “Better come along, mister,

For a mental evaluation.” Snort.

Snort. “What you mean, sonny? 

Been drivin’ afore you was born.   

Outta my way now, let me git on home.”

“Sorry, sir, it’s your safety

I’m thinking of and other people’s.”  “Sheet,

Why dontcha ’rest these assholes park they cars

In back o’ other people’s? Shoulda totaled him.”

 

Glumly, the geezer climbed

Into patrol car.  Woman with skunk

Stripe through her hair said, “Buggers

Thickern warts on a warthog.”  Her friend,

Slapping, missing, slapping, 

“Amen, you say unto me,”

Said piously.           

                                                                                             

                                     - X.  J. Kennedy

                                                    SpinDrifter

 

  WASH Index

 

Wash    
   
       All day the blanket snapped and swelled
on the line, roused  by a hot spring wind....
From there it witnessed the first  sparrow,
early flies lifting their sticky feet,
and a green  haze on the south-sloping hills.
Clouds rose over the  mountain....At dusk
I took the blanket in, and we  slept,
restless, under its fragrant weight.  

                                            -Jane Kenyon

                                           Collected Poems


     
  February: Thinking of Flowers   
   
    Now wind torments the field,
turning the white surface  back
on itself, back and back on itself,
like an animal  licking a wound.

Nothing but white--the air, the  light;
only one brown milkweed pod
bobbing in the gully,  smallest
brown boat on the immense tide.

A single green  sprouting thing
would restore me. . . .

Then think of the  tall delphinium,
swaying, or the bee when it comes
to the  tongue of the burgundy lily.  

                     -Jane Kenyon

                    Collected Poems


  
     
  
Twilight: After Haying    
   
   
 Yes, long shadows go out
from the bales; and yes, the  soul
must part from the body:
what else could it  do?

The men sprawl near the baler,
too tired to leave the  field.
They talk and smoke,
and the tips of their  cigarettes
blaze like small roses
in the night air. (It  arrived
and settled among them
before they were  aware.)

The moon comes
to count the bales,
and the  dispossessed--
Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will
--sings from the  dusty stubble.

These things happen. . .the soul's  bliss
and suffering are bound together
like the grasses. .  .

The last, sweet exhalations
of timothy and vetch
go  out with the song of the bird;
the ravaged field
grows wet  with dew. 

                                    -Jane Kenyon 

                                   Collected Poems

 

  FIRST SONG Index
 

 


Then it was dusk in Illinois, the small boy
After an afternoon of carting dung
Hung on the rail fence, a sapped thing
Weary to crying. Dark was growing tall
And he began to hear the pond frogs all
Calling on his ear with what seemed their joy.

Soon their sound was pleasant for a boy
Listening in the smoky dusk and the nightfall
Of Illinois, and from the fields two small
Boys came bearing cornstalk violins
And they rubbed the cornstalk bows with resins
And the three sat there scraping of their joy.

It was now fine music the frogs and the boys
Did in the towering Illinois twilight make
And into dark in spite of a shoulder's ache
A boy's hunched body loved out of a stalk
The first song of his happiness, and the song woke
His heart to the darkness and into the sadness of joy.


-Galway Kinnell
What A Kingdom It Was

 

For William Carlos Williams

When you came and you talked and you read with your
Private zest from the varicose marble
Of the podium, the lovers of literature
Paid you the tribute of almost total
Inattention, although when you spoke of a pig
Did squirm, and it is only fair to report another gig-

gled. But you didn't even care. You seemed
Above remarking we were not your friends.
You hung around inside the rimmed
Circles of your heavy glasses and smiled and
So passed a lonely evening. In an hour
Of talking your honesty built you a tower.

When it was over and you sat down and the chair-
man got up and smiled and congratulated
You and shook your hand, I watched a professor
In neat bow tie and enormous tweeds, who patted
A faint praise of the sufficiently damned,
Drained spittle from his pipe, then scrammed.


-Galway Kinnell
What A Kingdom It Was

 

Leaping Falls

And so it was I sheered,
Eccentric, into outer space,
And tracked with lost paces
The forgotten journey of a child,
Across the creaking snow,
Up the deer-trail,

Over the snowdrifted hill
Into the secret country
Where a boy once found,
Routing from ledge to ledge
In a tumult at sunrise,
The cascading of Leaping Falls.

Now the falls lay draped
Without motion or sound,
Icicles fastened in stories
To stillness and rock. At the bottom,
A heap of broken icicles
Lay dead blue on the snow.

Cold was through and through,
Noiseless. Nothing
But clouds at my nostrils
Moved. Then I uttered a word,
Simply a bleak word
Slid from my lips. Whereupon

A topmost icicle came loose
And fell, and struck another
With a bell-like sound, and
Another, and the falls
Leapt at their ledges, ringing
Down the rocks and on each other

Like an outbreak of bells
That rings and ceases.
The silence turned around
And became silence again.
Under the falls on the snow
A twigfire of icicles burned pale blue.


-Galway Kinnell
What A Kingdom It Was

 


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Balsaminaceae. Jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not, impatiens. Soft herbs
with leafy, pale, translucent watery stems. Pendent flowers, orange-gold,
spurred with nectar-bearing sacs. Fruit in swollen capsules that explode
when touched.

I remember jewelweed in Connecticut,
the way we went to it and through it
to second-growth woodland, a place
where honey-suckle, mounding up for years,
had made three tents tall enough to stand in,
both of you, still salt-damp from swimming
and sweating a little in the breezeless heat.
A place of tenderness and mischief and
brotherly fooling, for boys in lonesome families
ready almost to set out on their own,
ready almost for exile, and learning
thereby to love each other's bodies.

Learning touch,

the secret rites of touch, and how you both
could feel the blush of pleasure, both
feel thigh and belly muscles tightening,
long muscles under skin divided
tan and deathly white, feel long muscles
hard and smooth beneath the sea-damp
fragrant tensing skin against each other's
both-still-salt-damp bodies, sweating a little,
smooth thigh and belly muscles taut and
tightening tensing in the breezeless
heat against each other's spray of
hot white dazzling
spray of
liquid jism hot against each other's
dazed and emptied

laughing bodies self-

conscious again but laughing, happy
at the way you both absurd released burst
free escaped laughing as you drew the
quick-cooled cum across each other's salt-damp
tan-divided bodies smearing it
across the fragrant thigh and belly
muscles released relaxed now making it smear and
curlicue across the fragrant salt-damp naked bodies that you loved

-Peter Klappert

The James White Review

 

  Whom Do You See as Your Ideal Reader? Index
 



Maybe someone pouring a first cup of coffee,

smoothing an alarming ATM voucher and puzzling

over an incriminating Polaroid with a phone number

on the back.



Or perhaps it’s the beautiful and petulant, tired

of modeling one teddy after another and refusing

to eat even butter lettuce until she has finished

my collected works.



Of course, there is always the Platonic reader:

comfortable chair, good light, my latest

on a Mission Oak table beside a steaming cup

of Earl Gray.



Then I remember that Plato didn’t trust poets,

so now my ideal reader has to leave the Republic

and cross the border to a lesser country, one

lit mostly by neon. He must be brave enough



to step into a store full of sheepish men

and ask in a whisper for my poems, his heart

pounding as the tattooed clerk looks both ways

then reaches under the counter where he keeps

the good stuff.

-Ron Koertge
Smartish Pace
 

  DEATH, ETC. Index



I have lived my whole life with death, said William Maxwell,

aetat 91, and haven't we all. Amen to that.
It's all right to gutter out like a candle but the odds are better

for succumbing to a stroke or pancreatic cancer.
I'm not being gloomy, this bright September
when everything around me shines with being:

hummingbirds still raptured in the jewelweed,
puffballs humping up out of the forest duff
and the whole voluptuous garden still putting forth

bright yellow pole beans, deep-pleated purple cauliflowers,
to say nothing of regal white corn that feeds us
night after gluttonous night, with a slobber of butter.

Nevertheless, what Maxwell said speaks to my body's core,
this old body I trouble to keep up the way
I keep up my two old horses, wiping insect deterrent

on their ears, cleaning the corners of their eyes,
spraying their legs to defeat the gnats, currying burrs
out of their thickening coats. They go on grazing thoughtlessly

while winter is gathering in the wings. But it is not given
to us to travel blindly, all the pasture bars down,
to seek out the juiciest grasses, nor to predict

which of these two will predecease the other or to anticipate
the desperate whinnies for the missing that will ensue.
Which of us will go down first is also not given,

a subject that hangs unspoken between us
as with Oedipus, who begs Jocasta not to inquire further.
Meanwhile, it is pleasant to share opinions and mealtimes,

to swim together daily, I with my long slow back and forths,
he with his hundred freestyle strokes that wind him alarmingly.
A sinker, he would drown if he did not flail like this.


We have put behind us the State Department tour
of Egypt, Israel, Thailand, Japan that ended badly
as we leapt down the yellow chutes to safety after a botched takeoff.

We have been made at home in Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland,
narrow, xenophobic Switzerland of clean bathrooms and much butter.
We have travelled by Tube and Metro o'er the realms of gold

paid obeisance to the Wingèd Victory and the dreaded Tower,
but now it is time to settle as the earth itself settles
in season, exhaling, dozing a little before the fall rains come.

Every August when the family gathers, we pose
under the ancient willow for a series of snapshots,
the same willow, its lumpish trunk sheathed in winking aluminum

that so perplexed us forty years ago, before we understood
the voracity of porcupines. Now hollowed by age and marauders,
its aluminum girdle painted dull brown, it is still leafing

out at the top, still housing a tumult of goldfinches. We try to hold still
and smile, squinting into the brilliance, the middleaged children,
the grown grandsons, the dogs of each era, always a pair

of grinning shelter dogs whose long lives are but as grasshoppers
compared to our own. We try to live gracefully
and at peace with our imagined deaths but in truth we go forward

stumbling, afraid of the dark,
of the cold, and of the great overwhelming
loneliness of being last.


-Maxine Kumin
Alaska Quarterly Review

  FACTS ABOUT THE MOON Index



The moon is backing away from us
an inch and a half each year.  That means
if you’re like me and were born
around fifty years ago, the moon
was a full six feet closer to the earth.
What’s a person supposed to do?
I feel the gray cloud of consternation
travel across my face.  I begin thinking
about the moon-lit past, how if you go back
far enough you can imagine the breathtaking
hugeness of the moon, prehistoric
solar eclipses when the moon covered the sun
so completely there was no corona, only
a darkness we had no word for. 
And future eclipses will look like this: the moon
a small black pupil in the eye of the sun.
But these are bald facts. 
What bothers me most is that someday
the moon will spiral right out of orbit
and all land-based life will die. 
The moon keeps the oceans from swallowing
the shores, keeps the electromagnetic fields
in check at the polar ends of the earth.
And please, don’t tell me
what I already know, that it won’t happen
for a long time.  I don’t care.  I’m afraid
of what will happen to the moon. 
Forget us.  We don’t deserve the moon.
Maybe we once did but not now
after all we’ve done.  These nights
I harbor a secret pity for the moon, rolling
around alone in space without
her milky planet, her only love, a mother
who’s lost a child, a bad child,
a greedy child or maybe a grown boy
who’s murdered and raped, a mother
can’t help it, she loves that boy
anyway, and in spite of herself
she misses him, and if you sit beside her
on the padded hospital bench
outside the door to his room, you can’t not
take her hand, listen to her while she
weeps, telling you how sweet he was,
how blue his eyes, and you know she’s only
romanticizing, that she conveniently
forgotten the bruises and booze,
the stolen car, the day he ripped
the phones from the walls, and you want
to slap her back to sanity, remind her
of the truth: he was a leech, a fuck-up,
a little shit, and you almost do
until she lifts her pale puffy face, her eyes
two craters, and then you can’t help it
either, you know love when you see it,
you can feel it’s lunar strength, its brutal pull. 


 -Dorianne Laux
 Facts about the Moon



LEARNING TO DRIVE

The long miles down the back road
I learned to drive on.  The boy riding
shotgun.  His hand on my hand on

the gear shift knob, our eyes locked
on the dusty windshield, the cracked
asphalt, old airstrip, the nothing spreading

for miles: scrub brush, heat waves, sky,
a few thin contrails.  His patience
endless.  My clumsiness: the grinding

gears, the fumbled clutch. The wrench
of it popped like an arm from its socket,
his blue, beloved 57 Ford lurching,

stalled in the dirt.  I was 16, he was older,
his football-player shoulders muscular,
wide.  Where did he get his kindness? 

Why spend it on a girl like me: skinny,
serious, her nails bitten, her legs
bruised.  Hours under summer’s

relentless heat, his car stumbling
across the barren lot until I got it,
understood how to lift my left foot,

press my right hand, in tandem, like dancing,
which I never learned to do, never wanted
to turn circles on the polished floor

of a dark auditorium, the bleachers
hemming me in. I drove toward the horizon,
gravel jitterbugging under his tires. Lizards

skittering.  Jays rising to the buzz
of telephone wires.  He taught me
how to handle a car, how to downshift

into second, peel out from a dead stop. 
His fist hung from the open window,
knuckles clamped on a lit cigarette,

dragging smoke.  We couldn’t guess
where we were going. He didn’t know
he was flying to Vietnam

and I was on my way out of there,
The Byrds singing Eight Miles High
when he turned off the radio

and told me to brake, opened his door
and slid out to stand on the desert road,
let me go it alone.  His back pressed

against all that emptiness.

-Dorianne Laux

The Book of Men



THE BEATLES

I never really understood why the Beatles
broke up, the whole
Yoko Ono thing seemed an excuse
for something deeper. 
Sure, she was an irritation
with her helium screech, her skimpy
leatherette skirts, those tinted ovoid glasses
eclipsing half her face. 

But come on, Hey Jude
was putting caviar on the table, not to mention
those glittering lines of cocaine.  Beatle music
was paying for moats dug out with a fleet
of backhoes circling the stadium-sized perimeters
of four manicured estates.  Why Don’t We
Do It In the Road was backing up traffic
around the amphitheaters of the industrial world.
Yoko’s avant-garde art projects and op-art
outfits were nothing against the shiploads of lucre
 I’m Fixing a Hole and Here Comes the Sun
were bringing in.

So why did they do it? 
They had wives, kids, ex-wives, mortgages,
thoroughbreds and waist-coated butlers, lithe
young assistants power lunching with publicists
in Paris, Rome.  And they must have loved
one another almost as much as John
loved Yoko, brothers from the ghetto,
their shaggy heads touching
above the grand piano, their voices
straining toward perfect harmony.

Maybe they arrived
at a place where nothing
seemed real.  A field
bigger than love or greed or jealousy. 
An open space
where nothing is enough.


-Dorianne Laux
 Superman: The Chapbook


writing poetry writing poetry   MEAT AND LATKE PIE Indexwriting poetry writing poetry writing poetry
writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry
writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry writing poetry

 

My brother wore his favorite shirt
that winter night they took him away
the shirt that "strongly suggests"
that those in power are illegitimate.
We knew they'd come with ritual offense
in the small hours reserved for small acts.

Friends slipped through the curfew
with luxuriesvodka, fruit, and fresh meat for
the latke pies prepared as for a high
holy feastincense of their sympathy,
gifts to ease the waiting, sustain what was left
of sanity.  We could deny the inevitable
while loosing time together; watching
the watchers, drinking white spirits
until they broke through as tears.
They sent back his shirt
without the buttons.
Each anniversary, I wear it.
Ice flakes scraped with the plastic edge
of my new green-card settle on the cuffs,
memorials to the missing buttons.
Windshield wipers smack at the edge
of space cleared but not yet enough
to see a way ahead, to see a way home;
but it's a beginning, here in Freedom, 
Wyoming, a place I chose for its name.
Go, they begged, before they take both of you.

I no longer flinch when pipes bang.  I bleed
only radiator air, the rust smell mixing
with last night's garlic.  I no longer fear
hammering on my doornow, I long
for itsomeone to speak my name,
someone bringing meat-and-potato pie.

                               -Rodney Lay 
                                Potomac Review

 

  LAST NIGHT I DREAMED Index
 

You see, doctor, last night I dreamed I was a bullet again. It wasn't all bad, at first: I made a lot of bullet-friends, some of them I even got so close to that when it all turned, when I learned I was expendable, that I had given them all the ammunition they'd ever need to simply use me . . . well, shoot, I was already as vulnerable as a man, could almost feel what it was like to have skin. And then in the dream I dreamt I was a man. . . being pushed
out of a house like a gun giving birth to a bullet, and being made to walk down some alley like a shot in the dark. In the alley the air pushed down on my head, it was so strange to be moving so slowly. The walls of two buildings pushed towards me almost kindly, to cradle me or kill me, almost kindly. And this is so strange, I thought, to be taking a powder and think the walls might love me. It made me believe that everything I've ever done has been too fast, and I had an image of the face of my life exploding by, looking at me kind of sadly, like it would never forgive me or return. And that's why I'm here this afternoon. It's like all of a sudden I have a question or two, and this morning when I looked in the mirror, when I put my gun in my pocket, I hadn't the least idea of who to ask.

                                        -DAVID LAZAR
                                       Spoon River Poetry Review

INTRICATE MOTIVES
 . . . half a century ago
   when things still seemed pretty modern
   and underlying motives were the same
   though not the dark, intricate working out of them.
                             -John Ashbery, "Film Noir"

The trick is to understand that Point A and Point B are really quite
close. For example, there are many other places further down the line that are letters and letters away. And why would you even think of Point F or Point S when B is where he is, having dinner with his girl, right there in the middle of some clamhouse, open like an oyster that your bullet can pearl. As for the reasons why, they were personal, and I was compelled. Why should anyone get away with something like the worst smell of the worst part of town? You know he might as well have done it to you, even if he didn't. What was he thinking moving around so early in the morning for such a thing? How couldn't he know that you would be in this position, that eventually you would find the thing out, that mess in a corner of Avenue A. It's simple math that when a thing is done, someone will have to do something else, and that I would do it even if I didn't  have to. It's so obvious it could be a philosophy. It's so insulting it
could be an insult. I'll crack him like a soft-boiled egg for not respecting me, even though he doesn't even know me, for being so stupid to not understand the consequences that lead from this to this are as close as the space between two letters. What, after all, is the longest distance between
point A and point B?


                                                                   
 -David Lazar
Southern 
Humanities Review 

The Dark Lady of the Movies

I don't have to shoot. I don't have to glide words around the wound of the world, or my own, like a schoolboy learning how to use a slide rule, or something slipping down a dark alley. Men are terminally glib--that's the original sin. When they rib you, you'd think they created you. The rib is the rub; I let them think I'm amused. When I cross my legs, or genuflect, I'm playing with two things I made all by myself--them and me, like the monster making Frankenstein, and himself. I'm the bride, but not Christ's, sugar, and not of any sucker in seersucker, with a line in one hand and a little piece of shadow in the other. I'm the bride of myself, a holy matrimony made in a hollow place near Saginaw, and a ceremony where I play every part: priestess, bridesmaid, bridesman?--I made that word up--the woman who shouts her own objections. I'm the church in a red dress, the sacrifice of self-sacrifice, a union of necessity and a torn piece of white linen. If you think you see a streak of light across my eyes, it's because the face of the world was conceived blackly, and a voice told me to provide something dark and shiny, some image of self-image, repeated. I need an accomplice, that's my fatal flaw, slouching towards a couch in a shabby room when I should be the Empress of China, Cleopatra, at least Theda Bara. Even though the asp comes out of my breast, it strikes back at its home; but it's still a fatal mistake to think I won't get the goods on you, that I could be shanghaied is a dirty little myth: I'm a hall of mirrors that no one should ever shoot in.

-David Lazar
Third Coast, Summer 2005
The

 
  WONDER: RED BEANS AND RICELY
for Christopher Matthews
Index



He blew the famous opening figure of “West End Blues”
and then... A long pause. A long long pin-drop pause.
This sounded like nothing the four of us had been hearing out here
at the Famous Sunnybrook Ballroom in East Jesus, PA,
which was in fact a moth-eaten tent to which in summer
the post-war big bands, then fading into the fifties --
the likes of the Elgars or Les Brown and His Band of Renown --
would arrive to coax the newly middle-aged and their elders
into nostalgia and dance. My cousin, our pretty steadies
and I were younger, cocksure, full of contraband beer,
but the moment I speak of knocked even us in the know-it-all chops.

I suddenly dreamed I could see through the tent’s canvas top
clear up to stars that stopped their fool blinking and planets that stood
stock-still over cows and great-eyed deer in the moonlight
and ducks ablaze on their ponds because everything in God’s world
understood this was nothing like anything they’d known before.
It’s still a fantasy, that sorry tent a lantern,
transparent as glass, through which I beheld the landscape around it
as though it showed in some Low Country more-than-masterpiece
while no one danced. The crassest fat-necked burgher in the crowd
sat rapt, as did his missus, the moment being that strong.
It lingered strong, beginning to end, through the blues that followed.

Then Velma Middleton got up to jive and bellow.
She broke the charm, her scintillant dress like a tent itself,
and people resumed the lindy and foxtrot as she and he
traded the always-good-for-laughs double meanings
of “Big Butter and Egg Man,” “That’s My Desire,”
and so on. And so we four, or rather we two boys,
resumed our drinking and boasting until the band took its break.
Full enough by now of the Bud and some of the rum
that the cousin had brought -- which would take him in too sadly short a time
away to another shore forever -- I stood and pledged:
I’ll get his autograph. It made no sense at all.

I staggered to and through the canvas’s backstage hole,
the mocking jibes of cousin and sweethearts dying behind me,
and beheld a row of semi- trucks: his equipage.
There were two doors as to a house in each, and a little set
of metal steps underneath. Without a hitch, I climbed
one stair of the bunch. It made no sense except it did.
I knew.... Something had burned into my reeling brain
when that opening solo started, and the man would have to be
just there where he was when I knocked on one of the several doors
inside the trailer, and the growl was Fate: it didn’t surprise me:
Come in, he said. How could he? How could he not? I came.

It was meant to be, and still I stammered with puzzlement, shame.
I’d had a vision, yes, and yet to have the vision
there before me.... Wonder! Great Armstrong at a desk
in an undershirt, suspenders flapping, his face near blinding,
sweatbeads charged by the gimcrack rack of fluorescent lights
so that he seemed to wear an aura -- it was all
one supple motion, the way he reached into a drawer,
drew out a jug of Johnny Walker, sucked it down
to the label, squared before him a sheet of paper, ready
for me, it seemed, flourished a fountain pen and wrote:
Red Beans and Ricely Yours at Sunny Brook Ballroom . Pops.

Back at the table they judged it was real enough by the looks.
“I just walked in and got it,” I bragged, as if a miracle
hadn’t transpired, as great as any I’d ever know.
I bragged as if my part in it all were important somehow,
and God hadn’t just looked down and said, Well okay -- him.
And what remains from then? Not the paper, long since lost,
nor the lovely, silken girls, Sally and Barbara,
nor the cousin, as I’ve said, who crossed the foulest river,
nor that brash, that truly and stunningly blessèd younger I,
nor the heavenstruck beasts and the trees and the moon and the sky.

Just a handful of opening notes from a horn which are there forever.



-Sydney Lea
The Southern Review

  FORM Index
 


In pattern affirm
expansion of thought. 
 
In vagueness draw taut.
In craft avoid charm.

When jaded, transform.
When cast small, exploit

what is small. When brought 
to extremes conform

if what is conformed
takes widening weight. 

When rigid be wrought.
When assumed, disarm.

When fervor is sought,
yield frenzy of storm.

 

          -Hailey Leithauser

                   Poetry

 


The Yearning in Mid-Life for Marriage


Gather me. The age
of love’s detritus

drops fast upon us
when all is heart’s sludge

dredged in vast tonnage
from holds within us.

Espouse and we plus
gross from loss, manage

a sweet, rare silage.
Or refrain, dismiss

a last, dearth-torqued kiss
and cuddle salvage

of brake and cactus,
burr and skunk cabbage.

 

                -Hailey Leithauser

        The National Poetry Review

 

Octopus


        Most entangled
 and limb burdened, buoyed smoke- and ghost-
 and Christ-like in reluctant temperament,
     citizens of crevices
        and small lost pots,
  
       they lack panache.   
 Once my mother made one of a wash-
 cloth laced with blooded clay. Twelve years later
    on a cold Tribeca bar-
       room barstool in

       a lean, gin-bright
 Easter Sunday morning lull, I ate
 two, diced and salted on a shell thin plate
    of pale, petal stenciled trim
      and orchid white.


                   -Hailey Leithauser 

                              Margie

  ELEGY FOR PAT RIZZO Index
 



This morning, the wind is all we have of time.

And though no one drowns, Tomales bay seems an afterlife
your father would want to enter, balloons lifting into sky

like the little boats cornered in his last breaths,
and the body's torturous slowing
winding the joy of a dozen children taut.

Look at how they dive and leap
just beyond our reach.

Look at how their gravity dissolves
and then returns, as if to practice leaving.

I know you feel it too:
how the laurel bays nod to the horizon;

How the endpoints of your father's history
suspend you in the thick blue dream
of a late summer noon,
the children gathered now around the candles.

And as they bend to damp the flame,
I want you to put your arm in mine;
I want to touch the girls we once were
in exactly the way they need.

I want them to hear you whispering, It will be alright,
just as here, high above the bay,
a flock of cormorants arrows west.

Their wings make a thrumming cloak
as they rust past, and then just as quickly
fall away,

so that suddenly we are undressed
of all our ordinary shame, and perilously beautiful

in the winter of what follows after:
that orchard of dark rain
unfolding in the distance--

always the distance
ripening, gathering weight.


-Julia Levine
Parthenon West Review

  HOMECOMING Index



An actual place in the actual city
where we all grew up. You and I pass it
on the way to school or on the way home
after work. It's where the old house
once stood, its wide eyes open day and night,
replaced by nothing. Call it an empty lot
though it's not empty. Wild flags in April,
a froth of lacy white flowers Mama called
wild chicory, and milkweed, rye, broom,
in autumn the aftermath of rhubarb
no one ever harvests, a long trench
suitable for warfare and once propped
with spare timbers from the first house
that crashed here.

Three blocks away,
where the local police station once ruled
over seventeen abandoned bungalows
and the pharmaceutical warehouse
the mice sublet, the traffic light stuck
on yellow years ago, so now the big semis
bound for Wyandotte go through
without bothering to slow. It grants
a certain misleading permissiveness
you'd expect to find in the brighter
neighborhoods of Amsterdam or Vegas,
those places where blown roses spread
their private charms on long stems
lacquered like toenails.

The real city
awakens on a late Saturday morning
in the new century to find its river
working seaward, the faceless moon--
awake all night--has stolen off
without a word. In the house
that stood here, a shade is raised
to let the day in, a woman's memory
almost takes shape as she stands
frozen at the window. If we're quiet
we might hear something alive
on the move through the dusty alleys
or the little, abandoned parks, some-
thing left behind, the spirit of the place
welcoming us, if the place had a spirit.


-Philip Levine
The New Yorker
 

 

  ON THAT DAY
Index

 

 

Ruffian…Her speed outpaced the cougar. Her grace rivaled the Gazelle.

In the long history of horse racing, she was to be only a moment’s magic.

She had “the look of eagles” which no one could forget.” Dorothy Callahan

 

it was as if she had

wings and then

the wings turned to

wax, were melting.

There was a hush,

seconds after the

wild cheers as

Ruffian edged

ahead. It was hot

and the roses were

dripping. The sun

kept on, as it did

with Icarus falling

from the sky on

melting wings. The

birds didn't stop.

When her jockey

pulled her up that

last night, everyone

who knew must

have covered

their eyes

 

-Lyn Lifshin

 

From THE LICORICE DAUGHTER:

MY YEAR WITH RUFFIAN

-Texas Review Press

 

 

CHAMPLAIN, BRANBURY, THE LAKES AT NIGHT

 

always women in the

dark on porches talking

as if in blackness their

secrets would be safe.

Cigarettes glowed like

Indian paintbrush.

Water slapped the

deck. Night flowers

full of things with wings,

something you almost

feel like the fingers

of a boy moving, as if

by accident, under

sheer nylon and felt

in the dark movie house

as the chase gets louder,

there and not there,

something miscarried

that maybe never was.

The mothers whispered

about a knife, blood.

Then, they were laughing

the way you sail out of

a dark movie theater

into wild light as if no

thing that happened

happened

 

-Lyn Lifshin

 

from ANOTHER WOMAN WHO LOOKS LIKE ME,

BLACK SPARROW PRESS AT DAVID GODINE INC.

 

 

 

ARIZONA RUINS

 

Past Mogollon River

the limestone ruins

scrape it with your finger

and the floor breaks

 

The talc

must have dusted

their dark

bodies as they squatted on these

floors grinding

mesquite and creosote

 

No one knows

where they went

from the cliffs

with their

earth jars and sandals

 

Or if they

cursed the

desert moon

as they wrapped

their dead

babies

in bright cloth

and jewels

 

2

 

Now cliff swallows

nest in the mud

where the Sinaqua

lived

until water ran out

 

High in these white cliffs

weaving yucca and cotton

How many nights did they listen

for cougar

as they pressed the wet

rust clay

into bowls

they walked

200 miles to trade in Phoenix

before it was time to leave

 

40 years

before Columbus

 

3

 

Noon in the

caves

 

it is summer the

children are sleeping

 

The women

listen to a story

one of them has heard

of an ocean

 

Deerflesh dries in the sun

they braid

willow stems

and don’t look up

 

When she

is done

they are all

stoned on what could come

from such water

 

It is cool and dark

inside here

 

This was the place

 

4

 

The others

have gone to find

salt and red

stones for earrings

 

The children

 

climb down

 

To look for lizards

and nuts he

 

takes the girl he

wants

for the first time

 

Her blood cakes

on the white chalk

floor

 

Her thighs

 

will make a bracelet

in his head

 

5

Desert bees

fall thru the wind

over the pueblos

velvet ash and barberry

 

They still find

 

bodies

buried in the wall

a child’s bones

wrapped in yucca leaves

and cotton

 

bats fly thru the

ruins now

scrape the charred

walls white

 

The people left

the debris of their lives here

arrows, dung

And were buried

with the bright

turquoise they loved

sometimes carved

into animals and birds

 

-Lyn Lifshin

 

From BEFORE IT’S LIGHT,

BLACK SPARROW PRESS

Space Space   ANTEDILUVIAN
IndexSpace Space Space
Space Space Space Space
Space Space Space Space

 

 

Such tabloid frenzy once word got out.

 

Never mind the flood.

 

Consequences standing in for God.

 

Question lyric authenticity.

 

This need we have to rescue ourselves.

 

As thousands storm the stage.

 

To trust mistrust instead of money.

 

Please go on. And on.

 

Sun and rain and the in-between.

 

A media circus in his pants.

 

Aboard an ark of our own making.

 

Far easier to go than not.

 

And love you long as the moment lasts.

 

                                   -Timothy Liu

           Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art


AN ASSIGNATION

 

 

where our initials remain

 

carved into the trunk

of an American beech

 

come loose—words

 

only lovers could inflict

on a landscape gone

 

to seed—staggerbush

 

wherever snakeroot

spread beneath the shade

 

of false solomon’s seal—

 

                         -Timothy Liu

                              Field


AUTHENTICITY

 

 

caught up in a rhythm of speak-easy love

 

societal strictness as the grounds for drink

 

so found themselves exorcised of doubts

 

orthodoxy sabotaging the selfless selves

 

frolicking hard till the curtain came down

 

came in alone went out a stranger music

 

sounds more dog than dog would ever be

 

as praise embarrassed his gleaming horn

 

passersby rubbing fingers on his cheeks

 

to see indeed if the color would come off

 

                                        -Timothy Liu

                                       The Progressive

 

Space Space   AVOCADO
for Robert Bly
IndexSpace Space Space
Space Space Space Space
Space Space Space Space

 


It is a green globe like a vegetable light bulb
with a stem to meet either soil or small living tree;
it is mottled like an old man's face or is wizened
like the enormous head of a fetus. Now the stem
has come away from a navel.
It has the stolid heft of a stone. The smell seeps up
and leads the mind far away to the earth's ancient cave.
Its taste is also a pungent dirt with a kind of bark
that is quite difficult to chew;
here is the small tomb of woman.
Mother smells its fresh soil even with her dead sense. She feels
its husk. Her body inside is the soft flesh of fruit,
and her heart this oval green core.
Her grief, her anger is that she
no longer has life, but the stuff of her breathes a res-
idue that has remained in earth
and in the minds of the children.
Oh, now I know her skin sighs green
as this fluted fruit: her spirit
is the taste of it, transmuted.



-John Logan
Pancake Press

  The Fatal Shore Index


The Fatal Shore

The horseshoe crab in frail armorplate,
broken open as if by a javelin throw,
lay in the sand like a cracked jam jar,
the son of some Trojan.

Achilles too arrived in medias res
at his mortal scene.
The booming foghorn, the groaning buoy,
tide by tide by tide

kept their mockeries to themselves. 
Was there no end to them?
Lost Renaissance studies with a sepia cast,
the dunes receded in perspective.

Fog lounged in the marsh shallows.
A soda-colored dawn again and again
rubbed salt into the clapboards,
collapsing upon a radiant wild-eyed dailiness.

Dullness, too, was my god.
Tangled knobs of seaweed
drifted up the beach on the curt tide,
like myrmidons out of work.

                                    -William Logan
                                    The New Yorker


The Prairie

The winding road beneath the ancient oaks,
edged with palmetto scrub, like nature’s little jokes,

cut a crooked path to that antique Eden,
one that God forgot.  A place like Sweden.

Past the sudsy gray lake where water boiled,
the treeless, marshy prairie, still unspoiled,

unfolded to the horizon, a hand-drawn chart
with monsters at the corners, like a work of art.

We lay beneath the gray-green oaks to rest,
while blizzards rang their changes further west.

Then, before us, a red-shouldered hawk
dropped like the hand of an invisible clock

into dry cracked reeds.  The day grew still,
as if someone somewhere had grown ill.

At last the hawk lifted, with something in its claws—
even Dame Nature must obey her laws.

And that was all.  No one else was there to see,
or provide the consolation of philosophy.

When we turned back, the breeze had shifted,
or was that cloud like an eyebrow lifted?

                                               -William Logan
                                            New England Review


The Blessèd Redemption of Delft
 (i.m. Carel Fabritius, 1622-1654)

Rank with the clotted, simmering greens,
the sleek canals were overgrown
with shade, and then the thought of shade
   the painter made his own.

The rain was taught by harder rains,
as if the heavens disagreed
with that distinguished, apostolic light
   consoling in its need.

He loved the century’s moral itch,
the mortal purpose of the eye,
revealing what would constitute
   a civilized reply.

Within the burnished, gilded frame,
the oil starts to turn to flesh,
as if the burning of long silences
   let us begin afresh.

                                 -William Logan
                               The New Republic

writing poetry writing poetry   DISFIGUREMENT Indexwriting poetry writing poetry writing poetry
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I knew a woman without blemish,
whose black hair fell past her face,
her breasts, her thin waist, her legs.

The last time I saw her, before she vanished,
she said, It's a spell. I never thought
anyone could be so beautiful.

You children of the lake, who climb
trees and steal eggs from nests, who steal
into the chicken coop and take eggs,

who hide in the ink at the edge of light
so no one sees you when you throw eggs
at the window of the woman you call witch--

in the morning you will find your yellow
names scratched in the yolk, you will
from there on be called Sulphur.


-Richard Long
The Modern Review

 

  EVERYWHERE I GO THERE I AM Index

 

Broken Rule #5

 

EVERYWHERE I GO THERE I AM

                       

No self-pitying poems.

                        - Carolyn Kizer

 

 

Two women lean at the cafeteria

counter in the last great

dime store downtown, Broadway

 

off Sixth. They've journeyed

through aisles of shower caps,

dollar jewelry, baby toys,

 

just to sit down. The old ones

hair's gone pale, tied back

like a trickle of snow,

 

her limbs so thin she could be

lifted on strings

like a puppet, then let go.

 

But her friend had looks she maybe

followed her star, came West.

Now she nightshifts someplace

 

for her bus fare and low rent.

She thinks, I bet, to hell with it

and rubs out her cigarette.  Some star.

 

Yeah, it all adds up to one long

ride down

the escalator to the bins

 

of cheap stuff where you settle

for what you can get, then back up

for some lukewarm tea.

 

Don't be fooled, its just

another half-disguised

poem about me.

 

Check back in twenty years

or so, you'll see. 

 

                 - Suzanne Lummis

                The Antioch Review         

 

HURRYING TOWARD THE PRESENT

                        "No past tense permitted"
                        - Kay Boyle,  A Poem for Samuel Beckett
                                                            

Darlings, this may be the only
great escape we'll ever make:
start dropping your past
behind you-seeds, kernels
to be pecked up by scavengers.
You won't find your way back.

Or try this: package it,
mark it Was.  Leave it in a locker
at the Greyhound Bus station.
Leave the door ajar.  Let
a thief inherit it. You can bet
it'll dog him like it dogged you.

Step smack-flat into
the blasting present,
your heart asserting Now-Now.
You feel neither the pain
left behind, nor what waits
tapping its hard foot
up ahead.

And now, stand up the future!
Let it go on pacing and cursing
as it peers towards your whereabouts,
and the cat's eye gleam
of its watch calculates
the lateness of the hour.

                       -Suzanne Lummis
                   The Cider Press Review




MEDUSA DEPRESSED

Tell me about it, for me
everyday's a bad hair day.
And no stylist in town'll
give me the latest non-
peroxide tint-they make
excuses, "Uh, sorry,
Ms. Medusa, we're all
booked up, no way."
Then people blame me
for my looks-jerks!
And shampoo?  Yeah, right.
When soap gets in their eyes
try to pull a comb through these-
vipers you know, all of them
pissed off at each other and
the world. So, sure, they bite.
Plus: Girlfriend, you think
you've got it rough finding
men who aren't just mush?
All mine are rock!
But could I chip through
the granite and pull the men
back out?  Guess not.
All I want 's a guy
who'd putter around out back,
fix things, come in handy.
And I'm still a babe-get past
my head, I'm hot.
I'm snake-bite candy.
In my dreams I let down, down,
my silky teen-queen locks,
and some cute prince climbs up.
If he asked I'd tell him, Oh,
those sculptures all along the walk?
Tributes to men who loved me
at first sight-that dangerous
emotion, like crystal Meth.  Whoosh!
Dude,
          I took their breath.

                            - Suzanne Lummis
                                    Agenda

 

Truant

Index

 

When the weather is right,

on the long drive to work, country roads all the way,

I stop at a bridge


on the Neuse River

and walk the span to loosen my legs and check

the riverscape changing.


Five minutes might pass

before a car does.  Last week, an old farmer idled by

on a green John Deere.


His passing opened a huge quiet.

High water chuckled against wooden piers.

Mayflies glittered in the sun.


And the watertop was a black trance

until a light blue kayak floated into view below me—

a kid with a blaze of blond hair.


He leaned back, paddle

across gunnels, blades flashing, his face to the sky,

an appraiser on duty.


With me it was a lake,

an Old Town canoe.  I’d lie in the bottom, inspect the clouds

for shape, color, and size—my first job


to let the wind move me

toward some surprise, naming as I went: boot, nose, horsetail—

“Hey, are you okay?”


It was a county sheriff,

in a maroon cruiser, a white Stetson shading his face.

Did he think I was about to jump?


“You ain’t got any ideas, right?”

I smiled and shook my head.   No ideas but in things,

my smart-ass twin almost said.


But whatever ideas I had

had dissolved into a picture of that boy in the kayak

drifting with clouds.


“I was just looking,” I said,

“Just looking,“ and stepped from the rail

toward one more hour at the wheel.

                           —Peter Makuck

                  North American Review



A GUIDE TO ARRIVAL

           All the way to heaven is heaven

                  —St. Catherine of Siena

Remove your watch

and pick a place,

the back porch, say.

Expect nothing

when you step out


toward the blue crowns

of hydrangea that draw

attention to the absence

of wind.


Sit on the steps.

Watch the yard

shed its dark colors,

and dogwood tire

of its white meaning.


Don't think

that flicker in the oak

is a May Day

from childhood,

some S.O.S. from the past.

No past at all.


The cat sheds fur

that floats from your hand

like milkweed fluff.


Absorb the stillness,

however momentary,

as if in a photo,

followed by a bird cry

not dying away.


In slow motion steps,

the cat takes

her patchwork fur

and vanishes

into the patchwork shade.

You say her name

but she won't come back.


What else do you want?

Tell yourself nothing

that's not right here,

leaves bursting into light,

light into leaves. 


                        —Peter Makuck

                        Poetry Northwest

Trail

It turns along the canyon floor in low winter light,

down into and up the sides of a dried

river bed through palo verde and jumping cholla


that bumped against could set your legs on fire. 

I lag behind, again out of tune

with too much talk, pretending to retie my boot,


and see him again, Paul, drunk and perched

on the porch rail, trying to tie

his shoe, teetering, then falling a good five feet


into a bed of blue and purple pansies where

he lay playing dead, arms folded,

Ray pouring beer, taunting, Get up, you pansy! 


I kept seeing him laid out, but this time not

by laughter.  He fell in the kitchen

and never got up, came word from his son.


This last of my college housemates laughed

long-distance a month ago, us trading

insults as usual, him saying he’d get there first. 


What I should do is stop at the first bar I come to:

Joe, Ray, and me will be waiting. 

We might even buy you a beer, you dumb Polack!


Here I stand looking down at Paul in the pansies,

resurrected in a way,

but still laid out, this desert air getting colder. 


Darkness, like water, lifts from the canyon floor,

slowly climbs the redrock walls. My son

and his cousins are now far ahead, their laughing


voices faded into the repeated cheets of quail,

the shy song of wrens.

What am I doing?  A few miles from the car,


off the trail, I pile some rocks into a small cairn,

mumble a prayer, and start to run,

watching for cholla, sweating and breathing hard.

                                                —Peter Makuck

                                                The Hudson Review


 

writing poetry writing poetry   Home Visit Indexwriting poetry writing poetry writing poetry
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Home Visit:
Texas, 1951


In central Texas dry wind sifts
the powdered surface and no quarter section
holds its own.  Mother took our hands
and led us out past the '32 Ford
on cinder blocks, past the tractor,
ancient red leaning into weeds,
seat peeling where the heat vents poked through.

I wanted to climb the tractor, but we walked.
Behind the farmhouse, we could see our father,
shirtless, digging himself into a hole.
Wide back wet in the sun, jaw set, he smoldered,
like a steam engine, and with each shoveled strike,
his hair tumbled wave over wave onto
his forehead, a golden surf of sweat.

She walked in dime-store sandals, ramrod prim,
the full white skirt of her sundress tossed
by each step, eyes fixed on the horizon,
as though she wished we weren't there.  She didn't sound
like her sisters.  Aunt Billie Doris
chewed a syllable like gum, loving the vowel,
pulling it out in a swoop.  They all did.

We walked, and the labored calls of milk cows
beyond the barn grew faint.  We stomped
scrub to hear the stiff crack against hardpan.
The house, its windmill and stooping tree,
sagged against the sky.  The screen door
hung loose.  Grandfather Gussie and
Uncle James rocked on the unpainted porch,

our father digging still.  All around us
the stubble roasted in the blowing haze.
Our joined hands were moist,
my feet hard-baked, heavy
as oven brick.  Behind a low mesquite,
our mother told us to pull down our pants
and squat.  She did the same.

                                       -Greg McBride
                                       Off the Record:
                                     Poetry by Lawyers


Reunion

Glasses in hand, the better preserved lounge
in cliques, a dusky bar, the loud music ours.
I am praised for the distinguished graying

at my boyish temples, for my slim frame.
It's good-natured flattery from the girls,
themselves a year or two from sixty,

who talk like sisters sharing a history:
the awkward dates, holding hands up the steps
of Goodnoe's ice cream shop after a game.

Still, I respond with renewed, if subdued, lust
in my (I almost said, "heart," but the locus
of lust lies in a warm southerly country

where the rules of heart and lung and liver
get no respect, where religion spends its time
preaching pieties at each new generation

of sinners, where lust rumbles, even now,
like a gentle earthquake, and the blue skies and
sunshine of midnight embrace that simmering land,

its volcanic peaks, its desert, basking
and baking, just waiting and waiting
for that time when, in the end, you're done) heart.



                                                  Greg McBride
                                                     32 Poems
 

Over Arlington Cemetery 

 

On takeoff, rows of soldiers’ stones parry

memory, and warring wives lie buried

beside their men in recompense.  The storied

combat, Custis-Lee Mansion, columbary

and marbled ranks, my mother and father

farther down the gentle slope.  I imagine

them lying uneasy together deep in

their plot—as she faced one way, he the other

in bed at home.  My guess is she hasn’t moaned

a word these thirty years of rest, even mulled

a drink, but he’s suffering without a ball

to hit, or her heart to call his own,

just as it was above ground, where she’s won:

her name south, his name north, from one stone.

       -Greg McBride

        Folio

 

  Dear History Index

DEAR HISTORY

 

Believe me when I tell you

I did not know her name

 

but remember the colour of her dress:

red, like my own school uniform.

 

I did not know death could come to a girl

walking home, stick in hand,

 

tracing circles in the dirt,

singing as she went along.

 

I did not know death

would find someone

 

for wearing the wrong colour smock

in the wrong part of town.

 

My parents spoke in hushed tones,

but I heard the story of her body

 

dragged from street to gully,

left sullied in semen and blood.

 

I heard the song she sang,

the one I wish I could sing now.

 

Truth is, I was that girl.

Truth is, I was never there.

 

                     -Shara McCallum

                       Prairie Schooner

 

 

ELECTION DAYS, KINGSTON

 

There are days so long the sun

seems always overhead, a hefted

medallion hanging in the sky.

They sit in the market,

gathering like flies on fruit, linger in dust

kicked up on roads scorched by drought.

They lie on the base of the neck

like beads of sweat stalling on skin.

 

These are the days in a country’s life

when the air is so still

it collects in folds, drapes itself

through the nostrils of young and old;

when the air is weighted with something

approximating hope.

 

                                    -Shara McCallum

                                      Smartish Pace

 

 

AT THE HANOVER MUSEUM

             (Lucea, Jamaica, 2000)

 

Once many believed in a common dream

of this island, the variegated skins of its fruit

 

arrayed at market.  Every mickel mek a muckle.

But the land keeps opening to loss—

 

flame tree seeds shaken loose from limbs,

sifted flour that will not rise into bread.

 

Stalks of cane grow, unaware of their irony,

scattered across this museum’s grounds.

 

Inside, shackles affixed to cement blocks

have rusted to vermillion, almost beautiful.

 

Here, the sea breaking against cliffs

is a voice I might mistake for the past.

 

At the entrance to town, the sea wall stands.

Balanced on the edge of water and land,

 

children play in the surf; fishermen,

visible in the distance,

 

will later bring in the day’s catch:

snapper on a string, mackerel, even barracuda.

 

In a place where wind drags through leaves,

where dusk can rip daylight to shreds,

 

I emerge into sunlight again,

remembering the lesson of how to eat sugar cane:

 

the trick—to spit out the pulp,

before it grows reedy and bitter in your mouth.

 

                                     -Shara McCallum

                                   Crab Orchard Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

writing poetry writing poetry   SPRING EQUINOX 2005
(or The New War Dead)
Indexwriting poetry writing poetry writing poetry
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A flock of starlings scuttle on the rooftop
splashing in pools of rainwater.

The first leaves in the branches
of the red maple tree. Look, my friend says
there's a kind of dark all around us
you have to get used to it, s'all.

Bricker's neighbor shot himself in his garage, the summer I turned eleven.
He drove an old gray Plymouth,
a car with a single headlight like a beak.
Birdman of Church Street, we called him.
The car was pulled in when the shot went off.
A pistol, Tommy said, Smith & Wesson 38.
Once in winter I cut the yards,
saw him bent over his workbench--
the trouble light overhead, cigarette smoke.
He saw my shadow and looked up.

Now March rain keeps falling
and the news slips out.
The dead come back. A line of graying birds
are huddled together in the rain.


-GERALD McCARTHY
Encounter

War Story #13



At the garbage dump
the air fills with flies,
I hear the droning sigh
above the truck's motor,
the cries of children
fighting for scraps of food,
tin cans, shreds of clothing.
Jenkins laughs, pushes
the fifty-gallon drum
over the tailgate.
The children shout, surge toward us.
Watch this, he says,
tipping the other drum on its side.
it splashes down, covers them
in coffee grounds, stale bread,
egg shells.



-Gerald McCarthy
The North American Review

 

  July 12, 1726: William Fly Index

July 12, 1726: William Fly
Boston, Massachusetts

A boatswain on an English slaver, he threw
his masters overboard, was caught within
the week. In prison, he refused all food
and drink, except for rum. Refused to forgive
his enemies, or say he had: No. I
wont dy with a lye in my mouth.
He swore all the way
to the scaffold, wished the Goddamned ship would fly
away with devils, cursed himself, the day
he was born, and her that bare him
, heaven, the god
who judged him, the man who turned him in. They prayed
for his repentance. He offered scorn, then awed
the crowd with advice to the hangman on his trade:
he tied the knot himself. They let him sway,
then tarred his body, and gibbeted him in the bay.

                                                              

                                                         -Jill McDonough

                                                       Threepenny Review

May 3, 1946: Willie Francis
St. Martinsville, Louisiana

They brought Louisianas only chair
in a pick-up from Angola into Saint
Martinsville Parish, to the Court House, where
a fifteen-year-old colored boy had lain
on straw for months. Jailhouse on the second floor:
Death kindly took the elevator. Wires
were tossed from dynamo to window. Four
men setting up the chair passed flasks, dead tired
and innocent of amps. They called the priest,
and pulled the switch, and thought hed die. He shook
and lurched and gaspedYoure not supposed to breathe!
They shut it down, freed him from straps and hood.
Then Willie Francis stood up without help
andmiracle, miraclewalked back to his cell.

                                                    -Jill McDonough   

                                                  Threepenny Review   


 

May 9, 1947: Willie Francis
Saint Martinsville, Louisiana

The T IMES reporters asked him to describe
the taste of death. Cold peanut butter. Fair
stars, little speckles: pink and green, like shines
in a roosters tail.
He said God foold with the chair.

His father smashed his gravestone into slivers
of granite. Hundreds wrote divine intervention,
how gold electrodes would corrode and silver
wires short if they tried to kill that boy again.
Like Daniel in the lions den; those men
in Nebuchadnezzars furnace; unusual; cruel;
double jeopardy: none of that could save him.
At noon the chair was ready, voltage full.
He said everything is all right and died
without pink stars, green, anything divine.

                                                 -Jill McDonough
                                               Threepenny Review

 

 

TO THE ABSENT WIFE OF THE BEAUTIFUL POET

AT THE WRITERS CONFERENCE
 

Index



I want you to know that nothing happened,
and everything that might have is now sewn
into the hoop of Arizona sky
that stretched above our heads that shy
evening of talk when we left our books
and went out to read the papery news
of bougainvillea. Here was vegetation
more animal than plant, the dangerous spine
of cactus, its fleshy stem and thistle,
and those rubbery tongues lolling speechless
in the desert air where even domestic
herbs turn wild, parsley and dill spilling
over their planned containers. When your husband
broke off a piece of rosemary and held it
out to me, I smelled the sharp clean scent
of marriage, the scent that fills my loved world
three time zones away. My garden, the spotted
cat and aged brandy, the bed pillow minted
with the imprint of my husband's head.
Yet I confess that part of me wanted
to take in that moment the man you more
than half-made, knowing that what I love
most in married men is what is given
by wives. The elbow he leans upon
is your elbow, his listening quiet,
your quiet, practiced in twenty years
of bedtime conversation. If he loved,
in that instant, anything in me, it was
the shape and smell of one whole woman
made from the better halves of two--
your hard earned past and my present, briefly
flaming. Not long ago I watched a girl
I might have been twenty years ago, sit
literally at my husband's feet and adore him.
There are gifts we can give our husbands,
but adoration is not one. If I could,
I would be one woman diverging, walk
one road toward those things that matter
always, the trail long love requires.
The other, for what burned in the eyes
of your husband as he asked, What is the secret
to a long marriage? I gave my grandfather's
bald reply: You don't leave and you don't die.
There are no secrets. Together, the four of us--
your husband, mine, you and I,
have lasted. I started to say forty
married years, but no, it is eighty,
each of us living those years sometimes,
by necessity, singly, the whole of love
greater than the sum of its combined hearts.
That's what I mean about the sky. Its blueness
and the way it goes on forever. An old
teacher told me if you break a line in half
again and again, you will never reach an end.
Infinity is measured by the broken spaces
within as well as by the line spooling out
as far as we can see. I love my husband.
Still, there were spaces in that evening
that will go on dividing our lives. And if
the sky had not begun in that moment
to blink messages of light from stars I thought
had died out long ago, I might have answered
your husband's eyes another way.
And there would have been heaven to pay.


-Rebecca McClanahan
The Kenyon Review

 

WHAT IF THIS LIFE
 

Index



I can say this night is a wheel grinding fine
the edges of bone-white stars so that they gleam
with the cold shine of new knives, the pepper-fine dust,
residue of such honing, falling, invisible, burning through
miles
of night sky, no longer needed by the bodies it falls away from,
leaving only glare, essence without adjectives
to soften what the eye encounters.
* * *
I can say that night is one gear turning against another,
tension that keeps machinery whispering through
its low and unheard cycles, uncounted repetitions
that are finally the strokes we mark across
the unmoving faces time offers, the way my officemate crossed
days off of his calendar, a counting downward
both useless and satisfying.
* * *
The next blank always waits to be written on.
I can say time is the borad the techer wipes clear
at each hour's end or the chalk that is diminished
each time it makes a mark, each mark
simply record of its motion. I can say we are worn away
by the things that shape us, that each time
we write our names or stand in the backyard to watch
the progress of the moon, some uncounted portion
of the self drops away, joins the dust we swipe
from counters and tabletops to become
the hidden and burning debris of stars.
* * *
But we wake not among stars
but in the world of the ten-hour shift,
the skinned knuckle, where rusty nails wait
to bite the unguarded foot. This is the world
of pavements yellow with pollen, cars whose starters
grind the slow notes of their demise, dogs
that come home bloody and torn.
This is the world that waits each day to take
what the simple human body brings.
* * *
It's too simple to say this life is finally
a silver ring circling a finger bone, a watch
ticking on the bedstand after the heart is done.
I can say my route is planned, that I have
maps and supplies, that I know exactly
the day of departure, the angle of return.
I rode a horse at night once, bareback, far past
Any sign of house or road, but when we stopped,
I breathed the smell of someone's orchard.
I took a knife from my pocket, cut
the star-white flesh of an apple so sour
my mouth burned and so new its juices
rolled down my fingers to drop
sugary circles, dark as bulletholes, on my shirt.
 

-Al Maginnes
Southern Poetry Review

 

 

Inside Voice
 

Index



The one the child must use inside a train,
His own absorbed face held where he stares
From this sealed, well-lit minor world as night
Falls upon pass-through places known by name
Only through an image of himself staring
Through himself at the only world he knows. 

He can't help himself, despite the warnings
After his voice rises without his hearing
The sounds of his words because he had to
Feel the speed with which passing through
All that is stone metal shadow lights bodies
Happens. But he'll get used to it, the trembling 

Showing itself in everything, and stops 
Forcing people into people, strangers
Rushing away to wherever they have been
Off lit platforms beside the waiting tracks
Which point to everywhere they can go,
Reduced to seeing out through themselves through

Themselves at others like them opposite,
Who are nearly there before they are gone,
While another world assembles itself
Behind glass moving into another world.
He could tell them what he knows with his inside
Voice. But he will keep this to himself. 

                                                        -Pete Mackey
                                                           Innisfree



HOOPS  

It is no secret
Despite what you thought.
It is the science of motion:
The wrist set back
Like a broken cup,

The ball sliding up
Over the open palm
Into the waiting nest
Of muscle memory
And practiced hands;

As his limbs uncoiled
His body would rise
Through the release
Natural as a breath
Before his descent –

With such backspin
And arc the net
Would hardly move
And no rim or backboard
Would be needed,

You know, knowing
You are not him,
As you bend your wrists
And knees one more time
To shoot, and shoot again.

                      -Pete Mackey
                         Innisfree



THE HAWK 

The hawk changed by the second
Each scrap of grey Ohio sky
With the difference of its motion

Over the leafless trees and fallow
Black earth of early winter
Around that interstate we drove

After we buried him. I thought
A griever's thought: It's a message,
A quick, half-conceived thought

Trying to become belief. As if
The dead spoke in miraculous flight
Almost too quick to see—as a bird

Then a bird of prey. He's gone.
That's the cold truth. Stop thinking
That hawk followed something.

                                      -Pete Mackey
                                         Innisfree

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CALLING HOME
 

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He dials his dead father's house
where timers go off at noon, at dusk,
at nine, allowing the gooseneck lamp
to come on in the den, the radio
to sift through the kitchen walls
and awaken the neighbor's dog,
who no longer waits at the side door
for scraps.

Six rings -- Mother
would have answered by now,
but she's kept in a vest that is tied
to a chair in the rest home he chose
from a list when he was in town.

Twenty rings, and counting:
the pilot light flickers in the stove,
a cobweb undulates
imperceptibly above the sink, the crystal
stemware chimes in its breakfront.

He closes his eyes and listens.
He would like to say something,
but there is nowhere
to begin.


-Dan Masterson
The New Yorker

LE REPAS FRUGAL

             (after Pablo Picasso’s painting of the same name, 1904)

                “A broken spirit drieth the bones.” - Proverbs 17:22

 

Make no bones about it:

A meal’s a meal no matter who’s had at it first. This one they found,

As they often do, sticking out the window of the cooling shelf, still warm

On its cardboard shin, a  gift from the waiter they know only as Alex

Of  Brachium. She has spread her shoulder wrap across the kindling chest,

& set their place: milk-crate chairs, their backs to the wall, the alley now

In broken shade that shimmers on this evening hotter than a pot of neck bones.

 

The tin plate will stay with them when they go off to sleep amongst

The thick brush behind the moss-jutting rocks of  Brenton Park. The bottle

Stands ready with a last whiff of wine to whet the t-bone they’ll soon inhale

As though it were all there. Some of the grizzle & much of the fat remain,

Mixed with torn potato skins & a cob of corn: a few yellow teeth still hanging

On, someone else’s lipstick smeared like orange ketchup across the ruts. No

Concern: a quarter turn will make it a never was. Villagers have watched them

 

Fade from taut to frail during the long years, sitting close against the market

Wall, fingering their tiny flutes, his hat upside down beside them, the flutes

Exquisite in their trill. They fashion them at night from the hollow bones

Of  fallen pigeons whose feathers weigh more than their bones. At dusk,

The coins that feather their nest weigh something less than their bones, more

Like the light heft of an owl’s plug of mice bones found on the attic floor far

Above their usual spot: this windward side of Ganther Lane. You can find

 

Them here, pressed together, as passers-by stride clear of them, whispering

Dull things about bags of bones & arms too sparse even for soup bones, &

Fingers transparent & gray enough to earn them a cadaver’s coin at Old

Sawbones’ cellar on Wealtham Street. He’s waiting for one of them to bring

The other in for cash,  rattling dead on a borrowed bone wagon. Something

To get by on when alone. Old Sawbones admires her vomer bone, & often

Stoops to drop pennies in the hat to get a closer look, wanting to touch it,

 

Barely hidden as it is by nostril skin. The husband’s profile, gaunt in its rusty

Hinge of a jawbone, has caught the eye as well, but there will be no wagon

This night, not a smidgeon of such thoughts, for now they have their bounty

Before them, tasting it through closed eyelids. Feeling it in their bones.

 

                                                                                     -Dan Masterson

                                                                                 Poems Niederngasse

 

FOR A CHILD GOING BLIND


I have awakened her
when the sky was at its blackest,
all stars erased, no moon to speak of,
and led her down the front path
to our dock, where we'd swim to the raft,
finding it by touch
fifty or sixty strokes from shore.

And sit
listening to things, the movement of water
around us drawing us closer, a hunched
double knot of child and father
hearing all there is to hear,
close beneath bats who see without sight,
whose hunger is fed by darkness.

The neighbors see her often in the woods,
on hands and knees, smoothing the moss
where it spreads in the shade, marveling
at the tongues of birds, the stained petal
of the dogwood, the vein of color
skirting the edge of an upturned stone.

This morning she awoke to the first flash
of the magnolia, and will save the petals
as they fall, their purpled lids
curling white on the lawn.

We meant to tell her how the rainbows come,
how they close into shadows,
how we would be there nonetheless;
we meant to tell her before
they arrived at supper this evening,
rimming everything in sight.

She wonders if we see them
cupping the stars, the kitchen lamp,
each other's face, and we say
we do.
                               -Dan Masterson
                               The New Yorker
 

 

THE MISSION
 

Index

 

 

Soot everywhere. Trains, as if World War Two were our era,

pulling out of old South Station. At every grimy window,

two or three men their postures grief-struck, heroic.

 

The iron terminal all my grandparents had arrived at,

their valises and sacks abulge with whatever mean

practical possessions theyd thought to lug into their futures.

 

Now I had their copper pans, their Sabbath candlesticks.

Gloom saturated the enormous room no light motes,

no cappuccinos, no New York Times bestsellers. No matter

 

what the mission, youd be too proud to fail to carry through?.

The hanging clocks hands could hardly bear the inching heavy weight

of time; I couldnt see the arrows move, but if even one local clock

 

were taken for repair or replacement, wed be saved from separation.

Were we was I certain you had no rational choice but to report

for duty? You shouldered an Italian leather case I'd never seen,

 

I, whod polished and folded all your belongings. I touched your face,

you, already distant, aching to get on with it, and II knew

a great hole was being torn in my life, my life that felt like

 

the kind of rice paper Japanese printmakers always seemed to use

such colors, such defined images of comfort and beauty ripped away.

 Whod ordered you to go, to cross three continents

 

and three oceans, knowing the inescapable dangers? Was it

the Secretary of War, that garrulous fool? What could I have thought

to do or say to keep you from the mysterious assignment you welcomed,

 

impelled as you seemed to be by your headstrong restlessness,

your admirable infuriating insistence on doing whats too hard?

Was it too late? On Track Ten, obstinate, oblivious of your wife

 

pleading in the metallic din, were you off to rescue, or murder,

a harmless sinner, were you already doomed to end in a dark alley,

iron and soot, by good angels untenanted?  Dont go  dont  go   dont go   

 

                                                         -Gail Mazur

                                                          Memorius

QUEENIE  

 

What was a horse but a colossal

machine that sped away with me, so

finally I hung by one foot from one

stirrup and bounced along the gravel?

 

Id thought I knew to make her canter

but I was dragged and scraped over

the country road, not thinking, feeling

This is It, nothing ahead for me but hurt

 

and blood and ugliness Who was  that

Queenie, graceful chestnut giantess,

retiree from a circus, rescued

from the glue factory or saved from

 

being horsemeat by the kindly father

of my friend Janet, what deliverer

of knowledge, that she so soulful when

her huge teeth snarked an apple from my hand

 

could, in one instant, catapult me,

a dauntless child of ten, from that morning

to this day I steer our car across a bridge

to your hospital, this brutal day I need

 

no brilliant doctor to tell me what comes

with the terrain, to say therell be no one to

lift me from the ground, to carry me to

the stable, to bring me uninjured home.

 

                                          -Gail Mazur

                                           Salamander

 

THE ISLAND  

 

Was I the last one waiting? Epochs passed,

tides tossed the island twice each day, sometimes

 

a lazy shushing, sometimes violent then

tides would frighten me, count-down clocks striking

 

off the muzzy days and nights. Mosses grew

around mepin cushion, pale shield, old mans

 

beard. One gray day, walking on the sand,

I found a wooden shoe last, size 4, stamped

 

1903, the cobbler whod worked with it

long gone yet why only now had it washed

 

ashore? And one night, I saw 6 peonies

tossed on the rocks Sarah Bernhardts, I thought

 

fringed yellow hearts, their palest pink petals

tinged vermilion, strewn, shipwrecked children,

 

lonely drowned bodies white in the moons glow.

Where does anything come from?

 

I picked my way over granite to gather them,

then brought them back to the cabin

 

where their frail heads drooped from a Chinese vase,

nodding feelingly at the dead childs shoe.

 

Then, a little interlude of pure joy, amnesiac,

so human then hail, rain, wind, the flailing trees.

 

                                                       -Gail Mazur

                                                       Ploughshares

 

  I THOUGHT OF DONNE
Index



I thought of Donne, and how the pride must war--
Of Manley Hopkins, godlier by far,
His filial bemusement death and birth
Counting the spots of God on this, God's earth.

And then, asleep, I dreamed of Henry Ford
Wandering beardless down orchestral ways
Of factories.  A patriarchal lord,
Counting his beads of praise.

 

                                 -Elizabeth McFarland     
                                            Poetry

 


      FEED MY BIRDS

Feed my birds,
But not the whitethroat in his cage of air!
Feed robin, hawk,
The attendant flock
Of rooftree birds, and birds of prey or prayer;
But not the lost love calling, calling there.

At that wild voice
Trees touch their tips together and rejoice,
Rising full-leaved through waterfalls of sound,
That evergreen lament
Beyond all words has sent
Touch as soft as moss on woodland limbs unbound.

O feed them, scatter seed upon the ground!
Feed homing dove and jay,
Chickadees in black beret,
Feed simple starling, thrush, and small-shawled wren;
But sparrow, the white-throated one,
Feed not again!


                                             -Elizabeth McFarland
                                                 Sewanee Review

 
 


      REMINDERS

The day I die
May not dawn fair,
But later, afternoon
Will clear.

A gawky breeze,
Say South-Southwest,
Will tentatively
Touch your face.

And where you go
To choose my grave
The flowers will lie
All night for love--

Mosses and stones,
Thin-fingered twigs,
Leaves with the sun
Ablaze in their ribs,

And the soft, incon-
Sequential rain,
And so I'll not
Leave you alone.


   -Elizabeth McFarland
           Crossroads

 



space space   THE NOMAD FLUTE Indexspace space space
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You that sang to me once sing to me now

let me hear your long lifted note

survive with me

the star is fading

I can think farther than that but I forget

do you hear me

 

do you still hear me

does your air

remember you

oh breath of morning

night song morning song

I have with me

all that I do not know

I have lost none of it

 

but I know better now

than to ask you

where you learned that music

where any of it came from

once there were lions in China

 

I will listen until the flute stops

and the light is old again

 

                      -W.S. Merwin

Copper Canyon Press

 

 

TO THE WORDS  

 

When it happens you are not there

 

O you beyond numbers

beyond recollection

passed on from breath to breath

given again

from day to day from age

to age

charged with knowledge

knowing nothing

 

indifferent elders

indispensable and sleepless

 

keepers of our names

before ever we came

to be called by them

 

you that were

formed to begin with

you that were cried out

you that were spoken

to begin with

to say what could not be said

 

ancient precious

and helpless ones

 

say it


                      -W.S. Merwin

                      Copper Canyon Press

 


YESTERDAY

 

My friend says I was not a good son

you understand

I say yes I understand

 

he says I did not go

to see my parents very often you know

and I say yes I know

 

even when I was living in the same city he says

maybe I would go there once

a month or maybe even less

I say oh yes

 

he says the last time I went to see my father

I say the last time I saw my father

 

he says the last time I saw my father

he was asking me about my life

how I was making out and he

went into the next room

to get something to give me

 

oh I say

feeling again the cold

of my father’s hand the last time

 

he says and my father turned

in the doorway and saw me

look at my wristwatch and he

said you know I would like you to stay

and talk with me

 

oh yes I say

 

but if you are busy he said

I don’t want you to feel that you

have to

just because I’m here

 

I say nothing

 

he says my father

said maybe

you have important work you are doing

or maybe you should be seeing

somebody I don’t want to keep you

 

I look out the window

my friend is older than I am

he says and I told my father it was so

and I got up and left him then

you know

 

though there was nowhere I had to go

and nothing I had to do


                      -W.S. Merwin

                      Copper Canyon Press

 
space space   THE ANATOMY THEATER

            After a woodblock print in Andreas Vesalius' Fabrica, 1543.
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Do they strain to see the glimmer of a soul rise,

two souls like a pair of dusty starlings?

Or is it the visceral they are interested in, this great

concourse of arms and legs and heads thronging

toward the center of the amphitheater, where,

at its vortex, a woman, the only stillness,

has, like a peach dropped in boiling water,

split down her gravid center? The rabble jockeys

toward her womb; men press through the balcony

bars, gesture largely, scrabble to touch the cloth

she lies on, a bit of thigh, or the back of the anatomist's

cape. The anatomist, a magician in his dark robes,

his prostrate lady before him, looks out at us

(what secret will he withdraw next? the veined

balloon of her bladder, the umber stalk

of the umbilicus, the fetus' tiny frog-like foot?)

and raises a finger to bid us attend. But it is the skeleton

who presides over this carnival; he sits

on the balcony railing, dead center, staff in hand.

He is regal and captive amid the gaiety, at the site

of his own dissection: this room to which bodies

stolen from the gallows are brought and are made

to play their final role, organ by organ, this room which,

with its hyaline dome where at night the stars

of the firmament ring, mimics heaven.

The skeleton turns his fixed grimace upward toward

the vaulted ceiling, its refulgent cupola

and lambent mahogany beams. Does his soul still swim

in the stippled air, among the steam of gold pieces rising

from the open womb of the newly dead: a mosaic

of ovum and gilded spermatozoa? Is the rotunda's

cylinder of air teeming even now with colorful bits

of the dead rattling against its diaphanous dome?

                                                 -Nadine Sabra Meyer

                                                     Quarterly West

 

WHOLENESS: BLACK YIN, BLUE YANG  

Index 



Nailed to the fence, a weathered wooden box;
Within, live treasure crowds a cup of stems.
A birdhouse empty at the equinox
By April is a case for keeping gems.
Open the case, a jet bead glares at you,
Pinfeather sheaths erupting, sapphire blue.

Under the hill a weathered wooden barn
dry-stone foundation crumbling, roof of rust
built eighty years ago for curing burley,
used since to shelter horses, cows, baled hay,
tractor and harrow, lately used for nothing,
wind whining through a vacancy.  Not now.

The little father beats the bug he’s caught
Against the tree limb, gathers it back up
And briskly smacks it down again.  Still not
Quite dead enough . . . sleek cobalt blue on top,
Russet below, the prettiest predator
As ever was, he gives that bug what for.

In the striped smelly dark the chick looks small,
the dirt floor vast.  Fawn-colored down enfluffs him,
he wobbles and stares down, as if abashed.
Through doors long stuck ajar you crane and gawk.
Briefly, the mother tolerates your presence,
stays put, the pair grotesque but oddly touching.

He hunts, he pounces!  From a clutch of six
Blue topaz eggs, three naked thimble-sized
Pink hatchlings broke; and magically, two weeks
Of stuffing these all day with tenderized
Bugs caterpillars worms brought them to this
Sublimely brilliant metamorphosis.

Her infant has progeria.  His face,
black shiny visor, huge on one so young, 
looks ancient.   He stares down.   You squeeze on through,
the mother panics, flops onto a beam  
effaced in shadow; now you squat to stroke
her gargoyle baby with your fingertip.


They alter daily and you get to watch--
To live between them, padded jewel case
and gloomy relict, rot and garden patch--
to find and keep your balance and your place.
The three, sheer joy.  The day you see her chick
“walking” on straight flat heels, your heart feels sick.

Black bird of death, blue bird of happiness
A no that never soars without his yes
A yes that cannot swoop without her no
Black wings of ecstacy, blue wings of woe
You watch them, live between them   Come to feel
How each completes the round of what is real

Fair father, three voracious little maws.
He pushes through the entry hole; withdraws;
His nestlings jostle on their perfect claws.
The bald head bends above the downy one,
A harpy mother mothering her son
As best she can:  rough care and carrion.

                                                        -Judith Moffett
                                                    Literary Imagination,

                                                      Advance Access
 

SINKHOLE                                          
A Meditation Against the Recurrence of Cancer

My body is a farm,
My farm a territory
Policed by wolves.  The harm
Imbrued all through a story
That, brutal base but true,
I learned when I was little,
Still drains and drains into
The sinkhole in the middle.

But deep in bony hills
My timber wolves are lining
The banks where moonlight fills
A drained clay bowl with shining,
The liquid light of trance.
Tongues lap it.  Let them finish,
Lean legs and amber glance
Spring up through scrub and vanish.

No sound.  But let them scent
The scavenger coyote, 
Legs blur and paws indent
The farm that is my body,
And all is savage sound.
Yearlong, but best in winter,
Wolves guard the holy ground
Whose sinkhole is its center.

I know they do by this:
Five-petaled tracks, that crisscross
The farm my body is
In slushmelt mud so viscous,

That punch through snow’s stiff crust
So deep, they make a telltale
For where my wolves have traced
Their fourfoot mantra Heal-all:

My borders’ watermarks,
My stonelike standing waters,
My thorny strands of wire,

My bramble canes’ red arcs,
My fence, my slope of cedars,
My dark interior.

                      - Judith Moffett
                    Literary Imagination


VERITY
“. . . her credits include an offbeat comedy-drama,
The Baptist Daughter, in which she briefly appeared
in the title role, with Angela Small playing ‘Mama”
and Brutus Chambers, the character actor, as ‘Pop.’
Said Small (years afterwards), ‘Verity was weird,
she felt we ought to be close outside the play.
Miscast, poor thing.  She had to do it her way,
whatever we said.  The “Daughter” role was a flop.’”

Yet now as before, whenever I take a part--
“The New Professor,” “The Patient,” “The Second Wife”--
whatever they say, that part shall be transcended:
What whole is it part OF?  Never, to save my life,
can I stay in character.  Life keeps upstaging Art;
something should be there, after the act has ended.

                                                                -Judith Moffett
                                                           The Kenyon Review

                                                          (as "Ragged Sonnet")

 

 

 

space space   HOW TO ASK FOR MY HAND AT MY GRANDMOTHER’S GRAVE

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“What a waste of space,” you murmur as the train cuts
through a cemetery whose halves rest like drowsy wings
between two pine forests, then “spooky” as our window
zips by faces smiling from porcelain plates glued to crosses.
You’ve crossed the ocean to marry me, so I cannot say
            I knew only one of them, but they are all mine,
            these dead turned strigoi who’ll not return
            to their bodies because the earth’s too loud
            and the town has betrayed them.
But I have to warn you—
            We carry cemeteries on our heads,
            in our bellies, round our ankles,
            we carry them to work
            and we carry them to sleep
            and when we make love
            they moan, they rattle, they sing.
            When our spine starts sinking we spit
            and curse and dance the pain off.
When I bring you to Grandmother’s grave,
behind the Dacian fortress, she’ll be armed
with questions: how hardy your love, how soft your fingers,
and your dead, how do you spoil them?
“After you cup your hands to catch the soul,”
she’ll want to know, “how do you release it?”
Don’t tell her about ashes thrown to winds, don’t say
you’ve never spilled red wine onto the earth
to quench your father’s thirst, or that you never read to him
the Sunday paper. Do not tell her you love him
but have never seen his grave. I’ll translate your silence
and spread a white cloth under the rose trellis. We’ll offer
walnut breads and gossip, and she’ll forgive, and bless us,
then send me back across the ocean with a saddlebag of ghosts.

Mihaela Moscaliuc, Father Dirt (Alice James Books, 2010)

GOOD FRIDAY
_________________________________________________
                                                            for my parents

We wake to find two trout waggling in the sink.
The olive green polka dots and stripes of steel pink
plume father’s threadbare blue handkerchief—
a jagged anemone tucked under the plug.
Soon, they lose all interest in the forefingers
my brother and I, perched on tools, dip and wiggle.

By noon, we’ve assembled scales into necklaces and fingernails.
Mother tops our roe jar with one last film of heather pink.  
Garlic and parslied lard melt upwards and pelt
kitchen walls dressed top to bottom in cut-out brides 
(Gone with the Wind sweeping gowns, cascades of tulle,
pearl-beaded bodices, crinolines perfectly flounced),

and when we gather around the garnished fish
we hardly speak: the meticulous defleshing—a supplicant’s work.
Mother presses her lips to Father’s cheek,
then smudges the deep coral with her wrist.

Father cuts the heap of coarse corn porridge
mămăliga ─ with a butter-combed string,
brushes Mother’s fingers in the lemon & garlic dip,
parts the crisped sheath to let the succulent flesh cool.

She kneads each morsel of fish between her lips,
then entices us with the inspected bits
For good luck, she says, which I take to mean
being first to spot the ration truck,
take the ninety stairs in double strides,
grab my brother, and hurtle to the doubling line.

I try to read my brother’s eyes:
he dreams the next truck hauls not
bread, fish, or flour, but oranges ─
hard sweet foreign fruit brighter than our full moon.
I cannot ask him if I’ve guessed:
we never say our wishes aloud,
never name our fish.

Mihaela Moscaliuc, Father Dirt (Alice James Books, 2010)

LUNA
_____________________________
Unlike you, Khaled, I was told to look
at the moon, know her hard, decipher
her changing countenance so I could learn
to know myself, but disobeyed that injunction
too, worshiping instead her lesser twin.

My native tongue has only one word
for both moon and month, one luna
that begins in a sliver of flesh, blooms
into a woman of unrivaled beauty,
then shrivels back into herself,

same luna who, invisible in the sun’s wings,
tallies our desires, cadences our breaths, wards
the blood cord of sisterhood. But I knew nothing of desire
or blood, so when, at fourteen, I emerged
from the unlit bathroom with crimson streaks on both thighs,

I was convinced my body had split open
to let death in. The sight sent my grandmother and aunts
into a teary glee refueled throughout the evening
with shots of plum brandy, frenzied Periniţas, and toasts
to sister Luna and her visit to our house. No one

told me I was going to be fine.
Later, hunched among drunks on grimy trains, 
I’d ease my eyes through drapes of smoke
onto her shaped brightness, conjure my raffish
twin jazzing behind the Iron Curtain.  

From this new continent to which I’ve fastened
my life, some nights I think I see my daughter,
unfinished still, in the ashen crater below the moon’s
right eye—but my Romanian book of myths
insists it’s only Cain sloshing his jug of blood. 

Mihaela Moscaliuc, Father Dirt (Alice James Books, 2010)


space space  

REQUEST RADIO   

Index  space space space
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space

space space space space


It's the aftermath of surrender:
after the wound big as the sky.
All the sentries bowing,
the loud blood pouring into

the gutter of morning. Here
the body stops echoing
the heart's monologue, the
heart's non-stop mimicking

of what hurts. Rifle-butt
on bone. Boom goes the mind.
We can't stop seeing the eye's
final images: tide surging through

the great gates of the desert, a
lost convoy. A single lost conscript
staring till he sees it, the double gaze
of the heart, the burned star chart

of the body. Each of us the body's
patriot, hero to himself, to his
spotlit ongoingness. So why this
uninterpretable signal from where?

To be taught that each of us, once
only, is the soul itself. To be taught
that he colossus rises, one human
step beyond the breath-colored platform.

Beyond the five tyrant senses. This is how
we, staring at the sky, refuse it, the mind's
deep resuscitative kiss. This is how the
mistake pays us back. Give me once more,

please, silver leaves outside our window.
Trembling music, the miracle of his limbs
beside me. I know what is circling the house --
voices, broadcasting in the name of victory

in an hourglass, in a seizure of waves and
crosses - Victory in victory because you
and I heard it first on Death's request radio.
 

-Carol Muske-Dukes
American Poetry Review

 

 
 

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