Tuesday, April 30, 2013

30 apr 2013

Susan Gewirtz [Merredyth Messer]

Brief History of the Sky: A Manual for Air Traffic Controllers
by Susan Gevirtz

It is well known that brevity is essential to any discussion of the sky. Thus
for the sake of brevity we will divide the sky into its fractions: the Ptolemaic
sky, the afternoon sky, the weatherless sky, the seared sky of summer, the
skewered sky of winter treetops, brother to the Titian sky, sister to the
drawn-out sky, Father of the perspectival sky, Mother to the smoke-stacked
skyline of London in 1870. All of these skies require further divisions into
many more skies that can only briefly be mentioned or barely even motioned
at, here. The drenched sky whose light withers seeing, skies of insomniacs
plastered with sleep, little known night skies for the sake of pollination,
navigating by fluorescent light the daunted night sky under which urban
cleaning occurs, Athena's sky palace, the sky whose character alters
according to the ages of ice. This is to divide the sky into some of its many
halves, some of which contain a moon, and some of which understand the
moon as a lamp lit by the night-candler. The night sky as we now know it in
major urban electrical centers is an infant sky. It has only watched us sleep,
lorded over us, posed at dark, for a mere century and a half, in a futile
attempt to persuade its inhabitants to buy the concept of rest. It is perhaps
the briefest of all the brief skies in the history of skies.

Why is any of this important to air traffic controllers? Because air traffic
controllers navigate many skies at once. There is the sky on the screen and
that is the fastest sky ever to burn — strung up by an umbilicus of connected
dots: one dot is the pilot's voice, another the pilot's eyes, another the air traffic
controller's voice, and the fourth leg is the air traffic controller's eyes. All of
these, far more than the jet engine shoving air out of its path at such high speed
that the plane creates its own slipstream into which it proceeds forward, keep
the plane up. And the sky is kept up by the same means. There is no other time
in history that the sky has been kept up over the earth in this fashion.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

28 apr 2013

La BlanchisseuseHenri de Toulouse-Lautrec [Wikipedia]

La Blanchisseuse

Though she knows
smoothing cloth
how to smooth a cloth
on a flat surface

how to scrub a stain
how to warm the irons
to iron, bite off thread
tie a knot, restitch
a raveled seam

how to cut from yardage
the idea of a sleeve
to fashion a shirt
for someone else

though washing
sewing, she’s looking off
beyond a world
of fingers on cloth
of lye, of steam

the weave of labor
the dour distraction
of indoors.

Noah Eli Gordon [rob mclennan's blog]

Are You Ashamed of the Indifference with Which You 
Greet the News of the Death of Pinochet

Lyrically, country & western music is a combination of the trials
& successes of everyday life. Gilbert & Sullivan are a combination,
but the satirizing of society of the Victorian period hardly seems relevant
to our present concern. Pitched lower than a trumpet & higher than a tuba,

the French horn is not a combination. What, exactly, is fearful symmetry?
The two largest individual optical telescopes on Earth sitting atop Mauna Kea?
Thousands of small photographs combining to form the image of a wolf?
An object held in one’s hand having potential energy, a combination

turning motion, position, & mass into a balanced definition? I’ve never held
a French horn, but think I would enjoy the equilibrium of its potential heft?

The Year of the Rooster [excerpt]

. . .

(––––––––––––––––If you ask
(––––––––––––––––when Rooster’s talking
(––––––––––––––––your listening
(––––––––––––––––isn’t apt enough
(––––––––––––––––to hear it

. . .

Two seasons later
it’s the shell of a beetle
baking in the sun

brittle in the sun

I watch over you because you need me

Forgive the systematic contortion
of removals, from a coarseness comes
a fiery magnetism, from an anxious dream
an encroaching boredom

After four hours
dawdling with the wardrobe, I leave furiously
a city & its wintering sheen, remove
the hens, then those for whom
the remaining space is responsible

. . .

          It’s my fault
rummaging through dead-ends of daily experience
                 capitalizes on gratuitous snowfall
                         to sculpt some metonymic purity

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ethan Paquin

[polycount forum]

Bags Don’t Come Free

Saturday morning
I plan to ride my bike to Target
to buy 
front-closing bras
for post-surgical Esther 
but the fog is down —
the temperature's barely 50.

Instead, I bike to her house
where no one’s up. I unlatch
the chicken house ramp —
Say hello, chicks, to the new day —
park in the basement
& snag the key to the little car.

I drive the route I’d meant to bike
along river, ocean, harbor
via East Cliff, Murray, 7th, Brommer, 
Target's not even open
then they are, but they don’t
stock front-closing bras.

I walk through the dark mall & outside
& into Kohl's to find bras.
No one’s here. Thousands of bras.
I haven’t bought a bra
in 45 years — a nursing bra
I tried once & tossed.

No clerks in sight so I scan
rack after rack — 1500 styles of bra. 
Only three close in the front
in 38B, so I buy them
from a checker who asks me
do you need a bag? No

though I think about how
I will look walking outside
then in, through the empty mall
back to Target & out to my car
holding a beige, a black
& a salmon pink bra.

The checker calls me back
& hands me a black cloth bag
marked Kohl’s — I thought
she says, we’d given
these all away.
 She doesn't know
I pass no one

while walking my Kohl's bag
back to Target to shop 
for placemats, napkins, & a spatula.
Do you need a bag? No 
thank you. Let my housewares
share space with Esther's bras.

Ethan Paquin [The PIP Blog]
from Ethan Paquin's Cloud vs. Cloud, Ahsahta, 2013:


No matter the latitude, dearest sky,
something ill-mannered’s about you —

It might hold a staff and pace atop you
It might be rain, supreme toy and gray

It might like a tough wife be gravity’s
balling you up It might be. Just might

But down here, the bottom, I’ll get to it,
I’ll get to the bottom of you and report

back. I had no dinner tonight an attempt
at clear thought monosyllabic in ease.

I can see through you whom I know
and have never met via balloon force

but I’m coming and I’m ruminating.
Cacti in a desert aahing matins upward

Birds zesting aloft from eaves and trees
We’re all coming to find you god all of us

all of it. Storm the gate with matchsticks
we will. It will be violent when we find you.

Ars Nihil

I think we write poetry to see what a dun flower might smell like,
what a razor meticulous in its upkeep spurs in the barnyard festivus,
to see what frost feels like expanding scrotum of morning, hillocks all
smooth with cow and or goat, I think this is a wonderful life we’ve got
because we can ejaculate and erase. I think we write poetry up all night
paperweighted as we are to lilac awards, I think there is a man wandering
up a driveway in my poem to be wandering up a driveway in my poem to be
and I know where to start, with the man sawing wood and then leaving
to a hole at or of which he can’t even perceive. He just exits his workshop
and begins walking to reach my driveway’s base, then up the angle toward
me and my home white nicety yellow clapboard New England noon-timeish
famous and well-practised. I think we write poetry cuz it comes like yknow
Halloween. I think that guy is still walking I think I will SHOCK THE FUCK
OUT OF YOU WITH NEEDLESS CAPS. I think we write poetry all bummed
because an iceberg is on the way and there’s an orgy on the communication bridge
and we weren’t invited. The dun flower I think it stinks I think it just might stink.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On the Way to the Playground

On the Way to the Playground

I push, she rides the
stroller down Chestnut

nasturtium, I say
I need to take a picture of this rose

tires inflated
fabrics orange & black

lavender, jasmine, penta, calla
I need to touch, she says

fingers to yellow petals
palm to pinkest crowns

Burt Kimmelman [Poets Online blog]

Cutting board, knife, bread
crumbs in dawn light — she
stood and ate beside
the kitchen sink, then
got back into bed.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

20 apr 2013

My Anger Will Ebb

After all
my friend, alone in her house
a half mile from the boat
aflame as if in a Greek tragedy
is alive & well
reunited today with daughters & spouse.

Far away & helpless
as she was close by & helpless
I waited, she waited, so many waited
sure he would be caught
sure she would survive unmarked —
we are all marked.

A boat in a Greek tragedy would be a trireme
three ranks of oars
one above the next above the next
a beak for a prow
better to ram, to pierce
the enemy boat.

The dogs, locked inside all day
burst out of doors in frenzied relief
like the children denied playgrounds
the workers denied work.

Meanwhile I walked up Soquel
jaywalked across Ocean
climbed the Broadway hill
to watch the hybrid rose — orange, yellow, & pink —
bloom careless & sprawling
above the chainlink fence.

Anger is sullen, is pouting
is dismay at the world refusing to cooperate
is armies of men with guns
is war, is death
is a 19-year-old killing his life
with killing — ablaze in a boat.

My grandchild studied my knee to find marks
where the ladybug might have bitten.
In the shop a woman 
held a paper towel for the slug 
to ooze up & onto —
carried it outdoors.

I didn’t want to come here today.
I wanted to stew in anger caused by too long fear.

Yet the sun shines, the bus runs.
I could sit @ the Scotts Valley Peet's
knowing we would read
we would write
fast words on slow paper
we strangers & not quite friends.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

18 apr 2013

Lawrence Sutin [Hamline University]

Hector spent the second world war years in Buenos Aires. He did not propose to volunteer himself for military or other service. It would have been a torture to adapt to any sort of schedule after nearly two decades of utmost freedom. And he was afraid of the war, of Hitler especially; he wanted to be far away from it and Argentina seemed that. As a sop to his conscience he arranged — through Barclay the solicitor in London — to forfeit his claim to £10,000 worth of British government bonds, a minor holding in his inheritance portfolio. This passive donation to the cause enabled Hector to listen to the speeches of Churchill on the BBC without shame. Within a few weeks of his arrival in the city, he struck up a friendship with three local men whom he met at a chic boulevard café. One was a cattleman with extensive land holdings to the south, one a composer whose work was being compared to that of Villa-Lobo and Milhaud, and one a marvelously funny fool of a waiter. This waiter could magically impersonate the voices of Hitler and Churchill — his pièce de résistance was a screaming match which he carried on both in belligerent mock-German and sententious mock-English with expository asides in Spanish and French; he had the gift of making no sense in any language, the waiter would say of himself. One night, seated separately at the bar, the cattleman, the composer, and Hector found themselves laughing in unison at the waiter’s antics. Having revealed their shared contempt for the politics of the world, the three men went on to confide to each other the adventures of their lives over further drinks. It became an all but nightly ritual. Hector, the cattleman, and the composer each possessed personal fortunes. The waiter, who was poor, came over the course of several months to rely upon the generous tips of the three men to fund a lifestyle far beyond his accustomed means — one that included French wines, Cuban cigars, a used Fiat coupe, and woman who had always loved the waiter and loved him not the less now that he bestowed upon them jewelry and perfume. Hector, the cattleman, and the composer were always served the strongest drinks — the barman took care of that for a cut of their gratuities. One evening, after several rounds, and with the waiter already off for the night, the cattleman nodded pointedly to the composer who then proceeded to explain to Hector that there was a private gentlemen’s club in the city, to which both the composer and the cattleman belonged, where a form of dueling, technically illegal, was enacted now and then, as the occasion arose, and that tonight was such an occasion. Would Hector like to attend as their special guest? They felt they knew him well enough by now to rely upon his discretion. Hector accepted immediately; it seemed to him that he was being invited to bypas the limitations of a foreign tourist and to witness firsthand the degraded customs of the wealthy underbelly of Buenos Aires without risk to himself. It might all make for a tidbit or two for his book. The composer and the cattleman — insisting that hiring a cab would only create a trail for busybodies — led the way on foot through dark side streets to a forgotten brick edifice at the outskirts of the city. After passing down two flights of unlit stairs, they reached the entrance to a columned cellar once used for the storage of wine and produce. The cellar was now thickly carpeted, with tapestried walls and rows of leather armchairs along three of its sides to accommodate an audience of roughly twenty. An elderly gentleman of evident means — dressed in black tails, with an emerald tiepin, and on his fingers three rings encrusted with gems and intricate symbols signifying Hector knew not what — spoke briefly with Hector’s two friends and then, turning to Hector, eyed him as if to say, I will remember you for good or ill, then beckoned him to proceed. The composer, the cattleman, and Hector sat side by side. The lights were dimmed at ten P.M. precisely, and two hooded attendants commenced the proceedings by wheeling forth a large rack to which a gagged and blindfolded man was bound. This man, Hector soon discerned, was the waiter. He turned to the composer and the cattleman who briefly gestured as if to say it was a surprise to them as well, but what was one to do? One of the hooded attendants then called forth the aggrieved challenger who had demanded the duel. This proved to be a member of the club whose son had been befriended and then dishonored by the waiter — a pretender to wealth and style who was in fact cosmopolite mulatto Jewish homosexual scum. The nature of the dishonor to the son was not specified. The aggrieved challenger explained that he had arranged for the waiter, on leaving his shift this very evening, to be kidnapped and brought here by force for a duel that offered better than the waiter deserved — the impersonal justice of fate. A crack marksman, the club pistol champion, whose dispassion as to the outcome of the duel had been attested to by personal oath, would, at a distance of twenty paces, fire six shots at the one-inch target rim painted closely around the contours of the waiter’s head, which had been firmly affixed in place so that no panicked movements by the waiter could affect the outcome. If the marksman were accurate six times in succession, the waiter would have the sound of shots ringing in his head for the rest of his life, a fit punishment in itself, and one that would dissuade him from ever mentioning the incident. The marksman was sworn to take all six shots, regardless of the number of inaccuracies along the way. Theoretically, the waiter could be shot in the head six times, although that had never occurred; the record for a challenged party was three, and the marksman employed on that occasion had never again been asked by the club to perform this service, which the club provided to its long-time members so as to assure that they would never be forced to endure the bumbling delays of even properly bribed Buenos Aires policement. Hector wondered if there was anything he could do for his friend the waiter, whose body, should he perish, would surely disappear, with nary a word ever spoken of the duel thereafter. Could he save the waiter if he tried? On the contrary, he would be killed by angry club members, among whom would be the composer and the cattleman, whose eyes were now fixed on the seething face of the mute waiter. Hector had yearned to explore the underworld and here he was already its minion. Perhaps the waiter would live and they would all laugh at this over drinks tomorrow night, slap the waiter on the back and chide him for keeping such secrets as to the breadth of his erotic conquests. The first shot rang through the cellar and out from the waiter’s gagged mouth came a vomited scream. A hole in the target rim showed clearly as the rack was backlit for that very purpose. Six accurate shots would create a corona of light around the waiter’s head, and Hector recalled the days when he too had been a barman in The Midshipman’s Watch waiting on old fools like his benefactor Muir. Had Hector not become a benefactor to the waiter? And yet he would sit and do nothing. Shot two. A silence. A shudder throughout the room. Hector sank into his chair and saw a second hole of light. The waiter, after some seconds, groaned. Then shot three — the marksman was free to time and pace his shots as he liked, but it seemed to Hector that the groan had been taken by the marksman as a kind of affront and so the third shot was quick just to shock the waiter back into silence. It missed both the target rim and the waiter’s head, which must have been a rare sort of miss in such duels, for there were coughs and snorts from some of the audience members. The sound that now dominated the cellar room was the hard breathing of the marksman. The waiter was so weakened by this point that only the ropes that bound him head to foot kept him from dropping to the floor. Shot four found the painted rim and created a topmost star for the corona. Hector was beginning once more to enjoy the experience. The marksman truly had no animus toward the waiter. Two more accurate shots, or two more shots wide, and the waiter would live and Hector would help him to get away from Buenos Aires and its crazy rich men who killed those whom their sons chose to love. Shot five drew blood from the waiter’s left temple and the waiter choked on his gag as sobbing took hold of his body. Shot six went straight to the waiter’s heart. The body flinched and shook as if it would wring free of the ropes and then it slackened so completely that the ropes seemed fooled and nearly lost their hold. There was knowing laughter in the room, not only from the ones who had snorted and coughed just moments before, but from all the club members, including the cattleman and the composer. The loquacious introduction of the duel, its sequence of shots, all had been intended, Hector now understood, to intensify the torture of the victim as he went to his preordained death. Hector left in the company of the cattleman and the composer, wondering how the three of them could ever speak to each other again, given their complicity in the murder of their friend. But strangely it went easily. They all agreed that a return to their café would be in order, as drinks would calm their nerves and drinks at that locale would pay suitable homage to their friend. It seemed to Hector insanity — a precipitous return to the scene of the crime — and yet, as the highest magistrates were members of the very private club in which the duel occurred, there would be no investigations. The waiter was no more, it was only that. But as they approached the café, Hector made an excuse, he said he felt ill. He thought to himself let them think of me what they like. He said he was weak and homeward bound and would see them soon, very soon at the café. Profuse thanks for the experience of which he would never speak as — this went unsaid — he didn’t want to die like the waiter. Hector didn’t so much as dare to write of it in his own book — only these three lines were entered that night as he smoked the American Lucky Strikes that were widely sold in Buenos Aires: “The war is everywhere. It was folly to hide. Leave Buenos Aires tomorrow and never linger anywhere again.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Michel Foucault

from Rachel Blau DuPlessis's Drafts:

Quire: one-twentieth of a ream.
Poem: bare ruined quire.



psychomachy — a conflict between the soul and the body; between good and evil

coryphaeus — chorus leader who delivers lines of verse on behalf of the chorus as a whole


the melancholy of the English was easily explained by the influence of a maritime climate, cold, humidity, the instability of the weather; all those fine droplets of water that penetrated the channels and fibers of the human body and made it lose its firmness, predisposed it to madness. . . .

the twelve dualities that dispute the sovereignty of the human soul: Faith and Idolatry, Hope and Despair, Charity and Avarice, Chastity and Lust, Prudence and Folly, Patience and Anger, Gentleness and Harshness, Concord and Discord, Obedience and Rebellion, Perseverance and Inconstancy, Fortitude and Cowardice, Humility and Pride . . .

[Candid Canada]

[from Erasmus’s Praise of Folly] Folly’s companions: "Recognize them here, in the group of my companions.... She whose brows are drawn is Philautia (Self-Love). She whom you see laugh with her eyes and applaud with her hands is Colacia (Flattery). She who seems half asleep is Lethe (Forgetfulness). She who leans upon her elbows and folds her hands is Misoponia (Sloth). She who is crowned with roses and anointed with perfume is Hedonia (Sensuality). She whose eyes wander without seeing is Anoia (Stupidity). She whose abundant flesh has the hue of flowers is Tryphe (Indolence). And here among these young women are two gods: the god of Good Cheer and the god of Deep Sleep."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

16 apr 2013

I don't know what this is, do you?


I hang by my feet to sleep
wrapped in wings
shoulder-to-shoulder companioned
at dusk
maelstrom unfurling
our night life swoops

like swallows
at one patch of sand in the San Lorenzo River
the whirl of ashes skyward
rows of soldiers below
neverending touch-&-gos

spangled mallards in three-duck formation
scan for landing
every pass a tighter curl
they lock on target, shallow glide
into splashes & skids
the water hardly disturbed

next to Ray on the plane
the woman suffers a heart attack
(it wasn’t something he said)
Afaa’s class in Boston takes on Mother Courage
someone is always standing
at ground zero

detonated transform
body to mist
body heat to warmer air
better to dissolve completely
than remain grievously injured
bystanders spattered

in south Florida
hunters waited for spring
to target rookeries — heron, ibis, egret —
they killed the nesting pairs
for feathered hats, not hate
their families so poor they fed on gull eggs

still, even now
people ask
how can it happen here?
so placid with insular contemplation
does not equate to protection

the strong wind knocks down new-leafed branches
scatters orange petals
iris & agapanthus open in their place
the flowering maple
is not maple but Chinese lantern, Indian mallow
cousin to flannel flower

Abutilonflowering maple

helot conquered indigenous population of Spartan city-state; provided agricultural labor for Spartan landowners; only semi-free; largest population of Spartan city-state

particule — esp. in French, a preposition that precedes a family name

Richard Sieburth [courtesy of New Directions]

from Richard Sieburth’s Instigations: Ezra Pound and Remy de Gourmont:

Whereas the white heat of Voltairean wit is stoked by savage indignation, Gourmont’s cooler style instead affects the bemused disdain of the aristocrat who takes a prophylactic distance from the fray. Voltaire undertakes swift sorties against the enemy; Gourmont’s Symbolist tactic is rather one of strategic retreat: “If one happens to wish for a derailment, one must speak, one must write, one must smile, one must abstain — this is crucial — from all civic life . . . One must poison Authority, slowly, playfully . . . One must remain perfectly indifferent; irony in one’s eyes, one must make one’s way through the tangle of anti-liberal laws." Though the target of Gourmont’s irony may be the same as Voltaire’s (that is, authority in all its guises), his pose on the whole rather recalls the nineteenth-century dandy’s more apolitical mode of subversion. All dandies, Baudelaire had recognized,

share the same disposition to opposition and revolt; all are representative of what is finest in human pride, this need, all too rare today, to fight and destroy triviality. Among dandies, this is what gives birth to that haughty attitude which, even in its coldness, bespeaks a caste of provocateurs. Dandyism surfaces especially during transitional periods, when democracy is not yet all-powerful and the aristocracy is only partially tottering and debased. In the turmoil of these periods, a handful of men [sic] — disinherited, disgusted, idle, but with a wealth of native energy — can conceive the project of founding a new kind of aristocracy, one which will be all the more difficult to smash because based on the most precious and most indestructible of abilities, on those heavenly gifts which neither work nor money can confer. Dandyism is the last burst of heroism in decadences.

Pound . . . agreed with Baudelaire that “the aristocracy of entail and of title has decayed, the aristocracy of commerce is decaying, the aristocracy of the arts is ready again for service.”:

There is no truce between art and the vulgo. There is a constant and irrefutable alliance between art and the oppressed. The people have never objected to obscurity in ballads. The bitterest and most poignant songs have often been written in cypher — of necessity.