Wednesday, May 29, 2013

29 May 2013

As spring turns to summer

out Santa Cruz way, I keep wearing
this itchy black wool sweater
saggy, all over pilled, elbows thinning
crusty with egg at the left wrist
speckled white with feathers
& dust, tiny scraps of paper
cat & human hair.

Northern California seldom warms
to straight-up T-shirt weather.
Some Junes are very cold
like the June I bought this Armani
on a morning that felt like snow
this sweater that zips & cowls
even snaps beneath my neck

& replaces the itchy black wool turtleneck
knitted by some woman
during the war for a soldier
handed somehow down to me
to wear from freshman year
until my fifties — resewn over & over
at armpits, wrist, & neck.

I have nicer zip-ups from Old Navy
a thick white soapy cotton
a soft gray wool
for wearing when I’m out
but the itchy saggy black sweater is only
for home, for a cat to curl up on
preferably with me inside.

John Ashbery [The Poetry Foundation]

from John Ashbery’s Chinese Whispers:

Theme Park Days

Dickhead, they called him, for his name was Dong, Tram Van Dong. Carefully, he slid open the small judas in his chest and withdrew a heart-shaped disk. It appeared to be cut from thicknesses of newspaper crudely stapled together. There was handwriting on one side, “spirit writing,” he indicated with a motion of his head. Yet it all seemed for naught, ancient stock-market quotations or chalked messages on hoardings of the last century, with plus and minus signs featured prominently. “O vos omnes,” he breathed, “blown together like milkweed on the hither shore of this embattled plain, will your feet soon mean to you what once they did? I think not. Meanwhile the tempest brays, favor is curried, the taffetas of autumn slide toward us over the frosted parapet, and this loquat heart is yours for the dividing. Sailboat of the Luxembourg! Vibrations of crisp mornings ripple ever closer, the joiner joins, the ostler ostles, the seducer seduces, nor stirs far from his crimson hammock. Delphic squibs caparison the bleak afternoon and the critics love it, eat it up, can’t get enough of it. ‘More pap! More pap!” Have a care, though, lest what I tell you here trespass beyond the booth of our conniving. Yet it will spread, as surely as an epidemic becomes the element we have chosen to live in: our old infectious experiment.”

Monday, May 27, 2013

27 May 2013

Geisha Considered as Making

Outside the door, voices range,
Each a petal barred from another life

And brought here. Do you see
The door is torn? I eat in rooms without windows

And refuse to paint my lips. Once
I wore red and served an open hand,

Was young and blew into reeds.
Now all the frames contain wings.

They move in my sleep. Did you imagine
This fine erosion? I entered your body

As night enters all the lit corners of a room
And lasts. Sky presses the trees

Back into the earth. I loved my own
roundness and loss. Do not forget:

There are webs and webs between us,
Tight-woven and clean.

The light is your voice, a backdrop
Of sound outside the door.

My body can hold it, shoulders bare
As the ground that used to harbor

Our steps. Without warmth in this season,
How do you think your fine mouth could exist?


Reframe the words and this picture
inhales. Witness the microscope,
narrowing on the eye until we see
only particles that swim

in dark light. They are blind.
How to account for ice in small piles,
sudden by the door, and rain
uncontainable eight thousand miles away?

Sometimes two lives coincide,
in water frozen and water
withholding the ground from our steps.
The fruit inside is bitter, skin sweet,

and both are eaten at once.
The teacup painted in pomegranate
and leaves — one touch to the lips
mars it, the body inhales

onto any surface
it can. Insects whittle their limbs
to hairs, all for music,
for habit. The heart in the mouth
another terrible seed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

24 may 2013

Marion Quednau [Library and Archives Canada]

Yesterday I Looked Inside

a gold, late-model Grand Marquis, remember those?  
The driver's keys, unclutched, on the seat
beside him, a little of his youth 
still hesitant on his face,
his skin so blue —
the late afternoon fading as well in the early-summer's 
heat, the car's hazard lights 
blinking on-and-off, on- 
and-off, relaying a last-minute 
presence of mind —
and then doubt —
courage, and then a failing.  

Hard to know
whether he was coming or going — in a real flap
or taking his own sweet time —
the back seat crammed with a vintage red 
vacuum, broken lamp, and barrage of cardboard boxes 
holding God-knows-what, 
the sum total of a kind of living.        
A passerby laughed with me about that.  
We took turns leaning into the car's open windows
and shouting into the man's face. 
That can sometimes be a life-saver;
even wrong-sounding words 
better than a roaring white street 
of silence. 

For some reason I thought 
to recite a few poems 
that might awaken a man; 
one by Carver about the last years 
being "pure gravy," 
and a few words from John Donne
on the subject of death being not especially "proud" . . .
while my cohort, curious as I was
to see some trick of transparency — a lifting up,
or out of, as easy to believe 
as smoke from a winter chimney —
kept repeating, "Can you hear me? Are you 
diabetic?" and once, just for a joke, 
"Hey buddy, here come the police!"

But there were no sirens, 
although we'd called for response; 
the air hung heavily in the street, and the man  
didn't even twitch, not once, 
while we yodelled and felt ill-at-ease;
a third bystander soon
sprinting to the nearby Big-B Saloon 
where the girls would start dancing, later,
to spread the news, some sorry sod
blacked-out — maybe not even breathing —
Another quarter-hour tripped by 
like soft, sullen eternity, 
an ambulance finally gliding into view —
it seemed cruel providence
to remember the milk I'd bought, spoiled in the heat.  

"You did the right thing," 
the paramedic said, pulling on his baby-blue latex gloves;
although I'd been afraid 
to touch a man with writhing-snake tattoos,
his mouth gaping —
had offered only badly-canted verse 
as resuscitation. 
"He's a known drug-user; has OD'd before,"
 the medic said, without blame,
as if despair were an accepted fact 
like the earth being round
and wobbling slightly on its axis.

We were standing in front of the Bellevue, 
a roughneck hotel survived 
from boom-and-bust days in a once-shake-mill town — 
cars slowing, faces craned 
to catch sight of someone 
unrecognized, and in real trouble — 
that's as good as it gets; a thrilling
of blood, their own lives 
remarkably unscathed — 

Maybe they thought I knew 
the collapsed man, had chosen 
to love him, the way we do — helplessly, 
and half-hearted —
or cheapened the story 
once they got home, some drifter's  
girlfriend or sister, bawling her eyes out
on the main drag, they saw the whole thing. 
I hate that, people blowing things 
out of proportion. It shows us up 
to be only passing strangers, nothing more.   

Believe me, it was this simple.  
I saw the gold car, the blued skin 
of the man inside, 
and how he wanted 
to prepare for beauty, 
give it his best shot,
get somewhere without any hitches, for once —
without that shimmering hook, or hoop
that always snared him —
and such a quiet approach 
on old, bald tires.       

Thursday, May 23, 2013

23 may 2013

Will Alexander [Skylight Press]

Compound Hibernation

Those who glance about me
Who cease to see inside the sun
Who cease to imagine its destabilized pre-quanta
Cannot know me
Cannot know my ethos as pumice
As mingled apparition or flare

My perception through the prior sun that I ingest like a blackened pre-
Or collected hawks
                                       through assignation

The sun with its dualisms
           with its dualisms
With its prebiotic photons which waver

9 suns before the sun existed
Before the oceans seemed formed
                   there were molecular drafts
                     Akashic precursors
                                   floating proto-ammonia

I think of carbon
& whisps
& floodings

Of feral combat shelter
                         where blank geometry accrues

Before separable biology was born
             before the contradictory ballast of de-existent protozoa

Being searching photon by abstentia like a pre-atomic sigil
               destabilized as blizzard
A pre-cognitive rotation
A strange galvanics of the cosmos

& because of this galvanics
          one reeks of invisible tremor
          walking around in league
          with daunting helium affliction

The microns in my skin
Like haunted salamander fluid
Like cells bereft with
        cooling centigrade rotation

I know the abyss as volatile lunar transposition
As sub-liminal mantis as climbing
As splintering

Therefore I am not
                      an oily or blasphemous yogin
Collapsing in default by sudden anger or water

Yet I am compound
Struggling with scattered mental a-rhythmia
With partial psychic aphasia
                    Aloof by interior compounding

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

22 may 2013

William Gass [Reading William Gass]
William Gass's "Fifty Literary Pillars" from A Temple of Texts:

1. Plato's Timaeus
2. Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics
3. Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War
4. Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan: Or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil
5. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
6. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico Philosophicus
7. Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space
8. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria
9. Paul Valéry’s Eupalinos, ou l’architecte
10. Sir Thomas Malory’s Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur
11. Sir Thomas Browne’s Urne Burial
12. Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
13. Virginia Woolf’s Selected Diaries
14. Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade's End (the Tietjens tetralogy)
15. William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra
16. Ben Johnson’s The Alchemist
17. James Joyce’s Ulysses
18. James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake
19. Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds
20. Beckett’s How It Is
21. Beckett’s Ping
22. José Lezama’s Paradiso
23. Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch
24. Jorge Luis Borges’s Labyrinths
25. Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain
26. Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor and Other Stories
27. Herman Broch’s The Sleepwalkers
28. Italo Svevo’s Confessions of Zeno
29. Italo Svevo’s Zeno's Conscience (in William Weaver’s marvelous recent translation)
30. Gustave Flaubert’s Letters
31. Gustave Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchet
32. Stendhal’s The Red and the Black
33. Colette’s Break of Day
34. John Donne’s Poems and Sermons
35. Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hymns
36. Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés
37. Ezra Pound’s Personae
38. William Butler Yeat’s The Tower
39. Wallace Steven’s Harmonium
40. Henry James’s The Golden Bowl
41. Henry James’s Notebooks
42. William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury
43. Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider
44. Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives
45. William Gaddis’s The Recognitions
46. John Hawkes’s The Lime Twig
47. Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
48. Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies
49. Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus
50. Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters
51. Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams

I wish Gass would will me his library . . .

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

21 may 2013

Heidi Lynn Staples [Ahsahta]

i went to see her, arriving self-satisfied as the one

i went to see her, arriving self-satisfied as the one

who settled his family here sometime in the 1830’s

I didn’t understand, for me life had been a sleepy little fishing village

though the east pass was bridged. i didn’t yet know that in her

              body formed the future and the future requires fire
for release of its seeds,

that she was leaving that future is patented and listed as real-estate

like lake flooding during hurricanes in the late 1920’s
               the blood leaving her face; disrupting the flow of water into
                                            the Everglades.

i brought her cookies, asked how are you feeling?
when she didn’t answer, when she looked out the window,

I said, let’s make this hospital bed look like a beach towel.

instead she lay there, wrapped in white
               fish fresh from the wholesale market.

. . .

she lay there quiet as the “Miracle Strip”

she lay there quiet as the “Miracle Strip”
in off-season, veins crammed with classic boardwalk

and junk satisfaction. skin gone neon

and i held her hand, that artificial reef,

i asked the nurse to bring her a room

full of ocean front                            young wed couples
              swaddling wet sand sunburnt toddlers

shaking out beach towels sand

              ineffable sand unnamable cause

luck of the draw determines what you get.

I hadn’t come to talk of bottle-nosed
dolphins, sea lions, and otters

celebrate and mourn our failure to connect.
Yet, I had been the number one people pleaser

since the house opened. Between

us were waterfalls, reflecting ponds, footbridges,

and all I could say was Gulf World.

like abundant billfish, sand, foam,

like abundant billfish, sand, foam,
she was always so seemed indestructible.

yeah, i can hardly bear to look at her.

the doctor comes in breezy as recreation

she’s scared, her eyes white sands and blue green
waters that became      check-in information

she is alive. that’s worth something, her body

so slight, so empty motel and amusement
parks with oceanic motif

so much translated          into fishing sport

her hand grown cold as a walk from coast
into condo

look the effects of the medication

have worn off. she’s talking. what she’s saying

. . .

i have seen the false breast & it’s full as a parasail

i have seen the false breast & it’s full as a parasail

only the remaining breast lonely manatee.
once huge creature, fondled

for its meat. abundance extinguished bit by bit as if

the victim of large-scale illegal poaching, cysts

instead of tree snails or epiphytic orchids from the hardwood

that’s why she’s gone unconscious, septic. why do

innumerable subterranean caverns fill with waste,
               x-rays look like population grown and unabated tourism

that’s the way it is is — her eyes open

magnolias, live oaks, and loblolly pines

it doesn’t seem enough to say to the surgeon,
please don’t walk on the dunes.

it has taken me years to realize the pain
                                           of just like family.

Monday, May 20, 2013

20 may 2013

Bob Hicok [MiPOesias]

more Bob Hicok from Elegy Owed:

How we came to live where we live

The movie was over except the credits,
music like but not Satie, I don’t remember
if I felt the loss of the child deeply
or needed people to think I did,
as when you stand before a painting
in a museum for as long as you hope
says something good about you, even
when you’re not sure what that good thing is,
that you’re considerate of red or appreciate
the historical significance of the brocade
or know that the woman in the foreground
holding the scythe was the painter’s lover,
Mary Blake, who went on to swim
the English Channel twice, once forward,
once backward, but the vision was clear, I wanted
to carry tiny people around in a box, actors
who longed to perform Our Town
for an audience of any size, the numbers
didn’t matter if their attention
was complete, You would feel like the sun,
wouldn’t you, when they applaud, I longed
to ask the tiny actors in my arms,
and to feed them like the grasshoppers
I believed as a child only needed grass
in a jar to thrive, then we had cocooned
ourselves in our coats and were outside
with the gargoyles on the library, a gray sky,
I was carrying the box of actors
in how I believed the world was trying
to be perfect, nothing has to be real
to be real, like love, how often it makes me want
to eat you, not figuratively but actually
devour the hours you fill, one by one
or fill you, however that works with time,
and we walked until we couldn’t, so far
there was no more light from the city,
and built a bed there, a garden,
a perspective, what you might call
the staples of a life, and stayed.