Wednesday, July 31, 2013

31 July 2013

Joseph Millar [Dodge Poetry Program]

Ode to the Ear

This one’s for you, winged skull-blossom
opening into the world, for the gold post held
in your fleshy lobe, for the ledges of blood
swollen inward. Here’s
to the whirling sounds of the wind
spilling the dead crape-myrtle leaves
over the hedgerow and garden.
I heard the clock tower’s
thick tones reach
into the blue void of Sunday
where I faltered, thinking of winter,
the past with its sunset-rouged face,
its décolletage and long opera gloves,
absinthe and tap water, fireplace
and roof gable, French doors
shedding the rain.

Why should it bring such comfort,
listening to typing in the next room,
the lost notes gathered and tended?
The right ear faces up in the darkness,
here’s to its fluids and delicate tympani,
here’s to its waxes and hairs,
helpless to close out this rhythmic tapping
it listens and hears and believes.

Ocean [excerpt]

. . . What was the song she sang,
the sea lion asleep on a rock
near Point Reyes?
I hear the deep halls of water
filling up on the ebb
as she turns over, sighing into the algae,
slides back into the tide.
I squatted still in the autumn sand
thinking of red roe and black hair,
women gone down into themselves,
funky, brash,
croaking and thrashing
eyes staring blind as glass. . . .

Urban Coyote

In the green dream of spring
I stretch myself out
letting the gray mist hide me
shoving my nose in the garbage pile
chewing egg shells and cheese rinds.
I swallow cellophane, I swallow cat hair,
butcher paper stained dark with fish blood
and run grinning through the blowsy woods
smelling the riverbank’s plasma —
I smell the barns and the city dump,
the quail asleep in the tall grass.

In the morning the doctors send over
my lab results: triglycerides and cholesterol,
glucose and prostate antigen,
diets of cold fruit, nuts and water.
I sign the mortgage papers,
I read the bank statement,
I pay the gas bill, I sweep the floor

then in the marshy glycemic night
I lick back the plush fur covering my lips,
I steal whatever can fit in my mouth
under the fat April moon.

31 July 2013

Losing Argentina

when I disappeared
malbec swamped my throat
like Andean snow melt surging the acequia
how I chose passionfruit ice cream
wishing it were opuntia

how I pretended I never wanted a screen porch
& a cat door she’d lever bats through
moth wings in shower drains
cactus spines trepanning my hat brim
triple-thorn scar bursts
tattooing escape routes onto my arms
hue & cry of zorros every night

when i disappeared
an out-of-mind fissure wolfed
my household down to the nutcracker
i fled with Chinese zapatos & a shooting blind

the burrowing owls agreed with me
parrot flocks burned blue
I felt like a wasp hive in
the air conditioner after a swarm
I ate no more grass-fed bife
my wallet was plumbed for identification
I couldn’t bicycle

when I disappeared
the desert morphed into pan casero
went crumbling off to where llamas stampeded

acequia, irrigation ditch
opuntia, prickly pear cactus
zorros, foxes
zapatos, shoes
bife, beef
pan casero, homemade bread

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

30 July 2013

Ntozake Shange [Marilyn K. Yee]

From Okra to Greens / A Different Love Poem / We Need a Change

i haveta turn my television down sometimes cuz
i cant stand to have white people/ shout at me/
sometimes i turn it off
cuz i cant look at em in my bedroom either/
being so white/
that’s why i like/ greens/
they cdnt even smell you/ wdnt know what you taste like
without sneakin/ got no
idea you shd be tingled wit hot sauce & showered wit vinegar
yr pot liquor spread on hot rolls

i gotta turn the tv off cuz the white people
keep playing games/ & followin presidents on vacation at the war
there’s too much of a odor problem on the tv too/ which
brings me back to greens

i remember my grandma at the market pickin turnips
collards kale & mustards/ to mix-em up/ drop a 1/2 a strick a lean
in there wit some ham hock & oh my whatta life/
i lived in her kitchen/ wit greens i cd recollect
yes the very root of myself
the dirt & lil bugs i looked for in the fresh collards/
turnin each leaf way so slow/ under the spicket/ watchin
lil mounds of dirt fall down the drain
i done a good job
grandma tol me/ got them greens just ready for the pot
& you know/ wdnt no white man on the tv/
talkin loud n formal make no sense of the miracle
a good pot a greens on a friday nite cd make to me
that’s the only reason i turn em off the tv

cant stand they gossipin abt the news/ sides they dont
never like the criminals & enemies i like anyway
that’s why i like GREENS/ i know how to cook em
& i sure can dream gd/ sopping up the pot liquor
& them peppers/

We Need a God Who Bleeds Now

we need a god who bleeds now
a god whose wounds are not
some small male vengeance
some pitiful concession to humility
a desert swept with dryin marrow in honor of the lord

we need a god who bleeds
spreads her lunar vulva & showers us in shades of scarlet
thick & warm like the breath of her
our mothers tearing to let us in
this place breaks open
like our mothers bleeding
the planet is heaving mourning our ignorance
the moon tugs the seas
to hold her/ to hold her
embrace swelling hills/ i am
not wounded i am bleeding to life

we need a god who bleeds now
whose wounds are not the end of anything

Monday, July 29, 2013

29 July 2013

Stephen Kuusisto [Steve Sartori]

Letter to Borges in His Parlor

What will become of you
With your Anglican heart and old furniture?
Are you waiting for insects at the geraniums?
What is there to love anymore, my friend?

Some days I, too, don’t feel like going out.
Secluded with my gramophone
I play “Flores purisimas,” zarzuela,
Caruso — over and over.

Once, years ago, I got lost in the vast cemetery of Milan.
I had my dog; I was taking roses to Toscanini’s tomb.
It was an ordinary day,
Men were digging graves.

Confounded in the ballyhoo Italien,
The tombs carved like sailing ships,
I talked to perfect strangers:
Women alone with grief,
Men walking “on doctor’s orders.”

It is good, Borges, to have a mission, don’t you agree?

Letter to Borges from New York City

You can get lost between heartbeats and strangers will know.

I climbed out of a carriage at Central Park and I heard a man speaking Russian to his horse.

I was lost just then and believed the cabman’s horse
Knew full well my predicament.

I suspected the horse was staring into the late autumn sun.

I heard two men arguing about how to carry a sheet of glass when the wind is fierce.

We are never far from the circus or the general belief in alchemy.

On Fifth Avenue, Paracelsus still makes his living selling thimbles and miniature Greek flags.

Letter to Borges from Syracuse

Down where the great tenor must have felt it, under my left-side low rib
There was a green fruit, a pear of the mind, moonlit, cold and wet.

I felt it early, bending to the paper, just a curve
From the torso, a twist

That was not me, do you understand? I called to a bird
In the catalpa, called it bird-wise, soft

But to no effect. I was rich,
Alive, with nowhere to go, fruit from a dream

Hanging where my lungs and diaphragm met.
I wanted to stay there always,

Do you understand? My blindness was just a nuisance.
The pear, an unworldly thing.

Swayed, understand, and grew on nothing.

Rosamond Purcell [The Compass Rose]

Sunday, July 28, 2013

28 July 2013

Dionne Brand [UofTMagazine]

She is a stray child left here because the woman has breasts that look like money and her hands grow fat yams and dasheen. A stray, wandering as strays wander, their eyes or fancy hitting on a piece of wood, a door, the smell of fish or meat, wandering until they linger and forget where they were going, or until they remember another smell or patch of yard, another house; until in the middle of remembering they forget and alight where they are; a stray wandering until something struck her about the house or the samaan tree in front. Perhaps tilting her head to catch a certain light through her lashes, then noticing her cheek angle to the plain of the door. Again, perhaps the woman once knew the mother, perhaps the pumpkin vine running down the hill sprung her, perhaps they were passing friends, her mother and the woman, or perhaps there was never any formality or acquaintance. Perhaps her mother forgot her there, walking up the hill, just forgot her, letting her hand go to point the way, move a branch, look at a nettle pricking her foot, just forgot her. Her mother, one midday, resting at the woman’s yard, flicking sweat from her face and then turning up the hill again forgetting the bundle she had laid down . . . this was how people lived here, passing children and food and necessity and word onto each other. Here, there was no belonging that was singular, no need to store up lineage or count it; all this blood was washed thick and thin, rinsed and rinsed and rubbed and licked and stained; all this blood gashed and running like rain, lavered and drenched and sprinkled and beat upon clay beds and cane grass. No belonging squared off by a fence, a post, or a gate. Not in blood, not here, here blood was long and not anything that ran only in the vein. Every stranger was looked over for signs and favour. If you came upon this place suddenly, curious gazes would search your face for family. Hmm, mouths would turn down in recognition; there was always something for someone, long dead or long gone, long lost, long time, in the faces: “That one went away when?” “She reach back now, oui.” “She self.” Away, not necessarily this earth but away; eyes that favoured a dead soul, ears; messages from the dead in the way a thumb was sucked, the way a head inclined, braid hanging; there was the way a baby leaned or turned her head, the way a newborn’s eyes looked as if she’d been here already.
That one Virgie?”
That one Dan?”
That one Estelle.”
No, God, that one is Adela self. But where she come from now? En’t she leave this place?”
Look nah this child is the spitting image, spitting spitting image of Adela.”
She appeared in straight-backed, stiff-kneed children who wanted to walk before they could crawl, in babies who refused food and died within a week of their arrival, their lips pursed and rigored, in children who wouldn’t keep their clothes on, wanted to take them off to go walking in the big road, in two-year-olds in love with an axle, bolting in front of a lorry, and in forgetfulness, the way gazing out a window a girl would let the rice burn, the way walking up to the standpipe a woman would catch up in a conversation and then stare at the empty bucket curiously, the way wanting her back scratched a woman would call out every name that she’d given her children except the one she’d meant to call. No, no, belonging was not singular. They were after belonging. Long past. They had had enough of it anyway, their bellies were runny with it. Enough of love too. So much of it that they sucked their teeth at it. Useless. That’s what it was. Unnecessary. Passing. Worse, you couldn’t eat it. Never helped anything. It never brought anyone back from the dead or from the living. And this was the heart of it and the same. What would it matter if the girl burning the rice at the window knew her great-great-grandmother? Nothing. . . .

She wants to tear them with her teeth, hate is an extra head, another heart. God, she knows, is deaf, male and graceless. A man you don’t know bends you against a wall, a wall in a room, your room. He says this is the procedure, he says you have no rights here, he says I can make it easier for you if I want, you could get sent back. His dick searches your womb. He says you girls are all the same, whores, sluts, you’ll do anything. His dick is a machete, a knife, all the sharp things found on a kitchen table, all the killing things found in a tool shed. He says don’t think about moving, I can find you. He shakes the blood off his knife and leaves. This time they searched her skin, this time they found nothing and took it, too. Elizete, flat against the immense white wall, the continent. She is drawn just so, to navigate, to scarecrow such a surface, immense, flat like the world now drawn just so, to navigate the air, to scarecrow the world, flat like pain, sharp like the world again, her hands feel her mouth, spread-eagled against the immense white wall, the continent. Such a movement, insistent, deeper than will. Why does her body move now, why unpeel itself from the wall, why walk to the sink, why feel her lips, why turn the radio on? The mind cannot hold this killing. She escapes to dancing, she makes a gift of her teeth to chatter, bury it in laughter, say this is the rhythm of the world.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

27 July 2013

A Grain of Barley

I was a fool to sell my soul
for a tiny grain of barley.
Fish have streams, birds have nests.
I am homeless. I have no star.

Fish in the streams, stars in heaven,
and I’m in my room with the flies.
The silver eyes of fish — transparent glass.
Night — a motionless kettle.

You who feed the fish and insect,
and give the comet its light,
guard from fear and eternity
the fish, the insect, the poet.

Friday, July 26, 2013

26 July 2013

me, my Grandma Jones, my brother John, 1948 or 1949

Mrs. X

The woman pulls her wealth behind her
in a wheeled cart. If she’s my mother
it’s because between our last visit
& the day my family told me she died —
alone in her sleep — she escaped,
queened herself onto a plane
to San Francisco, a bus to Santa Cruz,
her white blouse tucked into frayed slacks,
permanent curls though she’s transient —
she’s taller now, seems thinner
but bustier, if foundered swells signify —
cratered-moon face, moth-wing hands,
bandaged flats.

                       When I look into her eyes
she looks away, she doesn’t keep a pet
or croon for bills in a hat, she hasn’t asked
but if I gave her my wallet, what would it buy?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova [Art Contrarian]

multiple views of a 1911 poem from Anna Akhmatova's first book, Evening:


То змейкой, свернувшись клубком,
У самого сердца колдует,
То целые дни голубком
На белом окошке воркует,

То в инее ярком блеснет,
Почудится в дреме левкоя...
Но верно и тайно ведет
От радости и от покоя.

Умеет так сладко рыдать
В молитве тоскующей скрипки,
И страшно ее угадать
В еще незнакомой улыбке.

[transliteration by Google Translate]

To zmeykoy, svernuvshis' klubkom,
U samogo serdtsa kolduyet,
To tselyye dni golubkom
Na belom okoshke vorkuyet,

To v ineye yarkom blesnet,
Pochuditsya v dreme levkoya . . .
No verno i tayno vedet
Ot radosti i ot pokoya.

Umeyet tak sladko rydat'
V molitve toskuyushchey skripki,
I strashno yeye ugadat'
V yeshche neznakomoy ulybke.

[my literal translation, without conjugation or declension, aided by Google Translate]

Snake, curling tangle,
in of the heart conjures,
that whole days dove
on white window coos,

that in frost bright flash,
seemed in sandman [slumber, doze] wallflowers . . .
but right and secretly leads
from joy and from rest.

Able to so sweetly sob
in prayer yearning violin,
and frightfully its guess
in more unknown smile.

Love [translated by A. S. Kline]

A snake, it coils
Bewitching the heart.
Day after day, coos
A dove on the white sill.

A bright flash in frost,
Drowsy night-scented stock . . .
Yet, sure and secret,
It’s far from peace and joy.

It knows how to weep sweetly
In the violin’s yearning prayer;
And is fearfully divined
In a stranger’s smile.

Love [translated by Judith Hemschemeyer]

Now, like a little snake, it curls into a ball,
Bewitching your heart,
Then for days it will coo like a dove
On the little white windowsill.

Or it will flash as bright frost,
Drowse like a gillyflower . . .
But surely and stealthily it will lead you away
From joy and tranquility.

It knows how to sob so sweetly
In the prayer of a yearning violin,
And how fearful to divine it
In a still unfamiliar smile.

Love [translated by Daniel Weissbort]

Tightly coiled, like a snake it sits
In my very heart, weaving spells
Or murmurs for days on end
Like a dove on my white windowsill.

In the sparkle of hoarfrost a gleam,
In the carnation's slumber a hint,
And secretly, surely it leads
From all joy and peace of mind.

It can sob so seductively, sigh
In the violin's yearning prayer.
And it happens, a stranger's smile
Fills me with a sudden fear.

Love  [translated by Lyudmila Purgina]
As a snake, coiling up in a knot, 
At the very heart she's conjuring. 
Or the whole day she's like tiny dove 
On the window white tender cooing. 
Or she sparkles in hoar-frost bright, 
And in dozing - like a gillyflower... 
But she surely, secretly guides 
You from a pleasure and from a quiet. 
She can sweetly and plaintively cry 
In a prayer of boring violin, 
And is awe now to guess her in smile, 
Yet unknown, though such greeting. 

Love [translated by D. M. Thomas]

Like a tiny snake coiled in a grove
It will charm you and frighten and thrill,
Then for days it will coo like a dove
On your little white windowsill.

It will drowse like a gillyflower,
Then flash like a brilliant hoar-frost . . .
But soon, before you’re aware,
To joy and to peace you’ll be lost.

It knows how to make you tearful
With a yearningly-sweet violin,
And a stranger’s smile — how fearful
As you guess that again it begins . . .

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

23 July 2013

Rusty Morrison [The Kelly Writers House]

After urgency

How to draw the constantly shifting selves together
around an object of scrutiny and let this simply be

the way that it’s raining again outside, so lightly,
hardly more than fog, so that I leave behind my

umbrella, open the door, then decide to just stand
at the very edge of the front porch, neither

immersed in nor protected from the suffusion
in the air of nearly imperceptible rainfall.

6 In-significance

The dead, today, are flushed to fever with my own fending-off.

Let the cloud-face be a proposition of finding no face at all.

The axial force in a tossed-away stone. From which I gain no center,
yet go on encircling.

The day is a thin, blown-glass nest. Each of their deaths is an egg in it.

There is no disarray at the binding line between light and shade.

No uncertainty or censure between sky and branch.

Where nothing has gone, and everything missed before it
went missing.

Listening for the split twig’s tact, the someone is coming,
its faux benevolence.

The suddenly red crow, glazed with evening sun, as if
to convince existence of its presence.

For our death party, I wear briar embellishments.


Climbing ahead of my fear in sudden sound —
tea kettle’s shrillness behind me,
I follow a more compelling noise I’m rising toward.

       A noise without object slides freely through the bangles
       that would embellish it, and the carefully executed
       traps that try to expose it.

       A pursuit attuned to fear’s voice
       needn’t obscure other emotions,
       but enhances my capacity to distinguish them.

Pasting this pursuit like a long strip of clear tape
across the morning’s tea, phone calls, checks to write,
to keep everything from slipping out of balance.


I listen for the proper acoustics.
       Singularly, as it pertains to each encounter.

Skin is a close relation of future, maybe a daughter.
Witless as any surface to what it must witness.

Tree-line, water’s edge, places that borders will gather against.
       What a body might verge upon, it can neither tame nor test.