Thursday, October 31, 2013

Leslie Scalapino

Leslie Scalapino [The Disinhibitor]

from Leslie Scalapino's Way:

Hoofer [excerpt]

                                                                  they don't — like — the

                                                                  life of the bum — as fragile —
                                                                  though not for that reason — from
                                                                  commercial — they're being in the bar —
                                                                  who're a bartender and waitress

so the bartender and

waitress — in the bar — not liking — that was
the bum — or that is it — so that it's
reversed as the same — bum —
as fragile

and — got — the bartender

and waitress — angry — in the mere
conversation — about — the
bum's existence which is fragile — not
from that — on their part

                                                                  so it's — turned out — which may be

                                                                  a or — the — bums — the same as — not from
                                                                  that existence — unfortunately — as
                                                                  they're not socially important — or — are


communicate — regardless
and to know that will not be
— naive — from their existence — or
mine — as a silly view of it —

Fred Astaire — a hoofer

— as the reason — or that
from his existence — of our
culture — to communicate
not from it — manufacturing


                                                                  positive event — therefore
                                                                  as the episode from it being that of
                                                                  Fred Astaire — hoofer — as
                                                                  resulting — or flowering — of
                                                                  the bum

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

30 October 2013

Aleksandr Blok [united architects]

Alexander Alexandrovich Blok from Olga Carlisle's Poets on Street Corners: portraits of fifteen Russian poets, translated/adapted by Adrienne Rich:

The Artist

Torpid summers, snow-choked winters,
at all your weddings, birthdays, funerals,
always I listen for a dim, unheard chime
to drive away my deadly boredom.

There . . . ! Now, with cold concentration, I wait
to understand, to pin it down, to kill it.
And as I wait intently, a thread begins
to spin itself, half perceptibly, before me.

Is that a whirlwind blown from the sea? Or legendary birds
in chorus among the leaves? Does Time exist?
Was that an explosion of white petals, or light
springing in plumes from a divine shoulder?

Hours pass, bearing the weight of the whole world.
Sound, motion, light, are bursting. The past
gazes deep into the eyes of the future. There is no present.
There’s nothing left requiring pity.

And at last, as something new is thrusting toward birth,
some new soul, a mysterious energy,
creative reason strikes like a lightning bolt
and masters it, and kills it.

And I lock into a cold cage
the airy, wild, merciful feathers,
the bird that was flying to capture death,
the bird of salvation.

You see my cage, its thick steel bands
glittering coldly in the evening fires.
And here’s my bird, my tamed gypsy,
pleased with its hoop, swinging and singing.

The wings are clipped, the song’s by rote.
You like to listen, standing under the window.
But I, worn out with pain, am only waiting;
boredom sits on me like an aching scar.

Adrienne Rich [bio]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova [Amedeo Modigliani]

from Olga Carlisle's Poets on Street Corners: portraits of fifteen Russian poetsAnna Akhmatova's "Requiem," translated/adapted by Robert Lowell (Atlantic Monthly, 1964):

The Requiem

Dedicated to the victims of the Stalinist repression in the late thirties, the Yezhovshchina, named after Yezhov, who was head of the secret police at the time. The streltsi were Peter the Great's musketeers whom he suspected of treason and had executed, with all sorts of refinements in cruelty, at the gates of the Kremlin in the presence of their families.

I wasn't under a new sky,
its birds were the old familiar birds.
They still spoke Russian. Misery
spoke familiar Russian words.

By Way of Introduction

In the terrible years of the Yezhovshchina, I spent seventeen months in the prison lines at Leningrad. Once, someone somehow recognized me. Then a woman standing behind me, her lips blue with cold, who had of course never heard of me, woke up from the stupor that enveloped us, and asked me, whispering in my ear (for we only spoke in whispers):
"Could you describe this?"
I said, "I can."
Then something like a smile glided over what was once her face.


Grief turns the Neva to green glass,
soon the abiding hills are dust,
and yet the prison locks stand fast,
the convict, kicking in his lair,
breathes the consuming air.

For someone somewhere, a fresh wind;
for someone the low sun is a live coal,
but we know nothing. Blind and small,
we hear the keys clang through wards,
the sleepwalk of the guards.

Up, out, as if for early Mass —
when we prowled through wild Leningrad,
we were more breathless than the dead,
and lower than the sun. Low fog,
soon leveled out to fog.

We hoped! The verdict? . . . only tears,
each one cut off from everyone,
rudely cut off, tripped up, thrown down,
blood siphoned from the heart. Dead stone,
she walks still, sways . . . alone.

Oh two years' hell-black, line-up nights,
cry, cry, for your imprisoned friend,
clothe him from the Siberian wind,
shine in the haloed moon's snow eye . . .
I say good-bye, good-bye.


Then only the hollow, smiling dead
dared to draw breath and sing;
by blocks and prisons, Leningrad
throbbed like a useless wing.

There convict regiments, miles long,
and mad with suffering,
heard engines hiss their marching song,
the cattle cars' wheel-ring.

The star of death stood over us;
Russia convulsed, as ominous
removal trucks and black
police boots broke her back.


They led you off at dawn. I followed,
as if I walked behind your bier.
In the dark rooms, the children bellowed,
wax melted in the icon's glare.

Cold the small icon's final kiss,
cold the lined forehead's greenish sweat —
like the wives of the Streltsis,
I'll howl beneath the Kremlin's gate.


The dragging Don flows slow, so slow,
the orange moon climbs through a window.

Its hat is slanted on its brow,
the yellow moon has met a shadow.

This woman is alone,
no one will give the dog a bone.

Her husband's killed, her son's in prison;
Kyrie eleison!


Myself! No, she is someone else,
I couldn't take it. Light
no lanterns in these death cells —
black cloths for windows . . . night!


Think back on Tsarskoe's play world, soon
outgrown, soon dated, show-off child —
the tree house built to reach the moon . . .
Oh what has happened to that child?

Number 300 in the queues
of women lugging food and news
for felons. . . . Will your scalding tear
burn an ice hole in the new year?

No sound. A prison poplar waves
over the deadly closeness, waves
of white leaves whiten in the wind —
what innocent lives have reached the end!


For one month, five months, seventeen,
I called you back. I screamed
at the foot of the executioner.
You are my son, my fear.

Thoughts rush in circles through my head;
I can't distinguish white from red,
who is a man, who a beast,
or when your firing squad will rest.

Here there are only musty flowers,
old clock hands tramping out the hours,
old incense drifting from a censer,
and somewhere, boot steps leading nowhere.

See, see, it pins us down from far;
now looking straight into my eye,
"Move quickly, be prepared to die,"
says the huge star.


These weeks are lightweight runners. Light
of foot, they skin the oblivious snow.
Son, tell me how the white-capped night
looks through your prison window.

"It watches with the owl's hard eye,
or chokes the air with its white snow.
It speaks to us of Calvary,
it speaks of death."

The Verdict

At last the silent judge spoke out,
and struck us with his stony word —
but never mind, I will make out,
I was prepared.

Stones, chores . . . I'll manage. Splitting rock
stops the split mind from looking back.
I can forget you now and then,
turn stone, and learn to live again —

or else? The woods hot rustle, boughs
bursting, a window flying open . . .
I had long had a premonition
of this clear day and empty house.

8 To Death

You will come anyway, so why not now?
I wait for you. Now truly miserable,
I've turned my lights off and unlocked the door.
You are so simple and so wonderful.

Come to me in whatever shape you will:
a poison-bomb shell, or the typhus mist —
housebreaker, coming from behind to kill,
lifting a clubbed revolver in your fist.

Come to me as your own invention, Fate,
familiar to the point of nausea here —
I want to see the top of the blue hat,
the cringing stupor of the janitor.

All's one now. In Siberia,
rivers are ice, the pole star shines from far,
and the blue rays of my beloved's eye
burn through the daily torture. Let me die.

9 Madness

Already madness — on my breast
are three black moles. I see a fox:
two ears, black muzzle. Let me rest,
this bed I lie on is a pine box.

So simple and so wonderful!
Careful to stress each syllable
the allegoric voices hiss,
I lie decoding images.

I've breathed in red wine from the air!
Now sickness gathers up its gains,
and kicks me as I kneel in prayer,
and nothing of my own remains —

no, not my son's shy smile of wonder
that turned the bars to lines of shadow,
the woods' hot rustle, summer thunder,
our whispers at the prison window —

no, not the roughhouse of the boys,
birch boughs filled with the new birds,
light noises changing to a voice,
the ache of the last words.

10 The Crucifixion

"Mother, do not cry for me as I lie in my grave . . ."


When angel choirs proclaimed his agony,
and fire destroyed the April sky,
Christ questioned, "Why have you forsaken me?"
and told his Mother not to cry.


Magdalen fought and hit the officer,
the loved disciple stood like stone —
all this, God, but your Mother weeps alone;
none dares or cares to look at her.



An Assyrian sculptor carved your spear
and skewered flanks. Oh, lioness —
I've seen their faces die like grass,
the lowered eyelid's tick of fear.

I've seen the sick-blond curls grown rough,
snow rot the brown, smiles disappear
from soft, obedient mouths, as fear
suppressed its dry, embarrassed cough.

I pray for you, companions, all
who stood in lines with heavy feet,
come winter's cold or summer heat,
under the red and blinding wall.


And now the requiem hour has come,
I see you, hear you, feel you. Some
marched to their deaths in cheering ranks,
others have faded into blanks.

Some, coming to Siberia, said,
"Why worry, this is home at last."
Some lived. I'd write their names in red
forever, but the list is lost.

I've made a sort of elegy
drawn from the scattered words they wpoke.
Braced for terror's second stroke,
now and always, I hear their cry.

Tomorrow's the memorial day,
a hundred million people pray
through my tired mouth and lethargy:
"Remember me, remember me."

Friends, if you want some monument
gravestone or cross to stand for me,
you have my blessing and consent,
but do not place it by the sea.

I was a sea-child, hardened by
the polar Baltic's grinding dark;
that tie is gone: I will not lie,
a Tsar's child in the Tsarist park.

Far from your ocean, Leningrad,
I leave my body where I stood
three hundred hours in lines with those
who watched unlifted prison windows.

Safe in death's arms, I lie awake,
and hear the mother's animal roar,
the black truck slamming on its brake,
the senseless hammering of the door.

Ah, the Bronze Horseman wipes his eye
and melts, a prison pigeon coos,
the ice goes out, the Neva goes
with its slow barges to the sea.

Robert Lowell [Gisèle Freund]

Sunday, October 27, 2013

27 October 2013


                                             when she says it's Jagger
                                             I step out, walk into space
                                             & look up into his face as if to say, hey
not immediately                     now you get to meet me
sought after                                                                he can't think
nor swept up by                     swiftly — say no — so he takes my hand
fans                                      & walks with me, he with his curly
                                             yellow Afro ringlet hair
                                             gold —no — spangly
I, the                                     spare, oiled hips
one fan                                  palm of a giant hand
                                             he lets go
gangle                                   I return to her
                                                                  this is how
                                             we meet, don’t know

27 October 2013

Robert Duncan [Mark I Chester]

from Robert Duncan’s The H D. Book (The Collected Writings of Robert Duncan):

“What should he read — ” her paramour asked as we walked toward the campus the day of our first meeting — “Should he read Eliot?” “No,” she made her pronouncement, speaking of me in the third person — it was as if he had enquired on my behalf at Delphi of the oracle: “His work is too melodramatic as it is. He should read Pound.”

Just here, with this memory, a third scene, I had the sense of a missing element of my story coming into the picture. It was at once the weakest in its claim to being a living reality — just as the claim of a stylish mode in itself can seem a weak ground indeed. But the reality of art was to be for me always a matter of love and taste, Eros and Form. Had that arbiter not been so purely a creature of taste or fashion, of an even snobbish sense of what was right, and so little — it was my entire impression of her — a creature of soul, I might have mistaken taste for liking. Liking, being fond of like things and people, was itself a mimic of love, and could be then a mimic too of judgment. But taste — even the snob’s presumption — excited in me another apprehension, the lure of a quality in a work in itself that demanded something of me, beyond the recognition of my own feelings expressed in an artist’s work, the recognition of feelings that were demanded by the form of the work itself. Love and the sense of Form and Judgment — passion and law — know nothing of liking or disliking. The modern taste, the exacting predilection, beyond likes, was, just here, a third aspect — my involvement with the structural drama of H. D.’s art. I was as a poet to be not only a Romantic but also a Formalist.

Form is the mode of the spirit, as Romance is the mode of the soul. In liking and disliking there was a beginning of creating one’s soul life, determining in recognizing what would be kindred and what alien to one’s inner feeling of things, making a likeness of one’s self in which the person would develop. In taste, almost the vanity of taste, there were intimations of the formal demand the spirit would make to shape all matter to its energies, to tune the world about it to the mode of an imagined music.

In my conversion to Poetry I was to find anew the world of Romance that I had known in earliest childhood in fairy tale and daydream and in the romantic fictions of the household in which I grew up. I had set out upon a soul-journey in my falling in love with my teacher in which she set me upon the quest of the spirit in Poetry, that reappeared later disguised in this foolish, even vain, presentation of a lady of fashionable tastes who demanded of me the secret of form hidden in the modernist style. The high adventure was to be for me the romance of forms, haunted by its own course, its own secret unfolding form, relating to some great form of many phases to which it belonged. The crux of my work was still to be melodramatic — if we remember the meaning of that word as being “a stage play (usually romantic and sensational in plot and incident) in which songs are interspersed, and in which action is accompanied by orchestral music.” But the elements of stage and play, of romance and sensation, that are usually taken to belong to the psyche-drama, were to come more and more to be seen to belong to, to illustrate and accompany the musical structure. So the world of the spirit hidden in the experience of soul and body becomes dominant, informing romance and sensation with a third possibility, even as soul dramatizes or enacts body and spirit, or as body incarnates as a living idea propositions of spirit and soul. The orchestration no longer accompanies but leads the dance. . . .

Where truth is the root of the art, to come to fullness means to let bloom the full flower of what one was, the truth of what one felt and thought — a flowering of corruptions and rage, of bile and intestines, as well as of sense and light, of glands and growth. For it was not the ideal or the model of feeling that I saw as my work, but the revelation of the nature of Man in my own being. . . .

I was to undertake the work in poetry to find out — what I least knew myself — what I felt at heart. But in the beginning the work was a gift to my teacher. I was to undertake the work to present what I felt at heart to someone who had a trust I did not have in the heart, who wished for just that gift for love's sake. I was to undertake the work in order that Eros be kept over me a Master. . . .

Books were the bodies of thought and feeling that could not otherwise be shared.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

26 October 2013

bell hooks [withfriendship]

from bell hooks's Bone Black:


To her child mind old men were the only men of feeling. They did not come at once smelling of alcohol and sweet cologne. They approached one like butterflies, moving light and beautiful, staying still for only a moment. She found it easy to be friends with them. They talked to her as if they understood one another, as if they were the same — nothing standing between them, not age, not sex. They were the brown-skinned men with serious faces who were the deacons of the church, the right-hand men of god. They were the men who wept when they felt his love, who wept when the preacher spoke of the good and faithful servant. They pulled wrinkled handkerchiefs out of their pockets and poured tears in them, as if they were pouring milk into a cup. She wanted to drink those tears that like milk would nourish her and help her grow.

One of those men walked with his body bent, crippled. The grown-ups frowned at her when she asked them why he didn't walk straight. Did he know how to walk straight? Had he ever learned? They never answered. Every Sunday he read the scripture for the main offering. His voice wrinkled like paper. Sometimes it sounded as if there were already tears in it waiting to spill over, waiting to wet the thirsty throats of parched souls. She could not understand the reading. Only one part was clear. It was as though his voice suddenly found a message that eased sorrow, a message brighter than any tear. It was the part that read, It is required and understood that a man be found faithful. He was one of the faithful.

She loved the sight of him. After church she would go and stand near him, knowing that he would give her his hand, covered old bones in wrinkled brown skin that reminded her of a well-worn leather glove. She would hold that hand tight, never wanting to give it back. In a wee pretend voice full of tears and longing he would ask for his hand back saying all the while that he would love for her to keep it but could not build his house without it. She loved to hear him talk about the house that he had been building for years, a dream house, way out in the country, with trees, wildflowers, and animals. She wanted to know if there were snakes. He assured her that if she came to visit the snakes would come out of their hiding places just for her, singing and playing their enchanted flutes.

It was a hot, hot day when she went to his house. She came all by herself slowly walking down the dirt road, slowing moving up the hill. He stood at the top waiting. The house was so funny she couldn't stop laughing, it was half finished. She could not imagine how anyone could live in a half-finished house. He gave her his hand, strong and brown. She could see it sawing, nailing, putting together boards that contained the memories of all his unfulfilled dreams. She could see the loneliness in that hand. When she whispered to him that she always held that hand — the right one — because all the loneliness was stored there like dry fruit in a cool place, he understood immediately.

Sitting on the steps watching him work she could ask all the questions about being crippled that she had ever wanted to know. Was he alone because he was crippled. Was he not married because he was crippled. Was he without children because he was crippled. Her questions smoothed the wrinkles in his brow, took the tears from his voice, wet his dreams with the promise of a woman waiting faithfully with outstretched hands.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

24 October 2013

Dismiss Whatever Insults Your Soul

          Out there is a childhood country,
          bleached faces peering in
          with coals for eyes.
                                — Stanley Kunitz

Cursed & ill-cast
iso-booth world —
yes, improvement’s
a hug away,
watermelon spills
from fork to floor,
outsider lured to
what feels like death
met cleanly, body
crimped upon a bike
in painful weather
like a bad witch
with a cursèd baby,
volcanoes & fairies
paid not to look,
a pink house in
a seaside climate
necklaced in loss
formed with a licking
like spider webs,
ladybug bites
narcissists give
& receive — pick up
the twig & chew it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

23 October 2013

Annie Finch & mother Maggie [huff post]

from Annie Finch's Spells: New and Selected Poems:


Home is a birthplace since you came to me,
pouring yourself down through me like a soul,
calling the cosmos imperiously
into me so it could reach to unroll
out from the womb where the wild rushes start
in a quick, steady heartbeat not from my own heart.
This is my body, which you made to break,
which gave you to make you, till you bear its mark,
which held you till you found your body to take,
(open at home on my bed in the dark.)

Beach of Edges

A drift of snow edges a new drift of sand
As edges grow deeper. It's March, month of edges.
Wet rocks yield to pebbles like opening hands.

The glisten of rockweed trails, splutters, and bends,
And sparkles of rivulets bounce down in ledges.
A drift of snow edges a new drift of sand;

It's March, month of edges, and I'm left to stand
Alone outside time as new light pulls and nudges
Wet rocks. Yield to pebbles like opening hands,

Light; pull me from winter. How have I planned
For light that's not winter, for live light that fledges
A drift of snow, edges a new drift of sand

Beyond my last sight, and waves me like a wand
Out back over the surges of these rocking sedges?
Wet rocks yield to pebbles like opening hands;

I want to go back to him, as to the land;
light, carry me over from the wild old grudges.
A drift of snow edges a new drift of sand;
Wet rocks yield to pebbles like opening hands.

Friday, October 18, 2013

18 October 2013

sunset @ Gilda's, Santa Cruz

Time Passes in Gutters

               not everyone can have the benefit of being insane
               but anyone can make life easier for themselves
               by turning down the beam of reason
                                                                     — Montaigne

The riding mower
back of the house forgets me.
News from the window
is not birds, not wild animals
but delivery trucks & neighbors,
surfer sliding a van door.
What color is gunmetal?
Sea stainless across the bay.
Cat invisible under brush.
Only deciduous trees are real,
the rest stage set, easy listening.
Leaves of chestnut pollards
turn yellow when I’m not
outside. Reader, I advise you
to study solids & fluids,
not to draw a house.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

17 October 2013

Robert Duncan

from Robert Duncan's Ground Work: Before the War:

Dante Études Book One [excerpt]


. . .

but our own

"is that which we acquire without
any rule"     for love of it

                     "imitating our nurses"

From the beginning,    color
and light, my nurse;      sounding waves
and air, my nurse;      animal presences
my nurse;   Night, my nurse .

      out of hunger,  instinctual
      craving,    thirst for "knowing",

      toward oracular teats.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

16 October 2013

Ange Mlinko [jacket]

Stet Stet Stet

Where the curve of the road rhymes with the reservoir’s
and cleared of the leafy veils that for six months
obscured it,
the landscape’s wet chestnut
in the gray descended cloud
intones You’re lucky to live in a watershed
so no vast tracts of tacky drywall
turn the land into peremptory enclosures.
You’ve bought in.
The venial sin:
being exceptional.
Reading Hölderlin.
And the natural hallucinogen of joy
leaving wordy outputs
hanging on piney tenterhooks
while all the wild protected liminal woods
contrive a blind.


Furzy Jersey” isn’t quite right.

A life of Hoboken after Hoboken . . .

Your landscape is not here.”

I do not make a habit of losing landscapes.”

I accept a cup of coffee on behalf of man’s prejudice against himself —
anything which is a product of his mind seems to him to be unreal
or comparatively insignificant” as the landscape draws an arm in
from the left but keeps its right arm flat on the horizon, or draws
both arms in, as rows of trees close up the view like hanging sleeves,
and the flatness is why Maryland is loathed until, rising on a bridge,
clothed — in cerulean tulle: the suspension like a row of legs
poised on the barre by a mirror and jutting from the jeté (à la antlers
from the startled buck in the x-ing sign) a metal comb. Fanciful!
And the shadows so sharp the tires hiccup over them like rumble strips
as if shadows gel, succumbing to the laws of physics.
There is some threshold, e.g. at which instances of “hither”
gel into usage. And speaking of tires, as full of air as “thither,”
there is a sign: “Millefueille Tires” right off the ramp. — Coffee helps.
As close as Pennsylvania to Maryland; as far as Philadelphia
from Annapolis.” It was while visiting, ever-so-briefly,
one of those townhouses set like jewel boxes in the jostling street,
as if Delft had never gone pfft, that I realized my abhorrence
of the housing development, for instance the one in Camezotz, PA,
where I spent some time as a kid riding a bike around a system
of cul-de-sacs like a video game ca. 1981, derived
from a prelapsarian innocence of systems; not to mention
nonstandard door frames, window sizes, variable-width-siding,
and glass that à la its moniker, “slow liquid,” attenuated
in some sense like a tear-shaped bass note, toward the bottom
of the pane.

                       How to Wreak Revenge on a Town by Painting
Your House Orange . . . and studding it with white urinals (yes)
and the coup de grâce: a pickaninny butler with ashtray hand extended.
I have a hard time comprehending how people can feel such
ownership that they must prove it by defacement. The silence in a room
where you have recently spoken is different from any other silence,
and this is evident from the sound engineer who records dead air
for minutes on end after you have left. “We can take consonants
and vowels from all the words you’ve pronounced and make you say
things you’ve never said”; so the cushion of silence on which they
cut and paste must have the same consistency, must be the same silence
disgruntled by a helicopter. We can take consonants and vowels
from all the words you’ve pronounced and make you say things
you’ve never said. Here one rediscovers a prejudice for oneself.
And the idea that a room corresponds to a musical note
and thus “resonates” when sung to — the idea that even this bridge
might correspond to a B-flat that, when “sung” by the wind,
causes it to oscillate and utterly collapse — there are photographs —
suggests despite the belief that “we are satisfied only
when we fancy ourselves surrounded by objects and laws
independent of our nature,” music is material, but “the material”
isn’t wholly material. Speaking of which, construction materials
are way up this year thanks to the hurricane damage in the Gulf.
You mean, like, the wholesale destruction of cities.”
(“I am not in the habit of losing landscapes.”) When Ronnie asks
if your family is from “the other side” she has to use the phrase twice
before I understand “born in Ireland.” No, born here. But “the other side”
conjures a mirror world doesn’t it? — let alone the land of faeries, poetry,
and mirage that we normally associate with “Eire.” I mean,
take the custom of posing riddles to strangers or choosing a question
which only one person answering to an identity could know.
The marriage bed hewn from a tree with its roots in the floor. Or
What’s your mother’s maiden name?” On an island off the coast of Maine,
a summer visitor walked into a library and asked the librarian,
whom one imagines a woman of indeterminate middle- to old-age
grown into her role with its props, its pomp, its flashing bifocals:
How many books can one take out at a time?”