Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Death Cap

Death Cap

I am the old lady 
asked along to a brewery
to distract the child,
to nurse a half pint of
vaunted yet unwished for
ale, to be ignored
except when family 
points me to a chair.
I take in the crowd 
queued for another draft,
clustered around barrels
of bursty talk, of laughs.
The child & I 
discover nothing here
beyond noise & large bodies
in black clothing,
a barmaid’s tattooed 
arms & blued hair.
Then a table half empty,
a couple willing to share,
but first we marvel 
at two large mushrooms
someone’s left there,
not witches butter, 
not turkey tail
nor red-belted conk — 
names the child suggests
& stoutly denies
before switching focus
to morphological detail —
“This,” she says, “is the stalk.”
For the pocked crown
I posit cap, then balked,
we google, for the ring —
none — then gills,
mycelium, volva.
These must be death cap, we surmise.
Some mushrooms 
push straight up through soil,
she says, wonder 
blazing from her eyes.

Monday, December 21, 2015

William Meredith


The Illiterate 
by William Meredith 

Touching your goodness, I am like a man 
Who turns a letter over in his hand, 
And you might think this was because the hand 
Was unfamiliar, but truth is the man 
Has never had a letter from anyone; 
And now he is both afraid of what it means 
And ashamed because he has no other means 
To find out what it says than to ask someone. 

His uncle could have left the store to him, 
Or his parents died before he sent them word, 
Or the dark girl changed and want him for her lover. 
Afraid and letter-proud he keeps it with him. 
What would you call his pleasure in the words 
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie [theguardian]

Fragment 2

Imagine we could begin
all over again; begin

afresh, like this February
dawn light, coaxing

from the Scots pines
their red ochre, burnt-earth glow.

All over again. South
— facing mountainsides, balcony

above balcony of pines — imagine
we could mend

whatever we heard fracture:
splintering of wood, a bird's

cry over still water, a sound
only reaching us now

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Alberto Ríos

Alberto Ríos [YouTube]

from Alberto Ríos's The Lime Orchard Woman:

Incident at Imuris

Mr. Aplinio Morales has reported this:
They were not after all 
Watermelons, it was not the wild
Fruit patch they at first had thought;
In the manner of what moths do,
These were cocoons, as every child has
Picked up and squeezed,
But from in these came and they saw
Thousands of green-winged half moths,
Half moths and not exactly butterflies,
Not exactly puppies —
A name for them did not exist here.
Half this and some of that,
What was familiar and what might be European.
And when the fruit rotted, or seemed to rot —
Almost all of them on the same day —
From out of each husk the beasts flew
Fat, equipped, at ease
So that they were not so much
Hungry as curious.
The watermelons had been generous homes.
These were not begging animals,
Not raccoons, nor rats,
Not second or third class;
These were the kind that if human
They would have worn dinner jackets
And sniffed, not at anything in particular,
Just as general commentary.
Animals who had time for tea.
Easily distracted and obviously educated
In some inexplicable manner,
The beasts of the watermelons left
The same day, after putting their heads
In windows, bored already
From chasing the horses
And drinking too much from the town well.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Carolyn Kizer

Carolyn Kizer [Harry Naltchayan]

from Carolyn Kizer's Cool, Calm & Collected:

Plaint of the Poet in an Ignorant Age

I would I had a flower-boy!
I'd sit in the mid of an untamed wood
Away from tame suburbs beyond the trees.
With my botany-boy to fetch and find,
I'd sit in a rocker by a pot of cold coffee
Noodling in a notebook on my knee,
Calling, "Flower-boy, name me that flower!
Read me the tag on that tree!"
But here I sit by an unlit fire
Swizzling three martinis
While a thousand metaphors doze outdoors,
And the no-bird sings in the no-name tree.

I would I had a bug-boy
With a bug-book and a butterfly net,
To bring me Nature in a basket of leaves:
A bug on a leaf by the goldfish bowl;
I'd sit in a rocker, a pocketful of pine-nuts
And a nutcracker knocking my knee,
Cracking nuts, jokes, and crying to my bug-boy,
"Read me the caterpillar on the leaf,
Count the number of nibbled veins
By a tree's light, in fire!"
While I, in my rocker, rolled and called,
A caterpillar crawled on the long-named leaf.

If I had a boy of Latin and Greek
In love with eleven-syllable leaves,
Hanging names like halos on herb and shrub!
A footnote lad, a lexicon boy
Who would run in a wreath around my rocker
To kneel at my chair, at my knee
Saying, "Here is your notebook, here is your pen! —
I have found a marvelous tree!"
But all I have is a poetry-boy,
A bottle-cap king: he cries,
Thudding from the garden, "What do you call
The no-bird that sings in the no-name tree?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Adélia Prado

Adélia Prado [La Oriental]

from The Alphabet in the Park: Selected Poems of Adélia Prado, translated by Ellen Watson


Once in a while God takes poetry away from me. 
I look at a stone, I see a stone.
The world, so full of departments,
is not a pretty ball flying free in space.
I feel ugly, gazing in mirrors to try to provoke them,
thrashing the brush through my hair,
susceptible to believing in omens.
I become a terrible Christian.
Every day at this time the sound of a giant mortar and pestle:
Here comes Gimpy, I think, and sadden with fear.
"What day is today?" says Mother;
"Friday is the day of sorrowful mysteries."
The night-light glimmers its already humble ray,
narrowing once and for all the black of night.
Enter, in the calm of the hour, the buzz
of the factory, in continuous staccato.
And I am in heat, unceasingly,
I persist in going to the garden to attract butterflies
and the memory of the dead.
I fall in love once a day,
I write horrible letters, full of spasms,
as if I had a piano and bags under my eyes,
as if my name were Anne of the Cross.
Except for the eyes in photographs,
no one knows what death is.
If there were no clover in the garden,
I don't know if I would write this;
no one knows what talent is.
I sit on the porch watching the street,
waiting for the sky to sadden with dusk.
When I grow up I'll write a book:
"You mean fireflies are the same thing as lightning bugs?" they asked, amazed.
Over leftover coals, the beans
balloon in the black pot.
A little jolt: the end of the prayer long gone.
The young pullets did not all fit
under the mother hen;
she clucked a warning.
This story is threatening to end, stopped up with stones.
No one can stand to be merely Lenten.
A pain this purple induces fainting,
a pain this sad doesn't exist.
School cafeterias and radio broadcasts
featuring calisthenics set to music
sustain the order of the world, despite me.
Even the thick knots extracted from the breast,
the cobalt, its ray pointed at pained flesh —
upon which I have cast this curse:
I refuse to write one line to you — even these
settle in among the firewood,
longing for a place in the crucifixion.
I started this letter bursting with pride,
overestimating my ability to yell for help,
tempted to believe that some things,
in fact, have no Easter.
But sleep overpowered me and this story dozed off
letter by letter. Until the sun broke through.
The flies awoke.
And the woman next door had an attack of nerves;
they called me urgently from the garden wall.
Death leaves behind photographs, articles of clothing,
half-full medicine bottles, disoriented insects
in the sea of flowers that covers the body.
This poem has gone sticky on me. He won't shake loose.
He disgusts me, with his big head;
I grab my shopping bag.
I'll stroll around the market.
But there he is, brandy in his spittle,
heels callused like a woman's,
coins in the palm of his hand.
It's not an exemplary life, this, robbing an old man
of the sweet pleasure of grandchildren.
My sadness was never mortal,
it's reborn every morning.
Death doesn't stop the pitter-pat of rain on the umbrella,
tiny droplets
innumerable as the constellations.
I trail behind the funeral precession,
mixing with holy women,
I wipe the Sacred Visage.
"All you who pass by, look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. . . ."
Happiness alone has body:
Head hung low,
glassy eyes and mouth,
bruised feelings and bruised limbs.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The History of the Future

The History of the Future

make the picture in the future
the history of the future
4-line house, 2-line tent

life upon a clown
you are free so what to do
snake, monkey, repurposed lion

without defiance what forms
do you carve?
hemisphere, triangle, slash

if everything needs to be lines
inside or outside the lens
g o g g l e s a r e b l a c k s o

the moon sheds dim light
on an oil rig, water beneath the rig
the toe you unsock & dip in the water

socking & shoeing are not commutative
asylums, with or without crayons
tattoos lasered or faded

home — what is, who wants, why?
how to move forward (backward)
dream space, every place

better you work outside
the beard, the blind
image to word to string of words

flagged down, the baby bird
death is not Zeno’s paradox
point & fledge

to love dreams
is to love knowing you can’t know
precise & absurd

aspens grow between floor tiles
rush back
as if to prove you’re safe

feral runs out, runs back
stops at the median
lopes toward the traffic light

the laminate beam
spans the high ceiling
bored through in three places

purple cabbage straws
tight-coiled quinoa
orange beans

all day, you said,
you walk from window to window
panning for light

water is sound
green & brown shine
white froth & flow

wet is optional
unless you are the river
rock pebbly, like dried-out sponge

make the garden ammonite
omega, hourglass
flowers orange, yellow, red

make light flow from the center
along lines of blossom anatomy
charred by, rimmed with

scepters of hollyhock
rosemary, daylily
succulents, artichoke

cosmos wavers
crisscross laid in pavers
with thyme to flavor soles

let the central chamber
raise a mesh-clad tent
coral snake undulant

the antique shop’s
white window dressing
of rocker, wedding dress, birdcage

a green-gold deposit
crowns your hair — bird gift
alchemy’s prima materia

you found the ceiling
now find the floor, full
& empty are much the same

either you prefer to be elder
or you have no choice
childhood green

rough-barked trees w/
long narrow leaves
spruce, pine, maple, walnut

tattoos articulate crimson
& hard-won blue
cedar, cypress, yew

big-mouth sharks
leap from pools, your dreams
peaceful, collegial

your other half present but evacuated
rowdy dogs & children swarm
the breakage inconsequential

arbitrage, dismissal
spaces moan when you cross them
urban meadow of lupine, of sorrel

accumulate archipelago
red ring rims a spare half moon
one sound, a bird

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A. R. Ammons

A. R. Ammons [The Famous People]

from A. R. Ammons Collected Poems:


Coming to a pinywoods
       where a stream darted across the path
like a squirrel or frightened blacksnake
I sat down on a sunny hillock
           and leaned back against a pine
and picked up some dry pineneedle bundles from the ground
and tore each bundle apart a needle at a time
    It was not Coulter's pine
    for coulteri is funnier looking
    and not Monterey either
and I thought God must have had Linnaeus in mind
orders of trees correspond so well between them
and I dropped to sleep wondering what design God
had meant the human mind to fit
           and looked up and saw a great bird
warming in the sun high on a pine limb
tearing from his breast golden feathers
    softer than the new gold that
    dropped to the wind one or two
    gently and touched my face
I picked one up and it said
       The world is bright after rain
for rain washes death out of the land and hides it far
beneath the soil and it returns again cleansed with life
           and so all is a circle
and nothing is separable
Look at this noble pine from which you are
almost indistinguishable it is also sensible
       and cries out when it is felled
and so I said are trees blind and is the earth black to them
Oh if trees are blind
           I do not want to be a tree
A wind rising of one in time blowing the feather away
forsaken I woke
and the golden bird had flown away and the sun
had moved the shadows over me so I rose and walked on

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Answer to Every Question Is Fishing

The Answer to Every Question Is Fishing

Weather is either good or bad for fishing.
Long wooden racks air-dry fish,
Cages anchored in fjords corral fish,
awnings fray over tables spilling fish,
the whitest building in town freezes fish into bricks,
ships dock at the pier to load fish.
On independence day, the café serves dinner —
grilled halibut to all able to pay.

Maggi was to take us out, catch our dinner.
Instead, we met for coffee & didn’t speak of fish.
Then the boat capsized —
everyone into the sea.
No one rescued Maggi.
O sea. O Maggi. Maggi’s gone.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hahm Dong-seon

Korean National Railway

from Hahm Dong-seon in Three Poets from Modern Korea, translated by Yu Jung-yul & James Kimbrell:

Journal in Jumunjin

As if painted with a thick brush, the horizon
Goes down to dusk
And night begins to settle in the empty shoreline fields.
My hometown, like the stars just blinking on,
Is somewhere on the other side of a wide, wide river —
More sensation, more memory than town.
The raw-fish restaurant sways
With the dizzy give and take of the ocean waves.
The lights from docked fishing boats are doubled
In my cup of rice wine —
I drink and drink
And though I will soon quit this work, I haven't yet looked enough
Through the train window at the trees and fields slipping out of eyeshot.
A handful of wind rises
Hauled away by night's dark skirt.


After the rain
Fell hard on the autumn roofs,
From the most far-flung house to the nearest village
You can hear the ripe persimmons
Heavy with the sun's red setting
Muttering now amongst themselves
That they are on the verge of falling.
As soon as the sun went under
As if hiccupped by the horizon,
The wind pulled in behind a train arriving from the suburbs
And let the night swell across
The field that turns
An annual crop, more or less, for fifty homes.
Before long electric bulbs are hot with light
And the first night of frost goes warm
Like the spot on the floor above the heat piped in from the kitchen fire,
A crescent moon pokes out its face
Like the curved back of a long-toothed comb.

The Last Face

Close to dawn, the moonlight
That made my teeth cold
Shone between the thatched straws of the water mill.
After my mother sewed a charm
In the waistline of my pants, the pants of her youngest son,
The one about to take leave of the war,
She described in detail the landmarks that I might need to escape,
She pointed them out as if I were looking at an unfolded map.
I ran about fifteen li in one long stretch
Alongside the mountain, the stream and field,
And arrived, breathless, at the ferry crossing.
Past the mountain, past the field, I saw
That moon — how it must have floated in the stream long before I got there.
By the time I became a full-grown man,
That charm was
Worn to a knot of sweat-soaked threads,
But I can still see my mother's face in the frayed edges.
If I pick up her face, if I hold her face,
The moon will ask me how I am doing,
The moon will wave its white hand.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

April Bernard

April Bernard [YouTube]


What was lost, again, the hot sap
that burnt my throat with, well why not, joy.
Did I own it or just borrow it
from eyes that should be cool but were not, were hot.
A moment’s forgetting, did I turn to see
some other sort of startle in the grass,
did I stoop to heal the afflicted
beasts that lost their eyes and wings.
How often is too often, what if
this heat tore through me constant
as the sky I tear apart, claiming,
This is mine, well what of it.
Let’s see who’s still standing when I burn, again,
when the mountain is set to the match.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Frank Stanford

Frank Stanford [Poetry Foundation]

from Frank Stanford’s What about This: Collected Poems, ed. Michael Wiegers:

The Silence the Thicket the Sniffing

Just like that
is what she meant
when she shook her head
and snapped her thick fingers
at the same time
They call it murder some places
She held onto the brush
picking out kinks of hair
like she was daydreaming of them
The foot
of an infant who is sleeping
My dick when it’s hanging
And the lip of a mare
All like snow
no one expected
a whole field of it can
be there and gone
before you know it

from With the Approach of the Oak the Axeman Quakes

I had a year with this poem; everyday in the woods at work I would say it. I never wrote a word down until I had it right in my mind. It became what they call a floater. That's a work song, a chant. Once I thought it sounded right, and undramatic, I wrote it down without changing a word.

Men sing when they work, or at least they used to. I'm liable to talk to myself. I try to get at the taproot of poetry, of that force drawing things upward. A paradox always — even on Saturday mornings when I might be a little low-down and hungover, but clear as a bell. I talk to myself. There is a poem that goes:

Each dawn love is a captain
Without a ship.
The only instrumentation
The sad and imaginary
Sound of his voice, love with its own
Words for music, the low light
Of a fairly good star.

At the risk of sounding parabolic, I will let this go as technique. Mean and sing.

Really, I visualize the dead as well as the living. I visualize you whom I will never know. We are constant strangers. I imagine you, I stare at you when I write. And to think, you will never know, will never hear of those people I can no longer call anonymous. People close to me have said: I don't understand what you are talking about, but I know what you mean. . . .

Poetry sometimes is like going along in a big rig with no one else on the roads, no smoke, no stops by the wayside, going on with no cargo, the radio quiet, only the sound of your own voice trying to get in touch.

I really don't know if poetry can be paraphrased, set to music, or what have you. Maybe so. Many times the poem ends up down on the ground, surrounded by strangers. I believe that the metaphorical imagination can be authenticated by the cinema. I know that my wife, an artist, has "irrigated" some of her canvases with my poems.

Every two folks have their own way of loving. The poet and the poem know what they like. When a particular kind of loving is adapted, you are getting into a different and strange country.

Now when I was younger, I wrote all the time. I had time to kill. A man has to earn a living; writing has become more special to me. When the poet is young he tries to satisfy himself with many poems in one night. Later, the poet spends many a night trying to satisfy the one poem. My poetry is no longer on a journey, it has arrived at its place.

Then the poet realizes it is midnight, he is alone, and his love is with someone else. What he wanted to sing, what he wanted to mean — someone else has done it. While the poet worried what kind of nails to use, how to fasten down his love, another has hit them on the head and driven them deep.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Paul [Beatriz] Preciado

Paul Preciado [Ellen James]

from Paul [Beatriz] Preciado's Testo Junkie:

Let us consider for a moment the possibility of a molecular revolution of the genders. What would happen if a large proportion of cis-females began collectively self-administering enough doses of testosterone to be socially identified as males? What value would natural masculinity possess? Such a politicohormonal fiction experiment becomes even more pertinent if one thinks that these future technomales, this new species of mutant cis-females identifiable as male bodies, would be capable of breeding and giving birth, corresponding to what Julia Kristeva calls the “female genius.” After using testosterone for six months, at a rate of four hundred milligrams a month, facial pilosity and a changed voice become irreversible. On the other hand, interrupting the administration of testosterone for a few months is enough for menstruation to return, and with it, the potential for fertilization, pregnancy, and childbirth (although the beard and the voice change remain). Fertilization would be just as possible by sexual exchange of reproductive fluids as it would by medically controlled insemination. Sex and in vitro are just two culturally assisted reproduction technologies. Let’s take the example of two male bodies, a technomale that still has a vagina and uterus and a cis-male inseminating him by vaginal penetration using a biopenis possessing fertile spermatozoids (something that seems rarer and rarer in today’s highly toxic ecology). Seen from the outside, this scene resembles the gay pornographic aesthetic of the twentieth century; but in reality, it goes beyond gay sex and heterosexual sex and points to a technosex future. Obviously, as a technomale, it would be equally possible to be inseminated with donor sperm. At any rate, we would be confronting a new species of technomale postsexual reproducer. And this is the beginning of new perspectives regarding struggles and pharmacopornographic resignifications. Since I’ve been taking testosterone, I look at the men and women going by me each day in the subway, supermarket, museum, as bodies whose political decoding has been abusively and brutally determined by the amount of testosterone they produce or administer to themselves. In line with VD to see King Kong at the movies, I amuse myself by taking each of the human forms passing into my field of vision and mentally increasing or decreasing its testosterone level. The cis-males simply resemble women with more or less testosterone to which a biopolitical plus-value has been added, and who have been told since childhood, “You’re worth more than girls; the world belongs to you; they belong to you; your cock rules over everything that exists.” Cis-females are just surgically and endocrinologically modified “men”: sophisticated and not so sophisticated interlacings of synthetic collagen, silicone implants, and active estrogen, but still lacking biopolitical legitimacy.

Beatriz Preciado [Vimeo]

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov [The Allen Ginsburg Project]

A Woman Alone

When she cannot be sure
which of two lovers it was with whom she felt
this or that moment of pleasure, of something fiery
streaking from head to heels, the way the white
flame of a cascade streaks a mountainside
seen from a car across a valley, the car
changing gear, skirting a precipice,
climbing . . .
When she can sit or walk for hours after a movie
talking earnestly and with bursts of laughter
with friends, without worrying
that it's late, dinner at midnight, her time
spent without counting the change . . .
When half her bed is covered with books
and no one is kept awake by the reading light
and she disconnects the phone, to sleep till noon . . . Then
self-pity dries up, a joy
untainted by guilt lifts her.
She has fears, but not about loneliness;
fears about how to deal with the aging
of her body –– how to deal
with photographs and the mirror. She feels
so much younger and more beautiful
than she looks. At her happiest
–– or even in the midst of
some less than joyful hour, sweating
patiently through a heatwave in the city
or hearing the sparrows at daybreak, dully gray,
toneless, the sound of fatigue ––
a kind of sober euphoria makes her believe
in her future as an old woman, a wanderer
seamed and brown,
little luxuries of the middle of life all gone,
watching cities and rivers, people and mountains,
without being watched; not grim nor sad,
an old winedrinking woman, who knows
the old roads, grass-grown, and laughs to herself . . . She knows it can't be:
that's Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby from The Water Babies,
no one can walk the world any more,
a world of fumes and decibels.
But she thinks maybe
she could get to be tough and wise, some way,
anyway. Now at least
she is past the time of mourning,
now she can say without shame or deceit,
O blessed Solitude.