* * * *

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Margaret Atwood (1995)

All those times I was bored
out of my mind. Holding the log
while he sawed it. Holding
the string while he measured, boards,
distances between things, or pounded
stakes into the ground for rows and rows
of lettuces, and beets, which I then (bored)
weeded. Or sat in the back
of the car, or sat still in boats,
sat, sat, while at the prow, stern, wheel
he drove, steered, paddled. It
wasn't even boredom, it was looking,
looking hard and up close at the small
details. Myopia. The worn gunwales,
the intricate twill of the seat
cover. The acid crumbs of loam, the granular
pink rock, its igneous veins, the sea-fans
of dry moss, the blackish and then the greying
bristles on the back of his neck.
Sometimes he would whistle, sometimes
I would. The boring rhythm of doing
things over and over, carrying
the wood, drying
the dishes. Such minutiae. It's what
the animals spend most of their time at,
ferrying the sand, grain by grain, from their tunnels,
shuffling the leaves in their burrows. He pointed
such things out, and I would look
at the whorled texture of his square finger, earth under
the nail. Why do I remember it as sunnier
all the time then, although it more often
rained, and more birdsong?
I could hardly wait to get
the hell out of there to
anywhere else. Perhaps though
boredom is happier. It is for dogs or
groundhogs. Now I wouldn't be bored.
Now I would know too much.
Now I would know.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Imagined

Stephen Dunn (2012)

If the imagined woman makes the real woman
seem bare-boned, hardly existent, lacking in
gracefulness and intellect and pulchritude,
and if you come to realize the imagined woman
can only satisfy your imagination, whereas
the real woman with all her limitations
can often make you feel good, how, in spite
of knowing this, does the imagined woman
keep getting into your bedroom, and joining you
at dinner, why is it that you always bring her along
on vacations when the real woman is shopping,
or figuring the best way to the museum?

And if the real woman

has an imagined man, as she must, someone
probably with her at this very moment, in fact
doing and saying everything she's ever wanted,
would you want to know that he slips in
to her life every day from a secret doorway
she's made for him, that he's present even when
you're eating your omelette at breakfast,
or do you prefer how she goes about the house
as she does, as if there were just the two of you?
Isn't her silence, finally, loving? And yours
not entirely self-serving? Hasn't the time come,

once again, not to talk about it?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Understudy

Bridget Lowe (2016)

High spring. The sounds at their
utmost registers. I am building
a language with my bike. Shame

makes the wheels go, shame
pumps its sick jet fuel.
I am flying over tiny hills with moats

of purple flowers. My fantasy
is evidence. My fantasy is a white skull
gleaming through a bed of mulch.

I let go of the handlebars and beat
my chest with shame’s gorilla fist
until the trees get in my way.

Nancy Drew before me, Nancy Drew
behind me, Nancy Drew on all
sides of me, Lord hear my prayer.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Zoo-Keeper's Wife

Sylvia Plath

I can stay awake all night, if need be ---
Cold as an eel, without eyelids.
Like a dead lake the dark envelops me,
Blueblack, a spectacular plum fruit.
No air bubbles start from my heart. I am lungless
And ugly, my belly a silk stocking
Where the heads and tails of my sisters decompose.
Look, they are melting like coins in the powerful juices ---

The spidery jaws, the spine bones bared for a moment
Like the white lines on a blueprint.
Should I stir, I think this pink and purple plastic
Guts bag would clack like a child's rattle,
Old grievances jostling each other, so many loose teeth.
But what so you know about that
My fat pork, my marrowy sweetheart, face-to-the-wall?
Some things of this world are indigestible.

You wooed me with the wolf-headed fruit bats
Hanging from their scorched hooks in the moist
Fug of teh Small Mammal House.
The armadillo dozed in his sandbin
Obscene and bald as a pig, the white mice
Multiplied to infinity like angels on a pinhead
Out of sheer boredom. Tangled in the sweat-wet sheets
I remember the bloodied chicks and the quartered rabbits.

You checked the diet charts and took me to play
With the boa constrictor in the Fellow's Garden.
I pretended I was the Tree of Knowledge.
I entered your bible, I boarded your ark
With the sacred baboon in his wig and wax ears
And the bear-furred, bird-eating spider
Clambering round its glass box like an eight-fingered hand.
I can't get it out of my mind

How our courtship lit the tindery cages ---
Your two-horned rhinocerous opened a mouth
Dirty as a bootsole and big as a hospital sink
For my cube of sugar: its bog breath
Gloved my arm to the elbow.
The snails blew kisses like black apples.
Nightly now I flog apes owls bears sheep
Over their iron stile. And still don't sleep.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ice for the Ice Trade

Stephen Burt (2015)

Everybody wants a piece of me.

I have been weighed and measured,

tested and standardized,

throughout my young life. It happens to everyone,

or to everyone with my ability.

Now I live quietly

and mostly in the dark, amid sawdust and sheer

or streaky wooden surfaces. My role,

when I reach maturity,

may be to help people behave

more sociably, and reduce

the irritations of summer,

or else to make it easier to eat.

For reasons I cannot fathom, I weep when it rains.

My handlers keep me wrapped in awkward cloth.

They will not let me touch my friends

or show any curves. They have taught me how to shave.

A few twigs and dragonfly wings got caught

near the center of me long ago; they serve

to distinguish me from others of my kind,

along with some bubbles of air.

I am worth more when I am clear.

When I am most desirable

you should be able to see yourself through me.

Some of my distant relatives

will probably never go far,

because they are too irregular, or opaque.

Many of us will end on a cart.

I, on the other hand, have had my work

cut out for me by so many gloves

and tongs, pallets and barges, poles and planks

that I am sure I will go to New York;

there people who own

the rights to me will give elaborate thanks

to one another, and go on to take me apart.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Paul Farley (2015)

You’re told this deck was found

in some shattered bothy or croft

north of the Great Glen,

missing its six of diamonds,

shuffled and dealt to a soft

pliancy, greased with lanolin

and you’re told this deck lived behind

the bar in a barracks town

and came out to play most nights,

cut between the Falklands

and Iraq, its spring long gone,

dark-edged with mammal sweat

and you’re told this deck is the one

recovered from a halfway house

where fatty stalactites

grew in a microwave oven,

where a bottle of Famous Grouse

was brandished in a fight

and it might be a pack of lies

or it might be a sleight of hand,

and you can’t tell which is a bluff

because words are a good disguise

for holding nothing. I’ve found

that nothing is more than enough.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Duck Shit at Clarion Creek

Idra Novey (2014)

We liked to stick it in a BB gun and shoot it.

We tattooed with it. We said hallelujah,

the poor man's tanning lotion.

Then the frack wells began, something black

capping the water and we got high

watching a green-backed heron die.

We got funny at Clarion, flung

each other's underwear into the trees.

Why was it we got naked there

and nowhere else? Maybe we knew

we were getting good and ugly, rusted inside

as the trucks we rode into the water.

Maybe we knew we only appeared

to be floating, but soon and wholly

we'd go under, and there

would be nothing in return.