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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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Can't Swim

Heather Christle (2013)

I can't swim because I can't fit

into the water

I am

two million feet tall

but thank you for inviting me

I am standing in line

inside my giant shirt

If someone wanted to weaponize me

they would tell me to lie down on New York

and the city I destroyed

would hurt me back

I eat stars

it's a riot

I know

my big mouth

full of their light

Thursday, August 1, 2013

We All Want To See A Mammal

Elizabeth Bradfield (2013)

We all want to see a mammal,
Squirrels & snowshoe hares don't count.
Voles don't count. Something, preferably,
that could do us harm. There's a long list:
bear, moose, wolf, wolverine. Even porcupine
would do. The quills. The yellowed
teeth & long claws.

Beautiful here. Peaks & avens.

Meltwater running its braided course, but we want
to see a mammal. Our day our lives incomplete
without a mammal. The gaze of something
unafraid, that we're afraid of, meeting ours
before it runs off.

Linnaeus was called

indecent when he named them. Plenty
of other commonalities (hair, live young,
a proclivity to plot). But no. Mammal.
Maman. Breasted & nippled
& warm, warm, warm.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hermit Crab

Stephen Burt (2013)

That shell is pretty, but that shell is too small for me.

Each home is a hideout; each home is a secret; each home
is a getaway under the same hot lamp, a means
to a lateral move at low velocity.

I live in a room in the room
of a boy I barely see.

Sometimes the boy & his talkative friends raise
too-warm hands & try to set me free

& I retreat into myself, hoping they place
me back in my terrarium, & they
do, with disappointed alacrity.

Scatter patterns in sand, adnates, cancellates, gaping
whelk husks, a toy tractor-trailer, cracked
and dinged, beside the spine of a plastic tree,

the helmet-shaped shelter of a shadow cast
by a not-quite-buried wedge of pottery . . .

if I have a body that's wholly my own
then it isn't mine. For a while I was
protected by what I pretended to be.