Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Matthew Dickman (2008)

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what’s left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside,
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before
and now I can recognize her gait
as she approaches the house.
Some nights, when I know she’s coming,
I unlock the door, lie down on my back,
and count her steps
from the street to the porch.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,
tells me to write down
everyone I have ever known,
and we separate them between the living and the dead
so she can pick each name at random.
I play her favorite Willie Nelson album
because she misses Texas
but I don’t ask why.
She hums a little,
the way my brother does when he gardens.
We sit for an hour
while she tells me how unreasonable I’ve been,
crying in the checkout line,
refusing to eat, refusing to shower,
all the smoking and all the drinking.
Eventually she puts one of her heavy
purple arms around me, leans
her head against mine,
and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.
So I tell her,
things are feeling romantic.
She pulls another name, this time
from the dead,
and turns to me in that way that parents do
so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.
Romantic? she says,
reading the name out loud, slowly,
so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel
wrapping around the bones like new muscle,
the sound of that person’s body
and how reckless it is,
how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Flower in the Crannied Wall

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Don't Look Back

Kay Ryan

This is not
a problem
for the neckless.
Fish cannot
swivel their heads
to check
on their fry;
no one expects
this. They are
torpedos of
compact capsules
that rely
on the odds
for survival,
unfollowed by
the exact and modest
number of goslings
the S-necked
goose is—

who if she
looks back
acknowledges losses
and if she does not
also loses.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Fist

Derek Walcott

The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Strange Disorder

Diane Ackerman (2006)

A strange disorder rules the house
where lately slender method scared
papers into files neat as hedgerows
and caution laid its dropcloth everywhere.
Now books lie slaughtered on the rug,
the telephone rings, old letters dune
among bills and maps and coffee spoons
in a room spontaneous as a compost heap
where you work the oracle of my thoughts
and haunt the prison of my sleep.

see also: A Sweet Disorder

Friday, April 25, 2008

I Saw A Man Pursuing the Horizon

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.

I was disturbed by this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,
"You can never—"

"You lie," he cried,
And ran on.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Reader

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

All night I sat reading a book,
Sat reading as if in a book
Of sombre pages.

It was autumn and falling stars
Covered the shrivelled forms
Crouched in the moonlight.

No lamp was burning as I read,
A voice was mumbling, "Everything
Falls back to coldness,

Even the musky muscadines,
The melons, the vermillion pears
Of the leafless garden."

The sombre pages bore no print
Except the trace of burning stars
In the frosty heaven.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here Name Your

Dora Malech (2008)

My friend spends all summer
mending fence for the elk to blunder

back down and the cows to drag
the wires and the snow to sit and sag

on, so all the twist and hammer and tauten
and prop amounts at last to nought, knot, tangle.

The next year he picks
up his pliers and fixes

the odds all over again. There are no
grownups, and I think that all of us children know

and play some variation on this theme, the game of all join
hands so that someone can run them open.

Then war whoops, shrieks, and laughter
and regather together

as if any arms might ever really hold.
I’m trying to finger the source—pleasure of or need

for—these enactments of resistance, if Resistance
is indeed their name. I’m trying to walk the parallels to terminus—

call them lickety-split over rickety bridge,
tightrope, railroad tie, or plank as you see fit—

trying to admit to seeing double,

to finding myself beset by myself
on all sides, my heart forced by itself,

for itself, to learn not only mine
but all the lines—

crow’s flight, crow’s-feet, enemy, party, picket,
throwaway, high tide, and horizon—to wait

in the shadows of scrim each night
and whisper the scene. Always, some part

of the heart must root for the pliers, some
part for the snow’s steep slope.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


H.D. (1916)

You are clear
O rose, cut in rock,
hard as the descent of hail.

I could scrape the colour
from the petals
like spilt dye from a rock.

If I could break you
I could break a tree.

If I could stir
I could break a tree—
I could break you.

O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air—
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat—
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.

Monday, April 21, 2008


H.D. (1924)

Whirl up, sea—
whirl your pointed pines,
splash your great pines
on our rocks,
hurl your green over us,
cover us with your pools of fir.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

After Weeks of Watching the Roof Leak

Gary Snyder

After weeks of watching the roof leak
I fixed it tonight
by moving a single board.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

from Myths and Texts

Gary Snyder

Felix Baran
Hugo Gerlot
Gustav Johnson
John Looney
Abraham Rabinowitz
Shot down on the steamer Verona
For the shingle-weavers of Everett
the Everett Massacre November 5 1916

Ed McCullough, a logger for thirty-five years
Reduced by the advent of chainsaws
To chopping off knots at the landing:
"I don't have to take this kind of shit,
Another twenty years
and I'll tell 'em to shove it"
(he was sixty-five then)
In 1934 they lived in shanties
At Hooverville, Sullivan's Gulch.
When the Portland-bound train came through
The trainmen tossed off coal.

"Thousands of boys shot and beat up
For wanting a good bed, good pay,
decent food, in the woods — "
No one knew what it meant:
"Soldiers of Discontent."

Friday, April 18, 2008


May Swenson (1914-1989)

Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen

Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt

Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead

How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye

With cloud for shift
how will I hide?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

Emily Moore (2008)

Here’s to the rock star with the crooked teeth,
the cellist, banker, mezzo bearing gifts,
the teacher with the flask inside her jeans—
those girls who made us sweat and lick our lips.

To the jeune fille who broke my heart in France,
the tramp who warmed your lap and licked your ear,
the one who bought me shots at 2 A.M.
that night I tied your pink tie at the bar.

Who smoked. Who locked you out. Who kissed my eyes
then pulled my hair and left me for a boy.
The girl who bit my upper, inner thigh.
My raspy laugh when I first heard your voice

toasting through broken kisses sloppy drunk:
To women! To abundance! To enough!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Promise

Marie Howe

In the dream I had when he came back not sick
but whole, and wearing his winter coat,

he looked at me as though he couldn't speak, as if
there were a law against it, a membrane he couldn't break

His silence was what he could not
not do, like our breathing in this world, like our living

as we do, in time.
And I told him: I'm reading all this Buddhist stuff,

and listen, we don't die when we die. Death is an event,
a threshold we pass through. We go on and on

and into light forever.
And he looked down, and then back up at me. It was the look
we'd pass

across the table when Dad was drunk again and dangerous,
the level look that wants to tell you something,

in a crowded room, something important, and can't.

2007: Poetry by Marianne Moore

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Kay Ryan

Like slime
inside a
stagnant tank

its green
from lime
to emerald

a dank
but less

than success
is in general.

2007: The World Is Everything That Is the Case by Daryl Hine

Monday, April 14, 2008

Opus from Space

Pattian Rogers (1997)

Almost everything I know is glad
to be born – not only the desert orangetip,
on the twist flower or tansy, shaking
birth moisture from its wings, but also the naked
warbler nesting, head wavering toward sky,
and the honey possum, the pygmy possum,
blind, hairless thimbles of forward,
press and part.

Almost everything I've seen pushes
toward the place of that state as if there were
no knowing any other – the violent crack
and seed-propelling shot of the witch hazel pod,
the philosophy implicit in the inside out
seed-thrust of the wood-sorrel. All hairy
saltcedar seeds are single-minded
in their grasping of wind and spinning
for luck toward birth by water.

And I'm fairly shocked to consider
all the bludgeonings and batterings going on
continually, the head-rammings, wing-furors,
and beak-crackings fighting for release
inside gelatinous shells, leather shells,
calcium shells or rough, horny shells. Legs
and shoulders, knees and elbows flail likewise
against their womb walls everywhere, in pine
forest niches, seepage banks and boggy
prairies, among savannah grasses, on woven
mats and perfumed linen sheets.

Mad zealots, every one, even before
beginning they are dark dust-congealings
of pure frenzy to come to light.
Almost everything I know rages to be born,
the obsession founding itself explicitly
in the coming bone harps and ladders,
the heart-thrusts, vessels and voices
of all those speeding with clear and total
fury toward this singular honor.

2007: Naked Fifty-Eight-Year-Old Women by Steve Miller

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lute Music

Kenneth Rexroth

The earth will be going on a long time
Before it finally freezes;
Men will be on it; they will take names,
Give their deeds reasons.
We will be here only
As chemical constituents—
A small franchise indeed.
Right now we have lives,
Corpuscles, ambitions, caresses,
Like everybody had once—
All the bright neige d'antan people.
"Blithe Helen, white Iope, and the rest,"
All the uneasy, remembered dead.

Here at the year's end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts—
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses—
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.

2007: Success Is Counted Sweetest by Emily Dickinson

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ezra Pound's Proposition

Robert Hass (2007)

Beauty is sexual, and sexuality
Is the fertility of the earth and the fertility
Of the earth is economics. Though he is no recommendation
For poets on the subject of finance,
I thought of him in the thick heat
Of the Bangkok night. Not more than fourteen, she saunters up to you
Outside the Shangri-la Hotel
And says, in plausible English,
"How about a party, big guy?"

Here is more or less how it works:
The World Bank arranges the credit and the dam
Floods three hundred villages, and the villagers find their way
To the city where their daughters melt into the teeming streets,
And the dam's great turbines, beautifully tooled
In Lund or Dresden or Detroit, financed
By Lazeres Frères in Paris or the Morgan Bank in New York,
Enabled by judicious gifts from Bechtel of San Francisco
Or Halliburton of Houston to the local political elite,
Spun by the force of rushing water,
Have become hives of shimmering silver
And, down river, they throw that bluish throb of light
Across her cheekbones and her lovely skin.

2007: Apollo's Kiss by Emily Fragos

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Mower

Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

2007: Joe Simpson by Robert Mezey

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Boy in a Snow Shower

George Mackay Brown

Said the first snowflake
No, I'm not a shilling,
I go quicker than white butterfly in summer.

Said the second snowflake
Be patient, boy.
Seize me, I'm a drop of water on the end of your finger.

The third snowflake said,
A star?
No, I've drifted down out of that big blue-black cloud.

And the fourth snowflake,
Ah good, the road
Is hard as flint, it tolls like iron under your boots.

And the fifth snowflake,
Go inside, boy,
Fetch your scarf, a bonner, the sledge.

The sixth snowflake sang,
I'm a city of sixes,
Crystal hexagons, a hushed sextet.

And the trillionth snowflake,
All ends with me—
I and my brother Fire, we end all.

2007: Smart by Bruce Bennett

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

We Are Here

Malena Mörling

The train departs at dusk from New York
the neon signs begin to bleed their letters
the light goes into buildings
that pass like so much else that I notice
and forget and don't notice and remember
like specific places where litter ends up
and the last patches of snow
and the iron that rusts slowly
while millions of people are in a hurry.

There is no place to rush to or rush from
eternity is everywhere at once
in the instant the nail polish dries
on my mother's fingers
and my father does a card-trick
in front of the mirror
and I try to write on a train
in another country crossing a bridge
over the military green water
of the river to the Bronx and over the freeway
past Swingline Staplers and the Bronx Casket Co.
now that nothing is old or new
now that these words only resemble
the meaning of these words.

2007: The Problem of Anxiety by John Ashbery

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Richard Wilbur (2000)

The old rock-climber cries out in his sleep,
Dreaming without enthusiasm
Of a great cliff immeasurably steep,
Or of the sort of yawning chasm,
Now far too deep,
That once, made safe by rashness, he could leap.

2007: Stone by Charles Simic

Monday, April 7, 2008


Judith Root (b. 1944)

After years of sleeping
like a rock, you wake up
one night with an itch.
Bored with the moon's slow arc
moving light squares along the wall,
you trade quips with your insomnia.
How much you have in common.
You meet secretly, until you depend
on its visits, wait for it
with cognac and English ovals.

But it comes and goes at odd hours
with lipstick on its collar
and a hollow stare when you say
Sarah, Melissa, or Sue.
Fans of mascara stain your pillow
and you beg sleep, your old lover,
to take you back.

Too late. Insomnia's burrowed
like hundreds of tiny organisms
under your skin. To them
you are the earth. They divide
into tribes and roam your body
searching for the right spot
to settle down. The itch means
they've just discovered fire.

2007: Oh Yet We Trust by Alfred Tennyson

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Space Bar

Heather McHugh (2008)

Lined up behind the space bartender
is the meaning of it all, the vessels
marked with letters, numbers,
signs. Beyond the flats

the monitor looms, for all the world
like the world. Images and
motions, weeping women,
men in hats. I have killed

many happy hours here,
with my bare hands,
where TV passes for IV, among
the space cadets and dingbats.

2007: Ask Me by William Stafford

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Diener

Martha Serpas (2008)

We hated the early anatomists
for showing us how fragile we are,
how God’s image is composite:
the liver the bright bruise of a sunset,
the thyroid wrapped around our throats
for luck. They saw our brains folded
against our foreheads and knew our hearts
pump dumbly on through the wash.
And wily guts take the brunt of it,
pushing to get rid of while we insist
on taking in and taking in and taking in.
Theirs was heresy, that is, a choice
to reach the Artist by testing the art,
human suffering always the requisite cost.

Change, what keeps all of it the same,
the Teacher says, no new thing
under the sun. What we make, let’s make old
instead, older than the first tool,
which smelled much like the body—
the first blacksmith must have thought—
not quite like displaced blood, but blood at home
in its place among other parts in their places,
and that must be how we began to confuse
the power to examine and change
with the power to create, to be discrete agents,
why we like to see ourselves as whole,
despite the diener piling legs on a cot,
despite the pruned artery, tied and cut.

2007: "Naming of Parts" by Henry Reed

Friday, April 4, 2008

The White Horse

D.H. Lawrence

The youth walks up to the white horse, to put its halter on
and the horse looks at him in silence.
They are so silent, they are in another world.

2007: "A Team of Workhorses" by Robert Bly

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Anthony Hecht

Against the enormous rocks of a rough coast
The ocean rams itself in pitched assault
And spastic rage to which there is no halt;
Foam-white brigades collapse; but the huge host

Has infinite reserves; at each attack
The impassive cliffs look down in gray disdain
At scenes of sacrifice, unrelieved pain,
Figured in froth, aquamarine and black.

Something in the blood-chemistry of life,
Unspeakable, impressive, undeterred,
Expresses itself without needing a word
In this sea-crazed Empedoclean Strife.

It is a scene of unmatched melancholy,
Weather of misery, cloud cover of distress,
To which there are not witnesses, unless
One counts the briny, tough and thorned sea holly.

2007: "Prospects" by Anthony Hecht

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beauty: To Do

Catherine Wing

10:00, 3:00, 7:00, feed the dragon.
Practice happy face, smile, no ugh.
Please march, as the drum bangs on.

For the garden, salt on the slugs,
And only Sundays to slack off.
Be, Beauty, Be! Don't lurk.

Remember B-12 for agony,
B-6 and C in case of heart ruckus.
Don't mention 100 years slumber, the rape, again.

Wipe your feet after trekking in briar muck.
Catch up with your lag.
Revitalize your too-tired luck.

Be charming to guests until they are gone.
In case of fire, call for a fire truck.
When the Prince is around, make sure to be on.

2007: "As She Has Been Taught" by Mekeel McBride

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool

Joan Drew Ritchings (b. 1916)

I'm going
to put down
a few words
in a
and if they
get printed
will think
reading a
But they

2007: "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" by Alfred Tennyson