Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Dave Smith (2009)

You see them everywhere and hardly notice the one
cranking past as you pass on the sidewalk,
that mewling, watery eye, partly bloodshot, partly
focused on you, or some apprehension of you,
or, shrunken, one in the Giant self-checkout line,
foul as a just risen pig, in slippers, and now
the puzzled, warty face turns to you, and you’re
helpless, stunned, the routine ordinary signals are
suddenly hieroglyphics, you’re punching out
answers, your life savings gone, and a bug’s winking.

Better, unquestionably, to walk faster, left on Main,
take the boiling sun on your back, still broad
enough to hold whatever comes next today.
That’s the trick of it all, knowing you can,
without thinking, navigate, slide, cut quick
the way kids on front yards do in that smell
of mowed grass, sweat, youth, not dusk yet,
a tumbling brush of bone and skin only sweet
proof of no intent, intersection and angle, the right
desire of things as subtle as what fireflies mean.

Once my wife and I, following the girlish Realtor,
opened a parlor door, brownstone dim, cool, two
bodies in pajamas pushing up in a musky bed
no one supposed to be there, husband and wife,
I’ve thought all these years. Their throats opened,
calls horrific as ungreased gears, dry pistons, us
already heeling out. Did someone later come,
explain who we were, snafus, that unlocked door?
Or did they lie, walls creaking, until dawn, bugs
at windows like words in their mouths, on and off?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Home To Roost

Kay Ryan (2005)

The chickens
are circling and
blotting out the
day. The sun is
bright, but the
chickens are in
the way. Yes,
the sky is dark
with chickens,
dense with them.
They turn and
then they turn
again. These
are the chickens
you let loose
one at a time
and small—
various breeds.
Now they have
come home
to roost—all
the same kind
at the same speed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Listening in October

John Haines

In the quiet house
a lamp is burning
where the book of autumn
lies open on a table.

There is tea with milk
in heavy mugs,
brown raisin cake, and thoughts
that stir the heart
with the promises of death.

We sit without words,
gazing past the limit
of fire, into the towering

There are silences so deep
you can hear
the journeys of the soul,
enormous footsteps
downward in a freezing earth.

Monday, October 12, 2009

L Equals Look

Mary Jo Bang (2009)

At a book of details
Of all the moments when knowledge is acquired

A sort of expanded balloon
Sighs and says, "We are what came before."

"The storm in the window of the mind,"
The sleepy sister says while she's walking around

Wonderland watching
A cat touching down and talking.

Not a car in sight. A cemetery seen from the air.
All the obelisks you could ever ask for.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Memory At These Speeds

Jane Miller (1996)

I love these hours alone I do


                               like them. Like them, I am

slow to divine

                               meaning from change, meaning

I love you & remembering

                                                 waking next

to you like a white gull against a white sky

                               become blue

I feel detached, although I realize

this is the drift of happiness it is not

                               my choice

                                                 yes I like you

for it. Faith

                            for this moment is living

with a fear

                               I will lose you or myself,

   each arousing

                               the other,


                               that spectacular hour in the afternoon

             when you arrive & suck me

                                     as if it were through time

we are reconciled

                                        or in dream,

             the desert we return to


                                     all that disappears

                when we look back,

                                                 for this time we are lovers we are

moved by the sea

                                     in a studio with aqua floorboards

             & white lamps now like stars inhabiting a pattern

                                     now random.

Never let ourselves be subject

                                                 to either dependence again

or pain. Where once there were so many

   words we had to choose

                                                 between us,

your sentence effortless as mine is fair.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Enigma We Answer by Living

Alison Deming

Einstein didn't speak as a child
waiting till a sentence formed and
emerged full-blown from his head.

I do the thing, he later wrote, which
nature drives me to do. Does a fish
know the water in which he swims?

This came up in conversation
with a man I met by chance,
friend of a friend of a friend,

who passed through town carrying
three specimen boxes of insects
he'd collected in the Grand Canyon—

one for mosquitoes, one for honeybees,
one for butterflies and skippers,
each lined up in a row, pinned and labeled,

tiny morphologic differences
revealing how adaptation
happened over time. The deeper down

he hiked, the older the rock
and the younger
the strategy for living in that place.

And in my dining room the universe
found its way into this man
bent on cataloguing each innovation,

though he knows it will all disappear—
the labels, the skippers, the canyon.
We agreed then, the old friends and the new,

that it's wrong to think people are a thing apart
from the whole, as if we'd sprung
from an idea out in space, rather than emerging

from the sequenced larval mess of creation
that binds us with the others,
all playing the endgame of a beautiful planet

that's made us want to name
each thing and try to tell
its story against the vanishing.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Richard Wilbur (2009)

Treetops are not so high
Not I so low
That I don't instinctively know
How it would be to fly

Through gaps that the wind makes, ehn
The leaves arouse
And there is a lifting of boughs
That settle and lift again.

Whatever my kind may be,
It is not absurd
To confuse myself with a bird
For the space of a reverie:

My species never flew,
But I somehow know
It is something that long ago
I almost adapted to.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Rita Dove

I proved a theorem and the house expands:
the windows jerk free to hover near the ceiling,
the ceiling floats away with a sigh.

As the walls clear themselves of everything
but transparency, the scent of carnations
leaves with them. I am out in the open

and above the windows have hinged into butterflies,
sunlight glinting where they've intersected.
They are going to some point true and unproven.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

At Lake Scugog

Troy Jollimore (2009)

Where what I see comes to rest,
at the edge of the lake,
against what I think I see

and, up on the bank, who I am
maintains an uneasy truce
with who I fear I am,

while in the cabin’s shade the gap between
the words I said
and those I remember saying

is just wide enough to contain
the remains that remain
of what I assumed I knew.

Out in the canoe, the person I thought you were
gingerly trades spots
with the person you are

and what I believe I believe
sits uncomfortably next to
what I believe.

When I promised I will always give you
what I want you to want,
you heard, or desired to hear,

something else. As, over and in the lake,
the cormorant and its image
traced paths through the sky.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Coat

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they'd wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there's more enterprise
In walking naked.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Natural History

E.B. White

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unwinds a thread of her devising:
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all the journey down through space,
In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,
She builds a ladder to the place
From which she started.

Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Catch

Stanley Kunitz

It darted across the pond
toward our sunset perch,
weaving in, up, and around
a spindle of air,
this delicate engine
fired by impulse and glitter,
swift darning-needle,
gossamer dragon,
less image than thought,
and the thought come alive.
Swoosh went the net
with a practiced hand.
"Da-da, may I look too?"
You may look, child,
all you want.
This prize belongs to no one.
But you will pay all
your life for the privelege,
all your life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

At Last We Killed The Roaches

Lucille Clifton (b.1936)

at last we killed the roaches.
mama and me. she sprayed,
i swept the ceiling and they fell
dying onto our shoulders, in our hair
covering us with red. the tribe was broken,
the cooking pots were ours again
and we were glad, such cleanliness was grace
when i was twelve. only for a few nights,
and then not much, my dreams were blood
my hands were blades and it was murder murder
all over the place.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Twin Cities

Carol Muske-Dukes (2009)

It was the river that made them two—
The mills on one side,
The cathedral on the other.

We watched its swift currents:
If we stared long enough, maybe
It would stop cold and let us

Skate across to the other side.
It never froze in place—though
I once knew a kid, a wild funny

Girl who built a raft from branches
(Which promptly sank a few feet out
From the elbow bend off Dayton’s Bluff),

Who made it seem easy to believe.
We’d tried to break into Carver’s Cave,
Where bootleggers hid their hot stash

Years after the Dakota drew their snakes
And bears on the rock walls and canoed
Inside the caverns. We knew there were

Other openings in the cliffs, mirroring
Those same rock faces on the other shore—
And below them the caves, the subterranean

Pathways underlying the talk and commerce,
The big shot churches, undermining the false
Maidenliness of the convent school from which

My friend was eventually expelled for being
Too smart and standing up for her own smartness.
Too late, I salute you, Katy McNally. I think

That the river returned then to two-sidedness—
An overhung history of bottle-flash and hopelessness.
I see you still—laughing as the lashed sticks

Sank beneath you, laughing as you did
That morning when the river lifted
Its spring shoulders, shrugging off

The winter ice, that thin brittle mirage,
Making you believe
We were all in this together.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Simulacra

D. Nurkse

They were driving into the mountains, suddenly married,
sometimes touching each other’s cheek with a fingernail
gingerly: the radio played ecstatic static: certain roads
marked with blue enamel numbers led to cloud banks,
or basalt screes, or dim hotels with padlocked verandas.
Sometimes they quarreled, sometimes they grew old,
the wind was constant in their eyes, it was their own wind,
they made it. Small towns flew past, Rodez, Albi,
limestone quarries, pear orchards, children racing
after hoops, wobbling when their shadows wavered,
infants crying for fine rain, old women on stoops
darning gray veils—and who were we, watching?
Doubles, ghosts, the ones who would tell of the field
where they pulled over, bluish tinge of the elms, steepness
of the other’s eyes, glowworm hidden in its own glint,
how the rain was twilight and now is darkness.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Grade Homework

D. Nurkse

The child’s assignment:
“What is a city?”
All dusk she sucks her pencil
while cars swish by
like ghosts, neighbors’ radios
forecast rain, high clouds,
diminishing winds: at last
she writes: “The city is everyone.”
    Now it’s time
for math, borrowing and exchanging,
the long discipleship
to zero, the stranger,
the force that makes us
what we study: father and child,
writing in separate books,
infinite and alone.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Dream

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)
(Translated, from the Spanish, by Suzanne Jill Levine.)

In a deserted place in Iran there is a not very tall stone tower that has neither door nor window. In the only room (with a dirt floor and shaped like a circle) there is a wooden table and a bench. In that circular cell, a man who looks like me is writing in letters I cannot understand a long poem about a man who in another circular cell is writing a poem about a man who in another circular cell . . . The process never ends and no one will be able to read what the prisoners write.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hubris At Zunzal

Rodney Jones

Nearly sunset, and time on the water
of 1984. Language its tracer.
No image like the image of language.

I had waded out about thigh deep.
Then a shout from the beach.
I held in my hand half a coconut shell

of coconut milk and 150-proof rum
and dumped it white into the waves
when it came on me how sweet it had been,

then the idea I was not finished,
then the act of reaching down
with the idea I would get it back.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Don't Do That

Stephen Dunn (2009)

It was bring-your-own if you wanted anything
hard, so I brought Johnnie Walker Red
along with some resentment I’d held in
for a few weeks, which was not helped
by the sight of little nameless things
pierced with toothpicks on the tables,
or by talk that promised to be nothing
if not small. But I’d consented to come,
and I knew what part of the house
their animals would be sequestered,
whose company I loved. What else can I say,

except that old retainer of slights and wrongs,
that bad boy I hadn’t quite outgrown—
I’d brought him along, too. I was out
to cultivate a mood. My hosts greeted me,
but did not ask about my soul, which was when
I was invited by Johnnie Walker Red
to find the right kind of glass, and pour.
I toasted the air. I said hello to the wall,
then walked past a group of women
dressed to be seen, undressing them
one by one, and went up the stairs to where

the Rottweilers were, Rosie and Tom,
and got down with them on all fours.
They licked the face I offered them,
and I proceeded to slick back my hair
with their saliva, and before long
I felt like a wild thing, ready to mess up
the party, scarf the hors d’oeuvres.
But the dogs said, No, don’t do that,
calm down, after a while they open the door
and let you out, they pet your head, and everything
you might have held against them is gone,
and you’re good friends again. Stay, they said.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Hero

Jennifer Michael Hecht (2009)

It’s O.K. to keep hearing your worries, so long as you
stop talking to them. Shun them like a double-crossed Quaker.

Imagine how quiet it would be, like shutting off the droning ocean.
That’s how our parasites must feel about our hearts.
What a racket, all that pumping. Shut up shut up.

Cicero said Chrysippus said that the life in a pig is a preservative,
keeping it fresh until we want to eat it. What then is life in us?

Chrysippus wrote more than seven hundred books, none survive.
(We have his bio in the Diogenes Laertius “Lives,” and small
comments like the one Cicero preserved, about the pig.)

Imagine how much the man talked. Imagine how his daughters
felt, sitting in cafés, virgins listening to young lawyers. Lawyer

ready to move from mom to virgin ears, to part the aural curtain
to the heart of the flesh, to grease up and force his listener to stay,

pressure like a fork, squeezed down inner tubes to hidden narrow
chambers. The daughters, who could not listen anymore, worked
into first-date conversation, “Of course I’ve had it in the ear before.”

There were no second dates. Fierce Chrysippus sisters, full of hate.
There were no surrenders. That’s why I’m so tender about my
resignation. Because all these years later a nation of one feels
like one too many. Caesar was tough, but not by himself
did he conquer Gaul. The superlative for all alone is all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Carol Ann Duffy (2003)

She woke up old at last, alone,
bones in a bed, not a tooth
in her head, half dead, shuffled
and limped downstairs
in the rag of her nightdress,
smelling of pee.

Slurped tea, stared
at her hand--twigs, stained gloves--
wheezed and coughed, pulled on
the coat that hung from a hook
on the door, lay on the sofa,
dozed, snored.

She was History.
She'd seen them ease him down
from the Cross, his mother gasping
for breath, as though his death
was a difficult birth, the soldiers spitting,
spears in the earth;

been there
when the fisherman swore he was back
from the dead; seen the basilicas rise
in Jerusalem, Constantinople, Sicily; watched
for a hundred years as the air of Rome
turned into stone;

witnessed the wars,
the bloody crusades, knew them by date
and by name, Bannockburn, Passchendaele,
Babi Yar, Vietnam. She'd heard the last words
of the martyrs burnt at the stake, the murderers
hung by the neck,

seen up-close
how the saint whistled and spat in the flames,
how the dictator strutting and stuttering film
blew out his brains, how the children waved
their little hands from the trains. She woke again,
cold, in the dark,

in the empty house.
Bricks through the window now, thieves
in the night. When they rang on her bell
there was nobody there; fresh graffiti sprayed
on her door, shit wrapped in a newspaper posted
onto the floor.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Obscurity And Regret

C. D. Wright

The hand without the glove screws down the lid
on the jar of caterpillars, but the apple trees
are already infested. The sun mottles
the ground. The leaves are half-dead.
A shoe stomps the larvae streaming
onto the lawn as if putting out a cigarette on a rug.
It was a stupid idea. It was a stupid thing to say
the thought belonging to the body says to its source
stomping on the bright-green grass as it spills its sweet guts.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Japanese Death Poems

by Koraku (d.1837)

The joy of dewdrops
In the grass as they
Turn back to vapour.

by Dokyo Etan (d. 1721)

Here in the shadow of death it is hard
To utter a final word.
I'll only say, then,
"Without saying."
Nothing more.
Nothing more.

by Mabutsu (d. 1874)

Moon in a barrel:
You never know just when
The bottom will fall out.

by Kyoriku

Till now I thought
That death befell
The untalented alone.
If those with talent, too,
Must die
Surely they make
better manure.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nomad Exquisite

Wallace Stevens

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth
The big-finned palm
And green vine angering for life,

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth hymn and hymn
From the beholder,
Beholding all these green sides
And gold sides of green sides,

And blessed mornings,
Meet for the eye of the young alligator,
And lightning colors
So, in me, comes flinging
Forms, flames, and the flakes of flames.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Ange Mlinko (2009)

It’s a little spa for the mind—seeing butterflies
set themselves down by the dozen like easels

on bromeliads, when out on the street the boutiques
are dilapidated, construction can’t be told from ruin.

A single taste bud magnified resembles an orchid
but what that one’s drinking from is a woman’s eye

which must be brineless. I wonder what she consumes
that her tears taste like fructose. For minutes she’s all its.

Then the moon rises and the river flows backward.
Composed of millions of tiny north poles, iron’s

punched out of the environment, hammered into railways.
Pubs serve shepherd’s pies with marcelled mashed-potato crusts

and each tree casts its shade in the form of its summary leaf.
Is a woman’s eye a single taste bud magnified?

Yet construction can’t be told from ruin.
Out on the street the boutiques are dilapidated

by the dozen like easels. And the mind—it’s a little spa.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tossing and Turning

John Updike (1969)

The spirit has infinite facets, but the body
confiningly few sides.
There is the left,
the right, the back, the belly, and tempting
in-betweens, northeasts and northwests,
that tip the heart and soon pinch circulation
in one or another arm.
Yet we turn each time
with fresh hope, believing that sleep
will visit us here, descending like an angel
down the angle our flesh’s sextant sets,
tilted toward that unreachable star
hung in the night between our eyebrows, whence
dreams and good luck flow.
your ankles. Unclench your philosophy.
This bed was invented by others; know we go
to sleep less to rest than to participate
in the twists of another world.
This churning is our journey.
It ends,
can only end, around a corner
we do not know
we are turning.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Octavio Paz

A woman whose movements are a river's
Transparent gesturing that water has
A girl made of water
Where may be read the irreversible present
A little water where the eyes may drink
The lips swallow in a long single drink
The tree the cloud the lamp
Myself and that girl

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Let The Record Show

Dora Malech

I spent the morning trying to remember
the joke about the peanut and the assault.
People dropped bombs on each other elsewhere.
I knew that many of them were at fault

and many blameless. I kept my office locked
and the lights off. The phone just kept ringing.
I didn't answer. Nor when someone knocked.
I was supposed to be doing something.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Two Bodies

Octavio Paz

Two bodies face to face
are at times two waves
and night is an ocean.

Two bodies face to face
are at times two stones
and night a desert.

Two bodies face to face
are at times two roots
laced into night.

Two bodies face to face
are at times two knives
and night strikes sparks.

Two bodies face to face
are two stars falling
in an empty sky.

Monday, April 20, 2009


John Updike (1978)

Always I wanted to do it myself
and envied the oily-handed boy
paid by the station to lift
the gun from its tail tin holster
and squeeze. That was power,
hi-octane or lo-, and now no-lead.

What feminism has done for some sisters
self-service has done for me.
The pulsing hose is mine, the numbers
race—the cents, the liquid tenths—
according to my pressure, mine!
I squeeze. This is power:

transparent, horsepower, blood
of the sands, bane of the dollar,
soul-stuff; the nozzle might jump
from my grip, it appears to tremble
through its fumes. Myself,
I pinch off my share, and pay.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lunch Poem For F.S.

Jonathan Galassi (2009)

The dirty sunlight in the clerestory
windows of our faux-Parisian lair
lends a streaky, half-forgiving glow
to yet another summit with no purpose:
duck and iron Pinot Noir and double
decaf espresso, sheer necessities
for urban inmates who still keep the faith
with a wan cerise velvet banquette
and eye-level mirror lit with faces
a John-the-Baptist puritan might judge
corrupt with too much liquid happiness.
But it is happiness
to lounge in semi-silence while the day
downshifts and natter on about the shit
that passes for Shinola but we know
is only sauce for the gander.
It’s not that we’re against the war,
we’re against them: the boobs, the pimps,
the Know-It-Alls, the True Believers—everyone
who isn’t here awash in downtown gold
inhaling the exhaust of Burgundy . . .
Loafing, gloating, having it our way
Friday afternoon at Montrachet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Darwin's Finches

Deborah Digges

My mother always called it a nest,
the multi-colored mass harvested

from her six daughters' brushes,
and handed it to one of us

after she had shaped it, as we sat in front
of the fire drying our hair.

She said some birds steal anything, a strand
of spider's web, or horse's mane,

the residue of sheep's wool in the grasses
near a fold

where every summer of her girlhood
hundreds nested.

Since then I've seen it for myself, their genius—
how they transform the useless.

I've seen plastics stripped and whittled
into a brilliant straw,

and newspapers—the dates, the years—
supporting the underweavings.

As tonight in our bed by the window
you brush my hair to help me sleep, and clean

the brush as my mother did, offering
the nest to the updraft.

I'd like to think it will be lifted as far
as the river, and catch in some white sycamore,

or drift, too light to sink, into the shaded inlets,
the bank-moss, where small fish, frogs, and insects

lay their eggs.
Would this constitute an afterlife?

The story goes that sailors, moored for weeks
off islands they called paradise,

stood in the early sunlight
cutting their hair. And the rare

birds there, nameless, almost extinct,
came down around them

and cleaned the decks
and disappeared into the trees above the sea.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Seven Stanzas at Easter

John Updike (2007)

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Katha Pollitt (2009)

Matthew 6:19

Come bumble-footed ones,
dust squigglers, furry ripplers,

inchers and squirmers
humble in gray and brown,

find out our secret places,
devour our hearts,

measure us, geometer, with your curved teeth!
Leaves lick at the window, clouds

stream away,
yet we lie here,

locked in our dark chambers

when we could rise in you
brief, splendid

twenty-plume, gold-
spotted ghost, pink scavenger,

luna whose pale-green wings
glow with moons and planets

at one with the burning world
whose one desire is to escape itself.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This Lunar Beauty

W. H. Auden

This lunar beauty
Has no history
Is complete and early;
If beauty later
Bear any feature
It had a lover
And is another.

This like a dream
Keeps other time,
And daytime is
The loss of this;
For time is inches
And the heart's changes
Where ghost has haunted,
Lost and wanted.

But this was never
A ghost's endeavour
Nor, finished this,
Was ghost at ease;
And till it pass
Love shall not near
The sweetness here
Nor sorrow take
His endless look.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Moment

Len Roberts

Walking the three tiers in first light, out
here so my two-year-old son won’t wake the house,
I watch him pull and strip ragweed, chicory, yarrow,
so many other weeds and wildflowers
I don’t know the names for, him saying Big, and Mine,
and Joshua—words, words, words. Then
it is the moment, that split-second
when he takes my hand, gives it a tug,
and I feel his entire body-weight, his whole
heart-weight, pulling me toward
the gleaming flowers and weeds he loves.
That moment which is eternal and is gone in a second,
when he yanks me out of myself like some sleeper
from his dead-dream sleep into the blues and whites
and yellows I must bend down to see clearly, into
the faultless flesh of his soft hands, his new brown eyes,
the miracle of him, and of the earth itself,
where he lives among the glitterings, and takes me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


John Hall Wheelock (1961)

"A planet doesn't explode of itself," said drily
The Martian astronomer, gazing off into the air—
"That they were able to do it is proof that highly
Intelligent beings must have been living there."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

CIA Dope Calypso

Allen Ginsberg (1972)

* mp3 *

In nineteen hundred forty-nine
China was won by Mao Tse-tung
Chiang Kai Shek's army ran away
They were waiting there in Thailand today

Supported by the CIA
Pushing junk down Thailand way ...

Monday, March 23, 2009

When the Snake Became a Man

Garret Keizer (2009)

When the snake became a man,
he couldn’t stop swallowing
one rat after another until
he became so large he couldn’t
constrict his prey. He hired
a number of smaller snakes
not men or barely so to strangle
the rats for him and a surgeon
to make an opening in his tail
over which he wore a velvet hat
when not extruding his meals.

When the elk became a man,
he found he wanted longer horns
and took it as a sign from God
that horn-grow cream appeared
around the same time as his wish.
He dipped the tips of his antlers
faithfully into the jars, having
first glued their bottoms to his sink—
it was just too awkward otherwise.
Soon his rack became so high
he could not raise his head
so bought a titanium crane
that followed him on little wheels,
took pictures, and sorted his socks.

When the whale became a man,
it was really no big deal, the whale
already a Sea World celebrity,
people used to seeing him in a tux.
The orca bit would have to go,
of course, the cant about his not being
such a killer. No, he liked to kill
well enough, it was his culture
and he wasn’t going to be ashamed
of it any more than werewolves were
of theirs. He thought he’d write a song.

When the man became a man,
his dog became despondent,
having been a man himself
for quite some time. “A fine
thing to do at our stage of life,”
he said. Best friends with the man
for many years, he understood
the strange things likely to happen
when a man became a man.
The TV would go for one thing
and who knew what else after.
He wasn’t about to wait around
and watch the transformation.
He packed up his bones
in their matching bone cases,
dusted off his real-estate license,
and headed down the road.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Samuel Taylor Coleridge

What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole,
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lady Freedom Among Us

Rita Dove (1993)

don't lower your eyes
or stare straight ahead to where
you think you ought to be going

don't mutter oh no
not another one
get a job fly a kite
go bury a bone

with her oldfashioned sandals
with her leaden skirts
with her stained cheeks and whiskers and heaped up trinkets
she has risen among us in blunt reproach

she has fitted her hair under a hand-me-down cap
and spruced it up with feathers and stars
slung over her shoulder she bears
the rainbowed layers of charity and murmurs
all of you even the least of you

don't cross to the other side of the square
don't think another item to fit on a tourist's agenda

consider her drenched gaze her shining brow
she who has brought mercy back into the streets
and will not retire politely to the potter's field

having assumed the thick skin of this town
its gritted exhaust its sunscorch and blear
she rests in her weathered plumage
bigboned resolute

don't think you can forget her
don't even try
she's not going to budge

no choice but to grant her space
crown her with sky
for she is one of the many
and she is each of us

Monday, March 16, 2009

Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey

Hayden Carruth

Scrambled eggs and whiskey
in the false-dawn light. Chicago,
a sweet town, bleak, God knows,
but sweet. Sometimes. And
weren’t we fine tonight?
When Hank set up that limping
treble roll behind me
my horn just growled and I
thought my heart would burst.
And Brad M. pressing with the
soft stick, and Joe-Anne
singing low. Here we are now
in the White Tower, leaning
on one another, too tired
to go home. But don’t say a word,
don’t tell a soul, they wouldn’t
understand, they couldn’t, never
in a million years, how fine,
how magnificent we were
in that old club tonight.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spilt Milk

William Butler Yeats

We that have done and thought,
That have thought and done,
Must ramble, and thin out
Like milk spilt on a stone.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Connie Wanek

Butter, like love,
seems common enough
yet has so many imitators.
I held a brick of it, heavy and cool,
and glimpsed what seemed like skin
beneath a corner of its wrap;
the decolletage revealed
a most attractive fat!

And most refined.
Not milk, not cream,
not even creme de la creme.
It was a delicacy which assured me
that bliss follows agitation,
that even pasture daisies
through the alchemy of four stomachs
may grace a king's table.

We have a yellow bowl near the toaster
where summer's butter grows
soft and sentimental.
We love it better for its weeping,
its nostalgia for buckets and churns
and deep stone wells,
for the press of a wooden butter mold
shaped like a swollen heart.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lincoln's Dream

Dan Chiasson (2007)

It is impossible to state just how in love I am
with my own body, the white snows of me,
the sudden involutions and crevasses of me,
my muscles tensed or slack in anger or fear.

This is why, wherever I go, I am in Lincoln’s dream.
A sentry stands by, the stairway is eerily lit,
light is a little milk splash on people’s faces,
the faces of my Cabinet, grotesque and funny masks.

Who is dead in the White House? I demand. Who’s not?
answers a soldier, pointing to a shrouded head
on my own body, encased like a gangly insect
on the catafalque, and the loud sobs wake me up.

Reader, when you caress yourself in the morning,
amazed that you are made the way you are,
sure that yours is the finest body of all,
remember, you are Lincoln having Lincoln’s dream.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lot's Wife

Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Max Hayward and Stanley Kunitz

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Golden Oldie

Rita Dove

I made it home early, only to get
stalled in the driveway-swaying
at the wheel like a blind pianist caught in a tune
meant for more than two hands playing.
The words were easy, crooned
by a young girl dying to feel alive, to discover
a pain majestic enough
to live by. I turned the air conditioning off,
leaned back to float on a film of sweat,
and listened to her sentiment:
Baby, where did our love go?—a lament
I greedily took in
without a clue who my lover
might be, or where to start looking.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Third Place Poem

Rob Seitz (2009)

If your son is not intimidating
On the line of scrimmage,
If your daughter’s report card
Is not the brightest image,
If your children are not turning out
As healthy as you’d wished,
Perhaps on your dinner table
You might be missing fish.

Friday, February 27, 2009

After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard

Charles Wright

East of me, west of me, full summer.
How deeper than elsewhere the dusk is in your own yard.
Birds fly back and forth across the lawn
looking for home
As night drifts up like a little boat.

Day after day, I become of less use to myself.
Like this mockingbird,
I flit from one thing to the next.
What do I have to look forward to at fifty-four?
Tomorrow is dark.
Day-after-tomorrow is darker still.

The sky dogs are whimpering.
Fireflies are dragging the hush of evening
up from the damp grass.
Into the world's tumult, into the chaos of every day,
Go quietly, quietly.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hades' Pitch

Rita Dove

If I could just touch your ankle, he whispers, there
on the inside, above the bone—leans closer,
breath of lime and pepper—I know I could
make love to you. She considers
this, secretly thrilled, though she wasn’t quite
sure what he meant. He was good
with words, words that went straight to the liver.
Was she falling for him out of sheer boredom—
cooped up in this anything-but-humble dive, stone
gargoyles leering and brocade drapes licked with fire?
Her ankle burns where he described it. She sighs
just as her mother aboveground stumbles, is caught
by the fetlock—bereft in an instant—
while the Great Man drives home his desire.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Waiting and Finding

Jack Gilbert (2009)

While he was in kindergarten, everybody wanted to play
the tomtoms when it came time for that. You had to
run in order to get there first, and he would not.
So he always had a triangle. He does not remember
how they played the tomtoms, but he sees clearly
their Chinese look. Red with dragons front and back
and gold studs around that held the drumhead tight.
If you had a triangle, you didn’t really make music.
You mostly waited while the tambourines and tomtoms
went on a long time. Until there was a signal for all
triangle people to hit them the right way. Usually once.
Then it was tomtoms and waiting some more. But what
he remembers is the sound of the triangle. A perfect,
shimmering sound that has lasted all his long life.
Fading out and coming again after a while. Getting lost
and the waiting for it to come again. Waiting meaning
without things. Meaning love sometimes dying out,
sometimes being taken away. Meaning that often he lives
silent in the middle of the world’s music. Waiting
for the best to come again. Beginning to hear the silence
as he waits. Beginning to like the silence maybe too much.

Monday, February 16, 2009

King of Repetition

Marc Jaffee (2004)

I am none but king of repetition.
I am none but a soldier with naught but a mission.
I am the hand with its fingers always touching REPEAT—
I am the winding street
I am the windy street.
I am none but king of repetition.

I am none but king of supposition—
I suppose, then, I must take a position.
I suppose I must await battle boldly,
and shun selfish pleading, turn away coldly,
then sway the finger, the hand—this mad persuasion.

I am none but king of repetition.

I am none but king of opposition.
I am none but a soldier, pale malnutrition:
I am the sickly stomach, and your lips and your eyes;
I am you lips and you eyes
and the things that arise.
I am none but king of repetition.

I am a liar with a folk song's heart.
I cannot start, and I cannot restart.
I am the finger and the foot and the following eye
which is present, which is prescient; a lie.
I am a liar, and lying my art.

I am none but king of composition—
composing a song, a lie, a mission.
I want to repeat
and I want to repeat
I am the winding street
and the winding street.
I am none but king of composition.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Make It Heartfelt

W. Bukisa (2009)

Many people
are not quite sure
how to go about
Valentine's Day

Thursday, February 12, 2009

They're Putting a New Door In

Brian Kim Stefans (2004)

Brian's new shoes. She asked me of his whereabouts. They're
putting a new door in.

CCI. They're putting a new door in. Impersonating an officer.

They're putting a new door in. Feliz Navidad. My watch continues
to stop: self-identity.

I break
Margin time,
the steaming metropolis
at 8 am
with dry lips.
I couldn't take my eyes off the ball.

Papers on her head. Like a crown of spring thorns. They're putting
a new door in.

This is only the third poem I've written in 2001. And probably the
last one. The other two went like this:

It hit with the farce of an atom bomb.
If there are no animals on Mars, is there anything that could classify
as "shit."

People are like ciphers. They say this, they say that.
Private life is a social experiment.
The French: an impatience with secular explanations.
Writing. Boiling potatoes.
Everybody's pride is hurt.


Footfalls, bubblebaths.
Hezbollah and hot dogs
Be sure to add these Tones of War
to your arsenal of meters.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In the First Circle of Limbo

Carl Rakosi (2004)

Liberate me,
from this encirclement
of categories
Your themes
are plein-air,
Put some wit
and compassion
into this pen!

Monday, February 9, 2009

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae (1915)

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stanley's First Death

Cleopatra Mathis (2004)

The body became a vessel, the rasping breath
its proof, and before him nothing
but that ocean swamp
he travelled over. His spirit
lofted forth, his voice
a long quavering
when the wind permitted, as if
out there somewhere some god
held the string.

He was carried somewhere else, who knows?
then fell back, found
the diligent old body at his desk.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sheep Passing

W.S. Merwin (1997)

Mayflies hover through the long evening
of their light and in the winding lane
the stream of sheep runs among the shadows calling
the old throats gargling again uphill
along known places once more and from the bells
borne by their predecessors the notes
dull as wood clonk to the flutter of all
the small hooves over the worn stone
with the voices of the lambs rising through them
over and over telling and asking
their only question into the day they have
none will know midsummer the walls of the lane
are older than anyone can understand
and the lane must have been a path a long time
before the first stones were raised from the river
up through the trees for an age before that
one hoof one paw one foot before another
the way they went is all that is still there.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Brief Song

Elton Glaser

When love carries us
to this altitude
of lean air, our heads
clear, our hearts
open like parachutes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All Souls'

Rita Dove (2004)

Starting up behind them,
all the voices of those they had named:
mink, gander, and marmoset,
crow and cockatiel.
Even the duck-billed platypus,
of late so quiet in its bed,
sent out a feeble cry signifying
grief and confusion, et cetera.

Of course the world had changed
for good. As it would from now on
every day, with every twitch and blink.
Now that change was de rigueur,
man would discover desire, then yearn
for what he would learn to call
distraction. This was the true loss.
And yet in that first

unchanging instant,
the two souls
standing outside the gates
(no more than a break in the hedge;
how had they missed it?) were not
thinking. Already the din was fading.
Before them, a silence
larger than all their ignorance

yawned, and this they walked into
until it was all they knew. In time
they hunkered down to business,
filling the world with sighs—
these anonymous, pompous creatures,
heads tilted as if straining
to make out the words to a song
played long ago, in a foreign land.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bad Modernism

Michael Davidson (2004)

Suddenly all is / loathing
—John Ashbery

and there's plenty to be unhappy about
if I can just get the reception area festooned
in time for their arrival, paper cups
and those little plastic whatsits so that,
gorged on meaning,
they troop through the glass doors
seeking interpretation, first floor
mildly historical, second floor
desire matrix, parents accompany
their indiscretions straight
to the penthouse, and someone
hands them a phone, "turtles"
they're call led, heads bobbing
as though they had a choice
to be party favors, deep structure
on your left follow the clicking
to a white cube, we only work
part time, the other part
we illustrate profound malaise,
I like these creme-filled versions
so unlike what we get at home,
having said which
we re-wind the tape,
slip it through a slot marked "aha"
and take the E home,
the smell you smell afar
is something boiling over.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

True Love

Barry Gifford (2009)

Your sickness made me
a little sick, it's
true—I still
feel it
Mayakovsky got down
on his knees
and declared
his love
to his last
a few hours after
he'd met her
Remember me
at the hotel
in Paris
on my knees
in the lift?
We're all the same
men of too much passion
and little talent—
some a little more
than others
We fool ourselves
into thinking
we're strong
then complain
the rest of our lives
crippled by
the consequences

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Walk

Oni Buchanon (2004)

The woman came toward me through the woods with a hatchet.
She was coming through the woods with a shotgun.
The trees bent and swayed around the path,

a delicate canopy, the lake a dropped quarter behind
the brink. And the near-mute lap, tendril lick,

was it the lake—or lacy winds of butterflies leaping
from leaves? Oh, the least of these. She, brisk
with bullet holes, carrying a butcher knife.

"From those who have nothing, even what they have
will be taken away," I thought, as she walked tugging her examination gloves,

stainless steel stethoscope around her shot-through throat.
"For all those who have, more will be given,"
I said aloud as she strode toward me in her leotard

and rapped thrice on my head with a cloth-covered brick.
I heard her count through the hole in her throat,

raspy as the crow-cackle grating from their roost
in the tall dead tree which moaned and creaked as it bent side-stitched,
its shriveled roots spread miles under the earth, miles to the water table

where the red and eyeless millipedes prune their poison sacs,
and outward wide as the woods where the mushroom hunters

hunt in the most dew dawns. (she had me by a cord around my throat.
She had me in the net-and-pulley treetrap.) "Oh, to the least, to me,"
I wheezed, and pointed out the sun, still high in the sky, still spotted

with sun spots. I took her spotted hand in mine as we both looked up into the blue,
and the long honey locust pods rattled high in the honey locust tree.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Kim Addonizio (2004)

Why did she cross the road?
She should have stayed in her little cage,
shat upon by her sisters above her,
shitting on her sisters below her.

God knows how she got out.
God sees everything. God has his eye
on the chicken, making her break
like the convict headed for the river,

sloshing his way through the water
to throw off the dogs, raising
his arms to starlight to praise
whatever isn't locked in a cell.

He'll make it to a farmhous
where kind people will feed him.
They'll bring green beans and bread,
home-brewed hops. They'll bring

the chicken the farmer found
by the side of the road, dazed
from being clipped by a pickup,
whose delicate brain stem

he snapped with a twist,
whose asshole his wife stuffed
with rosemary and lemon wedge.
Everything has its fate,

but only God knows what that is.
The spirit of the chicken will enter the convict.
Sometimes, in his boxy apartment,
listening to his neighbors above him,

annoying his neighbors below him,
he'll feel a terrible hunger
and an overwhelming urge
to jab his head at the television over and over.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Danielle Pafunda (2004)

Don't invite me to your pity party.
Don't call me up on your pity party line
and invite me over for punch and cookies.
I won't come. I won't come
with a pretty pity present. I won't
put on my pity party dress and the special
ribbon in my pity pony tail. I won't play
pity pin the tail on the donkey,
or dance to pity pop music. I don't care
if the captain of the football team
and the whole pity pep squad are coming.

I don't care if your mother made her special
pineapple upside-down pity or your father plans
to grill pity pups and hamburgers. Not even
if you have an exotic pity parrot that says
Polly want some pity, or if you have the newest
model Pontiac Pity that we can drive around in.
Head up to the hills, watch the sun set
and the bright lights of the big pity turn on.

It's your party, and you know what that means,
but it's not my style. You know what I always say.
I say, kill the people, and never let 'em see you sweat.
I always say this party's for the birds,
and who invited you, anyway, pal?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Render, Render

Thomas Lux

Boil it down: feet, skin, gristle,
bones, vertebrae, heart muscle, boil
it down, skim, and boil
again, dreams, history, add them and boil
again, boil and skim
in closed cauldrons, boil your horse, his hooves,
the runned-over dog you loved, the girl
by the pencil sharpener
who looked at you, looked away,
boil that for hours, render it
down, take more from the top as more settles to the bottom,
the heavier, the denser, throw in ache
and sperm, and a bead
of sweat that slid from your armpit to your waist
as you sat stiff-backed before a test, turn up
the fire, boil and skim, boil
some more, add a fever
and the virus that blinded an eye, now's the time
to add guilt and fear, throw
logs on the fire, coal, gasoline, throw
two goldfish in the pot (their swim bladders
used for "clearing"), boil and boil, render
it down and distill,
that for which there is no
other use at all, boil it down, down,
then stir it with rosewater, that
which is now one dense, fatty, scented red essence
which you smear on your lips
and go forth
to plant as many kisses upon the world
as the world can bear!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Little Tooth

Thomas Lux

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all

over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Things To Hand

Robert Pinsky

In the skull kept on the desk.
In the spider-pod in the dust.

Or nowhere. In milkmaids, in loaves,
Or nowhere. And if Socrates leaves

His house in the morning,
When he returns in the evening

He will find Socrates waiting
On the doorstep. Buddha the stick

You use to clear the path,
And Buddha the dog-doo you flick

Away with it, nowhere or in each
Several thing you touch:

The dollar bill, the button
That works the television.

Even in the joke, the three
Words American men say

After making love. Where’s
The remote? In the tears

In things, proximate, intimate.
In the wired stem with root

And leaf nowhere of this lamp:
Brass base, aura of illumination,

Enlightenment, shade of grief.
Odor of the lamp, brazen.

The mind waiting in the mind
As in the first thing to hand.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Last Robot Song

Robert Pinsky (2009)

It was a little newborn god
That made the first instrument:
Sweet vibration of
Mind, mind, mind
Enclosed in its orbit.

He scooped out a turtle’s shell
And strung it with a rabbit’s guts.
O what a stroke to invent
Music from an empty case
Strung with bloody filaments—

The wiry rabbitflesh
Plucked or strummed,
Pulled taut across the gutted
Resonant hull of the turtle:
Music from strings that
Tremble over a hollow—
Sweet conception, sweet
Instrument of

Mind, mind, mind:
Itself a capable vibration
Thrumming from here to there
In the cloven brainflesh
Contained in its helmet of bone—
Like an electronic boxful
Of channels and filaments
Bundled inside its case,
A little musical robot

Dreamed up by the mind
Embedded in the brain
With its blood-warm channels
And its humming network
Of neurons, engendering

The newborn baby god—
As clever and violent
As his own instrument
Of sweet, all-consuming
Imagination, held
By its own vibration,

Mind, mind, mind pulled
Taut in its bony shell,
Dreaming up Heaven and Hell.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Kay Ryan (1996)

At high speeds
we know
when an orbit
starts to go
on fair rides
like the Hammer
or in airplane disasters,
our brains are
plastered to
one wall of the skull
or another;
we comprehend reverse
through the sudden compression
of matter.
In a way its worse
when the turn's wider—
say a boat on a soft tide
in mild water*#8212;
we hardly knew
that we were floating out.
The sense of turning back
seems like our fault.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Learning To Read

Franz Wright (2009)

If I had to look up every fifth or sixth word,
so what. I looked them up.
I had nowhere important to be.

My father was unavailable, and my mother
looked like she was about to break,
and not into blossom, every time I spoke.

My favorite was the Iliad. True,
I had trouble pronouncing the names,
but when was I going to pronounce them, and

to whom?
My stepfather maybe?
Number one, he could barely speak English;

two, he had sufficient intent
to smirk or knock me down
without any prompting from me.

Loneliness, boredom and terror
my motivation
fiercely fuelled.

I get down on my knees and thank God for them.

Du Fu, the Psalms, Whitman, Rilke.
Life has taught me
to understand books.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Nathalie Anderson (2009)

Eh he said and she
dreamed eh. It was
like that between them.

Not that his lips dreamed,
not that his dreamed lips
parted. Eh he’d say

and her dream was eh,
was all eh, all and
only. Sometimes

a near kiss an almost tide
drawn back withdrawn withdrawing.
Sometimes the hackled wave

raised, drew back its lip, sheered
its teeth, coughed its raw
guttural. Or

she herself voicing
involuntary eh
his whatever, his

what-it-is. But
sometimes his naked eh
with her ah alongside—

the rocked hulls nudging nuzzling
or was it scraping what
did she care? Would his eh

oh? How fast she’d
founder, taking on water,
mouth emptying full.

By day she’d hear on the air
his syllable, turn
toward or away, does it

matter? If she said ah
would he dream ah? Oh—
not like that between them.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It Is Not A Word

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

It is not a word spoken,
Few words are said;
Nor even a look of the eyes
Nor a bend of the head,

But only a hush of the heart
That has too much to keep,
Only memories waking
That sleep so light a sleep.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Morning At The Window

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

They are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,
And along the trampled edges of the street
I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids
Sprouting despondently at area gates.
The brown waves of fog toss up to me
Twisted faces from the bottom of the street,
And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts
An aimless smile that hovers in the air
And vanishes along the level of the roofs.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Richard Wilbur (2009)

O Egypt, Egypt—so the great lament
Of thrice-great Hermes went—
Nothing of thy religion shall remain
Save fables, which thy children shall disdain.
His grieving eye foresaw
The world’s bright fabric overthrown
Which married star to stone
And charged all things with awe.

And what, in that dismantled world, could be
More fabulous than he?
Had he existed? Was he but a name
Tacked on to forgeries which pressed the claim
Of every ancient quack—
That one could from a smoky cell
By talisman or spell
Coerce the Zodiac?

Still, still we summon him at midnight hour
To Milton’s pensive tower,
And hear him tell again how, then and now,
Creation is a house of mirrors, how
Each herb that sips the dew
Dazzles the eye with many small
Reflections of the All—
Which, after all, is true.