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.