Monday, June 11, 2007


Some Poems I've Liked Recently


To 'honeybunch," you stupid fucker, you never thought I'd do
it did ya you slimy hogstool, I hope you rot in hell you no good
bum with your big mouth and your endless threats about
breaking both my thumbs. What a joke, it was just a lousy way
of shutting me up and you knew it. Well you can take your
finger out of your ass and shove it up your nose for all I care,
because it's no goddamn thanks to you, hiding my typewriter
and wanting fancy dinners all the time, well why don't you get
one of your girlfriends to make you dinner eh? and now we'll
just see who's going to incapacitate who from now on. So eat
your heart out shitface, and just for the old icing on the cake,
you remember how I told you that big black guy was "just a
friend"? Well, he was considerably more than just a friend and
furthermore had a whang the size of a Coke bottle. So go wipe
out on a freeway, creep, 'cause I'm not taking any more of your

-- Sharon Thesen


"The Kitchen Gods"

Carnage in the lot: blood freckled the chopping block --
The hen's death is timeless, frantic.
Its numbskull lopped, one wing still drags
The pointless circle of a broken clock,
But the vein fades in my grandmother's arm on the ax.
The old ways fade and do not come back.
The sealed aspirin does not remember the willow.
The supermarket does not remember the barnyard.
The hounds of memory come leaping and yapping.
One morning is too large to fit inside the mouth.
My grandmother's life was a long time
Toiling between Blake's root-and-lightning
Yahweh and the girlish Renaissance Christ
That plugged the flue in her kitchen wall.
Early her match flamed across the carcass.
Her hand, fresh from the piano, plunged
The void bowel and set the breadcrumb heart.
The stove's eye reddened. The day's great spirit rose
From pies and casseroles. That was the house --
Reroofed, retiled, modernized, and rented out,
It will not glide up and lock among the stars.
The tenants will not find the pantry fully stocked
Or the brass boat where she kept the matches dry.
I find her stone and rue our last useless
Divisive arguments over the divinity of Christ.
Only where the religion goes on without a god
And the sandwich is wolfed down without a blessing,
I think of us bowing at the table there:
The grand patriarch of the family holding forth
In staunch prayer, and the potato pie I worshiped.
The sweeter the pie, the shorter the prayer.

--Rodney Jones



Now there is no gravity. Freedom is meaningless.
I weigh no more than a hair
on a starched collar.
Lips meet in the ellipsis at the end of a drowning
confession; on the sand, a crab closes its claws hermetically
and moves one step forward and two steps to the right.
It was long ago when I first broke into a shudder
at the touch of your fingers;
no more shyness, no more healing, no more death.
Now I am light as an Indian feather, and can easily reach the moon
a moon clean as an angel's sex
on the frescoes of the church.
Sometimes I can even see asteriods dying like drones
in ecstacy for their love, their queen.

--Luljeta Lleshanaku
(translated from the Albanian by Henry Israeli and Ukzenel Bucpapa)



The lock was on the right although I had to
open it from the left so I could use
my other hand to turn the knob and there were
four windows facing the street and for a
study I put my feet on the painted board
that covered the radiator and that's where I
slept for an hour since it was too exhausting
to cross the room, and when I got up I walked
downstairs so I could sit in the square on one
of the cold benches behind the limp flags
for it was two in the morning and the prostitutes
were making faces at the slow-moving cop cars
and smoking cigarettes the secondhand smoke of
which I moved two benches away to escape
though I didn't say a word nor did they ask me
for anything more than a cigarette, and one of them
gave me a flower, it was a faded blue iris,
and it was cold that night, I put it inside
my shirt so I could hurry home to adore it.

--Gerald Stern


for Jon and Jill

Eyeing the grass for mushrooms, you will find
A stone or stain, a dandelion puff
Deceive your eyes -- their color is enough
To plump the image out to mushroom size
And lead you through illusion to a rind
That's true -- flint, fleck or feather. With no haste
scent-out the earthy musk, the firm moist white,
And, played-with rather than deluded, waste
None of the sleights of seeing: taste the sight
You gaze unsure of -- a resemblance, too,
Is real and allits likes and links stay true
To the weft of seeing. You, to begin with,
May be taken in, taken beyond, that is,
This place of chiaroscuro that seemed clear,
For realer than a myth of clarities
Are the meanings that you read and are not there:
Soon, in the twilight coolness, you will come
To the circle that you seek and, one by one,
Stooping into their fragrance, break and gather,
Your way a winding where the rest lead on
Like stepping stones across a grass of water.

-- Charles Tomlinson


"The Weight of Experience"

Crossing the wet fields on a winter afternoon,
the brown rows oozing nutrients and seeds,
I see the house at the edge of a crossroads. Our house,
built on the beds of frozen vegetables, a system
of roots and rivers, pumpkin vines. There were the years
when I was expected to fight the weather
and you played the part of the blonde from witch country,
the beauty with an illness, a premonition.
This was in the land of gorges, of meltwater
and giants, where I was happy to stand between you
and the elements, to work, to bring home the food.
I walked the roads through every season;
I mastered the wind. Remember: in this life, I was young.
I loved you. I was capable of anything.

Now, I turn the corner onto a sand street,
toward another house, set deep in permanent summer.
The bluest sky, the dunes like walls. I am followed
by a blind sun as I cross this valley of silica and fine-ground glass.
All the windows, too, are blinded, all the gardens
claimed by the beach. I have spent the day in an office;
I have traveled here by train, in my writer's suit, carrying
the pens that still inscribe your name, only your name.
this is the longest I have believed in anything. This is
the life in which no one knows how old I am. This life,
this life, these final years, when you still remember
to turn me out into the world. when the weight of experience
grows lighter with each step I take and you are
always waiting, the blonde behind the open door.

--Eleanor Lerman


"Pierre Bonnard: Standing Nude"

Glossy lime, amethyst, rosewater, mother-of-
Pearl: what other than color stays alive
And under the sun to love? The tall flat
Mirror I see for myself has been left out
Of the picture you approach, and the giggly, mild
Children who gather together in my
Field of view, then chase each other away,
Their vinyl coats scraping and swixhing, can never hold
My interest as I might keeps theirs; my gold-
Flecked sides have gone bare for so many summers that I
Can shrug off their gazes with ease as I do
My hair. Once I rang in the brave new
Year as the belle of a country ball, who now
Face all day the severity of a Mission-
Style rocking chair; I look askance
At a minor Degas (very minor) as she strains
To pull on her new tights. Her poiseless
Poise, forever off balance
Through no fault of her own, shows how her lot
Is cast: she means to fit
Them perfectly, or die in the attempt.
The copper-blue-nailed, violet-haired, contempt-
Uous guard who covers her rippling yawn
comes closer than any admirer to my own
Sang-froid: each day I watch an ever-gaudier
Sun (itself unseen) embroider
The robes I will never pick up, in band over band
Of opalescent sparks. I stand behind
A door I will never pas through, and all I have
To keep to myself are times when visitors leave,
And colors I know, by now, like the back of my hand.

--Stephen Burt


"A Thanksgiving Dance"

His spirit dances the long ago, and later.
Starlight on a country road in worn-out
western Pennsylvania. The smell of weeds
and rusting iron. and gladness.
His spirit welcomes the Italian New Year's
in a hill town filled with the music
of glass crashing everywhere in the cobbled
streets. Champagne and the first kisses.
Too shy to look at each other and no language
between them. He dances alone, the dance
of after that. Now they sit amid the heavy
Roman sunlight and talk of the people
they are married to now. He secretly
dances the waltz she was in her astonishing
beauty, drinking wind and laughing, the window
behind her filled with winter rain.

--Jack Gilbert


"Marine Biology"

We make it the sum
of our salts and muscle, a mirror
giving us back to ourselves,
our first crush, the romance of self
poured into earth's old bowls.
How pretty we look
inlaid with green and a necklace of terns
or how sad, each love affair
another lost sailor. In tides
we discern our strength of resolve,
sonorous waves of human spirit,
that eternal relentless
media darling. regarding ourselves
from the shore is what we do best,
pulled this way and that by the moon.
With bivalve organs shifting softly,
soul sounding
in our sexy seas and the brain
in its brine, we are innocent
as nutrients. warm inside
our big sweaters. To return
means drowning among creatures that hate
our true grit and diesel, the way we love
what we love to death
from a desire to name what swims
inside us. the last frontier.
Cod hide behind furnitures of reef.
In places, ice is metres thick
and sturgeon in the lower rooms
reach with their gills for another era,
ancient hearts beating,
waiting us out.

--Karen Solie


"As simple as a drop of water"

As simple as a drop of water,
as clear as a splinter of birch,

Because the foal falls patiently, cautiously
out of the horse and is able to stand,

And the fish unfolds like a metal tear
and is able to fly, and people quand meme

Are slow to learn silence and absence
amidst their armored scree,

It isn't as simple, as clear
what I'm left with when I
have put down my pen.

-- Hans Faverey
(Translated from the Dutch by Francis R. Jones)


"The Gathering Evening"

Shadows are the patient apprentices of everything.
They follow what might be followed,

Sit with what will not move.
They take notes all day long --

We don't pay attention, we don't see
The dark writing of the pencil, the black notebook.

Sometimes, if you are watching carefully,
A shadow will move. You will turn to see

What has made it move, but nothing.
The shadows transcribe all night.

Transcription is their sleep.
We mistake night as a setting of the sun:

Night is all of them comparing notes,
so many gathering that their crowd

Makes the darkness everything.
Patient, patient, quiet and still.

One day they will have learned it all.
One day they will step out, in front,

And we will follow them, be their shadows,
And work for our turn --

The centuries it takes
To learn what waiting has to teach.

--Alberto Rios


"Your Unconscious Speaks to My Unconscious"

Your unconscious speaks to my unconscious
like subtitles of another language, saying:
Why? Why did you do this
to me?
So while we are laughing and playing,
my unconscious, hearing, says, What did I
Now yours is crying, weeping, saying,
Why are you doing this? Why
do you leave me? aren't you staying?

And mine, astonished, says, Sweetheart, I
am right here. I am here.
Your eyes
looking into mine. Your fingers in my hair.
But as our spines bend, something unties
in me and I am no longer there.
For I have already watched you go,
in the movie, in the darkness, through the snow.

--Kate Light


"The Master of Metaphor"

Even on days when his body seems too heavy
and broken to live with gracefully,
He tries not to think of it as a prison,
Not to consider himself a spirit
Who merely happens to be embodied.
Better for him, he believes, to begin with body,
Body enlivened, awakened, inspirited.
as for the earth, how can it be a prison
When he's an earthling, his lungs having evolved
to thrive in an atmosphere richly embued
with the exhalations of earthly plant life,
His legs evolved to carry him to a stand of pear trees,
His arms and hands to reach up and pluck?

And when he wakes in the dark an hour past midnight
With his lungs aching, gasping for breath,
He doesn't blame the weight of his body
Or the weight of the eartly atmosphere.
It's simply the weight of the dark itself.
And when he's tempted to call that dark a prison,
He reminds himself its walls and bars will dissolve
Like mist when dawn finally arrives,
Ddear dawn striding across the hills to lift the stone
Night has rolled on his chest and let him rise.
A miracle, he believes he can say without hyperbole,
If the term can refer to familiar splendor,
Not only to what's revealed to the faithful
Far less often than once a day.

--Carl Dennis


Butterfly Valley: A Requiem


Up they soar, the planet's butterflies,
pigments from the warm body of the earth,
cinnabar, ochre, phosphor yellow, gold
a swarm of basic elements aloft.

Is this flickering of wings only a shoal
of light particles, a quirk of perception?
Is it the dreamed summer hour of my childhood
shattered as by lightning lost in time?

No, this is the angel of light, who can paint
himself as dark mnemosyne Apollo,
as copper, hawk moth, tiger swallowtail.

I see them with my blurred understanding
as feathers in the coverlet of haze
in Brajcino Valley's noon-hot air.

--Inger Christensen
(Translated from the Danish by susanna Nied)


"Cartoon Physics, part 1"

Children under, say, ten, shouldn't know
that the universe is ever-expanding,
inexorably pushing into the vacuum, galaxies

swallowed by galaxies, whole

solar systems collapsing, all of it
acted out in silence. At ten we are still learning

the rules of cartoon animation,

that if a man draws a door on a rock
only he can pass through it.
anyone else who tries

will crash into the rock. Ten-year-olds
should stick with burning houses, car wrecks,
ships going down -- earthbound, tangible

disasters, arenas

where they can be heroes. You can run
back into a burning house, sinking ships

have lifeboats, the trucks will come
with their ladders, if you jump

you will be saved. A child

places her hand on the roof of a schoolbus
& drives across a city of sand. She knows

the exact spot it will skid, at which point
the bridge will give, who will swim to safety
& who will be pulled under by sharks. she will learn

that if a man runs off the edge of a cliff
he will not fall

until he notices his mistake.

--Nick Flynn


First Book of Odes


Dear be still! Time's start of us lengthens slowly.
Bright round plentiful nights ripen and fall for us.
Those impatient thighs will be bruised soon enough.

Sniff the sweet narcotic distilled by coupled
skins; moist bodies relaxed, mild, unemotional.
Thrifty fools spoil love with their headlong desires.

Dayyy! Waste! Mock! Loll! till the chosen sloth fails,
huge gasps empty the loins shuddering chilly in
long accumulated delight's thunderstorm.

Rinsed in cool sleep day wil renew the smmer
lightnings. Leave it to me. Only a savage's
lusts explode slapbang at the first touch like bombs.

--Basil Bunting


"when i was five i thought heaven was located"

when i was five i thought heaven was located
in the hayloft of our barn the ladder to get
up there was straight & narrow like the Bible
said if you fell off you might land on the
horns of oa cow or be smashed on cement the men
in the family could leap up in seconds wielding
pitchforks my mother never even tried for us
children it was hard labour i was the scaredy
i couldn't reach the first rung so i stood at
the bottom & imagined what heaven was like there
was my grandfather with his Santa Claus beard
sitting on a wooden throne among straw bales
never saying a word but smiling & patting us
on the head & handing out bubble gum to those
who were good even though his eyes were half
closed he could see right inside your head so
i squirmed my way to the back of the line &
unwished the little white lie i had told which
i could feel growing grimy up there & tried
not to look at the dark gaping hole where they
shoved out black sinners like me but the best
part was the smell of new pitched hay wafting
about some of it fell to where i stood under
the ladder there were tiny blue flowerets pressed
on dry stems i held them to my nose & breathed
deep sky & sun it was enough heaven for me for
one day

--Di Brandt


"A Toast"

If you will it, it is no dream.
-- Theodore Herzl

October: grapes hung like the fists of a girl
gassed in her prayer. Memory,
I whisper, stay awake.

In my veins
long syllables tighten their ropes, rains come
right out of the eighteenth century
Yiddish or a darker language in which imagination
is the only word.

Imagination! a young girl dancing a polka,
unafraid, betrayed bu the Lord's death
(or his hiding under the bed when the Messiah
was postponed).

In my country, evenings bring the rain water, turning
poplars bronze in a light that sparkles on these pages
where I, my fathers,
unable to describe your dreams, drink
my silence from a cup.

-- Ilya Kaminsky


"Shadow Poem"

You know me
But the gauze that fetters the earth
Keeps you from knowing

We were souls together once
Wave after wave of ether
Alive outside of time

I'm still there
Though twice I curled
Into a speck-sized marvel

And waited
In the wet earth of you
Briefly human

You fear everything
and live by a single
Inconstant light

Hearing nothing
A radio stuck between stations

The second time
I played giddy music
On my blinking heart

Now I watch the dumb machine
Of your body loving
With the loveless wedge of you

That made me

When I want to tell you something
I say it in a voice
The shadow of water

I don't wake you
But the part of you
That's still like me

That rises about your body
When your body
Sinks into itself

The part that doesn't
Belong to you
Knows what it hears

You are not the only one
Alive like that

-- Tracy K. Smith



When winter ratchets down its crunch-bone cold, oranges
provide our talisman, our bough of gold, oranges.

They are not rare, as in our parents' shared anecdotes,
exotic gifts a stocking toe might hold, oranges.

Thin-skinned and rich in oils, blue-ribbon specimans,
perfume the fingertips when palmed and rolled, oranges.

Girdled by four equators, pared meticulously,
eight petals curl, disclose the pulp, unfold oranges.

Segments divide, cathedral window-stained translucency
bursts on the tongue; heart hungers are consoled, oranges.

Papaya, mango, carabola, persimmon
forsworn, we load the cargo bay with cold oranges.

Let the Olympians brag their nectar, their ambrosia.
Our feast is not less rightfully extolled, oranges.

Barefoot, we trod where warm waves wreathed our ankle bones
and bobbed with windfalls. From those waves we trolled oranges.

Make no mistake. such food as feeds and cheers is luxury,
however cheap or dear or freely doled: oranges.

Indentured pickers work for pittance. Little changes
since wenches hawked, by stage-lamp, bawdy-bold, oranges.

What renders living graciously exploitative;
the justice-loever, moralistic scold? Oranges?

Thus cries the roving minstrel,"Sweet or sour or contraband --
come buy my wares, if you can be cajoled: oranges."

--Mary Pryor


Woah - I love that dedication at the start - that makes you sit up and look.

Also like 'my unconcious speaks to your unconscious' and 'when I was five I thought that heaven was located.'
Yes, the "Dedication" certainly has that effect, doesn't it? Sharon Thesen is another Canadian poet whose work I've just recently discovered. I'm glad you found pieces you enjoyed, and thanks for stopping by.

How's the book coming along, by the way? When can we expect it to be available? And congratulations again (I won't mention the extensive envy . . . well, okay, may just a little).
Hey, thanks for asking! The book - Kairos is at editing stage now, with a beautiful over art by an Irish artist, Anna O'Byrne. I'm also at seeking blurb stage too. I have two poets lined up for that, but it's really hard to get anyone else Irish and well known enough to pony up. All the good ones are doin blurbs for other people... h well.

That aside, all being well, I'm hoping for September/October launches. One in dear old Dundalk and one in Kerry, which would be real fun, as the other three publishees will be there too. I must get some info from the publisher on them - one is Russian, I think! That would make a good blog post, now that I think of it! I don't mind the envy, it's usually me feeling envious ;)

Will look up Sharon Thesen - you're really enjoying the Canadians, aren't you?

I can't believe how much poetry you consume. I can't only read a little at a time, but you seem to plow through it wholesale. Thanks for all these new names I don't have time to read except by your snippets. And I think I'll link to Jackdaw's Nest because you seem to spend more time here than at the Compost, as the other blog so frequently recommends this one.
Thanks for stopping by, c. e., and finding things to like. (I read your blog regularly, btw.) I returned from college teaching 4 years ago and am now getting to do what I always swore I would when I retired -- read all those books I didn't have time to when I was grading student papers and exams. I actually only read about 20 or so new poems a day, but you can work through a number of books in a short time that way, I've found. I use "Jackday's Nest" as an anthology site, while "Compost Heap" is more for my own stuff (when I'm writing) and just odds and ends.

And may I formally protest your decision to stop writing poetry? I remember particular a sonnet about an old wooden church (Sweden? Denmark?) from 6 or 7 years ago that I thought was just excellent.
retired, not returned, from college teaching, I meant.
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