Thursday, June 18, 2009


Twelve 3-Line Poems

"Ah your face"

Ah your face
but it's whether 
you can keep me warm

-- Lorine Niedecker

* * *

"The Learned Poet"

Learned skilled astute informed
But when he writes
The Maenads don't dance

-- Sophia de Mello Breyner
translated from the Portuguese by  Richard Zenith

* * *

"A Countryman"

On the long flats north of the river
an elder in a leather jacket
is hitchhiking to his daughter's funeral.

-- Les Murray

* * *

"Persons in Paradise Gardens"

what are they all
but skeletons given a
few years of life

-- Jonathan Williams

* * *

"3 x 111 Tristychs"
from First Series

The oranges fell to the ground.
The old women gathered them.
And I the sun.

-- Yannis Ritsos
translated from the Greek by Kostas Myrsiades

* * *

"To the Memory of David Kalstone"

Here's the letter I wrote,
and the ghost letter, underneath --
that's my work in life.

-- Jean Valentine

* * *


I walked toward the fruit bowl
and suddenly the grape
became word.

-- Claribel Alegria
translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden

* * *

"Polish Haiku"

The Pope's learning Welsh:
(he's an alien)
More power to him!

-- Ted Berrigan

* * *

"First Night of Fall,
Grosvenor Ave"

In the blue lamplight
the leaf falls

on its shadow

-- George Bowering

* * *

"The Container of the Uncontainable"
Good Friday

Bells like coins falling sound today all over the city
between each peal a new space opens
like a drop of water on the earth:  the moment has come, raise me up.

-- George Seferis
translated from the Greek by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

* * *

"Last Variation"

I ceased to hear the sea,
then the fragile fingers of cold,
then the creeping light of flax.

-- Eugenio de Andrade
translated from the Portuguese by Alexis Levitin

* * *

"from Six Variations on Silence"

Deep in the ravine, pollen settles
to the eddy's swirl.  You could watch all day
and never see it move.

-- Jan Zwicky

* * *
* * *

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Fourteen Sonnets


It sang without a sound:  music that
The naive elm trees loved.  They were alive.
Oh silky music no elm tree could survive.
The head low slither of a stalking cat,
Black panther darkness pouring to the kill.,
Entered every elm -- they drank it in.
Drank silence.  Then the silence drank.  Wet chin,
Hot, whiskered darkness.  Every elm was ill.
What else is there to give but joy?  Disease.
And trauma.  Lightning, or as slow as lava.
Darkness drinking from a pool in Java,
Black panther drinking from a dream.  The trees
Around the edge are elms.  Below, above,
Man-eater drinking its reflection:  love.

--Frederick Seidel

* * *


Virgins and kings:  the very fields aquiver
Moving through which the long procession moved.
But others mused beside that ardent river.
Each white field-flower they had gathered shed
Its petals, wanting to tell them they were loved.
If a girl looked, she looked as in still water
At maidens, village suitors -- where instead
He rode, her least familiar most real lover.

Gazing the flowers gave up all to gaze
After the great procession, longer, greater
For having passed unfathomed.  Nowadays
Not many comprehend the language of flowers.
It will soon be dusk on the reflective water.
As girls love daisies, love dismembers hours.

--James Merrill

* * *


But could not keep so let seep in the wind.
So rolled the windows down and let it roar.
So felt the fingerbones inside me find
the fingered thing inside this foreign core.

So thickened by the inches, minutes, and the miles,
it hurled us into onwards and so through
the wet blue rolling landscape meanwhile's
made of where we're quickened and most true.

So made of us a place we can return to 
when we're far.  We are.  We're far
from where we've been so far and who.  It's you --

It's you to whom I'm speaking now so far
from you with whom I'll lie down when we're through.
So loosed the breathing we inside we are.

-- Suzanne Buffam

* * *

"At Night"

At night, as in a tomb, a pyramid,
Our room is sealed.  And way above our head
A mount of silence, rising sand, amid
The generations standing at our bed.

And when our bodies sleep, the road is drawn
Upon the walls again, where our souls float.
Our souls are passing by and, see:  they're gone.
You see?  Two standing in a passing boat,

The rest are rowing.  Stars above us climb.
And other people's stars, the stream of time
Bears them without deciphering their plight.

And we are mummified in shrouds of love.
After eternity, dawn like a dove,
A merry archaeologist -- he has the light.

-- Yehuda Amichai
translated from the Hebrew by Benjamin and Barbara Hanshav

* * *

""Dining Room Eucharist"
for Mike Corrigan

With offhand elegance and unkempt grace,
Young whirlwind blowing from the Southern wild,
You said the Mass and watched my small dog chase,
Romping around your feet, and only smiled.
Unswayed by fripperies of priestly pomp,
You stood in your worn blue jeans, looking up
To where you saw no God but in the swamp
Of circumstance, and with the bread and cup
You blessed Him, mildly bowed before a Lord
You well know would not have His creature cringing.
My clock chimed that same moment; if you heard
You gave no sign.  Mere dignity impinging
Upon your strict attention would distract
From this resplendence of the naked act.

-- Vassar Miller

* * *

"How Sonnets Are Like Bungee Jumping"

It's the calculated danger -- leap!  The form will hold
you -- will be as arms around you -- ropes --
so when you say:  If I could be so bold . . .
it says, Okay, then, go!  Spew out in hopes!
There's safety in measure -- like a mother
back at the shore, singing:  Swim out, and wave!
Or (my alexander teacher would say) a big brother
in your spine:  He's here; be brave.
What's scary for someone's nothing for
another; to say, Love; to say, I love,
may be frightening as all get-out.  and for
the very lucky, a poem can be a glove
that fits the hand that is your soul.
Oh, we jump in pieces; and some of us land whole.

-- Kate Light

* * *

"The Breasts"

She gathered up her breasts in her two hands
like small explosions, a soft outward flow,
a timing device that anytime could blow.
So life hangs on the slenderest of strands,
a lover's hunger can seem all of it,
a child, an image in the mirror, hope,
the way a back, or pair of hips might slope,
or how two closing bodies click and fit.

Time is always against us.  Youth slips down
the polished shoulder like a loosening strap.
She looked down from her bosom to her lap
and ran her palms over her dressing gown,
her mirrored face drowned in a cloud of dust:
How beautiful, she thought, and how unjust.

-- George Szirtes

* * *

"Computer Map of the Early Universe"

We're made of stars.   The scientific team
Flashes a blue and green computer chart
Of the universe across my T. V. screen
To prove its theory with a work of art:
Temperature shifts translated into waves
Of color, numbers hidden in smooth lines.
"At last we have a map of ancient Time"
One scientist says, lost in a rapt gaze.
I look at the bright model they've designed,
The Big Bang's fury frozen into laws,
Pleased to see it resembles a sonnet,
A little frame of images and rhyme
That tries to glitter brighter than its flaws
And trick the truth into its starry net.

-- Maura Stanton

* * *


My little lack-of-light, my swaddled soul,
December baby.  Hush, for it is dark,
and will grow darker still.  we must embark
directly.  Bring an orange as the toll
for Charon:  he will be our gondolier.
Upon the shore, the seasons pans for light,
and solstice fish, their eyes gone milky white,
come bearing riches for the dying year:
solstitial kingdom.  It is yours, the mime
of branches and the drift of snow.  With shaking
hands, Persephone, the winter's wife,
will tender you a gift.  Born in a time
of darkness, you will learn the trick of making.
You shall make your consolation all your life.

-- Amanda Jernigan

* * *

"Requiem for the Plantagenet Kings"

For whom the possessed sea littered, on both shores,
Ruinous arms; being fired, and for good,
To sound the constitution of just wars,
Men, in their eloquent fashion,  understood.

Relieved of soul, the dropping-back of dust,
Their usage, pride, admitted within doors;
At home, under caved chantries, set in trust,
With well-dressed alabaster and proved spurs
They lie; they lie; secure in the decay
Of blood, blood-marks, crowns hacked and coveted,
Before the scouring fires of trial-day
Alight on men; before sleeked groin, gored head,
Budge through the clay and gravel, and the sea
Across daubed rock evacuates its dead.

-- Geoffrey Hill

* * *

"Can A Sonnet Be A Joke?"

Renouncing badly timed, immoral sex
Is difficult to do.  she masturbates
And cries and writes, but dreams!  They still perplex
Her body, hot with touch that agitates
In that old rhetoric of skin.  Can she
Enjamb another line, or chair, or limb?
Can sweet pentameter code a banshee
Wail, or moan, and just a joke for him?
Jokes are best, more fun and far less trouble,
Or so, at least, she says when fucking's out.
(How odd a sonnet sounds with that.)  This rubble
(Nancy tweaks the beat and mucks about)
Could a finer woman build . . .  Oh, stow it --
Lots of fucking makes a better poet.

--Nancy Holmes

* * *

"Sonnet for a Single Day in Autumn"

What was it payment for, the trove of gold
That landed on the lawn outside my door?
and what turned it instantly to oracle:
A heady vision of my study floor
Completely covered over as leaves of gold
Came flying off my printer, singing odes
Obliquely tuned to an improvident God's
Unwillingness to stint His taste for miracle
Despite our constant failure at belief.
This was what the angels use -- gold leaf --
To plug the hairline fractures in their halos.
If only they'd gathered some before the snow's
Extravagantly surreptitious siege
Hushed them with its supple empty page.

-- Jacqueline Osherow

* * *

"Poem Not To Be Read At Your Wedding"

You ask me for a poem about love
in place of a wedding present, trying to save me
money.  For three nights I've lain under
glow-in-the-dark stars I've stuck to the ceiling
over my bed.  I've listened to the songs
of the galaxy.  Well, Carmen, I would rather
give you your third set of steak knives
than tell you what I know.  Let me find you
some other store-bought present.  don't
make me warn you of stars, how they see us
from that distance as miniature and breakable,
from the bride who tops the wedding cake
to the Mary on Pinto dashboards
holding her ripe red heart in her hands.

-- Beth Ann Fennelly

* * *

"from 100 Love Sonnets:  LI"

Your laugh:  it reminds me of a tree
fissured by a lightning streak, by a silver bolt
th e drops from the sky, splitting the poll,
slicing the tree with its sword.

A laugh like yours I love is born
only in the foliage and snow of the highlands,
the air's laugh that bursts loose in those altitudes,
dearest:  the Araucanian tradition.

O my mountain woman, my clear Chillan volcano,
slash your laughter through the shadows,
\the night, morning, honey of the noon:

birds of the foliage will leap in the air
when your laugh like an extravagant
light breaks through the tree of life.

-- Pablo Neruda
translated from the Spanish by Stephen Tapscott

* * *
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