Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Twelve Poems Beginning With The Word "The"

"Essex Rag"

Do not play this piece fast.
It is never right to play ragtime fast.
-- Scott Joplin

The piano years . . . Too young to drive
I played pedal to the metal,
full reverb, wah-wah and fuzz,
a collision course bending Chopsticks
into hairpins, trilling the hell
out of cheesy Fur Elise.

The teacher's 'grown-up' bait
was a bowdlerised Ode to Joy,
heavy goods I slammed through,
dropping a trail of exhausted parts
-- like the juggernauts
shouldering the lane past our door.

If the point is not to bring the house down,
what better place
than somewhere you wake up
to everything years after it's moved on?
The times I tried to move on . . .
But from here, I mean there, wherever

you get to is not far and still nowhere, so
there's nothing for it but to head home,
unsure whether the last bus has gone.
There's slow and there's the discovery of slow.
The last bus has not gone.
It never comes.

-- Lavinia Greenlaw

* * *

"12th-Century Chinese Painting
with a Few Dozen Seal Imprints Across It"

The tea has given way to plum wine,
and still they're talking, animated down to points
of fire deep in their pupils -- two scholars. "Look,"
one motions at what's outside the sliding panels: landscape
where the purling of river leads to foothills,
then to the tree-frowzed mountains themselves, and
up from there . . . . The sky
has opened. Out of it, as large as temple gongs
yet floating as easily as snowflakes, pour
transistor circuits, maps of topiaries, cattle brands,
IUDs, the floorplans of stockades, cartouches,
hibachi grills, lace doilywork, horsecollars,
laboratory mouse-mazes, brain-impressions, all of it
sketching the air like a show of translucent
kites in blacks and reds, a few beginning
("Look, there . . .") to snag in the treeline, or hover
above the whorling bunched rush of a riverbend . . . .
"You see?" says one with a shrug and eloquent
tenting-up of his eyebrows, "You see?? -- he's
too polite to declaim it in words.
They've been arguing if The Other World exists.

-- Albert Goldbarth

* * *

"Golden Mountains"

The first time
I saw mountains
I was

In their presence
I didn't laugh
I didn't shout
I spoke in whispers

When I returned home
I meant to tell
what mountains were like

That was difficult to do
at night
everything looks different
even mountains and words

Mother was silent
perhaps tired
she fell asleep

The moon
the golden mountain
of humble folk
waxed in the clouds

--Tadeusz Rozewicz
translated from the Polish by Adam Czerniawski

* * *

"Rabbit Cry"

The season? Not yet spring. The place? Beside
A knot of sapling birches, under sky
Silver as birch-bark. Here were gaping wide
A warren's crumbling mouths to catch our feet.
We stooped; the nets were staked, the bag untied,
And into day's eye glared a blood-red eye --
The ferret trembled, with a sudden slide
Plunged white to darkness. Hearts resumed their beat.

Yet memory's fixed by what I did not see.
It was as if I heard the birches creak
Under a troubling gust, as if each tree
Now drew up from its roots those shreds of words
That in the windless day surrounded me.
It was the warren's mouths began to shriek --
I saw their breathless immobility
Ajar to the still sky stripped bare of birds.

-- Edward Lucie - Smith

* * *


The fork, leaving
my mouth, travels to plate, then sink,
dishwasher, drawer, in your hand
beats eggs in Grandma's bowl.

You cook as though you're still pipetting
DNA. You're always measuring.
As stings sailed us down the aisle,
you checked your watch. Reaching

to set the timer, you make
an egg yolk cataract. There is
the broken bowl, my grief,
you don't know how much,

how many spoons of blood leak
from me each month, amount
of anxiety held while scrubbing egg
from tines. So little time; my fingers

would rather be quiet on the porch
ofl your eyelashes. that time, obsessed
with BOOP (Bronchiolitis Obliterans
with Organizing Pneumonia), you didn't

see me for days, although we rose,
ate breakfast, faced the sun, felt
the same counter, toothpaste tube --
parallel circuits; calculate

the distance between. The fork is clean.
I'd love to take in
the lovely souffle, but you --
you are the sun

with headlamp in he next room,
holding out a soccer ball, spun
(its axis is your thumb) for our son
into its countless days.

-- Barbara Nickel

* * *

"The Empty Sky"

The empty sky. The empty sky.
I can't tell what might satisfy.
No more perhaps than a few bars
across the window to stop my eye.

-- Agnes Nemes Nagy
translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes

* * *

"What It Really Means"

The cemetery where the college
students went to screw
was where we went to test
this S. M. business after
drinking up to it. I tried
to put a rose-thorn
through your ear lobe but
you ran off screaming while I
didn't feel a god-damned thing:
you weren't a masochist,
I wasn't a sadist, we
weren't even lovers, but
we did remain friends
back in philosophy class
where "The truth
of a theory is
demonstrated by
its practical application."
This is what it really
means, Pragmatism.

-- Alan Dugan

* * *

"The New Style Western"

the two horsemen
on opposite banks of the Rio Grande
their fists
then solemnly turned
their knob-kneed steeds
and rode away

they would be back
but not in this movie
which was about the strange and amusing ways
prairie dog
owl and rattler have
of living together

--Anselm Hollo

* * *

"The Kitchen Grammars"

The verb in a Sanskrit or Farsi
or Latin or Japanese sentence
most frequently comes last,
as if the ingredients and spices
only after collection, measure and
even preservation might get cooked.
To all these cuisines renown attaches.

It's the opening of a Celtic sentence
is a verb. And it was more fire and pot
for us very often than ingredients.
Had we not fed our severed heads on poetry
final might have been our fame's starvation.
Upholding cuisine for us are the French
to be counting in scores and called Gallic.

In English and many more, in Chinese
the verb surrounds itself nucleus-fashion
with its subjects and qualifiers.
Down every slope of the wok they go
to the spitting middle, to be sauced,
ladled, lidded, steamed, flipped back up,
becoming verbs themselves often

and the calm egg centres the meatloaf.

-- Les Murray

* * *

"The Egg"

The old woman dried an egg
with her working apron
heavy egg the color of ivory
which nobody claims from her
then she looks at the autumn
through the little dormer
and it is like a fine painting
the size of a picture book
nothing is
out of season
and the fragile egg
that she holds in her palm
remains the one thing that is new.

-- Jean Follain
translated from the French by W. S. Merwin

* * *

"Harp Trees"

the cast-iron moon on the wall
vibrates a kind of speech
at the edge of thought
in the dark
I lay my cheek
against her cold lace, crescent
and our hair blows out into the world
the glint into which we're gone

she was the symbol of a group
called the maidens
and before that she was part
of the wall of the ice-cream
parlour, Owl Drugstore, San
Francisco, 1915

her speech is the kindness of
the house
as the Royal Hudson passes
whistling down the steam tracks

and the trees speak on the
feathered wind a greenness
harp-sequoias lost at the windows
neither kisses nor wounds in the nests

-- Robin Blaser

* * *

"Torch Song"

The heaven of her
hips -- over me, such sway --

She got some saint
standing at the gate

keeping the crowds away.
I would get down

on knees, or pay
to build a stain-glass mission

if that would get me in --
I'd slave

& scrub & sing
in Sunday best till I was clean

as a broke-leg dog --

I'd save & spring
for a whole new church wing

if that would let me see
my Lady of Fog

& the Forty
Sorrows again --

--Kevin Young

* * *
* * *

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