Thursday, December 31, 2009

How To Like It

How To Like It
by Stephen Dobyns

These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let's go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let's tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let's pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let's dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn't been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let's go down to the diner and sniff
people's legs. Let's stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man's mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let's go to sleep. Let's lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he'll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he'll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let's just go back inside.
Let's not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing. The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let's go make a sandwich.
Let's make the tallest sandwich anyone's ever seen.
And that's what they do and that's where the man's
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept-
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Self-Help for Fellow Refugees

Self-Help for Fellow Refugees
by Li-Young Lee

If your name suggests a country where bells
might have been used for entertainment

or to announce the entrances and exits of the seasons
or the birthdays of gods and demons,

it’s probably best to dress in plain clothes
when you arrive in the United States,
and try not to talk too loud.

If you happen to have watched armed men
beat and drag your father
out the front door of your house
and into the back of an idling truck

before your mother jerked you from the threshold
and buried your face in her skirt folds,
try not to judge your mother too harshly.

Don’t ask her what she thought she was doing
turning a child’s eyes
away from history
and toward that place all human aching starts.

And if you meet someone
in your adopted country,
and think you see in the other’s face
an open sky, some promise of a new beginning,
it probably means you’re standing too far.



Or if you think you read in the other, as in a book
whose first and last pages are missing,
the story of your own birthplace,
a country twice erased,
once by fire, once by forgetfulness,
it probably means you’re standing too close.

In any case, try not to let another carry
the burden of your own nostalgia or hope.

And if you’re one of those
whose left side of the face doesn’t match
the right, it might be a clue

looking the other way was a habit
your predecessors found useful for survival.
Don’t lament not being beautiful.

Get used to seeing while not seeing.
Get busy remembering while forgetting.
Dying to live while not wanting to go on.

Very likely, your ancestors decorated
their bells of every shape and size
with elaborate calendars
and diagrams of distance star systems,
but with no maps for scattered descendants.



And I bet you can’t say what language
your father spoke when he shouted to your mother
from the back of the truck, "Let the boy see!"

Maybe it wasn’t the language you used at home.
Maybe it was a forbidden language.
Or maybe there was too much screaming
and weeping and the noise of guns in the streets.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is this:
The kingdom of heaven is good.
But heaven on earth is better.

Thinking is good.
But living is better.

Alone in your favorite chair
with a book you enjoy
is fine. But spooning
is even better.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bluebird

Bluebird
Charles Bukowski

There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out, but I'm too tough for him. I say, stay in there, I'm not going to let anybody see you.

There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out, but I pour whiskey on him and inhale cigarette smoke and the whores and the bartenders and the grocery clerks never know that he's in there.

There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out, but I'm too tough for him. I say, stay down, do you want to mess me up? You want to screw up the works? You want to blow my book sales in Europe?

There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out, but I'm too clever. I only let him out at night sometimes when everybody's asleep. I say, I know that you're there, so don't be sad. Then I put him back, but he's singing a little in there. I haven't quite let him die and we sleep together like that with our secret pact and it's nice enough to make a man weep.

But I don't weep. Do you?

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Working List of Things I Will Never Tell You

A Working List of Things I Will Never Tell You
by Jon Sands

When I said I wasn’t with another girl
the January after we fell in love for the 3rd time,
it’s because it wasn’t actual sex.

In the February that began our radio silence,
it was actual sex. I hate the tight shirts
that go below your waistline.

Not only do they make you look too young,
but then your torso is a giraffe’s neck attached to tiny legs.
I screamed at myself in the subway

for writing poems about you still.
I made a scene. I think about you almost
each morning, and roughly every five days, I still

believe you’re there.
I still masturbate to you.
When we got really bad,

I would put another coat of mop water on the floor of the bar
to make sure you were asleep when I got to my side of the bed.
You are the only person to whom I’ve lied, knowing

I was telling the truth. I miss the way your neck
wraps around my face like a cave we are both lost in.
I remember when you said being with me

is like being alone with company.
My friend Sarah wrote a poem about pink ponies.
I’m scared you’re my pink pony.

Hers is dead. It is really sad. You’re not dead.
You live in Ohio, or Washington, or Wherever.
You are a shadow my body leaves on other girls.

I have a growing queue of things I know
will make you laugh and I don’t know where to put them.
I mourn like you’re dead. If you had asked me to stay,

I would not have said no.
It would never mean yes.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

For Old Snaggle Tooth

For Old Snaggle Tooth
by Charles Bukowski

I know a woman
who keeps buying puzzles
chinese
puzzles
blocks
wires
pieces that finally fit
into some order.
she works it out
mathematically
she solves all her
puzzles
lives down by the sea
puts sugar out for the ants
and believes
ultimately
in a better world.
her hair is white
she seldom combs it
her teeth are snaggled
and she wears loose shapeless
coveralls over a body most
women would wish they had.
for many years she irritated me
with what I consider her
eccentricities -
like soaking eggshells in water
(to feed the plants so that
they'd get calcium).
but finally when I think of her
life
and compare it to other lives
more dazzling, original
and beautiful
I realize that she has hurt fewer
people than anybody I know
(and by hurt I simply mean hurt).
she has had some terrible times,
times when maybe I should have
helped her more
for she is the mother of my only
child
and we were once great lovers,
but she has come through
like I said
she has hurt fewer people than
anybody I know,
and if you look at it like that,
well,
she has created a better world.
she has won.

Frances, this poem is for
you.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kink

Kink
by Brendan Constantine

A recent survey of fetishes has named
feet and shoes the world's greatest objects
of desire. Perhaps surprisingly, lingerie trails
at some distance. Further behind, less than
four percent, are genitals, breasts, buttocks
& legs. They appear, as they often do,
in a pile at the end of a line. The only token
of longing more remote is the electric
pacemaker, for which two people indicated
strong attractions. Much is being made
of the champions, pedicure & shoe sales
have soared, but who can stop thinking
about the losers? The study comes from Italy,
a country formed like a sultan's boot,
but its range is global; no one knows where
the two people live, if they've met, or how
they love. Most of us must see a thing to know
we need it. Even the blind learn shapes
of yearning. A pacemaker is small as a kiss
& works quietly in the dark of the body.
Working at what? The constant arousal
of slow hearts with beats of lightning,
like snapping fingers, like a whip. Maybe
the two lovers are doctor & nurse, or a pair
of electricians. Perhaps they're mad, people
so crazed with loneliness, so at the mercy
of blood, the mere thought of its master is
rapture enough. Anyway, now there are three.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Identity

Identity
by Julio Noboa Polanco

Let them be as flowers,
always watered, fed, gaurded, admired
but harnessed to a pot of dirt.
I'd rather be a tall, ugly weed,
clinging on cliffs, like an eagle
wind-wavering above high, jagged rocks.
To have broken through the surface of stone
to live, to feel exposed to the madness
of the vast, eternal sky.
To be swayed by the breezes of an ancient sea,
carrying my soul, my seed beyond the mountains of time
or into the abyss of the bizarre.
I'd rather be unseen, and if,
then shunned by everyone
than to be a pleasant-smelling flower,
growing in clusters in the fertile valley
where they're praised, handled, and plucked
by greedy human hands.
I'd rather smell of musty, green stench
than of sweet, fragrant lilac.
If I could stand alone, strong and free
I'd rather be a tall ugly weed.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Thing Is

The Thing Is
by Ellen Bass
To love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Unit of Measure

Unit of Measure
by Sandra Beasley

All can be measured by the standard of the capybara.
Everyone is lesser than or greater than the capybara.
Everything is taller or shorter than the capybara.
Everything is mistaken for a Brazilian dance craze
more or less frequently than the capybara.
Everyone eats greater or fewer watermelons
than the capybara. Everyone eats more or less bark.
Everyone barks more than or less than the capybara,
who also whistles, clicks, grunts, and emits what is known
as his alarm squeal. Everyone is more or less alarmed
than a capybara, who—because his back legs
are longer than his front legs—feels like
he is going downhill at all times.
Everyone is more or less a master of grasses
than the capybara. Or going by the scientific name,
more or less Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
or, going by the Greek translation, more or less
water hog. Everyone is more or less
of a fish than the capybara, defined as the outermost realm
of fishdom by the 16th-century Catholic Church.
Everyone is eaten more or less often for Lent than
the capybara. Shredded, spiced, and served over plantains,
everything tastes more or less like pork
than the capybara. Before you decide that you are
greater than or lesser than a capybara, consider
that while the Brazilian capybara breeds only once a year,
the Venezuelan variety mates continuously.
Consider the last time you mated continuously.
Consider the year of your childhood when you had
exactly as many teeth as the capybara—
twenty—and all yours fell out, and all his
kept growing. Consider how his skin stretches
in only one direction. Accept that you are stretchier
than the capybara. Accept that you have foolishly
distributed your eyes, ears, and nostrils
all over your face. Accept that now you will never be able
to sleep underwater. Accept that the fish
will never gather to your capybara body offering
their soft, finned love. One of us, they say, one of us,
but they will not say it to you.

Personal

Personal
by Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.


At the Galleria Shopping Mall by Tony Hoagland

At the Galleria Shopping Mall
by Tony Hoagland

Just past the bin of pastel baby socks and underwear,
there are some 49-dollar Chinese-made TVs;

one of them singing news about a far-off war,
one comparing the breast size of an actress from Hollywood

to the breast size of an actress from Bollywood.
And here is my niece Lucinda,

who is nine and a true daughter of Texas,
who has developed the flounce of a pedigreed blonde

and declares that her favorite sport is shopping.
Today is the day she embarks upon her journey,

swinging a credit card like a scythe
through the meadows of golden merchandise.

Today is the day she stops looking at faces,
and starts assessing the labels of purses;

So let it begin. Let her be dipped in the dazzling bounty
and raised and wrung out again and again.

And let us watch.
As the gods in olden stories

turned mortals into laurel trees and crows
to teach them some kind of lesson,

so we were turned into Americans
to learn something about loneliness.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Breakfast at Tiffany's

"Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell," Holly advised him. "That was Doc's mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can't give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they're strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That's how you'll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You'll end up looking at the sky."

"She's drunk," Joe Bell informed me.

"Moderately," Holly confessed. "But Doc knew what I meant. I explained it to him very carefully and it was something he could understand. We shook hands and held on to each other and he wished me luck." She glanced at the clock. "He must be in the Blue Mountains by now."

"What's she talkin' about?" Joe Bell asked me.

Holly lifted her martini. "Let's wish the Doc luck, too," she said, touching her glass against mine. "Good luck: and believe me, dearest Doc -- it's better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Diary of Adam and Eve

Perhaps I ought to remember that she is very young, a mere girl, and make allowances. She is all interest, eagerness, vivacity, the world is to her a charm, a wonder, a mystery, a joy. She can't speak for delight when she finds a new flower, she must pet it and caress it and talk to it and pour out endearing names upon it. And she is colour-mad: brown rocks, yellow sand, grey moss, green foliage, blue sky; the pearl of the dawn, the purple shadows on the mountains, the golden islands floating in crimson seas at sunset, the pallid moon sailing through the shredded cloud rack, the star jewels glittering in the wastes of space - none of them is of any practical value, so far as I can see, but because they have colour and majesty, that is enough for her, and she loses her mind over them.


The Diary of Adam and Eve - Mark Twain

Song #4

Song #4
by Howie Good

But on a morning
when my wife
so softly dented
stands naked
in front of the closet
still deciding
between the dark blue
and the black
I feel as the last calamitous
emperor of Rome
might’ve felt writing
with a red
can of shaving cream
love is
and without
quotation marks

Sunday, April 19, 2009

there are days when all you have is tao lin, and there are days when no one wants you to have those days

i am fucked if i really think all human beings are terrible assholes
by tao lin

i want to see a bear running from a hamster
the bear is screaming and goes head-first into a chute

i’m tired of poetry

i'm going to use picasso's head
to cartwheel across two taxicabs

if you want you can move the letters in the word ‘profound’
you can have ‘roof dpfu’

no one ever has wanted that
until now

just kidding!

i’m just being dramatic!

the bear is holding a tennis racket in each paw!

i jumped off a roof once!

i worked on this poem for six hours

‘i’m tired of poetry,’ i said
and turned off the light
and turned on the light
and repeated that, bored, for like ten seconds,
while everyone else at my job was actually doing work for once

‘go home,’ i said

‘he’s tired of poetry,’ someone said noncommittally

in the bar i did a cartwheel over the table

i was standing on the ground and i did a cartwheel onto the table
and over the table

‘fucking awesome,’ someone said

‘we all know that art is not truth,’ said picasso

ska

picasso < ska

Friday, April 17, 2009

surprise! slam poetry.

The Quiet World
by Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it in to my ear
Without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond,
I know she's used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Revolutionary Dreams

Revolutionary Dreams
by Nikki Giovanni

I used to dream militant dreams
of taking over america to show
these white folks
how it should be done

I used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away
with my perceptive powers
of correct analysis

I even used to think I'd be the one
to stop the riot and
negotiate the peace

then I awoke and dug
that if I dreamed natural
dreams of being a natural
woman doing what a woman
does when she's natural
I would have a revolution.

Sonnet XVII

Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

i like my body when it is with your

i like my body when it is with your
by e. e. cummings
i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh ... And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fuck You

Fuck You Poem # 45
by Amy Gerstler

Fuck you in slang and conventional English.
Fuck you in lost and neglected lingoes.
Fuck you hungry and sated; faded, pock marked and defaced.
Fuck you with orange rind, fennel and anchovy paste.
Fuck you with rosemary and thyme, and fried green olives on the side.
Fuck you humidly and icily.
Fuck you farsightedly and blindly.
Fuck you nude and draped in stolen finery.


Fuck you while cells divide wildly and birds trill.
Thank you for barring me from his bedside while he was ill.
Fuck you puce and chartreuse.
Fuck you postmodern and prehistoric.
Fuck you under the influence of opium, codeine, laudanum and paregoric.
Fuck every real and imagined country you fancied yourself princess of.
Fuck you on feast days and fast days, below and above.
Fuck you sleepless and shaking for nineteen nights running.
Fuck you ugly and fuck you stunning.

Fuck you shipwrecked on the barren island of your bed.
Fuck you marching in lockstep in the ranks of the dead.
Fuck you at low and high tide.
And fuck you astride
anyone who has the bad luck to fuck you, in dank hallways,

bathrooms, or kitchens.
Fuck you in gasps and whispered benedictions.

And fuck these curses, however heartfelt and true,
that bind me, till I forgive you, to you.

maggy and milly and molly and may

'maggie and milly and molly and may'
by e.e. cummings
maggy and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
its always ourselves we find in the sea

Friday, April 3, 2009

what she was wearing

"what she was wearing"
by denver butson

this is my suicide dress
she told him
I only wear it on days
when I'm afraid
I might kill myself
if I don't wear it

you've been wearing it
every day since we met
he said

and these are my arson gloves

so you don't set fire to something?
he asked

exactly

and this is my terrorism lipstick
my assault and battery eyeliner
my armed robbery boots
I'd like to undress you he said
but would that make me an accomplice?

and today she said I'm wearing
my infidelity underwear
so don't get any ideas

and she put on her nervous breakdown hat
and walked out the door

Thursday, April 2, 2009

home.

The Air House

The Air House

by Zoƫ Skoulding

wind snags on the gap
between timbers a tongue
against my teeth

disturbs breath
drawn across languages
as air in a room


settles and circulates
around a body full of oxygen
open to a clear morning

the sound of breath
complicates the room
I brush my lips against

your ear to make
a small patch of
air I can live in

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The World Does Not Belong to You,
Though You Belong to the World
by Todd Boss

for this is not a marriage,
living. Only you have
given your hand and
climbed into the carraige
of Morning. Where do you
think you're going? Morning
owes you nothing. She is

fickle, she is strong. Only
to Morning does Morning
belong. As she takes you
into the day, onto the old
wide way of the world, she
sings so intimate a song you
may begin to believe she

loves you. You may even
come to believe you somehow
guide her along sometimes,
but you are wrong.
You think you are a pitcher
taking the mound, but it's
the other way around.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Grief Observed

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times, it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not me.
There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I ever met H. I’ve plenty of what are called “resources”. People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this “common-sense” vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.”

- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sacred/Profane

Four In The Morning

Four In The Morning
Wislawa Szymborska

The hour from night to day.
The hour from side to side.
The hour for those past thirty.

The hour swept clean to the crowing of cocks.
The hour when the earth betrays us.
The hour when wind blows from extinguished stars.
The hour of and-what-if-nothing-remains-after-us.

The hollow hour.
Blank, empty.
The very pit of all other hours.

No one feels good at four in the morning.
If ants feel good at four in the morning
--three cheers for the ants. And left five o clock come
If we're to go on living.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I love that no one looks here

because I need a corner to be anonymous, right now.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Saying Your Names

Saying Your Names
Richard Siken

Chemical names, bird names, names of fire
and flight and snow, baby names, paint names,
delicate names like bones in the body,
Rumplestiltskin names that are always changing,
names that no one's ever able to figure out.
Names of spells and names of hexes, names
cursed quietly under the breath, or called out
loudly to fill the yard, calling you inside again,
calling you home. Nicknames and pet names
and Baroque French monikers, written in
shorthand, written in longhand, scrawled
ilegibly in brown ink on the backs of yellowing
photographs, or embossed on envelopes lined
with gold. Names called out across the water,
names I called you behind your back,
sour and delicious, secret and unrepetable,
the names of flowers that open only once,
shouted from balconies, shouted from rooftops,
or muffled by pillows, or whispered in sleep,
or caught in the throat like a lump of meat.
I try, I do. I try and try. A happy ending?
Sure enough - Hello darling, welcome home.
I'll call you darling, hold you tight. We are
not traitors but the lights go out. It's dark.
Sweetheart, is that you? There are no tears,
no pictures of him squarely. A seaside framed
in glass, and boats, those little boats with
sails aflutter, shining lights upon the water,
lights that splinter when they hit the pier.
His voice on tape, his name on the envelope,
the soft sound of a body falling off a bridge
behind you, the body hardly even makes
a sound. The waters of the dead, a clear road,
every lover in the form of stars, the road
blocked. All night I strechted my arms across
him, rivers of blood, the dark woods, singing
with all my skin and bone Please keep him safe.
let him lay his headon my chest and we will be
like sailors, swimming in the sound of it, dashed
to pieces. Makes a cathedral, him pressing against
me, his lips at my neck, and yes, I do believe
his mouth is heaven, his kisses falling over me
like stars. Names of heat and names of light,
names of collision in the dark, on the side of the
bus, in the bark of the tree, in ballpoint pen
on jeans and hands and backs of matchbooks
that then got lost. Names like pain cries, names
like tombstones, names forgotten and reinvented,
names forbidden or overused. Your name like
a song I sing to myself, your name like a box
where I keep my love, your name like a nest
in the tree of love, your name like a boat in the
sea of love - O now we're in the sea of love!
Your name like detergent in the washing machine.
Your name like two X's like punched-in eyes,
like a drunk cartoon passed out in the gutter,
your name with two X's to mark the spots,
to hold the place, to keep the treasure from
becoming ever lost. I'm saying your name
in the grocery store, I'm saying your name on
the bridge at dawn. Your name like an animal
covered with frost, your name like a music that's
been transposed, a suit of fur, a coat of mud,
a kick in the pants, a lungful of glass, the sails
in wind and the slap of waves on the hull
of a boat that's sinking to the sounds of mermaids
singingsongsof love, and the tug of a simple
profound sadness when it sounds so far away.
Here is a map with your name for a capital,
here is an arrow to prove a point: we laugh
and it pits the world against us, we laugh,
and we've got nothing left to lose, and our hearts
turn red, and the river rises like a barn on fire.
I came to tell you, we'll swim in the water, we'll
swim like something sparkling underneath
the waves. Our bodies shivering, and the sound
of our breathing, and the shore so far away.
I'll use my body like a ladder, climbing
to the thing behind it, saying farewell to flesh,
farewell to everything caught underfoot
and flattened. Names of poison, names of
handguns, names of places we've been
together, names of people we'd be together.
Names of endurance, names of devotion,
street names and place names and all the names
of our dark heaven crackling in their pan.
It's a bed of straw, darling. It sure as shit is.
If there was one thing I could save from the fire,
he said, the broken arms of the sycamore,
the eucalyptus still trying to climb out of the yard -
your breath on my neck like a music that holds
my hands down, kisses as they burn their way
along my spine -or rain, our bodies wet,
clothes clinging arm to elbow, clothes clinging
nipple to groin - I'll be right here. I'm waiting.
Say hallelujah, say goodnight, say it over
the canned music and your feet won't stumble,
his face getting larger, the rest blurring
on every side. And angels, about twelve angels,
angels knocking on your head right now, hello
hello, a flash in the sky, would you like to
meet him here, in Heaven? Imagine a room,
a sudden glow. Here is my hand, my heart,
my throat, my wrist. Here are the illuminated
cities at the center of me, and here is the center
of me, which is a lake, which is a well that we
can drink from, but I can't go through with it.
I just don't want to die anymore.

People Who Live

People Who Live
by Erica Jong
People who live by the sea
understand eternity.
They copy the curves of the waves,
their hearts beat with the tides,
& the saltiness of their blood
corresponds with the sea.

They know that the house of flesh
is only a sandcastle
built on the shore,
that skin breaks
under the waves
like sand under the soles
of the first walker on the beach
when the tide recedes.

Each of us walks there once,
watching the bubbles
rise up through the sand
like ascending souls,
tracing the line of the foam,
drawing our index fingers
along the horizon
pointing home.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats 5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question … 10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, 15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, 20
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; 25
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate; 30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go 35
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair— 40
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare 45
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, 50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all— 55
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? 60
And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress 65
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets 70
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! 75
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? 80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, 85
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while, 90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”— 95
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while, 100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen: 105
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . .
110
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use, 115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old … 120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me. 125
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown 130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oranges.

The Top Ten Albums of 2008

Rilo Kiley, Under The Blacklight
Rock | Last.fm
One. Listening to this whole album makes me afterglow.

Beck, Modern Guilt
Rock | Last.fm
Two. Dreamy album's silence says just as much as the notes in between. Amazing and fresh.

The Blow, Paper Television

Glitch Pop | Last.fm
Three. Seduction has never sounded so appealing as when it's wrapped up in irregular beats and sung by Khaela.

The Kooks, Inside In/Inside Out

Pop | Last.fm
Four. British college musicians form band as a project for class. Whole world wants to kiss the professor.

Ani DiFranco, Red Letter Year
Folk | Last.fm
Five. Angry feminist rocker loses the anger, shows what else she's got.

Metric, Live It Out
Rock | Last.fm
Six. Emily may be a lot of things, but who can tell, under all that metaphor? Catchy and joyful, maybe.

Belle and Sebastian, Tigermilk
Folk Pop | Last.fm
Seven. Beautiful songs for school days.

The Hush Sound
, Goodbye Blues
Pop | Last.fm
Eight. Bouyant female lead takes this band places no one was expecting.

The Killers, Day & Age
Dance Rock | Last.fm
Nine. The Killers just got it, you know?

Honeyhoney | First Rodeo

Folk Rock | Last.fm
Ten. Passionate "I love you"'s coupled with equally passionate "Fuck you"'s from a very verbose couple.

Jenny Lewis | Acid Tongue
Folk Rock | Last .fm
Honorable Mention. Probably one of my favorite albums of 09, but I got into it January 2nd, so what are you going to do?

Compiler's Note: Yeah, not compiled by what came out this year, in case you haven't noticed.

Life Story

Life Story
by Tennessee Williams

After you've been to bed together for the first time,
without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
the other party very often says to you,
Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
what's your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do

sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
lying together in completely relaxed positions
like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.

You tell them your story, or as much of your story
as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, until the oh
is just an audible breath, and then of course

there's some interruption. Slow room service comes up
with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
and gaze at himself with the mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
And then, the first thing you know, before you've had time
to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
they're telling you their life story, exactly as they'd intended to all along,

and you're saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
no more than an audible sigh,
as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
and stops breathing forever. Then?

Well, one of you falls asleep
and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
and that's how people burn to death in hotel rooms.

Love After Love

Love After Love
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Praise Song For The Day

Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander, Inaugural Poet


Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer consider the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.