Sunday, December 30, 2012

John Ashbery

The Recent Past

Perhaps we ought to feel with more imagination.
As today the sky 70 degrees above zero with lines falling
The way September moves a lace curtain to be near a pear,
The oddest device can't be usual. And that is where
The pejorative sense of fear moves axles. In the stars
There is no longer any peace, emptied like a cup of coffee
Between the blinding rain that interviews.

You were my quintuplets when I decided to leave you
Opening a picture book the pictures were all of grass
Slowly the book was on fire, you the reader
Sitting with specs full of smoke exclaimed
How it was a rhyme for "brick" or "redder."
The next chapter told all about a brook.
You were beginning to see the relation when a tidal wave
Arrived with sinking ships that spelled out "Aladdin."
I thought about the Arab boy in cave
But the thoughts came faster than advice.
If you knew that snow was a still toboggan in space
The print could rhyme with "fallen star."

fr. Rivers and Mountains
[New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1966]

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bernadette Mayer

Incandescent War Poem Sonnet

Even before I saw the chambered nautilus
I wanted to sail not in the us navy
Tonight I'm waiting for you, your letter
At the same time his letter, the view of you
By him and then by me in the park, no rhymes
I saw you, this is in prose, no it's not
Sitting with the molluscs & anemones in an
Empty autumn enterprise baby you look pretty
With your long eventual hair, is love king?
What's this? A sonnet? Love's a babe we know that
I'm coming up, I'm coming, Shakespeare only stuck
To one subject but I'll mention nobody said
You have to get young Americans some ice cream
In the artificial light in which she woke

fr. Sonnets [New York: Tender Buttons, 1989]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ingeborg Bachmann

Every Day

War is not declared any more,
but simply continued. The terrible
is an everyday thing. The hero
stays far from battles. The weakling
is moved into the firing lines.
The uniform of the day is patience,
its decoration the shabby star
of hope above the heart.

It is conferred
when nothing more happens, 
when the drumfire stops,
when the enemy has become invisible,
and the shadow of eternal armament
darkens the sky.

It is conferred
for the deserting of flags,
for courage in the face of friends,
for the betrayal of despicable secrets
and disregard 
of all commands.

tr. Christopher Middleton

Monday, December 24, 2012

David Ignatow

The Bagel

I stopped to pick up the bagel
rolling away in the wind,
annoyed with myself
for having dropped it
as it were a portent.
Faster and faster it rolled,
with me running after it
bent low, gritting my teeth,
and I found myself doubled over
and rolling down the street
head over heels, one complete somersault
after another like a bagel
and strangely happy with myself.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gerardo Deniz


Take your kids away, take them
you who teach them to yell "hooray!" when excited.
It's profoundly untrue.
(Likewise, close the crematory oven,
what if the sideburns of a distracted onlooker catch fire
at the observation window, still scalding after incinerating Mom.)
Our representatives travel to streets, race tracks, bakeries
--easily recognized by the nursing bottles embroidered on their blue caps--
and to those kids who whine beyond description,
they hand out candy, toys, tricycles, atomic bombs,
that can generate radioactive mushrooms at least five feet tall.
What we mustn't permit, however, is spitting,
which is truly unbearable.
In these days devoted to the science of child-rearing
I climb up to the roof over and over again,
to take walks and unwind from the action:
across the maritime horizon I see
giant distant whales go by.

fr. Ton y son

tr. Mónica de la Torre

Friday, December 14, 2012

Marcel Duchamp


If you come into * linen, your time is thirsty
because * ink saw some wood intelligent
enough to get giddiness from a sister.
However, even it should be smilable
to shut * hair whose * water
writes always in plural, they have avoided
* frequency, meaning mother in law; * powder
will take a chance; and * road could
try. But after somebody brought any
multiplication as soon as * stamp
was out, a great many cords refused
to go through. Around * wire's people,
who will be able to sweeten * rug,
that is to say why must every patent
look for a wife ? Pushing four dangers
near * listening-place, * vacation
had not dug absolutely nor this
likeness has eaten.

remplacer chaque *  par le mot: "the"

in Making Mischief: Dada Invades New York
[New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1996]

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Raymond Queneau

If you imagine

If you imagine
if you imagine
little sweetie little sweetie
if you imagine
this will this will this
will last forever
this season of
this season of
season of love
you're fooling yourself
little sweetie little sweetie
you're fooling yourself

If you think little one
if you think ah ah
that that rosy complexion
that waspy waist
those lovely muscles
the enamel nails
nymph thigh
and your light foot
if you think little one
that will that will that
will last forever
you're fooling yourself
little sweetie little sweetie
you're fooling yourself

The lovely days disappear
the lovely holidays
suns and planets
go round in a circle
but you my little one
you go straight
toward you know not what
very slowly draw near
the sudden wrinkle
the weighty fat
the triple chin
the flabby muscle
come gather gather
the roses the roses
roses of life
and may their petals
be a calm sea
of happinesses
come gather gather
if you don't do it
you're fooling yourself
little sweetie little sweetie
you're fooling yourself

tr. Michael Benedikt

[Thanks go to Jon Corelis for passing this along.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lorenzo Thomas

Back in the Day

When we were boys
We called each other "Man"
With a long n
Pronounced as if a promise
We wore felt hats
That took a month to buy
In small installments
Shiny Florsheim or Stacy Adams shoes
Carried our dancing gait
And flashed our challenge
Breathing our aspirations into words
We harmonized our yearnings to the night
And when old folks on porches dared complain
We cussed them out
    under our breaths
And walked away
    And once a block away
Held learned speculations
About the character of their relations
With their mothers
It's true
That every now and then
We killed each other
Borrowed a stranger's car
Burned down a house
But most boys went to jail
For knocking up a girl
He really              truly           deeply           loved
               really              truly           deeply
But was too young
Too stupid, poor, or scared
To marry
Since then I've learned
Some things don't never change:
The breakfast chatter of the newly met
Our disappointment 
With the world as given
News and amusements
Filled with automatic fire
Misspelled alarms
Sullen posturings and bellowed anthems
Our scholars say
Young people doubt tomorrow
This afternoon I watched
A group of young men
Or tall boys
Handsome and shining with the strength of futures
Africa's stubborn present
To a declining white man's land
As boys always did and do
Time be moving on
Some things don't never change
And how
         back in the day
         things were somehow better
They laughed and jived
Slapped hands
And called each other "Dog"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Philip Whalen

Garden Cottage #1

Chill morning moonlight garden by Douanier Rousseau
Some weird bird or animal cries at 3 a.m.
Lost, meaningless, wild.
Temporarily the moon-window in the sleeping loft
Composes a picture of mountains and tree tops
In the Chinese taste, although an edge of the roof cuts a chord
Out of the circle.
If I should die the picture would decompose
The window just be a hole in a wall
The mountains would be someplace else
This probably is all about a poem I wrote sixteen years ago.

September-October 1977

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Horst Bienek


Landscape of ashes
Where drums bewilder
Rusty grass which
Clinks in ice-wind.

None has beheld
Your formulae
You scratch the skin only
Of men who die.

From the moss of the tundra
Springs a bizarre
And unsown garden
Of barbed wire.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Olga Cabral

Race to Mars

Red Planet are you ready for us?
Through four billion years you have been sleeping
now we come with Earth's gifts
we will make you an offer you can't refuse

Ah what designs we have in store for you
nothing less than CREATION itself
your future mapped out century after century
your fate is sealed
we will step upon your primeval sands as gods
gods in space suits
and plant the flags of our quarreling nations
amind your raging red dust storms
on the fields of Mars the banners of CIVILIZATION will fly
though your whirlwinds tear at them furiously
in the end we will conquer

AWAKE AWAKE you are soon to be afforded colonial status
your stock sold on Earth's stock exchanges
your lurid rocks brought to bear the first LICHENS
as in our own Arctic tundras
but our tundras are up for grabs
though they brim with abundant creation we must destroy
                            what we have
because we need OIL
OIL for our bomb factories our heated swimming pools

While we nurse fragile life into existence on your deathbound
your rust-red escarpments of terrifying nakedness
we will be killing off goodly numbers of Earth's own living
magnificent triumphs of nature's laboratories
not to speak of our human species we have become so good at it

Beware the grid the imprint of the technological foot
the astronaut's first booted step as he lands from his space ship
we come with our visions we have written your fate in the stars:
sterile fruits of a warped civilization

Red Planet are you ready for us?
We are staking our claim.

fr. Voice/Over: Selected Poems
[Albuquerque, NM: West End Press, 1993]

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cid Corman

The Offerings

Too many things on the altar.

A petal would do.

Or the ant that stops for a moment
at it.

in Origin VIII / January 1963
and The Gist of Origin [New York: Grossman Publishers, 1975]

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gustaf Sobin

Tracing a Thirst

                 for E.F.

called it: tracing a
thirst, the poem
as it

sluices a
passage; with each,

utterance, edges
towards its

fuscated source. no,
not the

world, the
world's, but,

haps, its
postulate. what the

would lap, and the

muscle: breath, like

empty bubbles, brought

that pleated lip.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Keith Waldrop

Wandering Curves

A new ridge spreads underneath. Volcanoes, often
active, rim the Pacific. It bears little
resemblance to human behavior. She
crushes it in her hand and wipes it
across her sorrowful brow. Two
families of curves, drawn on a surface.

Such tremendous movements on the
surface must arise from internal
forces. Demoniac rage and
the traditional laugh of abandoned
villainy. My eyes fill with tears, my
knees double under me.

The weather is always important in
melodrama. Space is a function of
matter and energy--or, rather, of their
distribution. But how did we get like this--so
suddenly? Despair sits brooding the putrid
eggs of hope. The world's deepest earthquakes.

Under sustained pressure, even granite
flows. The whole of Scandinavia's
still rising, having been long depressed
by an enormous ice cube. The water behind
Boulder Dam is heavy enough to
ooze the crust along the mantle.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Johannes Bobrowski

Always to be Named

Always to be named:
the tree, the bird in flight,
the reddish rock where the river
flows, green, and the fish
in white smoke, when darkness
falls over the woods.

Signs, colors, it is
a game, I think
it may not end

And who will teach me
what I forgot: the stones'
sleep, the sleep
of the birds in flight, the trees'
sleep, their speech
moves in the darkness -- ?

Were there a God
and in the flesh,
and could he call me, I would
walk around, I would
wait a little.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Horst Bienek

When You Die

You will die soon.
Already the rain falls faster.
Flights of birds plunge
Zig-zagging into the void.
The guards on the bridges
Are doubled.
Signals are built 
Into the ear-drum.
No dwelling
Has a door.
Already the rain falls faster.

Only night keeps you
Waiting for her.
She is choosing
Her darkest dress. --

You will die soon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Aram Saroyan

French Poets

French poets are the greatest of all.
They arrive with different smiles.
They are used to the sun and to coffee.
They smoke

If you tell them a joke they weep for joy.
If you tell them a
Sad story they weep for joy.
As if they only knew joy.

We others seem
Pained by comparison. We all smile
Less than we might, a lesson
In the great French movies:

Suddenly she is smiling. Suddenly she is
Smiling. Suddenly she is smiling. Sudden
Ly she is smiling. Suddenly she is smili

--while so often we seem lost in thought.
Our skin is dry. 
We buy the wrong shirts.
Or we buy the right ones but we look tired.
Our eyes are often red

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kenneth Fearing

No Credit

Whether dinner was pleasant, with the windows lit by
          gunfire, and no one disagreed; or whether, later, we
          argued in the park, and there was a touch of vomit-gas
          in the evening air;
Whether we found a greater, deeper, more perfect love, by
          courtesy of Camels, over NBC; whether the comics
          amused us, or the newspapers carried a hunger death
          and a White House prayer for Mother's Day;
Whether the bills were paid or not, whether or not we had
          our doubts, whether we spoke our minds at Joe's, and
          the receipt said "Not Returnable," and the cash-register
          rang up "No Sale,"
Whether the truth was then, or later, or whether the best had
          already gone--

Nevertheless, we know; as every turn is measured; as every
          unavoidable risk is known;
As nevertheless, the flesh grows old, dies, dies in its only life,
          is gone;
The reflection goes from the mirror; as the shadow, of even a
          rebel, is gone from the wall;
As nevertheless, the current is thrown and the wheels revolve;
          and nevertheless, as the word is spoken and the wheat
          grows tall and the ships sail on--

None but the fool is paid in full; none but the broker, none
          but the scab is certain of profit;
The sheriff alone may attend a third degree in formal attire;
          alone, the academy artists multiply in dignity as a
          trooper's bayonet guards the door;
Only Steve, the side-show robot, knows content; only Steve,
          the mechanical man in love with a photo-electric beam,
          remains aloof; only Steve, who sits and smokes or stands
          in salute, is secure;

Steve, whose shoebutton eyes are blind to terror, whose
          painted ears are deaf to appeal, whose welded breast will
          never be slashed by bullets, whose armature soul can
          hold no fear.

Hans Arp

I am a horse

I travel in a train
that is overcrowded
in my compartment
each seat is taken by a woman
with a man sitting on her lap
the air is unbearably tropical
all the travellers have an enormous appetite
they eat without ceasing
suddenly the men
begin to whimper
and long for the maternal breast
they unbutton the women's blouses
and suck the fresh milk to their hearts' content
I alone do not suck
nor am I suckled
nobody sits on my lap
because I am a horse
immense and upright I sit
with my hind-legs up on the train seat
and comfortably lean
on my fore-legs
I whinny a raucous neigh neigh neigh
on my breast glitter
the sex buttons of sex appeal
in neat little rows
like the glittering buttons on uniforms
oh summertime
oh wide wide world

tr. Harriett Watts
in Three Painter-Poets: Arp, Schwitters, Klee
[Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1974]

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wallace Stevens

Of Mere Being

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The birds sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

in Poems by Wallace Stevens
[New York: Vintage Books, 1959]

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

John Ashbery

Ghost Riders of the Moon

Today I would leave it just as it is.
The pocket comb--"dirty as a comb," the French say,
yet not so dirty, surely not in the spiritual sense
some intuit; the razor, lying at an angle
to the erect toothbrush, like an alligator stalking
a bayadère; the singular effect of all things
being themselves, that is, stark mad

with no apologies to the world or the ether,
and then the crumbling realization that a halt
has been called. That the stair treads
conspired in it. That the boiling oil
hunched above the rim of its vessel, and just sat there.
That there were no apologies to be made, ever
again, no alibis for the articles returned to the store,
just a standoff, placid, eternal. And one can admire
again the coatings of things, without prejudice
or innuendo, and the kernels he discreetly
disposed of--well, spat out. Such

objects as my endurance picks out
like a searchlight have gone the extra mile
too, like schoolchildren, and are seated now
in attentive rows, waiting trimly for these words to flood
distraught corners of silence. We collected
them after all for their unique
indifference to each other and to the circus
that houses us all, and for their collectibility--
that, and their tendency to fall apart.

fr. And the Stars Were Shining
[New York: The Noonday Press, 1994]

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Barbara Guest

Send Me a Telegram

Will you please?
and have it delivered like a pineapple today
not yesterday's pineapple but really I would prefer
a daily pineapple if you can arrange it I mean
with a telegram not always a telegram a yearly
one will be sure if it reaches me
if first it goes on an air land and later comes
to me by foot I will like it better than a telegram
read to me over a telephone I would like this
new and fresh telegram to arrive with an old-
fashioned person dressed in a delivery suit
the words will be so contemporary so avant-garde
it being you who shall send it but I can discard
that idea I should like an ordinary person to deliver
my telegram not necessarily in a delivery-suit one
must respect tastes and not parenthesize them as
telegrams do not risk punctuation and my joy in
receiving your words hardly needs embellishment
I almost forgot oh genuine you of delicious pineapples
thank you in advance as you have always wished.


in The Blind See Only This World: Poems for John Weiners
[New York: Granary Books, 2000]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ted Berrigan

Sonnet XXXVI
     after Frank O'Hara

It's 8:54 a.m. in Brooklyn it's the 28th of July and
it's probably 8:54 in Manhattan but I'm
in Brooklyn I'm eating English muffins and drinking
pepsi and I'm thinking of how Brooklyn is New
York city too how odd I usually think of it as
something all its own like Bellow Falls like Little
Chute like Uijongbu
                             I never thought on the Williams-
burg bridge I'd come so much to Brooklyn
just to see lawyers and cops who don't even carry
guns taking my wife away and bringing her back
and I never thought Dick would be back at Gude's
beard shaved off long hair cut and Carol reading
his books when we were playing cribbage and
watching the sun come up over the Navy Yard
across the river
                     I think I was thinking when I was
ahead I'd be somewhere like Perry street erudite
dazzling slim and badly loved
contemplating my new book of poems
to be printed in simple type on old brown paper
feminine marvelous and tough

fr. The Sonnets
[New York: Grove Press, 1964]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

James Tate

You Don't Know Me

Sometimes you hear a xylophone
deep in the forest and you know
that things are just not right.
Vichyssoise beneath a canopy
with several unnamable beautiful
peekaboos may have gotten me off
to a less than promising start,
so a chickadee gyrating in my ear
and a catbird spilled the champagne
and a dog waygone chainsawed
some pleasure I left on the table
for a tip, an itsy-bitsy gratuity.
I got home on the back of a grackle,
poky me. In the big chair I started
whistling and singing a melody:
It was the forest tune, about bugs
and sunlight and snakes and mumbo jumbo.
And now it is your turn to burn,
the song said, but first you must travel
to Cameroon unapprehended
in the eye of a cold, dead hurricane.
You're starting to annoy me, I said.
I was trying to annoy you, the song said,
to see if you were really listening.
There's a hole in my head, I said,
I was hoping you would help to fill.
What do you take me for, skillet biscuits?
Perhaps. But you are also the forest song
which is long and deep and clear.
I exist but I have no purpose, the song said,
but I'll pour some cool water over you
that you will not soon forget.

fr. Memoir of the Hawk
[New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2001]

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jack Gilbert (RIP, 1925-2012)

Tear It Down

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of racoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within the body.

Fr. The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gene Frumkin


                The escalator
      is a dangerous enemy
who could trip you
                one step at a time.
This is how the mind works,
synthesizing dream with substance.
                     Or as Jung
           with Freud.
      The substitution
of ground for holiness
      claims voice as a reason
      for old tribes locating
                          the sun
                     as figures
in the act, at the window.

           The future derives
from sleep, evolves into gods
                          and animals.
      This is a process
      that F. chilled into
                vintage prose.
           Jung warmed
to the blooded world,
not alone. The human collective
      describes the enormity
of a single voice. How the
                poses like God
in his mystical cellar.

      Yet F. too brings the good news
that deciphers time
in focus, traveled by a map,
                as if one could say
           there it is! now is as good
                     as anywhere.
      Everything is abstract
           in its origin almost
                     as if Plato
           believed in the verity
of his good republic.

The escalator goes flat by
           steps. It continues
           as breath does:
                two men in blue suits with vests.
      The moving sidewalk is
                     no less.
It slows into watchword, and if F.
           abhorred the occult,
           Jung compared sexuality
      in the psychic order
to a hidden grammar,
           dogma on the harpsichord.

           mystery, lens-defined
A science rises from obsession,
shaped like the Golem of Prague,
but who remembers
                his song?
           Jung catches flies
                instead of fish.
F. hangs his briefs
                on the line.
                     The world is all
                all there is
           to imitate.
Time limps behind
the escalator, F. stands
           with a stopwatch,
      Jung with a camera.
Mind in slow motion, caught in breath.

fr.  Freud by Other Means
[Albuquerque: La Alameda Press, 2002]

Sunday, November 11, 2012

David Graham

Homage To Weldon Kees
     --after his "Homage to Arthur Waley"

Wisconsin fall: windows closed these three weeks,
midnight chill you can still smell through the glass.
I reach for your book naturally after midnight,

work done, listening to the furnace click and halt
in my walls, and I study your photo once more.
Gazing down on that blueblack ocean

you must have joined in 1955. Thinking
“even the sound of the rain repeats: The lease
is up, the time is near."

Weldon Kees

Hommage to Arthur Waley

Seattle weather: it has rained for weeks in this town,
The dampness breeding moths and a gray summer.
I sit in the smoky room reading your book again,
My eyes raw, hearing the trains steaming below me
In the wet yard, and I wonder if you are still alive.
Turning the worn pages, reading once more:
"By misty waters and rainy sand, while the yellow dusk

--Weldon Kees


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Miroslav Holub

The Pedestrian: Lower West Side, New York

At six thirty every night
he walks down Bleecker Street
stopping to look at a print
in a shop window: The Last Judgement.

At six thirty-eight he crosses 
Bedford Street, going towards
St Luke's, stops at the corner
to stare intently
at rush-hour traffic.

Then he slips into Wendy's
and points to a Coke, but
they won't let him have it,
every day, no day.

At six fifty he falls to his knees
at the corner of Hudson and Clarkson
in front of the sidewalk signboard
for Spicer's Pet Shop
(Dogs, Cats, Aquarium Accessories).

For twenty minutes,
hands crossed on his chest,
he prays, either to Spicer,
or to the dogs, 
or to the cats, 
or to the fish,
or to New York,
or to the giant mouse of darkness
which has ten thousand eyes
in twenty-eight floors.

At seven fifteen,
soul purified,
he returns to his hotel,
where blue roses bloom on the walls
like blows from fists,
and Ra, the Egyptian god,
wearing the head of a jackal,
stares down from overhead.

--Miroslav Holub

[from Vanishing Lung Syndrome, 1990;
trans. David Young and Dana Hábová]


Friday, November 9, 2012

Amiri Baraka

Political Poem

(for Basil)

Luxury, then, is a way of
being ignorant, comfortably
An approach to the open market
of least information. Where theories
can thrive, under heavy tarpaulins
without being cracked by ideas.

(I have not seen the earth for years
and think now possibly "dirt" is
negative, positive, but clearly
social. I cannot plant a seed, cannot
recognize the root with clearer dent
than indifference. Though I eat
and shit as a natural man. (Getting up
from the desk to secure a turkey sandwich
and answer the phone: the poem undone
undone by my station, by my station,
and the bad words of Newark.) Raised up
to the breech, we seek to fill for this
crumbling century. The darkness of love,
in whose sweating memory all error is forced.

Undone by the logic of any specific death. (Old gentlemen
who still follow fires, tho are quieter
and less punctual. It is a polite truth
we are left with. Who are you? What are you
saying? Something to be dealt with, as easily.
The noxious game of reason, saying, "No, No,
you cannot feel," like my dead lecturer
lamenting thru gipsies his fast suicide.

fr. Transbluesency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones,  
[New York: Marsilio Publishers, 1995]

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Frank O'Hara

Portrait of James Joyce

riverrun,said jute,oh why the enterrrential
discolum in ionic,doric or sabbatic
which wherewithal you never can
to bother with the endspin of a dustweb
for the categoric is a tombstone,--
dingy,discrete,and rancidulous.

frost my nuts if it isnt the saint!
bon giorno,aloysius,my feathermusking friend!
draw up a syllogism to rest your fatass on.
the birth of the blues is on today
and as a special intermission feature
we have an exhibition of syncopated menstruation.
interested? knew you would be,you old bastard,you.
pushaw,man,scratch not thy palm,as it says in genesodus,
lest the seeds of masturchism be sown therein.
cant beat the goodbook,can you?
jesus i thought id come in my pants reading about oompha.
but to get back to the subject,
forbisnits thy furgumbang?
just what i told the old lady and she said i had the clap.
funny world,eh? unh? ummmmmmmmmmmmm,salty...
that teresa mustave been a good one.
spiritual quality,you say?
recited rimbaud while you are--oyes i get indigestion too.
of course youre not abnorman,al.

a bit of the socratic nymphus mixed with the phrygian phallus
is all and not a goddamn thing wrong with it.
adds spice id say.
not dithyrambic but rather tocuscular.
the mixolydian anapest has a definitely libidinous connotation.
purge it.yes.purge.
such a flowerous floaping flabber.
like the thick ooze of diarrheal defecation.
kill them all for all i give a shit.
havent lived long enough to know what theyve missed.
let it float in the gutters.remind people to go to church.
does em good.little blood never hurt anybody.
except a virgin--thought youd like that one,al.
oh sure.well shake it easy.bon giorno.

and then the ferrulatus fell
crushing the mass of titblooms
so soft salacious
and i cried.hours.not wept.
like liffey.
and im just a stone.
i lost it all you see.
now i just watch riverrs,
and wish it was me.

     [November 25, 1946]

fr. Frank O'Hara: Early Poems
[Bolinas, Calif.: Grey Fox Press, 1977]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

William Bronk

Civitas Dei

When it was plain that there was never to be
the City of God; after the line was clear
that there was no line and none ever to be made;
when it was plain that nothing at all was plain,
we looked from side to side, we turned back,
and no way there either, and here we were.

Yes, and here we are. Nowhere to go.
Already here because such as cities are
is such as the city of god can ever be
or, if there is meaning, such as was meant to be.
Hocus pocus, here is what there is:
one side of the street looks at the other side.

Among the magniloquent monuments of once joys
we walk with our long familiars: dread, disdain.

--William Bronk

fr. The Empty Hand, 1969

in Selected Poems
[New York: New Directions, 1995]


Sunday, November 4, 2012

William Carlos Williams

For a Low Voice

If you ignore the possibilities of art,
huh, huh, huh, huh, huh, &c.
you are likely to become involved,
huh! in extreme, huh, huh, huh, huh, huh

&c. difficulties. For instance, when
they started to make a park
at the site of the old Dutch, huh, huh, huh!
cemetery, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, &c.

they could not, digging down
upon the hoary, heh, heh! graves,
find so much as a thighbone, huh, huh, huh!
or in fact anything! wha, ha,

ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, &c.
to remove! This,
according to the requirements of the case,
created a huh, huh, huh, huh

shall we say, dilemma? So that,
to make a gesture, for old time's sake,
heh, heh! of filling
the one vault retained as communal repository

huh, huh! and monument, they
had to throw in SOMETHING! presumed
to be bones but observed by those nearest,
heh, heh, heh! more to resemble

rotten tree roots than ossa!
a low sort of dissembling, ha, ha, ha, &c.
on the part of the officials
were it not excusable, oh, ho, ho, ho, ho, &c.

under the head of . . . Yes, yes, of course!
wha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Whoh, ho,
hee, hee! Rather a triumph of
a sort! Whoop la! Whee hee!--don't you think?

--William Carlos Williams


Friday, November 2, 2012

A. R. Ammons

Easter Morning

I have a life that did not become,
that turned aside and stopped,
I hold it in me like a pregnancy or
as on my lap a child
not to grow or grow old but dwell on

it is to his grave I most
frequently return and return
to ask what is wrong, what was
wrong, to see it all by
the light of a different necessity
but the grave will not heal
and the child,
stirring, must share my grave
with me, an old man having
gotten by on what was left

when I go back to my home country in these 
fresh far-away days, it's convenient to visit 
everybody, aunts and uncles, those who used to say,
look how he's shooting up, and the 
trinket aunts who always had a little 
something in their pocketbooks, cinnamon bark 
or a penny or nickel, and uncles who
were the rumored fathers of cousins 
who whispered of them as of great, if 
troubled, presences, and school 
teachers, just about everybody older 
(and some younger) collected in one place 
waiting, particularly, but not for 
me, mother and father there, too, and others 
close, close as burrowing 
under skin, all in the graveyard assembled, 
done for, the world they 
used to wield, have trouble and joy 
in, gone

the child in me that could not become 
was not ready for others to go, 
to go on into change, blessings and
horrors, but stands there by the road
where the mishap occurred, crying out for
help, come and fix this or we 
can't get by, but the great ones who
were to return, they could not or did 
not hear and went on in a flurry and 
now, I say in the graveyard, here 
lies the flurry, now it can't come 
back with help or helpful asides, now 
we all buy the bitter 
incompletions, pick up the knots of 
horror, silently raving, and go on 
crashing into empty ends not 
completions, not rondures the fullness 
has come into and spent itself from

I stand on the stump 
of a child, whether myself 
or my little brother who died, and 
yell as far as I can, I cannot leave this place, for 
for me it is the dearest and the worst, 
it is life nearest to life which is 
life lost: it is my place where 
I must stand and fail, 
calling attention with tears 
to the branches not lofting 
boughs into space, to the barren 
air that holds the world that was my world

though the incompletions 
(& completions) burn out 
standing in the flash high-burn 
momentary structure of ash, still it 
is a picture-book, letter-perfect 
Easter morning: I have been for a 
walk: the wind is tranquil: the brook 
works without flashing in an abundant 
tranquility: the birds are lively with 
voice: I saw something I had 
never seen before: two great birds, 
maybe eagles, blackwinged, whitenecked
and -headed, came from the south oaring
the great wings steadily; they went 
directly over me, high up, and kept on 
due north: but then one bird, 
the one behind, veered a little to the 
left and the other bird kept on seeming
not to notice for a minute: the first 
began to circle as if looking for 
something, coasting, resting its wings 
on the down side of some of the circles: 
the other bird came back and they both 
circled, looking perhaps for a draft; 
they turned a few more times, possibly 
rising--at least, clearly resting?
then flew on falling into distance till
they broke across the local bush and 
trees: it was a sight of bountiful 
majesty and integrity: the having 
patterns and routes, breaking 
from them to explore other patterns or 
better ways to routes, and then the 
return: a dance sacred as the sap in 
the trees, permanent in its descriptions 
as the ripples round the brook's 
ripplestone: fresh as this particular 
flood of burn breaking across us now 
from the sun.

--A. R. Ammons


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

James McManus

Centrifuge: Islets of Langerhans

It's 8:01 of an evening. Instead of "So What"
or "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," which, as it happens,
are both on this house-mix cassette, here I am half

listening to Maria Callas sing Massenet's "Air
de Chimène" while I read, riveted, in The Times
about researchers' efforts to cure diabetes.

Transplanting an entire unwieldy used pancreas
is no longer necessary. Now only the actual
insulin-producing cells, called islets of Langerhans,

are taken, separated out from the donor pancreatic
tissue in a centrifuge, yielding a bagful of what
"looks like pink grapefruit juice." This potent

solution gets dripped directly through the portal
vein into the patient's liver, where, about two
hours later, the islets begin to make insulin.

But. The procedure will not be available "for three
to five years, except"--except?--"to patients already
requiring transplants of other organs," which even

at this stage of things leaves me out. And there's more
downside: daily injections of FK 506,
an immunosuppressant derived from a Japanese

fungus,will have to be substituted for (in
my case, twice-daily) injections of insulin. So.
Since my xenophobic body accepts nothing foreign,

and, brother, I mean nothing . . . It already zapped
its own perfectly functional islets of Langerhans
twenty-six years ago, somehow mistaking the seventeen

amino acids on their surface for the almost not
quite* identical configuration on bovine serum
albumen. Cow's milk. And all because Mom didn't nurse me. . . .

It's time to test my blood, do my shot, have some dinner,
for which I imperiously decide to get naked. My
islets don't work, so I'll not eat tonight with my clothes on!

I use the remote thing to turn up the music to nine.
Ms. Callas isn't done singing quite yet. I do dumb
little jigs while I lip-sync, then stand still and listen.

My blood, liquid glass, oozes from deep in my gut
to the tip of my left middle finger, which now I must prick.
I spin myself round maybe six, seven times, and kick

off my underpants. Catch them. The bass of "So What" is
buzzing my woofers. When Miles finally hits it I'm turning
again, breathing and shivering hard, getting dizzy.

--James McManus


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gunnar Ekelöf

Like Ankle-Rings, This Music

Like ankle-rings, this music,
if Nothing is ankle and Nothing the rhythm
in which the foot is lifted and slowly stamping
goes round round the circle of round rug. Desire
is born and disappears just as apparently
as the increasing decreasing swelling of the pulse
in the bend of the arm--or like the breath
vibrating with jewels. Its drum is the heart
under a deft hand, to impersonality
a rattle attached to a snake's tail
or a rattle in a child's hand, as aimlessly
shaken in the natural unknown rhythm

--Gunnar Ekelöf

tr. Muriel Rukeyser and Leif Sjöberg


Monday, October 22, 2012

Thomas McGrath

War Resisters' Song

Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove--
Or such as presidents may spare
Within the decorum of Total War.

By bosky glades, by babbling streams
(Babbling of Fission, His remains)
We discover happiness' isotrope
And live the half-life of our hope.

While Geiger counters sweetly click
In concentration camps we'll fuck.
Called traitors? That's but sticks and stone
We've Strontium 90 in our bones!

And thus, adjusted to our lot,
Our kisses will be doubly hot--
Fornicating (like good machines)
We'll try the chances of our genes.

So (if Insufficient Grace
Hath not fouled thy secret place
Nor fall-out burnt my balls away)
Who knows? but we may get a boy--

Some paragon with but one head
And no more brains than is allowed;
And between his legs, where once was love,
Monsters to pack the future with.

--Thomas McGrath

fr. Selected Poems: 1938-1988
[Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 1988]


Saturday, October 20, 2012

John Weiners

The Waning of the Harvest Moon

No flowers now to wear at
Sunset. Autumn and the rain. Dress in
blue. For the descent. Dogs bark at
the gate. Go down daughter my soul
heavy with the memory of heaven.

It is time for famine and empty
altars. We ask your leave for by
your going we gain spring again.
No lights glimmer in the box.
I want to go out and rob a grocery store.

Hunger. My legs ache. Who will feed us.
Miles more to go. Secrets yet unread.
Dogs bark in my ears. My man lost.
My soul a jangle of lost connections.
Who will plug in the light at autumn.
When all men are alone.
Down. And further yet to go.
Words gone from my mouth.
Speechless in the tide.

--John Weiners

fr. Ace of Pentacles (1964)


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eugenio Montejo

The Trees

The trees speak so little, you know.
They spend their entire life meditating
and moving their branches.
Just look at them closely in autumn
as they seek each other out in public places:
only the oldest attempt some conversation,
the ones that share clouds and birds,
but their voice gets lost in the leaves
and so little filters down to us, nothing really.

It's difficult to fill the shortest book
with the thoughts of trees.
Everything in them is vague, fragmented.
Today, for instance, on the way to my house
hearing a black thrush shriek,
the last cry of one who won't reach another summer,
I realized that in his voice a tree was speaking,
one of so many,
but I don't know what to do with this sharp deep sound,
I don't know in what type of script
I could set it down.

--Eugenio Montejo

tr. from Spanish by Peter Boyle
in Jubilat 4, 2002


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Clark Coolidge

Down Too Many Barrels

Those boys on the roof are just
waiting to fall through
but that bartender's kind of awkward
chairs full of young whiners and sod galoots
some other Jasper says I'm dull
eye like ball of scum
was that a liquid on the plate?
one churl set sail for New Bedford
but I've kept my Butane attitude
Butane Nevada that is
bottle full of oiled monkeys this is
there's an old saying: when the wine is done
you just have to finish it
makes sense to me a flush bunny
even down dark alleys of mirth
get your hooks off them potatoes
the town suffers from roundup
here come the miners minus dollars
want to be diners bright
as a dime on a cancelled stamp
but all these bellies are empty
as a star on a tom fool
and I'm sick of this dirtbank living
think I'll get me a sack
full up with bendable goods
one hand faster than a twisted dog
the other from cyclone load
but this sheriff's getting his sides mixed up
hey this card table smells like the sea
better ask Bill Hackleroad
he's in charge of the chloroform board
the jail's filling up with lead weights
Notion Boys hard as empty boxes
reach and go blind in this town
Robert Ryan can't see beneath
the cowboy stairs and what bodes
won't be long now

--Clark Coolidge

fr. Far Out West
[New York: Adventures in Poetry, 2001]


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Guillaume Apollinaire

The Pretty Redhead

I stand here in the sight of everyone a man full of sense
Knowing life and knowing of death what a living man can know
Having gone through the griefs and happinesses of love
Having known sometimes how to impose his ideas
Knowing several languages
Having travelled more than a little
Having seen war in the artillery and the infantry
Wounded in the head trepanned under chloroform
Having lost his best friends in the horror of battle

I know as much as one man alone can know
Of the ancient and the new
And without troubling myself about this war today
Between us and for us my friends
I judge this long quarrel between tradition and imagination
Between order and adventure

You whose mouth is made in the image of God's mouth
Mouth which is order itself
Judge kindly when you compare us
With those who were the very perfection of order
We who are seeking everywhere for adventure

We are not your enemies
Who want to give ourselves vast strange domains
Where mystery flowers into any hands that long for it
Where there are new fires colors never seen
A thousand fantasies difficult to make sense out of
They must be made real
All we want is to explore kindness the enormous country where
     everything is silent
And there is time which somebody can banish or welcome home
Pity for us who fight always on the frontiers
Of the illimitable and the future
Pity our mistakes pity our sins

Here summer is coming the violent season
And so my youth is as dead as spring
Oh Sun it is the time of reason grown passionate
And I am still waiting
To follow the forms she takes noble and gentle
So I may love her alone

She comes and draws me as a magnet draws filaments of iron
She has the lovely appearance
Of an adorable redhead
Her hair turns golden you would say
A beautiful lightning flash that goes on and on
Or the flames that spread out their feathers
In wilting tea roses

But laugh laugh at me
Men everywhere especially people from here
For there are so many things that I don't dare to tell you
So many things that you would not let me say
Have pity on me

--Guillaume Apollinaire, tr. James Wright

fr. Calligrammes (1925)

in The Random House Book of Twentieth-Century French Poetry
ed., Paul Auster [New York: Random House,1982]

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Carl Rakosi

Americana 4

The whole town used to gather around
the four bands in the four saloons on the corner.

Okey Poke used to tend bar behind a diamond 
 sunflower stickpin
and the gambler Ed Mochez, who left a hundred and ten 
when he died,
          played every hand of poker like a tiger.

People in and out day and night,
all raising simultaneous barrelhouse cain.

Where is Willie the Pleaser?
   Always women running after him,
that sweetback man kind of strutting with it
in a very mosey walk from down the river
   called Shooting the Agate.

One day a boy picked up a flute and started right in
 playing it.
Showed everybody what is a flute!

Walked over to a saxophone
and damn if he didn't start making the thing just talk!

"Go, my son, and riff it through the land,"
                                                              and he went

through manhood in his comic little hat.
He'd walk out on the stage and say, "I'd like to
 introduce my band,"
and introduced the musicians to each other.

Then he'd step back, tilt his horn
and blow a high note of emanicipation.
Then the reeds would liquefy and move out,
far out on a mellow riff,
   and his trombones
peppered dirty notes to make it real,
and church rocked!
   Not a chick in town
was safe until the blues cut him down.

The origin of the blues?
   Always been.
Some poor hustling woman feeding her fancy Dan
   in the servants' room.
Some poor guy playing a mysterious bass
fatherless figure on his trombone,
sometimes braying on it like a jack
being the porter in the barber shop.

Some underground Jupiter grieving:
Lord, your servant Juba lives in hog slop.
Give this offchild your medicinal herbs,
root of the master weed, Peter's roots,
and May apple and sweet William.

The origin of the blues?
   The white hero!


Americana 5

As it gets on in years
the third generation
feeling lonely with its children
goes into its darkroom
and develops a picture
of cattle lumbering in from the timbered pasture
at the end of a summer's day a century ago
their bags heavy with milk

planting the acre north
of the hoghouse to sweet corn
for late eating with fresh country butter

families visiting from a hundred miles
singing under a shade tree.

Where the road forks at the red barn
and the oak tree has a knot hole
on its north side
the old ones feel at home,
hoeing weeds in a little garden
and marveling how things grow
the corn having jumped a foot
over the Fourth of July weekend.

Here four-square on historic legs
on all sides bounded
by (how is this capitalized?)
God and hard work
stands the Nineteenth Century.

--Carl Rakosi, 
fr. Amulet, 1967


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Edward Dorn

In My Youth I Was a Tireless Dancer

But now I pass
graveyards in a car.
The dead lie,
with their feet toward me--
please forgive me for
saying the tombstones would not
fancy their faces turned from the highway.

Oh perish the thought
I was thinking in that moment
Newman Illinois
the Saturday night dance--
what a life? Would I like it again?
No. Once I returned late summer
from California thin from journeying
and the girls were not the same.
You'll say that's natural
they had been dancing all the time.


Jack Gilbert

Trying to Sleep

The girl shepherd on the farm beyond has been
taken from school now she is twelve, and her life is over.
I got my genius brother a summer job in the mills
and he stayed all his life. I lived with a woman four
years who went crazy later, escaped from the hospital,
hitchhiked across America terrified and in the snow
without a coat, and was raped by most men who gave her
a ride. I crank my heart even so and it turns over.
Ranges high in the sun over continents and eruptions
of mortality, through winds and immensities of rain
falling for miles. Until all the world is overcome
by what goes up and up in us, singing and dancing
and throwing down flowers as we continue north taking
the maimed with us, keeping the sad parts carefully.

--Jack Gilbert

fr. New Yorker, Aug. 2, 2004


Friday, October 5, 2012

John Ashbery

The Serious Doll

The kinds of things are more important than the
Individual thing, though the specific is supremely
Interesting. Right? As each particular
Goes over Niagara Falls in a barrel one may
Justifiably ask: Where does this come from?
Whither goes my concern? What you are wearing
Has vanished along with other concepts.
They are lined up by the factory balcony railing
Against blue sky with some clumsy white paper clouds
Pasted on it. Where does the east meet the west?
At sunset there is a choice of two smiles: discreet or serious.
In this best of all possible worlds, that is enough.

--John Ashbery

fr. Houseboat Days [Penguin Books, 1977]


Kenneth Fearing

Twentieth-Century Blues

What do you call it, bobsled champion, and you, too,
           Olympic roller-coaster ace,
High-diving queen, what is the word,
Number one man on the Saturday poker squad, motion-
           picture star incognito as a home girl, life of the party or
           you, the serious type, what is it, what is it,

When it's just like a fever shooting up and up and up but
           there are no chills and there is no fever,
Just exactly like a song, like a knockout, like a dream, like a

What is the word, when you know that all the light of all the
           cities of all the world are burning bright as day, and you
           know that some time they all go out for you,
Or your taxi rolls and rolls through streets made of velvet,
           what is the feeling, what is the feeling when the radio
           never ends, but the hour, the swift, the electric, the
           invisible hour does not stop and does not turn,
What does it mean, when the get-away money burns in
           dollars as big as moons, but where is there to go that's just
           exactly right,
What have you won, plunger, when the 20-1 comes in;
           what have you won salesman, when the dotted line is
           signed; irresistible lover, when her eyelids flutter shut at
           last, what have you really, finally won;
And what is gone, soldier, soldier, step-and-a-half marine who
           saw the whole world; hot-tip addict, what is always just
           missed; picker of crumbs, how much has been lost,
           denied, what are all the things destroyed,
Question mark, question mark, question mark, question mark,

And you, fantasy Frank, and dreamworld Dora and
           hallucination Harold, and delusion Dick, and
           nightmare Ned,

What is it, how do you say it, what does it mean, what's the
That third-rail, million-volt exclamation mark, that ditto,
           ditto, ditto
That stop, stop, go.

--Kenneth Fearing

fr. Complete Poems 
[Orono, Maine: The National Poetry Foundation, 1994]


Monday, October 1, 2012

Vladimir Holan

She Asked You

A young girl asked you: What is poetry?
You wanted to tell her: Among other things, it's the fact that
     you are, oh yes, the fact that you are,
and in my fear and wonder,
which are witnessing a miracle,
I'm painfully jealous of your ripe beauty,
and jealous that I must not kiss you and I must not sleep
     with you,
and that I have nothing, and he who has nothing to give
must sing . . .

But you didn't tell her this, you said nothing
and she didn't hear you singing . . .

--Vladimir Holan 

tr. Hanzlicek & Hábová