Saturday, September 29, 2012

Keith Gunderson

On Trying to Recollect an Important Evening Spent Listening to
Doc Evans' Group Play "Muskrat Ramble," "When the Saints Go
Marching In," Et Al.


all gone rag-bagged
battered up memories
Evans Doc jazzpro
coro net king.
clarineting drum drubbing
out-of-town roadhouse
heard back by St. Paul
happy old Chi.
me just young guy
gulping down setups
no-bond bourbon
friends and a girl.
married her
carried her
far out of St. Paul
far out of roadhouse
and neck-a-lot lights.
everything that night
now like
those cats
thinking on
happy Chi
and them before.
no more no way
no doors no keys
all gone rag-bagged
battered up memories.

--Keith Gunderson


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."


Friday, September 28, 2012

Barbara Guest

Eating Chocolate Ice Cream: Reading Mayakovsky

Since I've decided to revolutionize my life

How early it is! It is eight o'clock in the morning.
Well, the pigeons were up earlier
Did you eat all your eggs?
Now we shall go for a long walk.
Now? There is too much winter.
I am going to admire the snow on your coat.
Time for hot soup, already?
You have worked for three solid hours.
I have written forty-eight, no forty-nine,
no fifty-one poems.
How many states are there?
I cannot remember what is uniting America.
It is then time for your nap.
What a lovely, pleasant dream I just had.
But I like waking up better.
I do admire reality like snow on my coat.
Would you take cream or lemon in your tea?
No sugar?
And no cigarettes.
Daytime is good, but evening is better.
I do like our evening discussions.
Yesterday we talked about Kant.
Today let's think about Hegel.
In another week we shall have reached Marx.
Life is a joy if one has industrious hands.
Supper? Stew and well-cooked. Delicious.
Well, perhaps just one more glass of milk.
Nine o'clock! Bath time!
Soap and a clean rough towel.
The Red Army is marching tonight.
They shall march through my dreams
in their new shiny leather boots,
their freshly laundered shirts.
All those ugly stains of caviar and champagne
and kisses
have been rubbed away.
They are going to the barracks.
They are answering hundreds of pink
and yellow and blue and white telephones.
How happy and contented and well-fed they look
lounging on their fur divans,
chanting "Russia how kind you are to us.
How kind you are to everybody.
We want to live forever."
Before I wake up they will throw away
their pistols, and magically
factories will spring up where once
there was rifle fire, a roulette factory,
where once a body fell from an open window.
Hurry dear dream
I am waiting for you
under the eiderdown.
And tomorrow will be more real, perhaps,
than yesterday.

--Barbara Guest

fr. Angel Hair 5, Spring 1968

in The Angel Hair Anthology
[New York: Granary Books, 2001]


André Breton

Free Union

My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer
The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut
Whose tongue is incredible stone
My wife whose eyelashes are strokes in the handwriting of a child
Whose eyebrows are nests of swallows
My wife whose temples are the slate of greenhouse roofs
With steam on the windows
My wife whose shoulders are champagne
Are fountains that curl from the heads of dolphins under the ice
My wife whose wrists are matches
Whose fingers are raffles holding the ace of hearts
Whose fingers are fresh cut hay
My wife with the armpits of martens and beech fruit
And Midsummer Night
That are hedges of privet and nesting places for sea snails
Whose arms are of sea foam and a landlocked sea
And a fusion of wheat and a hill
Whose legs are spindles
In the delicate movements of watches and despair
My wife whose calves are sweet with the sap of elders
Whose feet are carved initials
Keyrings and the feet of steeplejacks who drink
My wife whose neck is fine milled barley
Whose throat contains the Valley of Gold
And encounters in the bed of the maelstrom
My wife whose breasts are of the night
And are undersea molehills
And crucibles of rubies
My wife whose breasts are haunted by the ghosts of dew-moistened roses
Whose belly is a fan unfolded in the sunlight
Is a giant talon
My wife with the back of a bird in vertical flight
With a back of quicksilver
And bright lights
My wife whose nape is of smooth worn stone and wet chalk
And of a glass slipped through the fingers of someone who has just drunk
My wife with the thighs of a skiff
That are lustrous and feathered like arrows
Stemmed with the light tailbones of a white peacock
And imperceptible balance
My wife whose rump is sandstone and flax
Whose rump is the back of a swan and the spring
My wife with the sex of an iris
A mine and a platypus
With the sex of an alga and old-fashioned candles
My wife with the sex of a mirror
My wife with eyes full of tears
With eyes that are purple armor and a magnetized needle
With eyes of savannahs
With eyes full of water to drink in prisons
My wife with eyes that are forests forever under the ax
My wife with eyes that are the equal of water and air and earth and fire

--André Breton, tr. David Antin

fr. Claire de terre (1966)

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


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Carl Rakosi

To the Non-Political Citizen

You choose your words too carefully.
Are you afraid of being called agitator?

Every man is entitled to his anger.
It's guaranteed in the Constitution.
Every man is also entitled
to his own opinion and his own death,
his own malice and his own villainy.
But you spend too much time goosing.

--Carl Rakosi

 fr. Amulet, 1967


James Wright

Eisenhower's Visit to Franco, 1959

 " . . . we die of cold, and not of darkness."

The American hero must triumph over
The forces of darkness.
He has flown through the very light of heaven
And come down in the slow dusk
Of Spain.

Franco stands in a shining circle of police.
His arms open in welcome.
He promises all dark things
Will be hunted down.

State police yawn in the prisons.
Antonio Machado follows the moon
Down a road of white dust,
To a cave of silent children
Under the Pyrenees.
Wine darkens in stone jars in villages.
Wine sleeps in the mouths of old men, it is a dark red color.

Smiles glitter in Madrid.
Eisenhower has touched hands with Franco, embracing
In a glare of photographers.
Clean new bombers from America muffle their engines
And glide down now.
Their wings shine in the searchlights
Of bare fields,
In Spain.

--James Wright, The Branch Will Not Break
  [Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1963]


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stephen Dunn

A Postmortem Guide

         (For my eulogist, in advance)

Do not praise me for my exceptional serenity.
Can't you see I've turned away
from the large excitements,
and have accepted all the troubles?

Go down to the old cemetery; you'll see
there's nothing definitive to be said.
The dead once were all kinds--
boundary breakers and scalawags,
martyrs of the flesh, and so many
dumb bunnies of duty, unbearably nice.

I've been a little of each.

And, please, resist the temptation
of speaking about virtue.
The seldom-tempted are too fond
of that word, the small-
spirited, the unburdened.
Know that I've admired in others
only the fraught straining
to be good.

Adam's my man and Eve's not to blame.
He bit in; it made no sense to stop.

Still, for accuracy's sake you might say
I often stopped,
that I rarely went as far as I dreamed.

And since you know my hardships,
understand they're mere bump and setback
against history's horror.
Remind those seated, perhaps weeping,
how obscene it is
for some of us to complain.

Tell them I had second chances.
I knew joy.
I was burned by books early
and kept sidling up to the flame.

Tell them that at the end I had no need
for God, who'd become just a story
I once loved, one of many
with concealments and late-night rescues,
high sentence and pomp. The truth is
I learned to live without hope
as well as I could, almost happily,
in the despoiled and radiant snow.

You who are one of them, say that I loved
my companions most of all.
In all sincerity, say they provided
a better way to be alone.

--Stephen Dunn (c. 2001)


Thomas McGrath

A Momentary Loss of Belief in the Wisdom
of the Common People and a Curse on the
Bastards Who Own and Operate Them

"War is the continuation of policy by other means."
So said Von Clausewitz.

But war is also
The continuation of false consciousness
And falsified policy and politics
And greed masked as bourgeois generosity
By the falsified desires of American imperialism
By presidents wedded to cowboys and missiles
By chauvinist beer salesmen peddling the stars and stripes by
 the six-pack
By the trained psychopathic liars of the State Department
By simple-minded sods in all fifty states
By the born-simple clergy and suckers of religion
By the bearded dons and Ph.D. dumdums of Academia
By painters selling third-hand Da Da at fancy prices
By poets who have forgot their songs in their gilded cages
By farmers sold out and put on the road and still finding their enemy
 in Nicaragua or El Salvador
By workers given their walking papers for life and their heads still so
 unscrewed they think the enemy is Russia or Communism
By housewives pissing their pants and dreaming of Red Terror
Or hijackers invading Podunk

By other means.
Politics is the continuation of war by other means.

And now, you celebrated American jackasses:
You still want war?
Go let a hole in the head shed light on your darkling brain--
Remember Vietnam?

Go and be damned!
But don't count on me for nothing you righteous
 stupid sons of bitches!

--Thomas McGrath

fr. Death Song
[Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 1991]


Monday, September 24, 2012

Deborah Keenan

Loving Motels
Feels American.
Shameless, somehow.
People I don't know
love motels.  People
I don't know love chlorine;
hundreds and thousands of people
I know and don't know
love motel pools, whirlpools,
hot tubs, saunas.
People I love, people who love
me, those people love room service.
The sheer
intellectual weght: the idea of a phone,
wires, another phone, then food arriving.
Preposterous and sexual.
Sexy, like those bathing suits 
you only wear in pools 
in motels in Montreal, or
pools in Shawnee Mission, any pool
where no one you know will walk by
and know you.
Loving motels means loving
what has not rooted in your spirit.
Loving motels is loving 
your very own ice bucket,
and the special shapes the ice takes, 
is loving the shining cans of pop
sinking through the melting ice,
the sound aluminum makes
while you pretend to sleep,
is loving the hidden air conditioners
and the cable TV shows, and is
letting no one else, not even someone
you love, use your own wrapped
bar of soap, or your own little pack
of ten-month-old Sanka
or the sweet little hot plate
that just fits the baby coffee pot.
People like me and including me
love motels for the white towels
which remind us of something large 
we have lost somewhere.  We love
the deep shag carpet we would hate
at home.  We love the key,
the number, the simple locks,
not like home where locks are hard,
needing a hip thrown against
the door, the dead bolt really dead,
we love the simple key with the simple
plastic shape: sometimes a fish,
sometimes a smooth, beige oval,
sometimes, if we're lucky,
a shamrock, a clover, a doll or dog.
We love motels for letting us
drive up, we get our own parking place
automatically, then we get love-
making that is not connected
to our own bed's history,
and besides the white towels
we get white sheets
which we all love and never buy.
We get left alone,
we get the feeling of being alone, 
and we need America to leave us
alone in the motels.

-- Deborah Keenan

Fr. Happiness

Coffee House Press, 1995


Gunther Grass


My breath missed the needle's eye.
Now I must count
and homeward leaf down the stairs.

But the crawling forays
end in watery ditches,
in which tadpoles . . .
Count up again.

My playback reel gabbles its third decade.
The bed leaves for a journey. And everywhere
The Customs interpose: What's in your luggage?

Three socks, five shoes, a fog machine.--
In several languages they are counted up:
the stars, the sheep, the tanks, the voices . . .
A provisional sum is counted out.

--Gunter Grass

tr. Michael Hamburger


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Michael Palmer

Notes for Echo Lake 3

Words that come in smoke and go.

Some things he kept, some he kept and lost. He loved the French poets
fell through the partly open door.

And I as it is, I as the one but less than one in it. I was the blue against
red and a voice that emptied, and I is that one with broken back.

While April is ours and dark, as something always stands for
what is: dying elm, headless man, winter--
                                                               salamander, chrysalis,
        grammar and silence.

Or grammar against silence. Years later they found themselves talking
in a crowd. Her white cat had been killed in the woods behind her
house. It had been a good possibly even a terrible winter. Ice had coated
the limbs of the hawthorn and lilac, lovely but dangerous. Travel plans
had been made then of necessity abandoned. At different times entire
weeks had seemed to disappear. She wondered what initially they had
agreed not to discuss.

Some things he kept while some he kept apart.

As Robert's call on Tuesday asking whether I knew that Zukofsky had
died a couple of days before. The call came as I was reading a copy of
Larry Rivers' talk at Frank O'Hara's funeral (July, 1966), "He was a
quarter larger than usual. Every few inches there was some sewing
composed of dark thread. Some stitching was straight and three
or four inches long, others were longer and semi-circular . . ."

As Robert's call on Tuesday a quarter larger than usual asking whether I
knew whether I knew. Blue thread every few inches, straight and semi-
circular, and sand and wet snow. Blue snow a couple of days before.
Whether I know whatever I know.

The letters of the words of our legs and arms. What he had seen or
thought he'd seen within the eye, voices overheard rising and falling.
And if each conversation has no end, then composition is a placing
beside or with and is endless, broken threads of cloud driven from the
west by afternoon wind.

The letters of the words of our legs and arms. In the garden he dreamt
he saw four bearded men and listened to them discussing metaphor.
They are standing at the points of the compass. They are standing at the
points of the compass and saying nothing. They are sitting in the shade
of a flowering tree. She is holding the child's body out toward the
camera. She is standing before the mirror and asking. She is offering
and asking. He-she is asking me a question I can't quite hear. Evenings
they would walk along the shore of the lake.

Letters of the world. Bright orange poppy next to white rose next to
blue spike of larkspur and so on. Artichoke crowding garlic and sage.
Hyssop, marjoram, orange mint, winter and summer savory, oregano,
trailing rosemary, fuchsia, Dutch iris, day lily, lamb's tongue, lamb's
ears, blackberry, feverfew, lemon verbena, sorrel, costmary, never reads
it as it is, "poet living tomb of his/games."

Eyes eyeing what self never there, as things in metaphor cross, are
thrown across, a path he calls the path of names. In the
film La Jetée she is thrown against time and is marking time:

   sun burns thru the roars
   dear eyes, all eyes, pageant
   bay inlet, garden casuarina, spittle-spawn
   (not laurel) nameless we name
   it, and sorrows dissolve--human

In silence he would mark time listening for whispered words. I began
this in spring, head ready to burst, flowers, reddening sky, moon with a
lobster, New York, Boston, return, thin coating of ice, moon while
dogs bark, moon dogs bark at, now it's late fall.

And now he told me it's time to talk.

Words would come in smoke and go, inventing the letters of the
voyage, would walk through melting snow to the corner store for
cigarettes, oranges and a newspaper, returning by a different route past
red brick townhouses built at the end of the Civil War. Or was the
question in the letters themselves, in how by chance the words were

In the poem he learns to turn and turn, and prose seems always 
a sentence long.

--Michael Palmer


Weldon Kees

Crime Club

No butler, no second maid, no blood upon the stair.
No eccentric aunt, no gardener, no family friend
Smiling among the bric-a-brac and murder.
Only a suburban house with the front door open
And a dog barking at a squirrel, and the cars
Passing. The corpse quite dead. The wife in Florida.

Consider the clues: the potato masher in a vase,
The torn photograph of a Wesleyan basketball team,
Scattered with check stubs in the hall;
The unsent fan letter to Shirley Temple,
The Hoover button on the lapel of the deceased,
The note: "To be killed this way is quite all right with me."

Small wonder that the case remains unsolved,
Or that the sleuth, Le Roux, is now incurably insane,
And sits alone in a white room in a white gown,
Screaming that all the world is made, that clues
Lead nowhere, or to walls so high their tops cannot be seen;
Screaming all day of war, screaming that nothing can be solved.

--Weldon Kees


Saturday, September 22, 2012

David Antin


every now and then
mysterious bumps made him jump
he would stand transfixed in a doorway
see a scene of disorder
she told him in a confidential manner
'now it's my turn to hide'
that had been on a Thursday
he crushed a bottle under his heel
he took out his pocket knife and loosened the earth
he rose and brushed the knee of his trousers
she took away the tray
she placed the bowl on the bed
she kept coming back to his sex
a doubtful whiteness
'after you finish school'
'you will take your law degree'
'we will give it to you'
'but i should like to go to Germany'
'you must go to England and France'
he knelt down under the tree
he slept for some time
he remembered the blue glass
he stepped out of a doorway
he performed these actions
with a sense of austerity
all the same
there must be sense
in this madness
he was not in a position
to discover it

--David Antin

fr. "Novel Poem" in Selected Poems: 1963-1973
[Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1991]


Kenneth Fearing

En Route

No violence,
Feeling may run high for a time, but remember, no violence,
And hurry, this moment of ours may not return.

But we will meet again? Yes, yes, now go,
Take only the latest instruments, use trained men in

                conservative tweeds who know how to keep their
                mouths shut,
The key positions must he held at all costs,
Bring guns, ropes, kerosine, it may be hard to persuade our

                beloved leader there must be no violence, no violence,

No violence, nothing left to chance, no hysteria and above all,
                no sentiment,
The least delay, the slightest mistake means the end, yes, the    

Why are you worried?

What is there to be worried about? It's fixed, I tell you, fixed,
                there's nothing to it, listen:
We will meet across the continents and years at 4 a.m. outside     
                the Greek's when next the barometer reads 28.28 and      

                the wind is from the South South-East bringing rain      
                and hail and fog and snow;
Until then I travel by dead reckoning and you will take your   
                bearings from the stars;

I cannot tell you more, except this: When you give the sign     

                our  agent will approach and say, "Have you seen the
                handwriting?" Then your man is to reply, "We have
                brought the money";
So we will make ourselves known to each other,
And it will be the same as before, perhaps even better, and we    
                will arrange to meet again, as always, and say good-bye     

                as now, and as we always will, and it will be O.K.; now     

But what if the police find out? What if the wires are down?     

                What if credit is refused? What if the banks fail? What     
                if war breaks out? What if one of us should die?
What good can all of this be to you, or to us, or to anyone?     

                Think of the price--

What are you trying to do, be funny? This is serious;
We must be prepared for anything, anything, anything.

--Kenneth Fearing

New & Selected Poems
[Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1956]

Friday, September 21, 2012

John Ashbery

White-Collar Crime

Now that you've done it, say OK, that's it for a while.
His fault wasn't great; it was over-eagerness; it didn't deserve
The death penalty, but it's different when it happens
In your neighborhood, on your doorstep; the dropping light spoilt nicely his

Name tags and leggings; all those things that belonged to him,
As it were, were thrown out overnight, onto the street,
So much for fashion. The moon decrees
That it be with us awhile to enhance the atmosphere

But in the long run serious concerns prevail, such as
What time is it and what are you going to do about that?
Gaily inventing brand names, place-names, you were surrounded
By such abundance, yet it seems only fair to start taking in

The washing now. There was a boy. Yet by the time the program
Is over, it turns out there was enough time and more than enough things
For everybody to latch on to, and that in essence it's there, the
Young people and their sweet names falling, almost too many of these.

--John Ashbery, fr. Shadow Train
[Penguin, 1981]


William Bronk

I Thought It Was Harry

Excuse me. I thought for a moment you were someone I know.
It happens to me. One time at The Circle in the Square
when it was still in the Square, I turned my head
when the lights went up and saw me there with a girl
and another couple. Out in the lobby, I looked
right at him and he looked away. I was no one he knew.
Well, it takes two, as they say, and I don't know what
it would prove anyway. Do we know who we are,
do you think? Kids seem to know. One time I asked
a little girl. She said she'd been sick. She said
she'd looked different and felt different. I said,
"Maybe it wasn't you. How do you know?"
"Oh, I was me," she said, "I know I was."

That part doesn't bother me anymore
or not the way it did. I'm nobody else
and nobody anyway. It's all the rest
I don't know. I don't know anything.
It hit me. I thought it was Harry when I saw you
and thought, "I'll ask Harry." I don't suppose
he knows, though. It's not that I get confused.
I don't mean that. If someone appeared and said,
"Ask me questions," I wouldn't know where to start.
I don't have questions even. It's the way I fade
as though I were someone's snapshot left in the light.
And the background fades the way it might if we woke
in the wrong twilight and things got dim and grey
while we waited for them to sharpen. Less and less
is real. No fixed point. Questions fix
a point, as answers do. Things move again
and the only place to move is away. It was wrong:
questions and answers are what to be without
and all we learn is how sound our ignorance is.
That's what I wanted to talk to Harry about.
You looked like him. Thank you anyway.

--William Bronk


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kenneth Koch

You Were Wearing

You were wearing your Edgar Allan Poe printed cotton blouse.
In each divided up square of the blouse was a picture of
 Edgar Allan Poe.
Your hair was blonde and you were cute. You asked me, "Do
 most boys think that most girls are bad?"
I smelled the mould of your seaside resort hotel bedroom on
 your hair held in place by a John Greenleaf Whittier clip.
"No," I said, "it's girls who think that boys are bad." Then we
 read "Snowbound" together
And ran around in an attic, so that a little of the blue enamel was
 scraped off my George Washington, Father of His Country, shoes.

Mother was walking in the living room, her Strauss Waltzes
 comb in her hair.
We waited for a time and then joined her, only to be served
 tea in cups painted with pictures of Herman Melville
As well as with illustrations from his book Moby Dick and
 from his novella, Benito Cereno.
Father came in wearing his Dick Tracy necktie: "How about
 a drink, everyone?"
I said, "Let's go outside a while." Then we went onto the
 porch and sat on the Abraham Lincoln swing.
You sat on the eyes, mouth, and beard part, and I sat on the
In the yard across the street we saw a snowman holding a
 garbage can lid smashed into a likeness of the mad English
 king, George the Third.

--Kenneth Koch


Vito Acconci

Now I will tell you a secret: I am nodding my head.
Now I will tell you the truth: I am stretching.

Now I will tell you something that can't be questioned: I am
waving my hands.

Now I will tell you the facts: I am waving my leg.

Now I will tell you something you can't know: I am changing

Now I will tell you what I swear is true: I am turning around.

Now I will tell you something there is no reason to doubt: I
am bending over.

Now I will tell you something that can be proven: I am raising
my eyes.

Now I will tell you something there is no denying:
I am folding my arms.

Now I will tell you something that he says is so: I am shrugging
my shoulders.

Now I will tell you something he says he read in a book: I am
crossing my legs.

Now I am walking: Like this.

Now I am building it: That way.

Now I am removing it: In this manner.

Now I am putting it in place: Just like that.

Now I am looking at it: That's how.

Now I am taking it: This way.

--Vito Acconci

in Open City, Number Five


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bob Perelman

In a Nutshell

Credo in a
kind of American
jewish Hamlet-like bagel,
a bit round
for action yet
leavened enough by
contact with the
near-dead past--you
call it landscape,
I call it
history--to provide
a layered vantage.
Round yet curiously
unconscious in the
center as if
problems with royal
parentage might be
dissolved by fanatic
attention to ideological
festschrifts. Heart beats,
mind floods, whose
news is this?
Turn, turn again,
spread a minimum
of cream cheese,
feed desire its
networks. A you
for all our
little secrets. But
if I have to
vote, kneel, root,
fax & already
feel, as opposed
to an unrehearsed
life, well, slide
over a few
inches & we'll
make room for
each other's public.
Not the heresy
of paraphrase, not
the hearsay of
phrase, but a
general agreement to
differ from ourselves.

--Bob Perelman

[CrossConnect, 1997?]


Erich Fried

The Measures Taken

The lazy are slaughtered
the world grows industrious

The ugly are slaughtered
the world grows beautiful

The foolish are slaughtered
the world grows wise

The sick are slaughtered
the world grows healthy

The sad are slaughtered
the world grows merry

The old are slaughtered
the world grows young

The enemies are slaughtered
the world grows friendly

The wicked are slaughtered
the world grows good.

--Erich Fried 

tr. Michael Hamburger


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Alice Fulton

Your Card Read "Poet-Mechanic"

the day you came    carrying a two-cylinder
slice of winter sun on your back,
toolcase with a greasy lock in
your spoon-shaped fingers
said you could do anything
with your hands &
went right to work, using
nouns as furniture, assembling
verbs into go-carts & motorcycles
till they roared off, followed by
a gang of sycophant adverbs.
The few transitives that remained
you turned into trampolines &
the expletives jumped on them all day.
When I watched you build "vituperate"
into a Harley-Davidson, I knew
it was goodbye.
Now there're just the adjectives
all day primping     singing choruses of popsongs.
I want to shake them & say
"Have you no respect
for the magnificent
lexicon you represent?" But "magnificent"
is in the bathroom
humming be-bop-a-lula.

--Alice Fulton, 

fr. Dance Script with Electric Ballerina, 1983

Ron Padgett

 Fairy Tale
The little elf is dressed in a floppy cap
and he has a big rosy nose and flaring white eyebrows
with short legs and a jaunty step, though sometimes
he glides across an invisible pond with a bonfire glow on his cheeks:
it is northern Europe in the nineteenth century and people
are strolling around Copenhagen in the late afternoon,
mostly townspeople on their way somewhere,
perhaps to an early collation of smoked fish, rye bread, and cheese,
washed down with a dark beer: ha ha, I have eaten this excellent meal
and now I will smoke a little bit and sit back and stare down
at the golden gleam of my watch fob against the coarse dark wool of my vest,
and I will smile with a hideous contentment, because I am an evil man,
and tonight I will do something evil in this city!

--Ron Padgett

fr. You Never Know
[Coffee House Press, 2002]

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ronald Johnson

BEAM 6, The Musics

Let flick his tail, the darkling Lion, down to the primal
 huddle fiddling DNA.

Let the Elephant ruffle the elements in The Great Looped
 Nebula with his uplift trunk.

Let the Binary, orange, emerald, and blue, in the foot of
 Andromeda run awhisker with Mouse.

Let the Dickcissel, in Cock's-foot, Foxtail, & Tottering,
 ring one molecular ornamentation on tau Ceti.

Let the Switch Snake lilt bluegrass back and forth be-
 tween pelucid cells.

Let Porcupine rattle quill, in a Casseopia of Hollyhock.

Let the whinny of Pigeons' wings trigger similar strains
 from elm to Triangulum.

Let a score for matter's staccato to cornstalk be touted to
 stars clustering The Archer's wrist.

Let the stripes of Zebra be in time with the imaginary
 House of Mozart, on Jupiter.

--Ronald Johnson

fr. Ark: The Foundations: 1-33
[San Francisco: North Point Press, 1980]


Vladimir Holan


The snow began to fall at midnight. And it's true
that the best place to sit is in the kitchen,
even if it's the kitchen of insomnia.
It's warm there, you fix some food, drink wine
and look out the window into the familiar eternity.
Why should you worry whether birth and death are only
     two points,
when life is not a straight line after all.
Why should you torture yourself staring at the calendar
and wondering how much is at stake.
And why should you admit you have no money
to buy Saskia a pair of slippers?
And why should you boast that you suffer more than others.

Even if there were no silence on earth,
that snow would have dreamed it up.
You're alone. As few gestures as possible. Nothing for show.

--Vladimir Holan

 tr. C. G. Hanzlicek & Dana Hábová


Sunday, September 16, 2012

James McManus

My Father's Sunglasses

The best things in life are pink. My father
informed me of this twenty-six years ago. We were waiting
in front of the awningless First Bank of Lisle for my mother.
It was Saturday morning, late June or early July, and blindingly
sunny, even with my cap pulled down low. And it's hotter than hell,
said my father. He had on a T-shirt and sweatstained tortoiseshell
sunglasses. I was wearing my polyester Bronco League uniform
and clutching a brand-new green passbook in my first-baseman's mitt.
My savings account had one line, $60.00, money I'd got
from relatives for my eighth-grade graduation, plus
some I'd made as a caddie. I was rich, I thought
then, but I'd started to feel kind of nervous.
We were gonna be late for my game, and I had no idea
what my father was talking about.

--James McManus


James Tate

The Buddhists Have the Ball Field

The Buddhists have the ball field. Then the teams
arrive, nine on one, but only three on the other.
The teams confront the Buddhists. The Buddhists
present their permit. There is little point in
arguing it, for the Buddhists clearly have the
permit for the field. And the teams have nothing,
not even two complete teams. It occurs to one team
manager to interest the Buddhists in joining his 
team, but the Buddhists won't hear of it. The teams
walk away with their heads hung low. A gentle rain
begins. It would have been called anyway, they
think suddenly.

--James Tate


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gustaf Sobin

A Blue-Obliterative

balustrades, and--just beyond--a blue-
obliterative, taut to the haul of its
chopped currents. 'screen,'

called it, those
scriptless wastes, there
where the parched lips, irremediable, had
gone un-

lettered. whose token glows, you'd
ask? what word with-
stands the

sheer acidity of such
an assimilation? you, your knuckles coiled

bout some illusory guardrail, utter the
silence that, alone,


--Gustaf Sobin


Keith Gunderson

Emil and the Lemmings

and Emil managed the toolshed and kept things in shape and was Swedish
and told jokes on Norwegians and the joke he always told was the one
about the lemmings being chased out of Sweden into Norway and staying
there and that's how there came to be Norwegians yak yak yak slapping his
thighs but was a good workman he never made mistakes you would
mention and when it rained a lot the grass was fast so Emil set the mower
blades low so they'd keep up with it and when it was dry he set the blades
high so the grass wouldn't burn up but once when it was dry a man from the
office came all the way down to the toolshed to accuse Emil of a mistake
sections seven eight and fourteen were burning up there'd been complaints
he'd better be careful Emil said nothing kept on working the man left but
when Hansen came in Emil said why the hell he'd tried to fix his own blades
what he thought he was doing for godssake up on seven eight and fourteen
there'd been complaints he'd better be careful Hansen knew what Emil
meant and said nothing tinkered around with a nearby something and
looked down but Hansen was one of Emil's favorites so a little bit later Emil
asked him if he'd heard the one about the lemmings.

--Keith Gunderson


Thursday, September 13, 2012

James Sherry


Producify by exclusioness
give by subvert
replumb or dismake shiftment
submonition to Thursday

Dismorphology   Unheraldrate
rememberment   deassurify

Ok to refriend (stamp)
depertinent takeability
rephrasatory unfemalization

Disregard, recoriate pairitude
comparement of sculpturority;   defile (side) vs.
unremergement as selfification
safed to suspiciate, not reever, simplicon of nonfinement

uncontinued deferral of reselfizationicity
cat-meow yellowize
unregenerate redigressivity
unlistening, hand descention from wrist
prechandelierizement digiticity
deconnoiter hydromarinertudinousness
foppitude respite feminotropicity
desophisticate identizoid--African sculptines

--James Sherry


Miroslav Holub

Ode to Joy
You only love
when you love in vain.
Try another radio probe
when ten have failed,
take two hundred rabbits
when a hundred have died:
only this is science.
You ask the secret.
It has just one name:
In the end
a dog carries in his jaws
his image in the water,
people rivet the new moon,
I love you.

Like caryatids
our lifted arms
hold up time's granite load
and defeated
we shall always win.
--Miroslav Holub

trans. Ian Milner & George Theiner


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mario Rivero

The Moon and New York

We met every day
in the same place
we shared poems, cigarettes
and sometimes an adventure novel.
We threw small stones
from the bridge where the workers
from the glass factory took their lunch.
I told her that the earth was round
my aunt a witch and the moon a piece of copper.
That one day I would go to New York,
the city where outlandish things happen all the time
where vagabond cats
sleep under the automobiles
where there are a million beggars
a million lights
a million diamonds . . .
New York where it takes ants
centuries to climb the Empire State building
and where the blacks stroll around Harlem
wearing gaudy clothes
selling shoe polish in summer
I would go from restaurant to restaurant
until I found a small sign:
“Boy wanted to wash dishes.
No college degree required.”
Sometimes I would eat a sandwich
I would pick apples in California
I would think about her riding on the elevator
and I would buy her a dress like a neon light . . .
she about to kiss me
when the factory whistle blew.

--Mario Rivero

Tr. Nicolás Suescún (with Wendy Davies)


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Denise Levertov

Age of Terror

Between the fear
of the horror of Afterwards
and the despair
in the thought of no Afterwards,
we move abraded,
each gesture scraping us
on the millstones.

In dream 
there was an Afterwards
      the unknown device--
            a silver computer as big as a
            block of offices at least,
            like Magritte's castle on its rock, aloft
            in the blue sky--
      did explode,
                                 there was
            a long moment of cataclysm,
of a subdued rose-red suffused
all the air before
a rumbling confused darkness ensued,
I came to,
               face down,
                                and found
my young sister alive near me,
and knew my still younger brother
and our mother and father
                                       were close by too,
and, passionately relieved, I
comforted my shocked sister,
                                    still not daring
to raise my head,
only stroking and kissing her arm,
afraid to find devastation around us
though we, all five of us,
seemed to have survived--and I readied myself
to take rollcall: 'Paul Levertoff? Beatrice Levertoff?'

And then in dream--not knowing
if this device, this explosion, were radioactive or not,
but sure that where it had centered
there must be wreck, terror,
fire and dust--
the millstones
commenced their grinding again,
and as in daylight
again we were held between them, cramped,
scraped raw by questions:

perhaps, indeed, we were safe; perhaps
no worse was to follow?--but . . .
what of our gladness, when there,
   where the core of the strange
              roselight had flared up
              out of the detonation of brilliant
   angular silver,
there must be others, others in agony,
and as in waking daylight,
the broken dead?

--Denise Levertov

fr. Candles in Babylon
[New York: New Directions, 1982]

in Poems for the Millenium, Vol. Two
[Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1998]


Harry Mathews

The Sense of Responsibility
The society in my head
Said the viper in the washrag
Having no creator, requires my love:
"Eton pets who lag in their Latin
At a slow trot, who become of note
Reversing their school-step (as the apple ate Adam),"
And such--innocents whose Eden is need.
Divination without divinity
Affirmed the viper in the twirled spaghetti
Morse-tusks clatter in paleocrystic seas
My absurd blood is thin chrism
For my creatures by default, the default not mine:
I trace the dancing of their secular swarm.

--Harry Mathews


Monday, September 10, 2012

Tom Raworth

Hot Day at the Races

in the bramble bush shelley slowly eats a lark's heart
we've had quite a bit of rain since you were here last
raw silk goes on soft ground (result of looking in the form book)
two foggy dell seven to two three ran
crouched, the blood drips on his knees
and horses pass
shelley knows where the rails end
did i tell you about the blinkered runners?

shelley is waiting with a cross-bow for his rival, the jockey
all day he's watched the races from his bush
now, with eight and a half fulongs to go
raw silk at least four lengths back disputing third place
he takes aim

and horses pass

his rival, the jockey, soars in the air
and falls.      the lark's beak neatly pierces his eye

--Tom Raworth


Sunday, September 9, 2012

besmilr brigham

Heaved from the Earth

after the tornado, a dead moccasin
nailed to the pole
boards scattered across a pasture

lying fierce crosses
jagged in mud

had flung itself
nail and wood
the square-head animal
hurled also in air

or as it raced in weeds
)water flowing, water falling
both the snake and timber
went flying through the wind

coiled, made a coil (they do
immediately from danger or when hurt
and died in a coil
bit itself
in pain of its own defense the poison

                                       hurled into yard
                                       one with feet tangled gripping
                                       the open wire, a big Jay

struggling from the water
throwing its fanged head
high at the lightning, silent
in all that thunder

to die by its own mouth
pushing the fire thorns in

--besmilr brigham

fr. Heaved from the Earth
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971)


James Shea


Upon Kissing You after You Vomited.
Upon Walking You Home and You Pissing
in Your Pants. Upon Asking a Complete Stranger
about Our Situation. Upon Reading Issa's
Prescripts "Issa in a State of Illness"
"At Being Bewildered on Waking" and Realizing
the Haiku Poets Were Not So Laconic and How
Could They Be? Poem Before Dying. Poem
Shortly Before I Head to Dinner. Poem in Which
I Enter Drops of Dew Like a Man with Tiny Keys.
Hitomaro has a poem called On Seeing
the Body of a Man Lying among the Stones
on the Island of Samine in Sanuki Province.
Kanyu's short poem is called A Poem
Shown to My Niece Sonsho on Reaching
the Barrier of the Ran after Being Relegated
to an Inferior Position. Poem Louis Aragon
Would Be Proud Of. Poem I'll Never Show You.
Poem Written in a Bugs Bunny Cartoon as the
Plane's Controls Come Off in My Hands. Poem
that Jerks Around Like a Hamster in a Bag. Basho
wrote a haiku for his students that he claimed
was his death poem. The night before
he said that for the last 20 years every poem
he had written had been his death poem. Upon
No Longer Recalling My Thoughts When I Was a Boy
Within My Father's Stare. At Being Exhausted
at Having to Explain Why Using Slang
Is More Fun than Reading a Dictionary of Slang.
The poet Saikaku once wrote 23,500 verses
in 24 hours. Basho saw Mt. Nikko and said,
"I was filled with such awe that I hesitated
to write a poem." Upon Looking Past You
into the Mattress, into the Faces of Prior Lovers.
Upon Trying to Cultivate My Inner Life While
Also Killing My Ego. On Watching
a 200 pd. Endangered Orangutan
Rape My Wife While She Shouts at Me
Not to Shoot Him. On Seeing a Blood-Shot
Spanish Boy Who Was Not Even Crying He Was So Sad
And Not Even Crying He Was So Sad. Poem
in Which I Embody a Moment So Vividly, So
Succinctly, Yet Decorate It with Such Sills,
Such Elaborations. Upon Doodling Your Name
Which Became Your Face Emerging from Day-Old
Coals. Upon Reading that Basho Believed "A Haiku
Revealing 70 to 80% of Its Subject Is Good, Yet
Those Revealing 50 to 60% Will Never Bore Us."
On Finally Leaving My Attic and Hearing English
for the First Time in 20 Years and It Sounding
Like an Animal's Cry Before It Attacks. Poem
in Response to Flying all the Way to Rome
to Meet You and Being Dumped at the Airport.
Peom about the Next Two Weeks We Spent Together.
Poem as I Sit on this Curb with My Head
in My Hands. Poem After Learning the Japanese
Word for the Simultaneous Feeling of Love
and Hatred. Poem for the Mountain at the End
of My Street. Poem in Response to Some of My 
Recent Poems that Seem to Have Been Written
Inside of an Aquarium. On Spending a Week in Silence
at a Monastery and Not Being Allowed Pen or Paper.
On Meditating and Feeling Like I Was a Blue Flame.
On Getting Up and Scribbling Something in the Bathroom.
On Stopping at the Train Tracks and Having a Deer
Break His Head Through My Passenger Window,
Stare at Me, and Then Run Back into the Wood.

--James Shea

in Jubilat #4, 2002


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bertolt Brecht

General, That Tank

General, that tank of yours is some car.
It can wreck a forest, crush a hundred men.
But it has one failing:
It needs a driver.

General, you've got a good bomber there.
It can fly faster than the wind, carry more than an elephant can.
But it has one failing:
It needs a mechanic.

General, a man is a useful creature.
He can fly, and he can kill.
But he has one failing:
He can think.

[tr. Christopher Middleton]

--Bertolt Brecht


Gary Snyder

How to Make Stew in the Pinacate Desert
            Recipe for Locke & Drum

A. J. Bayless market bent wire roller basket buy up parsnips,
onion, carrot, rutabaga and potato, bell green pepper,
& nine cuts of dark beef shank.
They run there on their legs, that makes meat tasty.

     Seven at night in Tucson, get some bisquick for the dumplings.
Have some bacon. Go to Hadley's in the kitchen right beside the
frying steak--Diana on the phone--get a little plastic bag from
Fill it up with tarragon and chili; four bay leaves; black pepper
corns and basil; powdered oregano, something free, maybe about
two teaspoon worth of salt.

     Now down in Sonora, Pinacate country, build a fire of Ocotillo,
broken twigs and bits of ironwood, in an open ring of lava: rake
some coals aside (and if you're smart) to windward,
keep the other half ablaze for heat and light.
Set Drum's fourteen-inch dutch oven with three legs across the

     Now put in the strips of bacon.
In another pan have all the vegetables cleaned up and peeled and
Cut the beef shank meat up small and set the bone aside.
Throw in the beef shank meat,
And stir it while it fries hot,
lots of ash and sizzle--singe your brow--

     Like Locke says almost burn it--then add water from the jeep
add the little bag of herbs--cook it all five minutes more--and
then throw in the pan of all the rest.
Cover it up with big hot lid all heavy, sit and wait, or drink bud-
weiser beer.

     And also mix the dumpling mix aside, some water in some
finally drop that off the spoon into the stew.
And let it cook ten minutes more
and lift the black pot off the fire
to set aside another good ten minutes,
Dish it up and eat it with a spoon, sitting on a poncho in the dark.


--Gary Snyder

fr. The Back Country
[New York: New Directions, 1968]


Friday, September 7, 2012

Paul Blackburn


Houses three stories high
or block homes of apartments
         both with steep Norman roofs

The fish swims in the river
and shares it with other fish
                 The cabbages have a garden
                 to share with the lettuce and radishes,
                                             the tomatoes

The cow has a small pasture
and grazes it by herself

                                             An old man lies on a  
sack on
                                             a hillside in the sun
                                             after lunch .
                                             watches the train whip by

The dead lie in the cemetery near the tracks
share earth with the other dead
and do not look at anything

A barge on the river barges past, the wash flying
The fish swim in the river
                 They share it with the barge,
                         the fishermen .

--Paul Blackburn

fr. The Journals (ed. Robert Kelly)
[Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1977]


Lynn Emanuel

inside gertrude stein
Right now as I am talking to you and as you are being talked 
to, without letup, it is becoming clear that gertrude stein has 
hijacked me and that this feeling that you are having now as 
you read this, that this is what it feels like to be inside 
gertrude stein. This is what it feels like to be a huge type--
writer in a dress. Yes, I feel we have gotten inside gertrude 
stein, and of course it is dark inside the enormous gertrude, it 
is like being locked up in a refrigerator lit only by a smiling 
rind of cheese. Being inside gertrude is like being inside a 
monument made of a cloud which is always moving across 
the sky which is also always moving. Gertrude is a huge gal-
leon of cloud anchored to the ground by one small tether, yes, 
I see it down there, do you see that tiny snail glued to the 
tackboard of the landscape? That is alice. So, I am inside 
gertrude; we belong to each other, she and I, and it is so won-
derful because I have always been a thin woman inside of 
whom a big woman is screaming to get out, and she's out 
now and if a river could type this is how it would sound, pure 
and complicated and enormous. Now we are lilting across the 
countryside, and we are talking, and if the wind could type it 
would sound like this, ongoing and repetitious, abstracting 
and stylizing everything, like our famous haircut painted by 
Picasso. Because when you are inside our haircut you under-
stand that all the flotsam and jetsam of hairdo have been 
cleared away (like the forests from the New World) so that the 
skull can show through grinning and feasting on the alarm it
has created. I am now, alarmingly, inside gertrude's head and I
am thinking that I may only be a thought she has had when 
she imagined that she and alice were dead and gone and 
someone had to carry on the work of being gertrude stein, and 
so I am receiving, from beyond the grave, radioactive isotopes 
of her genius saying, take up my work, become gertrude stein.

Because someone must be gertrude stein, someone must save 
us from the literalists and realists, and narratives of the 
beginning and end, someone must be a river that can type. 
And why not I? Gertrude is insisting on the fact that while I 
am a subgenius, weighing one hundred five pounds, and living 
in a small town with an enormous furry male husband who is 
always in his Cadillac Eldorado driving off to sell something 
to people who do not deserve the bad luck of this mer-
chandise in their lives--that these facts would not be a prob-
lem for gertrude stein. Gertrude and I feel that, for instance, in 
Patriarchal Poetry when (like an avalanche that can type) she is 
burying the patriarchy, still there persists a sense of con-
descending affection. So, while I'm a thin, heterosexual sub-
genius, nevertheless gertrude has chosen me as her tool, just 
as she chose the patriarchy as a tool for ending the patriarchy. 
And because I have become her tool, now, in a sense, gertrude
is inside me. It's tough. Having gertrude inside me is like 
having swallowed an ocean liner that can type, and, while I 
feel like a very small coat closet with a bear in it, gertrude and 
I feel that I must tell you that gertrude does not care. She is 
using me to get her message across, to say, I am lost, I am
beset by literalists and narratives of the beginning and middle 
and end, help me. And so, yes, I say, yes, I am here, gertrude, 
because we feel, gertrude and I, that there is real urgency in 
our voice (like a sob that can type) and that things are very 
bad for her because she is lost, beset by the literalists and 
realists, her own enormousness crushing her and we must 
find her and take her into ourselves, even though I am the 
least likely of saviors and have been chosen perhaps as a last 
resort, yes, definitely, gertrude is saying to me, you are the 
least likely of saviors, you are my last choice and my last 

--Lynn Emanuel
fr. Then, Suddenly--
Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1999

Tony Towle


The muse at daybreak stuttering, informs my bed,
pines in the scented winter air for poems,
and mumbles about the government and whether I should vote:

"The government stinks. Withhold your vote of red and white
its hidden sea and blue of politic sky
which forms the world and so to surround our realm."

Government would speak as well, from the vales of Abstraction
who on the death of Pound will ramble on once more,
their inbred elegance making you feel like a schmuck.
Milton of course could order these people around, God, Satan,
Liberty, Progress and the rest. To me God might say
You employ a distinctive style and I know who you are,
but you are not illuminating for me,
you do not give me any ideas, about myself or what I have done.

Satan: Since you deal only with your own activity
and in immeasurable vanity,
I will eventually bring you something you dislike,
and in phrase of unshakable metaphor
as with that you think to spin out your life.

Satan concludes: You will have more poems than you hope
but more than you wish, your finger pressed on a difficult line,
your tongue through a word's transparency,
but my older tongue of iron comes inexorably to cover yours
and in your future is of greater eloquence.

The day half gone the muse and its servants fled,
a sandwich gone through you in enormity to Philadelphia,
cheese and milk flowing through you and into Boston,
air on the way to Minneapolis.

--Tony Towle