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


James Tate

Little Poem with Argyle Socks

Behind every great man
there sits a rat.
And behind every great rat,
there's a flea.
Beside the flea there is an encyclopedia.
Every now and then the flea sneezes, looks up,
and flies into action, reorganizing history.
The rat says, "God, I hate irony."
To which the great man replies,
"Now now now, darling, drink your tea."

--James Tate