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