Sunday, December 30, 2012

John Ashbery

The Recent Past

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bernadette Mayer

Incandescent War Poem Sonnet

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ingeborg Bachmann

Every Day

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

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

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

tr. Christopher Middleton

Monday, December 24, 2012

David Ignatow

The Bagel

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gerardo Deniz


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

fr. Ton y son

tr. Mónica de la Torre

Friday, December 14, 2012

Marcel Duchamp


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

remplacer chaque *  par le mot: "the"

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Raymond Queneau

If you imagine

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

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

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

tr. Michael Benedikt

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lorenzo Thomas

Back in the Day

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Philip Whalen

Garden Cottage #1

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

September-October 1977

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Horst Bienek


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

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

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Olga Cabral

Race to Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cid Corman

The Offerings

Too many things on the altar.

A petal would do.

Or the ant that stops for a moment
at it.

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gustaf Sobin

Tracing a Thirst

                 for E.F.

called it: tracing a
thirst, the poem
as it

sluices a
passage; with each,

utterance, edges
towards its

fuscated source. no,
not the

world, the
world's, but,

haps, its
postulate. what the

would lap, and the

muscle: breath, like

empty bubbles, brought

that pleated lip.