Sunday, July 31, 2011


Where is the experience that meant so much,
That carried such weight? Where is it now
If not lodged in memory, in the air of memory,

In the place that is not a place, but where
The mortal beauty of the world is stored.
Oh yes, we are busy under the moon's gaze,

Its mouth giving back a silent O of surprise
Each time we try to explain how it was,
How fleeting, breakable, expensive it was.

We are always about to take off into a future
Unencumbered, as if we could leave ourselves behind,
But of course we never do. Who can face the future,

Especially now, as a nobody with no past
To fall back on, nothing to prove one is
Like everyone else, with baby pictures

And pictures of Mom and Dad in their old-fashioned
Swimsuits on a beach somewhere in the Maritimes.
We are at work on the past to make the future

More bearable. Ah, the potential past, how it swells,
How it crowds the days before us with feelings
And postures we had dismissed until now.

Mark Strand
from Dark Harbor

Saturday, July 30, 2011


What light is this that says the air is golden,
That even the green trees can be saved
For a moment and look bejeweled,

That my hand, as I lift it over the shade
Of my body, becomes a flame pointing the way
To a world from which no one returns, yet towards

Which everyone travels? The sheen of the possible
Is adjusting itself to a change of venue: the look
Of farewell, the sun dipping under the clouds,

Faltering at the serrated edge of the mountains,
Then going quickly. And the new place, the night,
Spacious, empty, a tomb of lights, turning away,

And going under, becoming what no one remembers.

Mark Strand
from Dark Harbor

Friday, July 29, 2011

At Melville's Tomb

Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
The dice of drowned men's bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.

And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
The calyx of death's bounty giving back
A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
The portent wound in corridors of shells.

Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
And silent answers crept across the stars.

Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
No farther tides . . . High in the azure steeps
Monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.

Hart Crane

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Plot Against the Giant

First Girl
When this yokel comes maundering,
Whetting his hacker,
I shall run before him,
Diffusing the civilest odors
Out of geraniums and unsmelled flowers.
It will check him.

Second Girl
I shall run before him,
Arching cloths besprinkled with colors
As small as fish-eggs.
The threads
Will abash him.

Third Girl
Oh, la...le pauvre!
I shall run before him,
With a curious puffing.
He will bend his ear then.
I shall whisper
Heavenly labials in a world of gutturals.
It will undo him.

Wallace Stevens

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Momentary Longing To Hear Sad Advice from One Long Dead

Who was my teacher at Harvard. Did not wear overcoat
Saying to me as we walked across the Yard
Cold brittle autumn is you should be wearing overcoat. I said
You are not wearing overcoat. He said,
You should do as I say not do as I do.
Just how American it was and how late Forties it was
Delmore, but not I, was probably aware. He quoted Finnegans Wake to me
In his New York apartment sitting on chair
Table directly in front of him. There did he write? I am wondering.
Look at this photograph said of his mother and father.
Coney Island. Do they look happy? He couldn't figure it out.
Believed Pogo to be at the limits of our culture.
Pogo. Walt Kelly must have read Joyce Delmore said.
Why don't you ask him?
Why don't you ask Walt Kelly if he read Finnegans Wake or not.
Your parents don't look happy but it is just a photograph.
Maybe they felt awkward posing for photographs.
Maybe it is just a bad photograph. Delmore is not listening
I want to hear him tell me something sad but however true.
Delmore in his tomb is sitting. People say yes everyone is dying
But here read this happy book on the subject. Not Delmore. Not that rueful man.

Kenneth Koch

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme—
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter’s vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything I write   
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All’s misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.
 Robert Lowell

Monday, July 25, 2011

What You Have to Get Over 

Stumps. Railroad tracks. Early sicknesses,
the blue one, especially.
Your first love rounding a corner,
that snowy minefield.

Whether you step lightly or heavily,
you have to get over to that tree line a hundred yards in the distance
before evening falls,
letting no one see you wend your way,

that wonderful, old-fashioned word, wend,
meaning “to proceed, to journey,
to travel from one place to another,”
as from bed to breakfast, breakfast to imbecile work.

You have to get over your resentments,
the sun in the morning and the moon at night,
all those shadows of yourself you left behind
on odd little tables.

Tote that barge! Lift that bale! You have to
cross that river, jump that hedge, surmount that slogan,
crawl over this ego or that eros,
then hoist yourself up onto that yonder mountain.

Another old-fashioned word, yonder, meaning
“that indicated place, somewhere generally seen
or just beyond sight.” If you would recover,
you have to get over the shattered autos in the backwoods lot

to that bridge in the darkness
where the sentinels stand
guarding the border with their half-slung rifles,
warned of the likes of you. 

Dick Allen

Dick Allen, "What You Have to Get Over" from Best American Poetry 2010. Copyright © 2010 by Dick Allen.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Soliloquy, Act 6 [excerpt]

Sorry. Cause we're the same people. We, cause, we're the same person. I'm the secretary. I'm the secretary. Of course I did. That's why I said it but I can't say everything that I know we're thinking cause we'll repeat everything. Oh, that would be a relief.

Kenneth Goldsmith

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Wallace Stevens

Friday, July 22, 2011

Read Your Fate

A world's disappearing.
Little street,
You were too narrow,
Too much in the shade already.

You had only one dog,
One lone child.
You hid your biggest mirror,
Your undressed lovers.

Someone carted them off
In an open truck.
They were still naked, travelling
On their sofa

Over a darkening plain,
Some unknown Kansas or Nebraska
With a storm brewing.
The woman opening a red umbrella

In the truck. The boy
And the dog running after them,
As if after a rooster
With its head chopped off.

Charles Simic

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Frank O'Hara

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Maximus, to himself

I have had to learn the simplest things
last. Which made for difficulties.
Even at sea I was slow, to get the hand out, or to cross   
a wet deck.
               The sea was not, finally, my trade.
But even my trade, at it, I stood estranged
from that which was most familiar. Was delayed,
and not content with the man’s argument
that such postponement   
is now the nature of
               that we are all late
               in a slow time,
               that we grow up many
               And the single   
               is not easily

It could be, though the sharpness (the achiote)   
I note in others,
makes more sense
than my own distances. The agilities

               they show daily
               who do the world’s   
               And who do nature’s   
               as I have no sense   
               I have done either

I have made dialogues,
have discussed ancient texts,
have thrown what light I could, offered   
what pleasures
doceat allows
               But the known?
This, I have had to be given,
a life, love, and from one man   
the world.
               But sitting here
               I look out as a wind   
               and water man, testing   
               And missing
               some proof

I know the quarters
of the weather, where it comes from,   
where it goes. But the stem of me,   
this I took from their welcome,
or their rejection, of me

               And my arrogance
               was neither diminished   
               nor increased,
               by the communication


It is undone business
I speak of, this morning,   
with the sea
stretching out
from my feet

Charles Olson

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Songs of Maximus: Song Six

you sing, you

who also


Charles Olson

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

William Butler Yeats

Sunday, July 17, 2011

from Letter Six, Part 2

So few need to,
to make the many
share (to have it,

but those few . . .

       What kills me is, how do these others think
       the eyes are
       sharp? by gift? bah     by love of self? try it    by god? ask
       the bean sandwich

There are no hierarchies, no infinite, no such many as mass, there are only
eyes in all heads,
to be looked out of

Charles Olson

Saturday, July 16, 2011

No Epitaph

No moss nor mottle stains
My parents’ unmarked grave;
My word on them remains
Stouter than stone, you told me.

“Martyred to words”, you have thought,
Should be your epitaph;
At other times you fought
My self-reproaches down.

Though bitterly once or twice
You have reproached me with how
Everything ended in words,
We both know better now:

You understand, I shall not
If I survive you care
To raise a headstone for
You I have carved on air.

Donald Davie

Friday, July 15, 2011


On the slope of the creek, I asked her
Where are you going hiding your flashlight with your coat ?
My house is all dark and lonesome, lend me that light!
She raised her dark eyes for a moment and looked at my face through the dusk
I have come to the creek, she said, to shine my flashlight on the animals in the water when it gets dark

It got darker, and I asked again if she would bring her light to my house
As there were no animals in the water. There was nothing living moving
She said, I'm going to shine it on the sky ; eventually it will reach a star
I watched her shine the light uselessly into the sky

In the moonless gloom of midnight I asked her why she still held the light close to her chest
My house is all dark and lonesome, I said. Lend me your light
I need it to walk home with, she said. I can't see in the dark like a cat
I watched her light get lost among the trees and into the lights of houses

from Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore
Adapted by Will Oldham and Mick Turner

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Songs of Maximus: Song 2

            And I am asked—ask myself (I, too, covered
with the gurry of it) where
shall we go from here, what can we do
when even the public conveyances
            how can we go anywhere,
even cross-town
                        how get out of anywhere (the bodies
all buried
in shallow graves?

Charles Olson

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


each day

the same

walk up

the hill

same turns

same shad

ow of the


each sta

tion of

the way

takes on

its own

set of


Robert Lax

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Late Echo

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.

Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.

John Ashbery

Monday, July 11, 2011

Death By Water

Another in honor the Bill Callahan show ("with the grace of a corpse/in a riptide")

(from The Waste Land)

IV. Death By Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
          A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
          Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

T.S. Eliot

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Blessing

In honor of tonight's Bill Callahan show, a poem with horses in it.

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

James Wright

Saturday, July 09, 2011


I am sure you would find it misty here,
With lots of stone cottages badly needing repair.
Groups of souls, wrapped in cloaks, sit in the fields

Or stroll the winding unpaved roads. They are polite,
And oblivious to their bodies, which the wind passes through,
Making a shushing sound. Not long ago,

I stopped to rest in a place where an especially
Thick mist swirled up from the river. Someone,
Who claimed to have known me years before,

Approached, saying there were many poets
Wandering around who wished to be alive again.
They were ready to say the words they had been unable to say-

Words whose absence had been the silence of love,
Of pain, and even pleasure. Then he joined a small group,
Gathered beside a fire. I believed I recognized

Some of their faces, but as I approached they tucked
Their heads under their wings. I looked away to the hills
Above the river, where the golden lights of sunset

And sunrise are one and the same, and saw something flying
Back and forth, fluttering its wings. Then it stopped in mid-air.
It was an angel, one of the good ones, about to sing.

Mark Strand

Friday, July 08, 2011


A Man may make a Remark -
In itself - a quiet thing
That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
In dormant nature - lain -

Let us divide - with skill -
Let us discourse - with care -
Powder exists in Charcoal -
Before it exists in Fire -

Emily Dickinson

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Last weekend I went to New Hampshire. While there, I:

  • made two pies

  • did some gardening

  • was awakened by the keening, continuing sound of an animal, and kept awake by its creepiness

  • read 85% of The Age of Innocence

  • picked and arranged wildflowers

  • made a yummy fresh slaw with honey and sherry vinegar

  • picked sour cherries and cooked them into sour cherry compote

Sour Cherry Compote

this is easy-peasy!

pick a bowlful of sour cherries (around 4 cups or so)
wash them
pit them
put them in a saucepan
cover with water, just enough to cover the cherries
add ~1/2 cup of granulated sugar
add a few strips of lemon zest

cook until it's reduced to a mush and the water's all been absorbed.
remove lemon zest and any stray cherry pits.
let cool.
serve over vanilla ice cream or plain Greek yogurt.
approx. four cups of cherries will yield around a cup or so of finished compote.

I also saw a bear in the woods. A real live bear.

And I got stung by a wasp.


Kindness glides about my house.
Dame Kindness, she is so nice!
The blue and red jewels of her rings smoke
In the windows, the mirrors
Are filling with smiles.

What is so real as the cry of a child?
A rabbit's cry may be wilder
But it has no soul.
Sugar can cure everything, so Kindness says.
Sugar is a necessary fluid,

Its crystals a little poultice.
O kindness, kindness
Sweetly picking up pieces!
My Japanese silks, desperate butterflies,
May be pinned any minute, anesthetized.

And here you come, with a cup of tea
Wreathed in steam.
The blood jet is poetry,
There is no stopping it.
You hand me two children, two roses.

Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Ways of Talking

We used to like talking about grief
Our journals and letters were packed
with losses, complaints, and sorrows.
Even if there was no grief
we wouldn’t stop lamenting
as though longing for the charm
of a distressed face.

Then we couldn’t help expressing grief
So many things descended without warning:
labor wasted, loves lost, houses gone,
marriages broken, friends estranged,
ambitions worn away by immediate needs.
Words lined up in our throats
for a good whining.
Grief seemed like an endless river—
the only immortal flow of life.

After losing a land and then giving up a tongue,
we stopped talking of grief
Smiles began to brighten our faces.
We laugh a lot, at our own mess.
Things become beautiful,
even hailstones in the strawberry fields.

Ha Jin

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


When the honey, fruit and flowery tablecloth were whisked from the table in one sweep, it flew off with a start. Entangled in the suffocating smoke of the curtains, it buzzed for a long time. At last it reached the window. It beat its weakening body repeatedly against the cold, solid air of the pane. In the last flutter of its wings drowsed the faith that the body’s unrest can awaken a wind carrying us to longed-for worlds.

     You who stood under the window of your beloved, who saw your happiness in a shop window—do you know how to take away the sting of this death?

Zbigniew Herbert
Translated by John Carpenter and Bogdana Carpenter

Monday, July 04, 2011

In Hardwood Groves

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is way in ours.

Robert Frost

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Now Close the Windows

Now close the windows and hush all the fields:
If the trees must, let them silently toss;
No bird is singing now, and if there is,
Be it my loss.

It will be long ere the marshes resume,
I will be long ere the earliest bird:
So close the windows and not hear the wind,
But see all wind-stirred.

Robert Frost

Saturday, July 02, 2011


When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-coloured
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground,
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm,
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree~
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Robert Frost

Friday, July 01, 2011


Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they've always talked about

still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They're strong as rocks.

Frank O'Hara