Saturday, April 30, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 30: Teacher Appreciation Day pt. 3: Irving Feldman


"For now." "For the time being." "While this lasts."
Invoking time's passages (decaying, crumbling
under the lightest, the instant footfall),
they say and they repeat such halfhearted phrases
against the Absolute, which rises newborn
in vows, in devotion, and already has
overwhelmed them and refreshes everything
- even their unbelieving protestations -
with the new life's firstness without end:
for now, forever, for the time being
forever, while this lasts forever.


Though the heavens shall undergo revision
and new constellations wheel into space
their fresh, unfabulated imagery,
they will not hide the blacked-out sky they brighten.

both poems from Beautiful False Things (Grove Press, 2000)

National Poetry Month - Day 30 - Teacher Appreciation Day pt. 1: Charles Bernstein


This line is stripped of emotion.
This line is no more than an
illustration of a European
theory. This line is bereft
of a subject. This line
has no reference apart
from its context in
this line. This line
is only about itself.
This line has no meaning:
its words are imaginary, its
sounds inaudible. This line
cares not for itself or for
anyone else - it is indifferent,
impersonal, cold, uninviting.
This line is elitist, requiring,
to understand it, years of study
in stultifying libraries, poring
over esoteric treatises on
impossible to pronounce topics.
This line refuses reality.


This is a totally
accessible poem.
There is nothing
in this poem
that is in any
way difficult
to understand.
All the words
are simple &
to the point.
There are no new
concepts, no
theories, no
ideas to confuse
you. This poem
has no intellectual
pretensions. It is
purely emotional.
It fully expresses
the feelings of the
author: my feelings,
the person speaking
to you now.
It is all about
Heart to heart.
This poem appreciates
& values you as
a reader. It
celebrates the
triumph of the
human imagination
amidst pitfalls &
calamities. This poem
has 90 lines,
269 words, and
more syllables than
I have time to
count. Each line,
word, & syllable
has been chosen
to convey only the
intended meaning
& nothing more.
This poem abjures
obscurity & enigma.
There is nothing
hidden. A hundred
readers would each
read the poem
in an identical
manner & derive
the same message
from it. This
poem, like all
good poems, tells
a story in a direct
style that never
leaves the reader
guessing. While
at times expressing
bitterness, anger,
resentment, xenophobia,
& hints of racism, its
ultimate mood is
affirmative. It finds
joy even in
those spiteful moments
of life that
it shares with
you. This poem
represents the hope
for a poetry
that doesn't turn
its back on
the audience, that
doesn't think it's
better than the reader,
that is committed
to poetry as a
popular form, like kite
flying and fly
fishing. This poem
belongs to no
school, has no
dogma. It follows
no fashion. It
says just what
it says. It's


I saw your picture
in the 79th street
station. You said
you'd be interested
in any comments I
might have on the
condition of the
station. Mr. Fanelli,
there is a lot of
debris in the 79th street
station that makes it
unpleasant to wait in
for more than a few
minutes. The station
could use a paint
job and maybe
new speakers so you
could understand
the delay announcements
that are always being
broadcast. Mr.
Fanelli - there are
a lot of people sleeping
in the 79th street station
& it makes me sad
to think they have no
home to go to. Mr.
Fanelli, do you think
you could find a more
comfortable place for them
to rest? It's pretty noisy
in the subway, especially with
all those express trains
hurtling through every
few minutes, anyway when the
trains are in service.
I have to admit, Mr. Fanelli, I
think the 79th street station's
in pretty bad shape
& sometimes at night
as I toss in my bed
I think the world's
not doing too good
either, & I
wonder what's going
to happen, where we're
headed, if we're
headed anywhere, if
we even have heads. Mr.
Fanelli, do you think if
we could just start
with the 79th street
station & do what
we could with that
then maybe we could,
you know, I guess, move
on from there? Mr.
Fanelli, when I saw your
picture & the sign
asking for suggestions
I thought, if
you really wanted to
get to the bottom
of what's wrong then
maybe it was my job
to write you: Maybe
you've never been inside
the 79th street station
because you're so busy
managing the 72nd street
& 66th street stations,
maybe you don't know
the problems we have
at 79th - I mean the
dirt & frequent
delays & the feeling of
total misery that
pervades the place. Mr.
Fanelli, are you reading
this far in the letter
or do you get so
many letters every day
that you don't have
time to give each
one the close attention
it desires? Or am I
the only person who's
taken up your invitation
to get in touch &
you just don't have enough
experience to know how to
respond? I'm sorry
I can't get your attention
Mr. Fanelli because I really
believe if you ask
for comments then you
ought to be willing
to act on them - even
if ought is too
big a word to throw
around at this point.
Mr. Fanelli
I hope you won't
think I'm rude
if I ask you a
personal question. Do
you get out of the
office much?
Do you go to the movies
or do you prefer
sports - or maybe
quiet evenings at a
local restaurant? Do
you read much, Mr. Fanelli?
I don't mean just
Gibbon and like
that, but philosophy -
have you read much
Hannah Arendt or
do you prefer
a more ideological
I think if I understood
where you're coming from,
Mr. Fanelli, I could
write to you more cogently,
more persuasively. Mr.
Fanelli, do you get out
of the city at all - I
mean like up to Bear
Mountain or out to
Montauk? I mean do you
notice how unpleasant
the air is in the 79th
street station - that we
could use some cooling
or air-filtering system
down there? Mr.
Fanelli, do you think
it's possible we
could get together
and talk about
these things in
person? There are
a few other points
I'd like to go over
with you if I could
get the chance. Things
I'd like to talk to
you about but that
I'd be reluctant to
put down on paper.
Mr. Fanelli, I haven't
been feeling very good
lately and I thought
meeting with you face
to face might change
my mood, might put
me into a new frame
of mind. Maybe we
could have lunch?
Or maybe after work?
Think about it, Mr.

"This Line" and "Dear Mr. Fanelli" were originally published in My Way: Speeches and Poems (University of Chicago Press, 1999). "Thank You for Saying Thank You" was originally published in Let's Just Say (Chax Press, 2003). All three of these poems were re-published in Bernstein's collection All the Whiskey in Heaven (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).

National Poetry Month - Day 30: Teacher Appreciation Day pt. 4: Susan Howe

from Speeches at the Barriers, the second part of the section of the book The Europe of Trusts (New Directions, 2002) titled Defenestration of Prague. Defenestration of Prague was originally published on its own by The Kulchur Foundation in 1983; The Europe of Trusts was originally published in 1990 by Sun & Moon Press.

from Speeches at the Barriers


Say that a ballad
wrapped in a ballad

a play of force and play

of forces
falling out sentences

(hollow where I can shelter)
falling out over

and gone
Dark ballad and dark crossing

old woman prowling
Genial telling her story

ideal city of immaculate beauty
invincible children

threshing felicity
For we are language     Lost

in language
Wind sweeps over the wheat

mist-mask on woods
belling hounds drowse

Iseult of Ireland
Iseult of the snow-white hand

Iseult seaward gazing
(pale secret fair)

allegorical Tristram
his knights are at war

Sleet whips the page

flying leaves and fugitive

Earth of ancient ballad
earth as thought of the sea

water's edge to say goodbye


Right or ruth

to the winds shall be thrown

words being wired or web

What (pine-cone wheat-ear
sea-shell) what

volumes of secrets to teach

Banks of wild bees in story
sing in no wood so on

Cornstalk and cornsheaf

prodigal benevolence
wealth washed up by the sea

What I find
signal seen by my eye

This winter falls froward

sound and suggestion speared

Free will in blind duel
sees in secret houses in sand

each day's last purpose
each day's firm progress

schoolgirls sleeping
schoolboys sleeping and stemmed

I will dream you
Draw you

dawn and horses of the sun
dawn galloped in greek before flame

fugitive dialogue of masterwork


sabbath and sweet spices
seaward so far and far

The woods seem to thicken

Merry men in Arden
(foresters feared foresters)

forage cold earth bescratcht

noise and noise pursuing power

Temper and order
The leashed stars kindle thin

Clear space of blackness

between us
(grey leaves grey gusts)

Dust people hover
Iceberg setting of universal

(The enemy is always riding by)

figural shadowing of invisible

tatterdemailion revel

houses containing vision
houses of recognition 

trim father nodding to trim mother

remembered name in Quiet
remembered precepts


Twenty lines of

boughs breaking into hindering

the thin thaw wanders off

October drawing to its long

late edge
Understanding of time endlessly

(trees hung with false dreams)

endlessly running on 

Distant forget
Tiny words of substance cross

the darkness

Who are they
(others between the trees)

falling into lines of human

Tread softly my misgiving heart

To chart all

Throw my body at the mark

Parents among savages
Their house was garlanded with dead

(fierceness of the young)

Then to move forward into unknown

Crumbling compulsion of syllables

Glass face
caressing the athwart night

National Poetry Month - Day 30: Teacher Appreciation Day pt. 2: Carl Dennis


The land of Israel my mother loves
Gets by without the luxury of existence
And still wins followers
Though it can't be found on the map
West of Jordan or south of Lebanon,
Though what can be found bears the same name,
Making for confusion.

Not the land I fought her about for years,
But the one unvarnished by the smoke of history,
Where no one informs the people of Hebron or Jericho
They're squatting on property that isn't theirs,
Where every settler can remember wandering.

The dinners I spoiled with shouting
Could have been saved,
Both of us lingering quietly in our chairs,
If I'd guessed the truth that now is obvious,
That she wasn't lavishing all her love
On the country that doesn't deserve so rich a gift
But on the one that does, the one not there,
That she hoped supplies could reach its borders
And hopes they're crossing even now

Into the land of the righteous and merciful
That the Prophets spoke of in their hopeful moods,
That was loved by the red-eyed rabbis of Galicia
Who studied every word of the book and prayed
To get one thread of the meaning right;
The Promised Land where the great and small
Hurry to school and the wise are waiting.
from The Outskirts of Troy (Quill/Morrow, 1988)


Though her feelings for the man across town
Who writes her weekly are a tiny fraction
Of his feelings for her, and will always be,
She doesn't return his letters unopened.
It may do him good to believe she scans them
All year long, even, as now, at tax time,
A bookkeeper's busiest season, her weeknights
Commandeered by the office and many weekends.

Half an hour with his thoughts on Sunday
Hasn't hurt her so far, or stowing them in a shoe box.
And if April's hard for her, it's harder for him
In his landscape business. His customers want new lawns.
Lights are flashing on his phone when he gets home,
His back aching, his clothes crusted. But the calls
Must wait till he's done with a paragraph
For her eyes only on his luck with organic mixes.

Now his news may bore her, granted, but on gray days
When those who matter most don't seem to value
Her high regard as she'd like them to,
It does her good to think of her photograph
Commandeering the messy desk of a practical man
With taste and talent who feels compelled
To practice the lonely art of non-reciprocity,
An art that civilization requires for the virtues
Of graciousness and gratitude to reach full flower.

Yes, her busy schedule keeps her from visiting
The shelf in her heart set aside for him
As much as she'd like, but for all he knows
She may be thinking of him this very minute.
That's reason enough for the sudden rush of joy
She imagines descending on him out of nowhere
As he makes a note to himself about grub control
Or a lawn to be roto-tilled tomorrow and seeded.

Most days shes may see herself as dodging her way
Through a maze of traffic, a thin woman in a red raincoat
Rushing so as not to be late for her appointment.
Now and then he helps her think of herself
As one of those old churches that welcomed the work
Of every sculptor who made an effort, who took pains.

Some statues were given a niche in the entry arch
Obvious to all visitors, and some a perch high up
Visible to any monk in the choir
Willing to crane his neck or to any angel
Pausing among the the rafters to rest
Before darting away on another mission.

from Ranking the Wishes (Penguin, 1997)

National Poetry Month - Last Call

After today, poetry will no longer have to do its yearly "aw shucks" blushing, while it secretly wishes people would look beyond the trivializing nature of National Poetry Month. Until next April, when it becomes "important" again. I side with Charles Bernstein's take on NPM, and yet, it did seem like the perfect span of time to get in the habit of typing in a poem per day, which is to say, for me, anyway, do a close reading. (More on that later - I plan to continue this series not by posting more poems, but by reflecting on those that I've posted for the past 30 days.)

To do something special for the last day, I decided to pay homage to four of my professors at SUNY Buffalo circa 1990-92 when I was an undergrad: Charles Bernstein, Carl Dennis, Irving Feldman, and Susan Howe. I took creative writing classes from the latter two (I also took several other classes from Howe; she was too good to pass up - as a pedagogue, she was on fire), a modern poetry survey with Bernstein, and an "epic poetry" survey with Dennis. I felt lucky to be in their company. And through Bernstein and his "Wednesdays @ 4" series, in the company of so many great poets on a weekly basis.

So, the last entry in the NPM series will be four entries, each containing several poems by one of the four poets mentioned above. Thank you Charles, Carl, Irving, and Susan; I owe you half a lifetime's worth of wonder and inspiration.

Friday, April 29, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 29: Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge



Walking in an arroyo, I mistake a rock in the distance for a person, which on approach emptied of him, denser than a mirage.

I fear an object can be negated by thinking, as it remains in sight.

Though I say, "It's basalt shaped like a man," his menace is seamless.

Walking, trying to assimilate speaking into breathing, as into shadow, cool cut in light suddenly all over the place, like honey.

The hiker is tall with spiky, white hair cropped after polling readers of her Web page on style options.

Now, I frame feeling in a story for them, intransigent, no natural breaks, for example, "blinded by tears," "can't express my helplessness."

I use the Web, and words leave no trace, like a bird in the sky.

The bird, time, is an internal sense, auto-affection, but their sentiment creates auto-affection more pure.

Monkeygirl links a photo of us looking in my bathroom mirror to a site about mirrors of Web personalities, "Something's going on here!"

I wrote, "There are things going on more personal than I usually log in."

"Why don't I put them somewhere private, a Word.doc or paper diary?"

Means are involved.

The chorus is the people who are moved.


Don't assume emotions are engaged in this.

You're distracted by the day, rudeness, a package not sent, and your emotion is passed onto a screen.

Readers take care of it.

That night, we stoked gossip with identical entries about losing a dog during fireworks, then finding him under a bench at a restaurant known for sixties decor.

One by one, Web visitors copied this onto their own sites, as though they'd lost a dog, too.

Others suspected code "just for cool kids."

I've no distance from the hearsay.

It's a broader situation in which protagonist belongs to narrative, the way an outcome may be full or empty.

One finds a sweet spot, reversal.

The illusion of a person in a wash doesn't create emptiness when I recognize a rock, at the same time feeling its presence, a cut, and my response extend, like a stain.

Then, there's the animate problem of a rock moving from one side of the trail to the other, at night.

Will it subject itself to strange, internal obligation it feels, beyond its level?


I had health problems and went to bed.

The doctor allowed my dog, a small poodle, to sleep with me.

Guido and his friend put camp beds in the hall.

My room felt drab, so I taped pictures of nieces and nephews on my bathroom mirror and became addicted to bidding on-line for antiques.

I found an Aubusson rug the right size, just trees, but Guido said it was a fragment, nothing to focus on.

Veined hands with blue nails apportioned eggs on Georgian silver he set formally.

Objects were symbols, not belonging to experience, the way a speaker is supposed to, re: distinctions between concrete and figurative, the vase empty or full, like conversation.

When my strength improved, I wanted my own space.

I embarrassed him by talking and gesturing with no one there.

I spoke to someone with whom I needed to correct things I'd said and done.

Collecting's not hearsay; you're not part of the narrative, the way friends became attached to my dog, carrying it, begging kisses.

How did that person get inside, to whom I exclaim, bargain, whom I initially isolate in my experience of a neighbor I meet, being a "stranger"?


Is the person not existing, when I mistake a calm, his emptiness of entity, mirage, moon in water?

Analyze, using any neighbor.

When communication's difficult, think of honey, hard with no natural breaks, or all over the place.

You wish to communicate, the way light scatters inside you, an expanding zone revealed in the distance by constellations of objects of the wish.

I recognize your shadow ahead as sound in the mind of the listener, like knowledge revealed by a visitor in my dream.

Considering splits between sight and fear on the trail, front and back of surfaces, between missing you (bathos, synthesis) and one with whom I grapple, who seems to pull strings and elicit feelings not mine:

Dream total epidermal contact with the puppeteer, open as virtual.

Communication (transmission) dissipates, like an expanse of sky confirmed by emptiness.

It passes through the beam of her emotion refracted all over, evoking alienations of beauty on sociality.

Each time she begins is thought, a move.

Momentum with no beginning takes the form of communication in groups, except during his drive cross-country to live with her.

"Oh yeah, it's bad," she writes back. "I'm used to being able to check in, Webcam, Flighttracker, e-mail."

"Now there's nothing, except the phone at night; well, it seems like nothing."

from Nest (Kelsey St. Press, 2003)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 28: Michael Earl Craig


Little black ants are invading our bathroom.
They're coming in through a hole in our tile.
Tonight I look at one walking all over my floss case.
I have trouble crushing the ants.
But if I inadvertently flick one into the sink
and stare up at a spot on the wall
I seem to have no trouble flipping the faucet on,
full blast, and hosing him down the drain.
Grandma says I should write "it" -- should hose "it"
down the drain. "Him," Grandma says,
"is too..." and she pauses...
I'm on the phone with my grandma.
She has no idea what the fuck she is saying.

They say one of the hardest things
for the young monks to master is

I close my eyes and see a very large man
with a bright orange vest and hard hat.

When a young monk is battling distraction
they send him down the mountain
to take tennis lessons from the heathens.

The large man is yelling sown
into an open manhole in
the middle of 42nd St.
Something about Gustav Mahler.

It's convincing, the young monk in the rain
with his wire basket of new balls.

"Mahler had visions, Douglas!
Hallucinations, Douglas!"

The new balls smell like Magic Markers.

Grandma is still making her point.
This is what I like about her.
Her voice comes somberly through the little grate
in my cell phone.

from Thin Kimono (Wave Books, 2010)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 27: Jefferson Hansen

Red Shift

"a shift in the spectrum of a celestial object toward longer wavelengths caused by the object's movement away from the viewer."

your distance was at first violet
and it made you
alluring, always teetering
between tangible or tantalizing

then you sped
to indigo or blue
looking back only

you turned from me and I ran
but you moved much more quickly
you became green then yellow
and orange

I was afraid for you

you flared red for
a singular moment
and disappeared

I ran after
expecting the colors
around me
to change
but they remained

from Lyrical Eddies: poems after the music of marilyn crispell (Anomaly Press, 2005)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 26: Julie Carr

Today, five poems from Julie Carr's book 100 Notes on Violence (Ahsahta Press, 2010).



melted ice.
that which can be.
that which cannot.
a strategy.
the end of the day.
the heat at my neck.
sugar high.
the inside of his mouth.
the mother skirt.
hot sidewalk by the DMV.
the buzz in my head.
the fear running up the side of it.
other kinds of balms.
whatever the children want.


Of men: Walked through the dark: jogger behind me: "overcoat of clay" (Dickinson)
Of gravity: And if I were to release my hold.
Of mirrors: The enigma of looking into one's own eyes as if the eyes of another: the "sudden appearance of the unavailable." (Nancy)
Of insanity: "The rhythmic range of words fills me with horror" (Roubaud)


Of home: Majesty and Amber
Of the sun: I cannot break into it, its daily resurrection, daily assault.


Knowledge: I'm on a mission. I cannot stop.
Of work: The white plastic cup top, the cup in its sleeve, my hand on the cup-sleeve, the weight of the full cup.
Of marriage: How are you feeling? What are you thinking? What are you reading? What are you writing?  Where are you going?
Sex: The inside of a tree is wet. This music is guided by God.
Of the sun: Where run to?
Of being alone: The inside of my lip is raw. Tastes raw.
Of fatigue: A bird taking flight over and over and over and over. A bird taking flight over and over.
Of speaking: Run to the rock.


Of music:

Of memories: Sidewalks and trees. Faces and rooms. My mother's voice: "Jula," her name for me, now in permanent disuse.
Of death: Cars at dawn cannot be counted.

Monday, April 25, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 25: Peter Blegvad

2 from Peter Blegvad


          The Objects:

  1. Cylinder of dust
  2. Salt cross with a crust of iodine
  3. Plank of pine
  4. Loaf of rust
  5. Hollow cone of tobacco which contains a tin coin
  6. Pillar of yeast in linoleum jacket
  7. Circular puddle of yogurt and neon
  8. Arrow of ice wrapped in surgical gauze
  9. Coin stacks, several columns - voltaic piles of gold-plated bamboo
  10. Water in a Bakelite box, and a box full of oil
  11. A yolk of leather in a tobacco egg
  12. Citronella spilled in a spiral upon a blanket of fat
  13. Mixture of paragoric and dew in a creosote cone
  14. A disc of wicker beside a pill full of zinc
  15. Figure made of two copper pyramids glued base to base with sap
          Their Titles:
  1. "Silo"
  2. "Referee"
  3. "Threshold" (meant to be flat on the floor, part of a door none can see)
  4. "Altar from a Metal Cathedral"
  5. "Dunce's Trumpet" (for V.)
  6. "Dry Cell"
  7. "Lunatic Mirror"
  8. "Signal from a Memory"
  9. "Ladder of Kings"
  10. "Ransom to Secure the Release of a Mother and Child"
  11. "October Seventh"
  12. "My Uncle's Monocle"
  13. "Fuel for a Tiny Machine"
  14. "Two Equivalent Forms"
  15. Quote from Swedenborg to the effect that angels fucking shed light


Very early I clearly realized the pleasures of seeing and song. I learned to sing at an early year. In the cot I recall my singing about a certain thing I saw. I recall a song in the key of C concerning a thing seen just so.

I sang: "A-P-R-I-C-O-T abbreviates Attain Perfect Realization In the COT."1
I sang: "Cot contains certain shining irreducible contributions. So does the charnel. So does the Ferris-wheel gondola."
Singing words devised for seeing "through not with eyes"2
"I am not I when I see"3
"I is another4
Words devised to peep into the gone or the coming were shunned by me. I referred to a single moment. Early in a clearing I recall my singing songs of my seeing things just so.
I sang: "A net, a gem at every node, in each all others shining show - Whole kit and kaboodle lit by an apricot's golden glow."

1 - Unidentified cabaliste, Speaker's Corner, London 1972
2 - William Blake
3 - Gertrude Stein
4 - Arthur Rimbaud

These can be found, set to music, on the album credited to Peter Blegvad, John Greaves, and Lisa Herman: Kew. Rhone. It was initially released in 1977 and twenty years later re-released as a multimedia work on CD-ROM.

National Poetry Month - Day 24: Elizabeth Willis

I'm including both of the following poems by Elizabeth Willis because (1) I missed yesterday's deadline and (2) I think they need to be read together.


A witch can charm milk from an ax handle.

A witch bewitches a man's shoe.

A witch sleeps naked.

"Witch ointment" on the back will allow you to fly through the air.

A witch carries the four of clubs in her sleeve.

A witch may be sickened at the scent of roasting meat

A witch will never sink nor swim.

When crushed, a witch's bones will make a fine glue.

A witch will pretend not to be looking at her own image in a window.

A witch will gaze wistfully at the glitter of a clear night.

A witch may take the form of a cat in order to sneak into a good man's chamber.

A witch's breasts will be pointed rather than round, as discovered in the trials of the 1950s.

A powerful witch may cause a storm at sea.

With a glance, she will make rancid the fresh butter of her righteous neighbor.

Even our fastest dogs cannot catch a witch-hare.

A witch has been known to cry out while her husband places inside her the image of a child.

A witch may be burned for tying knots in a marriage bed.

A witch may produce no child for years at a time.

A witch may speak a foreign language to no one in particular.

She may appear to frown when she believes she is smiling.

If her husband dies unexpectedly, she may refuse to marry his brother.

A witch has been known to weep at the sight of her own child.

She may appear to be acting in a silent film whose placards are missing.

In Hollywood, the sky is made of tin.

A witch makes her world of air, then fire, then the planets. Of cardboard, then ink, then a compass.

A witch desires to walk rather than be carried or pushed in a cart.

When walking a witch will turn suddenly and pretend to look at something very small.

The happiness of an entire house may be ruined by witch hair touching a metal cross.

The devil does not speak to a witch, He only moves his tongue.

An executioner may find the body of a witch insensitive to an iron spike.

An unrepentant witch may be converted with a little lead in the eye.

Enchanting witchpowder may be hidden in a girl's hair.

When a witch is hungry, she can make a soup by stirring water with her hand.

I have heard of a poor woman changing herself into a pigeon.

At times a witch will seem to struggle against an unknown force stronger than herself.

She will know things she has not seen with her eyes. She will have opinions about distant cities.

A witch may cry out sharply at a the sight of a known criminal dying of thirst.

She finds it difficult to overcome the sadness of the last war.

A nightmare is witchwork.

The witch elm is sometimes referred to as "all heart." As in, "she was thrown into a common chest of witch elm."

When a witch desires something that is not hers, she will slip it into her glove.

An overwhelming power compels her to take something from a rich man's shelf.

I have personally known a nervous young woman who often walked in her sleep.

Isn't there something witchlike about a sleepwalker who wanders through the house with matches?

The skin of a real witch makes a delicate binding for a book of common prayer.

When all the witches in your town have been set on fire, their smoke will fill your mouth. It will teach you new words. It will tell you what you've done.


Sarah Wilds, Deliverance Hobbs, and Dorcas Hoar were witches.

Martha Corey, Dorothy Good, and Rebecca Nurse were convicted of consorting with devils.

Sarah Osborne did not go to church regularly; Sarah Good was seen begging for food.

Tituba was a slave.

Giles Correy was pressed to death in the summer of 1962.

Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, and Mary Parker were hanged on September 22nd.

A family in reduced circumstances may resort to witchcraft in order to procure food.

A family of witches will put off a bad smell like that of wild animals.

Bridget Bishop, Martha Carrier, George Jacobs, John Proctor, and John Willard were hardcore Salem gothic witches.

Kate, Leah, and Maggie Fox were professional upstate rapping witches.

Mary Baker Eddy was a witch.

Witchcraft can be contracted like a pox and appear in lesions on the skin.

The ability to understand the language of one's enemy is evidence of witchcraft.

George and Mary Oppen fled to Mexico to avoid being tries as witches.

Louis Zukofsky hid his witchcraft in the music of a long poem.

Charles Reznikoff and Lorine Niedecker lived largely incognito.

An accused witch is taken into a courtroom backward so as not to bewitch her accusers.

Eugene Debs was a witch.

Ronald Reagan was a cardinal in the army of the witchhunters.

Samuel Beckett and René Char lived for a time underground, as witches do.

Leadbelly was a witch.

Spencer Tracy and Paul Robeson were witches by association.

James Baldwin and Woody Guthrie were witchlovers.

Joe Hill was a stonecold singing witch organizer.

Simone Weil, Orson Welles, and Edward Dmytryk were witches.

John Wieners and Tallulah Bankhead consorted with witches.

Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem, and Barbara Jordan were witches.

Un-American witches may appear to believe less in money than in other forms of circulation.

Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, and Dalton Trumbo were witches.

Alfred North Whitehead was a witch sympathizer.

Charles Olson worked for FDR.

Sappho worshiped with other witches in ancient witch temple.

Frank O'Hara conceived "Personism" as a defense of witchcraft.

Billie Holiday was a witch.

Billie Burke, Veronica Lake, and Elizabeth Montgomery were witches.

Robert Creeley voted for McGovern.

Nazimova was a witch, and Garbo was bewitching as a humorless Russian.

Hattie McDaniel, Madame Curie, and Mercedes McCambridge were witches.

Anne Hutchinson was a monstrous talking witch.

Arthur Miller was a witch.

Maria Tallchief danced bewitchingly.

Very few people were actually afraid of Virginia Woolf in spite of her witchcraft.

The supernatural powers of the aristocracy have occasionally mingled with those of a commoner.

Hilma af Klint, Hilda Doolittle, and Helen Adam were witches.

Teresa was first known as the Witch of Ávila.

Joan or Jeanne attempted to escape prosecution by leaping from a tower.

Agnes Martin, Agnés Varda, and Agnes Moorhead are witches.
When Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Robert Kennedy spoke,
the power of their words could be felt in disparate locations at the same time.

Engine trouble at 20,000 feet may bring a witch back to earth.

Harvey Milk was shot right in City Hall while trying to reason with a witchhunter.

I have personally known witches whose voices seemed to rise out of a hole in the earth as if it were a mouth.

Hannah Weiner saw words - like the Apostle John - and if she is not a saint, she is a witch.

Both poems are from Address (Wesleyan University Press, 2011).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 23: Rosmarie Waldrop


And what is the zero that marks the place of one-who-writes? A page like snow?
White without seven dwarves? The invention of a bee see? elbowing elemen(t)s
toward o.p. cues? With increasing speed and frequency? The moment the Greeks
added vowels to the alphabet so that we don't have to draw on anything outside
the word to construe it?

Shapes not found in nature. To take us out of our body.

But I long for it. The body. Even if blue veins run from the knees to the ankles
and the feet are swollen and bulge out of the shoes. And how can I long for some-
thing that is right here? A bit scattered my brain, perhaps. Not yet the bones I've
carried around all my life. And by my own strength,

So I embark. On writing. With a shout at the sea around me, the surface of language.
The vessel's not important, but the shout is. It brings the body. And with it the 
patterns I love, rhythmic, paratactic, the old oral forms, repetition, alliteration. And
if I don't use formulae and proverbs I at least play among their echoes in the inner ear.

Words that sleep in the body all night and in the daytime come out and touch
you like a warm hand.

Yet all the while I sharpen my pencil to a fine point. My alphaknife to dissect the
world. And remember the phoneme, an abstract value like that of zero, which
makes possible the existence of language.

Intricate lines, complex, across gaps and fissures. Toward the distance needed for
full understanding. Where the void opens its one eye that never closes. In the
middle of the mind. Not in the proportions of body. And I'm unsure, does it
make me blind or seeing.

Swallows, missiles, helicopters, wounding bodies, budding leaves, the sun rising
out of the sea, streets glistening with rain, tin cans, plastic bags, armchairs, playing
cards, a prisoner on a leash, chimneys, cigarette butts, colors shifting in the sky,
rooftops, maples, humvees, tanks, fields of wildflowers, and landmines in one
big, blooming confusion.

Or the other side of language. Where I am mute and the unsaid weighs heavy.
On the tip of the tongue. A foretaste of death.

from Driven to Abstraction, New Directions, 2010

Friday, April 22, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 22: Clark Coolidge


The city lulls you
as you farm on by
occipital baiters hide there
blew the can mine out behind Manton
thrives on its sewerage, screwtape smilers
dodge punted, the graphite edge comes burying down
no longer landed but a little cotton box out of greyboard given
parted and only then the handshake baken
suspired violet streaks over Manton

Somewhere out there west where nobody indulges his knowledge
in a rust of gloomy O's riling and falling formative deadly
ugly as an angel's pin, a glancing skid off the finger traffic
down Barlow's Pew, soporific avenue cluster of tanks only to plead
brute arrival veiling down the bay doubling up the newel varves
trunk troubles, arc light saddle buries, worries and tongues
gait under the streetlamps arguable, there are no Boscomb Delves
so long dishing here

I wait up
for the raisins to light on my ham branch
backyard's a spinner and I'm the bubblemaker
long white gooseneck held out for your appletown fencing
malmatching the yard with its hole sizes
violins begin to come through, hide and then hide
the sack burned out of the hill into roses
bushel of quartzes

Car stops, they get out
who ever wanted to make a movie about missing assholes?
well, they got them here
they get back on
tracks, span of wreckage, zero exit
it got them there
Providence once gone about itself a monster appears

Is this pathetic emplacement just these window chairs?
could you continue till nothing satisfies?
fill your notebook with unknown bloods
be slanted almost gone, headache for
pill rolls from one end to the dumpling
girder bust oil barrage till the bay hangs
lovely but yet you must skid

Mind those pads in parlors
that tray
my dog old Lamp
cut out of Olneyville in the dark
end of the tracks they take
habits, cobble skills
brought back tuckings under
larval motor gains, follow the stains
then step down and pluck your fare
I'll eat after you, I'll make
a believer out of the Scarborough Dulls

The Act of Providence, Combo Books, 2010

Thursday, April 21, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 21: Meghan O'Rourke


The dog did no harm.
The bee did no harm.
The grass, the grave grass, no harm.
The wind did no harm.

The mud did no harm.
The fly, the sticky fly, no harm.
The snakes did not hurt us.
The trees did not either.

The sky, no harm, the moon,
no harm. The wild cats of San Juan,
sleeping in the wet harbor,
did no harm!

The river did no harm.
The land kept going green.
It is bright here, where we sleep
by the lake. Let us pause

to praise the warm, cool
light as it bends
around the unharmed earth,
our faces buried in the woollen dark -

How could you think
it would hurt us? What made you worry?
That whisper the earth makes, turning in space?
I hear it too. It only does what it must.

So hush, hush, hush


from Halflife, W.W. Norton, 2007

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 20: Christina Pugh


Closer to a bell than a bird,
that clapper ringing
the clear name
of its inventor:

by turns louder
and quieter than a clock,
its numbered face
was more literate,

triplets of alphabet
like grace notes
above each digit.

And when you dialed,
each number was a shallow hole
your finger dragged
to the silver

then the sound of the hole
traveling back
to its proper place
on the circle.

You had to wait for its return.
You had to wait.
Even if you were angry
and your finger flew,

you had to await
the round trip
of seven holes
before you could speak.

The rotary was wired for lag,
for the afterthought.

Before the touch-tone,
before the speed-dial,
before the primal grip
of the cellular,

they built glass houses
around telephones:
glass houses in parking lots,
by the roadside,
on sidewalks.

When you stepped in
and closed the door,

transparency hugged you,
and you could almost see

your own lips move,
the dumb-show
of your new secrecy.

Why did no one think
to conserve the peal?

Just try once
to sing it to yourself:
it's gone,

like the sound of breath
if your body left.

Hayden's Ferry Review Issue 27, Fall/Winter 2000-2001

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 19: Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is the author of The French Exit (Birds, LLC, 2010) (the source of today's poem) and maintains a blog with the same title.


You can't invent a color, only name it,
like how I just named those contrails Benjamin
and then the sky behind them Benjamin II.
Now, retronymically, I refer to Ben as Ben I.
If he becomes famous, they'll stop calling
clouds "clouds" and call them "nonlinear
clouds" or "pre-Benjamin" for clarity.
I can think about fame all day, and
compose apologies for my friends' friends
who I've variously snubbed, write them
into emails with personalized P.S.'s:
P.S. My love for you extends forever
in all directions, or sometimes seems to.
P.S. I include a swatch of Yves Klein blue.
P.S. If the sky is a piano store and clouds
are baby grands, we just hang out in the back
and listen to a Casiotone's preprogrammeds.
P.S. This P.S. is my email's last will
and testament. It's leaving everything
to you. P.S. Like my love for you,
like the infinite crystalline watchface of
God of the sky, my email will never die.

Monday, April 18, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 18: Ron Padgett


Sometimes when I phoned
my mother back in Tulsa, she would
say, "Hold on a minute, Ron, let me
turn this thing down," the thing
her TV, and she would look
around for the remote and then fumble
with its little buttons as an irritation
mounted in me and an impatience
and I felt like blurting out "You watch TV
too much and it's too loud and why
don't you go outside" because I was
unable to face my dread of her aging
and my heart made cold toward her
by loving her though not wanting to give up
my life and live near her so she
could see me every day and not
just hear me, which is why she
turned the TV down and said,
"Okay, that's better," then sometimes
launched into a detailed account
of whatever awful show she was watching.

from How to Be Perfect (Coffee House Press, 2007)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 17: Wallace Stevens

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections,
Or the beauty of innuendoes.
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms,
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving,
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (reprinted in The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, eds. Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair

Saturday, April 16, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 16: Matthew Henriksen


Heaven must subject itself to the city for

the city to lose function. A throng of sparrows
and one gutter pipe must be all that sing.

The multitudes wilt from their professions and,
thus, professing.  Hollyhocks taking in light are merciless.

God dreamed a professor of cinema saw the final image
on the last lost reel to Satan's Nightmares.

No one deemed God safe after that.
He took to wandering Brooklyn

with aimless pleasure, looking for
bridges to cross: crossing, and returning.

He'd lost his desperation, and without it
how could civilization admire itself?

This was the beginning of the third year
no one called for anyone. So it is writ.

from Ordinary Sun, Black Ocean, 2011.

Friday, April 15, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 15: Gilbert Sorrentino

Impromptu Solo on a Balcony

Messages spelled out in stars
Bright points of someone else's daylight
Write themselves past Venus and past Mars
But Mr. Blank cannot translate them right
Messages spelled out in stars

The balcony coal-black the chump alone
Leafs through his mind's huge trash
Creased photographs sad notes a bone
A letter scrawled about some distant crash
The balcony coal-black the chump alone

The lump of coal that hurts him is his heart
Small hurricanes crash through his brain
Our inventor cannot make a part
To fix the valve that regulates his pain
The lump of coal that hurts him is his heart

An odd and spidery foreign constellation
Flickers out a note to "Mr. Mud"
Señor Blanco reads the salutation
Which seems to be in Greek and signed in blood
An odd and spidery constellation

He doesn't know and yet he knows
The letter surely deals with waste and loss
The night grows blacker and his nausea grows
Are all the stars irreparable dross
He doesn't know and yet he knows

When he reaches out he touches nothing
Mr. Blanco's heart is frozen coal
When he reaches out he touches nothing
The stars crash toward the inky pole
When he reaches out he touches nothing

from a suite of poems titled Twelve Études for Voice and Kazoo
published in Selected Poems: 1958-1980 (Black Sparrow Press, 1981)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 14: Paul Haines

2 by Paul Haines








from Secret Carnival Workers (H.Pal Productions, 2007)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 13: Bernadette Mayer (The Return)

I came across this the other day, and not only is it a good poem, but the date fits.


a clear cold sunny day, beautiful to some,
horrible to others. we're making maple
syrup again, smoke is rising from the evaporator,
it's hearty, everytime i begin to do something
something else intervenes, i wouldn't even think this
if i weren't in the mood to have the thought.
bernadette mayer, in a rush to put down her
weird thoughts, like everybody tells her to,
writes down too much, only a fraction of which is
even ever read because she is so disorganized,
plus she has had a brain hemorrhage, rendering her
even more mixed up in her constant thinking,
and she has lost the fine motor coordination
in her right hand - she can't handwrite, she has
to cook the chicken liver while phil is not in
the kitchen. at the moment her left knee is
so fucked she can barely walk, making the long
bushwhacking walks in the country that were able
to salvage her sanity, impossible. she tries
to do what others suggest but now she just plods on.
it's the last straw, hobbling from room to room,
hoping for change. she is lost but has no choice
she can't attempt suicide again for fear of failing.
she will cook the liver. she also cooks two pierogi,
eats them & sits in the sun

from Scarlet Tanager (New Directions, 2005)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 12: Roberto Bolaño


I was out walking, sweaty and with hair plastered
to my face
when I saw Ernesto Cardenal approaching
from the opposite direction
and by way of greeting I said:
Father, in the Kingdom of Heaven
that is communism,
is there a place for homosexuals?
Yes, he said.
And for impenitent masturbators?
For sex slaves?
For sex fools?
For sadomasochists, for whores, for those obsessed
with enemas,
for those who can't take it anymore, those who really truly
can't take it anymore?
And Cardenal said yes.
And I raised my eyes
and the clouds looked like
the pale pink smiles of cats
and the trees cross-stitched on the hill
(the hill we've got to climb)
shook their branches.
Savage trees, as if saying
some day, sooner rather than later, you'll have to come
into my rubbery arms, into my scraggly arms,
into my cold arms. A botanical frigidity
that'll stand your hair on end.

from The Romantic Dogs: Poems 1980-1998 (New Directions, 2006). Translated by Laura Healy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 11: Julie Doxsee

Plane Ticket

You are
a little book when

I take you by the staple
& make my fingers an

OK. OK, you are
a bird.

from Objects for a Fog Death (Black Ocean, 2010)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 10: Kathleen Ossip

Kathleen Ossip is the author of The Search Engine (American Poetry Review, 2002) and Cinephrastics (Horse Less Press, 2006). Her new collection, The Cold War, will be published by in May, 2011 by Sarabande Books.

This short essay that appeared in Publishers Weekly in the last week of March brought Ossip back into my consciousness - I'd read The Search Engine years ago after smiling at the title (I could have sworn it was Charles Bernstein not Derek Walcott who selected the book for the APR/Honickman First Book Prize (The Search Engine was the fifth book to receive that honor). So goes my memory.) I also have a copy of Cinephrastics somewhere in my house. While writing this blog entry, it just occured to me where that book is probably hiding. So here's a short poem from K.O., from The Search Engine, and I'm off to find that missing book.


goes the gibbous
insect. They bring the lawn
in rolls. Now is what I have, or
will get.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 9: Ron Silliman

Ron Silliman, briefly, is a poet involved with the "Language" school. As I noted in one of the first PftB posts, his long-standing and widely-read (in the poetry world) blog, threatened to come to a halt at the beginning of April. A few days ago, I was notified by the library at ISU via e-mail that the copy of Silliman's gigantic tome The Alphabet  (a collection, in one volume, of a long, eponymous poem, some thirty years in the making, and published in bits and pieces over the decades), which I've had out for a while, has been recalled. Silliman might be happy to know that there's more than one person in Ames, Iowa who wants to read his poetry. So, before I bring it back to the circulation desk, here's a very small section of a section. From the long poem "VOG", here is "It Takes a Village."

Midlife, I
discovered I

was not
where I'd


parlor called
Etch a Wretch.

Arguments in the conference room
over numbers, faces,

the next

"work force action."
Just as suddenly

a curtain drew
over the last of summer.

Mariah Carey
on watching

African relief infomercials
featuring footage

of starving children,
"I mean I'd

love to be
skinny like that

but not with all
those flies

and death and stuff."
Legos with which

to construct a universe,
an "ant-farm" for humans.

Post-toddler syntax
starts to emerge,

along the lower lip.

Red-winged beetle
against the dashboard's black

hardshell plastic
moves to a new

abode. Aubade
bade him well

to do its bidding.
I wake, having slept

with one fist clenched.
The HR officer weeps.

Vending maching
that rejects all coins.

Penmanship is destiny.
Ms. Gabrielle Mintz

considers the act of naming.
Lion paces

the rim of its cage.
Plastic figurine

of ape pounding chest
no larger than my thumb.

Flightless bird.
Irony only strengthens

that which it opposes.
Waiting for the IPO.

Old XL sweatshirt
grown tight at the wrists

constricts full extension
of the arms

when swinging
imaginary bat.

Full eclipse
behind gathering clouds.

Old stone foundation
of burned-out hospital

(1778 - 1964)
today is little

more than
a place to picnic,

historical marker
by the first chief surgeon's

lone tomb.
Outdoor kiln

at the edge
of a field of

belches flame

from old yellow bricks.

must remain with their baggage
at all times.

All the many muches.

can you paradigm?
A harsh wind

on an otherwise clear day
foretells autumn.

Helicopter sickness.
He gets out of his bed,

lays a blanket on the floor
and sleeps on that.

Moonless night,
the only

light leaking
from a basement window,

these trees
reach upward

into the dark.
By the river

the box eaters
kneel in a circle.

An effect of

luxury transportation:

Everything changes
but the sole.

Is your
web site

a secret?
What at first

coming down
the great stairs

appear to be


turn out
as we approach

to be
umbrellas wet

from the rain.
Like a rock.

the old
ad theme

Chevy trucks

o new
market share.

Rustle of

in the rain-heavy

Boy struggles
to pull shirt

over head.
The logic

of detail in dreams:
this desk

upon which I find

a check
in the amount of

At her name

she steps forward
upon the gallows platform

to hear
herself reprieved,

the camera's focus

to a head shot
as she again

descends the stairs,
the other

smiling prisoners

into the busy

- the crowd gasps!

- we see silhouettes

in the air.
The carnage

of toy

spread over the rug.

with her arms
about her head

as if to ward off blows.
Voiced vowel

all over

the lake.
Problem of usury

prevents interest
by Islamic banks.

Clamor am
or will be

heard, hurt, hard
of earring

round solid gold
through the nose

cheek or lip
above / below

a body
of knowledge

slow to heel.
The caterer's plate

upon which sit
stuffed mushrooms

The world

is all that
has your face.


Goo Goo Doll anthem,

the old ball game.
Animal fecal matter

as origin of tetanus
(and as for the source

of this vaccine...).
By the next morning

the balloons
no longer hover

at the ceiling.
Rabbit with the most pearls

must be
the oyster bunny.

Each day the wolves become bolder,
moving now into the outskirts of town.

With each gust, a new torrent of leaves
descends from the red-orange sky.

Month when the snails
go into hibernation.

A rune
of puzzles

playing back.
Lake effect syntax

converts meaning to sorrow,
glacier of intent (mucous)

tidal behind the eyes
draining like swallowing rope

thick where the knots catch,
fiber burn

against inner flesh.
Cellophane flower

upon closer inspection
has eyes, becomes

The course of true love

gathers no moss.
Tall, thin, handsome

African man,
high cheekbones, hint

of a Caribbean speech,
his skin a different tint

each time we meet.
Sun rising

over the canal
casts my shadow

as it writes.
The line, though brittle,

does not break.
Often I wake

as though peeling
layers of dream.

Soft clothing on a cold night,
the hum in the walls

of the furnace,
broken moon trapped

in the leafless oak,
deer at the garden's rim

in sheer silhouette.
Boy's voices

high in the far
part of the house.

Medicine as metaphor,
metaphor as medicine.

The grumpet in the moon
is found none too soon,

dinos in the bath alas.
Bells and whistles,

harlequins with trained monkeys,
the light in the hall,

the chairs arranged in a circle.
Another first chapbook

of slightly closeted sex poems
involving my friend

their teacher. The furnace
ignites with a rush.

First flurries. A thirst
not quenched by

a burst of citrus
searing the throat.

If the cape is an affectation,
the question remains "of what?"

Old man and the C.
Oppen at the rim

of his own party,
silent... watching....

Behind which wall
hidden furnace roars

to heat the entire house.
Forest light, leaves

thick as snow.
Love your other.

Eleven exits off 95,
all there is to Delaware.

Moment at which
in the power politics

of marriage, Hillary
Rodham becomes Clinton,

becomes blonde, becomes
fashionable (con-

tact lens as
reverse scarification),

in return for which
she becomes what?

The torrent of leaves
arrives at an end.

Out on the porch
the smell of a cigar

smooth as suede
fills the cold autumn air.

The deference engine
will get us only

part way through the soiree
barely past the white

mounds of cauliflower,
the orange cubes of cheddar,

the rectangular trays
of steaming squares of fried something.

Sleep as desire.
Rising at dawn, waiting

for gravity to clear the senses.
Song of the toilet bowl

filling by degree.
Reference empathy irregardless,

child's cough
hacking in the night,

hallucinated sleeplessness,
low ash sky

clings to the trees.
The microwave sings

five short beeps,
hoarse song of the modem,

pattern recognition
as our own mode of grief.


The "Notes" following the poems state that all of VOG was written circa 1985-99. The Alphabet itself was published in 2008 by the University of Alabama Press.

Friday, April 8, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 8: Allen Ginsberg

Early this morning my wife was carrying my 11 month old son around and brought him within arm's length of the poetry bookshelf. I decided that whichever book he grabbed would be the collection from which I'd choose today's poem. To my dismay, he pulled out Allen Ginsberg's posthumous collection Death & Fame. I declared it a practice round and had my son try again. The next item he pulled out was the huge Oxford Book of American Poetry - the recent one edited by David Lehman - really another bookshelf in itself. My wife, always keeping me honest admonished me: "He did pick out the Ginsberg book first." OK, OK. Here is "Dream" from Death & Fame: Last Poems, 1993-1997 (HarperCollins, 1999).


     There was a huge bulge in my right side, this dream recently - just now I realized I had a baby, full grown that came out of my right abdomen while I in hospital with dangerous hepatitis C.
     I lay there awhile, wondering what to do, half grateful, half apprehensive. It'll need milk, it'll need exercise, taken out into fresh air with baby carriage.
     Peter there sympathetic, he'll help me, bent over my bed, kissed me, happy a child to care for. What compassion he has. Reassured I felt the miracle was in Peter's reliable hands - but gee what if he began drinking again?: No this'll keep him straight. How care for a baby, what can I do?
     Worried & pleased since it was true I slowly woke, still thinking it'd happened, consciousness returned slowly 2:29 AM I was awake and there's no little mystic baby - naturally appeared, just disappeared --
     A glow of happiness next morn, warm glow of pleasure half the day.
March 27, 1997, 4 A. M.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 7: Bernadette Mayer


You jerk you didn't call me up
I haven't seen you in so long
You probably have a fucking tan
& besides that instead of making love tonight
You're drinking your parents to the airport
I'm through with you bourgeois boys
All you ever do is go back to ancestral comforts
Only money can get - even Catullus was rich but

Nowadays you guys settle for a couch
By a soporific color cable t.v. set
Instead of any arc of love, no wonder
The G.I. Joe team blows it every other time

Wake up! It's the middle of the night
You can either make love or die at the hands of
                                 the Cobra Commander

To make love, turn to page 32.
To die, turn to page 110.

from Sonnets by Bernadette Mayer (Tender Buttons, 1989)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 6: Pam Rehm


To meet her
        to find her mind
bound to falling behind
when reminded that

we killed all the land
now every line demands
that we find the creatures
these houses are standing on
        every house and its features
Every day dementia


from To Give It Up, Sun & Moon Press, 1995. 1994 winner of the National Poetry Series competition.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 5: The Belz! The Belz!

Today, three poems by a man's man's man, Aaron Belz.

The first poem is from his book, Plausible Worlds, published in 2005:

"In Bed with Meryl Streep"

Hard to believe your first movie 
Came out in 1977 - you are timeless,
Like a Dracula statue in the rain:
And now, as you rub my shoulders,
Wearing that flowered nightgown,
We hear actual rain, or is it wind,
Rushing around our Buena Vista condo.
You flip off Cheers. I know what's next.

The second, from his second book, The Bird Hoverer, published in 2007:

"Bruce Beasley!"

Bruce Beasley! Your book still sits unread on my shelf
as it has since 1988! I have to admit! It was Halpern's blurb
that scared me most! "The abundance of phlegmatic
narrative"! Then there's the black and white author photo!
You look too thoughtful! And yikes, those loafers!
Then there's the fourth line of the first poem!
"A pink scab along the bottom of each bloom"!
I do not like poems that refer to pink scabs on bottoms!
Just as a general rule, mind you, Bruce Beasley!
And later in the same poem! "You can smell it on every bush"!
Smell what though? I bet you'll tell us! Ah yes!
"This hankering to get born"! That's such a weird word!
"Hankering"! I am hankering to put your book back!
I wonder if this first edition is worth anything by now!
I don't mind just leaving it on my shelf though! It's OK!

The final poem is from his most recent book, Lovely, Raspberry, published in 2010.

"the one about the ectoplasm and the osteoblast"

Some ectoplasm sits next to an osteoblast
at a bar. The ectoplasm asks the osteoblast,
"Why do you form bones?" And the osteoblast
responds, "Why are you the outer relatively
rigid granule-free layer of the cytoplasm usually
held to be a gel reversibly convertible to a sol?"
And the ectoplasm is like, "Wow, that is such
an awkward question." And so the osteoblast
goes, "Seriously, why are you? I form bones
for the same reason." The bartender, an osteoclast,
asks them what they want to drink. The ectoplasm
asks him what he recommends that's on draft,
and he says the Dead Guy Ale, it's a fresh keg.
They both break into fits of laughter. "Oh my gosh!"
says the osteoblast, "Dead Guy is a German-style
Maibock that's deep honey in color with a malty
aroma, rich hearty flavor and a well-balanced finish.
Now does that sound like the kind of beer we drink?"

OK, I lied. One more from Lovely, Raspberry.

"signal versus noise"

For Norbert Wiener
a signal was something
that ought to be filtered
from noise, but for God,
at least in this life,
the signals merge with
the noise, and although
maybe that's just God's
way, it's possible God
is more like Gwen Stefani
in that he expects us
to hear, over the din
of the hip hop club
of this world, him shouting
"Holla back, girl!"
and wants us to holla
back, somehow, through
prayer, or maybe just
lives of self-sacrifice.

Belz can be rung at

Monday, April 4, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 4: Anne Waldman

I think I discovered Anne Waldman during the same semester as the Auden experience that I mentioned yesterday. It was in a modern poetry survey course at SUNY Buffalo, taught by one Myles Slatin. If I remember correctly, we had to pick a poet from the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry and write a paper about his or her work -- for whatever reason, I chose Waldman, and kept on reading her long after the semester ended.  Thanks to the SUNY Buffalo Poetry Collection, I could get my hands on quite a few rare Waldman books. The one I liked the best, head and shoulders above the rest, was First Baby Poems, which was published in 1982 and then in an expanded edition a year later. Somewhere, I have copies of both of these editions, but the one I'm looking at tonight is a reprinting of the expanded edition (with artwork by George Schneeman) by BlazeVox Press (see the entry for National Poetry Month - Day 2).

First Baby Poems chronicles Waldman's pregnancy and the first year of her son Ambrose's life. I realize I'm walking on thin ice here, but there must have been something about the experience of motherhood that inspired Waldman to write such exquisite poems, many of which seem to get at the heart of the infant's worldview, which we can never know, but of which, with poetry of this caliber, we can perhaps get a glimpse. I'm revisiting this book now because I wanted to see if any of it read differently now that I have a toddler of my own. It does and it doesn't. I can see my son in some of these words, but these are Waldman's poems, and while some of the experience of parenthood that the poems describe is universal, the attentive reader never loses sight of the fact that Waldman never pretends to speak for anyone other than herself, her partner, and her son.

Although Anne Waldman has written many fine books of poetry, nothing comes close to what she accomplished in this book. She uses many different formal structures to, I think, illustrate the quickly morphing and growing infant that crawls through the pages. The following is a "list poem" that really gives a sense of the paradoxically enormous amount of things in a baby's tiny world-space.

To Lure to Him the Objects of the World He So Desires

white typewriter alphabet keys come to baby
Vajrasattva don't topple down on top of baby
Skrip ink don't spill on baby
press button, room light up for baby
Chinese dragon of moving red mouth, green shirt on, come
          grasp the baby's finger
electric clock buzz for baby
telephone ring for baby
Yellow Pages fall onto baby's lap
little cork to baby's mouth
Bozo-On-A-Holiday approach baby on your ratchety wheels
Mickey Mouse, baby holds you
measuring spoons, baby shakes you
Hildegard the Duck with undulating neck come to baby's arms
shiny green traveling trunk you hold baby's woolens
baby loves to encounter a toothbrush
baby would love a red caboose
Phoebe Unicorn you are a pretty toy, come to baby
Baby sees tapestry unicorn in the museum
Lady's Lucky Locker with tiny implements inside, come to
          baby's hands
All the Stoned Wheat Thins make their way to baby
pink highheels you make hammers for baby
baby loves the protuberances of any object
spotted shells of the South Pacific come to baby
arroyos run to baby
bowling pins you get knocked over
tupperware come to baby
Mozart Concerti sing in baby's ears
he loves a shiny black disc
Mr. Saheeb the Camel do a baby's jig
Aquaman, swim to baby
green-eyed owl hoot for baby
gruff bear sings the Brahms lullaby for baby
workboots are clumsy in baby's lap with their laces dangling
wooden block necklace, baby wears you like a lei
books-a-plenty, don't let baby rip your pages out
satin half-moon cradle baby's neck
Hindu horse take baby for a magical ride
prehistoric cave animal with shadows on your pelt, you
          are baby's favorite
flute makes a toot
socks leap to baby's kicking feet

Sunday, April 3, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 3: W. H. Auden

Driving through Iowa, as I was this morning, coming home from Iowa City, I was reminded of this poem by Auden. The poem often comes to mind whenever I start thinking about time with a capital T, and how the very act of thinking about time in a philosophical way will almost always take me down a dark path. Thinking about thinking, in general, when I'm alone in the car, driving through Iowa, is never a good thing. But what else is there to do?


I remember reading this poem for the first time as an undergrad, and being shaken to the core. Probably one of the first times I "got" the essence of mortality, and what it means that everything ends. Thanks a lot, Auden.


As I walked out one evening,
   Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
   Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
   I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
   'Love has no ending.

'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
   Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
   And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
   Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
   Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
   For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
   And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
   Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
   You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
   Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
   And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
   Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
   To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
   Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
   And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
   Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
   And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
   The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
   A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
   And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
   And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
   O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
   Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
   As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
   With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
   The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
   And the deep river ran on. 
W. H. Auden, Selected Poems: New Edition (Vintage, 1989)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 2: Amy King

Today I am in Iowa City, attending the Mission Creek festival. Mainly here to see the "classic lineup" Guided by Voices show, which is one of the festival's headlining events. But Mission Creek is also a literary festival, and this afternoon I attended a small press showcase at a bar called The Mill. In between all the squeezing past and bumping into people, I briefly met the "impresario" of Black Ocean, Janaka Stucky, and purchased Scary, No Scary and The Man Suit by Zachary Schomburg, Ordinary Sun by Matthew Henriksen, and Objects for a Fog Death by Julie Doxsee (all Black Ocean titles) at quite a discount. Apparently if you get a tattoo inspired by one of the Black Ocean books, you get free copies of everything they publish until you die. Stucky okayed my request to use a poem or two from the books I purchased in future Nat'l Poetry Month installments on this blog, so look out for that.

Today's poem is in honor of Guided by Voices, since I'm seeing them tonight. It's by Amy King (who came through in the nick of time with a Word file-version of the poem since I'm traveling -- thanks, Amy!), a wonderful poet and person (not that the two should or can be separated, but you know what I mean), and it's from her collection I'm the Man Who Loves You (BlazeVox, 2007). Her other BlazeVox books are Antidotes for an Alibi (2004), and Slaves to Do These Things (2009). Reading series curator, creative writing instructor and champion of most everything that needs to be championed, she really is the hardest working woman in po biz.
You can find more of her writing here.


Remove your blouse and become a kind of free on me
and have a brilliant face but
where did your feverish glow go
with blood in hair, a blonde-shaped DNA
that your poison sticks
to the song of malted alcohol running over and out—

The toast of the tea party comes

hard along the hem of her skirt

My blank blue hello blotted from a photograph plays

Like the pencil-traced croissant moves her
love-laced face behind the scenes
into position that really makes her groove get up to go:

But what actually moves is only real in actual time, the space
between your toes, full of a jelly no one knows

Each morning, I wear clothes of an industry,
a closet climate, regions I afford
are extras in their roles with an extra s for good breath clouds.

Later drive through
me with your resistible you,
that place where the body no longer
contains the spirit, essence, or soul into now

The color of corn is beaten down; I
won’t turn my own pages,
will turn my papers for Mercy’s contempt
with huge impoverishment robbing innocence to throw
its weight around you,

Who does a kind of math to say,

Person, where
did so much time become?

When I nearly mentioned how I love low lights,
the way they glisten
you moved your lower beauty over
a bit like others, but otherwise

Won’t you burn my buffalo heart
where we are as the dust below

and also with you