I Work to Drive the Awe Away, yet Awe Impels the Work.
Not everyone needs a church of lives
to lay one’s own against. I have found
my words are shy with too much talk
in the air. They ride in on privacy.
Only in solitude can I hear them
beating round my head.
If He knows the number of hairs
on my head He knows my heart beats
rarely sedate or temperate. There are days
the fierce sacred morning leaves
me cleaved open - I write to keep breathing.
So much death beyond this window, night
does not walk away from me. When words
retreat even the desk is confusing as the cries
in my mind. I rearrange and rearrange
until what I write is where I want to go.
—Valerie Martt Wallace
A Note on the Use of Metaphor
In the living room, perched
on the curtain rod above the open French door
is a female house sparrow. It is stunned
by the alien landscape
it has chanced onto
and the impenetrable
patch of clear glass sky
it has now flown into
three times. It glances here,
then there, perhaps feeling
for a moment its own end
rising in its throat. My wife pleads
with it, explains how
to fly down and out, then laments
that her words cannot speak
to its tiny body. At last, we drape
sheets over two wide brooms to form
tall gods and approach the bird,
these majestic beings looming above us,
until it flutters, turns down,
darts out into the spring air.
previously published in Good Times.
MR. JONES MAKES POETRY
Based on a painting of the same name by Raoul Hausmann, 1920
With your coffee grinder and your vacant
blue stare, you look almost human,
Mr. Jones, almost capable of desire.
On the table, a green cylinder
calibrates the span of your palm,
a reassuring gesture of precision,
while the armless mannequin
is an extra body, should yours wear out
or lose the power to produce combustible words.
The mannequin has a knob instead of a head.
It stands ready to stand in, an understudy,
while each side of your symmetrical
mustache, Mr. Jones, mirrors the curve
of the coffee grinder’s handle.
When cranked, the mustache moves on invisible gears,
each side alternates up and down like a piston,
and produces heat,
something actually alive.
Daredevil always, I took mine off first:
elbowed out of my shirt, shimmied from my skirt,
unshouldered my bra, dropped my panties—all
my garb tossed defiantly to the porch floor—
thus, stark in my naked geometry I stood,
shivering behind our trellised bougainvillea,
as Sunday cars sharked along Hermosa Avenue.
“Your turn,” I began, but you’d already fled
behind the front door with your devising friend
who clutched my clothing to her chest.
I heard the latch snap loudly in its groove,
then your footsteps fanning out to other rooms,
as wildly you locked every entry to our house.
Sister, the sizzling curses I spit out that day
strung you up and quartered you until you bled
throughout eternity like a slaughtered pig.
Never had newly borne words tasted so true or good:
Traitor! Sewer-slut! Scorpion shit! Shrew-lips!
I stood, one forearm smothering my breasts,
the other hand cupped over that darkened place
no eyes but mine had ever grazed before—
I called upon the gods of domestic revenge,
jazzy gods, bug-zappers, the gods of execution—
until my laughter overcame me like thunder.
I wept, roared, choked on my nascent fury:
what a sight I offered to wide-eyed drivers
who circled the block once, twice, and again
to see the girlish apparition of mottled flesh
screaming out lungsful of invective.
When I grew hoarse, you let me back in.
Too late: my smoking voice lingered on the air,
my oaths lodged upon the vines—ruby-eyed,
razor-toothed, almost divine.
previously appeared in What Will Suffice: Contemporary American Poets
on the Art of Poetry, edited by Christopher Buckley and Christopher Merrill
(Gibbs Smith, 1995).
WHAT IS POETRY?
"...that which cannot be paraphrased?"
Well, so is a rock. Scissors. Paper.
Rock. Scissors. Paper. Mind.
Put your hands behind your back.
Just cup your palm for mind.
Choose one of the four. Be sly.
One. Two. Three. Go.
Paper beats rock. Wraps it up,
as history's lines wrap lies. We're stoned.
One. Two. Three. Show.
Scissors cuts mind into paper dolls.
(Descartes throws up before multiplied I's).
One. Two. Three. Whoa.
Mind beats rock, beats against rock
until world relents, and the matter settles
grit on the tongue. Two. Three. So.
Paper slices mind in tissue samples,
soul's salami, soul's Salamis of utter
defeat to a Kleenex-thinness of thinking,
how can a tornado drive a piece of straw
through a roof beam? But deep down
you know, you really know how,
if you've ever played the game before.
If you ever saw a page behead someone,
yet leave the heart furiously beating.
This is the praying mantis, death-in-life,
which leaps from leaf to leaf, life to life
and the dead all turn their heads
360 degrees when they are inside it.
And lovers are the only ones will ride it.
—W. B. Keckler
BOUSTROPHEDON TABLET 1
What does death matter if the energy continues to flow
Figure with decorated amphora as brain the permeating water
Appears to be bottomless knowing which is impossible
Masks have animals widening cavities without reason to
Someone killing someone awakens beside themselves, scattered particles
Images in drowning victims the seen we've greatly magnified
Many speak the shapes submerged and feral choreography
Self or tile forgets slack tide the whole idea subsumed
Dancing nudes pronged with dildo goving over memory hills
Markets weird affairs joining slaves touch masters yawning
Are these idyllic erasures the opposite surface polished our ears
Misses near language's a lattice of texture by ripened
May be traced to a film which develops appearances
Alive longing parasitic inhabited known but seen never
Imagined a bull's-eye blazoned on noise from Big Bang
Crackings vast the given is whosoever changes resemblings crossing
Having only a feather's weight the axiom is silence's tool
Soul the god's itself reveals number a division cell during
Matter is peripherally a centrifugal essence the rushing voice
Sleep core becomes everyone filling timing the inevitable is space
(lines to be read alternately left-to-right then right-to-left...
—W. B. Keckler
The punctuation of erotic cries shows, wet paint in the museum,
you want to photograph the proof, the grand stairway of entry
where the leaves stick to your shoes before we awake in gilt twitters
like the wrong Buddha on the right year, you open in the terminal
after a thunderstorm, the people are only music, forgive them.
~ ~ ~
A man twisted and gyred in the fires of metaphors, he was on the news,
we saw him return always, on the windiest bridges, on the parapet
where the police had cornered him, on a branch of a tree in a poem
two thousand years old, he would never give up, a skin memento,
he was a spider-monkey in the tree of philosophy, screaming
like the bull of Heliogabalus until we could no longer hear his cries
in the traffic of our time, which was clearly in his key.
~ ~ ~
You were leaving me,
it was an interesting lecture, The Cloud versus The Phallic, I was intrigued,
I found myself invested, holding stock, my skeleton worn to your shape
like those stairs in Benares, swaled almost to the shape of a woman's sex
I bent to kiss them and where were you just now, here's baba ganoosh
and sushi in sweet little alcoholic travel cases, because you're like that
aren't you, and I know how to sing along. The mortal lovemaking clouds.
~ ~ ~
I mean the window shivers and laughs at the crucial moment
between something and everything you leave, I bend my pinky
into the problem, there is no "crucial moment," no crisis, no passion
that hasn't already survived us, nested elsewhere in the cosmic fluid like a swan
as fickle Zeus was, a shower of gold, a great waster of time, a better god
for this art, but why make love to a critic, anything that needs sick understanding.
~ ~ ~
The rooms continue to mouth your damage, the nipples of it,
which is the ancient mother really, is wet sand. I walked there beside you,
without memory, the indivisible sound the ocean is continually trying
to make, like Cy Twombly invading Roman history with crayons
you are warmer, you are very close, now drink him down and find
at last the divine animal he conceals, love him lost, be grateful.
~ ~ ~
The present has a flesh-hinge but denies it is a book. I have learned
unforgettable things, the fingers must be steel inside the painting,
the fingers must steal inside the painting, the kleptomaniacs of space,
like the white peasants in Malevich, who went ahead, brooming
all the snow of vision in preparation for Suprematism, cleaning out clouds
that chimed as if they were high crystals or vodka, or dead lovers, or lovers dead
to touch, how can I not love such peasants, those janitors of the avant-garde,
the only love of the New Year, a color's cold staring back.
—W. B. Keckler
How to Write Poems #510
Spelling is very important.
She was excited about
the bottle of gin, but
what came out of it
any wishes at all
—F. J. Bergmann
a version of this poem appeared on espressostories.com
with the title "Spell."
How to Write Poems #86
See, you take a language
you don't even know
and make up whatever
you think it looks like
it could say. Schickelgruber
becomes "shackled grubs"
or "sickle groove." Or "chick
leg rubber." Words are
squirming Rorschach splats
and you have a condition
not described in the DMS-IV.
Pictograms and hieroglyphs
are more, or possibly less,
accommodating. Barcodes are
the most challenging.
—F. J. Bergmann
How to Write Poems # 49
Rip a page from a defective
dictionary, or a dull novel. Cross
out the words you don't need,
like unnecessary or egregious;
words you don't like, such as
homeland or atrocity; words you
don't want, like heart or knife.
You may be left with nothing
but articles or pronouns,
those monosyllabic grunts
indicative of something
like passion, or pain.
—F. J. Bergmann
Poetry is an act of omission, until meaning narrows
into one knifeblade moment, dwindling to
a spark. The fine horse trots away
over the distant hill and the
horizon is empty,
the fog falling
—F. J. Bergmann
“MYSTERY SURROUNDS BIRD DEATHS”
“Police said an estimated 200 birds, some of which dropped out of the sky
and pelted passing cars, wound up strewn along the highway about 4 pm.”
—The Washington Post, March 31, 2000
As if a drop in barometric pressure, a hormonal dip
in the brain, some change in magnetic fields, as if
coded by one gene in one cell, one muscle’s electric firing,
the starlings came like snow sliding from roofs, muted brass,
they were stutter and flare. Black armbands stepping in a parade,
mallets drilling, a low rolling drum, they were
sheets snapping, coins clattering, beads slipped
from a string. They came like one hundred horns
and one hundred bells, the roar of the guillotine, they were
a shout from the stands. They were steel taps hammered,
toe and heel, the snap of a dancer’s fan. Hand on face,
knife on wood, without knowledge or forethought, they fell
like double-hungs, a kicked-out keel, and their long slide
was a skid on black ice, cards or pages bridging back.
They cleave. As if they couldn’t see the road curve
or the road rise, the long line of brake-lights flashing
or time the sun or the glare, as if they took
such pleasure in their dive, the green swerve of the world,
they couldn’t come out. Caught in a draft of synapse and nerve,
air shot from the bay, they were horses’ hooves, a squall of wings,
they were a sudden keening, as if they could descend so fully
into being, as if they are what they are, as if they are nothing else.
previously appeared in Gulf Coast last year.
Sir, we have read
and no more than usual
recourse to your rum
your entire oeuvre.
We have some questions:
Why no tempo?
It's all one glissando,
as though rubbing sticks together
could generate passion.
We divided on the issue:
What aspect of your work
is the most heartless?
The poisoned floss,
the severed necks
of old women? Others
chose the headlong
celebration of rules
or the brokered hypocrisy
of your critique of sin.
luminous dark blue monument valley
full moon night silhouettes
they galloped in deep red powered soil
the dust covers the mind window
with index finger i write peering through
letters whose words can never approach
even in the humblest bows her experience,
“I still can not know how my
nine year old daughter held on
to her horse twenty years ago.”
"Ana Buigues' Selected Wrytings 2002-2005"
Net.books: støttet av Norsk Kulturråd - supported by Arts Council Norway
Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2005 18:16:03 -0000
Sender: "WRYTING-L : Writing and Theory across Disciplines"
From: Ana Buigues
Subject: working method
1.write it down
Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2005 18:19:57 -0000
Sender: "WRYTING-L : Writing and Theory across Disciplines"
From: Ana Buigues
Subject: working method
1.inspiration sometimes comes when cleaning email that has been piling up in
my inbox for the last year
2.reading outdated emails, calls for papers that i missed, letters from nice
people that i couldn't even answer, kiss off letters i received in response
to some job applications, and drafts i started and never finished, makes
one realize that time flies.
3.this apparently mindless task becomes a triggering point for deep
reflection, and reconsideration of one's life and work.
Emotional Portraits After Géricault
text_ _______ð___________ð___ð______Ð___ ___p___@
__à___°___€_____P_HAHeading A_ _______à___________à___ð_______Ð___ ___p___@
one person one chair - hemingway - high park - in a hurry: all or nothing. spadina subway. motorcycle.
El Café Valencia - years later - recognition - silence - art nouveu winnery - lunch with mother - petit bourgeosie boulevard - . My senses. Your chipped tooth. Classless adolescence - soulful lust. the check please.
_la olvidada -- __
_2435 Boulevard St. Laurent.
Montreal, Quebec. _Canada__
Calvo Sotelo, 9_
___Nueva York, abril, 1936
_ _Endespues de llegar bien a Nueva York, salgo manana para Montreal.
-----_feeding your ego with cat calls from construction workers with a university education.
_through your window
_la finca roja
_this sky flirts with its enamel tiles roofs
_through your window
_the scooters roaring
_through your window
_your life passes you by
_you leave no emotional space for envisioning a future
_he doesn't love you,_you don't love you,
_through your window,
_all that your brightness, wasted here,
_Fragments of Barthes - the rhetoric of your lover.
_Wittgenstein deceiving himself.
the trumpet player
_---_the great expectations. between my childhood and your adulthood - duendes y hadas, es tu- soy yo. and nothing else, and we are content. Having our eternal amorous episode without complicating our lives pointlessly discussing why it should be eternal, amorous, or an episode at great lenght._your energy and your calmness - our timing. Dickens and Proust.
_----_ mom has cleaned your closets and santiago your office files
_- the physicality of my tears clearing out your bathroom cabinet - razor blades that you don't need anymore
- kissing your cheeks - jamás.
- your death - my catharsis.
- las golondrinas de bécquer.
En caso de accidente o emergencia: padezco arrítmia
_-------_calling card - wednesday at 9:00 - vancouver - marcha -timeless and cherrished friendship._
_sid meier creador de civilization 1,2,3
_-----------_fast, pheromones, strenght, culturally constructed, latin ballroom - performance - that Bathkin's mask: your shyness - aerobic bra- body awareness - can't concentrate on the dance steps - shake it - your monologues - sugar waxed underarm - sweating - 1234567, and 1, and 2 - that tush - - can't talk to you - sincopated - afrocuban -your hips - cardiosalsa - streetcar - St Clair West - butterflies -torrid - can't control it - your dark hair - my gypsy genes - funkyjazz - my dancesneakers - I blush and your voice trembles - Otra vez - I know I don't want anything -but still I play along convincing myself that I don't want to - your colombian accent. crossbodylead - pivot turn - footwork - and back to basics - and 1 and 2 - Performing at the Berlin tonight. Rabelais. You know I must change schools - She’s waiting for you, and you know I won't wait like her. Adios.
_---------_-unaware of one's desperation_-angry at you because you are not who I'd like you to be_-my immaturity - and yours.
All that we loved each other. And how unready to love ourselves.
-----_my bliss, caressing my soul with the soft feathers of the track of your thoughts that scour the clean meanders of your heart. Our epistles. My perfect beso. Guiding my hands through the doors I want to open. Stimulating my subconscious to cross those bridges, you seem to know I need to walk through. Jules Verne. Symbiosis. Beauty. Balance. Your patience – your space.
dad and mom_box # 13
@fas.harvard.edu - Hong-Kong-Switzerland._intoxications of all kinds have invaded our psychic space for love.
Eres indispensable. La soledad total eras tú.
alma en pena
_------_indigestion - the toronto star. Strattford. Out in the game again.
_---------_frog - mi principito - my felt sleepers - your chidhood - bilingual - your intelligence - my decision - projection - all you teach me - all that i love you - innocence and energy - laissez faire - dolce vita - joy and life. Disco boy. Me, mom, and Morgenthaler.
_-----------_choices, decisions, escapades. Bittersweet love.
--------------_might I have your attention, please - the corpse in the funeral - the bride in the wedding - the child in the baptism -you can' t focus - hypocresy - having sex in the closet - comparing and validating - semiotics - nouveau intellectualoid - your Groucho Marx's marxism - too many apologies - justifications - avoiding joy - the bull fighter outfit hanging in your kitchen door picking up all the grease of your cooking - sticky emotions. ridi ridi pagliaccio. Toda tu inteligencia y energia – aunque te estimé – ya no puedo más.
From The Psion Poems
València, abril 2002
For Rachel, Just before Speech
We are the body moving toward demise;
we are the soul, remnant of another life.
And always, rain tapping on a zinc roof
is the sound of fingers thrumming flesh.
Always, I return
to the things of this world, tethered.
You, who have come to me
from something, somewhere, I cannot name;
you who have a voice that does not speak
any language I know, yet unfurls bright wings,
alighting in each corner of this house;
you who are mine and not mine,
tell me the answers
while there is time.
previously published in Image: a Journal of the Arts & Religion
& then reprinted in Evensong: Contemporary Poems on Spirituality
“...it is surprising how the morning air gives one ideas!”
--Scenes de la Boheme
Facing the blank of the wall,
turning toward the window, distracted
by a Puccini aria blasting from a Speedpack box
at the Car-O-Van blocking the sidewalk--
a neighbor is packing up a life, all the odd
whatnots, curious thingamabobs,
those whatchamacallits. No passerby veers
from the bellow of the taped tenor,
from the pell mell of the sidewalk--each stops,
has to stop, heads ticking back and forth.
Words drift this way and that
in from the fussy street, and I am distracted
as another curiosity piece enters the scene--
a sea blue‘52 custom Ford pickup
pulling up to the curb, a woman
in a cracked black leather jacket,
in low slung jeans and velvet high tops,
hair a slick of purple pomade, singing,
singing along in a froggy single-speaker rattle
to La Boheme.
Flightless bird beneath a storm-scratched sky,
I try to chip out my own sound
beneath this canvas of noisy spring flyway,
but I am distracted by Our Lady of Lourdes
churchbells chiming in almost midday
and something else I am getting up to do
that I forget in an instant, yet something
curiously more important now
than facing the blank of the wall--
where corners web with dust.
appeared in Vermillion Literary Project Magazine
circling Lake Merritt in Oakland, California
and imagining Paris, France
This morning circling Lake Merritt, the birds
rouse the imagination with squawks, honks,
raspy cries. Slick cormorants line log booms
beating wings at mist, clumsy pelicans
slap at the water’s sheen, everything
awake on a snake of lake-light crawling
the gnarl of tree trunks--and Angelina
turns beneath her blanket on dewy grass,
turns there to kiss her lover on his cheek
as they rise there, as he calls out her name
like an urge, like a drive, like a hunger.
So in this poem name him Romero,
because you can. Imagine them instead
as they dance lakeside, Bois de Boulogne.
They dance lakeside at Bois de Boulogne
in Paris, France--dance with the same fluster
as birds circling in a raucous laurel
of wing beats, coos. But this is not Paris
but Oakland, California, and they
are homeless where sentries of city doves
preen at water’s edge on the lake wall’s lip
along a ducky little waterway.
This could be Bastille Day, could be Paris
dressed in pomp and flair, a firecracker
sky flushed in a blush of hoopla. Lovers
are the thing there. If you are not in love,
you will be, or steal into someone else’s,
too much Bordeaux too early in the day.
Too much Bordeaux too early in the day,
name them what you will--him Remy, call her
Adeline, because you can. That’s the thing
with poetry, it can pose lovers where
imagination wishes to have them
stir or waken or even dance around
in Paris. Here, part of the scenery
and art of invention, her hand in his
rests for now on her grumbling stomach
while a legion of pigeons guards the bank,
feet a polish of pink, eyes golden sequins,
garden varieties, yet necks lustrous
in a royal sheen of purple and green--
but this poem is not one for the birds.
This poem is not one for the birds, but
it is for that homeless girl blanketed
in this Paris of the imagination
wearing a wide-brimmed hat and scented
lavender, not at this man’s coarse and thick
hands grabbing mussels young gulls fuss over,
flurry of feathers caught in the brambles,
city doves strutting their velvet nightcoats,
pecking peanut shells she scrambles after.
She dances lakeside, Bois de Boulogne,
too much Bordeaux too early in the day
where a sweet rich napoleon calls her
with strong coffee all the muscle she needs,
someone else busy with birds in Oakland.
appeared in Many Mountains Moving VII:1
THE POET DRIVING
at the podium, drives
the crowd. And reeling,
as if taking on mountainous S curves,
or hydroplaning minefields,
the poet maps metaphors
in shag bark and hickory, staggering
the dappled sundown.
This could be
Kansas, Saigon, Mozambique, Peoria,
a road, bridge, underpass
where the poet dresses deathbeds
in thin sheets
The clenched fist
becomes an open hand,
fingers that point
press into prayer.
And our silences
grow ravenous for this.
We choke down whole landscapes,
drink in cloud bursts, throb
with the starlit sky. We lean into the words
like a slow dance pinned to ourselves
like a corsage, like a lover, like a poem,
like the language
first appeared in The Pittsburgh Post Gazette
“...all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it...”
--from Introduction to Poetry, Billy Collins
You knew you were in trouble
the second you put the plate on the table--
those sesame snow peas and truffles
you drizzled with kumquat and ginger
to impress your poetry potluck writing group--
when he said, Not Chinese again.
You knew you were in-for-it
when he called your poem a travelogue of Paris
grinding down the wrong track
with its Kunitz epigraph fumbling at the gears
as he blasted, The old man got to wear
that crown of Laureate just for his age.
You knew, despite your mince and trim
and folding in its metaphoric light,
this poem would be tied to the chair
with a rope, have the life beaten from it,
a flabby bunch of bunkum flattened
with his belting, Where is the cri de coeur?
And you knew in the way you know
in a half-wake state when you hear a train
in the distance barreling into your sleep
in a blur of whistles and grinds and whirs,
its metal scraping rails in a still night, deep
in dark, its muffled blue note wailing.
You knew you must be dreaming this
standing before a train coming on headlong
at you half-naked there, a train about to slice
through what you peeled down to--
an awful tutu, mismatched shoes, feather cloche
you shouldn’t be caught dead in.
Then this man with a train for a mouth
tells you this is not a well-lit poem
and the guy donning laurels in the first car
misdirected it--that it’s rocketing
down the wrong track on a collision course
headed right for Gare du Nord.
And you actually thank this man, talking
with a mouthful of train, for his observation.
But you don’t write a word for days
then weeks as you focus instead your eyes
on a wind riding dunes hitched to a slice
of tangerine light, shapeshifting sunset.
You put your ear to the movement of earth
beneath a frenzy of shorebirds pecking the eyes
from a head of a beached seal there. And speechless,
you listen for a fading blue note of a train
in the distance, off to somewhere far away.
first appeared in Paterson Literary Review #32 with Allen Ginsberg Award Honors
Anti-Anatomical Conclusion, or
Stealing the Trespass from the Thief
An ending is an alias. The poem goes on, in disguise, elsewhere.
But that change of guise or gait often seems painful and awkward.
The culprit is anything but elusive. She stumbles at the portal of the
next poem, the 'new' one. And can't get in without damaging
its architecture, anatomy.
making the poem might require stealth. Coming or going.
And given the sometime circularity of the word, of the a.k.a.,
it's just as well to grant the interchangeable quality of beginning
Say the poem is a form, albeit a moving, animate one.
A generative structure in not determinative.
No consistent fingerprint.
Or say that the poem's costuming is only suggestive of identity and
some kind of lung and gristle flail underneath with a volition all
The spectral ends of continuity get damaged, bruised, and this is
the poem's basis. The bruise says: I'm alive; blood has flowed
through this channel.
(At a recent appointment, my physical therapist began kneading my
thigh in an excruciatingly painful way. "This is not relaxing my muscle,"
I gasped. "Oh no," he replied, "this is called traumatic massage." The idea
is, almost, to do damage. Bruising the muscle brings in blood, which, it is
hoped, will soften, make more fluid, the rigid fibers.)
To display the bruise is not to delimit the vigor
of the poem. It only exposes a part of the limb that extends indefinitely
from the hem of the garment. Blood once flowed here. And still
does, in traceries no one deigns to specify.
One might pick a lock and that's a way to blur the doorway's sense of
exterior and interior. Some one is breathing, there, in unsecured space.
Pursuing the free movement of air through these passages,
while the air, without remark, generates
itself. Lung's moist repetition.
If a poem were to have a 'heart,' the mechanism against conclusion
would be in place: poem as circulatory system. Boundaries are vaguely
decorative in relation to a nearly endless movement.
The name of a particular word, its enunciatory title: lub-dub's ironic
and happy irrelevance.
Though I use words,
and by words,
words are neither my clay
or my wheel,
my pot nor my spuds.
even in poverty
there are too many of them.
Pinch of salt,
pinch a rhyme -
it's forgers and spinners
call language a 'tool'.
And to call it a 'craft'
too set a goal
too honed a procedure.
the poetic trick is
making a meal from
An earlier version published in Poetry Scotland's Open Mouse, Feb '05
No such foot exists in English,
Tell them otherwise? They’ll whistle
Even if you’re heading north to
Driving through a freezing blizzard
Stuffed inside a green and purple
Fighting off a virus plus a
They will still be adamant-- but
Don’t insist their hocus pocus
Even though they know that they are
Don’t expect that they’ll admit it—
Just relax, and it’ll happen,
Could it take another decade?
They will say, How silly of me,
(Will they add they’re very sorry?
In Memory of the Nissan Stanza Wagon, 1982-1996
—for Ron Wallace
You hardly ever see one nowadays—
they’re nearly gone. Endangered, anyhow,
because of the intensifying craze
for S.U.V.s, the industry’s cash cow—
but some of us remember how it felt
to climb into that barren, boxy space,
yank and snap the fraying safety belt
and dream of glitz, and speed, and careless grace—
all the things our Stanzas never were,
by any stretch. But as we chugged
along the same old road, year after year
(handicapped, some said, by what we dragged
behind us from an unenlightened time),
we could sense a subtle turnabout:
our Stanzas were acquiring some acclaim
in circles with considerable clout.
Perhaps it was because we knew our beat
so well, the basic letter of the law,
while improvising several ways to cheat
a little, cut some corners, raise the bar
on all the disagreements, groans and whines
about what Stanzas could or couldn't do.
So if one comes your way, check out the lines
and brakes. Make it yours. And make it new.
previously published in SUBJECT TO CHANGE (David Robert Books, 2004)
Dear Sir or Madam: In this envelope
please find some poems that I have written.
I send them to you in the earnest hope
that you will read them and be wildly smitten.
In fact, you’ll jump up, cheering, from your chair
And holler out, Hey, get a load of these!
We’ve got the poems of the decade here,
we’d better print them in our journal! Jeez,
is this a little miracle, or what?
And then you’ll fax or phone me right away
to tell me that you’re breaking out a split
of Taittinger, to toast your lucky day
and call me back to say you might as well
FedEx my check this minute, what the hell.
first published in the journal FREE VERSE
ON TRYING TO LIKE A POEM I DON’T UNDERSTAND
the title seems clear
enough tho even after
7 readings, I’m not
sure what it mans.
Somehow, there are
boys and grasshoppers
and capitals in the
middle of a line.
Someone not there
is wanting something
so much he could do
anything to get it.
jesters stud the poem
somebody must have
understood to give
it a prize. Somebody
in the poem is having
nightmares. Or they
could be dreams. In
fact, every image in the
poem could be what
ever you want it to be
LIKE A DARK LANTERN
I move thru the first
floor at 3 AM, past
the cat who is curled
in a chair half made
of her fur, turning
her back on air
to find me prowling
in the dark as if I was
intruding on stars and
moon and the ripple
in water that spits
back the plum trees.
Grass smells grassier.
The clock inches slowly
toward the light. A
creak of wood and the
soft scratch on the blue
Persian rug the cat claws
gently merge with some
night bird I’ve never
seen like a poem that
goes along and suddenly,
at the end, like a banked
fire, explodes into the
wildest flame that finishes
off everything that has
come before it perfectly
THE FIRST WEEK AT THE ARTIST’S RETREAT
When I went to
type rain fills the
it came out
You would have liked, you
always saw things
as unfolding (said you
never knew past the
I’ve been living in a house
with paper partitions,
like in Japan, keeping
But I didn’t know that
when I started this poem