October 31, 2007


May the Lord of Death pass over
this house. May the Lord of Envy
not curdle our whey. May the Lord
of Greed release us from craving.
Great Lord of Time, grant us a stay.

—Barbara Goldberg
Forthcoming in The Royal Bakerís Daughter (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008)

Posted by dwaber at 03:01 PM

October 30, 2007

His Poems

Some lie, pins set, in a field of phlox, a living room, the road to the store; the smallest contact and they explode; hence, the poetís country is full of the limbless.

Others, read without protection, whiten a watcherís eyes instantly so he spends the rest of his life in snow.

The poetís readers understand the risks, yet each book he flings into the crowd lands in
a pair of eager hands.

How can this be? Is it a trick the poet plays? Who are these readers? What can we do
to bring them here?

—Lola Haskins

Posted by dwaber at 03:36 PM

October 29, 2007

Epitaph for a Poet

Here lies Richard.
He tried to improve on silence.

—Lola Haskins

from Desire Lines, New and Selected Poems, BOA Editions, 2004

Posted by dwaber at 05:05 PM

October 28, 2007

Spell for a Poet Getting On

May your hipbones never die.
May you hear the ruckus of mountains
in the Kansas of your age, and when
you go deaf, may you go wildly deaf.

May the neighbors arrive, bringing entire aviaries.
When the last of your hair is gone, may families
lovelier than you can guess colonize
the balds of your head.

May your thumbstick grow leaves,
May the nipples of your breasts drip wine,
And when, leaning into the grass, you watch
The inky sun vanish into the flat page

of the sea, may you join your lawn chair,
each of you content
that nothing is wise forever.

—Lola Haskins
From The Rimbenders, Anhinga 2001

Posted by dwaber at 01:28 PM

October 27, 2007


                San Antonio, Florida

They don't mow on Sundays in San Antonio.
They keep the seventh day for Paz
and Neruda, for Simic angels
whose wings are made of smoke.

And they walk their dogs softly in
the mornings, so they will not miss
the smallest utterance of Whitman
or of John Claire, who pace the parks

early, when a ground fog's rising
and the oranges are lanterns
on their stems. And sometimes
they go to bed changed. And

they'll swear it was not they who
fumbled in their sheets at dawn,
as the poets rose like grass, and
the mowers coughed and were still.

—Lola Haskins
From Desire Lines, New and Selected Poems, BOA Editions, 2004

Posted by dwaber at 01:15 PM

October 26, 2007

Sleep Positions

This is how we sleep:
On our backs, with pillows covering our chests, heavy as dirt
On our sides, like wistful spoons
Clenched, knees in-tucked, arms folded
Wide, like sprawling-rooted lotuses

In Iowa on top of pictures of Hawaii, huge white flowers on blue
In New York on black satin
In China on straw.

This is how our dreams arrive:
As hot yellow taxicabs
As sudden blazing steam, we who have been pots on a stove,
looking only at our own lids
As uninvited insects, all at once on our tongues.

O hairdresser, auditor, hard-knuckled puller of crab traps, you who
think poetry was school, you who believe you never had
a flying thought,
lie down.

—Lola Haskins
From Desire Lines, New and Selected Poems, BOA Editions, 2004

Posted by dwaber at 02:31 PM

October 25, 2007


Shucked mussels in cellophane, workers tossing
Squares of sod onto the suburban yard
In front of the new, pastel house
Where there have been only two lights on at dusk.

Snow on the gunís nose, snow on the shoulders
Of the Latin scholar leaving the library dust
Behind her, shaking loose her hair

As if the line drawn by the worker to place
The banister more than line, but
An arrow fixed and pointing to the dipperís cup

And the eternal song: all done for the listening ear
Of the hunchback turning toward the magnolia
Blossom unfurled in the window. He turns his sad

Face to the outside, and strolls away, leaning
Into the avenue of opposites, music
From the open throats of mutes, or wind seen
In the maculate mouths of the fluted

Lily. All poison, all trembling to unearth us.

—Pamela McClure

Posted by dwaber at 04:20 PM

October 24, 2007


a passage from proverbs he chose
marked like a quail's crown

no one exists alone but a
spineless attorney taking advantage of misery

or a steaming bubbling beautiful wife
over trees & plates tonight

& chains of bondsmen dragging on the ground
as the curiously glowing guard dogs bark

as when rolling breakers boom a precipice
& our would-be cities fall & then things bloom

ever more hurt than substance will
accrue to you I say thru locks of curled wire

Iíd entrap myself rather than prepare in advance
a music of words caught up in polemical blood

a question does not come before
donít seek haven in my shadow

for making well crafted objects
I ought not to fail because I am not your lover

I felt the heart within me fall & flutter
the voice an artificial hermetic closet

a resting-place full of summer sounds & scents
that I suspect is virtual discourse

fear sticking up its head
& ticking as if earth were going to be ready

we'd lie under covers gossip & read my poetry
talk approaching ornament & image

this must be a sacred spot close quote
couldnít speak had nothing to say

(January 19, 2007)

—Bill Lavender

Posted by dwaber at 01:02 PM

October 23, 2007


Thereís entirety in eternity,
and in the pearly gatesóthe pages relate.

I fall prey to

have hated

You know, Iíve never understood reality,
          then try to relay itótearily, iratelyó
          and Iím a liar yet.

But when I write about death and poetry,
     itís donated therapy
   where I converse with
   Emily Dickinson, my inky misled icon.

And when my dream songs are demonís rags,
     I dust my manuscript in a manic spurt
   hoping the reader will reread

because I want the world
to pray for poets as we are only a story of paper.

—Kelli Agodon
Previously published in 32 Poems

Posted by dwaber at 01:56 PM

October 22, 2007

          If you could sign your name to the moonlight,
          that is the thing!

                                        -Mark Tobey

Sometimes waves scribble their initials

          over a path of moonlight. This is the closest

                    to a signature weíve ever seen. Maybe,

                    or maybe itís the clouds with their C-curves

          crossing in front of the Oómouth open,

head thrown back and singing.

We cannot steal words if theyíre kept

          unspoken, but who wants to live that quietly?

                    Instead, I want to swim in the dark

                    sea across paper, climb the barges

          and docks that float there. Moonlight invites itself

to our desks and we try to nail its beam

to our paper. Weíve been swimming here

          for years, trying to steal what hasnít been

                    written, diving to the bottom of an unread sea.

—Kelli Agodon
Previously published in the North American Review

Posted by dwaber at 04:38 PM

October 21, 2007

        And it was at that age...Poetry arrived in search of me
        ~Pablo Neruda

Ignore Billy whoís bothering Louise
with his sestina, repeating his six words
in her ear when he thinks the teacher
isnít watching:
                ghost, mouse,
angels, hat.

Youíre five and September is the month
of poetry subjects:
All About Me, Bones, Love, Roads, The Five Senses

Before your parents leave,
Mr. Pound says what you will do today:

Orally combine words to make a complete thought
Practice proper writing posture
The ABCs of reading

For show and tell, you bring in a clichť
and everyone points it out.

You write your first haiku:
in kindergarten
I still dream about being
in kindergarten

After story time, you tell the librarian
you enjoyed Beowulf just so heíll smile and nod.

Li-Young shares his peaches with you at lunch
and you want to touch his hand.

Back in class you realize you have a crush
on Sharon who keeps pulling up her dress.
Wallace mumbles something in the center
of circletime. Few can understand him,
but everyone smiles in agreement.

Quiet Jane prefers to sit alone with a fresh daisy
on her desk. She stares out the window
and notices how dandelions form
into letters: O, Q, lowercase i.
You share a desk with Gwendolyn
and listen to her stories.

In the days to come you will learn
there is no way to stop Logan
from kicking the back of your chair,
or reminding you
that you wore that shirt
yesterday, the same green shirt,
and you dot your iís wrong. In fact
everything you do is wrong. Well, not wrong,
but not necessarily right.
Later, Franz beats him up after school
and things feel better for a while.

On Halloween, you dress up like a pantoum
and repeat yourself all day.

You are starting to believe
couplets are for babies.

For Valentineís Day, you write,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond
on your cards, and the principal
calls you into her office
to ask you if youíre getting enough
to eat at snack time.

Sometimes you forget and run with sestinas.

Next year, youíll begin first grade
and will be introduced to book contests,
submissions, and rejections.
Now, your poems are returned
with smiley faces, stickers, and stars.

Youíre happy in this iambic universe,
this phonic jungle where the alphabet
wraps around the roomó

Jack-Jack Kerouac, ă, ă, ă.

You wear your sonnet like a cape
and revise the words that spill
from your backpackó
verbs hang from the monkey bars,
nouns lean against the bike rack,
a villanelle of mockingbirds echo
as the bus comes into view.

—Kelli Agodon

Posted by dwaber at 05:55 PM

October 20, 2007


I ask Him for the next word
and a goldfinch flies through the church.

I tell Him thereís a poem Iím trying to write
and lights flicker.

Each day I ask again. Another idea,
another way to pray.

I confuse poetry with religion,
a white wafer I rest on my desk.

My grandmother says not to call for God
unless Iím dying. Yet I ask

God to help me (again and again)
write the last line.

When I finish the poem
I walk outside and find the neighborís dog
fallen by the side of the road.

Its pain becomes what I hold, an ache
fading into my armó

a sacrifice placed in snow,
the taste of blood when I wanted wine.

—Kelli Agodon
Previously published in PoetLore

Posted by dwaber at 12:56 PM

October 19, 2007

how Simon Rodia showed me my craft



before iíd launched a single soul

or heard the cat call in my voice

some sanity insisted that i see

the joy leaps of your towers

                                                Simon Rodia


in flat exhausted Watts

where no tree grew



                                                afraid of my life

                                                looked up at your craft-


                                                a maze of spires

                                                cathedral of steel rods

                                                a window washerís labyrinth of tile


what wind had ripped you loose

of the gray grind?

motorcycles growled revenge

spanish mothers prayed

their baby Jesus would survive



cement and broken dishes

your creation:  the ark

still pushes at the backyard fence

baptismal font awaits

the new born

and here a bench for sitting


in your Italian Sanctuario

inlaid with jewels from the garbage

are all the treasures of a boy-  blue of broken tile

green fire of soda pop

seashells from the bottom of your pocket


                                                of broken wine decanter

                                                holy shapes that blossomed

                                                                                    in your hands


and in my northern neighborhood

when no wind blew

and nothing happened in the house


i would imagine that i had a craft

like yours                                

                                                Simon Rodia


and every broken bit of color

that life washed up for me

would have a place in my design



the city fathers

tried to pull

your towers from their roots

                                                Simon Rodia

not even swinging cement balls

could shake your work

                                                i saw you

                                                riding your joy leaps over their upturned faces

                                                over the arches over the many

                                                colored   mosaics   over the holy spaces

                                                you had created   a  whole world for me

                                                to visit


                                                and a great wind

                                                ripped me loose!




Note:  Simon Rodia was the creator of Watts Towers, magical folk art structures whose cathedral-like spires were made of mortar, steel rods and mesh, and whose intricate mosaic designs were made of broken crockery. It took Rodia, a poor Italian immigrant, thirty-three years to construct his life work. When the Towers were completed in 1954 he deeded them to a neighbor and moved to Northern California. The Towers survived the Los Angeles building departmentís demolition threat by standing up to a pull test to determine their safety. The Towers can still be seen in the southeast section of Los Angeles known as Watts.


—Naomi Lowinsky


Posted by dwaber at 12:31 PM

October 18, 2007


comes someoneís music


comes the unturned page comes the name comes the footstep


W.S. Merwin....


comes wild

   the word-

                 who knows who

                           blew it in-

                                                says it is


                                                            oarsí creak

                                                            gullsí cry

                                                                                    at sunís set-


comes a pulse

            knows it is someoneís





                                    handclap of gypsies

                                    footstamp of bharat-

                                                               natyam dancer


comes a certain music

            does not remember

                                                its name

                                                whose famous old song

                                                                             has broken

                                                                                    and entered

                                                                                                this house?


                                                                snatch of Sappho?

                                                                murmur of psalmist?

                                                                laughter of Miribaiís lord?


comes the old story-

                        night ripper-

                        the one about

                                                going down


                                                            to visit her sister

                                                                              veil torn

                                                                              meat hook                                                                                                                              deathís eye-



comes long



                                    she says-

                                                can be language-


                                                            thereís a music

                                                            even down here


                                                                        spirit moves

                                                                        shades chant

                                                                        in her dream

                                                                        someone is singing




—Naomi Lowinsky

Posted by dwaber at 09:04 PM

October 17, 2007

Dante's Beatrice
Canto II

How long has she been dead, how many years
Raised to the light, set down among the saints
Confiding in each other as in life
About--what else?--a man who needs their help
More than he knows. And in the world below,
Despite the dark wood, "bitter, almost, as death,"
His life half over, if he's fortunate,
Dante constructs his Beatrice as she may--
No, must be--now that he is most in need:
"Blessed and beautiful" (she always was)
But more: a soul who turns when Lucy asks,
"Why won't you help him? Don't you hear his cries?"
Then listens past the music of the spheres--
That slow, celestial humming--for his voice.

—Ned Balbo
previously appeared in Ekphrasis

Posted by dwaber at 02:46 PM

October 16, 2007


A friend calls me whoís crying about a boyfriend
I canít say much to help because -
Because most of my time is quiet and I like flat land
Because I prefer pencils
Because I still donít have a microwave
Because all of my aunts were unmarried
Because I wear sheets like sarongs
Because Iím stooped
Because Iíve never been really poor or quick
Because Iíve never learned to order pizza out
Because I think tone of voice is important
And because wherever I go I always pack a vase

I canít give much advice because
Those kinds of relationships
Are mysteries to me
Like sugar dissolving or cars that backfire.

—Hiram Larew

Posted by dwaber at 01:39 PM

October 15, 2007


The very best books in the world are the ones
That put sun up your back
When you are up a tree ladder
The best are the ones most like crumbs from a sandwich
When youíre still hungry
The most important ideas to learn from
Go only half way no more
And they taste
For better or worse
Like mustard.

Itís better to read more and then less
Button then unbutton
In fact what becomes clear in time
Is that itís good to become wild in a way
That resembles a pigeonís coo
Because nothing we come to know or love
Holds smoke in
Or echoes.

The tallest school around here
Is when we realize
That thereís a chance out there
But canít touch it canít even come close
Thatís when we turn into something awkward
And start to believe that
The most wonderful place in the world is in lettuce
Thatís why more and more
We like everything upside down.

—Hiram Larew

Posted by dwaber at 09:37 AM

October 14, 2007

Teaching My Students Prosody

                                             My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

My hands have tried
conducting your eyes to follow feet, tried to lead
you fox-trotting through mysteries of scansion:
"Listen: it's got a good beat."

How can I skate you on this ice
shinier than the glaze upon your eyes,
and get your limbs to pump to organ music
until they can waltz to the pure swing of melody
and sing, sure of it?

the slowing pulse--
numbering you to sleep
cradled in arms, a wrist beside your ear;

or the tapping in your chest
when you first knew a lie--
the smashed window or someone's "lost"
watch you stole--was contraband with which you could get away.

And getting away: feeling a heart race
in its bare chest on your bare chest
holding a heart syncopating upon that other,
both fluttering in a timeless quickstep
while, pounding, out in the parlor, the pendulum
tells your nerves each step your mother steps
as she trots home with some new shirts
she's picked out just for you, and the big clock
counts Stop Stop Stop Stop.

And suddenly it's you quickening the click of your
steps to the beat of your
blood, and clutching the shirts you bought for your
child, and
today school gets out early.
(Remember counting, pushing
the tiny body bloodily out
and feeling, at last, relief.)

Stately dance
your daughter up the aisle. Abandon her,
then glide
her in the final waltz that will elide
her from your arms forever.

the long steps following your father. Approach
the space, and count your pummeling pulse. Confront
the coffin
with spade after spade after spade of dirt
until it eludes your sight, in the only place
counting stops.

—Jay Rogoff
Reprinted from How We Came to Stand on That Shore (Montgomery, AL: River City, 2003). Copyright © 1986, 2003 by Jay Rogoff.

Posted by dwaber at 01:17 PM

October 13, 2007

Poetsí Park, Mexico DF

You and I risked our necks to get there, dodging
the mad cars careening around it, merging
from all angles, a condensing asteroid
swarm. Our eyes, forced open, wept in the acrid
air. Breathlessly we landed on that island
green as imagination, nearly blind
to traffic, though we heard the autos grumble.
Throughout this miniature oasis people
strolled, played with their kids, lunched. One couple necked
like no tomorrow near a less romantic
memorial to a poet Iíd never heard
of. His bronze head, looking grotesquely severed,
rested on an open concrete book
as if admonishing all poets, ďLook
on this life, this work, and think again:
would you choose loving under this lush green
or locking yourself up in an attic room?
The real, polluted thing? Or some daydream?Ē
We walked arm in arm; head after bronze head
would neither speak nor smile nor grudge a nod.
Exhilaration? Gray contentment? Anguish?
Who knew? I had no syllable of Spanish.
Emerging from the poetsí sanctuary,
the car-stink stinging, our eyes again gone blurry,
we found a fountain fashioned like a pen,
its nib replenishing a pool. A fountain-
pen. I pose beside it in your photo,
writing, writing forever with clear water.

—Jay Rogoff
Reprinted from Southern Poetry Review Vol. 44, No. 2 (2006). Copyright © 2006 by Jay Rogoff.
Forthcoming in The Long Fault (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008).

Posted by dwaber at 12:36 PM

October 12, 2007

A Breakdown

                              A. R. Ammons, 1926-2001

Coming from anywhere, your poems, they traveled
anywhere, rucksack on the back, hitching
up dungarees, hitching a ride, sentencing
down the road, letting their hair down, letting
themselves tumble down scroll-like and pushing
their lines through all those colons, never flinching
from all the nonsense we push through our colons,
compost being our biodegradable
identity, giving away the game,
giving off heady perfumes, signaling
hey, all the crap we spin out of ourselves:
haute cuisine for someone else, a fly, say, or
bacteria, imagination just
another enzyme, how the whole damned process
of breaking down never breaks down, whoa, never
ends, only that in the localest terms
we end, ending up brokedown into spelling
and if weíre lucky intimations of
some glory and some end that we use to
distract us from that glory and that end.

—Jay Rogoff
Reprinted from The Southern Review Vol. 40, No. 1 (2004). Copyright © 2004 by Jay Rogoff.
Forthcoming in The Long Fault (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008).

Posted by dwaber at 11:26 AM

October 11, 2007

(for George Szirtes - il miglior fabbro)

Your white ink settles on my page like snow
My stuttered words are quivering in the creases
Snow settles on my words and smothers them
My white ink clings to margins and to edges
Your white ink glides across this shiny page
My words are stumbling through your drifts of snow
Your snow has frozen all my white ink words
My white ink melts beneath your quiet breath
Your white ink lingers round my wordless mouth

—Hilary Mellon

Posted by dwaber at 01:10 PM

October 10, 2007

MOTH POEM (for Anna Reckin)



Your words skit

         hover         flit

donít quite


across      the     page

      but   s  m  u  d  g  e   its surface

leave soft   s t a i n s 


an iridescent dust from fragile wings

is what remains


elusive worlds   evoked and caught

      are      s  l  o  w  l  y      stroked

and   c a r e f u l l y   wrought

into   s u c h   brightness


cobweb light


that Iím left gasping


on the    f                                       n  

                  l                   e         i         g

                       u         t         r


                                                                breath of flight



—Hilary Mellon


Posted by dwaber at 01:13 PM

October 09, 2007


Here, what's all this then?
I heard you creep into my poem, uninvited, you sly bugger.
I can see where you forced an entry too.
Look, just there between that weak couplet and the spelling mistake.
Decided to squat in my newest stanza, I suppose?
And now you've got the cheek to ignore me,
sitting back on your heels contemplating the structure.
Well sod off, mate.
I've not been polishing rhymes all these years
just for you to come in and finger them.
And what do you think you're doing now?
That's my best metaphor you've got your feet up on.
I sweated blood over that,
sitting up nights putting it together.
And it didn't come in kit form either, I can tell you.
Made it myself, I did,
starting from scratch with a few old similes
cobbled together in various ways till they came out right.
And, believe me, it took a long time.
But it's still not strong enough to take your weight.
There, I told you so.
Strewth, you've bent the bugger now.
I can't mend that, it's useless.
Look, if you really insist on staying,
why don't you sit on something a bit more substantial?
Go on, there's a nice sharp image over there.
Quite comfy really, if you put a cushion on it.
Actually, I borrowed it off someone a few years back
and never got round to using it properly.
Here, now I think about it, it could be one of yours.
I used to really like your stuff in those days.
Still would, probably, if I had a chance to see it.
Haven't brought any with you, I suppose?
No? Oh.
Look, I've got an idea.
If I let you stay for a while, perhaps we could collaborate,
get it together on paper, as it were.
Yes, why not.
Go on, shift up a bit.
I'll get the beer out,
you see if you can do something with these words.

—Hilary Mellon

Posted by dwaber at 01:00 PM

October 08, 2007


These winter trees charcoaled against bare sky,
   a few quick strokes on the papery
      blankness, mean to suggest the mind
   leaping into paper, into sky, not bound
by the body's strict borders. The correspondence
   school instructor writes: The ancient
      masters loved to brush the trees
   in autumn, their blossoms fallen.

I've never desired the trees' generous
   flowering, but prefer this austere
      beauty, the few branches nodding
   like... like hair swept over a sleeping
lover's mouth, I almost thought too fast.
   Soon enough these patient alders
      will begin to blossom in their wild
   unremembering to inhabit the jade,
celebratory personae of late summer.
   So the task is simple: to live
      without yearning, to kindle
   this empty acre with trees touched
by winter, to shade them without simile,
   without strain. There: the winter trees.
      Their singular, hushed sufficiency.
   Again. Again. Again. Again. Again.
Now you may begin to sketch the ceaseless winter rain.

—Michael Waters

Posted by dwaber at 12:14 PM

October 07, 2007


No poem stalks me
so I start the chase: Eavesdrop
on children, walk abandoned houses,
wear my uncle's sweatshirt, read
Newsweek backwards.
In exhaustion I surrender
to the suction of sleep.
Whispering together
in the rafters above me,
crystal-bright sestinas
drift down like snowflakes,
giggle on contact,
then dissolve.

—Shoshauna Shy

Posted by dwaber at 01:49 PM


crop up in my mouth
like baby teeth

It will take
one night sleeping alone
in a white room
to jar them loose

—Shoshauna Shy
previously published in The Rockford Writers' Guild

Posted by dwaber at 02:51 AM

October 05, 2007


to know someone who writes
is to be like fish in a stream
and not know whether to expect
or belly-up blasting

—Helen Pavlin
originally appeared in "Collected Poems" in 1993.

Posted by dwaber at 01:04 PM

October 04, 2007


Kangaroos, they say,
have the most efficient
water-conservation system.
You see them sip the dew
and know theyíll not waste good water
flushing out their kidneys.

From novel to short story
to poem
I now require to distil
in ever more concentrated form.

In this age of conservation,
will there be those who want
the sparse
pellets of uric acid
I now produce?
Or do they only wish
to study the precise calibre of hair,
the porosity of bone
the fox-scats
which yield
appetite and habitat?

Frugal of future life, too
the kangaroo always carries
a foetus
ready to grow or not
as conditions permit.
Like a poem.

—Helen Pavlin
originally appeared in "Collected Poems" in 1993.

Posted by dwaber at 12:29 PM

October 03, 2007


Sometimes I have to
run out of the shower quickly
to get a poem down
or write bits rudely
like a phone number
on a paper serviette
or beside an agenda

But all this is better
than a still-birth
or having a baby die inside
and carrying it to term
or looking surprised
at what popped into the can
of the bush-toilet
disturbing the flies

Iíve met a woman
who had both these things happen
She also said
she felt nothing
down there

Thatís how it can happen
I suppose

—Helen Pavlin
originally appeared in "Collected Poems" in 1993.

Posted by dwaber at 04:50 PM

October 02, 2007


jars of acid and
exfoliating cream
tools of the poet

—Helen Pavlin
originally appeared in "Collected Poems" in 1993.

Posted by dwaber at 11:50 AM

October 01, 2007


what we
make of
this is
we are
made of

—Scott Watson

Posted by dwaber at 12:13 PM