June 30, 2008


There is no loss or horror too lost or horrible to write about,
no word unspeakable, though you may hate to hear the word terrorist,
the growing roar of the double r, the hiss of the ist ?

So try this when you’re having trouble falling asleep
or waking up: think about the newborn baby next door--
hairless is less threatening--swaddled or naked,
sleeping or sucking. His hands open and close
in spasms, fingers waving like sea anemones.
He is a beautiful baby. No matter the 3 inch
bomb strapped to his 8 inch chest. Remember

the pinafore lady in the kitchen, democracy and gingerbread
to sop up all the milk from the tit of the world.
She has a nasal hum; her lullaby is a refrain.

—Annette Basalyga

Posted by dwaber at 06:01 PM

June 27, 2008


1.      make a found poem on the chalkboard left by the last class,
economics, whose budding economists have left the building
or at least the room.
        It would take Jerry Lewis, or maybe Danny Kaye, in cap and gown
pointing to these impossible vectors, lecturing in falsetto, how
monocompetition, or does the smeared chalk say noncompetition,
complicates the premise etc.etc. moreover and furthermore,
explaining the labels dead center over the graphs

                         progress                    colored
                         expertise      and       monopoly

or the other two, floating single and chaste as Hegel's angels

                        modernity                    retroformation

2.       enter our jolly poetry prof who makes thoughts thinkable,
astonished by the palimpsest, and its last mysterious couplet


The first is either a misspelling for the city over its ears in cinders
or the Roman general summoned  to end the slave revolt
of Spartacus. Why pair that word with Cuvier? he wonders.  That's
Baron Georges Leopold Chretien Frederic Dagobert Cuvier, the naturalist
who named the pterodactyl, and came up with the shtick
that species have been wiped out, now and then, by this or that,
earthquake or meteorite, or most likely, flood, these random cataclysms
that come upon us all. Catastrophes to make  grown men cry.
Back In 2000, tagged a millennium year, didn't the Dow Jones
take one of its longest dives to plummet (such a full-mouthed, chewy word)
to plummet  more than 600 pts?   Bill Gates dropped 11 billion bucks,
at least as much as the national budget of Freedonia.

Next to this classroom door, on the way out, an afterthought,
a triad, maybe a prophecy      ITY      ISM      IST     a  natural  conjugation
that will mutate, sprout  roots or rhizomes, sedge or moss.
In this Pennsylvania valley, between mined mountains,
we sit down to learn on North American Time.

—Annette Basalyga

Posted by dwaber at 01:46 PM

June 26, 2008


Hank was
          a train wreck,
          a mangled form,
          raging, abusing,
          simpering, weeping.
He wrote
          like modern
          beams exposed,
          ugly proving honest.
And for this
          he was
          razor-strapped, acne-pocked,
          drunk pugilist Bukoski
          is too easy.
We are the ones
          who puzzle me.

—Dan Edwards

Posted by dwaber at 12:55 PM

June 25, 2008


It is almost midnight
          when the bright moon
makes its way high enough
          to just peek
through the tops
          of Carolina forest.

You, in your agonies,
          in the fullest sense of agoniea
          – athletic strain –
          – not the agony of defeat;
                    there is no agony in defeat –
          but in the struggle toward consummation.

You, in your agonies,
          are furious, empty, and
                    deliriously grateful.
You have seen
          just enough
          through the tree tops.

—Dan Edwards

Posted by dwaber at 01:04 PM

June 24, 2008


Blessed are those who can read Neruda
          in Spanish or Merwin or Mitchell.
Blessed are they for there are times
          when the heart is too dull
and then those times it is not
          nearly dull enough.

But blessed are you
          when Neruda speaks your very soul;
and almost blessed when he speaks
          your soul remembered
                    almost fondly.

—Dan Edwards

Posted by dwaber at 01:48 PM

June 23, 2008


“Poems came rarely and at a cost.”
                                        Wendy Hirsch writing of Louse Bogan

Like children.
Like love,
          the kind that turns night magic.
Like truth
          that settles to the center and stays

—Dan Edwards

Posted by dwaber at 12:54 PM

June 20, 2008


Allen Ginsberg, small and wizened,
          gray hair of head and face
          flying out in all directions.
Allen Ginsberg, hand organ groaning,
          sang off key,
          “Lay down. Lay down yr. mountain.
          Lay down God.”
Wrote it for Bob Dylan

          on the Rolling Thunder Tour.
Allen Ginsberg, small and wizened
          author of Kadish, Howl, and Mind Breaths,
but whose best poem was being
          Allen Ginsberg, small, wizened,
          gray hair of head and face
          flying out in all directions.

—Dan Edwards

Posted by dwaber at 01:38 PM

June 19, 2008


If I had Mary Oliver’s ducks,
          it would be a different story.
We might be talking
          National Book Award or better.
Mary Oliver’s ducks, or David Whyte’s
          – not to mention Annie Dillard’s –
          make life worth living
          no matter what your people are up to.
They quack and a quiet joi de vivre
          seeps into your soul.

But the ducks in my neighborhood
          are big and ugly,
          the size of geese and just as vicious.
Red, splotchy faces betraying some ancestral liaisons
          with turkey buzzards.
One has a wing that sticks straight out,
          – his badge of honor from a bar room brawl.
The ducks in my neighborhood
          chase the dogs.
          Even the menacing chow turns tail.

Large these ducks, but quick of webbed foot.
They hurry between your car and the porch,
          block your path, demanding bread,
                    then your watch.
You cannot write poems about such ducks.
Even Mark Strand could not
          – they have escaped from his disquiet dreams.

Oh but if I had Mary Oliver’s ducks,
          it would be a different story.

—Dan Edwards

Posted by dwaber at 01:25 PM

June 18, 2008

Crost Bridges

In every background, a rathery
heat. One can never predict
what fire will allow in
a country of this type.
The rider of a mechanical
horse greets me saying, The edge
is painted orange and on the other

Side, a paper-mache question mark.
Have you read the news
yet? (That's my friendly
impulse to just talk.) I don't have
a chair, thinks the one standing
up who's taking notes,
a small package of knowledge.

In a mechanical fire (sleep)
I had a mechanical dream
speak to me
in a blur of bluish watery
motion. Outside, a cry from the cold
(like peacocks) rang,
What's in that bag, your soul?

The things I say to fire,
I say. Whatever the wind
tells me to say. A fretful message
moves down a string. Something
big, just the sky. Just a feather
carried by air, an ambulator
crosses to the other

Side. The cockroachy ambitions
of the father (the father in
a book I know) caused him to sight
fast apparitions, moving zigzags.
In the race for parents, there were no
winners. I speak as a light-
weight in the world of woe.

—Robin Reagler

Posted by dwaber at 01:33 PM

June 17, 2008

The Basement

A friend tells me on the phone she drank a glass of wine
one night and wrote, years and years ago, and the stuff

that bubbled out from her subconscious scared her so
she swore she’d never do that again. She was going to tell me

some story about Berryman but we had to get off the phone so I
never heard it, nor did I get a chance to tell her I wrote

half the stuff I’ve done drunk—at least by her yardstick.
But what should bubble up is the stuff from the subconscious

so I never really figured that out—why else would
you write poems if you weren’t trying to get downstairs

into the basement, where the sewage pipes are all
covered with dust and mouse shit more ancient than death

and the corners you poke around in are just as likely to reveal that
soft spot you always had for, say, pornography, to be the dead

body of your brother rotting with the lost ten-penny nails
and some rusty washers, rolls of solder strips underneath

the workbench? Or that rat that ran across the shadows—
isn’t that your father’s anger at everything that went wrong

in his life transformed into your own? That hammers your
fists on the desk at the littlest frustration and howls like a rabid dog

at your daughter who’s just bugging you for fun Can’t you see
that I’m angry?
as though that was some sort of accomplishment

to be proud of like the mitered box you made for your 4-H butterfly
project? Isn’t that bull snake that made one mistake to look

for cool in the basement but found its own private hell, that mother’s
hacked into bits with a garden hoe— the only time you remember her

coming down into the basement— enough to know she was killing
something that you didn’t even know yet what it might be? The bathroom

where father sneaked off to smoke cigarettes, and your brother poked holes
in the shower to spy on your sister? The cubbyhole where he stashed

his Playboys and half pints of gin you discovered as if by a miracle?
Isn’t this where your life began? Isn’t this where you found yourself?

—Greg Kosmicki

Posted by dwaber at 01:19 PM

June 16, 2008

In Lieu of an Ars Poetica

I've cut the string. The kite levitates. It hangs right in there at 2 o'clock, its red vibrant against the blue sky.

The birch bends beneath it. We are all in the wind and my link with the kite is strong. I can't bear to look down. My body feels the gusts and I become very aware of my ribs. The kite is motionless but I sense its minute pulse, its love with the wind.

Sal, my neighbor, comes out in the late afternoon and feels the air around me. No strings, Sal. No fishline, no radio-control. The damned kite just hangs there.

Almost evening, the sky a cobalt blue and the red kite with a halo. Sal has binoculars and is examining the kite for ailerons.

Let Sal demonstrate wonder: I am as buoyant as the kite. There's the bodiless voice of my neighbor, and myself, an ethereal witness, totally satisfied, thankful I have no hands to caress the kite.

Sal says I have a martini in my hand. Thanks, Sal. I lift it without looking at it, feel a tingle at my lips, then with one hearty gulp toast the kite. The feeling is impossible, like an ice cube floating in air.

It is evening and only I can see the kite, that diamond shape where there are no stars. In the morning there are no stars, and no kite. But there is space for another.

—James Cervantes
from The Headlong Future (New Rivers Press, 1990)

Posted by dwaber at 01:56 PM

June 12, 2008

Lermontov’s Room
Moscow, 1995

The hollow heart beats evenly.
                         —Mikhail Lermontov (1814-
                            1841), “Death of the Poet”

No doubt he himself hurried along here,
up these breakneck stairs, down this corridor,
heels clack-clacking to the rat-tat-tat of
mémère’s disapproval. Same old story,
the old and the young: he’ll never amount
to much if he doesn’t shape up, she just
can’t understand what his life is about….
His room’s been restored, cut out of the clouds
that breathe sullen, mute, this November day.
A poet’s lair — Pushkin above the desk —
the Caucasus engraved, craggy, fantastic —
notebooks lying open, tantalizing,
just far enough beyond the barrier —
and books, those lovely leather-bound Byrons
and Schillers and Chéniers spilling across
shelves like curios in a cabinet.
If you ask the old woman who sits by
the door, she’ll recite his poems, rocking
gently with the rhythm, thinking back to
her days at school, when it seemed the most
poetic thing to die young.

—Katherine E. Young
First published in The Iowa Review, 35/3, Winter 2005/06

Posted by dwaber at 01:06 PM

June 11, 2008

on the edge of a new country

     The pure products of America go crazy
          — William Carlos Williams

a ring in the new year; a ring through the ears

sleeping silently against the better part
               of the previous century

in part against past the breathing green & the
breathing will go in & out & it will go
in again

when charles de gaulle said vive le quebec libre
old mike pearson on the next plane him

               in the country, out, whichever one

he thought he was in

if it was my legal right to slip the paper piece

dangerous in turns & times; dangerous
against itself, a reeling

—rob mclennan

Posted by dwaber at 12:57 PM

June 10, 2008

GOD HAS NO MOUTH (for Lanny Quarles)

i am a baton, i never strike something
march when her swan speaks
god has no mouth

god is a sacred crowned dick and he arrests u
you speak like you're bald and you moderate me

stand like a chain letter, god never drips
unhappily among the seizure widgets

you speak of death and the bible-believers sweat

the swan is nourishment
the swan is a lowland scott

in the heart of his envy dumb things are thin with splendor

i am crowned, speak like you're something
a swan in a sarcastic hbo cult
the rest of the lawn is like that

the earth is a baton with some unique languages

the widgets scare me, some of them are bald in the rain

god is who then, she's a swan and speaks in a crowned slice
walking speaks of thee, hello kitty is a sarcastic penis poem
never drop off the gnome when your lawn is jogging whimsy

the swan is me, my voice sees her
you were french people speaking and thinking
he stops when her swan speaks

you're mean in her voice
the turf of the employees heart
u know it moderates me

today resigns, how you resign; its nourishing for you

oh dear, the anteater is a genius, he sees bald people

the men are chronic natural geniuses, a chain letter
in love-struck alchemical hbo hell

your blog is prejudiced, the tv has bird flu

the universe responds
you are yearning
you felt at least as cool
as the top anteater

speak like you're a poem
the swan is art

the blog was god's blog
the ants scare me

—Donna Kuhn

Posted by dwaber at 01:33 PM

June 09, 2008

On the beauty of petrochemicals


To the mathematician a good theorem
is more beautiful than any poem
can ever hope to be: its elements
universal and eternal, unlike shifty words.

To each his ohm.


Oh yes they do
belong in a poem.
Let others sing dandelions
and galaxies: an art worthy
of the name (in this language,
on this day)
needs to make its peace with plastic.


Poor Prometheus, who learned the hard way,
said, Cunning is feebleness beside Ananke.
An old Greek word for the notion ­
or law ­ or Goddess ­ or compulsion
(depending on your source) ­ of Necessity.
Born of Chaos in the shape of a snake,
Ananke is braided with Time and
wreathed around the egg
that is the world ­
tighter even now ­
so as to extract what must be
from all that you were once given.

—Alexis Quinlan

Posted by dwaber at 01:29 PM

June 06, 2008

After the Party

        Jesse's shirt, I address you in the affirmative

         early hour I handle with honor

                                                                 if only

                                             it were serious enough


                              linens to be discussed

                                                                     decorate this day

                  every hour a new babe is born

                                                                          Am I serious enough

                                              to be addressing Blake? Do I care?

                                                                               Dressing and undressing

                                                                                                              there simply

are no rules. I am serious.
—Patrick James Dunagan

Posted by dwaber at 02:31 PM

June 05, 2008


ear insists,
is a

asking for

in the

in the saying.

Insists in
the asking.

Night closes
door window

to begin
in words
with words.

The ear-
in the instant,

—Patrick James Dunagan

Posted by dwaber at 01:59 PM

June 04, 2008

I Haven't Even Told You Who I Am

I work in the back room, planting igloos.
I came to this occupation with no set purpose.
I heard they were hiring and applied, dreaming "adventures on ice."
I believe I wooed the boss with my tall tales and heroic looks.

Most mornings I drink coffee and rest easy.
Most begin without deliberate end.
Most remain inside as I go out.
Most would cite obscure texts and leave it at that.

As if I wasn't aware, alive in all this wet heat.
As if igloos.
As if in old photos the halls of my youth.
As if ever.

Here's the thing: this isn't going anywhere.
Here's the thing, quote,
"Here's the thing. Believe in what's said or don't. It won't change anything."
Here's the thing: I no longer believe in this particular thing.

—Patrick James Dunagan

Posted by dwaber at 01:58 PM

June 03, 2008

Bloggie Ars Poetica

I understood what the intruders meant
when the ugliness of their words
shone back at me via a webb’d existence
only a slow-minded mammal
would bother fooling with.

—Patrick James Dunagan

Posted by dwaber at 12:49 PM

June 02, 2008

Poem with Two Stairwells

Back and forth, an old stone wall
falling. Ghost of chimney smoke.
Rain is light, sunlight streams under grass.
Trucks full of produce, how green
spills over fences and churchyards.
With pebbles you may.
Hummingbird hands, you have
found wind, bulbs buried so long
ago. And the smoke. A carriage
spurs. Sorry, I cannot.

I too will write loss. I will
sit at its opaque table.
Like this the forest untangles,
the wheat grows high, and the stars
shatter. Kneel with the brambles,
the daughters of June
. A line of girls,
hair wreathed in lilies. Bells
and streetcars burn. Noises other
than water. The fields understand
night, the unerring hush and rise.

—Beth Martinelli

Posted by dwaber at 12:43 PM