December 30, 2008

These My Exhortations

If I had the wherewithal, I would burn the notebook
in which I scribble images—city, river, sky—
ominous only to an ominous mind.

Ambiguity, I detest you! Your simultaneity is a fraud;
you require two or more moments to exist,
and then you make us the dupes of Time, and we put
our tongue to the diode to suck the weak pitiful sensation,
like eating a particular food once too often in a week
or coming for the third time in a day.

I’d like a giant typewriter, whose every key, when struck,
would leave by its one mechanical swat an entire poem
on the page. Then what prepositions, what predicates, even,
I could offer you; failing which, I’d be an enormous fly
in the lands of sugar cane.

—Matt Longabucco

Posted by dwaber at 12:09 PM

December 29, 2008

no reason for the thing (or trying to get your own back)

party one

“you’re trying to make me feel guilty”
“I don’t think so”

and martin luther was obsessed with his own shit
he was just another argumentative fuck who spent
          too many nights in bars and came out smelling like cigarettes
no one who knew him liked him
but he had love and the words loved him back
          so he nailed them up on a door like nailing jesus on a cross
still, he never really felt the presence of christ
just the words
his hand on the holster, a pen-inked four leaf clover
he said “sshh, don’t worry, I can always go back in the water”

party two

in 1985 I wrote “pain makes you smart”
          but I was looking over my shoulder
the a/c on high all summer
didn’t care about the rent

and john said to john “you know all that stuff that you wrote”
“well just, you know”

martin, he went to hell, there’s no doubt about that
anyone that afraid eventually does
they bubble over like opened coke bottles,
eventual dragons

and john said to john “you’re a sycophantic fuck”
“yes, I am, it’s great isn’t it”
“well, we’re great”
“but I thought this was about words”
“well, our words”
“lovely, aren’t they”
“well they get us laid once in a while”
“which is what martin was looking for if you think about it”

party three

earlier, two blocks from the end of the ‘n’ judah, my head against a metal pole, right temple. lobe. eyes closed. voices. cars. everything a contribution. I wanted to be no one else.

every poem I’ve ever written has been a waste of time.

party four

comes the avalanche of them like the way your mother cries and you don’t know what to do, or never knowing what on most days, so you pick up a picked scab, a chapped lipped pulse, I write, therefore I have something to do, but eighties dance music still holds a better sway, a lead guitar setting cadence and I’ve watched your face for a long time and it’s always the same.

“well get out your mirror then martin”
“I’m john”

party five

what if notice, the picker drove the apple from the tree, barely out of tune, today a south-wind, but not the north as the writing changed, a slant, a smell of culture calling the smell of another culture by name, first person familiar.

what if notice, you’re sitting too close. these are my battles, jingles from my sleep that I swore I wouldn’t listen to again.

what if notice, god got sick of martin, but I am still sanctified. I’ve felt them all many times. I call them sweetheart. I have no need to feel the hammer in my hand. I know songs that were famous from the year I was born. I only stop because it’s the bottom of the page and I need all the help I can get. baby we gotta go.

—John Cleary

Posted by dwaber at 04:45 PM

December 24, 2008

you tell me it would make a good story but it’s just something I’ll always remember
still, I could reel you in if I wanted to
but first you’d have to concede italy
that god is in the t.v.
a taxman
god himself is a beautiful dead tuscany cemetery
a napoleanonic response
and nappy, he saw enemies everywhere he turned
yet he never saw the lazio fans in the stadio
never searched for a biglietto with a crazy taxi driver

or a word singing
not words, just one word in good voice

I’ve been hugged outside the gates of every future ruin amongst us
no, it’s not love, but it’s a bit of fun isn’t it. a kiss on each cheek.

—John Cleary

Posted by dwaber at 04:32 PM

December 23, 2008

anne carson (reading and writing)

a couple weeks before that there was a visiting scholar who flew and quilted a wit so they published it

the seat next to me smelled hooverphonic, an agitation of breath and height

a getty special
a los angeles high-brow mountaintop
a maglev climbing language stumble, it grew bored
a staircase prophet
a liar is a liar in courtyards or governments or on the cross next to christ
call it a monotone reading of the lively
a man in a net trapped campaign

reproduction, refurbishing, rewritten, restored translation of a break-down when the housed cracked on another los angeles hilltop somewhere near northridge, but felt all the way in rome, florence, athens

edison invented the light bulb
how does that compare to the statue of david

when I was twenty-one I went to the hilltop with a girl I had a crush on and another I was sleeping with. some holes are natural and some are man-made. malibu is somewhere in between, 30,000 pages of short hand, facts no one will care about a week from now. the way light sneaks into subways and construction sites. doodles.

what we finish falls down the sides of things. cut.
apartment complexes
math graphs
a pair of red boxers with a blue waist band

can you confiscate the taste of a shape

the reader is bothered by the collaborator
she glances twice and unfortunately gives in

why do we listen to a reader. is it the brain as a building, the smell of sweat in auditorium rows or the taking apart of apollo to destroy the taste of the beer that you get at the corner store for twice the price.

in 11th grade mr. brown was my spanish teacher, but he was mostly good with stories. apollo then, as a word, taken apart, is as unstable as a brother, is forgotten as a white-washed relief, is a broken rope ladder, is bodies in trees, is street walker overlooked, is a piece of the lake floating out to sea, is the wedding day long gone, is one participant in the stack of pictures emptied into bags in the aisle. they are mine as much as they are hooverphonics.

mr. bubble.

—John Cleary

Posted by dwaber at 02:08 PM

December 22, 2008

The Poem Avoids the ‘Sincerest Style’

When the poem comes to say what it knows about the suprasternal notch, it stops. The pale hairs curling back against the skin are far too personal a detail to render. The poem vowed months ago never to speak of its erotic life again. Today’s suitable topics do not include the weight of flesh in the palm. The poem shuns also the plane tree and fig for surely alluring fruit poisons the page where a fir can never whisper nor willow weep again. But what of the moon, the breast-pink oleander and lupine the color of the edge of daylight—all of nature lit from within like a de la Tour painting?

The poem shrugs and shuffles away from the lake and the ginger daylilies, the pelt of moss on a park bench. It can only surreptitiously admire a hip, an elbow, but must eschew the eyes as too close to tears, too skewed to the heartfelt which the poem has to admit it can no longer abide. A reader might imagine the poem looks better with its clothes off but that is another poem altogether and one that concerns itself with sweat, that can only be alluded to here, where the poem attends to its cartoon nature and, dressed like Doris Day, waits for a plane, reapplies mascara, and adds to its list of unsuitable topics which include the Alps, restaurants with linen table cloths and all of Italy. The poem must also drive away from metaphor, which grows smaller and smaller in its rearview mirror.

Thirty years ago, a poem could lie in bed all day, moaning heart! heart! And then break. Today, the moon-free poem has no vernacular for longing. It is a dream of itself in which a lover, if he arrives, comes too late.

—Wendy Carlisle
First appear in Cider Press Review

Posted by dwaber at 02:51 PM

December 20, 2008

Ars Poetica

The man who thought the ocean a bull
rode out to red horizon.
The ocean threw off a corpse
stiff as water was not.

It lay flat in the stadium of noon
where a bull tossed over its horns
a death no less real than the ocean.

—Dan Featherston

Posted by dwaber at 03:30 PM

December 19, 2008

Why I don't write formal verse

As long as I don’t have to follow any rules I’m okay,
This doesn’t include stopping on red but otherwise
I’ve got too many imperatives in my life to want to put them into poetry

What I want is the writing itself to tell me where I’m at,
What it means, where I’m going, how i can – eventually – make sense
As long as I don’t have to follow any rules I’m okay.

Because you know it really is getting harder to remember
All the codes, passwords, procedures at the bank:
I’ve got too many imperatives in my life to want to put them into poetry

Then there are all those medications I have to take
Before meals, after, before trying to relax.
As long as I don’t have to follow any rules I’m okay,

And the situation: what you do in case of a rocket attack
Biological warheads, dirty bombs, terrorist accidents.
I’ve got too many imperatives in my life to want to put them into poetry.

So I like to keep it easy and loose in verse
let myself rise above the restrictions in the world
As long as I don’t have to follow any rules I’m okay,
I’ve got too many imperatives in my life to want to put them into poetry

—Karen Alkalay-Gut

Posted by dwaber at 01:42 PM

December 18, 2008


The multiple response
of a person is people.
As in: trees people
when we pass with eyes closed
underneath their voyages.
I nod at a leaf. It nods back.
Neither of us anticipates the branch.
I wonder what time loves.
Surely, not a poem.

—Scott Glassman

Posted by dwaber at 07:24 PM

December 17, 2008

The Poem

is of itself

is. as we are

coming. going

mists. upon

ifs. the human


—Scott Glassman

Posted by dwaber at 07:23 PM

December 16, 2008


you are nobody. i hear you
as such. knocking

at the rest of me. i wish
were there

—Scott Glassman

Posted by dwaber at 02:42 PM

December 15, 2008

Over Nazareth Bay

Inscribed in the strange
dialect of butterflies,
there are furrows
that open and close,
a flurry of lines
folding into shadow
before it can be
called shadow,
the incipience
of curves around
the improbable fact
that clouds here
are nothing but
soft crucibles.

If there is an eclipse,
I know that night
will never be different again.
What choice have I
but to dip sharply, pitch upward
like some small music box
of invisible muscle
saturating each
human glance
with violet—

I know what happens
if I never land.
You will motion
me closer and I,
off-balance, brightly
inflected with edges,
will obey.

—Scott Glassman

Posted by dwaber at 01:43 PM

December 12, 2008

Woman Leaves Poetry Seminar

          (for Kevin Brophy)

finished with the poetry thing
now I have to deal with
dirty nappies, screaming,
a husband who thinks poetry’s quaint

where is it all leading?

there it goes
through the traffic
leaving a trail of tail lights
smudging up the rain

there it is
carved up on a butcher’s tray
but not yet dead

& there it was
in the split of curtain
drawn down in Jesus’ last words

the poetry thing is over
the reading, the talking
now for the living
where the bloody poetry thing
keeps on appearing

leading to places
where words are used
to describe what words cannot

& I’m a fool that tries

—Paul Mitchell
originally appeared in fourW

Posted by dwaber at 12:08 PM

December 11, 2008

Not a religion, poem. Key?

This is consciously a poem and so must try
to outstare itself. It knows itself by its
line breaks. And clever self-referencing.
Its lack of narrative is clear–

we’re waiting.

And again.

‘Here’ lies. an opportunity. Your eyes can speak
of symbols, signs of things that haven’t come
in a visual age: an end to war, despite a War
to end them all. And suffering, despite a fat man’s
sculpted illusion. You have your peace, B.
I prefer my conflicted version.

But this is consciously a poem, not
a religion. It’s a chance to speak
without dogmatism, without a voice

if you choose. And to read without one, too.
Chance forewords drop from the air
or out of your mind’s eye, whetted and appetised
.. .
No pictures anywhere! So is reality nowhere?
Yes, we can be happy at last. Reality freed.

Costing nothing, giving nothing. All
consuming, a self-conscious //
“not mean”. Or try this ~

Art? Always ‘not art’. Its one
great purpose. Don’t blame the // or the ~
or even the ____ for their re-thanking.
When you’re in a dark cell, ancient
ring pulls from Coke cans feel like keys.

—Paul Mitchell
first appeared in Eureka Street

Posted by dwaber at 12:38 PM

December 10, 2008

Conversation at the Publishing House

               Poor cultures can afford poetry, wealthy cultures can’t – Les Murray

Who’s that on the phone?
          I think it’s that poet again
He wanted something, didn’t he, I wrote it down–

          Our publishing guidelines—

Tell him no one’s funding poetry
Tell him poetry strained a back muscle
Tell him poetry attempted a double
somersault with pike, landed on its belly

Tell him my bra strap’s loose
Tell him your shirt’s too tight

Tell him there’s a lot of competition
Words aren’t cheap
toads have warts
and ice-cream shouldn’t be left
in the car at the supermarket—

He’s just hung up . . .

Has he? Bloody poets

—Paul Mitchell
originally appeared in a Melb Poets Union anthology

Posted by dwaber at 01:32 PM

December 09, 2008

Roll of Meaning

I read a poem about how meaninglessness
compounds in language until it means something.
I think I know what this means, which maybe
shows I don’t. I’m not sure I want to.
The title, ‘a poem without dice’, seems chancy.
Perhaps the poet wanted to mean, ‘a dice
without spots’? On the bathtub corner
I spot a small white cube. It’s pointless
to say, ‘It’s true’ –

—Paul Mitchell
Originally appeared in Blue Dog

Posted by dwaber at 02:45 PM

December 08, 2008


It’s no use showing me poems about music;
I’m tone deaf.

There’s nothing wrong with that one,
just needs more brilliance.

Yeah, you’ve written a shocker there.

Having died you never completely come back.
I had a rehearsal for the big stage.

Great poem. And full of love.

*          Don’t use tired images when you feel
            you are at a crucial point.

Don’t crowd the idea. Have confidence
the point is made and

ask yourself
has this poem got hungry pockets?

—Paul Mitchell

Posted by dwaber at 02:22 PM