January 30, 2009


The scribe’s quill
moves across the page
letter by letter
entering deep into the curve
of the letter’s arm, the arcing
middle, the foot that opens
word to word.
Each letter beckons
to the next—the space between
is holy.

Cleansed first in ritual bath,
prepared to write the name of G-d,
the scribe controls the ink
from right to left; sings out loud
for every letter. Movement is headlong,
contained in pure intention—
the essence of each letter, black.

Deep in ink, thorn, quill,
the word can make safe passage.
Meaning will come later,
when reader comes to study
or to pray.

The sofer’s arm moves across the page
from source to word.

—Carmi Soifer
previously published in "Between the Sounds Anthology", Volume 2, 2000.

Posted by dwaber at 01:56 PM

January 29, 2009


          for Tino Villanueva

In my friend’s story,
he is a migrant worker.
It is a true story.

He carries that small village of pain
over Texas ground
picking okra,

one generation removed
from the hurt
of cotton.

In town he is
pinned back against plyboard,
a laughed-at Chicano.

How did this man grow?
He will tell you:
I built myself

word by word
scaling language
like buildings,

rotating sounds
under my tongue

I could speak.

—Carmi Soifer
previously published in "Summer House Review Anthology", Volume 1, 2002

Posted by dwaber at 01:10 PM

January 28, 2009


Afraid it sounds too much like poetry,
I start again climbing four hundred steps
in a foreign clime looking at views.

A woman descending tells me,
Be careful; they will knock you on the head
and take your gold.

Fearing they will not recognize
I wear no gold chains, I nonetheless
climb the stairs again and again.

—Carmi Soifer
a different version of this poem appeared in "Slow-Dancer", volume 26, 1991

Posted by dwaber at 03:33 PM

January 27, 2009

Barn Burned, Then

The bank
A teller
The same figures’

Capacity to chorus, as if
Light was beaten for bread

A confessed wage
Through another


Broken-necked flicker

Gold pawed labyrinth

Flints of past thresher

Taking brother who is best
At hiding

Writing a statement

To take the barn’s place

—Michelle Taransky
first appeared in 88: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and is
forthcoming in the book Barn Burned, Then (Omnidawn 2009)

Posted by dwaber at 01:28 PM

January 26, 2009

Barn Burning, It

Found ways for following
Tempest like first ground

Breaking idea of foundation

First till a mule

Because disasters care
For if, asking is no bulwark

That one thought brick but
Breathe it states that missing

Patch of claim flowers

While planting burn
Not the burning

Reason ash is
Saved will figure

As such reconciliation
Tends to waste

Light, it falls in

What interest in fire-
Fed prizes

Calf and their comparisons

State’s birds called
Northern flicker,
Barn swallow

A charm to quiet bundles

Owing a companion
First meadow that alit

Then no plume
Can be its flint

—Michelle Taransky
first appeared in 88: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and is
forthcoming in the book Barn Burned, Then (Omnidawn 2009)

Posted by dwaber at 01:26 PM

January 25, 2009


                    The enemy will continue to infiltrate Literature.
                              —Comrade Stavsky (head of the Soviet writers’ union), 1937

The muse strikes

back, but doesn’t walk off the job
for a cost-of-living increase
and insurance.
and insurance.  Empire’s the thing
that totters forward with its mouse
ears on, paterfamilias
of so many little feet become a constant
perfume.  And yet: no praise,
no blame. The grass is still
green to the cheek. And we are heirs

to grace which made the tummler
stay at his Borscht Belt post

and dance. Alack, alas. What say you
soldiers of the lyre, we wait
for some o’clock and then stop
singing? Oh I would stop, oh yes

and let the feckless meadow fill
with xylophones and snow, the striped

tail of the muse slap in her burrow.

—Rachel Loden
from the book, Hotel Imperium (Georgia).

Posted by dwaber at 05:16 PM

January 24, 2009


First, thrust a Quill into his brain from above, or else
slit his throat, as is done in Jerusalem. Cut his skin

neatly from his Tongue unto his Rump and pull it off.
Then sever his Head with the skin and legs

and keep it. Roast the Poet on a spit. His body
may be stuffed with sweet Herbs, his breast stuck

with Cloves, and his neck wrapped in a white linen
cloth. Baste him vigorously until he crackles.

When the Poet is almost cooked, take him down
and redress him in his skin, whose inside

you have coated with spices, salt and cinnamon.
Then, when you have put his skin back on

get an apparatus of Iron and shove this through
his spine and legs so it cannot be seen; in this way

the Poet will stand so that he will seem to be living.
Take the neck of your Poet and bind it at one end

and load it with quicksilver and ground sulfur,
pressing until it is roughly half full; then bind

the other end, but do not seal. When it is quite hot,
and the mixture bubbles, Air that is trying to escape

will make the Poet sing. If he doesn't cry
loudly enough, tie the two ends more tightly.

—Rachel Loden
forthcoming in Dick of the Dead (Ahsahta Press)

Posted by dwaber at 05:09 PM

January 23, 2009


No one can quite

get over it. It is summer and revenge
lies sweetly in the fields
with her legs open,
with her legs open,   her Bo Peep
petticoats in ribbons.
petticoats in ribbons.  Et tu,

far away, alternate worlds
queue up
to be auditioned,
to be auditioned,  chatting
despairingly among themselves,

but nobody's called back. Revenge,

our wretched darling, shakes the straw
out of her hair
out of her hair  and shines herself
into the reddest apple
on the highest bough.
on the highest bough.  Hanging tough
through hundreds of such afternoons,
worried into life
worried into life  by lightning’s play
on elemental soup, her stalwart heart

will rise again, slough off
loose brilliance
loose brilliance  like a firecracker,
and pack more melodies than Mozart.

Love, revenge, remaindering . . .
is this the end?
is this the end?  —The world pumps on,
with all its gently pitiless muzak.

— Rachel Loden
from the book, Hotel Imperium (Georgia)

Posted by dwaber at 03:51 PM

January 22, 2009


          Little lamb, who made thee?
          Dost thou know who made thee?
          —William Blake

Another blue stretch
in the Black Eye Galaxy—

it might have been
if groggy lamblets one, two, three

were not spilling out
into the secret world I share

with George Costanza;
George and I are met upon a klieg-lit plain

and I have on my Little Bo Peep costume
while George leans on his shepherd’s crook

and lambs as soft as heaps of sugar-dust
as light as new spring snow

are romping in the heavenly bright
till all I know

all that I ever need to know
is herding lambs with George Costanza.


George Costanza’s lambs
are plump as macaroons

and mine, as whorls
of white meringue.

Let those who never
gamboled with a lamb

suck on sweet bones,
make wicked plans;

I’m off now
herding lambs

with George Costanza.


Word to the cynics, you who laugh
so sure no codswallop with lambs

could ever make you weep;
that George Costanza’s nothing

but a sham, and I perhaps a wolf
sent out among the sheep

to shear their souls: but I say No,
and I am half-asleep, with all

the strange authority conferred
on sleepers. So you believe

that it is good and meet we met
and flew our stuttering craft

out of the Black Eye Galaxy
into a universe so daft

that you and I and all
the syncopating lambs

are one, are one at last!
With George Costanza.

—Rachel Loden
forthcoming in Dick of the Dead (Ahsahta Press)

Posted by dwaber at 01:33 PM

January 21, 2009


Second fitting with tutu, sequined crown, pink parasol. Tightrope
across the laboratory. Singing: Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal.

Small contretemps. Ambulance to the Med Zentrum in Bad Ragaz.
Subject tearing at bandages.

Sits up in bed at last, stares blankly at the Alps. Disconsolate.

Says only “All the kittens are still blind.” Meaning?

No change. Tear vials: one centiliter.

Can she see me behind the two-way mirror?

Subject spends day at Rosenklinik belting out the Volga Boat Song.
Then shyly asks to see “Monsieur Jolie.” God help me.

Subject belligerent, attempts to provoke fisticuffs. Nightdress torn in
brief struggle. Experiment halted till noon.

Must not let on that my feelings are increasingly inappropriate.

Cake flickering with candles on subject’s “birthday.” Trembles wildly,
refuses to make a wish. Cake wheeled away. Repeat Tues-Fri.

Subject will not speak. Working furiously on crayoned “manifesto.”

Manifesto found in the Krankenhaus torn to ribbons. O my soul.

Demonstrators wrap the Institute in banners. Almost pretty. Subject
oblivious, reading Heidi and talking disjointedly about goats and pie.

Police everywhere, but funding doubled! Subject relocated to the
Advanced Laboratories, where we will continue our confidential work.

—Rachel Loden
forthcoming in Dick of the Dead (Ahsahta Press)

Posted by dwaber at 01:07 PM

January 20, 2009


Rendezvous with dweeby Philip in the shower:
“Aubade” taped up on pale blue tile;
I can hear him grumbling through the falling water.
Uncurling steam is scented with a trace of bile,
And I’m as grateful as a thankless child can be.
Someone has been here in this night with me,
Someone whose bitterness, I want to say,
Is even more impressive than my own.
Talking with Larkin on the great white telephone
I let the night be washed out into day

Until it’s safe enough to go lie down
And dream of my librarian, my bride.
Perhaps he sits and watches in his dressing gown;
I know he won’t be coming to my side
For fumblings and words he simply can’t get out.
That stuff was never what it was about
When he would wake at four o’clock to piss
And part the curtains, let the moon go on
With all the things worth doing, and not done,
The things that others do instead of this.

—Rachel Loden
from her book, Hotel Imperium (Georgia)

Posted by dwaber at 01:52 PM

January 19, 2009


                                        The god of Abraham is a true God. Now
                                        we gonna do “Rip It Up.”
                                        —Reverend Richard Penniman

Nothing is talking to you
in the numbers, in the leaves.
No mambo mambo on the wind.
No colored streamers in the skies.
No one has pasted little notes
to you, like kisses.
No Fred, no Ginger,
no sudden bursting
into Stone Age languages.
No angels clustered in the rafters.
No giants sacked out on the stove.

On a day like this,
without the music
of appearances, creatures
could land and you
would not be able to explain
anything to them, not
the fearless industry
of beavers, or why dust bunnies
prefer the dark, not even
how Little Richard
himself came into being.

—Rachel Loden
from her book, Hotel Imperium (Georgia)

Posted by dwaber at 01:43 PM

January 18, 2009

Your Land

This is the place that is given to you
because you have found it yourself

because you stayed long enough
to move your gaze fully to the south

because you returned at times
to accept the ritual: to care

and be cared for by rock
and bush, creek and bird.

This is the place where your gaze
took hold, found words and moods

for words, where others will come
for your small sound when you are gone,

to listen for the door you left
swinging, just out of reach,

on immense hinges.

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 06:32 PM

January 17, 2009


                                        No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
                                        On the blank stones of the landing...
                                        —Sylvia Plath

From our distant, glistening port we see
your splendorous wreck twist with tides
ebbing through the gap to a wilder channel.
We steam by on harder hulls, watch you there
awash in your dark hemisphere, parallel
and heavy beneath a soaking sea,
cargo gone to memory with the sway
of wave and word.

of wave and word.  Sometimes, a call reaches
the rail of our passing ship and we leap
to the waves breaking inside the skeleton
of wreckage cloaking the rocks of the final coast.
We surge delicately in rotting ribs
still bleeding a strange resin through the rocking
of wet salt. Bobbing within, we raise our cold hands,
bloodied by sharp lips of barnacles and rust,
reach out to your brow like a sister.

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 02:32 PM

January 16, 2009

In the room where I never wrote

there is a window, a mile view
of a beach I never walked
and sea stacks corkscrewing
up through surf I never heard

In the room where I never wrote
there is an oval wood table
piled with poems I never wrote
about desert sky,
and leaving my son

In the room where I never wrote
on that same table sits
the canyon book
that never sings
of my year in the hills,
the apple orchard,
cows trampling the spring,
lynx on the road,
yellow columbine

In the room where I never wrote
there are poems
that never speak
of a tent by Pacific volcanoes,
by the Stillaguamish River
with Magister Ludi in my hand
and no money

In the room where I never wrote
fall is eternal and its long light
fills the room gold,
and the keyboard sings,
from hands that never tire
molding poems stolen
from the dead, gifted
from the living

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 01:29 PM

January 15, 2009

Caressing Sadness

                                        Don Juan had told me that there is no completeness
                                        without sadness and longing...
                                        —Carlos Castaneda
                                        The Fire From Within

Pills swallowed to keep it down:
that snake writhing in the thigh
or in some dusty vein forgotten since
childhood when a climb to the tops
of cedars meant breathing rarified air.

Hands and arms, all the body’s
kinetics, moved toward the dancing world
kept it part of the dance, kept
the feet thinking downward
to the earth’s breathing and song.

That complete whispered cloak of air
discovered behind the garage
or in swaying grass by the lake.
Back then, even eyes wandered
behind peaks, floated free and hungry
to an unbuilt horizon that had to be known.

Age grows distance
from breathing ground.
Bodies surge downward, forgetting
long summer heat, a tune
on the radio telling us to go on and on

with all that is rich and sad.
Brittle and assured, wallets heavy and unkind,
the old gather under garages in hastily dug
bunkers filled with dry food and silence.
Who can find kindness in this terror, rushing
down to a failing and freakish dream of undying?

Stop, sweep the eyes up,
let the heart take down
on its free and surging slate
the dawn sun’s blaze of pink
on scudding clouds.

Take a clear look at the day:
make the eyes and hands constant,
make the breath complete.
In its small pause, take in radiance,

exhale over legs and arms
meticulous blooms
fragrant with affection.
Change the lexicon:
let words deepen with a sadness

as ontological as air.
No matter what anyone says,
keep missing it,
keep coming back,
step from one momentousness to the next

long to speak what is near,
what is looming.

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 01:20 PM

January 14, 2009


Torn between friends and desire,
adulation and truth,
life as legacy or spinning earth,
poems that turn you and lift me up
or drill uselessly to the residues of heart.

My wall papered with reminders
about spirit, brigades of poetry
books bleed ruthlessly
beneath my window, potential
and pain lying on the rug.
Massing gray clouds pull the sun
to pieces and below me
a dirty, slick, and dying winter.

Surprised by my appetite
for what’s hard, beyond, distant,
pushing at the pulse of the planet’s strings
when the world should be full enough
with light this morning,
with more than enough earth
covered by mysterious trees.

I want to scorch my path across America
with my one book under my arm,
women murmuring “beautiful” and men “true.”
I want to run past rich immediate morning,
the sun breaking through gray clouds,
and for a moment

make it an embrace of words
and find something out.

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 01:28 PM

January 13, 2009

An Experiment with Kelp

                                        —for Eva

Brown-yellow ribbon, draped on gray, rounded stones,
boils of air trapped in its skin,
glistening salt-wet as the surf bumps and rolls it,
folds and flips it toward my feet.
This wrinkled khaki tube opens on one end,
closes on the other to a pointed reddish-hued tail.
Placed on a drift log, it jumps like paper
as the wind dries it, leaching color and sand.

A fisherman blasts my meditation:
“Sir,” (he says, sir), “What are you doing?”
“I’m doing a writing exercise.”
“About what?”
“About his,” I say, shoving
the naked brown strip to his face.
He’s confused for a moment, then grows serious,
“Sir,” he says again, “Whatever you do,
Don’t put that in your sandwich.”

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 02:50 PM

January 12, 2009

The Poem I Like Best

makes as much sense as a hunk of stone
warm enough to keep you
on your back, arms wide, eyes closed
long after the sun has moved on.

—Derek Sheffield

Posted by dwaber at 01:54 PM

January 11, 2009

Ars Poetica: Punitive Version

I begin writing by reading,
warming up with the masters
and the minors, and sometimes

the poem I’m holding
under the light of a single lamp
begins to draw all the poems

I’ve ever read and loved.
From assigned cells in the head
or kneecap, they appear,

the ones who picked my locks
and crawled through my windows,
vague, sleepy faces of both the formerly free

and the formal, crowding for a look.
Some begin chanting,
fresh verse, fresh verse,

while others bet on meaning,
tercet, and wit, or was it
the rhyme in the last line that did it?

—Derek Sheffield

Posted by dwaber at 02:08 PM

January 10, 2009

Ars Poetica: Married Version

A white chip of moon rules the sky
          as I pad softly across the driveway,
open the door of my house, and step in.
          Weaving through whisking thumps
of the dog's tail, scattered crayons
          and dolls, I make my way
past the door of my daughter's room,
          and into the kitchen where the coffee maker
is making its final gurgles. I pour a hot cup,
          add cream, and stir. From here,
at this early hour, my study is no longer
          a garage. Its lighted window
looks more like the back of a bronze chariot
          drawn by winged, see-through horses,
and that pulsing drone is an echo
          of a distant horn, and not the refrigerator.
Is that what she sees from this vantage at the sink
          when I am writing and framed in that light?
Am I a clever, leaf-crowned god stroking his beard
          and stitching the void with electric lines?
Or, as she's scrubbing dried egg
          from a plate, twisting a can opener,
does she see something else? A beast, perhaps,
          obsessed with writhing every morning
in its own shit, hairy, helpless, and beyond itself
          under the great and glowing bone in the sky?

—Derek Sheffield

Posted by dwaber at 02:52 PM

January 09, 2009

A Clowder

Beware certain flowers, most buses.
Beware men, especially in rain.
Beware numbers.
Beware documents.
Beware white sweatshirts during any of the four seasons.
Beware several circling cars at two am.
Beware the ringing noise the night makes.
Beware scheduled darkness.
Beware any language with a word for a group of cats.

—Michael Loughran

Posted by dwaber at 12:31 PM

January 08, 2009

Ars Poetica

Look at the hopeless faces in the grocery aisle.

The stringy-haired mother's choices

of canned tuna, store brand cereal,

those cheap orange crackers

and peanut butter, and all those potato chips.

Her chubby children tug at her sleeves

while she pushes the cart, beg for what

a nurse aide's salary can't buy, and the thirty

pound bag of dog food under it

that she'll have to hoist over her shoulder.

I could follow her home

to a trailer park, help her

lug those splitting plastic sacks inside,

even help her set the paper plates for dinner,

but I am stifled by my own list.

Her husband sits in front of the tv

like a potted plant. He waters himself with beer.

She's stopped trying to control the wild vines; his leaves

takeover the carpet, fall on everything and everyone.

The kids buzz around him, climb on his trunk,

pull on his beard, and he swats them all,

leaves them fluttering on the beer splattered carpet,

leaves them wanting any sweet thing the frost didn't kill.

—Mari Stanley

Posted by dwaber at 01:27 PM

January 06, 2009


I look up night or day and it's all clear-
sky, leaves, clouds, rooftops, rain-all solid
and real, the blankness inside, and I aver
to make a change, forgo liquor, eat boiled
gruel, work my tender hands into black dirt,
watch shoots grow green, "lift up my russet
brow." In Vino Veritas; red claret
will be my one indulgence, each facet
of the crystal glass I drink from a stone
in the gaudy ring of my life's folly.
In this dancing light, I'll dig for new bone,
for truths not even numbness can sully.
But I'd rather have a fruity drink with lime
supine on a beach in some tropical clime.

—Melissa Johnson

Posted by dwaber at 12:57 PM