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

Poets’ 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 I’d never heard
of. His bronze head, looking grotesquely severed,
rested on an open concrete book
as if admonishing all poets, “Look
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?”
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 poets’ 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 we’re 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