Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jehan de Mandeville,returned from the East orders his affairs

On Michaelmas day, when the divil fell from heaven, we took to the sea and it was a black going, and long ways we came at last to the holy land, under letters from the Sultan, I saw the blood stained rock, and going further then we came to the sea of Ind, where adamant stones bristle with the masts of ships and iron, and going on, went through that valley where the head of the devil stands, and saw the heaps of gold and murdered men and touched them not, and came round at last to the kingdom of Prester John.
And what telling is there of that black king, and the wonders and terrors of his land? How they honored their dead, throwing gobbets of flesh to the vultures and called them angels, come to take them to heaven, and drank toasts to their fathers from the brimming bowl of their skulls, and yet marched the cross before them into battle, and how I kissed the yellow robes of the patriarch of St. Thomas the doubter. In the north of that land there is a wall of steel, set by Alexander, who they call Dulkannon, to bind Gog and Magog, till such time as the earth shall cast it asunder, and beyond that end we could not travel. In Tartary I drank once, from a well they said could keep a man from death, but now, in my own country, swollen with gout and wonders, I await the opening of that other door, that other angel, blacker than buzzards against the sun, wait departure for that other kingdom, that other king.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Writing exercise number 15

On the night you died there were no apples worth stealing
all your mother’s liquor bottles woke in their sleep,
every bed in every ward they ever put you in slipped out of its sheets.
Lights came on in the windows of a half a dozen burned down houses,
and you could hear the soft ping of a baseball bat
thumping mailboxes down a gravel road,.

The trains lowed on the crossing,
the storm sewers clotted with cats.
the trailer rusted on its axles.

You were alone when you went,
no one to catch your tossed bag of clothes
comic books, bullets and baseball cards.
no accomplice to boost you in the window,
to carry the gasoline,
to wear your jacket when the man with the gun came,
no one to ride your stolen bike

fire ate the rooftops, kicked in the windows.
A white dog licked blood from a carnival mirror
Green cubes of safety glass sank in the mud

Thursday, July 9, 2009


"He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash."

H.L. Mencken, on Warren G. Harding's inaugural address.

Monday, June 29, 2009

held in the outstretched hands of plaster saints

There is a kind of grace
in survival, in mornings
after, my mother's white Lincoln stopped spinning
in the intersection
the wheels on my Father's old Buick gripping road
again after rain
the averted fall from a willow over rusty metal,the skinned knee
the nail driven through the foot sure enough, but missing
any nerves or veins
the serial miracles of breath

it is morning, she is sleeping
Hank the dog is nosing through the wet grass
of the parkway
the expectancy of monday's six am
is still silent and waiting

and there is joy.

there is joy in monday morning
a tumble of laundry, half a cup of cheap coffee
and fluorescent light,
ratcheting up the first climb
of a wooden coaster of duty and day
joy in bandaged hands and traffic

joy in these five dreams in a silent house
put behind you like a good wind, like
the sun at your back, like everything
worth defending, like
the steering wheel in your chest
and someone's azaleas utterly ruined
cold milk and loose change
rattling in the backseat
a single shoe on the side of a highway
waking up alive, again

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

writing exercise 13

In the long silences, your moon-pulled tongue
Crashes against your teeth, salt , water and,
Unsaid words schooling in your rib’s reef
your boneless heart , eight armed
picking locks in a shipwreck

hot sharks in your blood, circling in the white
fall of the wave in your eye, remoras of regret
darting in their open mouths, the ceaseless circle,
the fins gliding below your skin.

Here things drift down, my words like
Wineglasses, like amphorae,
Unopened in the dark

Monday, June 15, 2009

“There is a winged-woman kneeling in the corner of the room."

her stone eyes steady on the opposite wall
the light stubbornly refuses to turn to gold
the lapis sky is what it is

granite feathers ache for a basalt heaven
for a dented golden sun,
she is no caryatid to hold the roof up,
no ornament for treetop or creche
she is no herald and does not speak

still I petition her with joss sticks and candlewax
heap flowers and fruit in her open palms
sticky with juice and flies, unbending and sad

I have chalked your name on the stone

here is the hour in heaven of your moving
here is the throne, the power and dominion
of your order, here is your name writ in
a script of men long dead, your watchtower,
your wheel

in a tongue of books, here is your name
a supplication to your face,your hands
immobile and impassive,
bereft lover,
last lonely guardian
the thin note of your song,
echoes in a garden gone to weeds,
across the black and white tiles
of an empty house

you last lonely angel that never fell

writing exercise number 12

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the mother of knives

has a flashing tongue
of cutpurse silver, her
throat is a well, the kiss of sugar

she is garlanded in such terrible roses
as are the heads of men
such flowers bloodbloom their way across her
lilywhite and corpseblue,
bowls of snow and birdsong
where her children drink

terrible terrible terrible
is she in her wrath, a storm of razors
threnody of locusts and howl of dogs
a wineglass on the stones

the lesser ship of the moon at her feet
the oars of the dead scraping on the paper sky
the orbit of the sun's black ink
a labrynth of nested spheres and fire
words from the broken book
the cracked throat's song
cannot trace her name
in this drapery of dust
this house of silence

she is the star's needle and bible black
she has birthed the day
over the rim of the world
and grinds the head of a snake
with clocks for scales

she breaths the milk breath
of the earth like a cat, she
does not know

how fair she is, her smile
a door in an alabaster house

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

of boys:

“You are about 10 feet above the ground nestled among some large branches.
The nearest branch above you is beyond your reach
Beside you on the branch is a small bird’s nest
In the bird’s nest is a large egg encrusted with precious jewels, apparently scavenged by a childless songbird. The egg is covered with fine gold inlay, and ornamented with lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl. Unlike most eggs, this one is hinged and closed with a delicate looking clasp. the egg appears extremely fragile”

From Zork I : The great underground empire

The ground is riddled with secret crypts
With doors that are unmarked
The forest beyond this point is impenetrable, the doors
Of the house are boarded
There does not appear to be a way
It is dark

And this is the point in the story
In which you must find
The matches and the candle,
Find out the monster repellant does not work

Ladies, we have had such practice at this
Learning to be monsters
Pulling rubber faces

Every pointed stick
Is a gun, or a sword,
Is a tool, a lash, a switch

and we have killed
each other, over and over again
taking turns with the armband, the stiff armed salute
the machinery of war

every fort is a prison we ward over ourselves, every
patch of woods is a kingdom of natives
to be beaten into submission
and made to kiss the cross

the game is boring, the game
must have a winner
the game must have a king
if it means me must take turns as the enemy

eggs are for hurling, are grenades
and stinkbombs, a cat is for catching
a dog is to kick

here you are, in our story
and what are we to do with you
it is dark, and you
appear to be fragile


When you play
This record backwards,
Use a feather from one of
Heaven’s captains as a needle, spin
It back, by hand
And let your mouth be a gramophone horn.

Do not operate heavy machinery
Do not operate on
A willing patient, even to graft wings
Onto his back, because of
The sun
This record will not withstand high temperatures
Or harsh language

There is no resemblance in this
To the trapped loop of voice
In sticky tape and rust,
Or in a row of lightbulbs
On, or off

This is the inscription in the tablet of stone
This is the tablet of law
Keep it in a box with kissing brass angels
For handles
Wear rubber shoes
When you carry it

The management is not responsible
For incorrect use.
The management is not responsible

If you should play this record
From tinny portable platter spinner
Strapped to the roof of an old jeep
And drive around the city walls
And if you should happen
To see the walls fall
Into the dust
The management is not responsible
For incorrect use, if upon playing this record

you should find your housepets
Becoming angels
The walls of your house crumbling
A mouth of flames in your barbecue pit

The management is not responsible

If you should quit your job, your body
And ride the dustmotes toward
some overwhelming answer,
some checkered flag

the management is not responsible

There is a song

In the throats of fish
In the whirlpool .
They have learned it
From the performing bear
In the barrel, from the lost
With their shouts
They tell of
a lake that does not end,
of the place the world
drops over the edge of itself

there is a song in the throats of fish
they have learned
from girls drunk on hopelessness
and novels, from swimmers trapped under stones
it is a color of blue, a thrash of bubbles
a hymn to dirt and cut grass

there is a song that the fish have for themselves
it is called heron, or hook
it is about a jab, and a bright place, after

the fish have eyes like cold stones
they are knit from dimes
their fleshless lips
cannot sing

Saturday, April 25, 2009


and on the third day
jack swopped some flour
for a fresh caught rabbit
and he skinned him and
set him stewin

and a scrawny old cat come up
and jack throwed her a bit of rabbit
while he waited for the moon
to drag somethin out the grave

and the cat come
to where the rabbit was stewin
and she say"sop doll"
and go to dip her baw in the broth

and jack hollers
"you sop your doll in my stew
and i'll cut that paw clean off"
and then he see a ring of nine
catswith their eyes glowin
like foxfire sand the first cat say

"sop doll" again
and she grin her pointed teeth in the dark
and dip her paw in the broth

and jack whip out that silver jacknife
and cut her paw off
and throws the whole damn pot
in the corner, disgusted

and the cats run off
and that was the end of the third night

in the mornin the miller come round'
and check on jack,and he say his wife is feelin poorly

and jack go with him up to the house
and the wife is laidout under a blanket

and jack say "show me your hand"and she show him
"n t'other" says jack
and she show him the first again

and he whip off the blanket
and there is bloody stump

and in the mill, in a pot ofa rbbit stew lies a hand
with a silver ring on the finger

and the miller sayshe never knowe'd
she was a witch as coudl sour milk still in the cow
and sell the wind in a poke

and that the town was dyin
on countof her dealins with the devil
snd that she had wanted to sop her doll
to lay jack out
and shut the mill

but he figgered he'd meant it
when he said till death do us part
and he burnt down the mill
with them both inside it

which was a hell of a note, and left jack out of work anyways
so in the mornin'
the miller and his wife come round
ready to haul him outand bury him like the rest

and jack jump up and put his britches on

and all day he grinds
and when the dark come
he sets himself some chicory coffee to bile, and a hoecake in the fire
and he watch the moon come up
like a unhitched barge
and he waits

and up out the millpond
come a drowned gir
lwith mud in her hair
and her eyes white as a bankers shirt

she open her mouth
and little fish come out an cold water
'stead of a song

and then the restcome clamberin out the mud
old jenny was there,
whatthrew herself off the greenup bridge
cold and horrible as anything

and she come clawin at old jack
but he reached into his gunny sack
and pulled out
his busted old one string fiddleand played

and all them dead girls danced all night
and there were'nt nothin left
but puddles on the stone floor in the mornin
and a smell like a riverbottom
or rain

and that was the end of the second night


it was after the mine fell in
jack set out a lookin for work
and willin to turn his hand
to just about anythin

when he come to that town
they'd boarded up the storefronts
and the bridge looked set to
fall in the river, on account of the rust

folks just standin in front of a gas station
and jack come up the road, lookin worse for it
asks where a feller c'n work for summat to eat
they all look down, like a bunch a hanged men
on invisible rope still finally one of em mumbles
aboutthe johnsin's flour mill

so up goes jack,and asks for work
at the milland the miller and his wife
give him a place to bed downin the mill,
and show him howto tend the wheel and mind the stone

and they tell how noone has lasted more than a day
and they brought the last one out on a board,
with his mouth all white frothand no spots in his eyes

so jack sets to grindin and weighs fair
and its comin on night
when an old man come off the hillcomes up,
with a lousy two buck grind,
gonna carry it backin a poke on a beat old mule

and the old man say he's sorry to come so late
but he needs to grind his crop
whihc aint nothin but a double barrow load anyways

so jacks sets the wheel a spinnin
and grinds up his wormy wheata
nd thanks him kindly

amnd the old man say
you are the first to do me right
and give jack a silver buckknife

that night, jack cooks up a soupbone and beans,
and the moon comes in through the hole in the roof

and in come a dead man with red hair and a broke neck
and then another just like him
and another
till the mill is plumb full
of wanderin boys that comelookin for work in hard times

jack says he saw john t albot there
,from up mcgoffey waybut that he dint say nothin

but jack sayscome share the fire boys
and the dead uns come round\
with eyes like dinnerplates
reflectin the moon and the fire
and teeth like broke-up mill gears

and they keep draggin their windin sheets
into the fireand burnin up,

and jack finally says
get out this mill, you damnfools
and they shuffle outliek a shift change at the mill
and that was the end of the first night

Monday, April 20, 2009

i go, slow loping behind you
into sleep,you are a rabbit
and i all jack-scrambling hillbilly
hound all clumsy hurtle and slaver
you have darted to the hillsto the tall
grass and the flushed birds rise and escape
the mundane sour-grape hurtle of shot
you are the slow doe trembling
at the edge of the wood i the head-
lights scraping trees
i am a tangle of fenceline, of wire
i am the treeline of the hedgerow,
you the pheasant eating the rich
corn of dream
i the badger among the mewling kits,
the dog loose
with a rope and peg
around his neck
past the cruising grounds,
where boys underwear and porn
hung in the trees
past the nests of liquor bottles and ashes
,the remains of night fishermen
the tall grass and police training grounds,
past the last tracks of four wheelers
on the river bottom mud
amid the saplings, the rotting catfish heads
the septic smell of the river and storm sewers

we'd smoke beneath the crumbling loading docks
victorian pumphouses brick facades, sun bleached plastic and tanglse of rope

in the morning, the fish leapt from the water
to eat dragonflies skimming low
the mist burning off the hills
weekday, schoolday sun glinting on golden cans of beer
the ceiling hung down
in solemn tatters
of cotton-candy insulation
my dead relative stared out of a heavy glass covered photograph
a brown-glass chandelier rested on the yellow moulding carpeting,
lamps with golden grapes
a the burst couch,nests and beetles in the mattress ticking,
cold sowbugs and centipedes crawling among the papers
lay beside the burnt fireplace,the andiron and tongs rusting
dry aquariums gathered manuscripts of oak leaves
and golden straw fish mouldered in a hidden drawer, swollen shut

in a sprawl of old records
i hid behind the mirrored doors
a welt of blood running behind my knee
the sound of voices calling my name
outside the sodden door
smell of chicken feathers and dust
my eyes closed, wishing myself away
in the attic of a farmhouse
that sits in the middle
of rotting outbuildings
brown eyed susans
rusting lead-gas cars
with dry-rotting uphosltery

there is an upright piano
with an out of tune high c
in the silence of that attic
are songs i carried on my back
there are cats,
that swarm throughthe rusting tractors,
the crates of junk
the barrels and cages and bones

there is a red linoleum floor
where i am forever dropping
a puzzle piece out an open window,
where i am stackinga chair atop another
atop a table to climb to the ceiling
a stone i am flipping over
where the black ants are running
away with their babies in their teeth

in winter, the ghosts of pigs
stare through the greasy windows
at a black handled phone
still under my name
in the city of my birth
there is a window
in an old school-come-municipal courthouse
the light chases motes
across the yellowed surface of a filing cabinet
where a cutting of a houseplant
stretches white roots into a drinking glass
of murky water
a muddy slope of dike and concrete floodwall
holds back a river of spring rain
the hills are wetly verdant
on the kentucky side
visible through the window
and in the dark,
between manilla sheets

sits the paper that certifies
that iw as born alive, and acknowledged by my parents

somewhere, in the same building
are the records of my arrests
for public intoxication,
the nightsspent in the blue room
with stars cutout of the plywood
where drunks howl, sing or sleep,
the marriage certificates of old friends

i have been a poor son of this place
to flee its crumbling buildings
boarded storefronts
choosing diaspora over ruin

leaving friends and family to
die in the blue grip
of opiates,of cheap speed
the house of my childhood,

with itsindustrial carpeting and HUD-approved
metal handrails
it's boarded fireplace
still squats
in its narrow allotment of mud
like a headstone
over an empty plot

Sunday, April 19, 2009

dogwood and hawthorne robins
grow on ridgetops,
along the quilted seams of property lines,
the place that is not a place
dogwood is junk wood, good for nothing
but paper pulp
and an embarassment of fruitless flowers
that the hilbillies say come at easter ,
because the tree was cursed
to never grow large enough to crucify a man again
hawthorne grows in small stands on the hilltops,
black clusters of cruciform thorns
waiting to prove them wrong

the robins rest in their branches, their chests still spashed
with the blood they never touched, the thorns
waiting for a head to crown
there is a crown of robins in your chest
when you sleep i hear them weaving old papers
and dry grass in your ribs
a tinderbox
your breath is a ragged banner,
a standard at the head of infantry
the blankets a mountain range
where you spit out a reel of stars and swallow them again
you speak an incantory language of dream
unknowable, and the small head of our baby
claims the space between your body and mine,
as it did when she grew,
when she was engendered there,
a hot spark in dry tinder
a flame in a bookstall,
a tiny open mouth in a nest

the first time i tasted your milk

we had between us no children
as of yet,and you said to me
"i still have a little , always"
and squeezed your breast in your hand
till it beaded on your sweet brown nipple
and i tasted that tiniest drop of your mercy
that tasted like nothing, or like everything,
tasted of your skin and your scent
and of nothing the way a kiss tastes
i did not know that i would drinkyour milk mixed with blood
did not know the babies coming,
how you would teach me to drink
how you would become my bones

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

low low prices

the escalator to the center of the earth
is just past housewares,
and behind the customer service desk
you can disregard the chain over the stairs,
and the "Caution! wet floor!" triangles

the first few flights are the same as our floor,
only with chained doors
after about fifteen floors , they have labels,

every three floors there is a restroom, every seven a waterfountain

the music keeps playing,
and the lights flickerin that never-quite dying
way that fluorescents have
i've callen maintenence at least thirty times: they feign ignorance

eventually it is darkand the music gets fainter
finally there is just the sound of the stairs
it is hard, in the dark to notice
when it finally opens up into the caves,
maybe you catch a cooler breeze or the scent of the bats
eventually, between flights, you no longer feel the linoleum,
there are a few floors with mud, or batshit then stone

there is a flutter of wings in the dark,
and then the walls start getting hotter,

then it's linoleum and lights and waterfountains again

some of the doors here are open though,
one is a library that is always on fire
another is the ashes of a church
there is a rainy ditch, a trashheap
stockpiles of rusting ammunition
rooms of lost things

frank, from menswearsays one of the rooms has an old plane in it
i myself have heard something roaring
behind one of the doors
that's as far down as anyone has been

we were hoping you could tell us
what the upstairs is like
you're the first customer we've ever had
that came from up there

with apologies to thomas disch, jorge luis borges and jean paul sartre

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

of fear

A curio cabinet of nights
With our bed empty
An atlas of anxieties
Indexed in a library of silences
That unstitch our sheets

A scream, below the water
In a salted tub,
Hot sharks
Of your anger swarming from your throat
Blackbirds escaped from a piecrust, stealing noses

Here is the safe filled with water
Where we kept my honesty
A vault of mermaids in your ribcage
Drowned at last, and songless

Here are the unwashed dishes of my apologies
The empty bottles of your forgiveness
The skeletons tongue of our vows,
Writ in dust and the language of bones

Here is that house
With cold beds, a phone anvil
Here is the television hissing amnesia,
Silent cries from a baby’s mouth

Here I build a dollhouse of my terrors,
Filled with untenanted rooms
Run my fingers through the stone hair
Of a shoulderless statue
A throat filled with saws, with knives

Here is the swallowed song from behind the rusted teeth
An unwishing, and the way we wake
Like a swimmer greets the air

written in a workshop with thanks to the magically delicious ms Rachel Mckibbens

Monday, April 13, 2009

the horrible is commonplace

Poor Mercy Brown, fresh in the grave
Was dragged out into the light
A rabbit grabbed by the heels
And kicking

She was still the ripe 19 year old farmgirl
When she was laid down with galloping consumption
Beside her mother and her sister
In Exeter Baptist churchyard
There was blood pooled wet in her heart

Her mother was a husk of dry leather
And her sister , too, a discarded shoe
In a wooden box
But Mercy Brown was radient in the dark
Her cheeks, a hectic bloom

For two months she had lain in the cold,
an unstruck match in a box
and Edwin, her brother
back from the dry climates to die
was sick

and the family and the village gathered round
looking for a marvel

surely only a bloodfat tick
would lay in the dark
and drink poor George Brown’s family down
surely there is something... unnatural

So in March, when the ground was soft
they pulled her from the dark
and found her turned over, a restless sleeper
her liver still filled with liquid blood

and in 1892, the year that Ellis Island opened
the year that General Electric was founded,
they cut out her heart
in the year that Edison patented the two-way telegraph,
they burned her heart to ashes
In the year of the birthday of Carnegie Steel
They fed the ashes of her burnt heart to her brother
Who died, regardless, two months later
Leaving George Brown alone

Later that year, a hidden lake burst from the side
Of a mountain, killing 200 holiday guests
The city of St Johns burned to the ground

And in Fall River, Massachussets
Poor Andrew Jackson and Abby Durfee Borden
were found, their heads burst like rotted pumpkins
and their bodies laid out
as if they were sleeping

this too, is an age of monsters

to the adopted son of minos

When the cunning engineer built the gilded cow
your mother crawled inside,to fool the god's white bull,
and let her have her pleasure
did he foresee you,
your awkward crown
and the palace he would buildt o hide you in?

When you squatted
at the center of the maze
like a dull spider,among the bones and greaves,
did you see your death
come strolling, unwinding thread behind?

And when he had taken
your life from you,
and left you in the center of that story
and began to ravel back the thread
did he see, tugging on the other ends

the woman avenged, and the children
thrown, bloody and dead in a heap
the dragons teeth that sown
sprouted armored men?

Did he see the them carving, even then his seat in hell?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

the northern country

the robins are starving in the thin snow
their blood splashed chests, a false fire
in the glass branches of trees

there is a river, that is falling,
over stone and ice,
that has been falling
since the stones ground flour
that now decorate unused parks
and an empty museum, with a gift shop

each day, i sit in half-burned down factory
where 36 men burned to death
beetled on the edge of the cliff

from the empty office
across the hall
the water is steady as time,
as the water that carried a trained bear
over the falls in a barrel,
that killed Sam Patch the daredevil, in 1829

the engines that ran the streetcars
rust in a disused bar's basement
and the river, indifferent
to living and dead

drops through the broken wheelhouse
riming the bones of abandoned scaffolding with ice
this is a brutal country,
still half wild
beneath suburban streets.

the old hotels and whorehouses
keep their secrets
masquerading as chain resteraunts,
as boarded storefronts

at night, with my hound howling
at the swollen udders of the moon
trying to hang himself with his leash
we chase deer across the frozen lawns

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

the difference between hell and purgatory is that purgatory has an end

"We haue also with vs in hell a ladder, reaching of an exceeding height, as though it would touch the heauens, on which the damned ascend to seeke the blessing of God; but through their infidelitie, when they are at the very highest degree, they fall downe againe into their former miseries,"
Mephistophilis to Faust the english faustbook'

The kingdoms of hell are manifold,
Lacus mortis, the lake of death
that sterile mirror
with a namesake on the face of the barren moon
Gehenna, the smouldering trashheap of Jerusalem,

there are the kingdoms of lost things,
the sea of shipwrecks,
the tumbled confusionof the world unbuilt,
the house of broken promises

kings once carved in the walls of their tombs
"let me not walk with my head downward
eating feces in the land of the dead"
raised altars that they might not thirst in that place

and what will you do, when you come?
oathbreaker, devourer of hearts,
prideful liar and despoiler of innocence?
will you find your house of panderers,
the indolent aids in your self devouring sideshow,
the flattering audience to your atrocities?
will you drag the hollow idol of your pride
to that house, too?

there is a city, on the shore of a lake,
surrounded by marsh
if there is enough liquor
perhaps you will not notice
where you are

Monday, April 6, 2009

The ballad of Tamlin

I forbid you, maidens all
That wear gold in your hair
To come and go by the woods of Carterhaugh
For fell Tamlin dwells there

For none my go by those woods so deep
But leave to him a pledge
A pledge-ring or mantle they cannot keep
Nor their maidenheads

Janet ties a mantle green
A bit above her knees
With braided hair
And a stolen mare
Away. away to woods goes she

And when she came to the heart of the wood
Beside the well, below the night
She found in the briar a two-headed rose
And pulled with all her might

And then his rusted armor rose
From beside the starry well
With a tangle of briars and starlight
And wind from the pits of hell

Says Tamlin
“why do you pull the rose,
Or break and crush the wand
Why come you to the heart of the wood,
Without my command?”

Say Janet
“Carterhaugh wood it is my own
My father gave it me
I’ll come and go” she said
“ and ask no leave of thee”

Janet ties a mantle green
A bit above her knee
With star-loose hair
A fattened mare
To her father’s house goes she

Four and twenty maidens fair
Danced her welcome ball
And into the hall came Janet
The flower of them all

And out spoke her father broken and grey
And brought to the house his shame
He shouts “you see the swollen mare,
Who shall bear the blame?

Says Janet
“hold your tongue, you greybeard fool
An ill death may you die
I’ll lay me down where I please
This child is none of thine

And if I go with child
Myself shall bear the blame
Their not a knight in all your hall
Shall have the babies name

For my love was an earthly knight
And now’s an elfin grey
I would not give my own true love
For any lord you have

He rides a steed of storms
Much faster than the wind
shod with the silver moon before
The sun’s own gold behind

Janet ties her mantle green
A bit above her knee
And braids her hair,
Milkwhite and fair
Away to the heart of the wood goes she

And beside the well of stars
The briar in the wood
From the darkbelow he rose
And beside young Janet stood

Says Tamlin
Why pull you the two headed rose
Among this grove so old and green
Why have you a moonbright knife to kill
The bonny babe we got us between?

Says Janet
“tell me Tamlin my love,
How came you here to dwell?”
Says Tamlin
The queen of air and darkness
Caught me, when from my horse I fell
And carried me off in the wood and the briar
And into the hill to dwell

And pleasant is the fairy land,
But horrors are to tell
For at the end of seven years
They pay the tithe to hell
And I am fair, and full of flesh
And fear it is myself

But the night is hallows eve
And tomorrow hallowday
And win me away from the wood you must
And we shall be away

For at the knell of midnight
The host of fair folk ride
And if you love me truly
At Miles cross you will bide

My right hand will be gloved,
And bare will be my left
My helmet open to the night wind
And I’ll ride silent among the rest

First let pass the horses black
Then let pass the horses brown
And run you to the milkwhite steed
And pull the rider down

They will turn me in your arms
Into a foul and hissing snake
But hold me tight and fear not
I am your baby’s father

And they will turn me in your arms
To a bear so grim, and a lion bold
But hold me tight and fear not
And you will love your child

And they will turn me in your arms
To a burning brand of iron
Hold me tight and fear not
No harm I’ll do to you

And when I am a burning coal
In your hand an in your heart
Cover me over with milk
And throw me in the well

And then I’ll be your own true love
And seem a naked knight
And cloak me in your mantle green
and keep me out of sight

cold and dark was the night
and eerie was the way
when Janet came in her mantle green
and at miles cross did stay

and in the mirk at the midnight hour
she heard strange trumpets sing
and she was as glad at that unholy din
as any earthly thing

and past went the knights on the night-black steeds
and past the earthly brown
and she ran to corpsewhite, lilywhite horse
and pulled the rider down

and changed he then to snake
and a bear and lion bold
and changed he then to a
burning brand
till the well did make him cold

and naked as a baby
in green she shrouded him
and stood at miles cross naked
and trembling stood Tamlin

and the queen of air and darkness
and all her troop cried out
but Janet held her husband fast
as circled they about

‘had I known, Tamlin, “spoke the queen
“what tonight I would see
I would have taken your two grey eyes
And set them in a rowan tree”

“Had I known, Tamlin” she said
What tonight I would see
A heart of stone would have been your prize
And honor in my company

based upon Child Ballad #39A,

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In the menagerie, in the mud

we are greeted by the rhinoceros,
tapping horns over a mouthful of hay

there is a branchless tree filled with tires and windchimes,
a punching bag. Little birds hop
in the stagnant water that fills their footprints

the children mill around your feet,
our boy peering out through a shark's mouth
our girl teetering atop this newly borrowed body

they face each other like railcars
in collision, like stormclouds or sumo wrestlers
in the mud

leather behemoths, creaking, the delicate hair of their ears
like pennants in the slightest breeze, the long hard slope of their foreheads
bony as triceratops

and you, and I, and our half healed scars
walk together
and the little birds sing at our feet

Friday, April 3, 2009

the babies are in their beds
the dog is snoring
you do not forgive me
and are sleeping, a rigid knife
in the bed and the shiphouse
is moored to the front trees
you are gone, into sleep
today you have been a dying woman
you have given the beauty and mercy of your lies
to strangers and so given me this unforgiving truth
before sleep, the house I allow myself to think
we share, sleep is lonesome as a storm,
and the dreaming face you wear is not for me
is an imagined cancer for yourself
is imagined crimes in an imagined city
I will go and sleep beside the
blade of your silence, and chase you,
a keystone doctor herky-jerky with apologies,
my silent mouth spitting black and white locomotives
and mimed apologies, cards between scenes
in a script noone can read

Part the third: the father's creed

toothed-wheel world unwinding
Hobbled gear in the engine of heaven.
See here,the secret library
beneath the pyramid
the spark plug embedded in stone
the clay jars filled with electricity and stale wine

here is the prophet of virginia beach
here is the fifth world
here is a jar filled with ashes
here is a stone calender stopwatch for humanity

silently ticking

here is a layer of black ash with bones beneath it
here is grease, and engines and steel

here is the map of the world-that-was,
the islands of the antarctic,the lost kingdoms

here is the map of the world-that-will-be
the tilted bowl of the lakes
spilling down, new york and los angeles
dreaming below the swollen ocean
here are saucers, buzz-sawing through the sky
the water teeming with lake monsters,
cryptozoological horrors and wonders
yeti and the hollow earth
in mass, say only this:
“lord I am not worthy to receive you
but only say the word and I shall be healed”
know this:the world will end,
the lakes will pour across
the center of america,
the cities are doomed
to devolve to beast-men,

to burn without ceasing
while planes drop from the sky like stunned birds

know this: I live here,

with my library of secrets,
my heart filled with monsters
on the lip of the lake,
the edge of the city
waiting on the word
waiting for an end

Thursday, April 2, 2009

just now : NAPOWRIMO 3

When you walked out in the backyard
And the sun was shining, you
Did a turn kick still dressed in your pajamas
And I said wanted to say you are beautiful
And I cannot bear to leave you today
So I will call off work and spend the day just
Looking at the strawberry-fleck of your
Lip and we will make a nest of blankets
And laugh and let me hold on to this moment
Of the sun and you in your pajamas

But instead I said something stupid
And you said “gross”
And I felt that I had stood in the scales
And been found wanting and something
In my guts is a kicked dog, always
And it turned and gnawed at my guts
like a rope of sausages
So I stared out the window of the car

And you put music on, and it made the silence louder
So I turned it down

And I thought I could let the poisonous thing out
And I said something else stupid
Trying to deflate the growing thing in my guts
And you heard me dismiss
Your hurt, and you
Grew larger and angry
And my kicked dog burrowed
Under my lungs to hide

And you shouted, and you were right
And I walked into work
And hated my dumb hands
and my stupid mouth
That can never hold on to the sun, and your pajamas
Or touch the strawberry-fleck of your lip

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

part the second. in which we meet the boy and girl

There was a girl who unmade her mother
who picked out the stitches of her silences
till the stuffing showed, the doll’s glass eye
glistening, the devil’s radio in her ears .

The skinless-poison mother rose,
spitting condemnation and doctored photographs
of misremembered history, decanted children
her milkless plastic teat left behind like an afterthought
in a giftwrapped box , her voice of hot dust .

Love this motherless girl,
Her milk-on-ice, her sugared cakes
Her belly-oven and babies, with tiny hands.

There was a boy who did not know how to be a boy
Whose father spoke of machines,
And a toothed-wheel world unwinding
While he kept a wringer-washer
filled with gasoline and secrets.

The greaseblack father rose and left his mark
a stain on crumbling walls and babyskins
the empty-endings speech stuttering in the boy’s head
till he wrapped himself in rags and leather
and stumbled through the world a deadwalking thing
creaking and electric and waiting for a storm.

There is a story of how they found one another,
dead boy and oven-bellied girl
his matchbook of confessions, her sweetly frosted heart
and what he did to it. I can not tell it here

say something green curled out of his bony sockets
say she warmed the greasy lump in his rusted chest
save horrors for another day

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Part the first: a poem for Rachel Anne.

In olden times, when wishing still helped
there was a girl who unmade her mother
spat back her borrowed milk and unhitched her bones
from the mud.

Her father thought to lash her to the earth
but she was already rising,
and his belt could no more
hold her than you could hold the moon
from turning away her face.

She made herself a skin of stories,
stretched the names of her friends
over her good strong arms
from the sky she took the oldest stars

and set them spinning
in the mouths of children.

In her wrath she could spit lightening
that would crack stones like ice.
In her sorrow came a host of winters,
wolves that hungered for the sun.

her laughter is music, is music for always
and this could never be one of her songs

Monday, March 30, 2009

Captain Beefheart's 10 Commandments of Guitar Playing

1. Listen to the birds. That's where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren't going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush dosen't shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the "devil box." And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you're bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you're guilty of thinking, you're out If your brain is part of the process, you're missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key That's your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He's one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song "I Need a Hundred Dollars" is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty-making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he's doing it.

8. Don't wipe the sweat off your instrument You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can't escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

reposted from wfmu

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

a chapel for the american cathedral

"The Reverend Branford Clarke's Brooklyn-based "traveling chapel" was equipped with stained-glass windows, an organ for his wife to play, and a fold-down steeple to help the whole thing fit in his garage."—Margaret G. Zackowitz.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Strange is the night where black stars riseCassilda's Song in "The King in Yellow," Act i, Scene 2.

Soft black stars in the strangest night,
Lambent with sleep
tall towers scrape the moon
a crab, a mad dog howling
The city dreaming doubled on the poison lake

The hierophantic king, in tatters
His pallid mask , the stone chair in the dew
The pitiful, the merciful ghouls in the rank rose wood
Play at ninepins, indolent and waxen

Ripe gallow’s fruit are whispering of
Smoke on the wind and the whale’s road
The brass men choke, the wheels are mired in sand

The king of sparrows has a bloody breast
Parson rooks blot the suns
Here, beyond the dusty lane
Where the engines rust

Forth go the banners
The dead gnaw their shrouds
plague-breath of a poisoned well
wet mouths ragged promise

cold and copper light
is risen, false morning in
the secret wood

I have read in the book of might
What sleeps in the hollow mountain
I have dreamed the laughing man,
And seen his marvels

He has bound the babies in the dark
To unravel the tongues of Babel
To the pure all things are pure
He has cut open the hunter and the sleeper
To set the blackbirds free, singing
From their guts

It is a ten penny wonder, a miracle of the age
Yet we wander among the thorns and briers

From the oak in Carmarthen
I heard the whisper
Of the kingmaker, triply dead
Who said before the winter comes again
Blood in the alabaster house

And from her one cracked bottle with no label on
dry as dust the she said
“When he comes
Fire shall be darkness in the midnight black
Madness of wolves and the tenth race
And bloody signs from heaven shall descend”
Soft black stars

Monday, March 9, 2009

God i have been doing this for a long time

a new mexico

Dead love, angels on a roadside mystery museum
Preachers and auctioneers over a tinny P.A
Sun and dust and a foreign tongue

the Fates run a cheap concession stand
and limp banners hang in the stagnant air
the vultures circle in the empyrean

a Promethean donkey goes round and round and round
an image of Christ hangs above a sign
"No refunds, No exchanges"
the earthbound mystery

The miraculous grows tired of perfection
And soon the devil's angels
Form their choirs
drunk, and singing snatches of the dies irae,
snatching singers away to swell the ranks

Dead love changing shape,metamorphosing himself
a snake a skull a telephone
notably into a bull;

There is a little baby
he cries at the sight of the python in its cage
at "Lucky the four legged duck"at the hairless dog, the calf playful
however the Fates cut him into pieces and ate him,
partly cooked and partly raw
the smell of burning wood
we cry in the fire at the heart of the world
(the world is a burning house, the buddha says)

Athena could save only the heart,
which was still beating(which still beats)
Several familiar tunes talk
Of severed hearts, of burning
Of how the fragments of a man live on
(in it's bottle the 2 headed baby floats like Janus, god of doorways)

Dead love: the hidden dog, the god of angels ,
the god of the butchered babies
the Fates weave skeins of day glo pink wool
A leering clown head on each spindle
The smell of roasting corn
Christ's head above the sign"No refunds, No exchanges"

babies: rubber babies with eyes that blink,
butchers in tall grass,slaughtered sheep and cows and pigs on hooks, angels
a gun ,a flag, a bloodstained hole

God changes shape, metamorphoses himself, notably into a bull;
a gun, a flag ,a bloodstained hole

the fates cut meat, on a table sweet with fruit and blood and flies
baby cries and flies dart in and out of its mouth
suck at its eyelids, nostrils, lips
so the throngs of demons feast on our suffering
this golgotha stands stark against the impossible desert sky
rock and sun and sky,barren and desolate and the cries of the merchants
the violins and crucifixes
on hand woven blankets
a captive race in silver tipped boots, spurs
the trappings of spain, of a lost america
(a gun ,a flag, a bloodstained hole)
the devil's fiddles and accordians

and the endless toiling of the donkey
under the unforgiving eye of the sun
no refunds, no exchanges

the Fates consumed the child's heart
plying him with coca-cola,
with pop music and those entangling skeins
of sugared cotton

the father drunk and sifting through
box after box of old photographs,
farm implements phonograph records,
razors, tattered letters and scrawled notes,
confession, delirium, absolution...the voices of the dead.

drunk, and singing snatches of the devils songs
christ walks in silver tipped boots along the midway
changing shape, metamorphosing himself, notably into a bull;
ritually slain in the public arena
a leather belt, a photograph ,a sleeping man ,a headstone.
a snake, a skull, and his own face tattooed in blue ink on a scarred forearm
a telephone pole's endless golgotha,
notably a bull; on black velvet caught in dance,
a gun,a flag ,a bloodstained hole,a leather belt,
a photograph ,a sleeping man ,a headstone
nailed to a hand carved saint, silver hands, eyes, legs

the Fates sear flesh over flame
no refunds no exchanges

the devil got drunk, himself,
under the unforgiving eye
the donkey bears the crying child upon its back
and the man in black walks around with him
under the unforgiving sun
singing snatches of milongas in the wavering lines of heat
he seems to be changing shape, metamorphosing himself,
notably into a bull; horns attached to the hood of a chevy
hide in leather strands woven in a young girls hair
her eyes like a calf, she looks to Jesus
words are exchanged,
a knife flashed in the sun
a heavenly chorus from a transistor radio,
and a bull hits the ground in a cloud of dust

About ten years ago, i wrote this, posted it on a then emerging site called "themestream" that paid writers per hit for their content. This poem, and others like it, were the first time i was ever paid for my writing. It seems to me horribly ungainly, full of "the" full of "and" and chock full of pointless classicism,a sort of psuedo-cleverness and some absolutely unforgiveable gothy-ness. That said, it also seems to me to be filled with my obsessions and hobby horses, things that i return to in my writing again and again, the folk-devil as a character, the folklore theme of the hidden heart, clumsy christianity and a love of the grotesque, lists of broken and useless objects, angels and demons. Like most of my poems the fantastic elements are put in a real place, in this case, the swap meet in Tucson Arizona that i used to frequent around 1998 or so. There was a pickled punk gaffe on display, a four legged duck, etc. I bought an electrical typewriter there that i carried across the country in an old army backpack, and went through about three ribbons before it finally died. I think i really began writing on that beast, including this poem. I used to have a snapshot of the technicolor jesus in the gold plastic frame hanging over the "no refunds, no exchanges" sign, and kept it on my desk. A picture of myself standing in front of the "two headed baby!" sign somehow was sold with the car we traveled in, and wound up tacked to the wall in Mault's brew pub in my hometown. it was quite alarming to go in there and see that someone i did not know had hung up my picture in a bar i did not go to.

i considered this to be one of my first "real" poems. rereading it now, i am glad most of this juvenilia was destryed or lost, though god knows what else is mouldering out there in the internet's damp corners. I know that one worse than this still pops up when i vanity search myself. I used to get crap like this published all the time, now i can't get published to save my life, or as i said to my lady love in the bath last night " i can't get published in uncle fizzletits fun-time journal these days'

I performed this poem once at a music festival in an abandoned boy scout camp, in a stone picnic building in the rain with a band that covered captain beefheart songs. their old syth had tendency to catch on fire and smoke. i think there may have been about three or four people in the audience that could hear what i was saying through the racket. I also posted this on a site called "postpoems", in an attempt to drive traffic to my themestream sites., and found it today, still ensconced in all it's early web glory, while looking for a new publication that came out today, my poem "october" in spindle magazine, which can be read here

I also find it grimly amusing that, before posting this, the poem had been viewed 13 times since 2001. I am sure that at least half of those were me,also.

I ask you, am i learning anything? am i getting any better? Some days it feels like it, other days writing seems like an endless treadmill, like a tiresome conversation with yourself, like "no matter where you go, there you are"

looking at this old and ugly poem, i think, there i am, stilted and unnatural, cutting up encyclopedia entries on mythology, trying to talk about my internal life and winding up with landscapes, with scenic tracking shots without dialogue. looking at my brand spanking new publication, i see the same sins and flaws. I attempt to break out of it, but these invocatory summonings of place, these rambling postcards are what the inside of my head looks like, and when i try to break it down and just say what i mean, my friendly critics say "your poems jsut end" or "they fizzle out" or "they do not deliver what they seem to promise'

Rachel, October was written for you, out of my frustration of never being able to write you the kind of love poem you deserve, trying to write you a new song. I love you,and even if Uncle Fizzletits wants nothing to do with my poems, you always are kind enough to accept them and to inspire them. thanks for that

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Exercise 8

of Conflagration:

Catherine O’Leary’s Cow leaves the lamp unkicked and it
Bottles three days in October and the streets of the city
Never change. There is no second star.

Wooden boardwalks line the lake,
of a town with smaller shoulders.
The slaughterhouses and criminals
Lack a grandeur, the knot of railroads
Easy to unravel

And on a gravel street that divides two counties,
the crumbling house I dream in is never built

(unbuild it now, strip siding down to the mirror
reflection of insulation board, to wooden frame
and cement-block foundations,

the wood unburning in the fire that now is not
planks inchworm back to trees)

there is no hollow woodgrain door to stand before,
with flashlight in hand
there is no regret
no bluebeard refrain in my head
of every door save this one
behind which all my terror and my sorrow flow
no imagined woodsman’s axe
to swing, and split his hairy belly throat to crotch
and release the clotted ghosts
I have stuffed this scarecrow with

my sisters do not stop here,
do not wear their ages
like borrowed clothes on little girls

and I, when we meet, have no wager
against your sorrow, cannot understand
your tattooed tear, your graveyard arms

can never match your hunger, or know
the way a city is rebuilt from ruin
so we part strangers in a smaller country

I have unspooled enough, let time come as it must
Let Pegleg Sullivan steal the milk,
Let the stars fall
If it ends in your kiss

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Footnotes without a poem

Gargantua and Pantagruel, the insults of the bun makers

"The bun-sellers or cake-makers were in nothing inclinable to their request; but, which was worse, did injure them most outrageously,calling them prattling gabblers, lickorous gluttons, freckled bittors, mangyrascals, shite-a-bed scoundrels, drunken roysters, sly knaves, drowsyloiterers, slapsauce fellows, slabberdegullion druggels, lubberly louts,cozening foxes, ruffian rogues, paltry customers, sycophant-varlets,drawlatch hoydens, flouting milksops, jeering companions, staring clowns,forlorn snakes, ninny lobcocks, scurvy sneaksbies, fondling fops, baseloons, saucy coxcombs, idle lusks, scoffing braggarts, noddy meacocks,blockish grutnols, doddipol-joltheads, jobbernol goosecaps, foolishloggerheads, flutch calf-lollies, grouthead gnat-snappers, lob-dotterels,gaping changelings, codshead loobies, woodcock slangams, ninny-hammerflycatchers, noddypeak simpletons, turdy gut, shitten shepherds, and othersuchlike defamatory epithets; "

Paradise Lost the description of the allegorical figure of Sin

And thrice threefold the Gates; three folds were Brass Three Iron, three of Adamantine Rock, Impenitrable, impal'd with circling fire, Yet unconsum'd. Before the Gates there sat On either side a formidable shape; The one seem'd Woman to the waste, and fair, But ended foul in many a scaly fould Voluminous and vast, a Serpent arm'd With mortal sting: about her middle round A cry of Hell Hounds never ceasing bark'd With wide CERBEREAN mouths full loud, and rung A hideous Peal: yet, when they list, would creep, If aught disturb'd thir noyse, into her woomb, And kennel there, yet there still bark'd and howl'd Within unseen. Farr less abhorrd then these Vex'd SCYLLA bathing in the Sea that parts CALABRIA from the hoarce TRINACRIAN shore: Nor uglier follow the Night-Hag, when call'd In secret, riding through the Air she comes Lur'd with the smell of infant blood, to dance With LAPLAND Witches, while the labouring Moon Eclipses at thir charms. The other shape, If shape it might be call'd that shape had none Distinguishable in member, joynt, or limb, Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd, For each seem'd either; black it stood as Night, Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell, And shook a dreadful Dart; what seem'd his head The likeness of a Kingly Crown had on.

The Divine Comedy, Inferno the wood of the suicides

To tell us in what way the soul is bound
Within these knots; and tell us, if thou canst
If any from such members e'er is freed."

Then blew the trunk amain, and afterward
The wind was into such a voice converted:
"With brevity shall be replied to you.
When the exasperated soul abandons
The body whence it rent itself away,
Minos consigns it to the seventh abyss
.It falls into the forest, and no part
Is chosen for it; but where Fortune hurls it
,There like a grain of spelt it germinates
.It springs a sapling, and a forest tree;
The Harpies, feeding then upon its leaves,
Do pain create, and for the pain an outlet.
Like others for our spoils shall we return;
But not that any one may them revest,
For 'tis not just to have what one casts off.
Here we shall drag them, and along the dismal
Forest our bodies shall suspended be,
Each to the thorn of his molested shade."

Grimms Fairy Tales, the Juniper Tree

The little boy now came in, and the evil spirit in the wife made her say kindly to him, 'My son, will you have an apple?' but she gave him a wicked look. 'Mother,' said the boy, 'how dreadful you look! Yes, give me an apple.' The thought came to her that she would kill him. 'Come with me,' she said, and she lifted up the lid of the chest; 'take one out for yourself.' And as he bent over to do so, the evil spirit urged her, and crash! down went the lid, and off went the little boy's head.Then she was overwhelmed with fear at the thought of what she had done.'If only I can prevent anyone knowing that I did it,' she thought. So she went upstairs to her room, and took a white handkerchief out ofher top drawer; then she set the boy's head again on his shoulders, and bound it with the handkerchief so that nothing could be seen, and placedhim on a chair by the door with an apple in his hand.Soon after this, little Marleen came up to her mother who was stirring a pot of boiling water over the fire, and said, 'Mother, brother is sitting by the door with an apple in his hand, and he looks so pale;and when I asked him to give me the apple, he did not answer, and that frightened me.''Go to him again,' said her mother, 'and if he does not answer, give him a box on the ear.' So little Marleen went, and said, 'Brother, give me that apple,' but he did not say a word; then she gave him a box on the ear, and his head rolled off. She was so terrified at this, that she ran crying and screaming to her mother. 'Oh!' she said, 'I have knocked off brother's head,' and then she wept and wept, and nothing would stop her.'What have you done!' said her mother, 'but no one must know about it,so you must keep silence; what is done can't be undone; we will make him into puddings.' And she took the little boy and cut him up, made him into puddings, and put him in the pot. But Marleen stood looking on,and wept and wept, and her tears fell into the pot, so that there was no need of salt.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Imagery Exercise



In the kitchen, the school of plates
Is at last gathered in the shoals of the cabinets
The oven breathes hot on her neck,
she feeds it a songless bird

The teapot shrieks, a peacock,
And her hands lift the angry thing,
Headless and spouting into the cup
An open mouth that hunger cannot feed

The television flings shit all over
The vacuumed carpets and clean scrubbed walls
Till she throttles it with a switch
And stands in the silence,

Barefoot on the carpet’s hairy back.

the babies’ metal keys have stopped spinning
does she know?
how my eyes lick her neck, how
I breathe her milk-dreams like a cat,
her hair a nest of nightmares

in the dark, the bed sighs and moans
the pillows slip from their cases
like the heads of abducted whores
and while she sleeps
the moon and I stare at each other

exercise 6


Your incomplete surgery, dark-woodsing along
Behind the house, butterflied like a chicken.
Answers to the name of Sparky, eager to please
Free to good home, eastereggs set in black currant jelly,
It fishhooks sweetly lovesick, popping fisheyes

Here is the pipe the plumber capped, the ruststickpin of the blood
Veining through the rotten house, the yelping valve
the bit of apple stuck in the throat snipped out

This is way the bad-daddy-god ate his babies,
Like egg on toastes, jellybabies and sugar skulls
Munch crunching, pearlies grinding through the babybits
Here is how they trimmed him with the metal moon

Love rising and rising on the bloody seafoam

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Exercise 5 part 2

The summer I lived in the farmhouse,
the pears fell and rotted on the ground
And the wasps keened over them.
the honey dripped from the old stove
Where the bees had built their wild hive.
The rainwater, gathered in buckets
From the crumbling roof, had the color of whiskey
cranes,cars, tractors rotted softly
Their upholstery filled with mice
gloveboxes filled with crumbling documents
In the tall rank prarie grass ,
brown eyed susans rough and weedy
with no cows to keep them down.
The roof of the empty pig barn sagged to the ground,
the paint peeled off the north face of the house
In the storms the house was a ship
Shifting on the beams, creaking against the wind
My landlady, the madwoman
burned my record player in an oil drum
whispered about imaginary enemies
washed her frazzled hair in the whiskey colored buckets
and kept cats.

Kept them in buckets and barrels.
Kept them in cages, missing ears and tails,
Kept them one eyed, ancient long haired and dreadlocked
Feral and wild in the barns,
chasing mice through the junkyard cars
Hunting pheasants in the neighbor’s corn,
reeking of tomcat piss and shit
Kept them, hundreds, crying, human shy
Like men who feed pigeons,
wild and untouched,
coming to eat the food
she strew the ground with
like seed to grow more cats,
hordes and throngs of nameless and unnameable cats.

As I sat on the cracked pavement beside the mossroofed shed
One hot and waterless day, one of the kittens came up, crying
Its eyes sealed shut with phlegm, a bone thin skin kite
The coyotes had come in the night again, eating the babies
And this one had escaped with a bite taken out of its side,
the muscles working like puppet stings in black gore,
the bluebottle maggots crawling through the muscle
it had one good blue eye, a calico coat and cried to me

So I took it to my room, and wrapped it in blankets
Gave it milk and tuna-water in an eyedropper
Baked a brick to keep it warm through the night, poured
Peroxide and alcohol in the open wound and petted its scabby head
And spoke to it through the night

Not wanting maggots in my sheets, I left it with the warm brick and blankets
Sleeping, mostly clean and exhausted the small lungs breathing ragged
I slept and dreamt of cats
In the morning it was cold and stiff despite, or because of, my attentions

And I buried in beside the fencepost by the brown eyed susans
Too deep for the coyotes to dig it up.

Exercise 5 part 1

The river smokes into the tree line
sun burning through the shoulders of the hills,
A clouded eye, a white sky
undying mayflies strafe still water, endless

There is the body of a town,
Sprawled and white on the mud-bank.
Brick faces of old hostelries, of boarding houses .
Boarded windows and crumbling facades remember Julia Marlowe .

Rock hilltops jut above the green.
studded with silent Radio towers,
empty churches strain the light through colored teeth
mute giants brooding over a boneyard
stone angels with mossy eyes and evergreen
stand over men who hauled away the forest

the old houses lean and whisper together
of rain and fire, of the day the town awaits
the train tracks rust in the sun, the
bricks falling slowly to a red dust,
grass grows between the cobbles

the shuttered shops are filled with useless things
old photographs yellowing in milk crates,
unspun records and dry-rotting millinery
rusted tools with forgotten names

the clotted river dreams among the stones
the hawks circle above the corn on the rising warmth
in the tall grass generations of rabbits
have their miniscule terrors

in the softly grumbling houses, the children
of settlers have forgotten the use of this place
the heaped earth of mounds under grass and roads,
bone beads mixed in gravel, damp with morning

the streets unused till the moon shines on them
bonedust in a china plate

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

translating the untranslatable 1.

The Kingdomless

Alone, in the inconsolable dark
I am prince of a ruined tower,
My single stars is dead,
My metal guitar sings melancholy
Of a black sun, and black humors

Speak, grave, should you chose to comfort
when again will I see see familiar shores,
the flower of my desolation,
The rose and ivy tangled?

Am I the cold dawn? Am I love’s angel?
A king or a savage?
This or that hero?
My face is still marked by the queen’s chaste kiss
I have dreamt of caves,
and of the hungry sirens

I have twice crossed the rivers of hell,
Strumming Orpheus’s instrument
Singing each in it’s turn
the sighs of the saints,
the cries of the dead

being my attempt at a translation of Gérard de Nerval incredible

El Desdichado

Je suis le ténébreux,- le Veuf, - l'inconsolé,
Le Prince d'Aquitaine à la tour abolie:
Ma seule étoile est morte, et mon luth constellé
Porte le soleil noir de la Mélancolie.
Dans la nuit du Tombeau, Toi qui m'as consolé,
Rends-moi le Pausilippe et la mer d'Italie,
La fleur qui plaisait tant à mon coeur désolé,
Et la treille où le Pampre à la rose s'allie.
Suis-je Amour ou Phoebus ?.... Lusignan ou Biron ?
Mon front est rouge encor du baiser de la Reine ;
J'ai rêvé dans la grotte où nage la Sirène..
.Et j'ai deux fois vainqueur traversé l'Achéron :
Modulant tour à tour sur la lyre d'Orphée
Les soupirs de la Sainte et les cris de la Fée.

a note on why the hell i would even attempt this:

Nerval is interesting to me for many reasons, being in the habit of saying lovely things like "This life is a hovel and a place of ill-repute. I'm ashamed that God should see me here." and doing bizarre things like taking a lobster for a walk on a blue ribbon. when questioned on this he said “ I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs do.” In my opinion, this is a fucking awesome response when someone asks you why you are walking your lobster through the park on a ribbon.

This particular poem, and Nerval came to my attention via "the wasteland"., back when i was a wee highschooler, walking around with my pocket edition in my back pocket and quoting Eliot quoting "Le Prince d'Aquitaine à la tour abolie" even though i speak no french

in addition to being an influence on Eliot, I found later that he was important to Artaud and Breton, who are, if you are unaware, badasses of the highest order,and the line itself i think is haunting, as are many of the lines, packed with rich and simple symbolism, that just keeps unpacking as you go, ferinstance, "Porte le soleil noir de la Mélancolie."

"the black sun of melancholy" which , while readable in a surface level and carrying a perfectly clear meaning, also carries with it the weight of alchemical and occult symbolism, the entire poem taking place in the negrado, the putrefaction step alchemically, in which the sun turns black, the gold to lead, etc, before rebirth. and referencing not just this, but the melancholia engraving by durer and the anatomy of melancholy. The only other writer that i can think of that plays with this level of density in his images is Jarry, particulary his caesar/antichrist, and Jarry was completely batshit insane

the last stanza is difficult to convey how perfect it is

Et j'ai deux fois vainqueur traversé l'Achéron :
Modulant tour à tour sur la lyre d'Orphée
Les soupirs de la Sainte et les cris de la Fée.

literaly meaning something along the lines of \

And two times victorious I have crossed Acheron:
Modulating turn by turn on the lyre of Orpheus
The moans of the Saint and the screams of the Fairy.

however, fee, being more "weird" than the usual english garden fairy, think along the lines of the host of the dead, or the fallen angels. I feel that, like all translations mine is flat, and only emphasizes certain aspects of the poem, and loses entirely the music, which is clear even to someone with as rudimentary an understanding of french as mine is.

I may from time to time, try this exercise as a way to better understand a poem. please know that i am aware that this translation is a dim shadow of the original, and i make no pretense to speaking french, or latin, or greek, or whatever i take it upon myself to mangle. take it as an invitation to get to know the original better, rather than any hubris on my part.

here is a far better translation than mine, and other poems

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Exercise 4

He took the old pen,
the blue bic with the burst nib
And ran it along his arm,
up the river, not across the street
Again and again.

According to Borges the number of metaphors
That are accurate depictions,
that strike us as true,
are limited,
the rest are merely startling, forgettable.
Time is a river. The stars are eyes. Blood is water.

the tools are small and finite,
the recombinations of these arbitrary symbols,
almost dizzyingly infinite.
In the river that is time that is his blood ,
he saw the small dead men,
miniscule roadwork crews
that paved the roadways of his arteries,
that pumped the leaking bellows of his heart

They are the dead men that run with the hunt in the night
that live in the hollow hills,
that eat the bread and drink from the bowl of milk,
that hate iron and the sound of bells.

Among them is a childhood friend,
a stealer of cars and pocket money,
a hoarder of miniature liquor bottles,
a walker of traintracks now dead and buried young.

He is a Polaroid of his sixteen year old self,
the sweatpants pushed up too high on the leg,
the heavy metal teeshirt.
He is riding a stolen bike along the inside of the vein,
bunnyhopping red blood cells,
chainsmoking Marlboro reds in the man's pink lungs,
spraypainting his name along the bridgework of the bones.

He seems content if lonely
waiting for the rest of his gang
to hop the train that takes them here,
the final arcade that is inside the middle aged man’s body.

He has made himself a kingdom,
he is an empire to himself.

This one lay himself down into a sleep
and never woke,
here another found dead by his wife,
this one by his own hand,
up the river not across the street,

they live in him like worms in cheese,
like birds in air,
like deep sea fish in darkness
inside the hollow man,

that clanking automaton
of levers and pulleys,

the dead say nothing to him,
having said their allotment of words
go back about their work,

the pavers, the bellows, the vandal
that carves his name into the back of an eye,
memento mori.,

Vita brevis breviter in brevi finietur,
Mors venit velociter quae neminem veretur,
Omnia mors perimit et nulli miseretur.
Ad mortem festinamus*

and a pen knib scratches out a portion of stars,
and an eye peers in through the broken firmament
to the man’s small house and street and allotment of breath

Our bones are built of bones
the world and the word is flesh.
The sky is the dome of a skull

* from the Red Book of Montserrat
with thanks to the juicy and delightful Ms Rachel Mckibbens

Monday, February 9, 2009

a was an archer

A was an archer, who shot at a frog,
B was a butcher, and had a great dog.
C was a captain, all covered with lace,
D was a drunkard, and had a red face.
E was an esquire, with pride on his brow,
F was a farmer, and followed the plow.
G was a gamester, who had but ill-luck,
H was a hunter, and hunted a buck.
I was an innkeeper, who loved to carouse,
J was a joiner, and built up a house.
K was King William, once governed this land,
L was a lady, who had a white hand.
M was a miser, and hoarded up gold,
N was a nobleman, gallant and bold.
O was an oyster girl, and went about town,
P was a parson, and wore a black gown.
Q was a queen, who wore a silk slip,
R was a robber, and wanted a whip.
S was a sailor, and spent all he got,
T was a tinker, and mended a pot.
U was an usurer, a miserable elf,
V was a vintner, who drank all himself.
W was a watchman, and guarded the door,
X was expensive, and so became poor.
Y was a youth, that did not love school,
Z was a zany, a poor harmless fool.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Exercise 3.

At first my sister’s horse was only a handspan, pocket size
Almost a toy, except for the way
it would run in circles on the tabletop,
Knocking over the gravyboat
drinking from the upturned waterglasses
Leaving hoofprints in the butter.

My mother said to pay it no mind,

as it grazed on my salad,
and defecated among the potatoes
Slowly at first, and then quickly it began to grow,
A struggling puppy, biting hands,
eating from the sugarbowl.
My sister drank and stared
Cursing under her breath,
as the horse ran in circles around the table
Snorting and soaked with frenzy,
as she sat and slowly chewed

“is the beef too tough?’I asked.

as the horse ran up the stairs,
Knocking the family photographs off the wall
My wife passed bread around the table
But my sister did not take any, as her horse
now fifteen hands high, nickered and ran up the attic steps
eyes rolling, hooves drumming on the wooden floor,
so we could no longer pretend to speak.

with thanks to the beautiful Ms Rachel Mckibbens

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Exercise 2

My shipworm riddled heart

is bound in hammered copper,
to keep the worms from the rigging of my bones.
When I lie still to rest I hear them,
boring through the woody ventricles
the blood rusting the hammered skin,
the tinny sound of the surge
the hollow thump of softly rotting timbers
against the scrimshawed copper case,

a seashell held to my ear echoes
only their wet knotting

I cannot sleep.

They tangle through the dumb wood.
My father, the sharpener of knives
carved this heart for me
from a wharf piling,
bound it with rotten rope
and gave it,like it a gift,
a judas-kiss sharp with whiskers
and the words “keep it safe’ .

I hammered the housing that holds
it in shining copper , now verdigris-green
from the sea salt splatter and acid of my blood,
tapped the tattoo with a tinsmith's hammer,
stitched myself lungs from coral and sailcloth

now , the long nights drawn on, and compassless
I walk the muddy sea bottom
with pearls for eyes

My mouth sewn silent with a sailor’s knot
my creaking shipwrecked heart
a bellows in the dark

Your name scratched on it
The only thing shining

with some vague alluding to Bill Spearshaker and an endless debt to the cream skinned and fair
Ms Rachel Mckibbens

Exercise 1.

Ireneo Funes morning.

opened my eyes again,found the bed as I had left it,
drool on the pillow the shape of a continent I have never seen,
reaching down, my pants lay on the floor in the same place
they have fallen for thirty years,
the belt splayed,the inside out leg,
recalling, within a few millimeters,
the way the pants fell the first night
I shared this bed with you,
when your snore was more soprano than reedy tenor ,

and i put the pants on,bare feet on the cold floor,
remembering each leg I have owned,
the infant's floppy puppetry,
the awkward teenage gangle
and the sodden stumps I am headed towards,
remembering forwards
slid jeans over my soft fat legs,
walked into the fluorescent light
shaved just my cheeks,
my mouth still holding the shape

of every word I have spoken or not,

I brushed one third of my teeth,
the blunt brushes bristles bent
and worn from each day's
half-hearted saw and drag
across the slowly desolving enamel of
each tooth,each a little smaller

like stones on a riverbed of days,

tumbling through words and sandwiches,
and a countable, finite procession of breath.

waited for the bus,
and knew which one of the three
on the route it was,
the coffee stain on the third seat
from the November morning
when the fat woman jostled against the child,
now doubtless out of high school,
the greasy linoleum flooring
like the kitchen of my first apartment,
the fake wood grain
like the endpaper in a manual for insomniacs,
suggesting just a hint of a face.

Walked across the street,
the cobblestones weary
from the familiar scrape of my step,

thrice daily for fifteen years

into the familiar air of an office,
the wilting plant and smell of cheap coffee,
the yellowing plastic of a computer monitor,
the way the hand curves to the precise shape of the phone,
the ever slightly diminished pencils.

The world is in ebb,
retreating from the moment when I first saw you,
and everything clings to its dull certainty

with apologies to Jorge Luis Borges and thanks to the inestimably lovely Ms Rachel Mckibbens