Monday, October 3, 2011

reposted from "futility closet"

For Children Three Years Old,” from Lessons for Children by Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Philadelphia, 1818:

There was a naughty boy; I do not know what his name was, but it was not Charles, nor George, nor Arthur, for those are all very pretty names: but there was a robin came in at his window one very cold morning — shiver — shiver; and its poor little heart was almost frozen to death. And he would not give it the least crumb of bread in the world, but pulled it about by the tail and hurt it sadly, and it died. Now a little while after, the naughty boy’s papa and mamma went away and left him, and then he could get no victuals at all, for you know he could not take care of himself. So he went about to every body — Pray give me something to eat, — I am very hungry. And every body said, No, we shall give you none, for we do not love cruel, naughty boys. So he went about from one place to another, till at last he got into a thick wood of trees; for he did not know how to find his way any where; and then it grew dark, quite dark night. So he sat down and cried sadly; and I believe the bears came and eat him up in the wood, for I never heard any thing about him afterwards

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

There is a secret that we cannot face directly, you hope it isn’t true.There is a doctor that can help, but his address is a vacant lot, old houses leaning together and filled with strangers. You go to find the doctor, there are flowers in their own glasses of water, you begin to gather them for your children. Your wife tells you you have not noticed, the way people are lead off behind a curtain, the misdirection of gum wrappers, of a test, so you follow the three, who take off through the maze, the streets of the worst part of your town, suddenly unrecognizable. There is a house filled with the ghosts of children, speaking gravely, there is a hollow tree, with a rope and a counterweight, and within the tree are books, but you cannot read them. There is a house, smothering in silence and in the house are bottles of something that will let you see the things that squat upon the rooftops and drink our sorrow, the terrible kings of the earth, but there is a sound, and the streets are a web that runs in terrible filaments back to the dark heart of the unsayable thing. You run. There is a man in black with a book, with a film on a dead medium, there is black ice cream, and something falling.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Re-Posted from "Harriet the blog", the blog of the poetry foundation

NYFA Award Winners Announced
By Harriet Staff
The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), “the nation’s largest provider of funding, information and services to individual artists,” has awarded 115 NYFA Fellowships to 118 New York artists representing eight artistic disciplines. Today, they’ve finally announced their 2011 NYFA Fellows in Poetry! Awardees receive an unrestricted cash grant of $7,000 in support of their poetry work in New York State. Recipients, finalists and panelists below. The entire group of winners, which include practitioners in Crafts/Sculpture, Digital/Electronic Arts, Nonfiction Literature, and Printmaking/Drawing/Book Arts, can be read here. Congratulations to all!

Desirée Alvarez (New York)
Ari Banias (Kings) – Gregory Millard Fellow
Jose Beduya (Tompkins)
Cara Benson (Rensselaer)
Michael Burkard (Onondaga)
Ken Chen (Kings)
Barbara Cole (Erie)
Susan Deer Cloud (Broome)
Robert Fitterman (New York)
Tonya Foster (Kings)
Rigoberto Gonzalez (Queens)
James Hall (St. Lawrence)
Brenda Iijima (Kings)
Garrett Kalleberg (Suffolk)
Amy Lawless (Kings)
Ricardo Maldonado (New York)
Ryan Murphy (Dutchess)
Jacob Rakovan (Monroe)
Wendy Walters (Kings)
* Wendy Walters was also nominated in Nonfiction Literature.
Finalists: Poetry
Urayoan Noel (Bronx)
Stacy Szymaszek (Kings)

Panelists: Poetry
Jennifer Hayashida (Kings)
Anna Moschovakis (Delaware)
Willie Perdomo (New York)
Claudia M. Stanek (Monroe)
Paige Taggart (Kings)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

25 of 30

she opened her mouth
that kentucky church door,
and all the birds came out,
honkeytonk whiskey and river bottom
catfish and fog and brown water
and some raw,mean old barrelhouse woman
that lived inside her opened her mouth
and sang out knives, and razors and done-me-wrong
she carried that hurting woman in her mouth
a secret everybody knows
till she could wail, all bright eyed
till the music fell back
and went away, till the angels
pulled their wings over their eyes
and the clocks just hung their mouths open
just a long sweet lonesome note
that crawled into your guts and made a home
singing the blood like a river, the heart like a sun
the bones like hills in the morning,all rock and antler
and that song tearing you down and stitching you back together
that song like a name you forgot
like a hymn in a graveyard of teeth,
hillbilly praise song
you always knew, plain and true
simple as morning, jesus knocking on the door
of her throat, whiskey river coal barge,
simple as truth, as birds
and fog in the hills, deer in the corn.

Friday, April 29, 2011

24 of 30

In the oldest story it says
in the wild place, of river mud
of silence, and emptiness
she built him.
and his mouth knew no language
only water, and the beasts
thronged thick along side him,
a mute company of birds, and gazelles.

a trapper, looking up
saw him, wild and covered in hair
his eyes black as a dog's
as deer, and mindlessly delicate
he drank from the stream,

in a brick city, his not yet brother
weary with a crown, with a people,
weary of history and the machinery of war,

They sent, that priestess, that whore
to divorce him from the beasts,
for we are a filthy river, a muddy pool
of language, of wealth and poverty, of lies

and yet it will be he, to die
and the king is the nation,to see the death
as we have seen it

to startle us into eternity
though the snake tricked us into death

and this is a story, told in every city
every where the streetlights cast their circle
and the water pools in the leaves in the dark,
to catch the moon

there was once a race of men, small as pygmys,
terrible giants of ice, of fire
blue with woad, with feathers in their hair
they lived in the barren places,
in the wood where it is darkest
below the bridge, in the hedgerow
bright eyes in the woods, false lights in the dark

we came, with bright iron
we came with roads, and law and churchbells
and captured them, green children and hairy men
cowboys and indians, radio antenna
knackers in the mines deep delving

because we know there must be men without language, without meaning
free of god and hell, free of law and terror, naked, new
eyes black as cave dark, silent and empty and clean

the filthy clatter of our heads assure us it is so

23 of 30

writing exercise # 53

Theda Bara in chrome

It's the retro-futurism of the aluminum diner,
chrome and saltshakers, the formica and mirrors
of the hyper-realist painters, everything gleams like
new teeth, like rocket ships and chevy bumpers
and she walks in, a cloud of sand, a palpable darkness
hovering over bones

To be good is to be forgotten.
soundless, on her black lips
her eyes still burning, like they can peel back
the plastic countertop , to unbeing
she is the devourer of boys, unlight

laughing silent at the ghost of Mary Pickford,
draped in monochrome flowers and saccharine strings
she lounges across the vinyl seat,
all langour and shadow,
black wings and jewels

bride of the sphinx, weaned on serpents blood

the waitress comes, all messy blond and soft south
a red red mouth,
and Theda rolls her eyes.
the coffee is black and starless,a shewstone,

there's a dead cincinatti girl in a grave
and theda sits over her bones,all whispered story
crowned in snakes, white gold and skin
an exhalation of steam from black coffee
witch of burning celluloid, the magic lantern show

always silent, a pantomime of desire
of hunger, of arab death and starless desert
of the hunger of empty places

the well lit dining room, the gleaming meringues
spinning in a chrome case, the weary wives
over eggs, the husbands and babies
and grease

and Theda, dark spot against the light
in the corner of your eye
other lover, wife of the dark
always hungry at the feast
always childless, the envious one, with the owl's feet
haunter of lonely places, robber of cradles,
pale madonna, upside-down saint
torturer of monks, lover of stagnant water

the dark is not a mask you take off at the end of the day
not a face you pretend to wear, an outfit to hang
in the closet,a poster, a reel of film

it swallows you in the end, hungry ghost
lost in the idol raised in your name
they hang thick in the air,
supplication and sacrifice of
american gods nameless and unforgotten

22 of 30

Screaming Lord Sutch 3rd Earl of Harrow
Founder of the Official Monster Raving Looney Party
takes his own life by hanging
June 16 1999

there's a point where the joke ends.
where the tophats and rubber skeletons
the driving drums, the oversized axe
the cardboard coffin
fail to satisfy, the girls quit screaming
the politicians so ludicrous
even the parody looks tame

when they miss the point,
when the right winger said he was your minister
for flying saucers,and you kicked him out
when you said if they sold the school's playing fields
the politicians should have to give up their back garden
that police too stupid for policework
should be retrained as vicars

passports for dogs,
dumping milk down mineshafts
people hungry in the street

it stops being funny, after a while

21 of 30

After "Vertumnis" by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

the world is crawling with faces,
ruined gunny sacks,
fat mice full of suet,
gnaw lips in impassive flour sacks,
and their sorrow frowns out
Arcimboldo stacks library books,
fish and roast chickens,
fruit and weeds into heads,
makes hair of fire, of thistles

before clocks, and fish, before breton
before this modern cleverness

we carve eyes out of gourds,
stretch faces over our own,
plastic skulls and greasepaint
and pretend not to notice
the onion of faces below the ones we choose
arcimboldo sees the whole world grimace
laughing and shouting, all the dead singing,
the paint brush's austrian moustache,
the powdered face of the canvas,
eats plate after plate of nightmare

the occult king, that collector of alchemists
of Brahe and Keplar, that cabinet of curiosities,
that doomed king of prophets
with wheat and apples bursting from his head

Thursday, April 28, 2011

20 of 30

a bedsheet ghost in linen,
with razorblade breath,
a pillowcase full of theft
and the dead

the headlights cut through
the woods where they fired buckshot
at us, peppered the trees,
the grassless house,
dog on a chain

here the mud bottomed lake
we jumped bikes into,
here warm water in a hose,
here 24 beers in a cornfield
here tar in the sun
liquid and black

here are oaks, scored with lightening,
here mushrooms and old papers
here the rags of your clothes
your rotted camper

there's a black phone i could call you on
if i could remember your number,
there's a white dog, a mirror full of blood,
a totaled car, a copper-jacketed bullet in your teeth
there's a place where the tracks meet,
where it's always almost morning,

a field of fireflies and crickets and gas station wine
an electric hum, a wheatfield,

I'll meet you there.

Manuscript Found in a Bottle, Popklavsky

The Russian text of this poem by Boris Poplavsky was scraped from the website, "Literature of the Russian emigration: Boris Poplavsky."The Russian and the English adaptation (below) both appear in the the 1968 anthology Poets on Street Corners, edited by Olga Carlisle.


Мыс Доброй Надежды. Мы с доброй надеждой тебя покидали,
Но море чернело, и красный закат холодов
Стоял над кормою, где пассажирки рыдали,
И призрак Титаника нас провожал среди льдов.

В сумраке ахнул протяжный обеденный гонг.
В зале оркестр запел о любви невозвратной.
Вспыхнул на мачте блуждающий Эльмов огонь.
Перекрестились матросы внизу троекратно.

Мы погибали в таинственных южных морях,
Волны хлестали, смывая шезлонги и лодки.
Мы целовались, корабль опускался во мрак.
В трюме кричал арестант, сотрясая колодки.

С лодкою за борт, кривясь, исчезал рулевой,
Хлопали выстрелы, визги рвались на удары
Мы целовались, и над Твоей головой
Гасли ракеты, взвиваясь прекрасно и даром.

Мы на пустом корабле оставались вдвоем,
Мы погружались, но мы погружались в веселье.
Розовым утром безбрежный расцвел водоем,
Мы со слезами встречали свое новоселье.

Солнце взошло над курчавой Твоей головой,
Ты просыпалась и пошевелила рукою.
В трюме, ныряя, я встретился с мертвой ногой.
Милый мертвец, мы неделю питались тобою.

Милая, мы умираем, прижмись же ко мне.
Небо нас угнетает, нас душит синяя твердь.
Милая, мы просыпаемся, это во сне.
Милая, это не правда. Милая, это смерть.

Тихо восходит на щеки последний румянец.
Невыразимо счастливыми души вернутся ко снам.
Рукопись эту в бутылке, прочти, иностранец,
И позавидуй с богами и звездами нам.

As adapted by Denise Levertov:

Manuscript Found in a Bottle

Cape of Good Hope, we left you in good hope . . .
But soon the sea grew black, a gleam
of obsidian knives; the red sunset
chilled over the bows, where weeping passengars
clustered. The ghost of the Titanic
veered after us, following us through the ice.

At twilight the dinner gong echoed a long time.
The orchestra tuned up in the lounge to play love songs.
St. Elmo's Fire was seen between mast and funnel.
The sailors crossed themselves - oh, three times over:
the wildfire remained, a sickly gleam.

We were perishing in the mysterious
down-under ocean. Steep seas began to sweep away
deckchairs, boats . . . As the ship slumped into the dark
we turned to each other. Slowly kissed.
In the hold the prisoners howled and shook their chains.

We saw the Captain put off in a small boat.
Screams, the sound of blows, a ring of shots.
We kissed; behind your head - your
curly head - up went the beautiful, useless, disaster flares.
In what intimacy we were left to go down!

The decks were bare. What gaiety filled us!
The endless water blossomed with pink morning,
the sea sheathed its knives. With tears
we celebrated our housewarming. The deck
sloped like a hill behind us.

Slowly the sun rose (over your curly head).
You woke, turning at once to touch me again.
Diving into the hold, I met a leg
floating. Dear cadaver! You gave us
a week more of life.

Now we are dying. Come closer; closer.
The sky is against us, its hard azure is crushing us.
Dearest, we are awaking, this is a dream.
Dearest, this is not true.
Dearest, this is death.

Slowly a last blush
mounts to your cheek.
Souls return to their dreams: that is happiness.
-Stranger, read this letter sealed in a bottle,
and envy us, as you envy Gods and the stars.
Richard McKane

Air Spirit
From the Russian of Boris Poplavsky
To Anna Prismanova
Maiden autumn came down from heaven.
Sky blue to the brim.
The white ship of the lonely sinks
quietly in high, bright-eyed seas.
Under the birch tree in the yellow forest
sleeps a handsome forest Jesus.
A gentle hare stands over him
warming his paw on the yellow halo.
Maiden autumn you are beautiful
as my dead soul.
You are quiet as the dawn mist
in which she went away from the earth.
O Lord God, how easy it is,
how deep, how far from this earth.
She lived in a dark house.
She did no evil to anyone.
She cried a lot, slept a lot.
How good that she died.
If there’s no God or heaven,
she’ll sleep sweetly in the dark.
Sweeter than lying in golden paradise,
where I’ll never come after her.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

19 of 30

there was a plum tree in our yard
that grew fruit once,
dark and unspeakable sweet,
and then never grew them again

though the bees
crawled through the blossoms,
though the pears fell soft and rotten
and the wasps came to drink their broken sweetness

there were no plums. No November Moth
the house is gone to ash, to broken plates in dirt
to a driveway and a septic tank and a garage full of parts
the bicycles rusted into the clay, the fruitless tree all twisted

years later, there was a summer, and a broken heart
and in someone's yard, a heavy laden tree,
plums dropped on the sidewalk,
that infrequent flavour of flowers, of perfume
that gorging on sweetness

who knows if it will come again

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

18 of 30

One careless word from the father, that bristling bear,
and the boys are all turned into blackbirds,
the daughter given in marriage to
the monster that saved you in the woods
or the baby given over to godfather death.

If your mother buries your bones
in the backyard, you will come and sing, and
drop a grinding stone around her neck,
if I lose you in the woods you will breadcrumb home
with blood on your hands
if you meet with a poison apple or a spindle
or lose your shoes, or fall asleep
or dance with dead boys till your clothes are rags
or any one of a million misfortunes
someone will come
and kiss your body back from blue sleep.

Parents dance at weddings in iron shoes,
roll down hills in barrels full of nails,
have their bellies stitched shut full of stones
those wolves and grandmothers and giants

even happy kings lose their daughters,
and their kingdoms, to wandering foolish boys
with pockets filled with beans and flutes
with talking cats and singing swords
and all manner of unlikely gimcrackery.

Every task and test and riddle I'd set
(even scratching out his eyes
and setting him wandering in the desert
even locking him in the tower with the dead men,
even sending him to hell itself to sell his salt,
to the end of the world, to the war, to the stable,)

cheated with fairies and the devil's mother and
whatever it takes, to steal the child away,
to the hollow hill, to the hidden lake,
to the other side of the mountian of glass,
to the castle of thorns and iron.

Swans and crows and goosefeathered brothers
the dutiful daughter , the dimwitted son, the tailor,
the soldier, the foolish heros
all fly,
all fly
all fly
over the hills and far away,

17 of 30

Monday, April 18, 2011

16 of 30

Writing Exercise #43

The Man with No Mouth
made of staring into the sun
of phosphene burn the back of your eyelids
and he moves, mincing
like a puppet, pantomime,blood colored
he is skinless, tailor-fingered
in a high coat and drainpipe trousers

everyone has laughed and laughed
until they are transparent as aquarium fish
and the laughter rolls around inside them
shaking and shaking on the ground
the man walks, each to each
high stepping as a clown on stilts
leans his terrible face in, spider quick fingers
darting around them and he breathes and breathes
their breath until it is gone

there is nothing he can say.
there are no answers here, in his grinning, mouthless predation
he is an ambulatory scar, a frozen smile, an endless hunger

Friday, April 15, 2011

15 OF 30

I have said your name till the meaning fell off
and came back, like god, like copperheads on the ridge
like home, you sleep on a bottle of pain,
your spine a beanstalk that the baby climbs
and you are home and warmth and light
sleepless beside you is rest

the boy in the black plastic nest
ran off, he thinks he has to kick his house to pieces
to get out the door, he thinks every bridge is on fire
all the rehearsed grandeur of his lines fell flat
gone as good intentions, as the reasonable face
he wore into this house

there are houses along the road,
trailers squatting on dirt and plastic grass,
tenements in every city piled up sad and crazy
and arguing in Russian so many places
for a boy to set down his suitcase
and decide to be a man

and i know those roads at night,
the weight of that bag full of nothing
the way a father is a punching bag clown
a mother a witch on the moon,
you have to dance with those ghosts
how the burned down houses slink along the road behind you, kicked dogs

I hope he finds a sunny spot to sit down,
i hope he falls asleep next to someone beautiful
finds the small towns, the church steeples, the ocean at night
spits out that black highway snake, the words
that poison a boy into a man

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An important request

From Rachel McKibbens:

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine who is also a teacher, poet and all-around phenomenal human being had her laptop stolen from her desk. Knowing that it was most likely a student of hers devastated her, but she has been awesome at moving forward and trying to just let the loss go.

I don't think I have to tell you how little teachers make, despite everything they do for our kids.

April is her birthday month and I'm thinking, with a little help from my friends, we might be able to help defray the cost of a replacement laptop. All who donate will receive a mini-chapbook from yours truly.

Thanks in advance. You are bowls and bowls of sugar.

14 of 30

When Jay Wright found the shark's jaw
he was 700 feet below the ground,
in the mine's dark ocean

It was black on black,polished as coal
black teeth in the dark
for 300 million years
waiting for Jay Wright's hand
to free them from the rocks

Only the teeth remain,
as though time swallows all malice, all thought
all hearts and bones and terrors
leaving only the hunger behind
only the teeth to wait, scissor-sharp
in the secret and dark places
 four miles down

they dragged it out into the light
and marvelled at the size of it
the doorway-mouth of that leviathan
that had swallowed all light, and life
and stone and darkness

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

13 of 30

Yelena, they say I said
I did not see him up there,
strapped in and hurled
like a stone at heaven

I was not looking.

The doctors said
"handles celestial mechanics with ease"
but he has never sat in a vostok,
in a biscuit tin atop an ICBM

before I went, I consecrated you to the saints,
I pissed on the tire of the bus
and the great monolithic state spat me like a seed
into the face of god

and I came back with him all over me,
and they carved my face in stone and gold

Monday, April 11, 2011

12 of 30

They sleep in the hill,
hunched in the too-small grave,
withered flowers, corn, stone blades
a jawbone like a harp, a tumulus of a skull

sons of the angels tasked to watch
they brought black powder and iron,
brought walls and brick,

here is the sky, a bowl of bone
pierced to let the light through
here are bones in the mountains,

here is the beanstalk, rope ladder
to a city of lapis and stone
here is the hen, and the devil's grandmother
the stone in the well, the toad in the fountain
here is the secret kingdom below the stones,
the hollow hill, the beehive grave
the staircase without end

here is the world we inherit with their death,
the silent monuments, the mountain tops, the silent oracles
the city is fallen and become a habitation of owls

here is the road at night, and the light in the distance,
strange music, black birds against the sun

Sunday, April 10, 2011

11 of 30

"it is a house set on the foundations of the rain" Pablo Neruda

ruin, i am tired of you,
muddy midden, ash heap
garden of broken crockery,
house of rusted engines, of radio wire

rust sown row of worm eaten turnip
I am sick with your dirt and tarpaper
your thick black mud and oil
has stained my hands, my mouth is filled
with gravel from your half- moon walk
my sleep is the pond filled with old washing machines
and bedsprings, catfish

spider filled mailbox of unsent letters,
tinsel and burnt christmas lights

I am sick of dragging you behind me, a mule
and you my dull and worthless plow,
my wavering track behind me, a line of
sickly sprouts grown from a handful of penny nails

I am weary, and i you are heavy
my father's worthless skeleton lashed to you like a scarecrow
my mother's empty wedding dress
a row of baby dolls with blinking eyes,

my regrets roost in your eaves, blind and shrieking
burst copper pipes and coins green with verdigris

tired of this goddamn paper wasp's nest in the wall, these mice
this black handled phone that never rings
there was fruit, there were pears and pulpy apples
there were days i could forget
the walls, the dead, the way i walked
on the outside of the world because of you
there were sour grapes and onions, birdsong
floorless outhouse and chicken coop,
dry tub and tattered ceiling

i have haunted you long enough

Saturday, April 9, 2011

10 of 30

today i woke oorm a dream of broken guitar strings
moved the lemon mint,
gone tough and smelling like furniture polish
into the sunny spot by the chimney. I ripped up
the creeping charlie, but it always comes back
like green sadness,growing in the rocks, the bricks
I put all the strawberry suckers into the ground,
moved the weedy-looking thyme.
I put two spindly sprouting garlic cloves in the dirt,
and a few carrots that somehow survived the deer
and the snow,. all the old paperbag leaves
i put in the compost, all wet and cold still
and the chives growing wild in the old wooden pail,
i moved them all around the chimney
i wiped the gnome's faces, and set them up again,
found the lone tendril of miraculous oregano,
survivor of spaghetti and snow and deer and
thieving skunk,. curled pale under the creeping charlie,
i set it upright in the sun
tomorrow is beans and peas and filling the frames
tomorrow is cucumbers and pumpkins

today is hands in the dirt,
today is housekeeping,
and the kids on the plastic slide
it is sweeping out the winter
an unasked for kiss, dirty hands

it is enough to live for

Friday, April 8, 2011

9 of 30

The  man with black wings growing from his head
is the brother of death.
Poppies clot the entrance
to his lightless house.

In the grey kingdom, there is an elm
where the angels hang like gallows fruit,
to fatten, till they are cut down,
sent to whisper in the ears of men,

there is the sleep of bones in clay,
there are windblown seeds in gravel,
the ocean at night, a great and terrible animal
stricken with a wound,
a king in the hill,the devil in the oak

and myself, strapped into my machine,
dreaming of drowning, the morning crouched
pale and luminous as foxfire, as glowworms
in wet grass, as a city in the distance
where they do not speak this language
where they do not speak

Thursday, April 7, 2011

8 of 30

After Bocklin's Die Toteninsel or "Isle of the dead"

Again and again, you painted it,
the island, the boatman with the draped casket,
the trees growing towards black,
the doorway harser, oblong

an island like a broken tooth,
dim windows in the rock face, 
a glass sea, avalon and ys

how they almost claw the sky,
that black and frozen fire
of cypress, the hole in the world,

where you lost eight of your fourteen children
"a dream image" you called it, but she knew
that not-yet countess with the name of your child,
and asked you to paint in the casket,
her husband, dead of diptheria
the woman in white that will not face us

and once they were there, you went back to the first version
and painted them there, and every one after
like photographs of the same endless day

He knew it too, that charnel house builder,
that gravedigger with the Chaplin moustache,
knowing something of the kingdom behind that door
he  bought it and hung it in the Berghof, 
then the Reich Chancellery in Berlin
where it hung through the war

One version  lost in a bombing raid,
 a fire of german marks and pound notes, 
a burning bank in the skeleton of a city, 
a sacrifice, holocaust, library of alexandria
adornment for Dis, for Xibalba

still they row towards black,towards the stone house
the tiny coffin, the faceless pscyhopomp
the rower, in the still and ceaseless day


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

7 of 30

today a day without invocation.
no summoning rattle of barbarous tongues
no sigil to scratch around circles and mirrors
in the clock of heaven, this gear is nameless,
this broken tooth in
the mouth, this forgotten word, this undream

silence of half an hour, eye
of the maelstrom,
intake of breath before trumpets

there is no prophecy here,
the cards all pasteboard blanks
blank river stones drawn from a bag one after another,
the tea refusing shape, a lineless palm, an empty newspaper

here is a mute and eyeless idol
here is headless god, a broken clay hand
a cloth poppet that has lost it's buttons
a nameless, swordless angel

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

6 of 30

You start out of your sleep, shouting
grab the blanket and stand in the dark with it
so i leave, and you climb back in the bed
treacherous horse on a staircase

I cannot shower the villain off me,
the pantomime moustache you have painted me with
the paper horns our son is glueing to my head

A flapping of terrible wings
against the brittle dark
a grey light insinuates against the curtains

so i go down into the dark house,
the child's faint complaint in her sleep
each in your bed, a silent film

It is not death. Spring is coming

Monday, April 4, 2011

5 of 30

"Of his bones are coral made"

In the lightless water of my dreaming,
you, father, are an eyeless totem,
a bagged cadaver papoose,a broken bottle
engineblack and gasoline in water

here is your house, fish in the leafless trees
catfish, barbed, electric and swollen
in tall grass that sways, invisible mover

you do not speak,
and the dead gather in your devi'ls chapel
on the bottom of the muddy lake

how you shook like a puppet last time i saw you
pale and grey as hospitals,
as mornings after terrible things

there are sturgeon, fished for with the hooks of cranes
their bellies filled with glistening black eggs, salt fruit
here are the swollen ditches in the spring,
frogs with pale appendages dangling, useless and poisoned
here is foxfire and lantern light

cloudy ice that blocks the sun, the muddy hole

here is your black book of engines, prospero,
that i never learned, here the fire that ate your rotted curtains,
here the broken shells, the fossils in the limestone driveway,
sea bed broken into gravel road, black tar liquid in the heat

here the black, the cars rusted on their axles
dissolving in the mud, here the eyes of mice in the farmhouse
here is a sea-bottom of wheat, a ghost of a pig,
a chickenhouse smell, a flooded field of rotten cornstalks

flying dutchman, saint's fire, jonah
how it comes behind you, your fury
with it's chrome teeth
to swallow you down to hell, you spoon, you feather
you rusty hook in worm

how the fungus gathers on the oak of you,
lightening struck and hollow
ripe and rotten for the fire,

you are sick with prophecy
a scarecrow stuffed with doom

cuyahoga oilslick, poison water
cracked bells ringing in the lightless towns on the hour
on the lake bottom, iron ingots strewn on the muddy bottom
shipwreck, worlds end,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

4 OF 30

This crazed chinoiserie face,
cracked statuary head i scrape the whiskers from
ape and beast in the hollow saint,
chipped bottle of bloody flux and black humor
comes off in my hands in sleep,
flakes like our water damaged walkway
trap for the mailman. here is a tooth,
a charm, a mask

in the worm-rich dirt of the front yard,
bulbous roots put forth snaking tendrils
crawl towards light,
red rimmed eyes opening
i am holding a jawbone, a talisman
an ivory rattle

there are tutelary spirits,
dancing dead, great bears
jeweled snakes and blue devils,
grey doctors assemble at my bedside
every night i am bound to a wheel, flayed
awake reassembled, my guts filled with stones and ice
extra pieces held in my hands

Saturday, April 2, 2011

3 of 30

after a surfeit of sleeplessness, i am
hollow as bird's bones, a calliope of reeds
a stagnant pool of undreaing,
black as mirrorback,

i have stood guard over you,
your hands closing in fists
still clutching the magazine
where you read your wide-awake nightmare

I am splintered and combustible,
when you start away
I am skinned and dressed,
my eyes are rotten chokecherries, ignored by birds

you think me indolent, luxurious,
thoughtless to rattle and scrape beside your sleeping
every night of the last six i have awoken,
starless, dreamless, my mask broken in my hands

I sleep a shallow drowning,
cold vigil over you, these bulbs in frozen ground
the boy playing solitaire
every greasy card of his resentment
my head with a sword through it

your nightmare comes to me, not in dreaming
a man without a face, the fattened birds, a dry and terrible place

Friday, April 1, 2011

2 of 30

The road, a rock and a rose

Leaves, wrapped in blankets.
The boy whispered. “Just a little ways” he said
I’ll hear you

Looked into Nothing when he walked out.
The country lying. The visible shape, the moon caustic light
The murk, a river, the blackened quadrants, burned city, the morning

At the edge of winter, they opened up the hillside
With pick and mattock, serpents collected, a common warmth
The dull beginning sluggishly,
The bowels of some great beast

The gasoline burned
No remedy for evil
The image of it

exercise from

1 OF 30

you spit it at me in greeting, to my good morning
the dead snake you chewed through your ink-bottle sleep
in the rafters our son has built a nest
of all the un-taken out garbage,
wet black plastic and milk bottles
full of borrowed anger,
he is trying it on, like a wig
like a dead soldier's uniform in an attic trunk
a cloudy salute in the mirror

when i sleep, it is cave-black, memoryless
but i wake with my hands full,
a broken piece of diving mask in my hands,
a mouth full of library paste and missing teeth
the stripes you laid across my back

there's a worm in my heart, a black fly rattle

when we were young, i burned my garbage
i cannot unremember the smell, the blue-green flame
how we watched the pages turn back, naked women writhe
in oil and potato peelings, in the midden heaps of secrets
of broken dishes, how the black eyes of the mice
stared out of every corner, the paperwasp walls,
black grease and radios

all the chickens clustered in the rain, the door to ruin

every house has a secret room you find in dreams,
where the unsaid things and the dust
and the king of the mice, and the unforgotten insults sleep
a still filled with rotten mash, uncarved halloween pumpkins,
a library of coverless books

even the stars curve inward on themselves and go black
chasing their own hearts down a stairwell
where no light can escape, and the detritus of worlds
spins and collides in the hollow dark

from the first fire, we are fleeing and falling
to ruin and cold, time itself a wound spring
in a junkheap alarm clock, radium dials glow
for the sowbugs and silverfish,
a stateroom on a sunken oceanliner
and heat-death inevitable as sundown

still i wake with you.
still we are here
and today, i kiss you,
i take out the trash on the way to work