Monday, December 27, 2010

Ed Taylor: “Misocainea”

(“Misocainea”—from the Greek: hatred of anything new)

And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies, till they some of them burned their wings and fell down.
Diary of Samuel Pepys, September 2, 1666, the day of the Great Fire of London

            The cat’s diet, coffee and butterflies.  Now the animal startles at her heartbeats.  On the porch the quartet watches the cat knot.  They drink tea and whiskey.  They practice, knitting bands of static.  They call it friendship, wear it like protection. 
            Things get trapped and stuck.  Sun rattles into its hole.  Bingo.  Beach Boys on the radio, fading.  Car wheels like roulette.  The quartet bets and keeps playing, while it gets blurry outside.  Taking no chances, the music gets sinister.  Loud.  No one hears the wire tightening.  The four loosen their collars.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sure on this shining night
Of star-made shadows round
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground

The late year lies down the north,
All is headed, all is health
High summer holds the earth,
Hearts all whole

Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder
Wandr’ing far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

- James Agee, “Description of Elysium” from Permit Me Voyage

There is something about cathedral building that men like, Henry said, this has often been noticed.  And the first thing you know it’s Dedication Day and the whole state is there, it seems like, with long lines of little girls carrying bouquets of mistflowers and the Elks Honor Guard presenting arms with M-16s sent back in pieces from Nam and reassembled for domestic use, and the band is playing the Albinoni Adagio in G Minor which is the saddest piece of music ever written by mortal man and the light is streaming through the guaranteed stained-glass windows and the awe is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

- Donald Barthelme, Perpetua
The frustrations and disappointments, not even to mention the unspeakable loneliness, are too unbearable for anyone who doesn't have a deep sense of being unable to avoid writing.

- Donald Harington

If you must clean your Grolier Bible, we should advise ordinary soap and water.  Put a teaspoonful of soda in a pint of warm water and use a soapy sponge.  I think you will find this will remove the dirt and you can then polish it with a little lanolin.

-Frank Doel, via Helene Hanff, 84, Charing Cross Road

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ray Succre: "Into the Strange"

No breath, no break, no plank of time,
those thieves running wet in no wild
are ice shod, and there is only the rumoring damp.

Have you but slow wilderness, a trickler,
in forever infanthood, nursing reprobate matters?
Or tasting you in nips with the faintest hunger,
has no Sun yet come here to eat you?

Into the strange, hive-bound and stark,
there is but the tip of a human finger,
itself a silent key to itself,
past circuits, fish, and folds of any one, grit world,
a staggering lawn of ticking and yonder.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I have put my box, my towel, and my tooth all in one corner for now, in a neat pile.  I am trying to separate all the parts of my life, one per wall until all four walls are covered with the scribble of it.  There is not even toothpaste left now, and it has become apparent to me that the difference between being and not being at all may be as small as half a peach.

- Lydia Millet, My Happy Life

Friday, December 17, 2010

Angela Woodward: "Removal"

How’s this for a situation? Let’s remove one small chunk from the universe. Once we removed patience, and you know the result. Peter murdered his father, his mother and his younger brother, an almost immediate reaction, in fact carried out with the axe he had in his hand as I was passing. Of course we put patience back immediately, and watched it spread out through the whole village, the cleared woods, the tussocky fields, the shacks at the outskirts. An entire cathedral rose up. It seemed to us made out of toothpicks, ultimate grandeur and design, yet spare, cheap, we could see through it, rotate it to any angle, peer up into this life now restored to what had been lost. Justice locked its bolts. Each man, woman, uncle, vagrant, held a numbered ticket placing them in the correct order and relation to each other. The momentary undoing had bound things up again with renewed spirit. With such gentleness wives knelt in the cow barn; how tenderly they carried the milk bucket back to the kitchen.
Easy, too, to take away just one family member. You know what happens when the wife walks out, or the daughter dies. All the remaining family interactions creak along on unraveling strings, each smile garlanded with the kind of dust that clumps up behind the china cabinet. Greeting the son’s teacher becomes an elaborate scripted pantomime. The teacher wonders, “Should I shake her hand? Touch her shoulder? Say ‘I’m so sorry’?” so that the simplest conversation pleats out into a thousand wrinkles of possible other sentiments that would be purer, cleaner. The astringent bareness of the diningroom table with only three place settings makes the walls wider, voices softer. Each day rolls out, an inadequate bandage, muffled linen.
This afternoon it was my car that failed to appear from the lot behind the Sears, seemed never to have existed, left no trace. Where I expected to see its blue, salt-grimed behind, someone else’s car, beige, rounded, equally dirty but in a less charitable way, flashed its buttocks at me. One aisle over, the identical spot but further out, yet another strange backside confronted me. The other direction too, only foreigners, heads down, ignored me utterly. I clutched the keys in my pocket. Only half an hour ago I’d pulled them out of the ignition, slammed the door, clicked the orange button that promised my swift return. An empty slot would have been reassuring. But everywhere unbroken lines of cars shivered in the wind. They all kept their backs to me, and did not look up at the sound of my boots cutting through the slush. “You left us,” they muttered. “You never cared for us.” “How could I?” I said. “You’re not mine. It’s only my car I want.” “Selfish,” they said, one after another, and they refused to help me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Then the words stopped.  A new noise penetrated the room, the drawn-out rattle of wheels along the road.  Everyone thought of the world outside, which the talk and the light had made them forget.  The man and the family ceased to be two distinct creatures; between them a purblind, sluggish spirit came into being and moved toward the door to meet the diligence as it stopped.

-Jules Romains, The Death of a Nobody

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bill Tremblay: "A Square In Valencia"; illustration, "The Child and Mother", 1936, by David Siqueiros

A lorry lumbers through rubble-filled streets
and from under the tarp comes voices of men singing:
            There’s a valley in Spain called Jarama
            It’s a place that we all know so well,
            for ‘tis there that we wasted our manhood
            and most of our old age as well.

Truck brakes scream to a stop at a cobblestone plaza,
shops, second-story flats, bombed out library
with chunks of broken concrete, timbers like twisted straw.
Book pages wiffle in the breeze.
                                                Ruins silent as new ghosts
wandering Hell. Modesto and David jump down, others meet
wives, mothers, with smile-kissing chatter.

Through the crowd a five-year-old girl carries
her baby sister piggy-back, winding sheet sling
             faces dirty, eyes
darting, expecting who knows what bullets, lightning
from a sky of flying black crucifixes. The older girl holds out
her hand passing among people who slowly vanish             
like battlefield smoke.
                        David sits on a church’s exhausted steps
sketching on a map’s back the child-mother in colored pencils.
Modesto smokes a cigarette watching the picture appear
stroke by stroke out of nothing on white paper, the baby
bundled as her older sister was taught by her mother
before bombs blew her into red mist …

two girls, bulging needful cells, arms, pipes with knuckles,
modeled in a reddish light, hair streaked with war dirt,
the baby’s nose, cheeks,
                                    brown eyes snapped
rightward to a noise her sister-mother also fears,
a rent in her shirt the shape of a red chili
as she steps barefoot
            hoping for some fresh garbage,
child-mother and baby       and the piles of the dead
and what’s left, songs of suspicion traveling
down infinitely shredded nerves, their cheeks swollen
as their bellies swell, bricks rust red and behind them
            the ghost of a horse.

Note: The piece above is from Bill Tremblay’s book in process, “FIRE WITH FIRE: The Passion of David Siqueiros,” and the “event” in the poem takes place during the Spanish Civil War.  Bill is looking for other magazines to publish some of the approximately 25 poems that make up the book.
In a limpidity of silences

Speaks what is unanswerable
And is answered.
In a limpidity of silences

The laurelled heads turn

Away from death
And away from life and all
Other trivial little dissolutions.
In a limpidity of silences

Sleep the laurelled heads.

-Kenneth Patchen, from Limpidity of Silences  

Happy Birthday, Kanneth Patchen

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Tiempo y Silencio"

Una casa en el cielo
Un jardin en el mar
Una alondra en tu pecho
Un volver a empezar

Un deseo de estrellas
Un latir de gorrion
Una isla en tu cama
Una puesta de sol

Tiempo y silencio
Gritos y cantos
Cielos y besos
Voz y quebranto

Nacer en tu risa
Crecer en tu llanto
Vivir en tu espalda
Morir en tus brazos

(written for Pedro Guerra by Luis Pastor, heard performed by Cesaria Evora of Cape Verde)
I met him
We were thick
We said good-bye
on The Passing Years

-Lorine Niedecker, Museum

According to popular sources, we have only 740 days, 21 hours and some minutes and seconds in which to meet anyone again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa: “Notational poem ii”

i flew over the limits earlier imposed
i woke up in an unfamiliar language,
the one of my birth
afflicted by invisible testicles and shade
exiled i could only go to the hospital
to watch nurses walk stiffly in circles
tho the mortgage was still due and
a fragrance attacked me
as the bomb fused with earlier warnings of anti-pastoral saga
land became as unrecognizable as faces so
i tried to position myself behind the bomb where I knew
i could disappear because perception dissipates
wherever deception captures error
and incessantly recharges

                                      your arm dead on my arm

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

a few tragic assumptions: we felt safe,
meaning we saw the world as dangerous.
We would prevail or conquer, meaning
we saw homage as love.

-Louise Gluck, Rain in Summer

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tree Riesener: "Searching the Ruins of the Rainbow for the Angel Who Announces the End of Time"

Poem VII from the poetry suite poems for the end of time
- for Oliver Messaien, his Quartet for the End of Time)

given the momentous nature of events
the announcement is clearly overdue
we must find the angel
it is imperative that we find the angel
yet we are afraid to state our intention aloud

is that the angel peering suspiciously
through a tear in the red-white-and-blue rainbow
draped around her like a broken-promise shawl

or is it that one walking gingerly
over the fragments of glittering cathedral windows
where the rainbow fell and crashed
in the flood-and-corpse-soaked ruins

or is it that one whose name is
holding a paper with his name in cold fingers
whose wife coaxed away to live a little longer
looks back at him like a weeping mother
dragged away from a blanket-wrapped child
left along the trail in an unmarked grave

until death do us part she whispered
we only said until death do us part


perhaps someone held the angel down in the flood
shall we dive into the flaming water
what is that fire 
is it the burning bush
or is it sunlight
bouncing off
submerged pools of urine pus and blood

shall we take off our shoes and dive in
look for the angel
breathe into her mouth
feel for a pulse
shake the great sodden watersoaked wings
so she can breathe

or should we walk away
and leave her there

if there is no angel to make the announcement
perhaps the world will not end
If we wrap barbed wire around the angel’s neck
attach it to a cement block
leave her in the deepest blackest part of the flood
perhaps another day will come

we will go to work complain
and watch the news on television.

but it would be dreadful if the end came upon us
without enough time for confession for final kisses

better to wake the angel
wake damn you wake damn you wake

It's the birthday of Rainer Maria Rilke.  According to popular sources, we have only 747 days, some hours, several minutes and a few seconds left in which to enjoy his work.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

AE Reiff: "The Ship of The World"

There is no gate inside Yeats’ mouth
When fairyland pops and earth opens up.
Do not see landscapes, measure maps.
Branching visions lie in Dante’s pic.
Everyone likes to ride the sky,
but be spiritually aware.
Eat the ticket.

No camera measures interiors though.
So we rely on Dante more.
Maybe we'll get Blake to skate
the new PismithOrc mutations.
 Down to the Waist / Up to the Feet!
Infernal stairs decline a giant race.
 Perplexed as children eat Saturn,
I seen it  pass.

Somewhere the stairs go up where Saturn ate,
But society eats earth down river!
Quench obesity! Giants bulge equator!
The epic world is closer than we know.
Scale an inch to the worlds below.
Munch a mountain, drain a quaff,
poem seepage deep enough.

We have a counterpart in Homer
And pariah Jonah is an owner.
That bubble about a metaphor
In the little world of toxins great
works round from Jonah down to fish.
Save the ship lest everybody drown!
Jonah in the belly is The Ship of the World!

Before he's cast on South Beach late,
throw this outcast into space.
Put on him sins, tie his hands to save
and drive him to the deep beyond.
They never before sent sin to space.
We make a ship a horse or mule,
Too soon will talk of dinosaur.
In this wilderness new invented,
buried before the age began in earth and sea,
this metaphor about a giant metaphor
 prepares reality.


John Cullen Apotheosis, by AE Reiff