Saturday, February 27, 2010


For the Confederate Dead

I go with the team also.

These are the last days
my television says. Tornadoes, more
rain, overcast, a chance

of sun but I do not
trust weathermen,
never have. In my fridge only

the milk makes sense—
expires. No one, much less
my parents, can tell me why

my middle name is Lowell,
and from my table
across from the Confederate

Monument to the dead (that pale
finger bone) a plaque
declares war—not Civil,

or Between
the States, but for Southern
Independence. In this café, below sea-

and eye-level a mural runs
the wall, flaking, a plantation
scene most do not see—

it's too much
around the knees, height
of a child. In its fields Negroes bend

to pick the endless white.
In livery a few drive carriages
like slaves, whipping the horses, faces

blank and peeling. The old hotel
lobby this once was no longer
welcomes guests—maroon ledger,

bellboys gone but
for this. Like an inheritance
the owner found it

stripping hundred years
(at least) of paint
and plaster. More leaves each day.

In my movie there are no
horses, no heroes,
only draftees fleeing

into the pines, some few
who survive, gravely
wounded, lying

burrowed beneath the dead—
silent until the enemy
bayonets what is believed

to be the last
of the breathing. It is getting later.
We prepare

for wars no longer
there. The weather
inevitable, unusual—

more this time of year
than anyone ever seed. The earth
shudders, the air—

if I did not know
better, I would think
we were living all along

a fault. How late
it has gotten . . .
Forget the weatherman

whose maps move, blink,
but stay crossed
with lines none has seen. Race

instead against the almost
rain, digging beside the monument
(that giant anchor)

till we strike
water, sweat
fighting the sleepwalking air.

-Kevin Young

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Hollyhocks in the Fog

Every evening smoke blows in from the sea, sea

smoke, ghost vapor

of lost frigates, sunken destroyers.

It hangs over the eucalyptus grove,

cancels the hills,

curls around garbage sacks outside the lesbian bar.


And every evening the black bus arrives,

the black Information bus from down the Peninsula,

unloading the workers at the foot of the block.

They wander off, this way and that, into the fog.

Young, impassive, islanded within their tunes:

Death Cab for Cutie, Arcade Fire . . .


From this distance they seem almost suspended,

extirpated, floating creatures of exile,

as they walk past the Victorian façades

and hollyhocks in their fenced-in plots,

red purple apricot

solitary as widows or disgraced metaphysicians.


Perhaps they're exhausted, overwhelmed by it all:

spidering the endless key words, web pages,

appetite feeding on itself:

frantic genealogists, like swarms of killer bees.

The countless, urgent inquiries:

the poor Cathars and the Siege of Carcassone --


what can these long-ago misfortunes tell us of ourselves, of life --

Epinephrine-..induced response,

Ryne Duren + wild pitches + 1958 . . .

Knowledge a trembling Himalayas of rubble:

Huitzilopochtil..i, Chubby Checker . . .

But for now they are done, till the bus comes again tomorrow.


There is nothing further to be known.

The fog, like that animate nothingness

of Lao-Tzu's sacred Tao,

has taken over the world, and, with night settling in,

all that had been, has ever been, is gone,

gone but for the sound of the wind.

-August Kleinzahler

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The Curtain

Just over the horizon a great machine of death is roaring and rearing.
We can hear it always. Earthquake, starvation, the ever-renewing sump of corpse-flesh.
But in this valley the snow falls silently all day, and out our window
We see the curtain of it shifting and folding, hiding us away in our little house,
We see earth smoothened and beautified, made like a fantasy, the snow-clad trees
So graceful. In our new bed, which is big enough to seem like the north pasture almost
With our two cats, Cooker and Smudgins, lying undisturbed in the southeastern and southwestern corners,
We lie loving and warm, looking out from time to time. “Snowbound,” we say. We speak of the poet
Who lived with his young housekeeper long ago in the mountains of the western province, the kingdom
Of cruelty, where heads fell like wilted flowers and snow fell for many months
Across the pass and drifted deep in the vale. In our kitchen the maple-fire murmurs
In our stove. We eat cheese and new-made bread and jumbo Spanish olives
Which have been steeped in our special brine of jalapeños and garlic and dill and thyme.
We have a nip or two from the small inexpensive cognac that makes us smile and sigh.
For a while we close the immense index of images that is our lives—for instance,
The child on the Mescalero reservation in New Mexico sitting naked in 1966 outside his family’s hut,
Covered with sores, unable to speak. But of course we see the child every day,
We hold out our hands, we touch him shyly, we make offerings to his implacability.
No, the index cannot close. And how shall we survive? We don’t and cannot and will never
Know. Beyond the horizon a great unceasing noise is undeniable. The machine,
Like an immense clanking vibrating shuddering unnameable contraption as big as a house, as big as the whole town,
May break through and lurch into our valley at any moment, at any moment.
Cheers, baby. Here’s to us. See how the curtain of snow wavers and then falls back.

-Hayden Carruth

Monday, February 22, 2010


The Little Prison

after Vasko Popa's The Little Box

Enter the little prison a comma
And you come out a question mark

Enter a scallop
And come out the shell

Enter in English
And you come out murmuring
What your great grandmother murmured
To other shells
On another shore

Enter an apple
And come out the teeth marks
In its yellowed core

The little prison
Has no interest in silence

If you crack a door
It beeps back at you

If you try to read
The Speaker will tell you

Who is collecting garbage
And who's expected on the second floor

And then seven names repeat
For reasons you can't decipher

Until the series of names
Takes on the cadence

And silver radiance
Of prayer

From the outside
All the world hears

Is the heavy breath
Of its red bricks

There are no hardcover books
For inhabitants of the little prison

They might open them
And find the lingams of Sai Baba
Or a glimmering orange moon
Which may eclipse and no one
Will alert the little prison

And this is its secret

The little prison was once a field
Herds of deer moved across it
And flocks of herons
Their calls rose and echoed

In the spring
If pressed
The little prison that was once a field
Will admit it once likened itself
To the great amphitheater at Delphi

Whisper at the door
Of the little prison
And your voice will become a coin
It will clang and whirl
As in a vacant staircase

Sing at the door
Of the little prison
And your father will tell you
To get a haircut

Stand mute
At the door
And your tongue will harden
Like the hoof of a boar

Why come to the door
Of the little prison
When the world
Is full of easier doors

Do you want to hear more
About the little prison
Why is it everywhere

Wind a ribbon around the little prison
You can pretend you made a gift

Give it to your neighbor
Or your cousin
And clasp your hands
With excitement

Tell them you've been waiting
All week to give them the little prison

At this point you may want
To become an elephant
Or a local expert on heaven

Or simply exit the room

If you have a message for the little prison
The man with the mustache
At the first door before the first hall
Before the first lobby
Will gladly press a button for you
And accept it

He'll place your message
In a special drawer
Where it may become a dwelling for millipedes
And the termites that tick
Across the hidden highways
Of giant desks

And if you have a message
For this man with the mustache
You can give it to his mother
Who lives up the river
In the little prison there
Where more termites tick
Inside another giant desk

You may need
To resend the message

The little prison says it is getting tired
So many inhabitants it says
So many hidden buttons and beeping doors

The little prison says tuck me in

But even the wind is too busy
Papers flutter and slip from the giant desk

Even then the little prison
Will not speak of the herons
It will not speak of the field

-Idra Novey

Friday, February 19, 2010


Keeping it real

Your poetry needs a pimp
to get its ass to the streets,
to make it work that shit.

What, you thought
you could write
something good
and it would just get read?

Well not here,
not now,
no way.

There's a long list
of players
you've got to play.

You better perfume that shit,
paint it up and shorten that skirt,
get it out there in the scene
and make it flirt
with all the happening scensters,
the king-turd, poetry freakers.

Yeah, your poetry needs a pimp
to make its ass look good
with stiletto heels,
to teach it the truth-
it's all about how
it makes the fat-cats feel.

You've got to put your name
in their mouths,
slide it around until it drips
from their lips
and they can't help
but pass it on.

Your poetry needs a thong
So that it will peak out
from its hot-pants
when it bends over to shake that ass,
'cause in this hood there are asses everywhere,
strutting their shit just like you,
willing to do whatever it takes
to get that break.

That's the reality,
the break down,
the truth-self-evident.
So if you want to keep it real-

your poetry needs a pimp.

-Jeremy O'Neal

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Somewhere, out there, in this bleak,
little Romanian opera of a city
full of feral cats, rusted iron
and restless spirits steaming up
from sewer grates-

a blind man selling Nightengales,

an accordian wheezing out
a sad, meandering tune
from strange shadows,

a wind-up submarine
marooned at the bottom
of a cast-iron tub with three
gnarled feet and a brick
subbing in for the missing fourth,

a Punch and Judy puppet show
starring Mickey Mouse
and Marlene Dietrich,

a black votive candle (dedicated
to some lesser known saint) burning
with a blue flame in a 3rd story window,

a barn owl perched on a flag pole,

Kafka playing deep chess with a bed bug,

Tolstoy making small talk with an iguana,

a billy goat munching on a page
from “Being and Nothingness,”

a silver cat napping
on the counter of a hotel cabaret,
a New Year’s Eve streamer (from at least
fifteen years before) hanging
from the ceiling,

a man sitting at a table in the corner,
sipping Sambuca and soda (fleeting thoughts
of his youth like shooting stars across his mind),

smoke from a stubbed-out cigarrette
coiling up through a red-orange spotlight,
shining down on a tragic torch singer
who has suddenly forgotten the words
to a song she’s sung a thousand times before

and have you heard the one
about the plumber
and the midget

-Jason Ryberg, 2010



I like to say hello and goodbye.
I like to hug but not shake hands.
I prefer to wave or nod. I enjoy
the company of strangers pushed
together in elevators of subways.
I like talking to cabdrivers
but not receptionists. I like
not knowing what to say.

I like talking to people I know
but care nothing about. I like
inviting anyone anywhere.
I like hearing my opinions
tumble out of my mouth
like toddlers tied together
while crossing the street
trusting they won’t be squashed
by fate. I like greeting-card clichés

but not dressing up or down.
I like being appropriate
but not all the time.
I could continue with more examples
but I’d rather give too few
than too many. The thought
of no one listening anymore—
I like that least of all.

-Philip Schultz

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

-Walt Whitman

Tuesday, February 16, 2010



In the small hours, the smallest of rain
and that animal joy of being abroad in the dark
with something unseen.

He said he would come again
in altered form:
the palest trace of smoke, or touch-me-not,
a charm of finches dipping through the meadows,

and something was there, when the first light
bloomed on her hands;
something was there, like a shadow
unpicked from the shadows.

Hadn't it always seemed odd
that the dead held their peace,
some herd sense drawing them in
to water and silence?

In scripture, they are mostly dust and pollen,
the colours subdued, the markings nondescript,
a step away from nothing, measured out
in clicks and whistles, over the stickled world;

and surely it must have seemed odd
that they never returned,
but meshed with one another in the earth,
a history of bloodline and attention
unwinding from the known the next-beloved.

John Burnside

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


On 52nd Street

Down sat Bud, raised his hands,
the Deuces silenced, the lights
lowered, and breath gathered
for the coming storm. Then nothing,
not a single note. Outside starlight
from heaven fell unseen, a quarter-
moon, promised, was no show,
ditto the rain. Late August of '50,
NYC, the long summer of abundance
and our new war. In the mirror behind
the bar, the spirits--imitating you--
stared at themselves. At the bar
the tenor player up from Philly, shut
his eyes and whispered to no one,
"Same thing last night." Everyone
been coming all week long
to hear this. The big brown bass
sighed and slumped against
the piano, the cymbals held
their dry cheeks and stopped
chicking and chucking. You went
back to drinking and ignored
the unignorable. When the door
swung open it was Pettiford
in work clothes, midnight suit,
starched shirt, narrow black tie,
spit shined shoes, as ready
as he'd ever be. Eyebrows
raised, the Irish bartender
shook his head, so Pettiford eased
himself down at an empty table,
closed up his Herald Tribune,
and shook his head. Did the TV
come on, did the jukebox bring us
Dinah Washington, did the stars
keep their appointments, did the moon
show, quartered or full, sprinkling
its soft light down? The night's
still there, just where it was, just
where it'll always be without
its music. You're still there too
holding your breath. Bud walked out.

-Philip Levine

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy

For some semitropical reason
when the rains fall
relentlessly they fall

into swimming pools, these otherwise
bright and scary
arachnids. They can swim
a little, but not for long

and they can’t climb the ladder out.
They usually drown—but
if you want their favor,
if you believe there is justice,
a reward for not loving

the death of ugly
and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,
rats) creatures, if

you believe these things, then
you would leave a lifebuoy
or two in your swimming pool at night.

And in the morning
you would haul ashore
the huddled, hairy survivors

and escort them
back to the bush, and know,
be assured that at least these saved,
as individuals, would not turn up

again someday
in your hat, drawer,
or the tangled underworld

of your socks, and that even—
when your belief in justice
merges with your belief in dreams—
they may tell the others

in a sign language
four times as subtle
and complicated as man’s

that you are good,
that you love them,
that you would save them again.

-Thomas Lux

Monday, February 8, 2010


and there I was wrestling a five ton truck
with a fifteen foot trailer (and both packed tight,
top to back) down a twisting two-lane coastal road
(with no signs, stops or shoulders) up there
on that skinny Wisconsin peninsula
that pokes so broken pinky-like out into
the black and briny void of Lake Michigan.
But at least it was relatively warm and dry
inside the cab though my partner and I
were still a bit shaken and chilled to the marrow
of our respective bones by the over-all unnerving
if not full-on traumatizing work conditions
we were then currently experiencing-
meaning the absolutely unrelenting
storybook/Hollywood-style thunder and lightning
and rain (with the occasional visitation of hail,
now and again,) and damn-near zero
visibility beyond the headlight’s anemic
glow on the slick, hairpin curvature
of the road ahead and of course the odd moment
But hey, at least we’ve got half a tank of gas,
half a bag of giant pretzel sticks,
a couple cans of some psychotic energy drink
rolling around somewhere in here,
and ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses”
is just now coming on the radio
and the sign by the side of the road
says:“20 Miles to Sturgeon Bay”
and it looks like we just might
make last call with
time to spare.

-Jason Ryberg, 2010



I like you a twenty-year-old poet writes to me.
A beginning carpenter of words.

His letter smells of lumber.
His muse still sleeps in rosewood.

Ambitious noise in a literary sawmill.
Apprentices veneering a gullible tongue.

They cut to size the shy plywood of sentences.
A haiku whittled with a plane.

Problems begin
with a splinter lodged in memory.

It is hard to remove
much harder to describe.

Wood shavings fly. The apple cores of angels.
Dust up to the heavens.

Ewa Lipska

Friday, February 5, 2010



(Masa da Masaymis Ha)

A man filled with the gladness of living
Put his keys on the table,
Put flowers in a copper bowl there.
He put his eggs and milk on the table.
He put there the light that came in through the window,
Sound of a bicycle, sound of a spinning wheel.
The softness of bread and weather he put there.
On the table the man put
Things that happened in his mind.
What he wanted to do in life,
He put that there.
Those he loved, those he didn't love,
The man put them on the table too.
Three times three make nine:
The man put nine on the table.
He was next to the window next to the sky;
He reached out and placed on the table endlessness.
So many days he had wanted to drink a beer!
He put on the table the pouring of that beer.
He placed there his sleep and his wakefulness;
His hunger and his fullness he put there.

Now that's what I call a table!
It didn't complain at all about the load.
It wobbled once or twice, then stood firm.
The man kept piling things on.

-Edip Cansever
(translated from the Turkish by Julia Clare Tillinghast & Richard Tillinghast)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

By Dr. Lawrence Britt
Source Free

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread
domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.


Encounter in the Local Pub

Unlike Francis Bacon, we no longer believe in the little patterns we make of the chaos of history.
—Overheard remark

As he looked up from his glass, its quickly melting ice,
into the bisected glowing demonic eyes of the goat,
he sensed that something fundamental had shifted,

or was done. As if, after a life of enchantment, he
had awakened, like Bottom, wearing the ears of an ass,
and the only light was a lanthorn, an ersatz moon.

It was not that the calendar hadn’t numbered the days
with an orbital accuracy, its calculations
exact, but like a man who wants to hang a hammock

in his yard, to let its bright net cradle him, but only
has one tree, so hewild and aware of itknew
he had lost the order he required, and with it, rest

his thoughts only a sagging bundle of loose ends,
and the heart, a naked animal in search of a pelt,
that once fell for every Large Meaning it could

wrap itself in, as organs are packed in ice for transit
from one ending to the next, an afterlife of partsand
the whole? Exorbitant claimnot less than all,

and oddly spelled; its ear rhyme is its opposite,
the great hole in the heart of things. The goat,
he noticed, had a rank smell, feral. Unnerved,

he looks away, watches the last of his ice
as it melts, the way some godlike eye might see
the mighty glaciers in a slow dissolve back into sea.

He notes how incommensurate the simile, a last
attempt to dignify his shaking gaze, and reaches
for the bill; he’s damned if the goat will pay.

-Eleanor Wilner