Tuesday, June 29, 2010


“So many gods!”

Alvaro de Campos
So many gods!
They’re like books—you can’t read everything, you never know anything.
Happy the man who knows but one god, and keeps him a secret.
Every day I have different beliefs—
Sometimes in the same day I have different beliefs—
And I wish I were the child now crossing
The view from my window of the street below.
He’s eating a cheap pastry (he’s poor) without efficient or final cause,
An animal uselessly raised above the other vertebrates,
And through his teeth he sings a ribald show tune . . .
Yes, there are many gods,
But I’d give anything to the one who’d take that child out of my sight.

-Álvaro de Campos

Monday, June 28, 2010


Empire of Dreams

Charles Simic
On the first page of my dreambook
It’s always evening
In an occupied country.
Hour before the curfew.
A small provincial city.
The houses all dark.
The storefronts gutted.

I am on a street corner
Where I shouldn’t be.
Alone and coatless
I have gone out to look
For a black dog who answers to my whistle.
I have a kind of Halloween mask
Which I am afraid to put on.

-Charles Simic


Just a slippery, quicksilver glimpse

of someone faintly resembling her

or the mere mention

of her name in passing

between two passing strangers

(maybe a seeing-eye-dog

and a black bird perched

on a parking meter,

this time)

and a thin, murder-red line of liquid fire

meanders its way, languidly,

down the spiny contour

of this bizarre,


installation piece

I call my soul,

pooling, slowly,

in the stone bowl

of my belly, where, it will

bubble and hiss and sulk

long into the night.

-Jason Ryberg, 2004

Sunday, June 27, 2010


The slow overture of rain,
each drop breaking
without breaking into
the next, describes
the unrelenting, syncopated
mind. Not unlike
the hummingbirds
imagining their wings
to be their heart, and swallows
believing the horizon
to be a line they lift
and drop. What is it
they cast for? The poplars,
advancing or retreating,
lose their stature
equally, and yet stand firm,
making arrangements
in order to become
imaginary. The city
draws the mind in streets,
and streets compel it
from their intersections
where a little
belongs to no one. It is
what is driven through
all stationary portions
of the world, gravity's
stake in things, the leaves,
pressed against the dank
window of November
soil, remain unwelcome
till transformed, parts
of a puzzle unsolvable
till the edges give a bit
and soften. See how
then the picture becomes clear,
the mind entering the ground
more easily in pieces,
and all the richer for it.

-Jorie Graham

Friday, June 25, 2010


Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio

It's a jazz affair, drum crashes
and cornet razzes.
The trombone pony neighs
and the tuba jackass snorts.
The banjo tickles and titters too awful.
The chippies talk about
the funnies in the papers.
The cartoonists weep in their beer.
Ship riveters talk with their feet
To the feet of floozies under the tables.
A quartet of white hopes mourn
with interspersed snickers:
"I got the blues.
I got the blues.
I got the blues."
And . . . as we said earlier:
The cartoonists weep in their beer.

-Carl Sandburg

Thursday, June 24, 2010



It is later than late,
the simmered down darkness
of the jukebox hour.

The hour of drunkenness
and cigarettes.
The fools hour.

In my dreams,
I still smoke, cigarette after cigarette.
It's okay, I'm dreaming.
In dreams, smoking can't kill me.

It's warm outside.
I have every window open.
There's no such thing as danger,
only the dangerous face of beauty.

I am hanging at my window
like a houseplant.
I am smoking a cigarette.
I am having a drink.

The pale, blue moon is shining.
The savage stars appear.
Every fool that passes by
smiles up at me.

I drip ashes on them.

There is music playing from somewhere.
A thready, salt-sweet tune I don't know
any of the words to.
There's a gentle breeze making
hopscotch with my hair.

This is the wet blanket air of midnight.
This is the incremental hour.
This is the plastic placemat of time
between reality and make-believe.
This is tabletop dream time.

This is that faint stain on your mattress,
the one you'll discover come morning,
and wonder how.
This is the monumental moment.
The essential: look at me now.
This is the hour.

Isn't it lovely? Wake up the stars!
Isn't it fabulous? Kiss the moon!
Where is the clock? The one that
always runs ahead. The one
that always tries to crush me with
its future.

-Lisa Zaran

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The Flash Reverses Time

DC Comics, November 1990, #44
“Never Look Back, Flash
Your Life Might Be Gaining On You”

When I’m running across the city
on the crowded streets
to home, when, in a blur,
the grass turns brown
beneath my feet, the asphalt
steams under every step
and the maple leaves sway
on the branches in my wake,
and the people look,
look in that bewildered way,
in my direction, I imagine
walking slowly into my past
among them at a pace
at which we can look one another in the eye
and begin to make changes in the future
from our memories of the past—
the bottom of a bottomless well,
you may think, but why not dream a little:
our past doesn’t contradict our future;
they’re swatches of the same fabric
stretching across our minds,
one image sewn into another,
like the relationship between a foot and a boot,
covariant in space and time—
one moves along with the other,
like an actor in a shadow play—
like a streak of scarlet light
across the skyline of your city
sweeping the debris, which is simply confetti,
candy wrappers, a can of soda,
all the experience of a day discarded
and now picked up
even down to the youthful screams of play
that put smiles on the faces of the adults
who hear remnants of their own voices
through a doorway leading back
to a sunrise they faintly remember.

-A. Van Jordan

Monday, June 21, 2010


The ghosts

Of old dreams

Are washed out video-shadows

Milling about in salvage stores,

Train yards and vacant lots,

Muttering state secrets

And family recipes into the wind.

The ghosts

Of old dreams

Are fleeting quicksilver gleams

In the corner of the mind’s eye,

And then, suddenly,

In a flurry of back road dust

And magpie wings,

Are smoke.

The ghosts

Of old dreams

Are fat bottom feeders, much like

Their not-so-distant cousin

The catfish.

In fact,

They often dine

At the same greasy spoons

And bed down at the same

Flophouse hotels…

A hollow log, a tire, a Christmas tree,

A chamber in the heart,

A cavern in the skull,

Maybe a washer or refrigerator,


Whereever there’s a vacancy

Or a free meal.

They do what they can to survive.

In fact,

It is said

That there is a giant catfish

Somewhere at the bottom

Of the world;

Bigger than the Blue Whale,

huger than the Brontosaurus,

more gigantic, even, than the ancient,

fabled Leviathan.

And many believe

This surly old boy to be God.

And there he is, way down deep there

Among the jutting pillars

And slowly eroding walls

And steel skeletons

Of his first clumsy experiments

With civilization:

Slithering and sucking about,

Sifting and breathing out our days

From the primal mud and muck of life,

Accompanied only

By his angelic battalions of advisers,

His armored corps of engineers

The crawdads.

And look,

There they are;

Rippling out around him

In concentric circles

And billowing coronas of silt,

Hard at work,

Sniffing, tasting, testing, triangulating,

Picking over the tiny,

Time-filtered bits and pieces

Of the past, reworking

The problems of the world

From the bottom up.

It is said

That no other creature

Of his creation can withstand

Such depths,

Except perhaps

(if you believe in such things),

the ghosts of old dreams.

-Jason Ryberg, 2003


Night Words
after Juan Ramon

A child wakens in a cold apartment.
The windows are frosted. Outside he hears
words rising from the streets, words he cannot
understand, and then the semis gear down
for the traffic light on Houston. He sleeps
again and dreams of another city
on a high hill above a wide river
bathed in sunlight, and the dream is his life
as he will live it twenty years from now.
No, no, you say, dreams do not work that way,
they function otherwise. Perhaps in the world
you're right, but on Houston tonight two men
are trying to change a tire as snow gathers
on their shoulders and scalds their ungloved hands.
The older one, the father, is close to tears,
for he's sure his son, who's drunk, is laughing
secretly at him for all his failures
as a man and a father, and he is
laughing to himself but because he's happy
to be alone with his father as he was
years ago in another life where snow
never fell. At last he slips the tire iron
gently from his father's grip and kneels
down in the unstained snow and unbolts the wheel
while he sings of drinking a glass of wine,
the black common wine of Alicante,
in raw sunlight. Now the father joins in,
and the words rise between the falling flakes
only to be transformed into the music
spreading slowly over the oiled surface
of the river that runs through every child's dreams.

-Philip Levine

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Those far-off and fleeting buzzards

of indeterminate feeling,

pyrning and gyring on the horizon,

those flittering moths of thought

recently seen accumulating, at the oddest times,

on the shimmering quicksilver edge

of your mind's magnificent fish-eye lens...

they've been rapidly devolving

into dubious notions and bizarre insecurities

concerning the teleological motions

of moth's wings and the polar ice-caps of Mars

(and their collusion and subsequent influence

over your own precarious place

in the grand schemata

of people, places and things)...

And what about that sweet, young thing, there,

givin' you the cheerleader sneer

from across the bar?

What is that, exactly, that she's beaming out,

so radiantly?



Some subtle shade of pathos, at best?

Or that grizzled, hoary Ahab

of a character shootin' you the stink-eye

from the back window of a passing bus...

Maybe it all adds up to nothing much,

but, something both all-knowing

and faintly unwholesome was

most definitely transmitted in the brief,

teleo-scopic instant of that

thousand-yard stare.

And those little clickity-clicks

and distant kettle whistles

and whispering phantoms of white noise

you'd swear, sometimes, just like

billowing clouds of gnats and other no-see-ems

(hosting the reincarnated souls

of grievous sinners, no doubt)

always mucking up your receptions

and transmissions.

What could their involvement be

in all of this and to what possible purpose

and degree?



Hostile take-over?

Well, maybe you've even thought to yourself,

from time to time, "how strange

to always be found, lately,

playing the part of the sad, little

Charlie Chaplin of a clown

in Life's three-ring sodomy circus."

Zen masters, fortune cookies

and bar-stool philosophers,

street-sweepers, antique dealers

and the capricious daughters

of Mexican generals, alike,

will tell you,

it is precisely at these moments that

one must immediately pull the rip-cord

and nullify all contracts and pre-arrangements with the world,

let loose the horses,

release the hounds,

and set free the birds of paradisal light

that have languished too long in their cages.

But, most importantly,

one must stalk and chase and feed, voraciously,

upon the hot, dripping, still-beating hearts

of wide open spaces.

-Jason Ryberg, 2004



Summer, red violin,
bright cloud,
a buzzing
of saw
and cicada
precedes you,
your sky
is vaulted,
smooth and shining as
an eye,
and beneath its gaze,
fish of the
infinite sky,
pleasing electron,
rounded bee's
terrible, paternal sun,
sweaty as a
laboring ox,
parched sun
pounding on your head
like an unexpected
thirsty sun
across the sand,
desert sea.
The sulphur
yellow sweat;
ray by ray
the pilot
the celestial sun;
down a forehead
into eyes
in the mine
at Lota,
the miner
his black
sowed fields
wheat rustles,
their heads
in a diamond.

in the greenness, lips
of wild plums,
of soft dust
on dust,
copper drum,
and in the afternoon
the fire
the air
makes clover
dance, invades
the desert furnace,
a cool
in the somber
in the crackling
though unscorched

-Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Passage I

little moth
I do not think you'll escape
this night

I do not think
you'll escape this night
little moth


bees in clover
summer half over
friends without lovers


I bite a carrot
horsefly bites me


I thought it was you
moving through the trees

but it was the trees

I thought it was your finger
grazing my knee

it was the breeze

I thought prayers were rising
to a god alive in my mind

they rose on the wind

I thought I had all the time
and world enough to discover what I should

when it was over

I thought I would always be young
though I knew the years passed

and knowing turned my hair gray

I thought it was a welcome
what I took for a sign—

the sun...the unsymboling sun...


watch the clouds
on any given day
even they don't keep their shape
for more than a minute

sociable shifters
bringing weather from elsewhere
until it's our weather
and we say now it's raining here


Vermont shore lit
by a fugitive sun
who doesn't believe
in a day's redemption


sunset renovation
at the expected hour
but the actual palette
still a surprise


gulls alit on the lake
little white splendors
looking to shit on the dock


little cat
kneading my chest
milkless breasts
take your pleasure
where you can


not that I was alive
but that we were

-Maureen N. McLane


In the Nelson Atkins Museum,

in Kansas City, MO,

there is a painting,

I am convinced is responsible

for the disappearance

of a number of, otherwise,

innocent art aficionados.

Once, while flirting

shamelessly with one of Gauguin’s

little island girls,

I noticed a man

absolutely motionless,

before it-

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot’s

“A Day In the Country,”

with its blustery, leaf-flustered world

of browns and blacks and greys,

(about the only colors

he ever seemed to use in those days),

except, of course, for his

tiny signature dab of red

that always manages to grab the eye

and mind like a bright ember at twilight.

And the guy

is completely frozen, there,

an unbeliever, perhaps,

beholding the hybrid angel-demon, at last,

a bird lost in the thousand-yard-stare

of a cobra.

And I swear

I only turned away from him

for a second (to give my

little coco-chica a reassuring wink)…

When I turned back,

there was nothing left of the man

but a shoe.

This went on for a couple of months-

a kid with headphones,

a guy wearing cockroach killers

and a burgundy shirt,

an old man with a straw pork-pie,

a woman with a fake leg,

and a girl with a dragonfly

tattooed across her entire back.

And though I never actually saw

any of these… abductions,

would never be able to testify, reliably,

as an eye-witness to just exactly

what went down.

I know these people had been chosen by Beauty;

carried off, spirited away, shanghaied…

and, I knew that I could never know Beauty

like they did, could never possess Beauty

like they did, could never curl up next to it,

make dinner for it, take it on the job,

go on long walks through the park with it,

ride shotgun with it in a ’68 Chevy pick-up

through a monster summer thunderstorm…

unless, of course, something… substantial

were sacrificed,

unless I offered myself up, completely,

to the grinning, lizard-tongue-flicking

devil-god of the moment,

whatever that moment may be.


I went home,

took a long pull off a half-pint

of Presedente’,

torched everything I’d ever written

in a metal trash-can

and through my television

off the roof of my building.


I felt fucking beautiful.

-Jason Ryberg, 2004