Thursday, September 30, 2010


Four Anecdotes From the Life of Dang Yo-une

He stood outside the gates of Lhasa for four days
singing I fall upon the thorns of life,
I bleed, but the berries are delicious
if you remember to wash them.

The surface of his coca-cola sparkled so—
atoms of joy leapt from it like salmon in mid-stream!
He drank, then wiped the fish off his lips.

Wearing the pussy white suit of an astronaut
he tried to mount his horse
who pushed him baroquely
till he fell rococo and lanced.

Innumerable horses race insanely
into the peak of battle
unaware Admiral van Euckhuysen is a tulip.
Dang, too, pretended he was a cat
and buried a bone.

-Mary Ruefle

Monday, September 27, 2010


Alan Dugan Telling Me I Have
A Problem With Time

He reads my latest attempt at a poem
and is silent for a long time, until it feels
like that night we waited for Apollo,
my mother wandering in and out of her bedroom, asking,
Haven't they landed yet? At last
Dugan throws it on the table and says,
This reads like a cheap detective novel
and I've got nothing to say about it. It sits,
naked and white, with everyone's eyes
running over it. The week before
he'd said I had a problem with time,
that in my poems everything
kept happening at once. In 1969,
the voice of Mission Control
told a man named Buzz
that there was a bunch of guys turning blue
down here on Earth, and now I can understand
it was with anticipation, not sickness. Next,
Dugan says, Let's move on. The attempted poem
was about butterflies and my recurring desire
to return to a place I've never been.
It was inspired by reading this
in a National Geographic: monarchs
stream northward from winter roosts in Mexico,
laying their eggs atop milkweed
to foster new generations along the way.
With the old monarchs gone (I took this line as the title)
and all ties to the past ostensibly cut
the unimaginable happens--butterflies
that have never been to that plateau in Mexico
roost there the next winter. . . .I saw this
as a metaphor for a childhood I never had,
until Dugan pointed out
that metaphor has been dead for a hundred years.
A woman, new to the workshop, leans
behind his back and whispers, I like it,
but the silence is seamless, as deep
as outer space. That night in 1969
I could turn my head from the television and see
the moon
filling the one pane over the bed completely
as we waited for Neil Armstrong
to leave his footprints all over it.

by Nick Flynn

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The Saturday Afternoon Blues

can kill you
can fade your life away
friends are all out shopping
ain’t nobody home
suicide hotline is busy
and here i am on my own
with a pill and a bottle for comany
and heart full of been done wrong
i’m a candidate for the coroner, a lyric for a song

saturday afternoons are killers
when the air is brisk and warm
ol’ sun he steady whispers
soon the life you know will be done
suicide line i can’t get you
best friend out of town
alone with a pill and a bottle
i drink my troubles down

the man i love is a killer
the man i love is thief
the man i love is a junky
the man i love is grief

some call saturday the sabbath
it’s the bottom of the line some say
whether last or first, my heart’s gonna burst
and there ain’t no help my way
here with a pill and a bottle
and a life full of been done wrong
i’m a candidate for the coroner, a lyric
for a song.

-Wanda Coleman

Tuesday, September 21, 2010



la colera de pobre
tiene dos rios contra muchos mares.

— César Vallejo

Vallejo wrote that with God we are all orphans.
I send $22 a month to a kid in Ecuador
so starvation keeps moving on its bony burro
past his door—no cars, computers,
basketball shoes—not a bottle cap
of hope for the life ahead . . . just enough
to keep hunger shuffling by in a low cloud
of flies. It’s the least I can do, and so I do it.

I have followed the dry length
of Mission Creek to the sea and forgotten to pray
for the creosote, the blue salvia, let alone
for pork bellies, soy bean futures. Listen.
There are 900 thousand Avon Ladies in Brazil.
Billions are spent each year on beauty products
world-wide—28 billion on hair care, 14 on skin
conditioners, despite children digging on the dumps,
selling their kidneys, anything that is briefly theirs.
9 billion a month for war in Iraq, a chicken bone
for foreign aid. I am the prince of small potatoes,
I deny them nothing who come to me beseeching
the crusts I have to give. I have no grounds for complaint,
though deep down, where it’s anyone’s guess,
I covet everything that goes along with the illustrious—
creased pants as I stroll down the glittering boulevard,
a little aperitif beneath Italian pines. But who cares
what I wear, or drink? The rain? No, the rain is something
we share—it devours the beginning and the end.

The old stars tumble out of their bleak rooms like dice—
Box Cars, Snake Eyes, And-The-Horse-You-Rode-In-On . . .
not one metaphorical bread crumb in tow.
Not a single Saludo! from the patronizers
of the working class—Pharaoh Oil, Congress,
or The Commissioner of Baseball—all who will eventually
take the same trolley car to hell, or a slag heap
on the outskirts of Cleveland. I have an ATM card,
AAA Plus card. I can get cash from machines, be towed
20 miles to a service station. Where do I get off penciling in
disillusionment? My bones are as worthless as the next guy’s
against the stars, against the time it takes light to expend
its currency across the cosmic vault. I have what everyone has—
the over-drawn statement of the air, my blood newly rich
with oxygen before the inescapable proscenium of the dark,
my breath going out equally with any atom of weariness
or joy, each one of which is closer to God than I.

-Christopher Buckley

Monday, September 20, 2010


The Heartland

In the beginning was snow, fluffy and colored
like cabbage. Pale green leaves of light
folded in toward the ground.

We who were from nowhere
changed zip codes often, moving
into uncertain weather. The sameness of change

never ceased to astound us. Blocks away,
the American Ice Company’s red bricks
melted to white. It was possible to believe

a whole city’s snow came from inside.
Sidewalks turned into tightropes. The sky waited.
We all had something we’d rather stayed buried.

We all had something staked on the thaw.
One morning, the mailbox backed up
with forwards, which overflowed

down the steps. We’d been located by names
that chapped our lips when we said them.
Ice hung from the gutters of the art museum

like sculptures. People paid to stay outside.
Shovels made soft sweeps, brushes
across the unalterable, as men poured salt

to our doorstep, a great evaporated sea.
The papers tallied up deaths
and reported freezing was variable.

In Houston, people start dying
when the temperature drops below thirty,
while in Anchorage, death starts

at minus five. We had become
the midpoint of a mortal geography.

-Alexandra Teague

Friday, September 17, 2010


The Name Drawn from the Names

If I have created a world for you, in your place,
god, you had to come to it confident,
and you have come to it, to my refuge,
because my whole world was nothing but my hope.

I have been saving up my hope
in language, in a spoken name, a written name;
I had given a name to everything,
and you have taken the place
of all these names.

Now I can hold back my movement
inside the coal of my continual living and being,
as the flame reins itself back inside the red coal,
surrounded by air that is all blue fire;
now I am my own sea that has been suddenly stopped somewhere,
the sea I used to speak of, but not heavy,
stiffened into waves of an awareness filled with light,
and all of them moving upward, upward.

All the names that I gave
to the universe that I created again for you
are now all turning into one name, into one

The god who, in the end, is always
the god created and recreated and recreated
through grace and never through force.
The God. The name drawn from the names.

-Juan Ramón Jiménez

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


: the Ringleader: Symphony Pathétique

I was in the barber’s chair in the basement of Carnegie Hall
hanging with Tchaikovsky, the evening’s guest conductor
and a solid cat.

He was telling me Montezuma “quaffed” a hot mix of chocolate
and chili peppers from a gold chalice fifty times daily.

I told him I was embarrassed by the women at the supermarket
who gave out free food samples,
who wore the fear that I would stop
and speak to them like an apron.

Peter Ilyich told me that lightning strikes generated heat
greater than the sun’s.

I told him, from the side of my pinched lathery mouth, that I felt
the desire of the boys bagging groceries to be anywhere else
like a hairnet about my temples.

He told me that in remote China relatives buried things
imagined as useful to the corpse in the afterlife with their beloved,
and so dead unmarried women commanded high dowries.

“What if these grave-mates knew each other in life and bristled,”
he said, “what if they would have loved this?”

I told him about the guy at the end of the conveyor belt who called me,
called everybody, hotrod.

I told him, Tchaikovsky, that he, the bagger and car enthusiast,
told me, the ringleader, he worried about me.

I said that can’t be true, can it?

The conductor strode to the high window, pointed south.
“There at the cloudy top,” he said, “of the tallest edifices,
men will build dirigible stations, and men,” he said, “will ride
in wheelhouses to work, guy ropes whipping beneath
the gangway in the breeze. ”

I told him that when I was in the supermarket my new sobriety
fit like a wool suit in summer, that while looking at cans it hit me
that what I’ve lost, what I’ve given away, are the same.

-Mark Hennessy

Friday, September 10, 2010


Sea of Faith

Once when I was teaching "Dover Beach"

to a class of freshmen, a young woman

raised her hand and said, "I'm confused

about this 'Sea of Faith.'" "Well," I said,

"let's talk about it. We probably need

to talk a bit about figurative language.

What confuses you about it?"

"I mean, is it a real sea?" she asked.

"You mean, is it a real body of water

that you could point to on a map

or visit on a vacation?"

"Yes," she said. "Is it a real sea?"

Oh Christ, I thought, is this where we are?

Next year I'll be teaching them the alphabet

and how to sound words out.

I'll have to teach them geography, apparently,

before we can move on to poetry.

I'll have to teach them history, too-

a few weeks on the Dark Ages might be instructive.

"Yes," I wanted to say, "it is.

It is a real sea. In fact it flows

right into the Sea of Ignorance


Let me throw you a Rope of Salvation

before the Sharks of Desire gobble you up.

Let me hoist you back up onto this Ship of Fools

so that we might continue our search

for the Fountain of Youth. Here, take a drink

of this. It's fresh from the River of Forgetfulness."

But of course I didn't say any of that.

I tried to explain in such a way

as to protect her from humiliation,

tried to explain that poets

often speak of things that don't exist.

It was only much later that I wished

I could have answered differently,

only after I'd betrayed myself

and been betrayed that I wished

it was true, wished there really was a Sea of Faith

that you could wade out into,

dive under its blue and magic waters,

hold your breath, swim like a fish

down to the bottom, and then emerge again

able to believe in everything, faithful

and unafraid to ask even the simplest of questions,

happy to have them simply answered.

-John Brehm

Thursday, September 9, 2010


An old
black dog

on a cold
black night,

ears that
sometimes hear

and only one
good eye

but, a stout
snout that still
sniffs, deeply,
the truth from things

and with which
he now attempts

to catch the tail
of a whiff

of some
fleeting something

wafting along
on the cold
black wind

on a cold

-Jason Ryberg, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Blues in the Night

The horoscope says disaster is coming. The weatherman
Says rain. Garbage trucks go about their dirty business
Not caring either way. What message did you want
To leave? Who did you say was calling?
There are traditions for such things. One of them says
There is no tradition; it's been saying so forever.
Another says the form repeats itself; just stick around.
Music needs no subject, but one always turns up
Unexpectedly, dragging its trashy story,
A human figure, a woman, her dress black under streetlights.
Look at her: she just got off a bus from nowhere,
Her face shining with sweat. Or has the storm rolled in?


Sunday, September 5, 2010


1) Hemmingway staring

At a blank sheet of paper;

JFK looks on.

2) A barrel of rain

mistaken for a small pond

somewhere in Kansas.

3) A carnival mask

teaming with skinks and poppies

and one death’s-head moth.

4) Miles Davis caught shop-

lifting Don Byrd away from

the Jazz Messengers.

5) The Duende dreaming

of wildflowers, butterflies

and a lone coyote.

6) The moon shining through

clouds like a cop’s flashlight through

ghosts of gutter-steam.

7) A heart, like a frog

being fattened with sadness

to feed Love’s big snake.

8) A dragonfly’s mind

magnified a hundred times

before my mind’s eye.

9) Joan Miro standing

on top of Machu Pichu

with Minnie Pearl’s hat.

10) W.C. Fields

meets Frank James, Fox Theater,

St. Louis, ’01.

11) F. Nietzsche, S. Freud,

R.M. Rilke caught in a

Mexican stand-off.

12) Kafka discussing

literary theory with

a giant bed bug.

13) “A glass of water,

a pint of the black stuff and

a John Powers, neat.”

-Jason Ryberg, 2004

Friday, September 3, 2010


To See for Yourself

You'll need a bone saw, and a skull chisel,
a scalpel and scissors. You'll need
toothed forceps, a basin of water—
you'll need time. But even with the tools,
even with a silvery light flickering on all that
metal, it will be difficult to detach
the eggs from the branches, the fiery dreams
from your sleep.

It's love that knuckles down, that struggles
to tell the tumor from the bright idea,
paring memory to bone and turning truth into
something better than monument.
There will be months and years when you can't
see, a gauzy past in the air and no light.
Then one day the flock lifts.

Deborah Bogen

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Scientists and poets alike

have yet to find

whether certain experimental hybridizations

of radio waves and silver go-go boots

in any way affects

the erratic trajectories of UFOs;

Though, they now know

that the geometry of fireflies

may have some influence

over the delicate symbiosis

of communication satellites, train yards

and Blue Turtle migrations.

However, despite recent, controversial reports

there has been no

independent confirmation

on whether the random arrangement

of orange blossoms

on a city sidewalk, slick with rain,

has any more relation to the performance
of a North Korean featherweight in the 9th

than a performance of Beethoven’s 9th

(by the South Korean Philharmonic) does

to the discovery of designs

for a steam-driven engine

written on papyrus.

But, one doesn’t need

a steady diet of coral calcium deposits

or subterranean cold-storage

of arcane information

to see that a cracked engine block

is bound, cosmically,

to a crack-baby found

behind a dumpster in an alley

(alive and doing well we’re told),

that beauty-parlor patter is richly infused

with important information

regarding escape artistry,

living in the desert, the number “0” and
stealing household appliances (specifically,

toaster-ovens, it seems)

and, most importantly,

that a strangely warm winter-breeze

witnessed stirring a light bulb

hanging on the end of a string

will eventually result in a new idea

unfolding like a passionflower or

Chinese puzzle box of infinite digression

somewhere down the integer line

of an, as yet,

causal chain.

-Jason Ryberg, 2004