Thursday, September 30, 2010
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
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
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.
Monday, September 20, 2010
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.
Friday, September 17, 2010
The Name Drawn from the Names
-Juan Ramón Jiménez
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
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.
Friday, September 10, 2010
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
IN WHICH YOU ARE DROWNING
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.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
on a cold
and only one
but, a stout
snout that still
the truth from things
and with which
he now attempts
to catch the tail
of a whiff
on the cold
on a cold
-Jason Ryberg, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
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
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,
11) F. Nietzsche, S. Freud,
R.M. Rilke caught in a
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
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.
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
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,
-Jason Ryberg, 2004