Friday, February 25, 2011



Those bless├Ęd structures, plot and rhyme—
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter’s vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All’s misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

-Robert Lowell

Thursday, February 24, 2011


After Midnight

The dark streets are deserted,
With only a drugstore glowing
Softly, like a sleeping body;

With one white, naked bulb
In the back, that shines
On suicides and abortions.

Who lives in these dark houses?
I am suddenly aware
I might live here myself.

The garage man returns
And puts the change in my hand,
Counting the singles carefully.

-Louis Simpson

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Spirit Dity Of No Fax Line Dial Tone

The telephone company calls and asks what the fuss is.
Betty from the telephone company, who's not concerned
with the particulars of my life. For instance
if I believe in the transubstantiation of Christ
or am gladdened at 7:02 in the morning to repeat
an eighth time why a man wearing a hula skirt of tools
slung low on his hips must a fifth time track mud
across my white kitchen tile to look down at a phone jack.
Up to a work order. Down at a phone jack. Up to a work order.
Over at me. Down at a phone jack. Up to a work order
before announcing the problem I have is not the problem
I have because the problem I have cannot occur
in this universe though possibly in an alternate
universe which is not the responsibility or in any way
the product, child or subsidiary of AT&T. With practice
I've come to respect this moment. One man in jeans,
t-shirt and socks looking across space at a man
with probes and pliers of various inclinations, nothing
being said for five or ten seconds, perhaps I'm still
in pajamas and he has a cleft pallet or is so tall
that gigantism comes to mind but I can't remember
what causes flesh to pile that high, five or ten seconds
of taking in and being taken in by eyes and a brain,
during which I don't build a shotgun from what's at hand,
oatmeal and National Geographics or a taser from hair
caught in the drain and the million volts of frustration
popping through my body. Even though. Even though his face
is an abstract painting called Void. Even though
I'm wondering if my pajama flap is open, placing me
at a postural disadvantage. Breathe I say inside my head,
which is where I store thoughts for the winter. All
is an illusion I say by disassembling my fists, letting each
finger loose to graze. Thank you I say to kill the silence
with my mouth, meaning fuck you, meaning die
you shoulder-shrugging fusion of chipped chromosomes
and puss, meaning enough. That a portal exists in my wall
that even its makers can't govern seems an accurate mirror
of life. Here's the truce I offer: I'll pay whatever's asked
to be left alone. To receive a fax from me stand beside
your mailbox for a week. It will come in what appears
to be an envelope. While waiting for the fax reintroduce
yourself to the sky. It's often blue and will transmit
without fail everything clouds have been trying to say to you.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Following Ghosts Upriver, 1

All these sad, broken towns
strewn with rusted oil drums
and pallets, stacked and rotting,
are my home, every one.
Along the Mohawk, the Niagara,
the oily Genesee,
run the tracks and the trains
and the passengers on their way
somewhere bright, somewhere
with a hint of glamour, somewhere
not like the dead little towns
they have left behind. I was born
under their rooflines, drank
from their sooty wells,
learned that their borders,
stubbled with briar,
were the edges of love; that grace
was a crumpled cardboard box
thrusting a flap skyward
from the sidewalk; and that
the evening fire beckoned to us
from the hearth
because it was dieing.
Watching the streets and the spaces
between them blur by, I know
I have been away too long in places bright
and not so glamorous,
but not so long, a voice humming up
from the engine tells me,
that I have forgotten
how to peel off my shoes
and pull a chair up beside the embers
and start to place my small sticks,
one by one, upon the coals.

-Marc Pietrzykowski

Monday, February 21, 2011



In Shane, when Jack Palance first appears,

a stray cur takes one look and slinks away

on tiptoes, able, we understand, to recognize

something truly dark. So it seems

when we appear, crunching through the woods.

A robin cocks her head, then hops off,

ready to fly like hell and leave us the worm.

A chipmunk, peering out from his hole

beneath a maple root, crash dives

when he hears our step. The alarm spreads in a skittering

of squirrels, finches, millipedes. Imagine

a snail picking up the hems of his shell

and hauling ass for cover. He's studied carnivores,

seen the menu, noticed the escargots.

But forget Palance, who would have murdered Alabama

just for fun. Think of Karloff's monster,

full of lonely love but too hideous

to bear; or Kong, bereft with Fay Wray

shrieking in his hand: the flies circle our heads

like angry biplanes, and the ants hoist pitchforks

to march on our ankles as we watch the burgher's daughter

bob downstream in a ring of daisies.

-William Trowbridge

Thursday, February 10, 2011



Pandora was one of many
fallible women set up for a fall,
another Eve who couldn’t
keep her hands to herself. Of course
the gods knew she’d open that box.

They were always having fun,
showing off and screwing around.
Curiosity was the only motivation
they gave her, so she did
what she had to—let the troubles loose.

Hard to imagine Zeus wasn’t pleased
with this little machine of a play.
Or that God hadn’t known
from the beginning that Eve
would eat that apple. Did he really

hope she’d surprise him?—
he who couldn’t help but see
the end of the future.
If only he’d had a few friends
to confide in, joke around with.

But God was always so serious.
No pranks in this story—
just disappointment, then anger.
Of course we would hurt him.
Like every father, he’d shown us how.

-Lawrence Raab

Wednesday, February 9, 2011



How attractive trouble feels
in paradise. The place next door
where pain is an option
begins to whisper.
You want the leopard to replace
the swan, the great horned owl
to nudge a songbird out of a tree.
The case for suffering is always
overrated by those whose health
is good, whose houses are calm.
But today you understand
why some people pierce
more than their ears,
why the leisure class has a history
of eating itself from the inside
And, now, a wish to stir
the stilled air with a serrated knife
dip into the blackberry jam,
then lick that knife publicly clean,
hoping someone will notice and care.
From the beginning, hasn’t it
been the same: the need to woo
a stranger so you’ll not be mutinous
alone, to lie down knowingly
among the nettles and the thorns?

-Stephen Dunn

Friday, February 4, 2011


The Music of Villa-Lobos

Someone is speaking a lost language.

It is the music of Villa-Lobos.

I try to remember: where was I

born? And from what continent

untimely torn? I might have been

a priestess among the caymans

guarding the eye-jewel of the

crocodile god. I might have sailed

orinocos of diamonds, seas of coconuts,

leased the equator for life and learned

my ancestral language.

But I have only some old sleeves of rain

in a trunk with spiders

to remember my ancestors by.

They have left me

nothing, and I have forgotten

that island of my birth

where the sun in his suit of mirrors

was seen once only with my vast fetal eye.

But in the music of Villa-Lobos

a god with a tower of green faces

comes striding across cities

of permafrost, and I am summoned

once again to the jaguar gardens

guarded by waterfalls

where the hummingbird people are at play

far from the cold auroras of the north.

-Olga Cabral