Thursday, January 27, 2011


Winter Twilight

On a clear winter's evening
The crescent moon

And the round squirrels' nest
In the bare oak

Are equal planets.

-Anne Porter

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Clear Night

Clear night, thumb-top of a moon, a back-lit sky.
Moon-fingers lay down their same routine
On the side deck and the threshold, the white keys and the black keys.
Bird hush and bird song. A cassia flower falls.

I want to be bruised by God.
I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out.
I want to be stretched, like music wrung from a dropped seed.
I want to be entered and picked clean.

And the wind says “What?” to me.
And the castor beans, with their little earrings of death, say “What?” to me.
And the stars start out on their cold slide through the dark.
And the gears notch and the engines wheel.

-Charles Wright

Monday, January 24, 2011


from Erotic Victor Sedatives

Candor is the brightest shield we'll ever know
apart from privacy
Andrew Maxwell, "Sotto Voce"

ourselves, the contrary, there is
no 'land' so like the world
that, in a suitable remoteness
one can't tell the difference
between atmosphere
and strained enchantment
Beings of imagination
aren't compelled, at all, they aren't,
that's easy, if there's any way they show
'a ranging disposition'
someone's really present folks, and
must be close, obscene, plants only rustle
from extraordinary bare necessity—
the deck, the moving painted tree,
even when you hit the floor it hurts
this other way, one sustenance in hand,
a moving trap of shade is a variety
of show-light, you?
Among us
faeries can hold property inside
the ballet states, an entry in the field guide
to locusts, with at least a glow
that turns apart one splinter, and another,
from decaying trees, all home,
overlooked and natural, dead on
as if the life
we might set out to lead were made
available to us
in strongest attitude of opposition
to the ordinary facts
like an anthem in its leather case
without the notes of wild birds at all
without an instrument, affirmative,
and something else as contrary as poetry
let's say one hundred years ago
but so much more

-Macgregor Card

Friday, January 21, 2011


Poem to Some of My Recent Poems

My beloved little billiard balls,
my polite mongrels, edible patriotic plums,
you owe your beauty to your mother, who
resembled a cyclindrical corned beef
with all the trimmings, may God rest
her forsaken soul, for it is all of us
she forsook; and I shall never forget
her sputtering embers, and then the little mound.
Yes, my little rum runners, she had defective
tear ducts and could weep only iced tea.
She had petticoats beneath her eyelids.
And in her last years she found ball bearings
in her beehive puddings, she swore allegiance
to Abyssinia. What should I have done?
I played the piano and scrambled eggs.
I had to navigate carefully around her brain’s
avalanche lest even a decent finale be forfeited.
And her beauty still evermore. You see,
as she was dying, I led each of you to her side,
one by one she scorched you with her radiance.
And she is ever with us in our acetylene leisure.
But you are beautiful, and I, a slave to a heap of cinders.

-James Tate

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Lunar Baedeker

A silver Lucifer
cocaine in cornucopia

To some somnambulists
of adolescent thighs
in satirical draperies

Peris in livery
for posthumous parvenues

Delirious Avenues
with the chandelier souls
of infusoria
from Pharoah's tombstones

to mercurial doomsdays
Odious oasis
in furrowed phosphorous---

the eye-white sky-light
white-light district
of lunar lusts

---Stellectric signs
"Wing shows on Starway"
"Zodiac carrousel"

of ecstatic dust
and ashes whirl
from hallucinatory citadels
of shattered glass
into evacuate craters

A flock of dreams
browse on Necropolis

From the shores
of oval oceans
in the oxidized Orient

Onyx-eyed Odalisques
and ornithologists
the flight
of Eros obsolete

And "Immortality"
in the museums of the moon

"Nocturnal cyclops"
"Crystal concubine"
Pocked with personification
the fossil virgin of the skies
waxes and wanes----

-Mina Loy

Tuesday, January 18, 2011



There comes a time in every man's life
when he thinks: I have never had a single
original thought in my life
including this one & therefore I shall
eliminate all ideas from my poems
which shall consist of cats, rice, rain
baseball cards, fire escapes, hanging plants
red brick houses where I shall give up booze
and organized religion even if it means
despair is a logical possibility that can't
be disproved I shall concentrate on the five
senses and what they half perceive and half
create, the green street signs with white
letters on them the body next to mine
asleep while I think these thoughts
that I want to eliminate like nostalgia
0 was there ever a man who felt as I do
like a pronoun out of step with all the other
floating signifiers no things but in words

an orange T-shirt a lime green awning

-David Lehman

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


A Fifteenth-Century Zen Master

for Stephen

A blind girl steps over the red staves
Of a tub. Steam rising from her shoulders and hair,
She walks across a dirt floor to you.
I think you are not her grandfather.
You watch with her a pink man
Who has avoided taxes for two winters—
He is being judged by roosters
And has been chased this far into the countryside. Above him

Burning sacks of bat dung are arranged
In the purple branches of the thistle trees.
The river is indifferent to him.
And so are we.
You tell your mistress the burning bags of shit
Are like inert buddhas
Dissolving in a field of merit.

She giggles. A front tooth is loose.
With the river bottom clear as the night air,
The bargeman sings through the hungry vapors
Rising now like white snakes behind him.
You told his wife that Lord Buddha made wasps
From yellow stalks of tobacco with a dark spit.

Down in the cold bamboo a starving woman
Has opened a small pig—
The old moons climb from its blue glistening stomach,
Or is it light
From the infinitely receding sacks of shit?

Master, where is the difference?

-Norman Dubie

Friday, January 7, 2011



Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality
of trees
which we notice
in December
as if for the first time:
row after row
of dark forms
yearning upwards.
And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor
the gods
of the vertical:
stalks of wheat
which to the ant
must seem as high
as these trees do to us,
silos and
telephone poles,
and skyscrapers.
but most of all
these winter oaks,
these soft-fleshed poplars,
this birch
whose bark is like
roughened skin
against which I lean
my chilled head,
not ready
to lie down.

-Linda Pastan

Thursday, January 6, 2011


True night having finally arrived and settled in
for this leg of our long cross-country haul;
all cold, black infinitudes and Lovecraftian
expanses of time, the headlights of the truck
barely illuminating the road ahead,
no signs of civilization anywhere and I'd swear
the wind has been alternately whispering
and roaring its bleak sermon for days now.

And somehow I'm still working on
the same foot-long truck stop sub,
still nursing on the same twenty-some-odd-ounce
cup of cold truck stop mud (funny how
with the right amount of faux-dairy creamer stuff
it tastes faintly of burnt popcorn).

But at least that low-hanging cloud cover
has finally rolled on and the stars have all come out
and there's a guy on the radio now going on and on
about the various health benefits that come from
consuming coral calcium deposits ("marine grade,"
by the way) which apparently include (but are,
by no means, limited to) curing any and all forms of cancer,
living to a hundred and twenty years of age and,
most amazingly, the ability to grow a new brain.

And on that last, ringing note (and vivid mental image)
we seem to have arrived at "one of those moments, "
where, who knows, maybe the planets and the stars
are aligned just right; one of those moments
when it's perfectly appropriate and all right
to ask of the night, the stars, the spirits of your ancestors
or whoever may be sitting next to you 'what's it all about?'
As in the big 'it.' The very 'it' from which all rivers
and roads issue forth and eventually, inevitably return to
and within which all the myriad archetypes
and things are contained and are each,
in their own way, ultimately about (aren't they?).

And it feels, somehow, like we started out
on this trip weeks ago, months even,
the whole thing a grainy late, late show
starring some second-rate Hope and Crosby,
Laurel and Hardy, Mutt and Jeff,
Kerouac and Cassidy, but, probably more like
the 21st Century American answer to
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; a couple of
luckless chuckle-heads suddenly thrown
by wild circumstance on to the road
with little more than the clothes on their backs
and the coins in their pockets,
more than just a little bit out of their depth
and out of step with the various machinations
at work around them.

But, now it's starting to feel
like maybe the wind is finally settling down
(for a little while, anyway)
and the stars are burning even brighter
all around us in the cold night sky,
yes, like fireflies,
like Christmas lights.

And there, to our right,
by the side of the road, a giant cross
comes looming, more than a little ominously, into view,
a hundred feet tall (at least) and all stage-lit
to properly announce the Judeo-Christian
All-Father's wrathful return to earth.

And now some British-sounding news-guy
on some other (shall we say more "standardized"
and "accountable") radio program is reporting
"live, from around the world (Greenwich Mean Time),"
recapping a few of the day's major headlines-

"Astronomers say they've found
a miniature version of our own solar system
only five thousand light years away,"

"In Israel, a woman believed to be
the world's oldest person celebrated
her one hundred and twentieth
birthday, today,"

"and for the first time in living memory
snowflakes are falling
on Baghdad."

Hey, man,

did he just say


-Jason Ryberg, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


My Heart

That Mississippi chicken shack.
That initial-scarred tabletop,
that tiny little dance floor to the left of the band.
That kiosk at the mall selling caramels and kitsch.
That tollbooth with its white-plastic-gloved worker
handing you your change.
That phone booth with the receiver ripped out.
That dressing room in the fetish boutique,
those curtains and mirrors.
That funhouse, that horror, that soundtrack of screams.
That putti-filled heaven raining gilt from the ceiling.
That haven for truckers, that bottomless cup.
That biome. That wilderness preserve.
That landing strip with no runway lights
where you are aiming your plane,
imagining a voice in the tower,
imagining a tower.

-Kim Addonizio

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World

The morning air is all awash with angels

—Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”

The eyes open to a blue telephone
In the bathroom of this five-star hotel.

I wonder whom I should call? A plumber,
Proctologist, urologist, or priest?

Who is blessed among us and most deserves
The first call? I choose my father because

He’s astounded by bathroom telephones.
I dial home. My mother answers. “Hey, Ma,”

I say, “Can I talk to Poppa?” She gasps,
And then I remember that my father

Has been dead for nearly a year. “Shit, Mom,”
I say. “I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry—

How did I forget?” “It’s okay,” she says.
“I made him a cup of instant coffee

This morning and left it on the table—
Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years—

And I didn’t realize my mistake
Until this afternoon.” My mother laughs

At the angels who wait for us to pause
During the most ordinary of days

And sing our praise to forgetfulness
Before they slap our souls with their cold wings.

Those angels burden and unbalance us.
Those fucking angels ride us piggyback.

Those angels, forever falling, snare us
And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.

-Sherman Alexie

Monday, January 3, 2011


The New Experience

I was ready for a new experience.
All the old ones had burned out.
They lay in little ashy heaps along the roadside
And blew in drifts across the fairgrounds and fields.
From a distance some appeared to be smoldering
But when I approached with my hat in my hands
They let out small puffs of smoke and expired.
Through the windows of houses I saw lives lit up
With the otherworldly glow of TV
And these were smoking a little bit too.
I flew to Rome. I flew to Greece.
I sat on a rock in the shade of the Acropolis
And conjured dusky columns in the clouds.
I watched waves lap the crumbling coast.
I heard wind strip the woods.
I saw the last living snow leopard
Pacing in the dirt. Experience taught me
That nothing worth doing is worth doing
For the sake of experience alone.
I bit into an apple that tasted sweetly of time.
The sun came out. It was the old sun
With only a few billion years left to shine.

-Suzanne Buffam

Sunday, January 2, 2011


What Is Good

Out of the water call
my luminous breath,
into the bird, intending serpent, red,
who shakes himself, white,
out of that forest body, black.

Red gourd head spirit of the bush,
your breath is speech;
your speech is ordinary, pure.
I take you from the blue
glass of my sacred windows,
I ring you cold upon my father’s weights.

I would cook and save you
in my body’s house alone, light
you in the useless prism of my own desires.
I hold you in the yellow
parchment of my soul’s hand.
Once I took your body for the shape
of all I walked upon, your god’s voice
for the second of all my light.
But now I count my sins against
the ordinary syntax of my days.

Bird of the hard wood,
I would transcend the dog
and fox of my father’s prayers,
the corn, the monkey, lion and the seed
cut crudely by the cross in gold,
the black figures of a Christian death.

Bird, so you would change,
and flutter in my mother’s eyes.
And in my mother’s eyes
still bodies have rhythms of their own.
The light of dead hearts, my governors,
leads my body to a stillness.
I speak of stillness, and you see
I still grip your rhythm to my body.

Rhythm of my shade, an elephant skin.
Rhythm of my hat, the llama’s hair.
Rhythm of my coat, the cactus’ beard.
Rhythm of my trousers, silkworm web.
Rhythm of my shoes, pig hips.
Rhytm of my seat, the heart of a tree.
Rhythm of my hands in the beads.
Rhythm of my hands in the cleansing water,
of my eye in the perfect form of stillness,
the perfect light of my mother’s ecstasy.

Composed, I am saved
by my mother’s reason,
my neighbors’ needs,
my will to go beyond the stillness
of my gods’ dreams.
Luminous breath,
teach me compassion for this
my complex body.

-Jay Wright