Archive for May, 2009

My Autopsy (Excerpt)

There is a way
if we want
into everything

I’ll eat the chicken carbonara and you eat the veal, the olives, the small and
glowing loaves of bread

I’ll eat the waiter, the waitress
floating through the candled dark in shiny black slacks
like water at night

The napkins, folded into paper boats, contain invisible Japanese poems

You eat the forks
all the knives, asleep and waiting
on the white tables

What do you love?

I love the way our teeth stay long after we’re gone, hanging on despite worms
or fire

I love our stomachs
turning over
the earth
by Michael Dickman

Read Full Post »

Vision from the Blue Plane-Window

In the round little window, everything is blue,
land bluish, blue-green, blue
(and sky)
everything is blue
blue lakes and lagoons
blue volcanoes
while farther off the land looks bluer
blue islands in a blue lake.
This is the face of the land liberated.
And where all the people fought, I think:
for love!
To live without the hatred
of exploitation.
To love one another in a beautiful land
so beautiful, not only in itself
but because of the people in it,
above all because of the people in it.
That’s why God gave us this beautiful land
for the society in it.
And in all those blue places they fought, suffered
for a society of love
here in this land.
by Ernesto Cardenal
translated by Jonathan Cohen

Read Full Post »

Dear Sky

I’ve asked everyone,
but no one has as good a view
as you do over the comings and goings
and livings and dyings of us
here so small on this accidental planet.
I know, I should keep tabs.
Especially in light of the thick fog
the past is always slapping down among us
like deliberate roadblocks
to our obvious desires.
But I thought you might have seen her.
It strikes me this evening, as I see
you’re having a fine old draw
from your expensive cigar–I can see
the dense smoke wafting up through the sunset
from the huge old lips of this Gertrude-
Stein-type guy lounging just
over the horizon where what looks
like mountains is his skirt
between his knees–
I thought maybe you could help,
maybe send up a signal
if you see her . . .

She’s tall, for a woman.
She has a bald spot just above
her left ear that you notice when she’s lying
on her right side, say,
on Sunday mornings when the light
comes in and warms it–
It’s where her brother dared her
to touch her tongue to the spinning lathe
when she was fifteen and she only
got as far as her beautiful hair. I
was sixteen. By then she was older.
So many years older (two at least) that
kissing her was like going
to a very respectable party
where real adult things were being done,
and in the vacant parlor the sun
just sang with it, gushing
into corners that had somehow gotten dark:
the hinged collection box inside the piano bench,
even the slats of darkness
that forbade the piano strings from playing
unwritten, cacophonous songs–

Dear sky,
I keep thinking I’ll be walking through pines
and suddenly I’ll see it:
a clearing just that soft, a spot
that shy, and I’ll look to my left and where
her ear would be is all of her,
and the whole sky a patch like that,
sudden and touchable, and I’ll ask her
in its presence to forgive me now
after so much troubled time.
And because there is no God
that looked down on her that night
she was beaten and her body was consumed
four times, though somehow
she rose and stumbled back in pieces
and into my arms;
and because nothing I could do
could repair her soul
though I flew at it with cloth
with glue with bandages kisses anything
and still there was a rift
between her and her body and therefore
between us
while the criminal crouched at some
boundary of our love,

I think now that passion
should be something like sunlight
while the sky looks on and nothing
in the process asks God to raise
the least hand to bless us.
Robin Behn

Read Full Post »

Song For the Spirit of Natalie Going

qui s’est réfugié
ton futur en moi

—Stephanie Mallarme, “A Tomb for Anatole”

Small bundle of bones, small bundle of fingers, of plumpness, of
predicate, prescient, standing and wobbling, lit up in the joy,
lachrymose GA, your bundle oh KA, the unfolding begun of the start,
of the toys, of witnessing, silly, the eyes startled and up, re-
énveloped now and fresh with the art, chordate, devoted,
sunk in dreaming of wisps and startled awake — This is morning.
This is daddy. This is the number eight
— spacey, resplendent,
in seersucker bib, overalled, astonished, in dazzling fix
on the small crawling lights in their spaceship of night and the
plug and the cord and the big one’s delight, pausing,
mezzed by mobile HEH HEH and again, stinging the shopkeepers,
the monkeyish mouth, knees, child knees — need to have the child
here—absence—knees fall—and
falling, a dream, a final
singsong UH HAH in the starkest of suns, the heat now a blanket
now a song of your soul—Such a sharp love there is! Such a loud
love there beats! Such a filled hole you leave, in the dusk in the room,
in the wobbling hours of what has refúged, your future in me.

Natalie Joy Hertel-Voisine, 1994-1995

by Susan Wheeler

Read Full Post »

This Nest, Swift Passerine [excerpt]

But how find how as it flew onward
& the mountains gave back the sound
to say what I mean the call of the bird
& the echoe after to say I’ve seen?

Raven hungers and calls and the mountain
Hungers back and calls
The whole range of peaks in the bird’s beak.
Raven lonely and the mountain rings
Loneliness & the echoe after we could see
him no longer

The echo after we could see Light in echo the eye sees
also through the ear a double infinity
by Dan Beachy-Quick

Read Full Post »

Psychoanalysis: An Elegy

What are you thinking about?

I am thinking of an early summer.
I am thinking of wet hills in the rain
Pouring water. Shedding it
Down empty acres of oak and manzanita
Down to the old green brush tangled in the sun,
Greasewood, sage, and spring mustard.
Or the hot wind coming down from Santa Ana
Driving the hills crazy,
A fast wind with a bit of dust in it
Bruising everything and making the seed sweet.
Or down in the city where the peach trees
Are awkward as young horses,
And there are kites caught on the wires
Up above the street lamps,
And the storm drains are all choked with dead branches.

What are you thinking?

I think that I would like to write a poem that is slow as a summer
As slow getting started
As 4th of July somewhere around the middle of the second stanza
After a lot of unusual rain
California seems long in the summer.
I would like to write a poem as long as California
And as slow as a summer.
Do you get me, Doctor? It would have to be as slow
As the very tip of summer.
As slow as the summer seems
On a hot day drinking beer outside Riverside
Or standing in the middle of a white-hot road
Between Bakersfield and Hell
Waiting for Santa Claus.

What are you thinking now?

I’m thinking that she is very much like California.
When she is still her dress is like a roadmap. Highways
Traveling up and down her skin
Long empty highways
With the moon chasing jackrabbits across them
On hot summer nights.
I am thinking that her body could be California
And I a rich Eastern tourist
Lost somewhere between Hell and Texas
Looking at a map of a long, wet, dancing California
That I have never seen.
Send me some penny picture-postcards, lady,
Send them.
One of each breast photographed looking
Like curious national monuments,
One of your body sweeping like a three-lane highway
Twenty-seven miles from a night’s lodging
In the world’s oldest hotel.

What are you thinking?

I am thinking of how many times this poem
Will be repeated. How many summers
Will torture California
Until the damned maps burn
Until the mad cartographer
Falls to the ground and possesses
The sweet thick earth from which he has been hiding.

What are you thinking now?

I am thinking that a poem could go on forever.
by Jack Spicer

Read Full Post »

Sixty five pounds of honeycomb
my apartment manager tells me when I move in.
That’s how many buckets they carried from my walls
after killing the colony.
A friend tells me it is bad luck to kill honey bees.
She learns this after fogging her son’s room.
Then comes the long story,
how they are bitten by bats
and the many trips to and from the doctor
for rabies shots.
Bees have always brought me good luck.
The yellow gold liquid that pours through my walls
is not something I want to be rid of,
but something I want to be surrounded by
to live within
as if being in the apartment
is my passage into the waxy cells of the hive.
The dead bees lie on my back deck for weeks.
I cannot touch them,
don’t want them to know I am their killer.
They remain on the boards through winter,
covered with snow.
I think of what I know of them,
how a single bee cannot survive
apart from the hive. Isolate her
and however abundant the food
or favorable the temperature,
she will die in a few days
not of hunger or cold
but of loneliness.
How can I touch them,
how can I sweep them away?
How do you remain married to one person
when you’re in love with someone else?
These are my questions,
they surround me as if words
are lodged in the walls
in a kind of twisting thrum.
I tiptoe around, trying not to step on the bodies.

Read Full Post »

I go to Ann Strange Owl for healing.
She does not know this or maybe she does.
Perhaps many people go to her for this,
or maybe they go to see the Cheyenne art,
the beadwork,the sculpture, the weavings, the baskets.
I do not know her well,
maybe few people who visit her trading post do,
perhaps we all depend on the kindness of strangers.
We go to Eagle Plume’s
and talk to a soft-spoken Cheyenne woman
hoping she will say something,
or some story painted in the ledger drawings on the wall
will be our story,
will help us find our way.
And so I go and talk–
of the reservation she grew up in Montana,
her husband’s salmon fishing,
how her great grandmother Red Paint Woman
drew a red circle on her left cheek
before she danced.
When Ann went to Japan,
the people treated her like she was holy,
gave her so many gifts she could not return home with them all.
Their ways are our ways, Ann said.
Our rituals mean the same thing.
Same rites of ceremony, same gifts, same sacred practices.
But she finds this wherever she goes.
Taking communion in a Catholic church in Rome
gave her the same feeling of blessing
she experiences at her own Sundance festivals.
I finally ask my question, the one I’ve been skirting the whole conversation.
How do you say she who walks with foxes in Cheyenne.
She doesn’t know at first.
There is only one word for animal in her language,
no matter what animal it is.
I ask her this because it is something that happens to me.
A fox will walk next to me when I hike into the mountains at night
and sit with me when I sit.
I finally tell her this.
It is a question really.
Why does this happen to me.
She tells me her own stories of owls,
how they appear outside her window at night while she sleeps,
how the shadow of an owl’s wings touching you as it passes overhead
means good luck.
She is a shy woman.
The stories of the Cheyenne she tells me,
how her grandfather’s brother died at Little Big Horn,
are not written down.
I want to write them down.
I want to tell her stories to the world,
but I am also a shy woman and can’t seem to pull out my pen.
So I stand and listen.
She who walks with foxes Ann says again in Cheyenne.
I try to say it too,
try to form the soft vowels sounds in my mouth,
ahewayo aynohnee.
I don’t know why they come, I tell her.
She tells me a story of a hermit who lived alone in the fields
grazing with the antelopes. He prayed to God, Lord teach me something more.
And a voice came to him saying,
Go into the monastery among men and do whatever they tell you.
He was there and remained in the monastery
but did not know the work of the brothers.
The young monks who began to teach him
would say, Do this you idiot. Do that you fool.
When he had endured it a long time, he prayed to God saying,
Lord, I do not know the work of men,
send me back to the antelopes.

And having been freed by God
he went into the fields to graze with the antelopes.
I stand talking to Ann,
hearing the music in the words of her language,
hearing the music lost in the Cheyenne men who died in the battlefields.
She helps me remember my song.

Read Full Post »


No one says it
anymore, my darling,
not to the green leaves
in March, not to the stars
backing up each night, certainly
not in the nest
of rapture, who
in the beginning was
an owl, rustling
just after silence, whose
very presence drew
a mob of birds–flickers,
finches, chickadees, five cardinals
to a tree–the way a word
excites its meanings. Who
cooks for you
, it calls, Who looks
for you
? Sheaf of feathers, chief
of bone, the owl stands
upon the branch, but does he
understand it, think my revel,
my banquet, my tumult,
? The Irish have a word
for what can’t be
replaced: mavourneen, my
, second cousin once
removed of memory, what is not
, as truth was
defined by the Greeks.
It’s the names
on the stones in the cemetery
that ring out like rungs
on a ladder or the past
tense of bells: Nathaniel Joy,
Elizabeth Joy, Amos
Joy and Wilder Joy,
and it all comes down
to the conclusion
of the cardinal: pretty, pretty, pretty
–but pretty what?
In her strip search
of scripture, St. Teresa
was seized, my darling, rapt
amid the chatter
and flutter of well-coiffed
words, the owl
in the shagbark hickory,
and all the attending dangers
like physicians
of the heard.
by Angie Estes

Read Full Post »


My mother said that Uncle Fred had a purple
heart, the right side of his body
blown off in Italy in World War II,
and I saw reddish blue figs
dropping from the hole
in his chest, the violet litter
of the jacaranda, heard the sentence
buckle, unbuckle like a belt
before opening the way
a feed sack opens all
at once when the string is pulled
in just the right place:
the water in the corn pot
boils, someone is slapped, and summer
rain splatters as you go out
to slop the hogs. We drove home
over the Potomac while the lights spread
their tails across the water, comets
leaving comments on a blackboard
sky like the powdered sugar
medieval physicians blew
into patients’ eyes to cure
their blindness. At dusk,
fish rise, their new moons
etching the water like Venn diagrams
for Robert’s Rules of Order
surfaced at last, and I would like to
make a motion, move
to amend: point of information, point
of order. I move to amend
the amendment and want
to call the question, table
the discussion, bed
some roses, and roof the exclamation
of the Great Blue heron sliding
overhead, its feet following flight
the way a period haunts
a sentence: she said that
on the mountain where they grew
up, there were two kinds
of cherries—red heart
and black heart—both of them
by Angie Estes

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »