April 21, 2011
Wild Nights—Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
To a heart in port—
Done with the compass—
Done with the chart!
Rowing in Eden—
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor—Tonight—
April 20, 2011
after information received in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 v 86
The population center of the USA
Has shifted to Potosi, in Missouri.
The calculation employed by authorities
In arriving at this dislocation assumes
That the country is a geometric plane,
Perfectly flat, and that every citizen,
Including those in Alaska and Hawaii
And the District of Columbia, weighs the same;
So that, given these simple presuppositions,
The entire bulk and spread of all the people
Should theoretically balance on the point
Of a needle under Potosi in Missouri
Where no one is residing nowadays
But the watchman over an abandoned mine
Whence the company got the lead out and left.
“It gets pretty lonely here,” he says, “at night.”
—Howard Nemerov, 1987
April 19, 2011
Night with Drive-By Shooting Stars
Broken beer bottle, fresh with the smell.
A corny joke among hip teenagers.
A loud laugh smacks cement. Muffled
bass from sky radio.
A screen door rattles, moans. A bus moans,
rattles. Litter of light from tall buildings
far away. A sandwich in its wrapper
spoiled by the day’s heat.
The arcing pain of a trigger. A car
idles, the engine tapping, eternal.
—Jim Daniels, 2002
April 18, 2011
The Perfecting of Desire
This is what matters:
the curve of muscle
in his forearm, the way
he smells—smoke, old leather,
beer. What matters
is desire, the way
his beard rubs my thigh,
the way my breath stops
as he slides inside me.
Our flesh sighs into light,
into flame, darkness illuminate.
Stripped down to the porous
skeleton of necessity, we are refined
to pure male and pure female, encompassed
by forces larger than ourselves.
My teeth graze his neck;
his hands bruise my shoulders.
And when we come
to ourselves, slightly sheepish, strangers
in our own bodies, we do not speak
of the place we left.
Some nights, we surrender
like angels, shaky and awed
by what we can do.
—Lisa D. Chávez, 1998
From Destruction Bay
Tasting the Wild Grapes
The red beast
who lives in the side of these hills
won’t come out for anything you have:
money or music. Still, there are moments
heavy with light and good luck. Walk
quietly under these tangled vines
and pay attention, and one morning
something will explode underfoot
like a branch of fire; one afternoon
something will flow down the hill
in plain view, a muscled sleeve the color
of all October! And forgetting
everything you will leap to name it
as though for the first time, your lit blood
rushing not to a word but a sound
small-boned, thin-faced, in a hurry,
lively as the dark thorns of the wild grapes
on the unsuspecting tongue!
The fox! The fox!
—Mary Oliver, 1978
From American Primitive
Posting three, count ’em, three poems today! 🙂
I hold one human form which is as much
blessing as body, as much prayer
as genital. One man I love is seventy.
The nerve to die, four or five of you.
I passed a sad man on the road
who would have loved me. Ambition
flew out our window over there,
a haze over the Jemez. Leftover flies
from summer on the glass. I swoon
my way through autumn. Not the same
knocking or the same wood. Held and holy,
the heart is the tisket, the tasket, blood
basket. Full lotus position and then the casket.
Under the next full moon, let’s just kiss.
—Joan Logghe, 2004
April 15, 2011
I stumbled this morning upon this poem, by Catherynne M. Valente: A Silver Splendour, A Flame. It’s exceptional—part poem, part libretto for an imaginary vaudville show, part retelling of the Persephone myth, part kaleidescope, maybe even a bit of ars poetica, and entirely beautiful. Well worth checking out.
The Zingara Poet has begun a new series of interviews with poets, which will feature discussions with poets a bit more off the beaten path than one normally encounters in textbooks or at, say, Poets.org. The first interview, with Alarie Tennille, can be found here.
Just for the record, Liberty University (a private, conservative Christian institution founded by Jerry Falwell) received more money from the federal government last year than the Corporation for Public Broadcasting did. (Hat tip to Fred Clark.)
What’s with the abuse of figurative speech lately? First Senator Jon Kyl states that 90% of Planned Parenthood’s work is related to abortions (when the figure is actually closer to 3%), and when called on it, his office stated that “his remark was not intended to be a factual statement,” and then, after Kobe Bryant received criticism for calling a referee a “fucking faggot,” he stated that the slur “should not be taken literally.” What bothers me about issues like these is, quite simply, words mean things. “Oh, but that’s not what I meant” does not come across, to me, as a particularly compelling explanation. Even when writing poetry—a form of communication that is not generally assumed to represent factual statements or to be taken literally—if most of the people who hear or read your words take from them a meaning counter (or unrelated) to the one you’d intended, you might want to reconsider your words.
Of course, Jon Kyl’s statement ended up leading to a thoroughly amusing Twitter hashtag, so that’s something.
This article about a young woman growing up Objectivist has been making its way across the interwebs, but I thought I’d link to it as well, just in case my lovely readers haven’t seen it.
Happy Friday, all!
April 14, 2011
Spring is like a perhaps hand
Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and
changing everything carefully
spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
and fro moving New and
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and
without breaking anything.
—E. E. Cummings
April 13, 2011
You are not the Mona Lisa
with that relentless look.
Or Venus borne over the froth
of waves on a pink half shell.
Or an odalisque by Delacroix,
veils lapping at your nakedness.
You are more like the sunlight
of Edward Hopper,
especially when it slants
against the eastern side
of a white clapboard house
in the early hours of the morning,
with no figure standing
at a window in a violet bathrobe,
just the sunlight,
the columns of the front porch,
and the long shadows
they throw down
upon the green dark lawn, baby.
—Billy Collins, 1995
April 12, 2011
To Julia de Burgos
Already the people murmur that I am your enemy
because they say that in verse I give the world your me.
They lie, Julia de Burgos. They lie, Julia de Burgos.
Who rises in my verses is not your voice. It is my voice
because you are the dressing and the essence is me;
and the most profound abyss is spread between us.
You are the cold doll of social lies,
and me, the virile starburst of the human truth.
You, honey of courtesan hypocrisies; not me;
in all my poems I undress my heart.
You are like your world, selfish; not me
who gambles everything betting on what I am.
You are only the ponderous lady very lady;
not me; I am life, strength, woman.
You belong to your husband, your master; not me;
I belong to nobody, or all, because to all, to all
I give myself in my clean feeling and in my thought.
You curl your hair and paint yourself; not me;
the wind curls my hair, the sun paints me.
You are a housewife, resigned, submissive,
tied to the prejudices of men; not me;
unbridled, I am a runaway Rocinante
snorting horizons of God’s justice.
You in yourself have no say; everyone governs you;
your husband, your parents, your family,
the priest, the dressmaker, the theatre, the dance hall,
the auto, the fine furnishings, the feast, champagne,
heaven and hell, and the social, “what will they say.”
Not in me, in me only my heart governs,
only my thought; who governs in me is me.
You, flower of aristocracy; and me, flower of the people.
You in you have everything and you owe it to everyone,
while me, my nothing I owe to nobody.
You nailed to the static ancestral dividend,
and me, a one in the numerical social divider,
we are the duel to death who fatally approaches.
When the multitudes run rioting
leaving behind ashes of burned injustices,
and with the torch of the seven virtues,
the multitudes run after the seven sins,
against you and against everything unjust and inhuman,
I will be in their midst with the torch in my hand.
—Julia de Burgos
Translated by Jack Agüeros