Monday, October 31, 2011
Many, many thanks to Kelly Cherry for guiding the Truck during October.
Monday, October 24, 2011
and softness hardens
into brittle white,
Golden doors whisper open,
but then shout shut,
to tell on me,
on my trespass,
on my teenage fingers
and their thoughtless touch.
Cool counters, wisely sage,
quietly accepting box,
but ringing cereal
poured so slowly
in her bowl,
in her kitchen.
startles the silence.
eat what you want…
what are you eating?
Her hands grasp
a blood-red drink,
I first think is tomato,
but her mouth
the seeds drift through your fingers
helpless to the broken concrete.
the roots are showing
and the crowd have thinned.
we reflect the sparrows.
nervous and dressed in
light purple. Like
lilies of the field
we toil for nothing.
this is the ending.
leave the wedding photos.
let the moonrocks turn to stone.
gasp my name for the last time and
cry in public.
the mountains will not cover us
Cracked apple skins cast metallic glows
on empty library tables
and somewhere a disk spins for you.
Growth rings of spare thoughts are carefully etched
in square sterile packs
like initials scratched in wet driveway.
Keep your hands in the dirt
feeling for tendrils of 4th degree friends-in-law
paired through shared ska bands and live diatribes
grow friend trees until they’re leafless
leave tags online like hazard signs
bridging the missing links
chance sightings ride in the currents,
lie bloated out on the beach,
waiting to be hauled through the town square.
Milk white sheets sit
inches away from our fingers
as bits flip for new key hits
and instantly seeds of silicon,
digit filled and freshly referenced,
Away a few days, we return to a deluge—
ankle deep in the basement—
window-leaked above, over-saturated beneath: the papers and maps
scattered all over the floor past salvage: we tear
up sodden carpet, peel heavy strips from concrete, try to envision
how to free it, sticky adhesive-backed, from loaded shelves, with maximum efficacy.
But first I command, Come see,
standing at the door of a little girl’s closet and a deluge
of dozens and, to my limited vision,
identical pink plastic shoes, whose meaning
I can’t help but mull: the tyranny
of shop, shopping, shopper—life’s map
wiped and remapped
with permissible destinations, borders, sights; filling the sea
of need with things that will not satisfy but deter
motion in a deluge:
and just in case the love of flip-flops does not suffice to halt all movement
she’s tethered to television,
house to car, bedroom to kitchen, breakfast to dinner, no division
on this crucial point.
to mention the summer season
at the children’s theater where I work, deluge
my friends with appeals to watch a show, volunteer
to host her, if she’d like to act, tear
her away a while, but revise
my speech before it’s begun, deluged
by Disney, by princesses, by product tie-ins, each mapped
to one movie or another, her life its own sequel
which, without the urtext, means
nothing. Nothing will come from nothing. Meaning
that King Lear’s on stage this weekend tearing
the eyes of its characters, its audience, to make us, if not see
better, at least look at the world through another lens, caught up in the vision
of a father who orders the future on a map
that none will honor when the rains
arrive, as if his reign meant
something more than a few dashed lines on a fake treasure map, torn
and divided, written in water, then swallowed by the sea.
ODE TO FORGIVENESS
He likes action,
violence, surprise, plot: not shards
of household glass assembled
with tweezers, blurred vision,
the kind I find at the back
of the kitchen drawer to make do
on hours of reconstruction work
to the delicate-handled ceramics he’s thrown
all summer then packed
in a box, too little bubble wrap,
most bodies, though not the lips
or limbs, in tact;
and when we sit shoulder
to shoulder for an entire evening without cutting
ourselves on sharp
edges, managing to get most of the pots back into shape
with only some seams showing,
with only a few disfiguring beads of glue overflowing
from the pressure,
with just the slightest light
headedness from the fumes,
it’s an event, if not miraculous,
at least worth noting:
worth the exclamation
I keep to myself as our
fingertips touch over and over,
as if I’d always been the Mother.
when arriving in the desert is how a rented house, some crows,
and sprigs of spring lilac can make it into my head, then out again
as language. Never mind, somebody else’s bed and mirrors full
Even when settled with a cold beer at dusk to study colors
on a paint chart, I am at a loss. Add to that the nightly apparition of my
neighbor who rises before dawn to water and hum to her weeds. Blanket
pulled over my head, I breathe under pillows.
The dog with a rhinestone
collar doesn’t change. She falls right into stanzas. Suzie is always Suzie—
asleep by the mailboxes or chasing cars up the dirt road.
I walk that road out
to the chapel with a big crucifix and outhouse behind it. They’ve been there
longer than anyone cares to remember. Easter, hooded men still arrive to whip
themselves and moan like ghosts. Penitents. Old blood on their minds, sparkled
statue of a horse poised by someone’s trailer. Beyond that comes the long view—
plain of tough sage, Pueblo land all the way past Sacred Mountain.
I write into
sun-up or gray days, drag five notebooks, as if they were the lit ocean floor,
for anything resembling my muse. Fragments of fragments she can feed me.
Leaf shadow from the pale adobe walls. Imposter, she whispers,
this is not your land.
I can’t find an opening, or the broom, or even the hose
said to be curled in the rafters. The off-button on the alarm clock escapes me
when the neighbor quits watering, and I doze. But, let’s go back to my initial
question of how to embody another’s scented space—all that a quandary until
early one Friday
I recognize the wind at the screen door, its tap. Then the clap
of pigeon wings, forty of them lifting twenty birds, and by afternoon burrs thicken
my socks after scavenging the plain once more. I recognize these scratches as I do
the cemetery caretaker who glares an off-with-you and slams his door when he sees
me coming. Because of regular appearances among the graves, I am rebelliously
at home, a squatter of sorts.
Soon the outhouse behind the chapel is mine too.
Wafts of ancient odor spread with grasshoppers in the sage, and I understand
how the greater part of transmutation arrives with restlessness—coyote’s howl that
creeps into my bed at night along with the moon. Bark and bay in the cold light.
Likewise, I vibrate with what moves the desert at dark.
My last morning there
an ant crawls diagonally across the notebook page, and three Bosque pears want
to be jammed in at the end: skewed models of balance, I scribble and zip the toy
fox in my luggage, lost grandfather for my little one. Also to carry home, a fresh
blue wing tattooed on my left ankle. Small and solitary, it marks the path
path that wobbles.
Easter falling on the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox
allowed nomadic pilgrims enough light to travel by.
Stillness in the moonlit mirrors—
one marked out, the other
deeper into wander.
Hunger and fast fill the blue emptiness
of 4 a.m. Who am I to question space
in someone else’s double bed, sectioned off
for me and god knows what next phantom?
Coyote howls in the desert. Half asleep,
I mumble, wily move, drawn to the tremors
Drought, and magpies fly through the cottonwoods—
carnival magic on a stick, these raucous birds in black
and white. Two magpies are hand-painted on the sheet
beneath my pillow,
mythic birds of happiness flattened
on pale linen.
Footsteps under the window at night tell me the neighbor’s
at it again. Humming, she hoses the wither called her garden.
A tale, I think, is due this dark lady—the one that ends,
And, as always, thirty thirsty magpies peck apart
the sleepless creature and her fat hose of desert water.
Sitting in the backyard with paint-charts and a glass of beer,
I wonder how long that crow can blow about on the branch,
and not fly away. A young Korean lilac roots in arid soil,
crow flickers in the leaves, and the air’s so dry it glitters,
my eyes so parched, they’re hard to close. At sunset, I give
the birdbath two cups of water and a chunk of quartz carried
back from the canyon switchback. In town, the drummer calls
the hungry in for supper. There’ll be no crow to judge when this
branch is empty, and I return to the shifting shades between
ocean cloud and deep seashell.
If the National Wildlife Fund hadn’t sent me the stuffed barn-owl
as a thank-you for my donation, I might not recognize what’s calling
from the tree. But I had squeezed that bird each night so my cat could
hear its who-whooos, two short then two long.
Now an owl filled
with breath echoes at twilight. Vociferous kin, this bird whose fund-
raising twin slept with my cat for months in a house only feet from
the Eastern Divide. You think this an exaggeration?
I know how far sound travels.
April on the back road to the Penitentes Cemetery where the dusty
lilacs bloom. By evening the stacked mailboxes are empty, and
beneath them, the napping dog takes time-out to chase a passing car,
or two. Most slow down, used to Suzie’s habits. Quite a different
response from the sign nailed every three feet on the fence ahead:
NO TRESPASSING!!! There’s even a huge one in red propped
against the chimney. As I walk by, a boy yells from the upstairs
window, hey lady, we own this road you know. The holy land
he calls it, though in both directions folks walk home with groceries.
I grin, pick lilacs through his fence for Suzie’s rhinestone collar,
then drop photos from my folder of the big black crucifix this side
of Pueblo land and Sacred Mountain. In dream that night, my plane
careens towards chimneys, then suddenly floats to a stop over
Suzie asleep in the dust.
Four windows of the chapel are boarded up, and it’s hard to find
a door or to get the story straight about who first crucified
the long line of penitents begun who would flay
themselves for countless holy weeks into the future.
Yesterday when asked about the term morado, the cab driver
looked straight at me, and said this was not his people’s language,
and drove a whole lot faster.
Behind the chapel there’s the crucifix and outhouse with three holes
in a rotted plank of wood. Count the years
backwards to when the body finally was nailed up and men
emptied their stomachs under the Easter moon.
A pair of shoes my father wants to walk in:
smooth soles, smooth insoles, adjustable
for feet swollen and distorted, each toe
a pink scaly balloon of hurts me.
Forty warm minutes in the warming sun,
salt air masking the scent of shame and hiding—
the need to know at odds with a desire
to close down the senses.
Two secret drops of morphine in his tea
for the everywhere pain he says he’ll weather
and the bleak depression that refuses to lift.
Night is an ocean that always arrives to rattle
and drown. In the under rustling and climbing moans
in the dangerous confusion, he sleeps
at the very mattress edge of disaster
facing the catastrophe that was taking place
with silent fascination
pillow abandoned to the bed and to the creature
whose webbed wings weight the sheets and blankets.
Back of the nightstand, the iron sedative
purchased in Chicago in 1948:
its handle inlaid with mother of pearl
its Russian-roulette rotating chamber agape.
The neoprene pouch is open too—
one bullet rolls free, resounding in the drawer.
LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET (1987)
Out of our arguments with ourselves, what is lost
in translation is news that stays news, a small (or large)
machine made of words that makes nothing
happen, comes nearer to vital truth than history,
and must go in fear, be as new as foam, as old
as the rock, have something in it that is barbaric,
vast and wild, a way of taking life by the throat.
And as if the top of my head were taken off
for lack of what is found there or in the journal
of a sea animal living on land wanting to fly in the sky,
in the best words, in the best order, put things before
his eyes: imaginary gardens with real toads that spring
from genuine feeling that the mind is dangerous
and my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me—
out of this turning within, out of this immersion in your own world.
Bufo periglenes (Golden Toad)
Because his screech is melody and we are all in jeopardy
and all have golden toadsongs semaphoring in our throats.
Because the golden toad teaches us to flirt with day-glo
explosive breeding excess and to only emerge
between the dry and the wet—
though in the end all his flaxen chorusing could bring
no darker gravid female for him to climb, to clutch and hang upon
and his protective skin was also lung and kidney
a failed-canary early-warning for these coal mine days.
Because the true toad occurs on every continent except Australia
and Antarctica, and is toothless and sleek, deaf and mute
and all the scientists admit there was nothing like it anyone
had ever seen and nothing anyone will ever see again
we must memorize the numbers of decline: from three
hundred or more in each small pond, to twelve the next year,
then one lone male in 1989
and must not conjugate them into present tense
or in the understory and gnarled roots of the elfin forests.
Bring us back to the border of that April-May window
and temporary pool, to the small and bright gold enameled orange hue
that occasionally called out, perfectly patient, perfectly still,
before the end of that wild dangerous ride
like the second plague from Revelations in reverse
or the frog-in-the-moon eclipsing back into
the oblivion of a black, human magic,
before the extremely dry El Nino year, the desiccation
and larvae ungrown, before, as in a spell from Tubal and Jabal
all that nearly invisible fungus and blight
could be ushered across oceans, on airplanes
in the dirt beneath our fingernails and the microscopic dust
lining the Vibram-soled hiking boots
of the new conquistadors.
Four crows in a sylvan grove
when the moment was a boundary
to the lucidity of death
when the orchid field was drunk
with hermetic songs of dawn’s expanse
it was then within the ossuary doorway
three maidens appeared
to drink the frozen libation of fate
where words were archetypal scribings
passing into the tongueless ocean’s corporeal void
where the fragrance of belladonna and wisteria
died on a Paleolithic celestial shore
where the gaping existential bloody net formed
the fog of a morning’s firmamental embrace
where the entangling prosthetic cognitive cleft
awoke within the bended eyelid’s crepuscular shade
speak then here of the many clouded arias of isolation
of the many flowering forsythia blooms
burning on the static mountain’s vernal tapestry
of the many detached faces of loss
cowering in rooms with grey painted sloping eaves
of the many chastened by a glass-eye blindness
following the path darkness traces
through the clotted thistle-wind’s forest edge
88 (for Mary)
Inside this room
there are isolated geometries
there are fossilized imprints
of demurred plainchant echo
there are dreams returning
through a stony hemispheric gauze
inside this room
the eye is singular
and thought is the fluid medium
through which eternity floods
the silty mind’s ephemeral ache
yet speak here of love
by a prismatic sunlight’s unchanging essence
through the molecular pendulum’s labyrinthine arc
the furrowed weight of angered faces
tamed by the votive candle’s leaded hinge of sleep
the numberless grains of sand
coursing through the hourglass’s angular veins
love silencing the vacant touch
naked and hungering to fill the yielding heart
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
when he saw
in the field
his big toe
on a large
best of all
he loved her
E = 2mc² X
E = m3c² X
E = 3mc² X
E = m²c² X
E = mcm X
E = m³2c² X
E = 2mc² X
E = mc² !
Alas, the poor, poor alcoholics,
nobody ever has a good word for them!
Especially in the morning, when they stagger along the walls
and sometimes fall to their knees, like the clumsy ABC’s
scrawled by a schoolboy’s hand.
God alone, in His great beneficence, causes a pub to manifest itself along their way,
for Him it’s a snap, the way a child
slides a matchbox along with a finger. So hardly
do they reach the end of the road when, around the corner,
where a moment before nothing was – slap-bang – like a rabbit,
a pub hops out in front of them and stops.
Then a bashful light dawns in their eyes.
They are drenched in sweat from so much happiness.
Before noon the city looks purple.
Before noon it’s autumn three times, it’s spring three times,
the birds fly to warmer climes and back three times.
And they gab on and on about life. About life
in general, even young alcoholics express a warm, responsible viewpoint.
If they stutter and stumble,
it’s not because they propose terribly profound ideas,
but because inspired by youth
they succeed in saying truly moving things.
But God, in His great beneficence, does not stop there!
Directly, He pokes a finger through the wall of Heaven
and invites the alcoholics to take a peek.
(Oh, where can such happiness be found for any human creature!)
And even though they have the shakes so bad that can’t manage to see more than a little patch of grass,
still, it’s something supernatural.
Until one of them awakens and spoils everything. He says:
“Soon, soon, night must fall,
then we’ll rest and find peace!”
They stand up from their tables one by one,
wipe their clammy lips with a handkerchief,
and feel very, very ashamed.
translated from Romanian
by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu
It’s an enchanted night.
The moon trembles in my glass, round and yellow.
I stick my finger in the glass.
Next I stick my arm in the glass, as far as the elbow.
Then I stick my arm in the glass, as far as the shoulder.
The vodka is ice-cold.
On the bottom of the glass, there’s a large stone slab.
There are dead leaves and dark roots.
There’s a torn rubber boot, too.
On the bottom of the glass, there’s also a rusty stove.
I stick my head in the glass.
The vodka is ice-cold.
I open my eyes in the glass.
In the glass, I can see well even without eyeglasses.
I say out loud, “All is dream and harmony.”
The stone slab is white with thin red veins.
Now I notice the beast.
Now I hear it purring low, like a cat.
I see its blue legs.
I see its fearsome tail jutting out from under the stone slab.
A crystal-clear spring flows beside the stone slab.
It whispers over the gravel.
At its edges the grass is always green.
Delicate flowers grow in the grass.
In the spring pool swim children as small as dolls.
They swim with incredibly quick movements.
They swim in little dresses and shirts and trousers in jolly colours.
They are the little angels of the glass.
The little angels of the glass don’t bite or do harm to anyone.
I feel like vomiting from pity, I feel like vomiting from sadness.
I feel like vomiting when I realize I might swallow one of the little angels.
I feel like crying at the thought that he would suddenly be so lonely.
Crying at the thought that he would sob all night, just like me.
Crying at the thought that he could be singing nursery rhymes inside me.
He could sing in a high, shrill voice, “Spring is coming, sweet spring!”
With my nails dug into the beast’s back, I plunge toward the bottom of the glass.
A stone slab is there, with thin red veins.
Now I lie on the slab with thin red veins.
Far away, somewhere in the glass, a dog keeps barking.
It’s the day of the eclipse.
The round yellow moon trembles in the glass.
Through a piece of glass smoky from a candle flame, I see a big black fly buzzing around the bulb.
With my nails dug into the beast’s back, I drag its head out from under the stone.
Its terrifying back snakes like a train through mountains.
With my nails, I drag the beast’s locomotive out from under the stone slab.
The little angels of the glass hold hands and dance gently in a circle.
The little angels dance and sing all around us.
“All is dream and harmony.”
The beast has one eye of my mother’s and one eye of my father’s.
In the glass, I can see well even without my eyeglasses.
I read in my mother’s eye, “My son, when will you finally understand?”
I read in my father’s eye, “My son, when will you finally understand?”
The glass squeezes my forehead like an iron band.
My head bangs against the walls: this side and that, this side and that.
The little angel of the glass sobs with pain.
The little angel of the glass sings inside me in a high, shrill voice, “Spring is coming, sweet spring!”
“All is dream and harmony.”
translated from Romanian
by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu
The much-honored Romanian poet Ion Mureșan has published only three collections of poetry: The Book of Winter (Cartea de iarnă, 1981), The Poem That Cannot Be Understood (Poemul care nu poate fi înțeles, 1993), and The Alcohol Book (Cartea Alcool, 2010). In late 2011, The University of Plymouth Press (U.K.) will publish The Book of Winter and Other Poems, in translations by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu. Mureșan lives in the city of Cluj, where he works as a journalist and edits the cultural magazine Verso.
Adam J. Sorkin’s recent books include Ioan Flora’s Medea and Her War Machines, translated with Alina Cârâc (University of New Orleans Press), and A Path to the Sea by Liliana Ursu, translated by Ursu, Sorkin, and Tess Gallagher (Pleasure Boat Studios), both 2011. Mircea Ivănescu’s lines poems poetry (2009), translated with Lidia Vianu, has been shortlisted for the 2011 Poetry Society (U.K.) Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation. Sorkin is Distinguished Professor of English, Penn State Brandywine.
Lidia Vianu is Professor of Contemporary British Literature at the University of Bucharest, where she directs the online Contemporary Literature Press and the eZine Translation Café. Her literary criticism includes The AfterMode. Significant Choices in Contemporary British Fiction (2010), The Desperado Age: British Literature at the Start of the Third Millennium (2004); and Alan Brownjohn and the Desperado Age (2003). Vianu has also published three poetry collections, 1, 2, 3 (1997), Moderato 7 (1998), Very (2001), and 18 books of translation.
A lecture, love, in love's philosophy.
These three hours that we have spent,
Walking here, two shadows went
Along with us, which we ourselves produc'd.
But, now the sun is just above our head,
We do those shadows tread,
And to brave clearness all things are reduc'd.
So whilst our infant loves did grow,
Disguises did, and shadows, flow
From us, and our cares; but now 'tis not so.
That love has not attain'd the high'st degree,
Which is still diligent lest others see.
Except our loves at this noon stay,
We shall new shadows make the other way.
As the first were made to blind
Others, these which come behind
Will work upon ourselves, and blind our eyes.
If our loves faint, and westwardly decline,
To me thou, falsely, thine,
And I to thee mine actions shall disguise.
The morning shadows wear away,
But these grow longer all the day;
But oh, love's day is short, if love decay.
Love is a growing, or full constant light,
And his first minute, after noon, is night.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Bad summer, the worst, for no good reason, The Summer
of My Werther I dubbed it then, lacking irony,
summer of Watergate, and the job at the Gypsy
School falling through—teaching for free, paying myself
from student loans. Summer I decided not to go
crazy, not become a drunk, it was simple—assent
or refuse—accept or deny, flopped on the sofa,
Daniel Barenboim, and a certain twenty-something
Mozart Sonata injecting final notes into
the suicide movement, diamond needle in the arm
tracks, lifting, cutting off the final devastating
notes, over and over. I think I would have been both
if it had make it just once, all the way to silence.
after Gerald Stern
A man, call him Ali, is out riding when he spies
a group of men on horseback. Ali, fearing this could be
a band of robbers, gallops off as fast as his horse
can go. The would-be robbers turn out to be his friends.
“I wonder where Ali’s going in such a hurry?”
One says, “Let’s follow him and maybe we will find out.”
Ali, feeling himself pursued, heads to a graveyard
and leaps over the wall, dismounts and then hides himself
behind a tombstone. (Physicists might call this a case
of conjugate pairs.) His friends arrive, and then call
out to him, “Why are you hiding from us, Ali?” Who
responds, “It’s much more complicated than you realize,”
“I’m here because of you and you’re here because of me.”
These poems are from a manuscript, 13(13 X 13)13, which consists of 169 poems, each one 13 lines of 13 syllables. Leonard Kress has two new poetry collections: Braids & Other Sestinas (Seven Kitchens Press) and Living in the Candy Store (Finishing Line Press). He lives in Ohio.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
He will say to himself (forever saying to ourselves)
What the fuck was this guy thinking!
Hey buddy i worked very hard at
Letting this backyard go, so that
The mice and birds and squirrels
In this hood of a place, could have
A safe home.See those piles of uncut wood?
A storm came through years back.
Took down trees all over this neighborhood
Me and the mice and our wood stove
Needed them, so we all got in my truck
and drove the alleys in search of safety.
Frogs need places like this to survive
and by cracky welcome to it
If the Class warfare riots don't burn
it all down...and some guy still gets it.
See that cherry tree? The one with
the guy wires holding it off the power
lines? No place is as safe as this backyard.
O death, where is thy breach?
a triple threat two bodies on the cusp of morn
detected no breach in the stagnant line of safety
a neighborhood hinged on chance
a necessary night shielded from listening
porch dwellers in the age of aggression
a topical response free fall from function
supplies needed to survive stragglers cut off
in the train of those fleeing
twenty-first mentionables: extractions
or to be downloaded in an urban colloquial
arms widths of winds inward
while creeping in the damp streets
some danger pounced, so you think there exists
outside the fortress of construction
where we hoard design like lucky charms
a treasure tone of multicolored outs
bargaining to better crafted escape routes
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Her Disco 
These are many: horn-shaped,
Little chambered heart-husks
with spirals that go down.
These spiral, these wind:
spiny jewel box, lace & apple
with elbows like serifs,
tulip, cone, bonnet to soft
augur that drills into sand-hut,
lion’s paw, egg cockle, angel
& turkey wings,
pear, baby’s ear
creased & hardened;
& like the fleet moments after
Each a coil in nested crystal,
put these up to your ear,
hear the sounds
of dream—some call it the sea.
Her Disco 
The sea-shell bears the spiral,
each like a moon
in its own phase
or fragment, a husk
of intoxicated eye
pulls us into, gets us drunk,
& we weep for we are powerless
like a horn, curved & protean.
Small wind on water, nested
kingdom of stars.
Call her name:
Jar of Myrtle, Cup of Wild-almond,
Weather-vane, & Healing-of-the-nations.
Go, worm; go, mantis,
up leaf-spire up
in your upsy way.
Lisa Fink's poems will appear in a chapbook titled Her Disco due out in May 2012 from
Dancing Girl Press. There are space breaks in the above poems that got lost when I pasted in the poems, I'm sorry to say. Currently completing her MFA at the University of Virginia, she is a former student of mine. Buy the chapbook when it comes out!