27 January, 2010

Sometimes the House Breathes for Me, 
an Iron Lung

Sometimes the house breathes for me, an iron lung.
It happens at the panic point of some new poem,
often late at night or on a summer's evening when
the lines have grown asthmatic and the thought is numb
with fears of what the words might come to mean. It clunks
and grinds, immobilises - keeps my ebbing forms afloat.

Sometimes the house will be my ears, will listen like a bug,
an agent planted long ago in these primeval hills
to eavesdrop sounds of alder, owl and adder, bat and badger, all
their worlds - more passing chatter than would keep surveillance
teams on song for years to come.  It happens when the voices of
a poem drown the still small voice that gave it birth.

Sometimes the house speaks for (or to) me in an unknown tongue.
It tutts and putters like an outboard out at sea
and offers me the waves and rhythms it has found
among the deeper things that rarely come to be.
Easily mistaken for the muse herself,
it happens when I disregard her knowing words.

Sometimes the house imparts a kind of balance, like an inner ear,
tunes itself to keep in phase with thermals and horizons,
synchronizes movements with them in its posts and beams,
or eases its old bones against the cold. It shivers when
a poem's footings slide in shale - or when the lines strike out
to scale the heights, but then succumb to poesy's vertigo.

~ ~ David King
Born again

~ ~ Ed Markowski

Published in Lilliput Review #172 (October-December 2009). With permission of the publisher.
Crow Testament

Cain lifts Crow, that heavy black bird
and strikes down Abel.

Damn, says Crow, I guess
this is just the beginning.

The white man, disguised
as a falcon, swoops in
and yet again steals a salmon
from Crow's talons.

Damn, says Crow, if I could swim
I would have fled this country years ago.

The Crow God as depicted
in all of the reliable Crow bibles
looks exactly like a Crow.

Damn, says Crow, this makes it
so much easier to worship myself.

Among the ashes of Jericho,
Crow sacrifices his firstborn son.

Damn, says Crow, a million nests
are soaked with blood.

When Crows fight Crows
the sky fills with beaks and talons.

Damn, says Crow, it's raining feathers.

Crow flies around the reservation
and collects empty beer bottles

but they are so heavy
he can only carry one at a time.

So, one by one, he returns them
but gets only five cents a bottle.

Damn, says Crow, redemption
is not easy.

Crow rides a pale horse
into a crowded pow wow
but none of the Indians panic.

Damn, says Crow, I guess
they already live near the end of the world.

~ ~ Sherman Alexie
I wish I were fifteen again,
when the pain of a broken nail
was all that mattered

~ ~ Nazia Mallick

25 January, 2010


Such a dark and common
moment of purely human
triumph: to forget

a section of your life,
tell yourself in its place
a lie you can live with,

a lie you then come to believe
with all your heart,
one from which you take

your impetus to action,
a lie growing proud as a demon
to set you aflame

with a fading sense of its falsehood
and subsequent absolute conviction –
a lie like that is as good as Scripture,

a Gospel rock on which to build
a fortress, a slaughterhouse,
a beautiful tomb.

In the forest of your life,
you fell a tree and block your ears.
This clearing has always been here,

you tell everyone.  Always a barren spot.
See how the light glares here.
Maybe there was a fire here long ago –

in fact, you are sure of it.  You insist you were there.
Show off your burns. Use the scars
to chart your course out of the woods.

End up somewhere you never expected
as someone you aren’t, feeling
the gray rain on your ashen skin.

~ ~  Tony Brown

14 January, 2010

The Bird

The bird you captured is dead.
I told you it would die
but you did not learn
from my telling. You wanted
to cage a bird in your hands
and learn to fly.

Listen again.
You must not handle birds.
They cannot fly through your fingers.
You are not a nest
and a feather is
not made of blood and bone.

Only words
can fly for you like birds
on the wall of the sun.
A bird is a poem
that talks of the end of cages.

~ ~ Patrick Lane

First published in Beware the Months of Fire (Toronto: Anansi, 1974).

No one spoke to her much, how strange —
Not family or friends and even those who
Sat with us at meals couldn’t say a word to her
Or even look her way. That must be beauty.
But every time she went to town and was alone —
A pretty scarf, an intriguing handbag, forever
And ever elderly women in parking lots and
Aisles of stores sought her out. This daughter
Whose own mother wouldn’t speak to her
Had women without daughters
Eating seed from her hand.

~ ~ Bob Arnold

First published in Invent a World ( Mountains and Rivers Press, 2005).

Buffalo Bill opens a pawn shop on the reservation ...

right across the border from the liquor store
and he stays open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

and the Indians come running in with jewelry
television sets, a VCR, a full-length beaded buckskin
it took Inez Muse 12 years to finish. Buffalo Bill

takes everything the Indians have to offer, keeps it
all catalogued and filed in a storage room. The Indians
pawn their hands, saving the thumbs for last, they pawn

their skeletons, falling endlessly from the skin
and when the last Indian has pawned everything
but his heart, Buffalo Bill takes that for twenty bucks

closes up the pawn shop
paints a new sign over the old
charges the Indians five bucks a head to enter.

~ ~ Sherman Alexie

This space in my heart
intentionally left blank. 

~ ~ Katerina Stoykova-Klemer


07 January, 2010

not there, not yet

the gull still
becoming the cloud that chases the boy,
or the boy puts himself into the water
like moose or dark elk tasting lichen.
no, not yet: if you never arrive,
you never have to choose between trails,
one going up past the waterfall's steam,
another idling in the heat, stirred
by the strokes of gnats' wings–
the story doesn't have to end; the telling
braids words into watercress, the cry of the rabbit,
caught in the lynx' jaws, rings out
over the reeds, echoes never receding.

~ ~ Arthur Durkee

                   for Xia

over the tall ashen wall, between
the sound of vegetables being chopped
daybreak’s bound, severed,
dissipated by a paralysis of spirit

what is the difference
between the light and the darkness
that seems to surface through my eyes’
apertures, from my seat of rust
I can’t tell if it’s the glint of chains
in the cell, or the god of nature
behind the wall
daily dissidence
makes the arrogant
sun stunned to no end

daybreak a vast emptiness
you in a far place
with nights of love stored away

Liu Xiaobo

Translated by Jeffrey Yang.  Originally published in PEN America 11: Make Believe (2009).  Reprinted with permission of PEN American Center.

04 January, 2010

Rules and Visions

Life counts
the rules;
the sunset, their exceptions.
Rain drinks up
the centuries;
spring, our dreams.
The eagle sees
the sunrays
and youth, the visions.

--  Dimitris P. Kraniotis
line of footfalls lost
under fresh fallen snow,
no one left to see

~ ~ Arthur Durkee
Canada Geese

Their tribalism is what you first admire.
Flying in formation
they drop from grace
to colonize your world

laying claim to marshes,
a local ballfield, your berry patch,
putting green, when you are inches
from an eagle.

Their sentries, attentive
to your attention, stare
down your stare and you find yourself
ceding holdings one by one

but hold no grudges.  They
are as clever as Martians,
you believe, and the corner
of your lot was too wet to plant,

your aim too flawed for eagles.
Besides, several have stooped
to peck at greens, exchanging views
on your unwingedness.

In the estuaries of your past
you imagine bribes in some backwater
offered to centurions. Mere nibbles.
You start with twists

of bread, then to more exotic
shavings of Stilton, croissant ends,
and nod, knowing you will never be admitted
to their circle.

~ ~ George Ellenbogen

Published in Queen's Quarterly, Vol. 114  (Spring, 2007).  Republished in Morning Gothic (Vehicule Press, 2007). 
the firefly's signature
on the night sky

my pride

the sudden amnesia
became an excuse
to live on

~ ~ Jörgen Johansson