29 November, 2009

Pure/Pour/A Priori

full moon’s rays spill
a skeleton path on water
tell me the spell
you held me under
simpler to undo
than the first split steps
I took towards you.
Wrath and swell
of the silt-black sea
heavy and mute
with the weight
of so much ice melting
returns agency
to me, and ease.
Eyes travel,
trace along the shape
of pure coincidence;
sere white falls hued
through night air,
valuable, and silvers
on the waves.
Shafts of light
unravel, reeling
towards shore: shine
relearns its shadow image
and I relearn more.
I can scarcely scrape
and scratch my eyes
across the moon’s rough
surface. To conjure
this drag and chase down
the fixed spines of time
and the firm arrival
at some great vein
of truth appears
difficult. My own
divinations, though, draw
me down the coast
and raise my eyes high
despite the bone-bright
glance of the naked
skeleton path on the water.

~ ~  Joan Kane
Americana, Station by Station

At our lowest price today only
vote Appelman for the school board
the Lakers beating San Antonio by 39 points
your sins will be forgiven

on mattresses all your favourite brands
because as a teacher he knows
in the fourth quarter a few minutes to go
so long as you accept Christ as your lord

name-brand comfort at a great value
what students need and parents want
yet another rebound - let's see that again
you are saved, I tell you, you are saved

~ ~ Carrie Etter
Fiftieth Reunion

I remember the roads, but the trees
are bigger.  Or smaller.  I remember
the houses, though some are missing.

If I look into the center
of their faces, I remember the people
I once knew as classmates.

Their eyes.  Noses.  The shapes
of the mouths.  But their bodies
are unfamiliar.  We are old,

but alive, and mostly hopeful.
Some of us are missing,
finally unfettered, unafraid.

~ ~ Jerry Higley

23 November, 2009

Lying in Bed with a Book

The book on top, a lover
staring into my eyes.
The wind outside fails to turn
the pages of this book.
Coffee on a nightstand,
its surface unruffled
by the story of terror in war.
In a great stillness,
the pages under my moving fingers
roll a dessicated thunder
across my sky.
The tree in the bed,
the shade of a disembodied, leafing voice.
I dreamt once of grafting a book,
pulpy extremity of the body,
onto my wrist.
From buried and paginated
heart to hand, from hand to eye,
from eye to brain, from brain to
beating and unsignatured
heart—so goes the bed's song
of a circulating energy,
invisible dust devil
on the Great Plains of the quilt.
Beside the bed, a community of absences
stacked up, waiting to be heard.
Now the linden outside the window leans in,
begging me to read out loud.
When I'm done with each word,
it gets up off the page
and lies down beside me in the bed;
soon I am surrounded by burrowing
words, who fall asleep before I do
and leave me alone under covers
like words in a book myself.
Bury me with books,
all of them cracked wide open.
No satin, only the feel of this legible
dry skin under my cold fingers.
Be sure my head is propped a little,
next to a reading light.

~ ~ Philip Dacey
The Quiet World

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
the government has decided to allot
each person exactly a hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it
to my ear without saying hello.
In the restaurant I point
at chicken noodle soup. I am
adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long
distance lover and proudly say
I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond, I know
she's used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

~ ~ Jeffrey McDaniel

"The Quiet World" by Jeffrey McDaniel, copyright © 1998.  From:  The Forgiveness Parade, published by Manic D Press.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted with the permission of the press.

16 November, 2009

Make It New

Shaking the parts of speech
like fluff
in a snow globe —

the way sleep scrambles
life's detritus.

Each poem says,
"I'm desperate"

then, "Everything
must go!"

(To hear something familiar here
leads to careful laughter.)

"Go" where?

The steady pressure
on the accelerator
can be stipulated
in advance

as can the stubby bushes
blurred by peripheral vision.

And someone will have set down
a diner or a gas station
at a desolate crossroads

and tried naming it
to evoke

the whole human situation

the impulse to do so.

What that name will be
is the one thing we don't know.

-- Rae Armantrout

Of Chains


A problem exists
in the simplicity
of chains.

The tug of the load
is distributed among the links --

a sagging see-saw against
a guiltless weight.


Every chain can
make me happy

with its clinging faith,
its cold, comforting slack

as long as the other end
is not bolted to a wall.


Once again, there is
only madness in
the simplicity of chains.

No member in the loop
can communicate
the disfiguring motives
of rust.

Each link will understand
only when its turn comes.

~ ~ Khristine Ong Muslim

Poor Shoddy

shŏd´ ē [origin unknown]

She’s odd.

She’s nobody and knows it.
She shudders, all shook up
               in her shabby body
               her shunned body.
Can’t shed odors of a shady past,
a shaggy dog story of shitty odds,
               a soggy shack, slipshod
               shanty ’mid the sodden sod.
A sure lock on schlocky. Come up short.
What’s sloppy is near ungodly,
               what’s odious should be shot.
               Should die. Should she? Shhh. . .
Such damaged goods
the source of Schadenfreude.
               Shocking. Her show of shards.
               What a lot to shoulder.
Shut the shutters, shadow lady,
shut the shouting out
               (ah, but not the shame)
               the stab of an age-old jeer
that seems to call your name—
"Cheap shoes! Cheap shoes!"

First published in RealPoetik  (September, 2007).

~ ~ Jeanne Marie Beaumont


There is always a trace
of prodigal dust
on porcelain

and a telltale
yellow stain
on the mattress.

Potpourri and snapshots
of smiling grandchildren
in summer afternoons

freeze time on the mantel.
The earthy smell of tea
and eternity mingles

as the rocker groans
the wordless hymn
of the passing years.

~ ~ Khristine Ong Muslim

12 November, 2009

We Giants

I seek a photograph.
Little red bellied snake seeks
a path I do not block.
I am the giant we fear, he and I,
the giant who owns no bounds
and scant courtesy, for we giants
imagine we were told we own
the likes of you, snakeling.

Fear the giants, lithe child,
cameras or not, meaning
well or meaning ill, for we giants
cripple beauty like yours
with our isolate pale fears.

~ ~ John Caddy
Coming to Grass 

                               Cornishman: a man at the bottom of a mine, singing.

They came to grass at the end of the day.
They climbed from the Dark to grass
and carried the Dark up with them.
After a long day of night with only
the head’s candle for light,
after aching hours of sledging iron
against candle-gleamed borer,
Grass was the surface they climbed to
through a thousand feet of Dark—

Over and over they pulled their weight up the rungs
as their hearts rang the ribcage,
to come up to light and grass-green,
but to carry Dark with them unseen.
Dark changed the strong men,
shortened their tempers, stubborned beliefs,
roughened their tongues—

Dark led them to think
they were the ones who could see.
But in the mine, in chapel, in pub,
Bearing this Dark is what taught them to sing.

~ ~  John Caddy

Regrets drowned in wine
will rise to the surface
to be swallowed again.

~~ Marion Sharville

sometimes, meanings

sometimes i want to tear at the skin of a poem
and see its heart beating underneath

sometimes i want to sweep through the clutter of words
and watch meanings scatter to the corners of a page

sometimes i’ll sit quietly as a poem yells until it’s out of breath
sometimes i’m embarrassed when a poem whispers its deepest desires

sometimes a sign flashes above my head in red neon
all types welcome
the poem more difficult than a game of chess
the poem thrusting its hips in the face of the reader
the poem confessing its secrets to strangers

sometimes i enter a poem
and all i hear is white noise
but sometimes it’s like waking
to the smell of fresh bread and coffee

and sometimes a poem returns at night
to find my dumb heart thumping a rhythm
as vowels purr in the throat
consonants pulsate on lips
and words float in the warm currents of the mind

~~ Cameron Fuller

09 November, 2009

Bird Men

There are no portals, and little wisdom.
Men jump from balconies with best wishes
for those below, hitting the sidewalk asleep
and dreaming of remote perches. They grip
metal rungs and arch backs in practice,
perfecting their pre-flight posture
in anticipation of the plummet. Trinkets
fall out of coat pockets, cell phones trill
on belts tightened against the leathered morning,
and handkerchiefs billow in the wind.
Wallets drained of bills strain against buttock-seams
and the cries of the birds sound quietly:
men stretch arms into grotesque wingspans,
thoughts of husbandry and fatherhood aloft
for a moment, then hitting earth with a thud,
cast off like dead plumage. Like crows who fly
from barren nests in search of gallows on which
to rest, or cardinals that shed vermilion atop
the corpses of brethren, men balance on railings
and teeter there, unsure of their flight paths through
this estuary of city skyline, this stasis precipice.

Just Saying

It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind.   

                - - from Philip Larkin's "Talking In Bed"

And I converse in double negatives,
that negation of negation that is pillow talk;
that not love could unsay, but there is not still,
not silence nor anything I don't mean,
and in this rush to unclaim declension
and any part of not you, not you,
or not unkind and not untrue,
at once, at once, it is not undifficult to find
the basest reasonings of will; and here, I am,
I am not willing to say these unsimple words,
but I am also not unwilling. The hinge of or,
the sulk of not. I stare. It is not morning,
nor night either. Your back does not balk;
It has no non. It is aware. Perhaps you will not hear.
I love you.

~~ Shane Neilson


there you go again
playing the piano
with a hammer

shards of chopin
litter the floor
’round your steel-toed

~~ Jack Cantey


She has let herself go:
the stringy gray-green mop,
stubble sprouting from her curlicue tail,
soil stains on a faded red leotard
bulging with crisp, white flesh.

Smoldering root, once
she drew fire from the soil,
hope, sulphur, and sex.
Plucked into air, now
she trembles in hand,
a scalded heart
still pulsing.

First published in North American Review (March/April 2007).

~~  Robert Peake