Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poetry month, we hardly knew ye.


Rain rains on rain
The sales manager drops her keys in a rivulet
Everything seems haplessly minor
The disabled roofer ducks into the County Offices
The don't-kid-me cop is dripping
The old man who likes Johnny Mathis is soaked
Three schoolgirls shriek amid puddles
Someone utterly obscure hauls brown plastic bags
into the bedraggled alley …
The wet poet dries slowly in a deli.

"Rain patters on the uncaring streets"
"Rain shines on the mindless black pavement"
I needed all those times of writing in effect this
even if in effect only this
"Emptiness wears the gleam of October rain"

Beauty of the knowing you are enduring (while
you get to hint you might not)
in the drizzle on the rock in the rock drizzle world

Beauty of choosing instances in the long pour

Behind the counter at Drisch Drugs
Ethel says to Marie "I brought me some crackers
and peanut butter and a banana"
Marie nods very slightly to mean "That's nice enough."

Yeah the world has its own banana
The world don't adore that poet drying off in the deli
The world brought its own crackers
Yeah the world is just its rainy drisch self

but beauty of saying so, real particular-like,
at many nice tables across this big real nation.

--Mark Halliday

Friday, April 29, 2011


This one's mostly, though not exclusively, for my Ren peeps: Who knew? (Wait for it...)

Mourning in November

A clutter of bird cries
In air deaf as concrete
When daylight is terminal.

Widows of fallen leaves
Flaunt orange lipstick,
Fooling no one.

Chattering into midnight,
I stockpile bromides:
Hard and shiny as acorns.

--Heather Dubrow

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A cool poetry collection.

Habeas Corpus, a series of 60 sonnets each based on an American execution, from the 17th to the 21st century. Here's one.

June 19, 1953: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Ossining, New York

Electrocution set for eight p.m.
Two hours before they took him to be prepped
the matrons asked her if she’d like to see him;
the warden said that they could take some steps
to let them talk. A screen of metal mesh
between two wooden chairs outside her cell.
Romantic. Pyramus and Thisbe, rushed
in writing letters to their kids, to tell
them Remember: we were innocent, and could
not wrong our conscience. Now we press you close
and kiss you with all our strength.
Before they stood
to go he kissed two fingers, pressed them both
against the screen, to hers: first white, then red.
Their final touch, through screen. So hard they bled.

--Jill McDonough

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance

Thus should have been our travels:
serious, engravable.
The Seven Wonders of the World are tired
and a touch familiar, but the other scenes,
innumerable, though equally sad and still,
are foreign. Often the squatting Arab,
or group of Arabs, plotting, probably,
against our Christian empire,
while one apart, with outstretched arm and hand
points to the Tomb, the Pit, the Sepulcher.
The branches o fthe date-palms look like files.
The cobbled courtyard, where the Well is dry,
is like a diagram, the brickwork conduits
are vast and obvious, the human figure
far gone in history or theology,
gone with its camel or its faithful horse.
Always the silence, the gesture, the specks of birds
suspended on invisible threads above the Site,
or the smoke rising solemnly, pulled by threads.
Granted a page alone or a page made up
of several scenes arranged in cattycornered rectangles
or circles set on stippled gray,
granted a grim lunette,
caught in the toils of an initial letter,
when dwelt upon, they all resolve themselves.
The eye drops, weighted, through the lines
the burin made, the lines that move apart
like ripples above sand,
dispersing storms, God's spreading fingerprint,
and painfully, finally, that ignite
in watery prismatic white-and-blue.

Entering the Narrows at St. Johns
the touching bleat of goats reached to the ship.
We glimpsed them, reddish, leaping up the cliffs
among the fog-soaked weeds and butter-and-eggs.
And at St. Peter's the wind blew and the sun shone madly.
Rapidly, purposefully, the Collegians marched in lines,
crisscrossing the great square with black, like ants.
In Mexico the dead man lay
in a blue arcade; the dead volcanoes
glistened like Easter lilies.
The jukebox went on playing "Ay, Jalisco!"
And at Volubilis there were beautiful poppies
splitting the mosaics; the fat old guide made eyes.
In Dingle harbor a golden length of evening
the rotting hulks held up their dripping plush.
The Englishwoman poured tea, informing us
that the Duchess was going to have a baby.
And in the brothels of Marrakesh
the littel pockmarked prostitutes
balanced their tea-trays on their heads
and did their belly-dances; flung themselves
naked and giggling against our knees,
asking for cigarettes. It was somewhere near there
I saw what frightened me most of all:
A holy grave, not looking particularly holy,
one of a group under a keyhole-arched stone baldaquin
open to every wind from the pink desert.
An open, gritty, marble trough, carved solid
with exhortation, yellowed
as scattered cattle-teeth;
half-filled with dust, not even the dust
of the poor prophet paynim who once lay there.
In a smart burnoose Khadour looked on amused.

Everything only connected by "and" and "and."
Open the book. (The gilt rubs off the edges
of the pages and pollinates the fingertips.)
Open the heavy book. Why couldn't we have seen
this old Nativity while we were at it?
--the dark ajar, the rocks breaking with light,
an undisturbed, unbreathing flame,
colorless, sparkless, freely fed on straw,
and, lulled within, a family with pets,
--and looked and looked our infant sight away.

--Elizabeth Bishop

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quick nostalgia trip.

Would you believe this is the first poem that ever blew my mind, back in high school? Probably you would.

You Fit Into Me

You fit into me
Like a hook into an eye

A fish hook
An open eye

--Margaret Atwood

I'm not sure this poem works anymore, in the way it's meant to, in the age of Velcro.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest's creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature's bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins

Friday, April 22, 2011


And quite possibly repeating an earlier year's selection, but I don't really care.

Good-friday 1613. Riding Westward.

Let man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th' intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.
Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul's form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
What a death were it then to see God die ?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul's, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They're present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them ; and Thou look'st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face.

--John Donne

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Sunflower

Ah, Sunflower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go.

--William Blake

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Check out this sumptuous language surface...

God Commends His Love Unto Us, In That While We Were Yet Sinners, Christ Died For Us. Romans 5:8

Thou pry'st thou screw'st my sincking Soul up to,
Lord th'Highest Vane amazements Summit Wears
Seeing thy Love ten thousand wonders do
Breaking Sins Back that blockt it up: us snares.
The Very Stars, and Sun themselves did scoule,
Yea Angells too, till it shone out, did howle.

Poore sinfull man lay grovling on the ground.
Thy wrath, and Curse to dust lay grinding him.
And Sin, that banisht Love out of these bounds
Hath stufft the world with curses to the brim.
Gods Love thus Caskt in Heaven, none can tap
Or breake its truss hoops, or attain a Scrap.

Like as a flock of Doves with feathers washt,
All o're with yellow gold, fly all away
At one Gun crack: so Lord thy Love Sin quasht
And Chased hence to heaven (Darksom day).
It nestles there: and Graces Bird did hatch
Which in dim types we first Pen feather'd catch.

God takes his Son stows in him all his Love,
(Oh Lovely One), him Lovely thus down sends
His rich Love Letter to us from above
And chiefly in his Death his Love Commends,
Writ all in Love from top to toe, and told
Out Love more rich, and shining far than gold.

For e'ry Grain stands bellisht ore with Love,
Each Letter, Syllable, Word, Action sounde
Gods Commendations to us from above,
But yet Loves Emphasis most cleare is found
Engrav'd upon his Grave Stone in his blood
He shed for Sinners, Lord what Love? How good?

It rent the Heavens ope that seald up were
Against poore Sinners: rend the very Skie
And rout the Curse, Sin, Divell, Hell (Oh Deare,)
And brake Deaths jaw bones, and its Sting destroy.
Will search its Coffers: fetch from thence the Dust
Of Saints, and it attend to glory just.

My God! this thy Love Letter to mee send.
Thy Love to mee spell out therein I will.
And What choice Love thou dost mee there commend,
I'le lay up safely in my Souls best till.
I'le read, and read it; and With Angells soon
My Mictams shall thy Hallelujahs tune.

--Edward Taylor

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One thing I love about poetry month

Our semester starts early, and we have no spring break, so I'm done for the summer around April 12 every year. So my little ad-hoc anthology project makes it look as if I'm a very vigorous and committed blogger, when actually I'm trapped in grading hell.

From Pamphilia to Amphilanthus


When night's blacke Mantle could most darknesse prove,
And sleepe (deaths Image) did my senses hyre,
From Knowledge of my selfe, then thoughts did move
Swifter then those, most switnesse neede require.

In sleepe, a Chariot drawne by wing'd Desire,
I saw; where fate bright Venus Queene of Love,
And at her feete her Sonne, still adding Fire
To burning hearts, which she did hold above,

But one heart flaming more then all the rest,
The Goddesse held, and put it to my breast,
Deare Sonne now shut, said she, thus must we winne;

He her obeyd, and martyr'd my poore heart.
I waking hop'd as dreames it would depart,
Yet since, O me, a Lover I have beene.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Enough with these upstarts, these whippersnappers.

From Idea


Like an adventurous seafarer am I,
Who hath some long and dang'rous voyage been,
And called to tell of his discovery,
How far he sailed, what countries he had seen;
Proceeding from the port whence he put forth,
Shows by his compass how his course he steered,
When east, when west, when south, and when by north,
As how the pole to ev'ry place was reared,
What capes he doubled, of what continent,
The gulfs and straits that strangely he had passed,
Where most becalmed, where with foul weather spent,
And on what rocks in peril to be cast:
Thus in my love, time calls me to relate
My tedious travels and oft-varying fate.

--Michael Drayton

Saturday, April 16, 2011

That Sure is My Little Dog

Yes, indeed, that is my house that I am carrying around
on my back like a bullet-proof shell and yes, that sure is
my little dog walking a hard road in hard boots. And
just wait until you see my girl, chomping on the chains
of fate with her mouth full of jagged steel. She’s damn
ready and so am I. What else did you expect from the
brainiacs of my generation? The survivors, the nonbelievers,
the oddball-outs with the Cuban Missile Crisis still
sizzling in our blood? Don’t tell me that you bought
our act, just because our worried parents (and believe me,
we’re nothing like them) taught us how to dress for work
and to speak as if we cared about our education. And
I guess the music fooled you: you thought we’d keep
the party going even to the edge of the abyss. Well,
too bad. It’s all yours now. Good luck on the ramparts.
What you want to watch for is when the sky shakes
itself free of kites and flies away. Have a nice day.

--Eleanor Lerman

Friday, April 15, 2011


My heart, my dove, my snail, my sail, my
milktooth, shadow, sparrow, fingernail,
flower-cat and blossom-hedge, mandrake

root now put to bed, moonshell, sea-swell,
manatee, emerald shining back at me,
nutmeg, quince, tea leaf and bone, zither,

cymbal, xylophone; paper, scissors, then
there’s stone--Who doesn’t come through the door
to get home?

--Cynthia Zarin

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Remember her strapped to the air,
her grey dress flapping a little?

The field mice ran beneath her feet
learning new technologies.

I don’t scare anybody, she complained,
smiling, a nest on her head.

Which was how much I loved her,
all through the harvest
and dismantling.

I am the morning dove
who nests in the gutter.

I am singing sadly to the barn.

--Matthew Zapruder

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

[my riches I have squandered. spread with honey]

a song of the prodigal son

my riches I have squandered. spread with honey
the arval bread in my pocket and nary a farthing

lived for a spell among roaches in a rickety squat
between the alcohol detox and the catholic church

peeled my plump white bottom. a sauvignon grape
[now exsiccated: the wizened sultana makes no golden cake]

crouched in the gulleys. wiped with leaves
cooked roadkill: topped with government surplus cheese

snuck in underage at club 21 (2121 21st street, long gone)
wastrel opal-throated bird: a moulting quivers along the pinion

I fear my mucus: its endless volume and amorphous shape
a demon expelling from my lips. the moon wags its tongue

each dull morning the mirror imagines me a future: older misshapen forest: stinging adder and sprawling spider

the way to haven seems interminable. I creak and shuffle
listen, you wilderness: make plain and let me pass

--D. A. Powell

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


It seems impossible that there could be
any anscestral link between the turtle—

plodding, benevolent creature they keep
in a glass terrairium—and any bird,

but once the teacher suggests it, they begin to see—
in the blunt beak stained with mulberry juice,

the low brow, the scales on its legs—certain,
if, at first, strained resemblance. Then, even

in its poor posture, they are convinced of another
sky into which ir withdraws, not to become

invisible, but to soar, fearless, inside
itself—small dome of safe, starless heaven.

--Claudia Emerson

Monday, April 11, 2011

Notes for My Body Double

The plot hole by which you must enter in
to the story is a doozy, a real humdinger,
if you will, and it is all made of fire,
the way the stars are made of fire,
though we dream them to be utterly cold
and prickly with a sad light. Nothing
ever stops in my world to hear me
singing to you. I have always loved you,
sweet twin, beloved doppelgänger,
alien lump of word in my mouth,
language I spent three years learning
only to forget when it grew too hard
the phrases that meant something:
Dear, I am your long lost butter cookie;
and, I am sorry, it was accidental,
but I have dipped the poodle in laudanum.
Let us do away with digression
for the night, though to me
it has always seemed the heart’s core,
and think on our motivation
for the lines to follow:
the suddenness of our sorrow is shocking
and the day is hollowed out
and here at this moment,
this crucial hinge of the breaking heart,
I think of the day years ago
when I was a boy and came upon my uncle,
a fish’s tail clamped in his teeth,
tearing the skin from the fish with such force
I could hear it —
and I felt so strange and empty
I have never spoken of it
to anyone, or let myself on a day
whole with sun think of it.
What he was doing, and why,
I never asked; there is never
an answer large enough for a world
so huge with meanness.
And I was pulled from myself
but couldn’t feel a thing,
and this is your motivation,
mirrored self, speaking back
the words I make wrongly,
lifting the heavy, crude lot of anything
I can’t. You must know me
exactly, apart from yourself,
to give back to the world what I can’t.
You must know the angles
of light so well the shadows
will accept you like a brother.
You must not choke back my breath
when the ashes on the wind
blind even the birds in the trees.

--Paul Guest

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Just Now

a ladybug, its carapace blown open
so a translucent trace of orange gleams
from its body, has ascended link by link
the smudgy silver curve of my watch band.
It must have helicoptered past the sill
while I was slumped here squinting in the paper
at the ashen packaging another bombing's
made of a minivan. Made available
in the photo like the homeless in a poem.
The pain is far away. But then for moments
utterly clear: molten metal guttering
down from the Milky Way to fall on us.
And sometimes, God, it lands with all its will.
My spluttered prayer for it to hold its distance:
how ludicrous to blurt it from this comfort.
Still it impels itself from me. Please stay
away from me. Please stay away from this
insectile soul who only weeks ago
was wind and shit and jasmine leaves and rain.

--Peter Campion

Saturday, April 9, 2011

from Bucolics


yes I’ve tried to hide my face
behind a tree I have been glad
to see the river run with mud
so fast it will not hold my look
but believe me Boss I can not hide
I can not muddy you I can
not chop you from my stony field
you’re like a weed you’ve got yourself
a common name but a name I can’t
forget a name like honey Boss
you pour it in my ear you pour
it in my mouth you make me say
it Boss your name it’s like a bird
that’s come to roost upon my lips
no matter what it will not stir
it sings a single note sometimes
it’s just a whisper others it’s
a shout it doesn’t matter how
I feel about it what I ant
from you is nothing Boss compared
to what you want from me you want
it all to always go your way
though I could give you daisies you
would just as soon have weeds it if
were in your favor Boss I guess
you’d prize a briar for its thorns

--Maurice Manning

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My mentor.

On such a day, I feel the urge to give a shout-out to my first mentor, without whom I'd be some sciency person, in a lab or an operating room somewhere. I am who I've become because of him.

Our Masterpiece Is the Private Life

For Jules


Is there something down by the water keeping itself from us,
Some shy event, some secret of the light that falls upon the deep,
Some source of sorrow that does not wish to be discovered yet?

Why should we care? Doesn’t desire cast its
rainbows over the coarse porcelain
Of the world’s skin and with its measures fill the
air? Why look for more?


And now, while the advocates of awfulness and sorrow
Push their dripping barge up and down the beach, let’s eat
Our brill, and sip this beautiful white Beaune.

True, the light is artificial, and we are not well-dressed.
So what. We like it here. We like the bullocks in the field next door,
We like the sound of wind passing over grass. The way you speak,

In that low voice, our late night disclosures . . . why live
For anything else? Our masterpiece is the private life.


Standing on the quay between the Roving Swan and the Star Immaculate,
Breathing the night air as the moment of pleasure taken
In pleasure vanishing seems to grow, its self-soiling

Beauty, which can only be what it was, sustaining itself
A little longer in its going, I think of our own smooth passage
Through the graded partitions, the crises that bleed

Into the ordinary, leaving us a little more tired each time,
A little more distant from the experiences, which, in the old days,
Held us captive for hours. The drive along the winding road

Back to the house, the sea pounding against the cliffs,
The glass of whiskey on the table, the open book, the questions,
All the day’s rewards waiting at the doors of sleep . . .

--Mark Strand

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's official.

I have SECS.

And something blue.

Bad News Blues

When Bad News comes to town, hold on to your heart.
When Bad News comes to town, the troubles start.
He’s a hit, marked with a bullet, climbing the chart.

His smile swings open like a pocketknife.
He smiles like he could slice right through a life.
Nobody’s daughter is safe. Nobody’s wife.

He plays the odds. He needs just half a chance.
Sooner or later he’ll ask you to dance.
He gets his own way like an ambulance.

He’s got your number, and he dials direct.
He’s calling you long distance and collect.
You gasp—something is wrong, somebody’s wrecked.

He’s standing outside your door. It’s quarter to three.
You know he’s out there, and it’s quarter to three.
There is no knock. He’s got the skeleton key.

--A.E. Stallings

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Something borrowed.

Ode 1.25

More rarely now the bold youths shake
your fastened windows with frequent blows,
or from you slumber steal, and the door
adores its jamb

which once moved easy on its hinges.
You hear less and less now,
“While I--yours!--through the long night perish,
Lydia, do you sleep?”

By turns, old bag, you’ll weep
your playboys’ disdain-- solitary in some nameless
alley, as the Thracian wind raves up
beneath the dark moon,

while blazing love and desire, which stokes
to flame the mares, savages
around your pock-marked heart--
and not without complaint

because the laughing young cocks delight more in ivy
verdant and myrtle dark, leaving
parched fronds to the east wind,
the consort of winter.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Yesterday: something old. Today: something new.

Letter to the Pistolsmith

As I watched my dog roll inside the ribcage of a long-dead cow I thought of you. Your name escapes me, but please allow me to describe the cow: she was half a ribcage, really, and rented hide. As for color, you may assume splotches, black- or brown-and-white, but you must picture my yellow dog ecstatic inside of her. I smelled what it was that the cow was becoming and although the spires of her ribcage had been picked prettily clean, it may only have been a matter of weeks. She had been found. Some explanation as to the matter of the dog's ecstasy escaped me, but I wanted it (happiness, I mean). As for myself, I have my own immaculate ribcage, a one-room schoolhouse, and even though I (I admit) have been picked at as if by beaks, I am not so tattered. We met once. You talked of metal, wood and mother-of-pearl, but I was distracted with my death. What I mean to say is that I never knew your name, but I understood the thing you said about happiness, what it meant, even temporarily, like an oyster with a pearl. I am certain you meant the gun, but I was distracted because I wanted to be a mother. In your workroom the rain was made of metal, I was being hit by triggers. Your workroom limned by by barrels black as a river a cow dies beside. What was that thing you said about the body? I am certain you meant the gun, but I was distracted because I wanted description and the gun had already been described.

--Cecily Parks

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Back to the beginning

Even if you don't speak OE, there's something really beautiful, and bodily, about the sounds here. Say them out loud!

Caedmon's Hymn

Nu sculon herigean heofonrices weard,
meotodes meahte and his modgeþanc,
weorc wuldorfæder, swa he wundra gehwæs,
ece drihten, or onstealde.
He ærest sceop eorðan bearnum
heofon to hrofe, halig scyppend;
þa middangeard moncynnes weard,
ece drihten, æfter teode
firum foldan, frea ælmihtig.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Don't overlook the front matter

Here's a poem from a recent collection whose title I adore: Aim Straight at the Fountain and Press Vaporize.

Instructions for Inhabiting a Miniature World

Somewhere in da Vinci’s notebook lies an earth that can’t be flattened. When you find the fairy you must speak to him, in Latin. Demonstrate your expert knowledge of the forest and your urge to decorate his nook with odd-shaped, dimpled pearls plucked from the rings of widows. He will crinkle his small face. “But I am just a mannikin. I don’t like playing games upon the bridge-too-far.” Then you will disappear into the cool sfumato of his vale and the things inside his leery gaze will twitch their iridescent horns. The inflection of his words will do a dance around the crude gleam of your evening English as it rusts in chunky piles. Amo, amas, amat. Flirtatiously, you’ll try to utter sounds that will explode his world into abstractions. But all you have are nouns and birds torn from the sky by winds so strong they turn the recto into verso: a rabbit’s foot, a lake of blood, a root system that dives below the underbrush to penetrate the forest floor bidding us to join the revels in extended metaphors.

--Elizabeth Marie Young

Friday, April 1, 2011

Let the Poetry Month festivities begin! [fanfare]

In what has become a minor tradition here in the land of Green Thoughts, I'll try to post a poem a day during the month of April. In the crunch of the semester, I'm always happy to have the gracious distraction of poetry month, in part because this little 30-day anthology project of mine is a nice way for me to focus on pure pleasure.

Here's one that recently appeared in Slate. You can go listen to a reading of it on the Slate site, or just enjoy it in silence here, though it's not so much a silent poem.

The Rooster King: East of the Western Fence

And lo, the Rooster King, how he slums like the Lord!
And lo, the Rooster King, how he chases from these vacant lots the lesser, more domestic, cocks!
And lo, the Rooster King, how he spreads, as gasoline,
His wings, O, stained-glass butterfly!

Even half-blind, his right eye burned
Out with a cigarette, is he not the rocket and the rocket
Launcher? Does he not walk, as Caesar, robed
In lightning, his tail feathers,

Phosphorescent, flinging out
Like tracer fire? He is Fat Sam, Lord of the Gorgeous, the Ayatollah of Osceola,
The Phoenix of the Vinegar Works! He throbs
Like a cut throat and doesn't

Bleed. And when he bleeds,
He bleeds whiskey—Fighting Cock: 103-proof Kentucky Straight
Bourbon—the light of the world.
The light of the world:

Ruined. Magnificent; ferocious, gorgeous—
So what? You think he's afraid of fire? He wasn't born; he was forged.
He's the napalm love letter, the sweetheart
Carpet bomb, the 1967 Pontiac

With a straight-6, single-barrel
Boot in the face. No ram unto
The shackle, this bantam assassin, his death-red hackles flaring like a funeral pyre.
He's the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Wound 'round with barbed wire, the crucified
Christ tattooed on the back of a contract killer.

Lo and


--Jay Hopler