like a honeymoon suite

April 15, 2014 § 1 Comment

Autumn fell into winter quicker than the leaves to the ground,
shaken from trees by a seasonable urgency like few could recall.

Winds that had upturned collars and hiked skirts outside shops
broke branches in the park as a bully might twiggy arms.

A pop overhead, and you had time to run for cover;
a crack, just a moment to curse.

Earth and leaf were chased in circles,
until they mound in heaps along walls and fences.

Office windows shut fast rattled erratically in their frames,
sounding an unscored composition unfit for dance.

But the city, from top to toe,
it swayed,

and the homes,
they moaned and creaked,

like a honeymoon suite.

“triangle of modest jubilation”

March 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

I am thoroughly enjoying Cees Nooteboom’s recent translated collection of poems, Light Everywhere, and suspect many of you may as well.

From “the deception of seeing”:

They are monks

in the service of my


never again

will the colors

leave their posts.
I am their




with my single-



my prized



From “Wallace Stevens”:

For you, no dream between
poetry and reality,
you rejected the story
of the sun as a god
that eclipsed the sun itself,
that was just a seduction, fuss and bother,
abduction from this sole existence,
this one time, here, now,
on the coincidental planet.

You were heavy of body, heavy in your slow and driving
fluent verse, and yet,
hoyo, roucou, tom-tom
Canon Aspirin and Nanzia Nunzio
hoobla, hoobla, how
with your French frills
between the sections,
triangle of modest jubilation
around the continuous bass
of the meditative bumblebee.

Your law is marble:
your highest fabrication,
writ line by buzzing line
your mundo for you alone,
now ours,
reality, always dressed
in a different thought
and only whole as a poem.

“and the wind whipped my throat”

March 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Photo by Yvette Depaepe

Photo by Yvette Depaepe

So I Said

“and dense vegetation of desire, nothing between”

March 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

scientists plunge into matter looking for the
matter but the matter lessens and, looked too

far into, expands away: it was insubstantial all
along; that is, boulders bestir; they

are “alive” with motion and space: there is a
riddling reality where real hands grasp each

other in the muff but toward both extremes the
reality wears out, wears thing, becomes a reality

“realityless”: this is satisfactory, providing
permanent movement and staying, providing the

stratum essential with an essential air, the
poles thick and think, the middles, at interchange:

the spreader rakes a furrow open and lights a
drying edge: a priestly plume rises, a signal, smoke

like flies intermediating between orange peel
and buzzing blur: is a poem about garbage garbage

or will this abstract, hollow junk seem beautiful
and necessary as just another offering to the

high assimilations: (that means up on top where
the smoke is; the incinerations of sin,

corruption, misconstruction pass through the
purification of flame:) old deck chairs,

crippled aluminum lawn chairs, lemon crates
with busted slats or hinges, strollers with

whacking or spinningly idle wheels: stub ends
of hot dogs: clumps go out; rain sulls deep

coals; wind slams flickers so flat they lose
the upstanding of updraft and stifle to white

lingo–but oh, oh, in a sense, and in an
intention, the burning’s forever, O eternal

flame, principle of the universe, without which
mere heaviness and gray rust prevail: dance

peopling the centers and distances, the faraway
galactic slurs even, luminescences, plasmas,

those burns, the same principle: but here on
the heights, terns and flies avoid the closet

precincts of flames, the terrifying transformations,
the disappearances of anything of interest,

morsel, gobbet, trace of maple syrop, fat
worm: addling intensity at the center

where only special clothes and designated
offices allay the risk, the pure center: but

down, down on the lowest appropinquations, the
laborsome, loaded vessels whine like sails in

too much wind up the long ledges, the whines
a harmony, singing away the end of the world

or spelling it in, a monstrous surrounding of
gathering–the putrid, the castoff, the used,

the mucked up–all arriving, for final assessment,
for the toting up in tonnage, the separations

of wet and dry, returnable and gone for good:
the sanctifications, the burn-throughs, ash free

merely a permanent twang of light, a dwelling
music, remaining: how to be blessed are mechanisms,

procedures that carry such changes! the
garbage spreader gets off his bulldozer and

approaches the fire: he stares into it as into
eternity, the burning edge of beginning and

ending, the catalyst of going and becoming,
and all thoughts of his paycheck and beerbelly,

even all thoughts of his house and family and
the long way he has to come to be worthy of his

watch, fall away, and he stands in the presence
of the momentarily everlasting, the air about

him sacrosanct, purged of the crawling vines
and dense vegetation of desire, nothing between

perception and consequence here: the arctic
terns move away from the still machine and

light strikes their wings in round, a fluttering,
a whirling rose of wings, and it seems that

terns’ slender wings and finely-tipped
tails look so airy and yet so capable that they

must have been designed after angels or angels
after them: the lizard family produced man in

the winged air! man as what he might be or might
have been, neuter, guileless, a feathery hymn:

the bulldozer man picks up a red bottle that
turns purple, sung drunk, the singing

not even puzzled when he tosses the bottle way
down the slopes, the still air being flown in

in the bottle even as the bottle dives through
the air! the bulldozer man thinks about that

and concludes that everything is marvelous, what
he should conclude and what everything is: on

the deepdown slopes, he realizes, the light
inside the bottle will, over the weeks, change

the yellowjackets, unharmed, having left lost,
not an aromatic vapor of wine left, the air

percolating into and out of the  neck as the sun’s
heat rises and falls: all is one, one all:

hallelujah: he gets back up on his bulldozer
and shaking his locks backs the bulldozer up

– A. R. Ammons, from Garbage

“I was a word, therefore I was”

March 9, 2014 § 4 Comments

So he would die as a disturbance. That was probably proper, but it was proper only when put this way, rather than another, which was something Magus Tabor had taught me: wait for the words, he’d say, and then you’ll know what is going on; wait for the words, they will betray their occasion without a qualm; wait for the words, when their objects will become real, turn real as a face turns red with the realization they are being said; don’t deal with the unnamed, they are without signification; remember, to be is to be enunciated—said, sung, shouted—to be syllabated; I was a word, therefore I was; and while I was a word, brief as a breath, held in the head or sustained on paper, prolonged in print, bound as a book, I was like licketty,  you understand, like a term on one of the tablets of the gods, like lights made of stars flicked on and off to say: here I am, I’m stage, I’m song, I’m printed on the ticket; so Tabor could die in a thousand descriptions, although each way only once: once as a disturbance, once as a sign from the gods, once as a penalty, once to signify the unfairness of fundamental things, once to be symbolic of his soul’s strife, once to remind me of what he taught, once to be simply another number in the census of the dead that day, the day—evening, midnight, dawn—he did it—it did it—died.

– William. H. Gass, The Tunnel

“But the sun has come home drunk from the sea,”

February 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

Two Hangovers

Number One

I slouch in bed.
Beyond the streaked trees of my window,
All groves are bare.
Locusts and poplars change to unmarried women
Sorting slate from anthracite
Between railroad ties:
The yellow-bearded winter of the depression
Is still alive somewhere, an old man
Counting his collection of bottle caps
In a tarpaper shack under the cold trees
Of my grave.

I still feel half drunk,
And all those old women beyond my window
Are hunching toward the graveyard.

Drunk, mumbling Hungarian,
The sun staggers in,
And his big stupid face pitches
Into the stove.
For two hours I have been dreaming
Of green butterflies searching for diamonds
In coal seams;
And children chasing each other for a game
Through the hills of fresh graves.
But the sun has come home drunk from the sea,
And a sparrow outside
Sings of the Hanna Coal Co. and the dead moon.
The filaments of cold light bulbs tremble
In music like delicate birds.
Ah, turn it off.

Number Two:
I Try to Waken and Greet the World Once Again

In a pine tree,
A few yards away from my window sill,
A brilliant blue jay is springing up and down, up and down
On a branch.
I laugh, as I see him abandon himself
To entire delight, for he knows as well as I do,
That the branch will not break.

– James Wright, The Branch Will Not Break

Two footnotes about water: Where the North Sea Touches Alabama

January 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

A feral cat had wandered into the yard and the dogs had caught sight of the animal. One of the dogs was a hound called Smoky. He was a large blue tick. His bark was a low booming roar. There were at least two other dogs. Mom and I were outside. We saw the cat streaking across the grass with the dogs right behind it. How my mother was able to catch the cat is a miracle. She picked the animal up in her arms to save it from being torn apart. The cat bit her, leaving a deep cut on her forearm. She dropped it and the dogs were on it. In desperation, the cat jumped into the lake and tried to swim away. This lake had a hole in its deepest part through which all the water drained away every summer. The dogs jumped in and the cat was done for. They tore it to pieces. The barking stopped. The cat’s carcass half sank into the muddy water. My mother was treated for rabies. The shots were extremely painful. I have been terrified of these shots since I was a small child and read about Louis Pasteur in my child’s encyclopedia. My mother stepped in front of fate and she bore it.


I’m not an especially religious man, though some would quibble with that. I’ve read the Bible. I used to be quite proficient in what Southern Baptists call sword drill. I could whip to any book and verse in the Bible called out. That was years ago. I still have several Bibles. I used to preach to the Pentecostals from a black lamb-leather New Jerusalem translation. It was a Catholic Bible and many were worried. At a church retreat in Panama City, Florida, I did a teaching from a translation of the New Testament by Richard Lattimore, the Greek scholar who translated the Iliad and the Odyssey. The cover had a close-up of a putrefying corpse’s face. The eyes were open. The cheeks were purple. He was looking for Jesus. The rawness of the translation caused confusion. As I read the familiar passage of Jesus walking on the sea’s surface, stripped of the King James English, hands went into the air grabbing for Jesus as if they, like Peter were sinking. Several began speaking in tongues. There was a liquidness to the sound that slowly covered their mouths as if they were now underwater.

– Allen C. Shelton, Where the North Sea Touches Alabama

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