Immortality Ode
--Bruce Smith 
Miss Bliss, once I thought I was endless
since father was perpetual in his grade school
of seedlings in cups, the overly loved pets, and recess
while mother was the lipsticked dancing girl
on the Steel Pier who would outstep Hitler. 
I was insufferable when I rolled
the Volkswagen bus two times and lived
with the snow chains like costumed jewels
slung over me and the spare rolled
away as in a folktale.
The pact I made in the spinning instant
said in my language of American
boy, Put up or shut up, to God,
the State Trooper who was kind
and spoke of service and punishment
and giving yourself away. 
Now, I’m alive through the agency
of iron and contract work and appeals
to the fallen—angel and dusk—
but wet-winged and still without you,
Miss Bliss, who took me inside
where there was an ocean
before which we were children.
That calm, that fear,
that witness of the two-thirds
of everything else.


The Game
--Bruce Smith

The artist is a creep with his little boxes, but the athlete is a man
who has stolen glory in all its forms, stolen honey in a cup
...............from the gods
and hidden it in his insides where the bees drone. I’m always a boy
as I sit or stand in the shouting place and breathe the doses of men—
smoke and malt—as the night comes down in the exact pattern
of a diamond, a moonlit hothouse of dirt a boy knows is something
to spit on and pat into a shape. Dirt’s a cure for the buried someone.
Even as it begins with its anthem, it’s lost to me, the exact color
of devotion. So goodbye to the inning and other numbers
...............on scoreboards
and the backs of our team, our blue and red, our lips, our business,
which is to rip into them, a boy learns, or bark at the hit or miss.
Men have skill, although I see them fail and fail again and fail to hit
the curve. I’m always a girl as I aww and ooo. What’s
...............the infield-fly rule?
I tried to watch the grips and tricks, the metaphysics, the spin,
the positions of fast and still, scratch and spit . . . but I thought,
in all this infinity, of the Clementes, the Mayses, and the Yogis,
of the bats of ash I would have to crack and would I have to squeeze
them home? Would I be asked to sacrifice? Would I belly-button it
or break my wrists trying not to swing? There’s a box and a zone
in the air and the dirt I must own. To find my way out
or know where it is I sit, I keep my ticket stub in my fist.


.............[ Poe's Raven ; Emmanuel Polanco ]

[via nowthatithinkofit....]


From an interview with Lisa Olstein at Barnstorm:

Interview: I have a favorite quote on creativity. Czeslaw Milosz said that creativity comes from an 'inner command' to express the truth. I wonder if you can give me some ruminations on that idea... 
Olstein: We live in such a complicated and troubling time as it relates to "truth". It's bizarre and horrifying to see so many of language's powers and possibilities- powers and possibilities writers and theorists have long explored and often championed- being put to such malicious and destructive use. I love the idea of  "inner command", though, and  I feel like when it comes to creative work, discerning and pursing what feels deeply, idiosyncratically urgent usually leads to art that resonates as true. Ann Carson said something in an interview that I love: "Every accuracy has to be invented." To me, poems are driven by and expressive of discovery and inherent, I think, to discovery is that what is discovered is somehow real or true- emotionally, intellectually, perceptually- and unable to be ascertained by other means. That is, the poem is an experience of the body and mind, and experience is a form of truth.


Unknown Beloved
--Lisa Olstein 
The canopy is singing.
Sloths in sleep look like the dreaming
dead. Awake little different
under eyelashes stalwart as sapodillas,
fringed as palms. If to attain true mastery
ten thousand hours are required, yes.
If it is the habit of geniuses to nap,
yes. If the highly successful sleep fewer
than four hours per night, the inverse.
If expert survivalists sleep while
maintaining partial consciousness,
the reverse. But you sleep fitful in a bed
at the average, appointed intervals
and under it you keep only some number
of heaped up words. What is our dreaming
good for, it is reasonable to wonder,
in what are we expert? A certain fumbling
in the hours when we make good habitats
for other organisms which is where
dimly we first recognized each other.


What We’re Trying to Do is
Create a Community of Dreamers

--Lisa Olstein 
Horses, airplanes, red cars,
running. The Japanese sleep
less but do they dream less?
What do women in Stockholm
dream about in wintertime?
Show me every car dream.
Show me every car dream
in Moscow. Show me every
red car dream that involved
men living in Las Vegas.
Compare that to Tokyo or Paris.
Do famous people dream
differently? If you have
more money in the bank?
Can we run an algorithm
can we quantify, can we teach
that? The distance widens
and narrows, sometimes
a grapefruit, sometimes
a beach ball. Invisible data.
They say Einstein came up
with relativity in a dream.
What if you could go back
and find that dream?


[ Metamorphosis of Hitler's Face into a Moonlit
Landscape with Accompaniment ; Salvador Dali (1958) ]


--Dan Chiasson 
I lack the rigor of a lightning bolt,
the weight of an anchor. I am
frayed where it would be highly useful—
and this I feel perpetually—to make a point. 
I think if I can concentrate I might turn sharp.
Only, I don’t know how to concentrate—
I know only the look of someone concentrating,
indistinguishable from nearsightedness. 
It is hard for you to be near me,
my silly intensity shuffling
all the insignia of interiority.
Knowing me never made anyone a needle.


From, In Search of Distraction: the rewards of the tangential, the digressive, and the dreamy:

Distraction need not simply be another name for attention shifted (“I was looking at this, then I looked at that”). Attention is a form of “tension,” but the relaxation here — both that which creates the condition for the new perception and that which follows from it — is primarily conceived as passive (objects fall “upon the eye, are “carried to the heart”). The sense of one’s capacity of apprehension being “penetrated” is also strange; it’s as though, in a certain state of distractedness, our capacities are not our own. Yet this state isn’t conceived as deficit or disorder; although it arrives as Wordsworth has undertaken “final abandonment of hope,” it signals an advent. And even as he becomes distractedly absorbed by the bright star, the star itself is already luring him into a feeling for something other than itself, igniting “a sense of the Infinite.” The numinous turns nebulous. The unfocused seems to include — or to inspire — a new sense of freedom.

Whatever this freedom is, I would like a little of it. More than a little. I’m writing this sentence as a distraction from a book about poetry that I’m meant to be writing, but also with a hunch that the book may get written via the distraction, that something in the book needs to get worked out — or worked through — by my not attending to it. Or perhaps the book was really always a distraction, and wherever the non-book resides is the place I’m supposed to be. “I like to put things up around my bed all the time,” Diane Arbus once noted,

pictures of mine that I like and other things and I change it every 
month or so. There’s some funny subliminal thing that happens. It isn’t just looking at it. It’s looking at it when you’re not looking at it. It really begins to act on you in a funny way.

That’s a dream — or daydream — of the tangential as a route to the heedlessly thoughtful, which is a dream I want to have.


Everything Must Go
--Matthea Harvey 
Today’s class 3-Deifying:
Godgrass, godtrees, godroad. 
A sheet of geese bisects the rainstorm.
The water tower is ten storms full. 
We practice drawing cubes—
That’s the house squared away 
& the incubator with Baby.
The dead are in their grid. 
O the sleeping bag contains
the body but not the dreaming head. 


from “Ceiling Unlimited Series”
--Matthea Harvey 
(almost anything) 
Dear dust-ghost, the instructions don’t make
sense unless I sing them. If the bottom-most hem
is six feet from the ground, how do I get into this dress?
Bird ode: Dark triangle feet in a wind-field.
Fifth museum poem: O swim on through.
Handsome & Then Some: Hello. Please help.
Or if pretending isn’t the way, tell me that
the pony’s bones are still too soft to hold me
up & take away my paper lantern. Like most
cadenzas I need something to come back to.
I push the rubble out of the second-storey window.
I put the money in an envelope & it’s sucked up
a transparent tube. Only the rusted bits of roof
stand out against the sky. Yellow water
in the gutters—always the fault falls somewhere.


[ Free Go Lily ; Medeski Martin & Wood ]

b - Chris Wood
d - Billy Martin
k - John Medeski


From 'Exchanges of Light', Jacques Roubaud (trans. Eleni Sikelianos):


Let’s be serious. Why not try to prove that light is God, while you’re at it?


I wouldn’t say that. But why reject a metaphysic of light? Several divine traits are applicable to it; thus: light begetting and the splendor begot come together and illuminate each other; something divinity also accomplishes by itself.


But isn’t that what light is? There is light and lights; lights are objects, light is an arrow. The first change; the second, not.

In the air
......................pulls out
...........from earth...........into dark
and spits
...........in the air
......the night..........rough to the edges
......of trees
......................in the ground


Whatever you say. It’s clear that each light tears itself out from night, but it is also clear that in each shining thing, light in its essence and substance is more shining still than its visible glimmer, which is only the black and shadow of all its shininess.

These trees, this grass, these hills, like us, visible in the dying light, aren’t they all as impenetrable as the inaccessible light, of which lights are but a shadow?


Your Kingdom
--Eleni Sikelianos

if you like let the body feel
all its own evolution
inside, opening flagella
& feathers & fingers
door by door, a ragged

neuron dangling like
a participle to
hear a bare sound

on the path, find
a red-eye-hole rabbit, fat
of the bulbous stalk pecked out
to the core so you can

bore back to the salamander you
once were straggling under the skin
grope toward the protozoa
snagging on the rise toward placental knowing

who developed eyes for you agape in open waters

the worm that made a kidney-like chamber burrows in
directing your heart leftward in nodal cascade, slow at your
hagfish spine who

will bury your bones
investigate a redwood rain or tap
the garnet of your heartwood, bark, put
your flat needles on dry ice to inquire
after your tree family, father or mother in the fairy-ring
next to you, find you
are most closely related to grass
your hexaploid breathing pores gently closing at night, when
did you begin your coexistence with flowering
plants from which arose the bee before the
African honey badger but after the dark
protoplanetary disk of dust grains
surrounding the sun become
the earth you
had no nouns, did you


Not Verb, but Vertigo
--Eleni Sikelianos 
.........................—after Alejandra Pizarnik 

A yellow scraping across my skin when
I write the word “sky”

Not sky but scything :
……to let day be scraped out
…………by night

I scratched down the word “flower” & felt
the parts draw away from the tongue.
……Not gnomon, grown*man, but ghost :
………to gnaw on the crisp
……………skin once it’s been stripped
……………down from the meat

the neat meat

hiding under the table
of the skin’s

right at the juncture where day/night meet
you can see it indicated by the perforated lines

what parts of us that don’t cast a shadow


Fragments for Subduing the Silence
--Alejandra Pizarnik (trans. Yvette Siegert)

    The powers of language are the solitary ladies who sing, desolate, with this voice of mine that I hear from a distance. And far away, in the black sand, lies a girl heavy with ancestral music. Where is death itself? I have wanted clarity in light of my lack of light. Branches die in the memory. The girl lying in the sand nestles into me with her wolf mask. The one she couldn’t stand anymore and that begged for flames and that we set on fire.

    When the roof tiles blow away from the house of language, and words no longer keep—that is when I speak.
    The ladies in red have lost themselves in their masks. Though they will return to sob among the flowers.
    Death is no mute. I hear the song of the mourners sealing the clefts of silence. I listen and the sweetness of your crying brings life to my grey silence.

    Death has restored to silence its own bewitching charm. And I will not say my poem and I will say it. Even if (here, now) the poem has no feeling, no future.


Translation ; Agnes Lawrence Pelton ]........


The Sap is Mounting Back
--Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. J B Leishman) 
The sap is mounting back from that unseeness
darkly renewing in the common deep.
back to the light, and feeding the pure greeness
hiding in rinds round which the winds still weep. 
The inner side of Nature is reviving.
another sursum corda will resound;
invisibly, a whole year's youth is striving
to climb those trees that look so iron-bound. 
Preserving still that grey and cool expression,
the ancient walnut's filling with event;
while the young brush-wood trembles with repression
under the perching bird's presentiment. 


No. 3, from The Sonnets to Orpheus
--Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Robert Hunter) 
Gods are able. Tell how a man, though,
could possibly thread the lyre's narrow modes?
Vacillating at the heart's dark crossroads,
he beholds no temple of Apollo. 
Song, you teach us, is beyond achievable desire,
it is rather the sheer reality of immanent being:
simplicity itself for deity,
but how may we partake? When will you inspire 
our being, bestowing earth and stars by turn?
This has no relation, youth, to your enamored care:
mouth forced wide by the thrust of your voice - learn 
to set aside impassioned music. It will end.
True singing breaths a different air.
Air without object. A gust within God. A wind.


Song: “Orpheus with his lute made trees”
--William Shakespeare 
(from Henry VIII) 
Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing, die.


[ Esa Riippa(Finnish, b.1947) Rullakartiini 2006]............

[via the wood between]


Haiku- Winter 2017/18

sitting so low,
sun in a cold as wide
as everyday blue

coffee break,
my head murmuring
silent snowfall

I should be so

half moon
rabbit tos and fros 
with its shadow

winter solstice,
hours on the highway
sloped with sunset

holiday marangue
but black coffee has its own

new years snowfall-
the white space between
what's remembered

back in the office,
my glasses slowly falling
asleep down my nose

full moon
the grand entry
of silence

snow day
this nuthatch at the feeder
all to himself

ice fishermen
patiently holding out
for a bite of life

february thaw-
brown paper bag
mired with last autumn


A Hole in a Cloud
--George Scarbrough 
Heretofore in my life, Old Man,
I lived in twenty-three apartments
Of one sort or another,
Never content, moving from street
To street, house to house, room to room.
Somewhere, I was convinced, there
Was a place I could truly call my own.
But my conviction has faded.
I no longer dream and am no more
Than a tramp along the highway.
Here on Exile Mountain I’ve built
A nest in a hole in a cloud,
Being that kind of bird
And no longer a fledgling. 

[from the Han-Shan sequence]


--Carol Quinn 
Bodies of ice and dust move through space. 
They sleep like seeds in the dark. They bloom
like matches at the edge of what we think 
we know. You don't always see it coming. 
Beyond a point, a priori worlds
break down. One December night, perhaps 
you'll keep moving even when you can
no longer feel that you are moving. 
Zuangzhi awakened. He didn't know if he
had only dreamt he was a butterfly 
or was a butterfly that dreamt it was a man. 
After the lecture on Taoism, a motor-
cycle carried me towards home. I was 
a tuning fork pitched to the combustion.
I was an iron finial ensconced in cloud. 
In dreams I've braced for impact as
the pavement came like static at the end 
of a film. I've purled like a goldfinch
and I've flown. I've been a child pearling in 
the mollusk dark. I've been a stone.

[via poetry daily]