--Cornelius Eady

The stage is set for imminent disaster.
Here is the little tramp, standing
On a stack of books in order
To reach the microphone, the
Poet he’s impersonating somehow
Trussed and mumbling in a
Tweed bundle at his feet.

He opens his mouth: Tra-la!
Out comes doves, incandescent bulbs,
Plastic roses. Well, that’s that,
Squirms the young professor who’s
Coordinated this,
No more visiting poets!

His department head groans
For the trap door. As it
Swings away

The tramp keeps on as if
Nothing has occurred,
A free arm mimicking
A wing.



--Cornelius Eady

Thomas Jefferson said this, more or less,
After he read the musings of the clever African
Phillis Wheatley, a sensation of both the Colonies
And England, a black patriot, though a slave.
Whatever a black hand can build, he knew,
Could only be guided by a master’s vision,

Like this room of the mansion he probably
Wrote his opinion in—what black mind could
Dream in these proportions? And gather
The slope of these Virginia hills so lovingly
To his window? God could give her words,
But the subtle turn? Like giving a gull
A sack of gold.




------=--===-----[ Cold Day ; Rudolf Bér ]


Drops in pressure, now, a field of cold, a shift
       between rain and snow
The movement into this remembering
       of separate things, train sounding its horn, removing
       itself from the scene
Snow thickening the far bars of trees, graying them in
Blotting, dulling, gauzing over this dream
It is snowfalling, it is beauty-filling and cleansing
       this burn of words
       it is delivering something seeming to uplift and to begin


slant hand of beech leaves
shag of oaks before water
When did you go missing from me?
That passage between limb and slipped skin
gouged hickories, the ermine-bright birch
through all that is traveling slopeward
       circleting leaf through branch weave
       corymbs of curled leaves
       lone cedar document rising
Through trees that far land moves descant
the old rusts and pastes undershined
Don’t you ever think this is so strange?
the sibilant drift of dried leaves
the coming down all to some shambles
the encroachments on the innermost things
Don’t you feel how everything is strained beyond
       certain remembering?


Am I not as God made me but stranger?
Made stranger still by what I have seen
at this hour of earth untended, unministered—
light caught up in the river’s grooved tread
That sun more like a mass grope out of emptiness
       and the black river weeds before it, torn and trained,
       rocketed and stark and stuck-to
The tall shadow of the willow grows forth....

....The fish in my skin relinquishes
Will I know then what I have become?
The river darkens from its end of trees closing in
There is the sun and this deep depression
Exiting as viewed in this river


[ View from the National Gallery ; John O'Connor (1881) ]


--Thomas Hardy

At last I entered a long dark gallery,
Catacomb-lined; and ranged at the side
Were the bodies of men from far and wide
Who, motion past, were nevertheless not dead.

"The sense of waiting here strikes strong;
Everyone's waiting, waiting, it seems to me;
What are you waiting for so long? —
What is to happen?" I said.

"O we are waiting for one called God," said they,
"(Though by some the Will, or Force, or Laws;
And, vaguely, by some, the Ultimate Cause;)
Waiting for him to see us before we are clay.
Yes; waiting, waiting, for God to know it." ...

"To know what?" questioned I.
"To know how things have been going on earth and below it:
It is clear he must know some day."
I thereon asked them why.
"Since he made us humble pioneers
Of himself in consciousness of Life's tears,
It needs no mighty prophecy
To tell that what he could mindlessly show
His creatures, he himself will know.

"By some still close-cowled mystery
We have reached feeling faster than he,
But he will overtake us anon,
If the world goes on."


--Thomas Hardy

He does not think that I haunt here nightly :
   How shall I let him know
That whither his fancy sets him wandering
   I, too, alertly go?—
Hover and hover a few feet from him
   Just as I used to do,
But cannot answer the words he lifts me—
   Only listen thereto!

When I could answer he did not say them:
   When I could let him know
How I would like to join in his journeys
   Seldom he wished to go.
Now that he goes and wants me with him
   More than he used to do,
Never he sees my faithful phantom
   Though he speaks thereto.

Yes, I companion him to places
   Only dreamers know,
Where the shy hares print long paces,
   Where the night rooks go;
Into old aisles where the past is all to him,
   Close as his shade can do,
Always lacking the power to call to him,
   Near as I reach thereto!

What a good haunter I am, O tell him,
   Quickly make him know
If he but sigh since my loss befell him
   Straight to his side I go.
Tell him a faithful one is doing
   All that love can do
Still that his path may be worth pursuing,
   And to bring peace thereto.


--Thomas Hardy

They hail me as one living,
But don't they know
That I have died of late years,
Untombed although?

I am but a shape that stands here,
A pulseless mould,
A pale past picture, screening
Ashes gone cold.

Not at a minute's warning,
Not in a loud hour,
For me ceased Time's enchantments
In hall and bower.

There was no tragic transit,
No catch of breath,
When silent seasons inched me
On to this death ....

— A Troubadour-youth I rambled
With Life for lyre,
The beats of being raging
In me like fire.

But when I practised eyeing
The goal of men,
It iced me, and I perished
A little then.

When passed my friend, my kinsfolk,
Through the Last Door,
And left me standing bleakly,
I died yet more;

And when my Love's heart kindled
In hate of me,
Wherefore I knew not, died I
One more degree.

And if when I died fully
I cannot say,
And changed into the corpse-thing
I am to-day,

Yet is it that, though whiling
The time somehow
In walking, talking, smiling,
I live not now.



[ Night Sanctuary ; Otto Hesselbom ]]..


--Michael Magee

He is carrying his beloved Bella
above the village green, tilting
her sideways like the prow of a ship,
while he paints with the hooves
of a cow. Using the chimney steeple
as his nib, he writes down the hour.

A fish with wings flies by,
violins play with their own bows,
a pendulum clock is swinging above
the sun with the aura of a candle.
O, if you could hold it, encircling it all;
it’s a world you could put your arms around.

A gouache of never-ending sky,
sea urchins in trills, rising into the ether
where women grow like Russian nesting dolls
and roosters crow to their glowing wives,
while everyone sings to the windmill of nature
in notes only a poet or a lover could decipher.



--Michael Magee

Winter slows us down toward sleep,
we burrow deep beneath our covers
dreaming of our private season.
We wake each day with weary eyes,
creep out to eat our daily bread,
arrange our collars in the mirror.
Today echoes the day before,
the empty stomach of the fireplace,
the ashes of too many winters.

Outside the life is marginal,
the morning sketched in charcoal,
branches lean as spider webs,
the wind stripping the throat bare,
knifing beneath the collarbone.
We hold the breath inside our lungs
and store up speech like kindling wood.
We stir the coals that flare within.


--Michael Magee

The stars are pinned against the sky,
pale and frozen in the ivory moonlight,
the constellations rigid as Monarchs.
Now become the dream; a human specimen.

Prod them with your eyes, let your fingers
trace the patterns of the dipper's handle,
drink deeply from the vessel's mouth;
how cold the moonlight feels on your tongue.

Turn it over, let the mercury run
down your veins until your body stiffens,
arms and legs are fastening in the sockets,
eyes light the way, turning like beacons.

Know that you are hollow to the core,
feel the certain fusion of your hempispheres.
Your life is being pulled into its course,
piercing through your skin the silver axis.

Your heart is hardening, feel its weight,
the valves are tightening slowly into place.
Now let them fix you with their icy stares;
now let them gaze at your great constellations.


[ Christopher Burke ]


--Jeffrey Bean

Kind yellow bull pacing
the borders of the neighborhood,
trampling the edges where city light
meets blue-black frozen fields. Push,
shove: same simple philosophy
of razor on face, groom and smooth.
Tireless whittler, while we sleep
you cut back into being
the grids our forebears dreamed
so in the morning we can glide
along our cold inheritance.
On the interstate, in your gray wake,
you scatter salt like a flower girl
flinging fistfuls of petals on a carpet
at a bride’s feet. Tang of steel and ice,
grit of sand and long work. In your belly:
a human mind, an illuminated map,
hands clutching a canister
of caffeine that for half a night
stays hot as a brain. While I sip gin
above a warm wood floor,
you flash your green and orange lights,
you carry night on your shoulders,
my good friend, my wild-eyed beauty,
path smasher. Across the places
you made for me, your constellations
of salt, I head toward Orion’s belt,
clear road forward I did nothing to deserve.




--Jeffrey Bean
Let sky's soft crush come in sleep.
          Let squirrels huddle, clouds shine. Please

a white-fresh fire. Please a kid's feast, her mouth
          stuffed with ice-ash, enlivened. May stoplights

flame across miles. May salt splash, trucks
          grumble. Let gray moths tremble,

dogs wallow and shove. Please smooth a field's
          face. Let shovel, let curse, let birds

hunch over wires and pines. Bring a lustrous
          season of bones. Let the old men

take down their parchment and pens. Let mummy cloth
          grip what is gone. Please a museum

of smoke, a hall of rooftops. Make me and the trees
          forget what we have lost, put on

our silver clothes in stillness, our skin shining,
          our rushing done. Let the ground be the sun.




--Jeffrey Bean

and memories are dreams. You can stand
on a bridge in warm wind, drink in the glitter

of the river, the heat shimmering over
grass, red flashes of birds between leaves,

and if you hold still, look hard, what you take
with you seems solid and true, like a secret

arm you've grown, invisible, and strong
for a while. But then light washes you

year after year till that shimmer is all
you remember, quick as a word, Kid,

how long is a moment? You know
better than I do. I'm drunk from counting days.

I once spent a miraculous night dancing
with friends on a bed, flaring music, big mouthfuls

of wine, and I woke up the next day full
of the long story. But now all I know is someone

dropped her cup onto a rug, right-side up,
and it sent a curl of red through the air toward

the books on my nightstand. I'm still waiting
for that flying wine to land.


[ Kamo Road ; TANAKA Ryōhei (1994)


--Boris Pasternak

How I remember solstice days
Through many winters long completed!
Each unrepeatable, unique,
And each one countless times repeated.

Of all these days, these only days,
When one rejoiced in the impression
That time had stopped, there grew in years
An unforgettable succession.

Each one of them I can evoke.
The year is to midwinter moving,
The roofs are dripping, roads are soaked,
And on the ice the sun is brooding.

Then lovers hastily are drawn
To one another, vague and dreaming,
And in the heat, upon a tree
The sweating nesting-box is steaming.

And sleepy clock-hands laze away
The clockface wearily ascending.
Eternal, endless is the day,
And the embrace is never-ending.


I grew. Foul weather, dreams, forebodings
Were bearing me - a Ganymede -
Away from earth; distress was growing
Like wings - to spread, to hold, to lead.

I grew. The veil of woven sunsets
At dusk would cling to me and swell.
With wine in glasses we would gather
To celebrate a sad farewell,

And yet the eagle's clasp already
Refreshes forearms' heated strain.
The days have gone, when, love, you floated
Above me, harbinger of pain.

Do we not share the sky, the flying?
Now, like a swan, his death-song done,
Rejoice! In triumph, with the eagle
Shoulder to shoulder, we are one.


There'll be no one in the house
Save for twilight. All alone,
Winter's day seen in the space that's
Made by curtains left undrawn.

Only flash-past of the wet white
Snowflake clusters, glimpsed and gone.
Only roofs and snow, and save for
Roofs and snow-no one at home.

Once more, frost will trace its patterns,
I'll be haunted once again
By my last year's melancholy,
By that other wintertime.

Once more, I'll be troubled by an
Old unexpiated shame,
And the icy firewood famine
Will press on the window-pane.

But the quiver of intrusion
Through those curtains folds will run.
Measuring silence with your footsteps,
Like the future, in you'll come.

You'll appear there in the doorway
Wearing something white and plain,
Something in the very stuff from
Which the snowflakes too are sewn.


In the Christmas Night ; John Bauer (1913)
In the Christmas Night ; John Bauer (1913)


--Karina Borowicz
The snow taps a pattern
on my skin. I always think of snow
as a living thing,

have always believed in its body,
that snow's silence is its own choosing.

The breath of snow.
Inaudible, but so is the breath of any wildness
to our ears.

This is the first day it has dared come so close
in a long time, and I'm not afraid.



--Karina Borowicz

There was another country
always spoken of
with reverence.
I didn’t understand
why we’d left, I didn’t yet
understand the saw blade
of history. I was nourished
by nostalgia for a place
I couldn’t remember.
Wasn’t there a great forest,
a bison that would lap
milk from my hand?
The scrape of that secret
dark tongue.
A woodsman’s cottage,
shelves lined with carved
and painted birds.
Our fireplace was where
the stories were read
from a burning book.
Molten logs, lit from within:
See the shadow of a man
in there. See a terrifying
creature with wings.
See it all fall down.



--Karina Borowicz
One by one the three stray geese
heading away toward Mt. Tom swerve
and are pulled into the bold V
moving toward me over the splintered
remains of the cornfield.

It's almost Christmas.
The gouged mud of the field
has frozen solid, sharp
even through boots.

What do they feel through their feathers,
up there, that's out of our reach?

For a moment I imagine my hands pierced
by all those quills.



[ Randegg in the snow with ravens ; Otto Dix (1935) ]


--Michael Waters

These winter trees charcoaled against bare sky,
a few quick strokes on the papery
blankness, mean to suggest the mind
leaping into paper, into sky, not bound
by the body's strict borders. The correspondence
school instructor writes: The ancient
masters loved to brush the trees
in autumn, their blossoms fallen.
I've never desired the trees' generous
flowering. but prefer this austere
beauty, the few branches nodding
like... like hair swept over a sleeping
lover's mouth, I almost thought too fast. 


--Michael Waters

Not long after the war, my father
  bought, by mail, the complete set
    of the works of Charles Dickens,

each book bound in black and red
  imitation leather, the titles
    embossed in gold.

The set filled a small bookcase
  near an overstuffed chair
    where my father spent

languid evening in lamplight,
  feet propped on the hassock,
    while David Copperfield

and honest Nicholas Nickleby
  fought their unsure way
    through the wicked world.

He might have imagined me,
  his only son, not yet born,
    on his pay, learning to read.

Each time he finished a book,
  he slipped a dollar
    between the gilt-edged pages--

some nights, the money low,
  he and my mother bounced
    before the bookcase, shaking

each volume, the few bills
  falling, enough for dinner
    or the double feature.

Decades later, reading Dickens,
  I imagine those early years,
    their slow stroll home,

her arm circling his waist,
  the whistling, papery leaves,
    the bath she drew before bed

while he waited downstairs, reading
  Dickens happy to not be
    living some great adventure.


--Michael Waters

Against the snow they're silhouettes,
These crows, how many hundreds
Burdening branches, these
Kindergarten cut-outs, these
Rorschach blots, sloppy calligraphy,
Or jagged wounds, the sky torn,
But not political, if that's possible.
Then a blast scatters the murder
& any direction they flee is wrong.
Smoke on the hillside. The soldier
Stares, rifle tensed on one shoulder.
He's looking me over, wondering who I am.
I've seen this scene in films, Russian novels,
Old Master oils, Pathé newsreels.
Or on CNN—smoke in the city,
Schoolchildren scattered among rubble—
If that's possible—or blue sky, shade trees,
Suburban sprawl. The police car stops.
The boy stares. How many hundreds.
One caw, then silence.
Something horrible about to happen.