Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
A giant in his day- now scorned. But just read the wonder that is Four Preludes On Playthings Of The Wind. Written 2 years before Eliot's The Waste Land, with all of the power, and none of the drag- it is still a marvel. While noted for his salty humor- just read Gone and say he cannot touch as well....
Four Preludes.... Gone Monotone Prayers Of Steel
Four Preludes On Playthings Of The Wind
"The past is a bucket of ashes."
The woman named Tomorrow
sits with a hairpin in her teeth
and takes her time
and does her hair the way she wants it
and fastens at last the last braid and coil
and puts the hairpin where it belongs
and turns and drawls: Well, what of it?
My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone.
What of it? Let the dead be dead.
The doors were cedar
and the panels strips of gold
and the girls were golden girls
and the panels read and the girls chanted:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation:
nothing like us ever was.
The doors are twisted on broken hinges.
Sheets of rain swish through on the wind
where the golden girls ran and the panels read:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation,
nothing like us ever was.
It has happened before.
Strong men put up a city and got
a nation together,
and paid singers to sing and women
to warble: We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation,
nothing like us ever was.
And while the singers sang
and the strong men listened
and paid the singers well
and felt good about it all,
there were rats and lizards who listened
...and the only listeners left now
...are...the rats...and the lizards.
And there are black crows
crying, "Caw, caw,"
bringing mud and sticks
building a nest
over the words carved
on the doors where the panels were cedar
and the strips on the panels were gold
and the golden girls came singing:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation,
nothing like us ever was.
The only singers now are crows crying, "Caw, caw,"
And the sheets of rain whine in the wind and doorways.
And the only listeners now are...the rats...and the lizards.
The feet of the rats
scribble on the doorsills;
the hieroglyphs of the rat footprints
chatter the pedigrees of the rats
and babble of the blood
and gabble of the breed
of the grandfathers and the great-grandfathers
of the rats.
And the wind shifts
and the dust on a doorsill shifts
and even the writing of the rat footprints
tells us nothing, nothing at all
about the greatest city, the greatest nation
where the strong men listened
and the women warbled: Nothing like us ever was.
Everybody loved Chick Lorimer in our town.
Everybody loved her.
So we all love a wild girl keeping a hold
On a dream she wants.
Nobody knows now where Chick Lorimer went.
Nobody knows why she packed her trunk...a few old things
And is gone,
Gone with her little chin
Thrust ahead of her
And her soft hair blowing careless
From under a wide hat,
Dancer, singer, a laughing passionate lover.
Were there ten men or a hundred hunting Chick?
Were there five men of fifty with aching hearts?
Everybody loved Chick Lorimer.
Nobody knows where she's gone.
The monotone of the rain is beautiful,
And the sudden rise and slow relapse
Of the long multitudinous rain.
The sun on the hills is beautiful,
Or a captured sunset sea-flung,
Bannered with fire and gold.
A face I know is beautiful--
With fire and gold of sky and sea,
And the peace of long warm rain.
Prayers Of Steel
Lay me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar.
Let me pry loose old walls.
Let me lift and loosen old foundations.
Lay me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.
Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together.
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the central girders.
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue nights into
William Seaton (1946- )
Interesting metaphors and images, strong modifiers, and interesting denouements make Seaton's poetry worth a read.
After Rain Feast Mahashamsana Namesake Pinball The Woods Were Full....
The one-legged chicken hops next door.
Winged ants take to the air.
A mouse dashes furtive along the floor.
The sun ignites my hair.
The shortwave sounds berserk.
Breath's suspended in this bush
where weaving spirits lurk.
Water's still and nothing's seen
but in the eye a fish's scale.
One drop of dew falls every hour
and desire chokes on its swallowed tail.
O be for me an oyster raw,
unfathomable: inside the shell
a lopped but answering tongue,
and be for me an onion soup,
so thick and savory-sweet.
O be for me a leg of lamb,
as rich and strong as scrubby hills,
and be for me a Brussels sprout,
compact and layered like a late quartet.
O surely youre my bread
and fit me like inhaled air.
Do be for me tonight a custard flan
so melting to the tongue
with caramel atop
that brings an end to words.
(Varanasi is sometimes called by this name
when regarded as the great cremation ground
for the corpse
of the universe. During nightly
services at the Dasaswemedh Ghat, worshippers
set tiny candles afloat.)
I walked the ghats with holy men and touts,
and monkeys eyeing every scrap of food.
The river Shiva loved flows by obscure
with corpses, chemicals, and shit. The god
must grin at dissolution bright and fine
and welcome every shred of tender flesh,
though Mother Ganges hardly could care less,
indifferent, hosting pathogens and fish,
and bearing the brief flame of every wish.
The closest that he ever came to wealth
was saving each utility receipt,
but always Uncle Bill was spirit-rich,
if whiskey stashed in every room were cash.
He never dressed but in bib overalls
and skipped the shirt when summers sun was hot.
Hed sit upon the toilet seat for hours
and leave afloat a dozen Camel butts.
Bill always drove a brand new Mercury
with leather seats and every option, too,
its engine hopped up faster than the cops,
and when Bill drove the twisting country roads,
he always was pursuing and pursued.
Does anyone recall the old pinball:
gaudy games from Gottlieb of Chicago
(surely mob-connected to appeal
so nakedly to desire and to give
so little in return)?
In a kind of mechanical model of fate,
the player gazed like a god
at the ball, a lost soul,
shiny and spherical in perfection,
impossibly restless . . .
moving among glamorous ladies,
cowboys, fat cats, racers, heroes,
all with frozen grins, the ball
propelled, caromed, leaping
like a flea with fleas
falling fortunate into value, points,
the hope of another go,
through exertions of will,
button pressing, and then
the sudden tilt.
The Woods Were Full....
The woods were full of fragrance as he wrapped
a few choice peels and shadows, shreds of life,
to make some juju like the minds shot-put.
He hung the parcel under dripping fronds,
and off a silent hippopotamus
slid and glided on with radiant wake:
unlikely as the wish thats fired aloft,
the hammer of the cocked brain, flashing home.
Kenneth Slessor (1901-1971)
Strong rhythms & intricate rhymes schemes helped this Aussie push boundaries within formal verse.
Beach Burial Five Bells Out Of Time Thief Of The Moon
Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;
And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity
The words choke as they begin-
'Unknown Seaman' - the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips;
The breath of the wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men's lips,
Dead Seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the front.
Time that is moved by little fidget wheels
Is not my time, the flood that does not flow.
Between the double and the single bell
Of a ship's hour, between a round of bells
From the dark warship riding there below,
I have lived many lives, and this one life
Of Joe, long dead, who lives between five bells.
Deep and dissolving verticals of light
Ferry the falls of moonshine down. Five bells
Coldly rung out in a machine's voice. Night and water
Pour to one rip of darkness, the Harbour floats
In the air, the Cross hangs upside-down in water.
Why do I think of you, dead man, why thieve
These profitless lodgings from the flukes of thought
Anchored in Time? You have gone from earth,
Gone even from the meaning of a name;
Yet something's there, yet something forms its lips
And hits and cries against the ports of space,
Beating their sides to make its fury heard.
Are you shouting at me, dead man, squeezing your face
In agonies of speech on speechless panes?
Cry louder, beat the windows, bawl your name!
But I hear nothing, nothing...only bells,
Five bells, the bumpkin calculus of Time.
Your echoes die, your voice is dowsed by Life,
There's not a mouth can fly the pygmy strait -
Nothing except the memory of some bones
Long shoved away, and sucked away, in mud;
And unimportant things you might have done,
Or once I thought you did; but you forgot,
And all have now forgotten - looks and words
And slops of beer; your coat with buttons off,
Your gaunt chin and pricked eye, and raging tales
Of Irish kings and English perfidy,
And dirtier perfidy of publicans
Groaning to God from Darlinghurst.
Then I saw the road, I heard the thunder
Tumble, and felt the talons of the rain
The night we came to Moorebank in slab-dark,
So dark you bore no body, had no face,
But a sheer voice that rattled out of air
(As now you'd cry if I could break the glass),
A voice that spoke beside me in the bush,
Loud for a breath or bitten off by wind,
Of Milton, melons, and the Rights of Man,
And blowing flutes, and how Tahitian girls
Are brown and angry-tongued, and Sydney girls
Are white and angry-tongued, or so you'd found.
But all I heard was words that didn't join
So Milton became melons, melons girls,
And fifty mouths, it seemed, were out that night,
And in each tree an Ear was bending down,
Or something that had just run, gone behind the grass,
When blank and bone-white, like a maniac's thought,
The naphtha-flash of lightning slit the sky,
Knifing the dark with deathly photographs.
There's not so many with so poor a purse
Or fierce a need, must fare by night like that,
Five miles in darkness on a country track,
But when you do, that's what you think.
In Melbourne, your appetite had gone,
Your angers too; they had been leeched away
By the soft archery of summer rains
And the sponge-paws of wetness, the slow damp
That stuck the leaves of living, snailed the mind,
And showed your bones, that had been sharp with rage,
The sodden ectasies of rectitude.
I thought of what you'd written in faint ink,
Your journal with the sawn-off lock, that stayed behind
With other things you left, all without use,
All without meaning now, except a sign
That someone had been living who now was dead:
"At Labassa. Room 6 x 8
On top of the tower; because of this, very dark
And cold in winter. Everything has been stowed
Into this room - 500 books all shapes
And colours, dealt across the floor
And over sills and on the laps of chairs;
Guns, photoes of many differant things
And differant curioes that I obtained..."
In Sydney, by the spent aquarium-flare
Of penny gaslight on pink wallpaper,
We argued about blowing up the world,
But you were living backward, so each night
You crept a moment closer to the breast,
And they were living, all of them, those frames
And shapes of flesh that had perplexed your youth,
And most your father, the old man gone blind,
With fingers always round a fiddle's neck,
That graveyard mason whose fair monuments
And tablets cut with dreams of piety
Rest on the bosoms of a thousand men
Staked bone by bone, in quiet astonishment
At cargoes they had never thought to bear,
These funeral-cakes of sweet and sculptured stone.
Where have you gone? The tide is over you,
The turn of midnight water's over you,
As Time is over you, and mystery,
And memory, the flood that does not flow.
You have no suburb, like those easier dead
In private berths of dissolution laid -
The tide goes over, the waves ride over you
And let their shadows down like shining hair,
But they are Water; and the sea-pinks bend
Like lilies in your teeth, but they are Weed;
And you are only part of an Idea.
I felt the wet push its black thumb-balls in,
The night you died, I felt your eardrums crack,
And the short agony, the longer dream,
The Nothing that was neither long nor short;
But I was bound, and could not go that way,
But I was blind, and could not feel your hand.
If I could find an answer, could only find
Your meaning, or could say why you were here
Who now are gone, what purpose gave you breath
Or seized it back, might I not hear your voice?
I looked out my window in the dark
At waves with diamond quills and combs of light
That arched their mackerel-backs and smacked the sand
In the moon's drench, that straight enormous glaze,
And ships far off asleep, and Harbour-buoys
Tossing their fireballs wearily each to each,
And tried to hear your voice, but all I heard
Was a boat's whistle, and the scraping squeal
Of seabirds' voices far away, and bells,
Five bells. Five bells coldly ringing out.
Out Of Time
I saw Time flowing like a hundred yachts
That fly behind the daylight, foxed with air;
Or piercing, like the quince-bright, bitter slats
Of sun gone thrusting under Harbour's hair.
So Time, the wave, enfolds me in its bed,
Or Time, the bony knife, it runs me through.
"Skulker, take heart," I thought my own heart said.
"The flood, the blade go by - Time flows, not you!"
Vilely, continuously, stupidly,
Time takes me, drills me, drives through bone and vein,
So water bends the seaweeds in the sea,
The tide goes over, but the weeds remain.
Time, you must cry farewell, take up the track,
And leave this lovely moment at your back!
Time leaves the lovely moment at his back,
Eager to quench and ripen, kiss or kill;
To-morrow begs him, breathless for his lack,
Or beauty dead entreats him to be still.
His fate pursues him; he must open doors,
Or close them, for that pale and faceless host
Without a flag, whose agony implores
Birth to be flesh, or funeral, to be ghost.
Out of all reckoning, out of dark and light,
Over the edges of dead Nows and Heres,
Blindly and softly, as a mistress might,
He keeps appointments with a million years.
I and the moment laugh, and let him go,
Leaning against his golden undertow.
Leaning against the golden undertow,
Backward, I saw the birds begin to climb
with bodies hailstone-clear, and shadows flow,
Fixed in a sweet meniscus, out of Time,
Out of the torrent, like the fainter land
Lensed in a bubble's ghostly camera,
The lighted beach, the sharp and china sand
Glitters and waters and peninsula -
The moment's world it was; and I was part,
Fleshless and ageless, changeless and made free.
"Fool, would you leave this country?" cried my heart,
But I was taken by the suck of sea.
The gulls go down, the body dies and rots,
And Time flows past them like a hundred yachts.
Thief Of The Moon
Thief of the moon, thou robber of old delight,
Break, break thy strings, thou lutanists of earth,
Thy charms have stolen the star-gold, quenched the moon-
Cold, cold are the birds that, bubbling out of night,
Cried once to my ears their unremembered tune-
Dark are those orchards, their leaves no longer shine,
No orange's gold is globed like moonrise there-
O thief of the earth's old loveliness, once mine,
Why dost thou waste all beauty to make thee fair?
Thy musics touch me not-let midnight cover
With pitchy seas those leaves of orange and lime,
I'll not repent. The world's no longer worth
One smile from thee, dear pirate of place and time,
Thief of old loves that haunted once thy lover!
Stevie Smith (1902-1971)
Often dismissed as a 'nonsense' or 'children's' poet, Smith's little gems are musical, sly, & often deeply moving.
Dear Muse Death Bereaves The Jungle Husband The Past
Dear Muse, the happy hours we have spent together.
I love you so much in wet or fine weather.
I only wish sometimes you would speak louder,
But perhaps you will do so when you are prouder.
I often think that this will be the next instant,
Meanwhile I am your most obliging confidante.
Death Bereaves our Common Mother
Nature Grieves for my Dead Brother
Lamb dead, dead lamb,
He was, I am,
Separation by a tense
Baulks my eyes indifference.
Can I see the lately dead
And not bend a sympathetic head?
Can I see lamb dead as mutton
And not care a solitary button?
The Jungle Husband
Dearest Evelyn, I often think of you
Out with the guns in the jungle stew
Yesterday I hittapotamus
I put the measurements down for you but they got lost in the fuss
Its not a good thing to drink out here
You know, Ive practically given up, dear.
Tomorrow I am going alone a long way
Into the jungle. It is all gray
But green on top
Only sometimes when a tree has fallen
The sun comes down plop, it is quite appalling.
You never want to go in a jungle pool
In the hot sun, it would be the act of a fool
Because its always full of anacondas, Evelyn, not looking ill-fed
Ill say. So no more now, from your loving husband, Wilfred.
People who are always praising the past
And especially the times of faith as best
Ought to go and live in the Middle Ages
And be burnt at the stake as witches and sages.
Billy Marshall Stoneking (1947- )
Billy Marshall Stoneking is an American/Australian poet, playwright and filmmaker who lives in Sydney Australia. He is the author of seven books, including Singing the Snake (Angus & Robertson, 1990) and Sixteen Words for Water (Harper Collins, 1992). He currently lectures in screenwriting at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Websites: http://australianpoet.cjb.net/ & http://stonekingpoetry.cjb.net
Cleaner Fish Invisible Addiction Ventriloquist
Their genus is insatiable: Labroides dimitiatus.
They feed in schools.
Working close to the gills,
scavenging food from the mouths of other fishes.
The females follow the male.
They go where he goes.
Resistance is out of the question.
Freedom isn't in the vocabulary.
There is no thought of subverting his authority.
No alliance against this ancient
the females form a pecking order under him.
When the male dies,
the alpha female takes his place.
The cells of her flesh revolt.
The bony sockets in her skull
are too small for the eyes.
She grows larger,
acquires male organs...
He called it
his invisible addiction
win or lose,
you’d never catch
the smell of cards
on his breath,
and there weren’t
any dice marks
on his arms.
I remember that summer
when she’d pull out Charlie -
which was what she affectionately
called my prick -
& being an artist,
she’d draw a face on it.
Then, without moving her lips,
she’d go to work: "Hello, how’re you?
My name’s Charlie. "The first time, I laughed.
It was like meeting a stranger.
We stared at each other. "What do you do?
What’s your name? "I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
After a while,
Charlie started taking over.
He was the center of attention,
the life of the party.
He’d stay up all night.
Next morning, she’d ring me:
"Are you looking after him?"
Sure. . . sure, I’d say,
giving him a reassuring pat.
He was the picture of confidence.
He gave me a helluva time.
One day, inexplicably,
she added eyelashes, a beauty spot
& bright-red lipstick.
The transformation was remarkable.
Charlie had changed into a woman.
It called me "big boy" in a squeaky voice;
it pouted & pulled faces.
The rest of me was speechless.
Then it became political.
Overnight I became a total shit;
a chauvinist pig.
It wanted to know
what kind of relationship is this, anyway?
It chastised me for not being able
to see beyond the end of my dick.
Later, the ventriloquist split,
taking her paints, her pens,
her mandolin & clothes.
"You never talk to me anymore,"
She left Charlie behind.
He slept all day;
the old eloquence was gone.
I couldn’t put words in his mouth.
Then his face disappeared
It was a shock at first, but
Now, taking a piss, sometimes,
I actually smile, remembering
those days & nights of indelible lust
when love was neither deaf nor dumb
nor altogether blind.
Shuntaro Tanikawa (1931- )
Primarily known as a comic poet & Japanese translator of Charles Schulz's PEANUTS comic strip, Tanikawa is at his best with the brief lyric. Witness Twenty Billion Light Years Of Loneliness.
Growth Secret Twenty Billion....
there was no past for me
my past went back to yesterday
my past went back to topknotted samurai
my past went back to dinosaurs
my past agreed with the texts at school
I look at the infinity of my past with fear
I know not a thing about time
(translated by Harold Wright)
Someone is hiding something.
I don't know who.I don't know what.
If I knew that I'd know everything.
I hold my breath and cock my ear.
Rain patters on the ground.
It must be hiding something.
It falls to let us know its secret
but I can't decipher the code.
I sneak into the kitchen, peer around
and see my mother's back.
She's hiding something, too,
minding her own business while
grating a radish.
I'm really curious about secrets
but no one tells me about anything.
When I look at the hole in my heart
all I see is the cloudy night sky.
(translated by Will Elliott)
Twenty Billion Light Years Of Loneliness
Mankind on a little globe
Sleeps, awakes and works
Wishing at times to be friends with Mars.
Martians on a little globe
Are probably doing something; I don't know what
(Maybe sleep-sleeping, wear-wearing, or fret-fretting)
While wishing at time to be friends with Earth
This is a fact I'm sure of.
This thing called universal gravitation
Is the power of loneliness pulling together.
The universe is distorted
So all join in desire.
The universe goes on expanding
So all feel uneasy.
At the loneliness of twenty billion light years
Without thinking, I sneezed.
(translated by Harold Wright)
Georg Trakl (1887-1914)
Next to Rilke, this Neglected Master of the proem was the best 20th Century German poet. Although his pessimism can sometimes overwhelm the ride is worth it.
Death's Nearness The Rats Whispered Into Afternoon
O, evening in the dark childhood villages,
under pond willows,
full on the grief-stricken poisons.
O, forest, brown eyes lowering
in the slim lovely hand of the lost,
the purple of better times fades.
O, deaths nearness. Pray.
In this night the kiss of limbs,
lovers, yellowed, fragranced into warm pillows.
In the courtyard a white autumn moon
shines its shadows off the roofs edge.
Silence inhabits the windows abandon
quickly the faint rats emerge
and scurry here and there
and a foul mist from the toilet
is with them; here
the wraithic moon lights upon it.
Madly, the rats battle and squawk
and fill the house and barn,
filled with fruit and corn.
Ice fields mutter at the dark.
Whispered Into Afternoon
Sun of autumn, thinly unknown
the fruit dropped from the trees,
silence filling in the blued peace
Of a long afternoon.
Death knells forged of metal,
and a white beast collapses.
Brown girls singing vulgar, spaces
die in scattered leafy prattle.
Brow dreams; a colored Lord
senses madding gentler wings.
Around the hill shades are twisting
stuck in what they decomposed.
Twilight wine in quiet sunset,
guitars drizzle, mourn to night,
and to the mellow lamp inside,
you dream as you turn to it.
Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941)
Inspiration for one of Rilke's great poems. Tsvetaeva is far better than the more well-known Anna Akhmatova- even Anna assented! Love poem or elegy, Marina could do it all.
As the hand.... Gray Hairs I bless.... In Praise Of The Rich I will tell you.... Slowly.... The Devil In Me Two suns.... Under The Shawl
As the hand on left with the hand on right
Our souls are beside.
We had both gone in a bliss of flight
As the wing on left and the wing on right.
But a whirl arrived -- and a chasm is left
From the wing on right to the wing on left!
These are ashes of treasures:
Of hurt and loss.
These are ashes in the face:
Granite makes dross.
Dove, naked and brilliant,
It has no mate.
Over vanity that is great.
Time's menacing chalk mark,
Not to be overthrown.
Means God knocks at the door
-Once the house has burned down!
Not choked yet by refuse,
Days' and dreams' conqueror.
Like a thunderbolt- Spirit
Of early gray hair.
It's not you who have betrayed me
On the home front, the years.
This gray is the triumph
Of deathless powers.
I bless a night I sleep in my abode,
I bless a day when to my work I go,
Judgment and mercy of ubiquitous God,
The good law- and the stony law,
My dusty purple, patched in every piece...
My dusty staff, in the eternal glow!
And else, O God, I bless forever- peace
And bread in stove of another's home.
In Praise of the Rich
Herewith, having warned you beforehand
That between us is many miles' space,
That I am one of the riff-raff,
And in life have an honest place:
Under the wheels of all excesses,
Host to hunchback and cripple, queer fish...
Herewith I shout from the rooftops,
Declare it--I love the rich.
For their root that is rotten, decrepit,
From the cradle growing its wound,
Their hands moving in unconscious habit
From their pockets, and to them returned.
For the softest requests that their mouths make,
Each obeyed like an ordering cry,
And because they won't get into heaven,
And won't look you straight in the eye.
For their secrets--by special delivery,
Their passions--by courier post,
For their nights, which are foisted upon them,
(Even kissing and drinking are forced!)
And because in their cotton-wool yawning,
Their gilding, their counting itch
They can't buy me, impudent upstart,
I affirm that I love the rich.
Never mind that shine, of the shaven,
That wined, dined look (I wink and it's mine),
It's that sudden look of the craven,
Those eyes with their doggy shine,
are the scales set at zero?
Are the weights not perhaps loaded short?
Because of all the world's outcasts
These are the sorriest sort.
An unpleasant fable informs us
How some camels pass through needle eyes.
...For their look of 'To death I'm astonished,'
As they plead their infirmities
Like bankruptcy. 'I'd have lent...Been glad to'
...For their quiet words, mouthed with a twitch:
'I counted in carats, was a brother...'
I swear it: I love the rich.
I will tell you about the great hoax.
I will tell you how the fog falls on
Young trees, old stumps.
I will tell you how lights go off
In houses, how- a traveler from Egypt-
A gypsy blows, under a tree, into his narrow pipe.
I will tell you about the great hoax:
I will tell you how a knife is squeezed
In a narrow hand, how the wind of the ages
Lifts up the curls of the young, beards of the old.
The rumble of the ages.
The clatter of hoofs.
(translated by Nina Kossman)
With a careful thin hand Ill unravel the tangles:
The little hands; and, obedient
To my horses neighing, my riding dress
Will rustle down the ringing, empty stairs of parting
He stamps his feet and neighs-
The winged one,
In the aureole stairway. Dawn bursts my eyes.
Little hands, little hands!
You call me in vain:
The streaming stairs of Lethe part us.
(translated by Nina Kossman)
The Devil In Me
The devil in me's not dead,
He's living, and well.
In the body as in a hold,
In the self as in a cell.
The world is but walls.
The exit's the axe.
("All the world's a stage,"
The actor prates.)
And that hobbling buffoon
Is no joker;
In the body as in glory,
In the body as in a toga.
May you live forever!
Cherish your life,
Only poets in bone
Are as in a lie.
No, my eloquent brothers,
We'll not have much fun,
In the body as with Father's
We deserve something better.
We wilt in the warm.
In the body as in a byre.
In the self as in a cauldron.
Marvels that perish
We don't collect.
In the body as in a marsh,
In the body as in a crypt.
In the body as in furthest
Exile. It blights.
In the body as in a secret,
In the body as in the vice
Of an iron mask.
Two suns are cooling- O save me, God!
The first- in heavens, the second - in heart.
Will I have an excuse for that?-
Both suns made me fully mad!
No pain from the beams- they're lost!
Hotter sun will be frozen first.
Under the Shawl
Engraved like an oracles mouth-
Your mouth that divined for multitudes.
Woman, between your tongue and your palate,
What did you hide from the guards?
Into eternity- no longer with eyes but with holes,
With a bucket cauldron.
Woman, what chasm have you dug
And covered with turf?
An idol presiding over a hundred shrines
Would not be as arrogant.
Woman, what have you grasped from the fire
Of caresses, the two-night loves?
Woman, you widen in secrets as in shawls,
You last in shawls as in secrets.
Set apart- lucky one:
A fir tree on a hazy peak.
I throw questions at you as at one deceases,
A soul that has drunk from the roots.
Woman, what is under your shawl?
- The future.
(translated by Nina Kossman)
Hone Tuwhare (1922-2008)
One of the best known New Zealand poets- & a giant among his Maori people- Tuwhare was at the forefront of Polynesian-Pacific poetry.
Haiku Hotere Monika
come rain hail
When you offer only three
vertical lines precisely drawn
and set into a dark pool of lacquer
it is a visual kind of starvation:
and even though my eye-balls
roll up and over to peer inside
myself, when I reach the beginning
of your eternity I say instead: hell
let's have another feed of mussels.
Like, I have to think about it, man.
When you stack horizontal lines
into vertical columns which appear
to advance, recede, shimmer and wave
like exploding packs of cards
I merely grunt and say: well, if it
is not a famine, its a feast.
I have to roll another smoke, man.
But when you score a superb orange
circle on a purple thought-base
I shake my head and say: hell, what
is this thing, called love.
Like, I'm euchred man. I'm eclipsed
Tonight I observe, you've had your blonde hair
shown. A criminal act. I'm confused.
But I congratulate you- and myself for noticing.
I order a beer downing it with relish.
Mochtest du noch eins, Johannes?
Ja bitte, Monika. Worless, I drink the second glass
to your eyes opeed wide and lit up. I drink
to the expressive lift and fall of your arm
and shoulder; the silken loiter and tilt of your
breasts mouthing not one tiney word of apology
for their insolece, the proud sensual hint
of line and bulk-
Sorry? I ask. You look at me in wonderment.
I've not caught a single word you've said!
And this evening, in the cosy Yugoslav Kneipe in
Nachod Strasse, I greet Horst, Auto Mechanic
working for VOLVO. I say: Guten Abend, to Frau
Richter & her Dog, and a couple of others whose
faces I've got to know after a few visits.
Monika, you enfold all with you vivacity & celan.
In a twinkle of an eye, a wave of an invisible
wand, re-make of each, a fashion Princess all aglow,
a tipsy King- on his night off as a Maintenance
Fitter on teh Lake Ferry, a Frog changing quite rapidly
into a Prince (me)- a fugitive Queen with a spark-up
singing a Country & Western old one:
Theer goes mah reason for wantin' you, theer goes mah ev'ra
And the Queen, unable to go on, is just about ready now to
do a Royal Chunder (not a dance) abandoning all,
Her Crown, Her Common Lover, Her Royal Ring-
Monika, Monika, you defer to each their own private
space to savour of survery hunger or thirst
nail-polish or navel, friend, future enemy or lover.
Johannes, you like strong German beer, ja?
Ja! Strong German women, too, mit hairy mussels
smoked Aale, raw herrings: wunderbar!
Bring mir alles, bitte- mit Salat. Ich lievbe dich.
Ja, ja... Johannes. 1st schon gut.
Mark Van Doren (1894-1972)
One of the few 20th Century American Academic poets with talent, Van Doren's work was overshadowed in his lifetime by his son Charles' involvement in the quiz show 21 scandal. But an excellent formalist with some searingly poignant lyrics.
After Long Drought Born Brothers He Loves Me The Deepest....
After Long Drought
After long drought, commotion in the sky;
After dead silence, thunder. Then it comes,
The rain. It slashes leaves, and doubly drums
On tin and shingle; beats and bends awry
The flower heads; puddles dust, and with a sigh
Like love sinks into grasses, where it hums
As bees did once, among chrysanthemums
And asters when the summer thought to die.
The whole world dreamed of this, and has it now.
Nor was the waking easy. The dull root
Is jealous of its death; the sleepy brow
Smiles in its slumber; and a heart can fear
The very flood it longed for, roaring near.
The spirit best remembers being mute.
Equality is absolute or no.
Nothing between can stand. We are the sons
Of the same sire, or madness breaks and runs
Through the rude world. Ridiculous our woe
If single pity does not love it. So
Our separate fathers love us. No man shuns
His poorest child's embrace. We are the sons
Of such, or ground and sky are soon to go.
Nor do born brothers judge, as good or ill,
Their being. Each consents and is the same,
Or suddenly sweet winds turn into flame
And floods are on us--fire, earth, water, air
All hideously parted, as his will
Withdraws, no longer fatherly and there.
He Loves Me
That God should love me is more wonderful
Than that I so imperfectly love him.
My reason is mortality, and dim
Senses; his--oh, insupportable--
Is that he sees me. Even when I pull
Dark thoughts about my head, each vein and limb
Delights him, though remembrance in him, grim
With my worst crimes, should prove me horrible.
And he has terrors that he can release.
But when he looks he loves me; which is why
I wonder; and my wonder must increase
Till more of it shall slay me. Yet I live,
I live; and he has never ceased to give
This glance at me that sweetens the whole sky.
The Deepest Dream
The deepest dream is of mad governors,
Down, down we feel it, till the very crust
Of the world cracks, and where there was no dust,
Atoms of ruin rise. Confusion stirs,
And fear; and all our thoughts--dark scavengers--
Feed on the center's refuse. Hope is thrust
Like wind away, and love sinks into lust
For merest safety, meanest of levelers.
And then we wake. Or do we? Sleep endures
Margaret Walker (1915-1998)
More than the morning can, when shadows lie
Sharper than mountains, and the cleft is real
Between us and our kings. What sun assures
Our courage, and what evening by and by
Descends to rest us, and perhaps to heal?
Before Gwendolyn Brooks came along, there was Margaret Walker. Adept at formal & free verse, Walker is a virtual unknown to even today's young black poets- truly a shame!
Big John Henry Kissie Lee The Struggle Staggers Us We Have Been Believers
Big John Henry
This here's a tale of a sho-nuff man
Whut lived one time in the delta lan'
His hand was big as a hog's fat ham
And he useta work for Uncle Sam.
His gums was blue, his voice was mellow
And he talked to mules, fellow to fellow.
The day he was born in the Mississippi
He made a meal on buttermilk and sorghum
A mess o' peas and a bait o' tunnips
And when he finished he smacked his lips
And went outside to help pick cotton.
And he growed up taller than a six-foot
Skinnin' mules and catchin' barracuda
And stronger than a team of oxen
And he even could beat the champion
An' ain't nary man in Dixie's forgotten
How he could raise two bales of cotton
While one hand anchored down the
Oh, they ain't no tale was ever wrote
'Bout Big John Henry that could start to tell
All the things that Big Boy knowed so well:
How he learned to whistle from the
And turned the wheels whut ran the mills;
How the witches taught him how to cunjer,
And cyo the colic and ride the thunder;
And how he made friends with a long lean
Sayin', "It's jes' John Henry a-giftin' roun'."
But a ten-poun' hammer done ki-ilt John Henry,
Yeah, a ten-poun' hammer ki-ilt John Henry,
Bust him open, wide Lawd!
Drapped him ovah, wide Lawd!
Po' John Henry, he cold and dead.
Toughest gal I ever did see
Was a gal by the name of Kissie Lee;
The toughest gal God ever made
And she drew a dirty, wicked blade.
Now this here gal warn't always tough
Nobody dreamed she'd turn out rough
But her Grammaw Mamie had the name
Of being the town's sin and shame.
When Kissie Lee was young and good
Didn't nobody treeat her like they should
Allus gettin' beat by a no-good shine
An' allus quick to cry and whine.
Till her Grammaw said, "Now listen to me,
I'm tiahed of yoah whinin', Kissie Lee.
People don't ever treat you right,
An' you allus scrappin' or in a fight."
"Whin I was a gal wasn't no soul
Could do me wrong an' still stay whole.
Ah got me a razor to talk for me
An' aftah that they let me be."
Well Kissie Lee took her advice
And after that she didn't speak twice
'Cause when she learned to stab and run
She got herself a little gun.
And from that time that gal was mean,
Meanest mama you ever seen.
She could hold her likker and hold her man
And she went thoo life jus' raisin' san'.
One night she walked in Jim's salloon
And seen a guy what spoke too soon;
He done her dirt long time ago
When she was good and feeling low.
Kissie bought her drink and she paid her dime
Watchin' this guy what beat her time
And he was making for the outside door
When Kissie shot him to the floor.
Not a word she spoke but she switched her blade
And flashing that lil ole baby paid:
Evvy livin' guy got out of her way
Because Kissie Lee was drawin' her pay.
She could shoot glass offa the hinges,
She could take herself on the wildest binges.
And she died with her boots on switching blades
On Talladega Mountain in the likker raids.
The Struggle Staggers Us
Our birth and death are easy hours, like sleep
and food and drink. The struggle staggers us
for bread, for pride, for simple dignity.
And this is more than fighting to exist;
more than revolt and war and human odds.
There is a journey from the me to you.
There is a journey from the you to me.
A union of the two strange worlds must be.
Ours is a struggle from a too-warm bed;
too cluttered with a patience full of sleep.
Out of this blackness we must struggle forth;
from want of bread, of pride, of dignity.
Struggle between the morning and the night.
This marks our years; this settles, too, our plight.
We Have Been Believers
We have been believers believing in the black gods of an old
land, believing in the secrets of the seeress and the
magic of the charmers and the power of the devil's evil
And in the white gods of a new land we have been believers
believing in the mercy of our masters and the beauty of
our brothers, believing in the conjure of the humble
and the faithful and the pure.
Neither the slaves' whip nor the lynchers' rope nor the
bayonet could kill our black belief. In our hunger we
beheld the welcome table and in our nakedness the
glory of a long white robe. We have been believers in
the new Jerusalem.
We have been believers feeding greedy grinning gods, like a
Moloch demanding our sons and our daughters, our
strength and our wills and our spirits of pain. We have
been believers, silent and stolid and stubborn and
We have been believers yielding substance for the world.
With our hands have we fed a people and out of our
strength have they wrung the necessities of a nation.
Our song has filled the twilight and our hope has
heralded the dawn.
Now we stand ready for the touch of one fiery iron, for the
cleansing breath of many molten truths, that the eyes
of the blind may see and the ears of the deaf may hear
and the tongues of the people be filled with living fire.
Where are our gods that they leave us asleep? Surely the
priests and the preachers and the powers will hear.
Surely now that our hands are empty and our hearts too
full to pray they will understand. Surely the sires of
the people will send us a sign.
We have been believers believing in our burdens and our
demigods too long. Now the needy no longer weep and
pray; the long-suffering arise, and our fists bleed
against the bars with a strange insistency.
Sandor Weores (1913-1989?)
A master of many forms & styles, Weores is at his best with poems that display great vision & a large arc of knowledge. Poems of his often have that dazzle of 'moment'. (nominated 4/23/01 by Dylan Garcia-Wahl)
Eternal Darkness Rayflower Sheep School The Brambleberry Valse-Triste Whisper In The Dark
Eternal darkness clings to the concave surface.
This is the ingrown frame of things;
that is hell. The uniform night face
ever black, stony, unmoving flame.
That is hell; life lifts from it, scattering
out of the solitude! Clod, grass, man, animal,
all from it, all which hurt and kiss,
from hell, on whom sunshine falls!
The inner and outer arch of things-
the obverse or reverse ringing?
Is there a third- light sans dark?
From soil to soul, all things sing
no thought; the response is being
a woman, a poem, what it is it is.
of the head
Over the shoulders
under the chin
In front of the chest
the flame inside
In the swell
of the belly
a shadow grows
In dark seas
no foot lingers
afraid to leave
Once there occurred a miracle:
a 'sheep school' - what a spectacle!
only bleaters got the praise
talkers weren't allowed to graze.
Those who never showed up there
got medals sewn into their hair -
therefore, not one sheep attended
and the `sheep school' was suspended.
(translated by Donald E. Morse and Adam Makkai)
Eves of autumn
Gleam with the brambleberry's
Gleam with the brambleberry's
Winds scurry hither-thither,
Trembles the brambleberry
Should but the moon let lower her veil,
Bush turns maiden, starts to wail...
Eves of autumn
Gleam with the brambleberry's
Gleam with the brambleberry's
(translated by Adam Makkai and Valerie Becker Makkai)
The evening's getting cold and old,
vine-branches tremble and infold.
Songs of the vintage-days subside,
inside their corners old men hide.
The steeple starts to flare
the church's foggy lair;
across the meadows, stark
showers are running dark.
The summer songs subside,
old men retire to hide.
The evening's shade is cold
as thickets clatter bold.
The hearts of people wear and smother,
each summer looks like any other.
It does not matter, old or new,
our memories are frozen, too.
Red fever on the trees,
inside, a maiden weeps;
her lips need lipstick, too,
the evening's pinched them blue.
Whether it's old or new,
our memories are few;
the hearts of people smother,
one summer's like the other.
The thickets' hair dress clatters well
as autumn rings the autumn-bell.
Upon the sloe, frost lays its hold -
the evening's getting cold and old.
(Translated by W. Arthur Bogg)
Whisper In The Dark
From a well you mount up, dear child. Your head a pyre.
Your arm a stream, your trunk air, your feet mud. I shall
bind you, but don't be afraid: I love you and my bonds are
On your head I write: "I am strong, devoted, secure, and
home-loving: I have eternity."
On your trunk I write: "I am poured into everything and
everything pours into me: I am not fastidious, but who is
there who could defile me?"
On your feet I write: "I have measured the darkness and
my hand troubles its depths; nothing could sink so deep that
I should not be deeper."
You have turned into gold, dear child. Change yourself
into bread for the blind and swords for those who can see.
(translated by Edwin Morgan)
NOTE: See emails below for my error- I regret it. In the future, people- please make sure the poems & poets submitted are correctly credited! DAN
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2002 7:16 PM
Subject: Fw: Neglected Poets
I looked in to it & cd only find the Edwin Morgan translation in my Selected Poems of Weores. As you are 1 of the translators I'll assume you know yr own work. I believe the translates were submitted via a submission form I had for Neglected poets. I'll move them to the Weores section this weekend when I update the site. I've only a handful of the D-V poems in the Simpson anthology & the Weores Selected only has 60-70 poems & neither is well-represented in English online. The submitter prob confused poets, I had no way to check on it, & no reason to suspect their true provenance. Thanks, & apologies. Check back Sunday PM & it shd be updated. DAN
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2002 5:37 PM
Subject: Re: Neglected Poets
I'll have to look this up this weekend. I know that Desbordes-Valmore is a real poet as I have her listed in a book on Modern French poets- edited by Louis Simpson. Don't recall what website I got these from or who nominated them but I'll look into this- I have Weores already as a Neglected poet & will just tfr them in to his section. If I find the website I will give you the URL. It wd not be unlikely that someone pulled a hoax on the Internet. DAN
Rogan Whitenails (1974- )
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2002 8:00 AM
Subject: Neglected Poets
Dear Mr. Schneider,
I have found listed on your web site under the "Neglected Poets" section a "French poet" named "Marceline Desborles-Valmore". Under this person's name are given four poems: Sheep School, The Brambleberry, Valse Triste, and Whisper in the Dark.
I don't know how you obtained this information, but it is totally incorrect. All four of the poems are translations of Hungarian poems by the Hungarian poet Sandor Weores (1913-1989). All four were lifted from a copyrighted work entitled In Quest of the Miracle Stag: The Poetry of Hungary (copyright 1996 and 2000), edited by Adam Makkai and published by Atlantis-Centaur (Chicago) and Tertia (Budapest), and distributed by the University of Illinois Press. The translated poems appear on pages 919, 918, 924, and 923 respectively of the above work.
We would appreciate your correcting your web site to include correct author information along with proper bibliographical citations. Otherwise, please remove them entirely from you web site. Please confirm that you have done this. Thank you.
Valerie Becker Makkai
"Highly personal poems, they have a haunting quality and an obsession with saliva. The poetry world, while acknowledging the quality of his work, can't get its head round the idea of a 30-year-old man wanting to write mainly in rhyming couplets. Or who writes about discovering a tick attached to his testicles. Failure still dogs Chesterfield poet Rogan Whitenails and he's intending it will for the rest of his life."- Martin Dawes, Sheffield Star. He has 2 books of published poems: Failure Crawled up my Leg, 1998, & Failure Crawled up my Leg (More Scatology and Pyrotechnical Self-Pity), 2002. Website: http://www.electromancer.com/artists/rogan_whitenails/
My Many, Many.... The Caudal.... This Morning Before.... "We can't talk...." Woking
My Many, Many Brothers-In Law
Brother-in-law No. 1
At a Christmas party, in a paper hat,
He asked me what I was good at
I never said, but I blushed:
Standing up, with my back to the seat
Of a toilet that I have flushed,
I can tell by the refilling sound
If the toilet is blocked - before looking round.
The time between flushes is shorter;
And I know the level of the water,
Before looking round:
I can tell by the pitch of the refilling sound.
And when the water behind me is high,
I know how long it takes before
The water drops, and then I try
To flush the toilet once more.
The hat on the head of my brother-in-law
A Christmas crackers orange crown
Grew grey, with wrinkled rings of brown;
Turned misty, fluffy, torn, dispersed,
As my brother-in-law was immersed
In a toilet, blocked by my shame
My sister took his second name
And I, the Spiv of the Drains
My many, many brothers-in-law
Dared to go to war,
While I stayed home and spivd.
Some died, some lived
There were still too many; and the real
Resistance, the real resistors
Should have been my sisters.
The cesspit spiv - the spiv of the drains:
My nephews could identify planes
Without looking up at the sky;
But they were impressed when I said that I
Could tell by the pitch of the refilling sound
If the toilet was blocked, before looking round.
Above the shish of the cistern and taps,
I heard my pregnant sister collapse
Outside the toilet door:
When the wretched name of my brother-in-law
Was no longer being cried,
I opened the door and reached outside;
And reinforced my nascent dam
By wiping myself on the telegram
I had snatched from my sisters fingers.
I left without trying to unblock it
(And maybe the water still lingers),
But before I left, I noticed a locket
On a chain, and it felt like a sign:
I had seen it used by my niece to divine
The sex of the unborn child;
She had held it over the bump, beguiled
By the promise of a baby brother;
But, one day, she would find another
One day, my niece would want more:
She would give her brother a brother-in-law.
Thereafter, I went to the house
Of every sister whose spouse
Had been killed:
I heard them sobbing as the cisterns refilled;
And I never felt regret,
Though, once, I felt the tepid jet
Of a bidet-D-Day brother-in-law
Squirting between my crack:
A ghost-in-law, coming back
To hose me clean -
Stupidly thinking this would mean
Less paper would be needed;
But when the ghostly jet receded,
My profligacy soared:
As one hand wiped, the other one pawed
The toilet roll for my next pieces
I pitied the brothers of my nieces.
How many wipes could stem the torrent of a sisters love
Being switched from her brother to the groom?
Revenge is found in the smallest room.
The Caudal Appendage and Haemorrhoids
(tried a hot bath, more fibre, taking my overdue books back to the library. Nothing has worked, and it's been two days now
Oh, where the sun don't shine -
Overdue, and a terrible fine!
Avoid all haemorrhoidal bleeding
Take your books back after reading;
Take them back, renew your loan!
A lump emerged, as big as the bone
That protrudes at the base of my spine,
Rendering me supine,
With knees aloft, wide apart,
And now it hurts to fart -
More than hitherto known;
A lump as big as my tailbone -
With blood, so bright, almost pink;
A lump the size of the missing link -
The size of the bone where a primates tail
Had tethered itself to a hay bale,
Rather than climb
Beyond the time
When we evolved and borrowed books.
The monkeys hay bale looks
So comfortable in my mind
(My books were late and I was fined),
Extinctions healing void
Would surely soothe my haemorrhoid
(Dodos flying, never landing,
Library fines are still outstanding)
If I sat on extinctions bale,
I know that, soon, like the tail
That evolution docked,
My coccyx - usually easily knocked,
Usually sour and petrified,
And routinely made to hide
Beneath my pants, under a label -
Would loosen and be able
To swish and ripple gracefully ...
Let something else evolve, not me:
A bookish, thrombotic droid,
Emerging in time, like a haemorrhoid -
Straddling the dolphin's fin.
Insert a finger, pop me back in:
Let me sit on this bale -
My brain like the bone where a primates tail
As its hands dragged
On the floor;
Leave me behind, my bottom is sore.
With a stern shush! in the Reading Room,
I see another haemorrhoid loom,
Like a comet, with a tail of sparks,
And the mildew of studious bite marks
On the plastic arms of my glasses,
Glistens beneath my hair, as it passes:
I study for what - a Distinction?
And all I crave is extinction ...
Make me endangered, then make me gone;
The tail I had, like the neck of a swan,
Fell on its wings, grew shorter,
Then dived for something under the water
Extended deep, then dissolved;
And so my body evolved
Without a tail without grace
And now I feel compelled to chase
Another morsel of sinking bread:
Let me dissolve in the river bed;
No more a biped, nor erect,
No longer sore, no longer pecked
By my coccyx, madly,
Under a label, cut out badly,
So the jagged washing instructions remain
To prickle and scratch
oh, let me crane
My neck to chase the sinking bread:
Let me dissolve in the river bed.
The bale looks soft, but might its hay
Scratch me in a similar way
To how the label does now?
I crave extinction, but exactly how,
Where I sit and what on
Will make the difference when I am gone:
When my tender coccyx has slinked
Away from the base of my spine,
I will find a comfortable place to recline
Endangered, in limbo, extinct, limber!
Felling the fins of sharks timber!
I kneel in the path of the toppling fin,
Hoping the impact will pop me back in
As the fin spanks my rear end;
Where the fin had stood, light will descend
And seedling fish will thrive.
Oh, why did my tail not survive?
Ka Cox, the girlfriend of Rupert Brooke,
Had a coccyx that people mistook
For a tail it hung so loosely;
And while she secretly prayed profusely
That her tail would someday shrivel, the poet
Secretly wished his muse could grow it,
For he knew its power;
And he climbed to the top of the library tower
In Cambridge, by the River Cam,
And shouted to Ka: From where I am,
I can see the tails in the city of Ely,
But none are as loose, none swish freely
They climb the cathedral like vines!
He returned his books and paid his fines
Gotta go kak, got gut rot!
The vicarious kicks,
That he got
From Ka Coxs coccyx,
Are in taste quite poor
Leave me behind, my bottom is sore.
A shower curtain of sharks,
A tea cosy T-Rex;
The mildew of studious bite marks
On the plastic arms of my specs,
Glistens beneath my hair - shines through;
And the ice axe, placed adjacent to
The Yeti's footprint, for scale,
Was once a twirling, limber tail ...
But no more.
Leave me behind, my bottom is sore.
So flimsy now, without their fins,
A shower curtain of sharks begins
To hug my back, as I stay kneeling
Its clinging transparency revealing
The gargoyle of my coccyx, behind.
Naked and shampoo-blind,
I long to hear the clatter of rings
Sliding along, as extinction slings
The shower curtain aside;
And the ligature applied
To my haemorrhoid - tied tightly -
Would also be used to strangle me,
And when we drop off, the world will be raw
Leave me behind, my bottom is sore.
Where the sun dont shine, it will set,
And black salubrious sweat
Will flow again, beneath the pleats
In my anus; and Keats
Should have made the distinction:
Fully in love with easeful extinction
Is greater than half, with death, it seems
Tell me the meanings of my dreams,
And why Darwin and Freud
So anally retentive
Never pondered the haemorrhoid:
How it provides an incentive
To be extinct;
For these two factors are linked,
Like the coccyx and the tail
An ode to Florence Nightingale -
The wounded in war;
Leave me behind, my bottom is sore.
This Morning, Before Visiting The Toilet (The Silver Bowl)
We awoke this morning, in an oven glove.
It held our bodies, as we made love;
And I fancied you could feel
My consolidated evening meal,
Lending weight to my thrusts;
The soup, the croutons, the crusts,
The melted cheese, the lamb on a spit:
The unevacuated shit,
Lending weight to my thrusts
I was proud of my fatuous lusts;
The digested lamb was now a sheep,
My thrusts were heavy and deep -
Heavy on you, and deep inside.
The sheep was turning - its legs still tied,
Still roasting on a spit,
Soaking up flour from the crusts:
Binding together, augmenting my thrusts;
The weevils in the flour, unsifted,
And the herbs that had topped my dessert,
Pressed me down and lifted -
Pushed down, until it hurt;
The grated lemon, the mustard dressing,
The soft and torn off crusts,
Were binding together, giving their blessing,
And lending weight to my thrusts
I despise my fatuous lusts -
When did my shit stop being my food;
And had it begun to lend its weight
Before it was served on my plate,
And even before the food was prepared?
If the lambs life had been spared -
A pet, for the farmer to keep -
Would my thrusts, this morning, have been so deep?
And, now, alone, I have to admit,
I still keep thinking of food and shit.
I think of the critic - the food writer;
His menu, when closed, is tighter
And more carnal than any hole:
The waiter puts down a silver bowl
And opens the wine - my excitement grows;
The critic inhales through his nose,
And I am sealed in the menus spine
Then, when I come, he spits the wine
Into the bowl, supplied
The lamb is turning - its legs still tied;
Slowly, I find relief, and pass
The sheeps tongue, still stained with grass,
And then its teeth - the lips pulled back,
Slapping together, becoming slack,
As the rest of the head emerges.
After passing the food, a feeling surges
And rumbles through my soul;
I drink the wine from the silver bowl,
Dreaming that I am drifting above,
Watching the two of us, making love:
My thrusts are majestic - the angle is steep;
Between my buttocks, the tongue of the sheep
Is the only part that is showing -
Stained with grass, raspberry-blowing -
Blowing out, between each cheek,
Belittling my technique.
The liquid I drink from the silver bowl
Hardens inside me - shines like a pole,
Used by pole-dancing strippers;
And agile limbs replace the flippers
Of my kidneys, lungs and heart:
An entire body - its legs apart -
Simulates sex within mine,
Sliding down the solidified wine,
Swinging around, working for tips;
And as the body within me strips -
Never involving me -
I fear that, after this fantasy,
The pole will remain, and slowly migrate
To a place where, perhaps, it would lend its weight,
Were it not so unyielding and long;
I will feel the spray of the sheeps tongue,
Between my legs, around my sack
And on the downy small of my back,
As the insolent pole hampers my thrusts
I despise my fatuous lusts.
"We can't talk, 'cos we're dead"
We are dead,
Bobbing in the sea.
Our skin is blue,
I turn to you and I say
I love you,
And a wave makes us almost kiss.
You say: Im not sure
Anymore, about us.
We cant really talk, cos
But, somehow, I spoke
And I heard what you said.
I search your eyes for the joke,
But they are the colour of nails that broke
Off fingers, a door had crushed.
And, suddenly, your hair
Becomes the hair distress has brushed,
As someone, living, fires a flare.
Still, your life-jacket holds the breath
My lungs had warmed before my death,
So even now, though we are dead,
My love can still support your head.
A holiday flashes through a crack,
And the seagulls queue beside the plaque
That reads: They used to live here,
As fish devour us beneath the pier.
They eat the substance of disease,
Between the bread of our healthy flesh,
The browner teeth and the falsies
Are mixed with wisdoms that are fresh.
Afflictions, untreatable when we lived -
Our stressful handicaps - are sieved
In the stomachs of strange fish.
But your soul is still ill and selfish,
And mine still dwells on what you said
When, first, we were dead.
Where everyone is soaking
I watch them, as I sit
With the woman I call mine
Craven, lascivious, malign.
Where everyone is choking,
Through blowing so hard.
The flowers growing in the graveyard
Are watered by the whistles of mourners:
Through rounded mouths, tight at the corners -
Sometimes with fingers, bulimia-deep -
The lecherous mourners retch and heave
And whistle while they weep;
Wolf-whistle while they grieve!
And the flowers that they leave,
Lean from the vases, and leer -
Leer at the dead, and those who are next;
And the words on the gravestones appear
Like a mobile phone's predictive text.
Woking, invoking this instinct,
Whistles in the shopping precinct -
In the glass lift, at the lowest tier,
And up each floor to the next;
And the words on the gravestones appear
Like a mobile phone's predictive text -
Spelling out, predictably,
A wolf-whistling R.I.P.
Judith Wright (1915-2000)
Along with Marina Tsvetaeva & Sylvia Plath, Wright is one of the three best female poets I've ever read. A giant who died recently, this woman has many great poems- read The Killer & you'll agree!
All Things Conspire Egrets Naked Girl And Mirror Sonnet Sonnet For Christmas The Killer To A Child Woman To Man
All Things Conspire
All things conspire to hold me from you-
even my love,
since that would unmask you and unname you
till merely woman and man we live.
All men wear arms against the rebel-
and they are wise,
since the sound world they know and stable
is eaten away by lovers' eyes.
All things conspire to stand between us-
even you and ,
who still command us, still unjoin us,
and drive us forward till we die.
Not till those fiery ghosts are laid
shall we be one.
Till then they whet our double blade
and use the turning world for stone.
Once as I travelled through a quiet evening,
I saw a pool, jet-black and mirror-still.
Beyond, the slender paperbarks stood crowding;
each on its own white image looked its fill,
and nothing moved but thirty egrets wading -
thirty egrets in a quiet evening.
Once in a lifetime, lovely past believing,
Naked Girl and Mirror
your lucky eyes may light on such a pool.
As though for many years I had been waiting,
I watched in silence, till my heart was full
of clear dark water, and white trees unmoving,
and, whiter yet, those thirty egrets wading.
This is not I. I had no body once-
only what served my need to laugh and run
and stare at stars and tentatively dance
on the fringe of foam and wave and sand and sun.
Eyes loved, hands reached for me, but I was gone
on my own currents, quicksilver, thistledown.
Can I be trapped at last in that soft face?
I stare at you in fear, dark brimming eyes.
Why do you watch me with that immoderate plea-
"Look under these curled lashes, recognize
that you were always here; know me-be me."
Smooth once-hermaphrodite shoulders, too tenderly
your long slope runs, above those sudden shy
curves furred with light that spring below your space.
No, I have been betrayed. If I had known
that this girl waited between a year and a year,
I'd not have chosen her bough to dance upon.
Betrayed, by that little darkness here, and here
this swelling softness and that frightened stare
from eyes I will not answer; shut out here
from my own self, by its new body's grace-
for I am betrayed by someone lovely. Yes,
I see you are lovely, hateful naked girl.
Your lips in the mirror tremble as I refuse
to know or claim you. Let me go-let me be gone.
You are half of some other who may never come.
Why should I tend you? You are not my own;
you seek that other--he will be your home.
Yet I pity your eyes in the mirror, misted with tears;
I lean to your kiss. I must serve you; I will obey.
Some day we may love. I may miss your going, some day,
though I shall always resent your dumb and fruitful years.
Your lovers shall learn better, and bitterly too,
if their arrogance dares to think I am part of you.
Now let the draughtsman of my eyes be done
marking the line of petal and of hill.
Let the long commentary of the brain
be silent. Evening and the earth are one,
and bird and tree are simple and stand still.
Now, fragile heart swung in your webs of vein,
and perilous self won hardly out of clay,
gather the harvest of last light, and reap
the luminous fields of sunset for your bread.
Blurs the laborious focus of the day
and shadow brims the hillside slow as sleep.
Here is the word that, when all words are said,
shall compass more than speech. The sun is gone;
draws on the night at last; the dream draws on.
[nominated by Everett Goldner 9/5/01]
Sonnet For Christmas
I saw our golden years on a black gale,
our time of love spilt in the furious dust.
"O we are winter-caught, and we must fail,"
said the dark dream, "and time is overcast."
-And woke into the night; but you were there,
and small as seed in the wild dark we lay.
Small as seed under the gulfs of air
is set the stubborn heart that waits for day.
I saw our love the root that holds the vine
in the enduring earth, that can reply,
"Nothing shall die unless for me it die.
Murder and hate and love alike are mine";
and therefore fear no winter and no storm
while in the knot of earth that root lies warm.
The day was clear as fire,
the birds sang frail as glass,
when thirsty I came to the creek
and fell by its side in the grass.
My breasts on the bright moss
and shower-embroidered weeds,
my lips to the live water
I saw him turn in the reeds.
Black horror sprang from the dark
in a violent birth,
and through its cloth of grass
I felt the clutch of earth.
O beat him into the ground.
O strike him till he dies,
or else your life itself,
drains through those colourless eyes.
I struck again and again.
Slender in black and red
he lies, and his icy glance
turns outward, clear and dead.
But nimble my enemy
as water is, or wind.
He has slipped from his death aside
and vanished into my mind.
He has vanished whence he came,
my nimble enemy;
and the ants come out to the snake
and drink at his shallow eye.
To a Child
When I was a child I saw
a burning bird in a tree.
I see became I am,
I am became I see.
In winter dawns of frost
the lamp swung in my hand.
The battered moon on the slope
lay like a dune of sand;
and in the trap at my feet
the rabbit leapt and prayed,
weeping blood, and crouched
when the light shone on the blade.
The sudden sun lit up
the webs from wire to wire;
the white webs, the white dew,
blazed with a holy fire.
Flame of light in the dew,
flame of blood on the bush
answered the whirling sun
and the voice of the early thrush.
I think of this for you.
I would not have you believe
the world is empty of truth
or that men must grieve,
but hear the song of the martyrs
out of a bush of fire-
"All is consumed with love;
all is renewed with desire."
Woman to Man
The eyeless labourer in the night,
the selfless, shapeless seed I hold,
builds for its resurrection day --
silent and swift and deep from sight
foresees the unimagined light.
This is no child with a child's face;
this has no name to name it by:
yet you and I have known it well.
This is our hunter and our chase,
the third who lay in our embrace.
This is the strength that your arm knows,
the arc of flesh that is my breast,
the precise crystals of our eyes.
This is the blood's wild tree that grows
the intricate and folded rose.
This is the maker and the made;
this is the question and reply;
the blind head butting at the dark,
the blaze of light upon the blade.
Oh hold me, for I am afraid.
[This poem nominated by Subject: Data posted to form 1 of http://www.cosmoetica.com/Neglected.htm Date: 16 May 2001 11:23:27 -0400 T1: Ivy Remote Name: 188.8.131.52 Remote User: HTTP User Agent: Mozilla/2.0 (compatible; MSIE 3.02; Windows CE) Date: Wednesday, May 16, 2001 Time: 11:23:27 AM
Return to Poetry