Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Enter the Dragon" by John Murillo


     Los Angeles, California, 1976

For me, the movie starts with a black man
Leaping into an orbit of badges, tiny moons

Catching the sheen of his perfect black afro.
Arc kicks, karate chops, and thirty cops

On their backs. It starts with the swagger,
The cool lean into the leather front seat

Of the black and white he takes off in.
Deep hallelujahs of moviegoers drown

Out the wah wah guitar. Salt & butter
High-fives, Right on, brother! and Daddy

Glowing so bright he can light the screen
All by himself. This is how it goes down.

Friday night and my father drives us
Home from the late show, two heroes

Cadillacking across King Boulevard.
In the cars dark cab, we jab and clutch,

Jim Kelly and Bruce Lee with popcorn
Breath, and almost miss the lights flashing

In the cracked side mirror. I know what's
Under the seat, but when the uniforms

Approach from the rear quarter panel,
When the fat one leans so far into my father's

Window I can smell his long day's work,
When my father—this John Henry of a man—

Hides his hammer, doesn't buck, tucks away
His baritone, license and registration shaking as if

Showing a bathroom pass to a grade school
Principal, I learn the difference between cinema

And city, between the moviehouse cheers
Of old men and the silence that gets us home.

Source of the text - Murillo, John.  Up Jump the Boogie.  New York: Cypher Books, 2010, pp. 17-18.

TJB: The value of life not imitating art. The poet slides us smoothly: inside the movie, the theater, the ride home, & the boy-poet’s reflection.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Cursive" by Rae Armantrout


In my country,
in "Toy Story,"

sanity meant keeping
a set distance

between one's role
as a figurine
and one's "self-image."

This gap
was where the soul
was thought to live.


When he thought of suicide, he thought,

"It ends here!"


"Let's do it!"

As if a flying leap
were a form of camaraderie.

As if a cop and his
comic relief partner
faced off
against moguls.

Crossed wires released such
hope-like sparks.


This thing was called
"face of the deep,"

this intractable blank
with its restless cursive.

Source of the text - Armantrout, Rae.  Next Life.  Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2007, pp. 22-23.

TJB: There is an oddness to the flowing, joined cursive motif in this wisp-lyric which employs so many metaphors of gaps, leaps, & abysses.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From Book II of "Hyperion" by John Keats [lines 162-243]

From Hyperion, Book II

“O speak your counsel now, for Saturn’s ear
“Is all a-hunger’d. Thou, Oceanus,
“Ponderest high and deep; and in thy face
“I see, astonied, that severe content
“Which comes of thought and musing: give us help?”

    So ended Saturn; and the God of the Sea,
Sophist and sage, from no Athenian grove,
But cogitation in his watery shades,
Arose, with locks not oozy, and began,
In murmurs, which his first-endeavouring tongue
Caught infant-like from the far-foamed sands.
“O ye, whom wrath consumes! who, passion-stung,
“Writhe at defeat, and nurse your agonies!
“Shut up your senses, stifle up your ears,
“My voice is not a bellows unto ire.
“Yet listen, ye who will, whilst I bring proof
“How ye, perforce, must be content to stoop:
“And in the proof much comfort will I give,
“If ye will take that comfort in its truth.
“We fall by course of Nature’s law, not force
“Of thunder, or of Jove. Great Saturn, thou
“Hast sifted well the atom-universe;
“But for this reason, that thou art the King,
“And only blind from sheer supremacy,
“One avenue was shaded from thine eyes,
“Through which I wandered to eternal truth.
“And first, as thou wast not the first of powers,
“So art thou not the last; it cannot be:
“Thou art not the beginning nor the end.
“From chaos and parental darkness came
“Light, the first fruits of that intestine broil,
“That sullen ferment, which for wondrous ends
“Was ripening in itself. The ripe hour came,
“And with it light, and light, engendering
“Upon its own producer, forthwith touch’d
“The whole enormous matter into life.
“Upon that very hour, our parentage,
“The Heavens and the Earth, were manifest:
“Then thou first-born, and we the giant-race,
“Found ourselves ruling new and beauteous realms.
“Now comes the pain of truth, to whom ’tis pain;
“O folly! for to bear all naked truths,
“And to envisage circumstance, all calm,
“That is the top of sovereignty. Mark well!
“As Heaven and Earth are fairer, fairer far
“Than Chaos and blank Darkness, though once chiefs;
“And as we show beyond that Heaven and Earth
“In form and shape compact and beautiful,
“In will, in action free, companionship,
“And thousand other signs of purer life;
“So on our heels a fresh perfection treads,
“A power more strong in beauty, born of us
“And fated to excel us, as we pass
“In glory that old Darkness: nor are we
“Thereby more conquer’d, than by us the rule
“Of shapeless Chaos. Say, doth the dull soil
“Quarrel with the proud forests it hath fed,
“And feedeth still, more comely than itself?
“Can it deny the chiefdom of green groves?
“Or shall the tree be envious of the dove
“Because it cooeth, and hath snowy wings
“To wander wherewithal and find its joys?
“We are such forest-trees, and our fair boughs
“Have bred forth, not pale solitary doves,
“But eagles golden-feather’d, who do tower
“Above us in their beauty, and must reign
“In right thereof; for ’tis the eternal law
“That first in beauty should be first in might:
“Yea, by that law, another race may drive
“Our conquerors to mourn as we do now.
“Have ye beheld the young God of the Seas,
“My dispossessor? Have ye seen his face?
“Have ye beheld his chariot, foam’d along
“By noble winged creatures he hath made?
“I saw him on the calmed waters scud,
“With such a glow of beauty in his eyes,
“That it enforc’d me to bid sad farewell
“To all my empire: farewell sad I took,
“And hither came, to see how dolorous fate
“Had wrought upon ye; and how I might best
“Give consolation in this woe extreme.
“Receive the truth, and let it be your balm.”

Source of the text - Keats, John. Keats's Poetry and Prose, selected and edited by Jeffrey N. Cox.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009, pp.488-489.

TJB: Cockney Miltonics. Compounding, inverting, half-sprung, this ode from the fallen sea-god lushly argues that beauty, not might, makes right.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Section II from "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley


Thou on whose stream, ’mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like Earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aery surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou Dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain and fire and hail will burst: O hear!

Source of the text - Shelley, Percy Bysshe.  Shelley's Poetry and Prose, Second Edition, selected and edited by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2002, p. 299.

TJB: Wind-envy. Shelley reaches metaphor’s limit: sea-storms as forestlike & crazy-hair; tonight as tomb-cap filled with the wind’s storm-dirge.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"You and I Are Disappearing" by Yusef Komunyakaa

"You and I Are Disappearing"
                          — Björn Håkansson

The cry I bring down from the hills
belongs to a girl still burning
inside my head. At daybreak
       she burns like a piece of paper.
She burns like foxfire
in a thigh-shaped valley.
A skirt of flames
dances around her
at dusk.
           We stand with our hands
hanging at our sides,
while she burns
           like a sack of dry ice.
She burns like oil on water.
She burns like a cattail torch
dipped in gasoline.
She glows like the fat tip
of a banker's cigar,
       silent as quicksilver.
A tiger under a rainbow
   at nightfall.
She burns like a shot glass of vodka.
She burns like a field of poppies
at the edge of a rain forest.
She rises like dragonsmoke
   to my nostrils.
She burns like a burning bush
driven by a godawful wind.

Source of the text - Komunyakaa, Yusef.  Dien Cai Dau.  Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1988, p. 17.

TJB: Litany-burn. Not the girl but what happens to her & how the poet remembers—turning her into all of Vietnam—burns this poem in our memory.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Foweles in the frith," anonymous Middle English lyric

Foweles in the frith

Foweles in the frith,
The fisshes in the flood,
And I mon waxe wood:
Much sorwe I walke wyth
For best of bon and blood.

Notes [from Stevick]:
1. frith   woodland, forest
3. mon   must
5 best   i.e., the best (person)

Notes [from Stevick Glossary]:
waxe(n)  (wex, wexen, waxen) - to wax, grow; become
wood - mad

Source of the text - One Hundred Middle English Lyrics, Revised Edition, edited by Robert D. Stevick.  Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994, p. 25.

TJB: Crux-lyric. The speaker grows crazy because: he has sorrow despite being flesh-&-blood; or he has sorrow because he is the greatest alive.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Property" by Carla Harryman

Note: This prose poem is the first piece from a larger work by Harryman entitled Property.

Source of the text - In the American Tree, edited by Ron Silliman.  Orono, ME: The National Poetry Foundation, 1986, p. 159.

TJB: Fierce ars poetica. Is the avuncular Tolstoyan speaker a fiction? His voice, paratactic-metaphorical then big lyric-aria, is unforgettable.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Not Waving But Drowning" by Stevie Smith

Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Source of the text - Stevie Smith, The Collected Poems of Stevie Smith.  New York: New Directions, 1983, p. 303.

TJB: A little proto-preraphaelitic moan, comprised mostly of quotes from & about the dead man, not so much that he died as that no one listened.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Two sonnets on Spinoza by Jorge Luis Borges



[Original poem in Spanish]

Las traslúcidas manos del judío
Labran en la penumbra los cristales
Y la tarde que muere es miedo y frío.
(Las tardes a las tardes son iguales.)
Las manos y el espacio de jacinto
Que palidece en el confín del Ghetto
Casi no existen para el hombre quieto
Que está soñando un claro laberinto.
No lo turba la fama, ese reflejo
De sueños en el sueño de otro espejo,
Ni el temeroso amor de las doncellas.
Libre de la metáfora y del mito
Labra un arduo cristal: el infinito
Mapa de Aquél que es todas Sus estrellas.

[Translated into English by Willis Barnstone]

Here in the twilight the translucent hands
Of the Jew polishing the crystal glass.
The dying afternoon is cold with bands
Of fear. Each day the afternoons all pass
The same. The hands and space of hyacinth
Paling in the confines of the ghetto walls
Barely exists for the quiet man who stalls
There, dreaming up a brilliant labyrinth.
Fame doesn’t trouble him (that reflection of
Dreams in the dream of another mirror), nor love,
The timid love women. Gone the bars,
He’s free, from metaphor and myth, to sit
Polishing a stubborn lens: the infinite
Map of the One who now is all His stars.


"Baruch Spinoza"

[Original poem in Spanish]

Bruma de oro, el occidente alumbra
La ventana. El asiduo manuscrito
Aguarda, ya cargado de infinito.
Alguien construye a Dios en la penumbra.
Un hombre engendra a Dios. Es un judío
De tristes ojos y piel cetrina;
Lo lleva el tiempo como lleva el río
Una hoja en el agua que declina.
No importa. El hechicero insiste y labra
A Dios con geometría delicada;
Desde su enfermedad, desde su nada,
Sigue erigiendo a Dios con la palabra.
El más pródigo amor le fue otorgado,
El amor que no espera ser amado.

[Translated into English by Willis Barnstone]

A haze of gold, the Occident lights up
The window. Now, the assiduous manuscript
Is waiting, weighed down with the infinite.
Someone is building God in a dark cup.
A man engenders God. He is a Jew
With saddened eyes and lemon-colored skin;
Time carries him the way a leaf, dropped in
A river, is borne off by waters to
Its end. No matter. The magician moved
Carves out his God with fine geometry;
From his disease, from nothing, he's begun
To construct God, using the word. No one
Is granted such prodigious love as he:
The love that has no hope of being loved.

Source of the text - Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Poems, edited by Alexander Coleman.  New York: Penguin Books, 2000, pp. 228-229 and 382-383.

TJB: Years apart, we get Spinoza the glassgrinder & Spinoza the godbuilder, both poems framed as an invisible poet looking in on the man at work.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Brazil" by B.H. Fairchild


This is for Elton Wayne Showalter, redneck surrealist
who, drunk, one Friday night tried to hold up the local 7-Eleven
with a caulking gun, and who, when Melinda Bozell boasted
that she would never let a boy touch her "down there," said,
"Down there? You mean, like, Brazil?"
                                                                   Oh, Elton Wayne,
with your silver-toed turquoise-on-black boots and Ford Fairlane
dragging, in a ribbon of sparks, its tailpipe down Main Street
Saturday nights, you dreamed of Brazil and other verdant lands,
but the southern hemisphere remained for all those desert years
a vast mirage shimmering on the horizon of what one might call
your mind, following that one ugly night at the Snack Shack
when, drunk again, you peed on your steaming radiator
to cool it down and awoke at the hospital, groin empurpled
from electric shock and your pathetic maleness swollen
like a bruised tomato. You dumb bastard, betting a week's wages
on the trifecta at Raton, then in ecstasy tossing the winning ticket
into the air and watching it float on an ascending breeze
with the lightness and supple dip and rise of a Bach passacaglia
out over the New Mexico landscape forever and beyond: gone.
The tears came down, but the spirit rose late on Sunday night
on a stepladder knocking the middle letters from FREEMAN GLASS
to announce unlimited sexual opportunities in purple neon
for all your friends driving Kansas Avenue as we did each night
lonely and bordeom-racked and hungering for someone like you,
Elton Wayne, brilliantly at war in that flat, treeless country
against maturity, right-thinking, and indeed intelligence
in all its bland, local guises, so that reading the announcement
in the hometown paper of your late marriage to Melinda Bozell
with a brief honeymoon at the Best Western in Junction City,
I know that you have finally arrived, in Brazil, and the Kansas
that surrounds you is an endless sea of possibility, genius, love.

Source of the text - B.H. Fairchild, Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest: Poems.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003, pp. 49-50.

TJB: This poem, an epithalamion-looking-backward, composed in four big celebratory run-ons, is most at home dwelling in failures & big gestures.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Parachutes, My Love, Could Carry Us Higher" by Barbara Guest

Parachutes, My Love, Could Carry Us Higher

I just said I didn't know
And now you are holding me
In your arms,
How kind.
Parachutes, my love, could carry us higher.
Yet around the net I am floating
Pink and pale blue fish are caught in it,
They are beautiful,
But they are not good for eating.
Parachutes, my love, could carry us higher
Than this mid-air in which we tremble,
Having exercised our arms in swimming,
Now the suspension, you say,
Is exquisite. I do not know.
There is coral below the surface,
There is sand, and berries
Like pomegranates grow.
This wide net, I am treading water
Near it, bubbles are rising and salt
Drying on my lashes, yet I am no nearer
Air than water. I am closer to you
Than land and I am in a stranger ocean
Than I wished.

Source of the text - Barbara Guest, The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest, edited by Hadley Haden Guest.  Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2008, p. 14.

TJB: Flotsam-verse. Air, water & love are conflated here in float-images & net-images powered by comparative terms & deepened with conjunctions.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

from "The Master" by H.D.

from "The Master"


And it was he himself, he who set me free
to prophesy,

he did not say
my disciple,"
he did not say,
each word I say is sacred,"
he did not say, "teach"
he did not say,
or seal
documents in my name,"

he was rather casual,
"we won't argue about that"
(he said)
"you are a poet."

Source of the text - H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Selected Poems, edited by Louis L. Martz.  New York: New Directions, 1988, p. 108.

TJB: Psycho-hagiography. The poet says what she wanted Freud to say to her, conflates prophecy & poetry, & concludes he set her free, casually.

Monday, August 9, 2010

from "The Prelude" by William Wordsworth

from The Prelude, Book First [from the 1850 edition]:

    Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!
Thanks to the means which Nature deigned to employ;
Whether her fearless visitings, or those
That came with soft alarm, like hurtless light
Opening the peaceful clouds; or she may use
Severer interventions, ministry
More palpable, as best might suit her aim.

    One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cove, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
The horizon’s utmost boundary; for above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon’s bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;
There in her mooring-place I left my bark,—
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o’er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.

    Wisdom and Spirit of the universe!
Thou Soul, that art the Eternity of thought,
That givest to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion, not in vain
By day or star-light thus from my first dawn
Of childhood didst thou intwine for me
The passions that build up our human soul;
Not with the mean and vulgar works of man,
But with high objects, with enduring things——
With life and nature, purifying thus
The elements of feeling and of thought,
And sanctifying, by such discipline,
Both pain and fear, until we recognise
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.

Source of the text - William Wordsworth, The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850.  Edited by Jonathan Wordsworth, M.H. Abrams, and Stephen Gill.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979, pp. 47-51.

TJB: The tale of the cliff that terrified the boy. Miltonic consonance darkens this memory-vision of the ‘grandeur in the beatings of the heart.’

Friday, August 6, 2010

"The Names of the Hare," anonymous Middle English lyric

The Names of the Hare

Translation from the Middle English by Seamus Heaney

The man the hare has met
will never be the better of it
except he lay down on the land
what he carries in his hand—
be it staff or be it bow—
and bless him with his elbow
and come out with this litany
with devotion and sincerity
to speak the praises of the hare.
Then the man will better fare.

'The hare, call him scotart,
big-fellow, bouchart,
the O'Hare, the jumper,
the rascal, the racer.

Beat-the-pad, white-face,
funk-the-ditch, shit-ass.

The wimount, the messer,
the skidaddler, the nibbler,
the ill-met, the slabber.

The quick-scut, the dew-flirt,
the grass-biter, the goibert,
the home-late, the do-the-dirt.

The starer, the wood-cat,
the purblind, the furze cat,
the skulker, the bleary-eyed,
the wall-eyed, the glance-aside
and also the hedge-springer.

The stubble-stag, the long lugs,
the stook-deer, the frisky legs,
the wild one, the skipper,
the hug-the-ground, the lurker,
the race-the-wind, the skiver,
the shag-the-hare, the hedge-squatter,
the dew-hammer, the dew-hoppper,
the sit-tight, the grass-bounder,
the jig-foot, the earth-sitter,
the light-foot, the fern-sitter,
the kail-stag, the herb-cropper.

The creep-along, the sitter-still,
the pintail, the ring-the-hill,
the sudden start,
the shake-the-heart,
the belly-white,
the lambs-in-flight.

The gobshite, the gum-sucker,
the scare-the-man, the faith-breaker,
the snuff-the-ground, the baldy skull,
(his chief name is scoundrel.)

The stag sprouting a suede horn,
the creature living in the corn,
the creature bearing all men's scorn,
the creature no one dares to name.'
When you have got all this said
then the hare's strength has been laid.
Then you might go faring forth—
east and west and south and north,
wherever you incline to go—
but only if you're skilful too.
And now, Sir Hare, good-day to you.
God guide you to a how-d'ye-do
with me: come to me dead
in either onion broth or bread.
Source of the text - The Rattle Bag, edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.  London: Faber and Faber, 1982, pages 305-306.

TJB: Rabbit magic. Since when was the hare so fearful as to require such an outstanding, sonically potent litany of names bursting in action?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Oracle of Balaam, Numbers 23:18-24

Text of the poem in Hebrew:

English translation by Robert Alter:

"Rise, Balak, and listen,
    give ear to me, O Zippor's son!
El is no man who would fail,
    no human who would show change of heart.
Would he say and not perform
    would he speak and not fulfill it?
Look, to bless I was taken,
    and He blessed, so I will not reverse it.
He has beheld no harm in Jacob,
    and has seen no trouble in Israel.
The Lord his god is with him,
    the king's trumped blast in his midst,
El who brings them out from Egypt,
    like the wild ox's antlers for him.
For there is no divining in Jacob
    and no magic in Israel.
Now be it said to Jacob
    and to Israel what El has wrought.
Look, a people like a lion arises,
    like the king of beasts, rears up.
He will not lie down till he devours the prey,
    and blood of the slain he drinks."

Source of the text in Hebrew -  Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.  Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1967, pp. 256-257.

Source of the English translation - Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses: a translation with commentary.  New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 2004, pp. 807-808.

TJB: In fluid pronouns, this ancient oracle-poem praises Israel & its god El & refuses to contradict El although Israel permits no divination.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"A Dance" by Caroline Knox


Bouki fait gumbo,
Lapin mangé li.

Bouki Wolof for hyena;
Verbs are French: fait, mangé.

Gumbo Native American or Bangena
= Okra = filé = "dried powdered young sassafras leaves,

discovered by the Choctaw Indians,"
says Miriam Knopf in Around America:
A Cookbook for Young People.

Compair Bouki, Compair Lapin =
Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit.

"The hyena may have made the gumbo,
but it's the rabbit that ate it"—a distich of power
and viable Marxist grumbling?

Compair Aesop fait (get Greek word for "tale")
Compair LaFontaine fait fable.
God gives, but He doesn't share.

Compair Aesop fait fable.
Compair LaFontaine mangé Aesop.

Even gumbo z'herbes in a starving time, desperate cooking, meager soup.

Compair Marianne Moore traduit LaFontaine,
Compair Joel Chandler Harris fair storybook,
Choctaw Indians mangé gumbo.

Author's Note - "Bouki fait gumbo, lapin mangé li is a Creole proverb.  The Knopf book was published in 1969.  Most material in the poem comes from lectures on the American frontier by Joyce E. Chaplin (lines 1-6, 12-14, and 20).  'God gives, but He doesn't share' is a Haitian proverb cited by Paul Farmer in Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains (Random House, 2004)."

Source of the text - Knox, Caroline.  Quaker Guns.  Seattle: Wave Books, 2008, pp. 4-5 [poem] and 67 [author's note].

TJB: Driven by analogies, salted with exoticisms, this poem of sound-stew advances through thoughts & facts almost as if without a poet at all.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"After Anacreon" by Lew Welch


When I drive cab
          I am moved by strange whistles and wear a hat.

When I drive cab
          I am the hunter. My prey leaps out from where it
          hid, beguiling me with gestures.

When I drive cab
          All may command me, yet I am in command of all who do.

When I drive cab
          I am guided by voices descending from the naked air.

When I drive cab
          A revelation of movement comes to me: They wake now.
          Now they want to work or look around. Now they want
          drunkenness and heavy food. Now they contrive to love.

When I drive cab
          I bring the sailor home from the sea. In the back of
          my car he fingers the pelt of his maiden.

When I drive cab
          I watch for stragglers in the urban order of things.

When I drive cab
          I end the only lit and waitful things in miles of
          darkened houses.

Source of the text – Lew Welch, Ring of Bone: Collected Poems 1950-1971, edited by Donald Allen. San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1994, p. 21.

TJB: Anticlassical conceit. We see the poet as cabdriver, a beacon in the land of the sleeping, passengers as readers & the drive itself as poem.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Daystar" by Rita Dove


She wanted a little room for thinking:
but she saw diapers steaming on the line,
a doll slumped behind the door.

So she lugged a chair behind the garage
to sit out the children’s naps.

Sometimes there were things to watch—
the pinched armor of a vanished cricket,
a floating maple leaf. Other days
she stared until she was assured
when she closed her eyes
she’d only see her own vivid blood.

She had an hour, at best, before Liza appeared
pouting from the top of the stairs.
And just what was mother doing
out back with the field mice? Why,

building a palace. Later
that night when Thomas rolled over and
lurched into her, she would open her eyes
and think of the place that was hers
for an hour—where
she was nothing,
pure nothing, in the middle of the day.

Source of the text - Rita Dove, Thomas and Beulah: poems.  Pittsburgh: Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1986, p.61.

TJB: Routine-lyric. In simple prosody we hear the glory & transcendence of doing-nothing, of briefly seeing things with keener, more alive eyes.

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