Monday, October 31, 2011

"Q" by Jean Day

"Tractor, Riveter" by Colin Cheney

Tractor, Riveter

My father bought Susan's tractor
     the week they had to crane
          Christmas, her golden

mare, out of the sink hole's blind
     step the beast took into the world
          of soft, bad smut

by the grain silo. The smut
     Sam's mother let him tractor
          his body through the world

he pasted on his ceiling so as not to crane
     his neck holding himself 'til blind
          with touching seemed golden

to me: bodies built of golden
     seal, butterfly smut
          between their legs I was as blind

to then as my father was, when the tractor
     caught a nest of sandhill cranes
          during haying, of the world

he'd ended. And I want to world
     everything beyond Neptune's golden
          ratio with ghosts of those cranes,

beatification of that smut,
     the sudden verbs of tractor
          belts & shuttling blades blind

to their aftermath. Blind,
     Gloucester renounced the world
          but couldn't leave it, just as our tractor

returns each June to wheat golden
     as before, the buzzing smut
          in sickle blades. Yamaguchi's cranes

on the Voyager record, if really cranes
     at all, still sing in the dark with Blind
          Willie Johnson in the smut

(as someone's mother, on this world,
     called it) we engraved that golden
          record with. Tonight, playing "Tractor,

riveter," the golden, blinded cranes
     become the bodies here on my screen. Smut
          this world calls it, tractor replies another.

Source of the text - Colin Cheney, Here Be Monsters.  Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2010, pp. 54-55.

Bourguignomicon: Tractor assonance; poetry as a message to alien life. S and B sounds recur throughout the poem’s languorous sentences & sestinalike triplets.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Shakey Dog" by Ghostface Killah


Yo, making moves back and forth Uptown, sixty dollars
Plus toll is the cab fee, wintertime bubble goose
Goose, clouds of smoke, music blastin
In the A-rab V blunted, whip smelling like fish
From 125th, throwin ketchup on my fries
Hitting baseball spliffs, back seat with my leg all stiff
Push the fuckin seat up, tartar sauce
On my S Dot kicks, rocks is lit while I’m poppin the clips
I’m ready for war, got to call the Cuban guys
Got the Montana pulled in front of the store
Made my usual gun check, safety off, “Come on, Frank
The moment is here, take your fuckin’ hood off
And tell the driver to stay put. Fuck them niggaz
On the block, they shook; most of ‘em won’t look
They frontin, they no crooks, they fuck up they own juks
Look out for Jackson 5-0 ‘cause they on foot”
Straight ahead is the doorway, see that lady that lady with the shopping cart
She keep a shottie cocked in the hallway
“Damn, she look pretty old, Ghost.” She work for Kevin
She ‘bout seventy seven. She paid her dues when she smoked his
Brother-in-law at his boss’s wedding
Flew to Venezuela quickly when the big fed stepped in
Three o’clock, watch the kids, third floor, last door
“You look paranoid, that’s why I can’t juks with you”
Why? “Why you behind me leery? Shakey Dog stutterin
When you got the bigger cooker on you
You’s a crazy motherfucker, small hoodie dude
Hilarious move, you on some Curly, Moe, Larry shit
Straight Perry shit, Krispy Kreme, cocaine
Dead bodies, jail time, you gon’ carry it
Matter of fact, all the cash, I’m a carry it
Stash it in jelly and break it down at the Marriott
This is the spot. You, son—your burner cocked? These fuckin
Maricons on the couch watchin Sanford and Son, passin
They rum, fried plantains and rice, big round onions
On a T-bone steak. My stomach growling, you, I want some
Hold on, somebody’s comin, get behind me, knock at the door
Act like you stickin me up, put the joint to my face
Push me in quickly when the bitch open up
Remember you don’t me, blast him if he reach for his gun”
“You, who goes there?” “Tony.” “Tony, one second, homie
No matter rain, sleet, or snow you know you ‘posed to phone me”
Off came the latch, Frank pushed me into the door
The door flew open, dude had his mouth open
Frozen, stood still with his heat bulgin
Told him, “Freeze! Lay the fuck down and enjoy the moment”
Frank snatched his gat, slapped him, asked him
“Where’s the cash, coke and the crack? Get the smoke and you fast”
His wife stood up speakin in Spanish, big titty bitch
Holdin the cannon ran in the kitchen, threw a shot, then
Kicking in the four fifth, broke a bone in her wrist and she dropped the heat
“Give up the coke!” But the bitch wouldn’t listen
I’m on the floor like, holy shit! Watchin my man
Frank get busy, he zoned out, finished off my man’s wizie
He let the pitbull out, big head Bruno
With the little shark’s teeth, chargin, foamin out the mouth
I’m scared, Frank screamin, blowin shots in the air
Missin his target off the Frigidaire, it grazed my ear
Killed that bullshit pit, ran to the bathroom butt first
Frank put two holes in the doorman’s Sassoon
“The coke’s in the vacuum,” got to the bathroom
Faced his bad moves, the big one had the centipede stab wound
Frank shot the skinny dude, laid him out
The bigger dude popped Frankie boy, played him out
To be continued . . .

Source of the text - The Anthology of Rap, edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010, pp. 554-556.

Bourguignomicon: Adventures in G. The story rolls skillfully like a heist film dressed up in funny details (tartar sauce; Sassoon) & unpredictable rhythms.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"What we fail to read, is reading us" by Corinne Lee


My gone love, there are so many paths. Blank
and mute, blind
like worms nosing loam.
Mesopotamian diviners, bewildered,
hunted wisdom by reading them—

studying entrails of sacrificed creatures,
they saw "Palaces of the Intestines"
in which gods revealed futures (both possible
and real). Pressed coil to coil, those bowels would match

cathedral labyrinth mosaics. Worn
into thin troughs by footsteps
of penitents. Mere skin separates the cool marble floors

from pilgrims' hot inner skeins. Walls
mortal depths away
from exterior wonders. Remove that sheath, and all life
becomes probe, electric:

butterflies can dip wings,
soft shards, between jumping muscles;
lovers' fingertips can trace blue veins
of bare heart. Suddenly superfluous,
the one-note melding of skin-on-skin loving,

if lips can burrow
into pearl larynxes, if two spinal cords
can braid into one rapturous,
sparking plait. That all can be, for pure love discards
the rational. (As its pursuit breeds nothing
but monsters.) So, my phantom love,

you may absorb
this without eyes,
without skin: The body
of the beloved is neither clay,
nor glass, nor granite.

Source of the text - Corinne Lee, Pyx. New York: Penguin Books, 2005, pp. 52-53.

Bourguignomicon: Deploying an offbeat intestine-is-cathedral metaphor & other crisp image-actions, the poet imagines there’s no skin & wonders if we can.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio" by James Wright

Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured nightwatchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

Source of the text - James Wright, Selected Poems, edited by Robert Bly and Anne Wright. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2005, p. 33.

Bourguignomicon: Game planh. This pure, simple lyric characterizes football as a deep rite of father-son compassion & hinges on the essayistic “therefore.”

"Tolle! Lege!" by Kathleen Graber

Tolle! Lege!

         Here’s the spring
         And with it transmogrified
         Yataro becomes Issabo.


In truth, I have less faith in the gods than I do in the chair
I passed one night set out with the trash on John Street,
even though it seemed to me then to be already beyond saving
& I was too tired to try to lift it & carry it away.
Stripped of its cushions & fabric, the frame, by moonlight,
looked like some primitive technology, a fragment
of the heavy plough scientists dug from a Danish bog
& dated through pollen analysis to the 4th century B.C.—
the wooden wheels they knew it had had having long since
turned into peat. What I know of conversion
I learned while cleaning the sticky shelves of the icebox,
a glass sheet exploding as one end hit the sink’s hot suds.
For a single moment, as fissures crackled along the body,
I held something both whole & wholly shattered,
then, form gave way, it broke a second time, & was gone.

William James loved best those changes that burst upon us.
He hardly cared that they rarely stuck or that Augustine
in the garden had been preparing all of his life to be seized.
Hearing the children chanting, pick up & read, pick up
& read, the Saint's eyes fell upon the Epistle to the Romans,
written by Paul, the one who, having seen the Savior 
revealed on the road to Damascus, left even his name behind.

Outside, men are clearing the lawns, blowing the last
of winter's leaves into copper hills before shoveling them
into the bed of a truck. They've been at it all morning,
laboring a long time to unswaddle one acre of earth.
They pass the window & everything churns, as if the room
has been swept up in a blizzard of wings. When, decades ago,
in a dilapidated tenement slated for demolition, I caught
my own reflection in a heavy mirror affixed to a wall,
I smashed it & packed my pockets with as much of myself
as I could. Later, I poured the bits into an old milk bottle
& gave my idol a battered doorknob for a head. Augustine
believed he could almost glimpse that greater kingdom
wavering before him. Aenigma, he writes, suggesting the face
in the mirror, though his mirrors would have been bronze
& someone somewhere would have spent all of his days
pounding the world into something that small & shiny
& thin. And still, it is not easy to make out what is sought.
Someone somewhere is, even now, delicately turning
the maple spindles of a chair at a lathe. The landscapers
drive off & all the little houses resettle—
the way plovers in the dunes, having stood to stretch
their throats into the diffuse light of spring, ease down again
into the reeds. And so it is with the disquieted self, which,
startled almost at the start from itself, seems always now
to be awaiting its own return. The soul, Augustine reminds us,
loving itself, loves what is lost. He recalls the shepherd
who upon finding the missing lamb raises it up
& strides home happy. Mile after mile, he rejoices
beneath his burden of flesh. He bears the warm belly
across his glad shoulders. The pink mouth bleats at his ear.

Source of the text - Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 1-2.

Bourguignomicon: With exceptional clarity, this lyric bundles images to show conversion/poetry as a self-shattering, soul-finding force. Pick it up & read.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

"Terence, this is stupid stuff" by A.E. Housman


   ‘Terence, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can’t be much amiss, ’t is clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, ’t is our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship ’t is to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’

   Why, if ’t is dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’t is pleasant till ’t is past:
The mischief is that ’t will not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

   Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
’T is true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.

   There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
— I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

Source of the text - A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad.  The Bodley Head, NY: John Lane Company, 1917, pp. 91-94.

TJB: Ale ode. What poet other than Housman can answer his inner-critics by positing an increasing-tolerance approach to his own belly-ache verse?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"I love my love" by Helen Adam

I Love My Love

"In the dark of the moon the hair rules." --Robert Duncan

There was a man who married a maid. She laughed as he led her home.
The living fleece of her long bright hair she combed with a golden comb.
He led her home through his barley fields where the saffron poppies grew.
She combed, and whispered, "I love my love." Her voice like a plaintive coo.
Ha! Ha!
Her voice like a plaintive coo.

He lived alone with his chosen bride, at first their life was sweet.
Sweet was the touch of her playful hair binding his hands and feet.
When first she murmured adoring words her words did not appall.
"I love my love with a capital A. To my love I give my All.
Ah, Ha!
To my love I give my All."

She circled him with the secret web she wove as her strong hair grew.
Like a golden spider she wove and sang, "My love is tender and true."
She combed her hair with a golden comb and shckled him to a tree.
She shackled him close to the Tree of Life. "My love I'll never set free.
No, No.
My love I'll never set free."

Whenever he broke her golden bonds he was held with bonds of gold.
"Oh! cannot a man escape from love, from Love's hot smothering hold?"
He roared with fury. He broke her bonds. He ran in the light of the sun.
Her soft hair rippled and trapped his feet, as fast as his feet could run,
Ha! Ha!
As fast as his feet could run.

He dug a grave, and he dug it wide. He strangled her in her sleep.
He strangled his love with a strand of hair, and then he buried her deep.
He buried her deep when the sun was hid by a purple thunder cloud.
Her helpless hair sprawled over the corpse in a pale resplendent shroud.
Ha! Ha!
A pale resplendent shroud.

Morning and night of thunder rain, and then it came to pass
That the hair sprang up through the earth of the grave, and it grew like golden grass.
It grew and glittered along her grave alive in the light of the sun.
Every hair had a plaintive voice, the voice of his lovely one.

"I love my love with a capital T. My love is Tender and True.
I'll love my love in the barley fields when the thunder cloud is blue.
My body crumbles beneath the ground but the hairs of my head will grow.
I'll love my love with the hairs of my head. I'll never, never let go.
Ha! Ha!
I'll never, never let go."

The hair sang soft, and the hair sang high, singing of loves that drown,
Till he took his scythe by the light of the moon, and he scythed that singing hair down.
Every hair laughed a liting laugh, and shrilled as his scythe swept through.
"I love my love with a capital T. My love is Tender and True.
Ha! Ha!
Tender, Tender, and True."

All through the night he wept and prayed, but before the first bird woke
Around the house in the barley fields blew the hair like billowing smoke.
Her hair blew over the barley fields where the slothful poppies gape.
All day long all its voices cooed, "My love can never escape,
No, No!
My love can never escape."

"Be still, be still, you devilish hair. Glide back to the grave and sleep.
Glide back to the grave and wrap her bones down where I buried her deep.
I am the man who escaped from love, though love was my fate and doom.
Can no man ever escape from love who breaks from a woman's womb?"

Over his house, when the sun stood high, her hair was a dazzling storm,
Rolling, lashing o'er walls and roof, heavy, and soft, and warm.
It thumped on the roof, it hissed and glowed over every window pane.
The smell of the hair was in the house. It smelled like a lion's mane,
Ha! Ha!
It smelled like a lion's mane.

Three times round the bed of their love, and his heart lurched with despair.
In through the keyhole, elvish bright, came creeping a single hair.
Softly, softly, it stroked his lips, on his eyelids traced a sign.
"I love my love with a capital Z. I mark him Zero and mine.
Ha! Ha!
I mark him Zero and mine."

The hair rushed in. He struggled and tore, but wherever he tore a tress,
"I love my love with a capital Z," sang the hair of the sorceress.
It swarmed upon him, it swaddled him fast, it muffled his every groan.
Like a golden monster it seized his flesh, and then it sought the bone,
Ha! Ha!
And then it sought the bone.

It smothered his flesh and sought the bones. Until his bones were bare
There was no sound but the joyful hiss of the sweet insatiable hair.
"I love my love," it laughed as it ran back to the grave, its home.
Then the living fleece of her long bright hair, she combed with a golden comb.

Source of the text - The New American Poetry 1945-60, edited by Donald Allen.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, pp. 114-117.

Bourguignomicon: Hair ballad. Something feminine and unstoppable dominates the gorgeous flow of this poem and generates new power from its traditional form.

from "Troilus and Cressida" Act 3 Scene 3 by William Shakespeare

from Act 3 Scene 3 [lines 146-154]

Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,
A great-sized monster of ingratitudes.
Those scraps are good deeds past, which are
Devoured as fast as they are made, forgot
As soon as done.  Perseverance, dear my lord,
Keeps honour bright; to have done is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail
In monumental mock'ry.

Source of the text - William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, edited by David Bevington. Walton-on-Thames: Nelson, 1998.

Bourguignomicon: Ulysses carefully, lovingly describes the cheapness of past deeds now out of fashion, tossed aside by time—amazing metaphor, even for Will.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Once and Upon" by Madeline Gleason


Cross at the morning
and at waking,
with a mourning for summer,
she crossed the bridge Now
over the river Gone
toward the place called New
to begin her Once Upon.

Once and Upon
my daddy long legs
walked in a web of work
for my sisters and me,
as Mother spun round
with silver knives and forks
in a shining of pans,
a wash of Mondays
and plans
for our lives ten thousand weeks.

To cross the bridge Now
over the river Gone
toward the place called New
to begin her Once Upon,
in a mourning for summer, she moved
to write her right becoming
and find her true beloved.

Snippets and tags of Gone,
criss-crossed as retold,
beggared the strumming
of fresh rhythms
that should have stirred her becoming.

Once and Upon
she ate the plum
and from a full mouth
disgorged the pit
into her hand
while Mother spun as she canned
peach and plum in season –
the land, holy Mother to
the plentiful fruit.

To cross.
But where should her steps lead
away from the river?

Through a desert she hurried,
thirsting she ran
to reach becoming,
passed three water holes
but never saw them,
so eager was she to reach
outward evidence
of her inward drawing.

Sisters of grace,
comely, sea-washed,
with blond shell hair and skin,
whirling with intermittent passion
amidst daddy long legs
and Mother awash
among the underthings,
boys shouting and running,
swaggering and dying
for the sisters’ charms.

Tops a-spin in a dying dance.
Yoo Hoo, Fatty! Buck!
Hi, Pete! Hello, old Gene!

Cross at the morning,
summer crossed with the beginning
of gold,
a sea of brown leaves swirling.

And no trees bent down
to whisper their wisdom
for her becoming.
Ah! Now! Ah! Gone! Ah! New
Ah! Once Upon!  

Source of the text - The New American Poetry, 1945-60, edited by Donald Allen.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, pp. 125-127.

Bourguignomicon: Familiar terms turn odd & succulent in this semi-rhyming, semianapestic gesture toward fairy tale while recursion & meaning hold equal sway.

"Cuttings" and "Cuttings (Later)" by Theodore Roethke


Sticks-in-a-drowse droop over sugary loam,
Their intricate stem-fur dries;
But still the delicate slips keep coaxing up water;
The small cells bulge;

One nub of growth
Nudges a sand-crumb loose,
Pokes through a musty sheath
Its pale tendrilous horn.


This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,
Cut stems struggling to put down feet,
What saint strained so much,
Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?
I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,
In my veins, in my bones I feel it,
The small waters seeping upward,
The tight grains parting at last.
When sprouts break out,
Slippery as fish,
I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet.

Source of the text - Theodore Roethke, The Lost Son and Other Poems.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1948, pp. 11-12.

TJB: Birth as harrowing, Saxon rooting. Roethke deeply sympathizes with a sprout, like Jesus or Orpheus, striving to push through to the surface.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"The world is too much with us" by William Wordsworth


The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God!  I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Source of the text - The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, edited by Edward Dowden, Volume III.  London, George Bell & Sons, 1892, p. 21.

TJB: Titan-envy. Really, WW, you of all people rhyme boon & moon, hours & flowers? Really, we’re less connected to Nature than the pagans of old?

untitled poem dated September 27, 1965 by Larry Eigner

                                                       September 27  65      #  j  q  '

blackbirds and sparows
             what a mess
       garbage from the apple tree
                   the dog noses
                the birds swerve in the wind

                 branches    flowers
                      now sunlight impounds shadows

                     there's my own chimney
                                  which was about to smoke

                          the birds come back     more crumbs
                               have been tossed out for them

                                           a dying leaf is a wing

Source of the text - The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner, Volume 2, edited by Curtis Faville and Robert Grenier.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009, p. 672.

Bourguignomicon: Parallel phrases (blackbirds… & branches…, or wind & wing) allow form to settle gently on a flow of dailiness as if seen for the first time.

"Þrjár skáldkonur" by Kristin Omarsdottir

Original text in Icelandic:

Þrjár skáldkonur

í hvítum brjóstahöldum
sitja í kringum lágt
Með bók við hönd.
Maður klæddur sjóræningjapeysu
kemur inn um dyrnar
úr snjóroki og sest
við borð kvennanna.
Klæðir sig úr peysunni.
Þegar hann snertir
eina þeirra
eru þær allar dánar.
Og lifna ekki við.
Þó þær bíði eftir kossum hans.
Þá stendur hann upp,
tekur hina snertu í fang sitt
og heldur á henni út.
þegar dyrnar opnast og lokast
flettir síðum bókanna

English translation by Peter Constantine:

Three women poets
in white bras
sit at a small
round table.
Book in hand.

A man in a pirate sweater
comes in through the door
out of the snowstorm and sits down
at the women’s table.

He takes off his sweater.

He touches
one of them,
they are all dead.
And won’t come alive again.
Though they await his kisses.

Then he rises
scoops up in his arms the woman he had touched
and carries her out.

The draft
as the door flies open and falls shut
leafs through the pages of the three

Source of the text – Kristin Omarsdottir, ""Þrjár skáldkonur." Words Without Borders (The Online Magazine for International Literature), October 2011. Web.  Accessed October 17, 2011.

Bourguignomicon: Why a pirate sweater; do pirates wear sweaters? Six actions are declaratively presented as equals in this parable of poets awaiting readers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Alba" by Samuel Beckett


before morning you shall be here
and Dante and the Logos and all strata and mysteries
and the branded moon
beyond the white plane of music
that you shall establish here before morning

                grave suave singing silk
                stoop to the black firmament of areca
                rain on the bamboos flower of smoke alley of willows

who though you stoop with fingers of compassion
to endorse the dust
shall not add to your bounty
whose beauty shall be a sheet before me
a statement of itself drawn across the tempest of emblems
so that there is no sun and no unveiling
and no host
only I and then the sheet
and bulk dead

Source of the text - Samuel Beckett, Collected Poems in English & French. New York: Grove Press, 1977, p. 15.

Bourguignomicon: Body aubade. With thrilling imagery, litany & chiasmus, the lover’s beauty or perhaps poetry itself emerges as a blockade to platonic truth.

"Whan I see on rode" anonymous Middle English lyric

Whan I see on rode
Jhesu my lemman,
And biside him stonden
Marie and Iohan,
And his rigge i-swongen,
And his side i-stongen
For the love of man:
Wel owe I to wepe
And synnes forlete,
If I of love can,
If I of love can,
If I of love can.

Notes [from Stevick]:

5. rigge    back

My glosses:

rode     cross
lemman     lover
i-swongen     scourged
i-stongen      pierced
owe      ought
forlete     abandon
can     know

Source of the text - One Hundred Middle English Lyrics, Revised Edition, edited by Robert D. Stevick. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994, p. 22.

TJB: Cross-eyed piety; hypotaxis with a great dismount. How often does our poet see Jesus on the cross? Why don’t Mary & John stand beside the poet?

"Channel Firing" by Thomas Hardy

Channel Firing

That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay,
And broke the chancel window-squares,
We thought it was the Judgment-day

And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
The worms drew back into the mounds,

The glebe cow drooled. Till God called, 'No;
It's gunnery practice out at sea
Just as before you went below;
The world is as it used to be:

'All nations striving strong to make
Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
They do no more for Christés sake
Than you who are helpless in such matters.

'That this is not the judgment-hour
For some of them's a blessed thing,
For if it were they'd have to scour
Hell's floor for so much threatening . . .

'Ha, ha. It will be warmer when
I blow the trumpet (if indeed
I ever do; for you are men,
And rest eternal sorely need).'

So down we lay again. 'I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,'
Said one, 'than when He sent us under
In our indifferent century!'

And many a skeleton shook his head.
'Instead of preaching forty year,'
My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
'I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer.'

Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton Tower,
And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.

Source of the text - The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry, revised with new material, edited by Jon Silkin. London: Penguin Books, 1996, pp. 78-79.

Bourguignomicon: Dead-song. With insistent spondees and gallow-humor, God reassures the rueful departed that it’s just business as usual, this Great War.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Supernatural Love" by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Supernatural Love

My father at the dictionary-stand
Touches the page to fully understand
The lamplit answer, tilting in his hand

His slowly scanning magnifying lens,
A blurry, glistening circle he suspends
Above the word “Carnation.” Then he bends

So near his eyes are magnified and blurred,
One finger on the miniature word,
As if he touched a single key and heard

A distant, plucked, infinitesimal string,
“The obligation due to every thing
That’s smaller than the universe.” I bring

My sewing needle close enough that I
Can watch my father through the needle’s eye,
As through a lens ground for a butterfly

Who peers down flower-hallways toward a room
Shadowed and fathomed as this study’s gloom
Where, as a scholar bends above a tomb

To read what’s buried there, he bends to pore
Over the Latin blossom. I am four,
I spill my pins and needles on the floor

Trying to stitch “Beloved” X by X.
My dangerous, bright needle’s point connects
Myself illiterate to this perfect text

I cannot read. My father puzzles why
It is my habit to identify
Carnations as “Christ’s flowers,” knowing I

Can give no explanation but “Because.”
Word-roots blossom in speechless messages
The way the thread behind my sampler does

Where following each X I awkward move
My needle through the word whose root is love.
He reads, “A pink variety of Clove,

Carnatio, the Latin, meaning flesh.”
As if the bud’s essential oils brush
Christ’s fragrance through the room, the iron-fresh

Odor carnations have floats up to me,
A drifted, secret, bitter ecstasy,
The stems squeak in my scissors, Child, it’s me,

He turns the page to “Clove” and reads aloud:
“The clove, a spice, dried from a flower-bud.”
Then twice, as if he hasn’t understood,

He reads, “From French, for clou, meaning a nail.”
He gazes, motionless. “Meaning a nail.”
The incarnation blossoms, flesh and nail,

I twist my threads like stems into a knot
And smooth “Beloved,” but my needle caught
Within the threads, Thy blood so dearly bought,

The needle strikes my finger to the bone.
I lift my hand, it is myself I’ve sewn,
The flesh laid bare, the threads of blood my own,

I lift my hand in startled agony
And call upon his name, “Daddy Daddy”
My father’s hand touches the injury

As lightly as he touched the page before,
Where incarnation bloomed from roots that bore
The flowers I called Christ’s when I was four.

Source of the text - Gjertrud Schackenberg, Supernatural Love: Poems 1976-1992.  New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000, pp. 129-131.

Bourguignomicon: Lexicon-iambics. In these recursive, singsong-arpeggios, an earthly father learns of the deep roots of words from his christlike daughter.

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