Friday, August 31, 2012

Allen Bramhall

People embracing the same cloud, spinning their bosons. People as quick as edited effusion downright, possible ranch where the next elephant can be first. A quick look asserts a practical side to terrorism. People have been fed with bell tones tuned to trickle theory. Trees in the offing insist on whistling to clouds, brash tactics for a new rocket season. Today will be the same thing as staking a witch. Same thing the dignity of arrows. Same thing rocketship to morass. A port opens in time for relief. War torn looks lovely this time of year.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Peter Ganick

from MBW (2009)

Al Maginnes

Against the Hard Weather

This weather, dry and cold enough
to crack the skin stretched
across hinges of bone, has nothing

to ask from the streets it empties,
the bars and lit stores where
the shivering seek respite or from

a sky so wide and stark
any light turns intruder,
false as promises of eternal love

littered on walls and notebook covers,
spray painted on the water tower
by each year’s senior class, bodies

giddy with the notion of escape.
The only work for those who stay
comes where lights stay on all night:

third shift at the assisted care
center or loading bags
at the tiny airport for those able

to depart. The summer I was
supposed to leave, someone returned
from prison, the name of a girl,

who dumped him months before
he was arrested, inked and needled
into his arm, a sad bit

of love-graffiti, made sadder
by the bouquet of swastikas
garlanding her name. She was gone,

never saw her name blaze
living flesh or heard his longing
spill across conversations,

spoiled, overweight, assuming
a welcome that did not exist.
After a few weeks, he found work

at the rest home, sloshing
water the color of stone across
moon-dull floors and mopping,

nose curled against the blossoming
odor of ammonia, pale perfume
he smelled hours after driving home.

One night at the bar, when the dry
edge of fall felt like rescue,
sleeves rolled down to cover

the name he no longer mentioned,
he told us about a resident—his voice
more deliberate when he said residents

who had outlived even time, existed
in eternal present tense. On nice days
she walked outside where she stooped

mechanical as a crow, to pick up
pecans scattered over the grass.
She always left her day’s gathering

by the back door, and each morning,
just before light, he walked
the wet grass, scattering her harvest

so there would be something for her
to find. Love is something like that,
its arrival forsaking fire and blood

to bring one piece at a time,
objects that fit the hand or fall
away, all of them alike only

because for a moment we think
they are what we need against
the hard weather longing delivers.


Light from Bodies of Dying Fire

We don’t get long to stand under
            the star-throttled dome of sky, to be
breath paused in the heaving chest
            of the world. Centuries burn
above us so completely it is
            uncertain whether the past
or the future turns to ash,
            then ether, above us. The man watching
the sky through his back yard telescope
            can plot the constructs of Scorpio,
recalcitrant Capricorn, even, if he must,
            angry Cancer, but he will not say
how long since his wife’s touch woke him.
            The telescope can focus
on a single star, fill its lens
            with a solitary fire he mistakes
for loneliness, but the sky has
            no loneliness except what belongs
to the man who must rebuild it
            each night. One conceit says
that in death we ascend to find
            the ones we claimed to love
waiting, reconciled. This might
            be true or we might discover
ourselves floating through
            the universe of lost socks, misplaced
phone numbers, the wrong turns
            and unmatched clothes that are
the lunar debris of  lives, particles
            unclaimed and burning away
so rapidly no telescope can
            register them. He recalls the dust
of freckles across her shoulders,
            tiny constellations whose patterns
he loved too well to memorize.
            She floats in the liquid spell
of morphine, a nurse dozing
            in a chair by the bed while
he orbits the room where
            he no longer sleeps before
lying, near dawn, on the couch,
            one portion of sky visible
though he cannot say from where he rests
            the names of the stars he sees
or how long since light started from
            those bodies of dying fire.


What Becomes Holy

My first god washed from the sea, a shell,
            a chunk of coral, steady sleeping reminder
of how much of creation must remain
            beyond my reach. My second god was
the knife I used to drill my name into
            any surface that held still. Now,
it is the nameless wren nested so long
            in the limbs of our slow-dying dogwood
I believe it sleeps under my heart,
            only to be startled into motion by any
pitch or cough. Once, the painted eyes
            of the man carved on the cross locked me
in a blind stare I could never outlast.
            Noise came from the choir box, sounds
harder to translate than wren-song.
            We labor to believe in salvation
but have no power to choose
            what becomes holy. The afternoon
two friends and I held our silence for as long
            as it took the sun to set remains
eternal as baptism or birth. The naïve ear
            bent to a shell hears an ocean
vast an empty as sleep, itself
            a kind of god, shapeless and mostly dark.
The passengers dozing on the plane
            might have been praying, so resolutely
were their eyes shut, their bodies upright,
            mouths open as if to admit the holy song
of the wren. Sun eased into
            the curve of the earth, ice-heavy clouds
glowing bright enough to offer
            a brief hope for miracles. What was there
to pray for from that height
            but safe return to the earth
of iron and seed, of water and rust,
            but deliverance from our brief naps
of terror and faith. The sleeping wren’s
            single god is sky, but fear takes it
so far into the hollows and thickets of trees,
            it loses the sky, lights among
invisible branches to wait,
            as any frightened thing must,
for the furies of the blood to subside
            into language finally able
to dream a way into prayer.


Report from a Winter Drought

Whatever my life is, it is
slower than the ticking heart
of a watch I no longer wear.
Few lift their heads after passing
A half-century and exclaim,
“Here I am! Right where I meant
to be,” and I am no exception.
Today, the great mystery and joy
of my life kept tugging me
to my feet for another walk
down the hall or outside to kick
through brown leaves and watch cars pass,
engines and radios bumping
asynchronous rhythms that seem
designed to disrupt the heart.
This is the season of short days,
daytime too brief to contain
the energy of not having been
on this planet long enough
to know you cast a shadow.
At night, after sleep claims
the rest of the house, I listen
to jazz over my earphones,
following the reckless path of horns
with attention I rarely use
anywhere else. Tonight, they block
the brush-soft strokes of slow rain,
the first in weeks. Lake beds have become
tramping ground for scavengers
hunting antique fishing tackle
or fossil proof of what lived
before us. In the next county,
officials are coming the shelves
of school libraries for any books
that might offend. Last month,
I showed my daughter the ocean
for the first time, its unfolding
a story that won’t stop being written,
blacks and grays tumbling over
and over one another like stones
in a hopper, all the treasures
of and geographies of the sea floor
hidden, but I recalled a story
of the five Chinese brothers, each possessed
of one unworldly talent. One could
blow harder than the wind. Another
could draw and bring the drawing
to life. The brother I remember could
drink the ocean dry. He promised
a boy who begged that he would
empty the ocean long enough to let
the boy see what the water hid.
The boy promised to be watchful
and to come back at the signal.
Of course the boy wandered too far,
and the ocean-drinking brother—
stories were crueler then—spit
the ocean back in place,
drowning the boy. No librarian
would stock that book today. We want
fiction of softer consequence.
The story I want from each day
is that my daughter has learned
another work on her walk
into English, small artifacts
of breath and sound and, later,
alphabet arriving to serve her
even in a world where books
disappear from library shelves,
where the past can be slipped
into a pocket and borne away.
There are parts of the past I will
wish to keep hidden from her,
but she will learn everything
I don’t want to tell her
as inevitably as the changing
of weather. For so many years,
I longed to know just one thing
for sure. On walking tours
of historical sites, tourists linger
by old jails, seek the gallows,
the whipping pole. Maybe they want
to believe themselves safe from
imprisonment that allows everything
to be said in the clash of steel
against steel, erasure that leaves
only the name, the half-word scrawled
into a cell wall’s paint. It’s possible
to stand too long, trying
to read the end of the message
that began there or in the splash
and fall of waves, the empty spaces
on shelves. Even the soft recitals
of rain deliver an alphabet. Today,
when I tried reading to her,
my daughter, creature of the moment,
seized the book from my hands
and laughed, my giggling censor,
my half-sized future, my unseen
life continuing.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

R. Clark Morrow

from Porch Fragments

Evanston, 2012


The a.m. light-post, majestic
as it is to look at with its wrought-iron
post and ornate light-box contributes
to the city's flood blocking
the stars; the view is paid for by
minutes of tomorrow's exhaustion.


The hedges know nothing of iron
yet they reach up to obscure windows;
strain to cover up steps. Only precise
violence can keep them in check.


Dandelions demand seed;
the particle stuff on the wind.
White tails of rabbits flash
as they dodge between iron
and earth.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Márton Koppány

Hungarian Vispo #2


Elizabeth Wyatt



At last, they were all.
They left the hospital, drove home through the autumn
to a sameness changed.

The red nectar meniscus low in the hummingbird feeder,
parchment-yellow’s creeping spread from the tips of houseplants.
Everything was natural.

He would wake before sunrise to dress in dark
and kiss both of them, now, before leaving.

She woke with him,
not to his alarm, but to the cessation of his snoring,
and watched the night evaporate for hours.

Outside the windows
the yard’s same paling silence, but louder.


Hypervigilance was listed everywhere as a telltale symptom.
There had been accusation at the birth, in the child’s frothy new eyes
that still squinted, as if at an unwanted gift.


One day soon after he’d married her, he went to work
and noticed himself there.

The fact distilled clear as the sentence:
I am at work.  

Not a vague unworded perception of “here”, or “this”, or “at work”,  
or just a conscious “I”, no, very precisely I am at work,

as one could be at work, or,
as another might recognize, not be at home.

Aloof in the world’s conversational ocean,
his mouth twitched with abrupt need

to make for the bobbing bright respite of her inner talk,
shaped like her by its own inmost letter,

the part of her that cleaved his consciousness
and kept some for her own

so that now through liquefying shelves and cashiers
he sought what her word held of him, around him.

He glided alone toward its airy O
to surface in the center of a buoyant you.


Around their mailbox, she had trellised clematis
as if to invite good news.

As winter slid closer she tried to recall
how the flowers leveled their sharp petals each spring
when the tendriled networks of jasmine vines
ran thin between the oak and the roof,
and small blossoms crouched in the glossy leaves
like insects, curled cream and buttercup,
vigor shining under the heavy weight of their scent
with the appalling beauty of a delirious child.


He liked to watch television after dinner,
his hair still shining walnut at the temples.

Their couch was brown, and their curtains,  
and the brown linoleum peeled itself up, distasteful, at the kitchen corners.

The cat they’d taken in
their first year of marriage, vaguely calico,
wandered now through the house feeling camouflaged
and that texture covered everything, everything
was insured.



In the quiet
balance of your personal absences, compressed
by force of function to a life
                                             wreathed in daily circlets of daisy-chain reactions,

I found:

            that a free-falling human body
will, if permitted
to fall long enough, cease to feel in its guts
that it is falling, becoming
              in its own mass.

My pity for you was decorative.  

You wanted me most when I undressed,
when you thought me most vulnerable, when
I thought
               you would never refuse me. 


—And Alone the Observer Perceives the Cold.

I have been trained
to believe in for example
                                         the fact

that snow in its infinite particularity is
the infinite. Because. It veils all versions that lie

beneath. As a child I picked pansies, enormous homely blooms
big as my hand, and shaped like

the heart of my palm, striated
with purple and yellow  

and smaller white petals like clean silken ears
which fell
in their own little snow
  containing in each ecstatic

expansion from center       the original
pattern of expansion

to round itself off into future, to the exact
degree and angle of misperception

necessary for the eye to calculate
its depth. It cannot surprise that what emerges from the blind spot
is the most surprising (another rule).


When we say
     suicide is never an option

what we mean is

    you cannot choose something
          because it is easy

because we will burst
from this way of thinking, which is, however,

     always an option, and choice
is a necessary component of any rational life.

—these being the perspectival lines

that lead to the diminishment of the hand
that grasps the charcoal, guides the other

hand that lights the fire.

Any beauty I have ever appeared to own, I owe
to an internal imperative  
                                        not to occupy more time or space

than I deserve.
Above all I know how to disappear.

How the green orchids were all we did not talk about at breakfast after that.
Let the lock, its liquid burp from the wall,

       at last toward a new destination,

a felt expanse
                 by rock.

Their skies
came furnished with glistering birds. If only I’d hidden  

in the earliest hour, released
a murder of blue-black balloons…

                              but to concede
the sand would have been

to concede the glass and the microscope, to level
its holy dome
                       like a paperweight over their characters.

The idea of flight is tired, needs
marrowing. Tomorrow

         we dig for hollower bones.


Bert Almon

St. Matthew Passion, Bach Choir

(Royal Festival Hall)

After the arrest of Christ, the long interval
began, and a mob took over the lobby
to set up their traditional meal,
carrying chairs and tables from other floors.

What could be more English than to picnic
on Palm Sunday at a St. Matthew Passion
performed in English? They had much tidying to do
before re-entering the Hall for the trial of Jesus.

The Evangelist stopped the crucifixion:
during the chorus, “O Head filled with blood
and wounds,” the tenor, James Gilchrist, walked
to the conductor and whispered that he was ill,
having lost sight in one eye. Trained as a doctor,
he could measure the danger and left for hospital.
All the choir could do then was sing the last choruses,
omitting the narrative and shifting the drama offstage
to the casualty ward. They closed their scores
and sang to us from memory, “When I must depart,
do not depart from me. When I must suffer death,
then stand thou by me.” On the way out, the crowd
was spreading the news on their phones, so many thumbs
roaming over the tiny buttons. A few people hefted baskets
with the leavings and implements of the meal.


Here’s to Hollywood

At the Jasper Park Lodge,
the accountants’ convention
held a costume party
with a classic movie theme.
Drifting through uninvited,
I saw three famous mustaches
Gable, Groucho and Chaplin (twice),
and three or four Marilyns,
all of them over the top,
but best of all, Mickey and Minnie,
he in red shorts with big white buttons,
she in a red polka dot dress,
both of them wearing white gloves.

As I went to my car,
Mickey and Minnie ran by me,
giggling to their cabin,
stumbling in their yellow clogs,
with hot mouse sex on their minds.
White gloves on or off
was strictly a private matter.