Thursday, February 27, 2014

So Cold, So Pretty

AWP Comic

 A friend was complaining to me about how much he hates AWP.  It's like Diet Pepsi, he said. I'm addicted, but it's bad for me.  I keep drinking it,  but I hate it.  He says he doesn't sell books or connect or enjoy the panels  . . .  He says that when it was smaller, he did all those things.  He doesn't like the feeling it gives him about poetry in America either.  His comments made me think of this comic. 


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

At the Y

There are lines of television screens above the workout machines.
One is Fox News, the channel where all the news-women
are blonde babes, and all the men are vile.
Every ten or fifteen minutes is an anti-Obama clip.
Today features Karl Rove and Benghazi again.
One might guess Benghazi happened only yesterday.
On the next TV screen a woman is having a facelift
without any cutting of flesh.  Instead, her cheeks,
chin and forehead are stabbed repeatedly with a needle.
Doesn't she look great? her husband asks after the lift.
She smiles, pats her shiny, new face and says
she feels she's twenty years old again.
On the next screen over a girl describes her eating disorder.
She vomits at least eight times a day.  She's improving,
she thinks.  She can't promise not to puke again.

Ugh, I say out loud, and the African American man next to me asks
which screen I'd like him to shatter with his free weights.
Fox first, please, I say.  He agrees.  It's a racist show, he says.
Not many white folks get how racist it is.  
We stare at the blond newscaster together then,
at her red dress, her matching lipstick and heels
as she nods and smiles like a goddess overhead.

Monday, February 24, 2014

from I LEFT MY WINGS ON A CHAIR by Karen Schubert


You may be surprised to know these are real places, our guide says.  You can find them on the map at the end of the tour.  She hands us our radiation suits.  Half of us go into Chernobyl, the other half into Hiroshima.  We walk from the Before room to the After room.  Our Geiger Counters click an wheedle.  My mask is hard to see through and it takes me a while to realize there are no more people.  The ambulances have left.  I want to warn the dogs.  It feels so real.  The guide has never heard of Three Mile Island.

We slip off the suits and hear gunshots.  What's the difference between Gettysburg and Columbine? our guide asks.  We duck out of the way as students run by with their hands up.  Their grandfathers were in Vietnam, so they know what to do.  The smoke clears and we lay wreaths at the white crosses, a single row like Arlington.  We are still working on Iraq and Afghanistan, the guide says, and gestures toward the locked doors.

We go from Ruby Ridge to Waco.  Jonestown is silent--no fire or gunshots, all the people in rows.  Motionless fathers hold their children down.  We can't see Kook-Aid on their faces.  Most of us are crying, and the tour guide promises to cheer us up.  We walk past Bataan and Auschwitz, all the way to Hollywood.  We stay in Hollywood for hours.  We better be getting to Ground Zero, Broadway, and Wall Street!  calls the tour guide.  They are closing Lockerbie and Love Canal!  But we just stay in Hollywood, watching those beautiful people pose for flashing cameras.  One mother tells us to get a good look.  You can be anything you want, she says.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dead Man at the Y

On Wednesday at the Y
a man was walking on the track
when suddenly he stopped,
sat down, and slumped over.
He was taken away on a stretcher.

On Thursday a man stayed in the sauna 
so long he couldn't get up.
As one of the passersby put it,
He cooked hisself like a rotisserie chicken.
He, too, was taken away on a stretcher.

Good thing the Y shares the parking lot
with the hospital,  a woman said.
They even have a helicopter pad
in case you need to be life-flighted to Cleveland.

Yep, another woman piped up.
We could use a funeral parlor on the other side.
You heard about the man who was sitting
in the chair in the workout room?
He was there a few hours
before anyone realized he was dead.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Poems from Two Beautiful Books: Hourglass Museum by Kelli Russell Agoden and Revising the Storm by Geffrey Davis

These two beautiful books came in the mail last week.  I have to post at least one poem from each, but it's hard to pick!

If My Life Were a Canvas,
It Would Be a Jackson Pollock Painty-By-Number

1 Blue:

Imagine this: you're spread across the page 
of a dream and it's morning.  There was a storm
last night and the robin's eggs have scattered
across the lawn.  Some broken, some not.

2 Yellow:

The sink is always full 
of disappointment.
Unnoticed daylight,
a measure of sadness--
chipped sunflower plates
overpowering the perfect
blue delphinium teacups.

3 Black:

Sometimes the crows remind us, we are only ink 
and paper.  Puzzles to solve, silver
to seek, and when the light dims, holes appear
against the universe, in tubes of paint
gathered from the barn--
something will be stolen
from someone else's nest.

4 White:

Book of ghosts.
Whispers and watermarks.
Whatever still reflects: paper;
waves, a dove suggesting God.

5 Orange:

A crowd of drunken lovers.  Newspaper
hats, new couples falling from couches and love-
seats---the pleasure remembered,
never the regret.

More than Forgery


In middle school, I practiced
signing my father's name, for days,

filled empty sheets of paper secretly in class,
comparing his graceful autograph to the frauds.

The beginning tripped me up--the capital A--
his detail so hard to copy:  the tight flourish

of ink just before the first downstroke of the pen.
Because I worried over penmanship, because,

like him, I favored an unfinished cursive,
I watched my forgeries lean toward the real thing

before endorsing the backs of his V.A. checks,
piled up during the months he vanished into reaps

or chased fixes:  Pay to the order of  food to hush
our rumblings.  The checks kept us

in lights and warm water.


                            Or the way my father
tapped his foot while playing the guitar; he kept

a different, distant beat---the one to play against.
THey lyrics he belted became wounds riding the air

and left me, the boy who wished and wept for birds,
fighting off tears so he would sing another hour.

By high school, I knew he'd left for good.
his A stayed in my hand.

It flares up in every Adam or Alinique
I write--in every love letter I end, Always yours.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Emily Dickinson Comic after "The Brain---is wider than the Sky--" (632)

The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—

The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
As Sponges—Buckets—do—

The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—

Monday, February 17, 2014

So Cold

It was so cold, I had to run my fingers under cold water when I got home.  But you have to admit, it's gorgeous.  More snow on the way . . .

Also, You Were My Death by Erika Lutzner

I forgot to mention Erika's heartbreaking collection, which is a long elegy for her husband who died on 9/11.

A short poem:

Your toothbrush was what gave you away
your DNA still there--
no bits of flesh, the plane

took care of that

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Books: Bruce Mills, Harvey Hix, Nicole Santalucia, Robert Lee Brewer

I have recently had the good fortune of receiving books as gifts.  Here are a few:

In this beautifully written memoir, Bruce Mills tells his story of raising an autistic son.
A quote from the book:
"Living with Jacob is about more than allowing the language of his mind to erase the chalk lines of my own patterns.  It is about unexpected intersections, the willingness to walk blind, to discern shadows in the lay of the land.  It is about the painful unburdening the comes when the mind expands to see anew."

My partner in crime and fellow BAP blogger has a beautiful and brave new chapbook out, Driving Yourself to Jail in July.   

The Cannoli Machine at the Brooklyn Detention Center

The cannoli machine in the Brooklyn Detention Center is for the visitors;
my dad waited in line when he went to visit my bother.
He didn't know he'd have to empty his pockets,
take off his pinky ring and untie his shoes.
This is the first time I saw my dad afraid,
but he wasn't too afraid to stand in line
with all the other fathers
in front of the cannoli machine.
He ate two or three and noticed a little white cream filling on his cheek
when he saw himself in the surveillance camera;
he noticed that his white t-shirt was washed too many times
and was starting to turn grey,
that his socks didn't match.
I didn't know this is how fathers were made.

This is Brewer's first collection of poems, and it has some real gems, like this one:

like apple cider spiked with spirits

i'm through with being mr nice guy
the time for mud slinging
                  is upon us

there are libraries full of children
exploring new worlds
               new ways of looking

at the world
            father led us to this
path and disappeared into the thicket

of things
          it was up to us to press onward
even as the evidence was gathered

the pricked make the world go round
and all the money is the world is not
worth this moment of autumn

                                the bonfire
crackling and burning up your silhouette
no one uses card catalogues anymore

Always brilliant and prolific, Harvey Hix has done it again.   I will copy an opening stanza or two from a poem, but Harvey's books work as a whole.

Stay Secret, Stay Lost

My understanding that what had to happen had to
did not prepare me to imagine how it would.
What must be is what is not, not what is.
How else contest the paradox than with a liberty--
a libertinism, a spilling--of imagination?
How else prevent the mind's turning territorial
than through such prodigal, even flippant, errancy?
It followed her to school one day, school one day, school one day.
So, against the mind's urge to be imperial,
I am working with random materials:

cherries fallen from the neighbor's apple tree
into my yard, seventy-two sheets from my collection
of page 73s, my grade-school teacher's names, spelled backward,
a vintage plastic model of a vintage 'Vette.
Against the forces out to heredity us,
to standardize our choices by orchestrating
what is offered us to choose from, and thus what anyhow,
and whether, we think, it serves self-definition,
self-defense, to find the unimportant fascinating.
This uncertainty is liberating,  . . .


Reading Tom Clark’s translation of Wang Wei reminded me of how much I love translations.  I love reading two or more and then lining them up and comparing them.   I feel as if I am looking through a window with many compartments, and each one shows a slightly different picture.   "Black Stone over a White Stone" or should I say, "Black Stone Lying on a White Stone" is one of the poems I've seen translated the most, maybe because so many of us know Spanish or think we know Spanish.  I read once that Robert Bly did not know many of the languages he translated.

(Translation by Andres Rojas)
I will die in Paris in a rainstorm,
on a day I remember already.
I will die in Paris – and by this I stand –
perhaps on a Thursday, like today, in autumn.
A Thursday it will be, because today, a Thursday
spent belaboring these verses, I’ve worn my arm bones
with ill humor, and never as today have I,
in all my journeys, found myself alone once more.
César Vallejo is dead. Everyone beat him
without him doing anything to them;
they struck him hard with a club, and hard too
with a rope; these bear witness:
all Thursdays and arm bones,
loneliness, rain, journeys…

Black Stone Lying On A White Stone

  by César Vallejo
translated by Robert Bly 
   I will die in Paris, on a rainy day,
on some day I can already remember.
I will die in Paris--and I don't step aside--
perhaps on a Thursday, as today is Thursday, in autumn.

   It will be a Thursday, because today, Thursday, setting down
these lines, I have put my upper arm bones on 
wrong, and never so much as today have I found myself
with all the road ahead of me, alone.

   César Vallejo is dead.  Everyone beat him
although he never does anything to them;
they beat him hard with a stick and hard also

   with a rope.  These are the witnesses:
the Thursdays, and the bones of my arms,
the solitude, and the rain, and the roads. . .

Saturday, February 15, 2014


I have some work in here.  But the real treat is the artists!

Dickinson comic, after The Heart Asks Pleasure--first (536)

The Heart asks Pleasure---
And then--- Excuse from Pain---
And then--- those little Anodynes
That deaden suffering;

And then--- to go to sleep;
And then--- if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The privilege to die---

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pie Beauty after Hopkins


Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

I'm working on this one.  Hmm.  Which is better?                            

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


The house down the street was set on fire a few days ago.

The next door neighbor said
that house has bad karma.
A man died in it,
Then a couple bought it and moved in with 3 kids,
all under 5, one with ALS.
The man got cancer.
He started abusing his wife.
She left without notice last summer.
One morning neighbors watched her
pack everything she could into a van.
By noon she was gone.
The husband, I was told,  followed the postman
around for weeks, asking for her forwarding address.
Then he, too, left.  The grass grew tall around the house,
and the leaves fell, blowing up on the porch.
Then the snow covered it all up
so it looked just like every other house
except for the notices, posted on the door.
Then, one day last week, it was set on fire.
Every fire truck and police officer in Poland
came to put out the flames on a morning of deep snow.
How do you know it was arson? I asked one of the cops.
There were footsteps leading up to the back door, he said.

Reading at Mac Backs Books on Coventry Tonight

at 7:00
with Dawn Shimp and Sammy Greenspan
1820 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear Diary

I used to fall asleep at school in the spring during the foaling time.  I would hear my dad get up in the middle of the night, sometimes several times, to check on a mare, and I would wait up to ask him if the foal had come.  Sometimes the vet had to be called.   Sometimes my dad gave me Sominex, which seemed to work better in school than on an eventful night.

Monday, February 10, 2014

At the Y

a woman tells me she was visiting
West Virginia where those toxic chemicals
were spilled into the river.
She said that authorities told her
the water is just fine now.
You can drink it, you can bathe in it,
you can do anything you want in it.

I will if you will, she said she said.

Another woman said they were only now
trying that gas-man
who dumped fracking-fluid
into the Mahoning River last year.
I thought he was already in jail,
she said, but then I found out
they were trying the guy
who told on him.
They always take out the tattlers first. 

Dickinson Comic

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dear Diary

Dab Blasted

How are you today? a woman asks me
at the Y.
I don't know, I say.  How are you?
Blessed, she says.  I am just so blessed
except for this dab blasted weather.
Dab blasted?
Dab blasted.
Oh, I think that's how I am.  Dab-blasted.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Interview with Ravi Shankar and Lisa Russ Spaar

Dear Diary

How Earthquakes Work

A woman at the Y asked me
if I read the Vindicator
because there's an article on fracking,
or rather on injection wells.
Evidently, the ODNR has been testing
for seismic activity, she said.
There hasn't been an earthquake since last year
so they think it's safe to start injecting again--
They think the earthquake risk has passed.
Is that how earthquakes work? she asked.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Every now and then the sun shines, and it's just so bright . . .  I have to take a photo, just to remind myself: yep, there are days like this, even if it is supposed to snow again tomorrow.