Tag Archives: poetry

I Want to Tell You

The candles
on the dining room table
have burned low.

I like seeing
them gutter and swell,
wax running
everywhere.

I know
it drives you crazy—
forgive me.

I love their
last breaths,
so loose lipped.

Presence of Absence

(After Herman Melville)

It appalls me in some dim and random way.
In nature it enhances beauty, as in pearls or gardenias.
In people, it offers power over others.
In monuments of death, it implies sympathy and light.
In brides, innocence and purity.
In the elderly, a benign benevolence.
To the old Iriquois, it meant the deep winter sacrifice of a sacred dog.
Roman Catholics see in it the Passion of our Lord.
In the vision of St. John, it meant shining robes for the redeemed.

Yet inside this color is a panic in the blood.
Remove some of the kinder associations and combine it
with a terrible object and it magnifies that terror
with a ghastly mildness and a pale dread.
To the shark, the polar bear, the squalls of the Southern ocean
it adds a supernatural and a nameless terror.

The tall pale man of the Eastern European forests
gives the wanderer as much inner darkness as the milk foamed sea
gives the sailor. A young colt in a sleepy Vermont valley
will stamp and snort at a shaken bear skin. Though the colt has
no memories of past violence, it carries an instinctive,
an inherent knowledge of the demonism of the world.

Mystic signs carry these ancestral hints, so to me they must
exist somewhere. Is there a dumb blankness of annihilation
in the distant stars? Or a colorless atheism from which we shrink?
Nature paints the world in a sexual riot of color.
While the paintbrush is colorless, look at its source
long enough and you will receive a blindness that removes
both the world’s beauty and the terror of seeing it.

Eye Motes #3

1
We gathered wild asparagus beneath the powerlines.

2
A hummingbird weighs the same as a nickel.

3
Somewhere the new Mozart is fleeing a patron.

4
Betrayed by fiat currency we drank from each others mouths.

5
The reticulated arms of trees by the side porch.

6
Recall whisking tea during the ceremony, the sound in the bowl.

7
New grandchild awaits birth and surgery; mother a slow savage.

8
Last night before sleep, an Armageddon of choice.

9
The sky let down one hollow canyon.

10
A dagger of ice falls into Glacier bay.

11
I clean the orchard mud from my rolled up pant legs.

12
Where once we hunted black tail deer, sculpture and swallows.

Speedway

Go with the loud, the sweet, the high
Ones. It doesn’t mean a thing,
On the slick hardpan of Nazareth’s curves,
To bounce the brickyard wall–

Or Portland for the G I Joe,
Under the mussel clouds,
If in first place beneath the stands,
Your engine throws a rod.

Oversteer, push, in dirty or clean
Air, down force is your hot friend.
It’s bump and run to spray the wine,
Or it’s grenade and catch the fence.

Brace and Bit

My grandfather’s brace and bit
wasn’t very useful. Leftover

from the days of sail, it was
a country carpenter’s tool.

To countersink a screw
or drill a pilot hole

you had to put your shoulder into it
and often clear the ratchet and the pawl.

But the bits! The bits had heft and soul.
He had a rack of them like rebel soldiers

just back from building pinewood boats
to carry Jackson’s army across the flood.

Long shank and tapered tang
and a ribboned twist for cutting,

they were like the devil’s hoof to sharpen–
and could open a finger lengthwise too.

For DK, Who Doesn’t Think She is a Poet

Some of your work
gives me the poetry shivers.
Where can a mother and God go
to drink coffee among rockweed and plover?

I am fascinated to know earth
gets distracted by its own ruts.
And once, light was powdered and fell
in patterns birds later copied.

And a child’s ear is a riverbed
above the eave of her cheekbone.
And one can breathe in minnows!
I didn’t know, I didn’t know.

Book Review: Soft Science by Franny Choi

I was prepared to hate it / well, hate is a strong word /
let’s just say give it wings and let it sail past the bridge
/ but it doesn’t suck / it doesn’t pretend to get on its knees
and make the rafters sing / it is a red owl on a bicycle with hungry eyes /

“Who isn’t bruised around the edges, peaches poured
into the truck bed, receipts faded to white?”

it sends out science mannikins to shout about being nervous in secret /
it collaborates with machines to make rain squalls / it argues for
a better kind of blindness / it warns others about dreaming in stairwells
and at crime scenes / it is a crime scene painted in butterscotch broth /

“The cop speaks and I call a plum into is his mouth
and it doesn’t shut him up.

The cop kneels in the grass below my friends, my friends
crowned with August and Salt. My marigold my wave.”

tendrils and tips and sprockets combine to give it firm plant awareness /
“cyborg means man made” I didn’t know / it is like new sounds added
to frost in the stubble by the road / in a Wyoming winter snow drifts
come and go like grainy herds of buffalo / this book is like those herds
mated with seigniorage — the profit made from the minting of coins /
ducats in the pillow / francs thrown into the Seine / everything costs
what you are willing to throw away / this book is completely free
in that sense / it is madly lyrical / and worth your time.

Note: this review is for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club. Soft Science
is forthcoming from Alice James books.