(it’s scaffolding) (it’s supposed to be temporary)
(the domino effect) (had been forgotten about)
(it was in storage) (nobody knew where)
(that’s a logging road) (you can see its gutters)
(they leave handprints) (they shudder with dolor)
(nobody could settle on any particular color)
(they meant different things to different people)
(for luck) (on the cheap) (stop now) (flesh for sale)
(fresh fruit) (insect free) (aquafarm) (moon control)
(it was label-resistant) (nobody knew how to embroider
it) (it felt like hailstones) (big as tombstones)
(it strained everyone’s intelligence) (we had tooth
problems) (we’d been flying too much) (our edges
were curling) (we were like silt over sand) (we felt
as if we were sugar dissolving in lime juice) (it
was heavy-handed) (we were covered with treadmarks)
(it was cosmetic) (like crystal handcuffs) (we were
fish then) (we wanted our ladders) (most of them were
rotten) (we can cut down some trees and build new
ones) (we can contrive it out of convection)
(say you’re a weatherman) (seed them some clouds)
(remember how it felt to be scuds on a mountain)
(we had good motivations) (like treeroots buckling
up sidewalks) (we worked like treeroots) (we’d go
anywhere looking for water) (we were hydrologists
then) (we had stewpots) (we were fast-breaking)
(we were aerosol) (we had currency) (we were paper
airplanes) (our creases were in all the right places)
(we hadn’t been stratified so many times) (it was
because they were eye-minded) (they couldn’t see us)
(we weren’t eyefuls) (we were just something to take
note of when they weren’t working) (we were like
scrimshaw) (you were one of the ones covered with flags
and lady liberty) (she was an eyeful) (we were hay
rolls) (then we were haywire) (we needed paperweights)
(we needed dollys) (it was money-laundering they did
as a sideline) (one little cooking fire stirred up
all of that cloudcover) (we were walking through a
ghosttown) (it was a terrestrial globe) (it wasn’t
any bigger than an eyeball) (it was at the bottom
of a fishbowl) (there weren’t any fish in it) (the
water was gone) (and it looked as if it had been con-
signed to oblivion) (do you still have it) (it’s
somewhere around) (we tried to put it in a safe place)
(in one of the treetrunks) (act like a lumberjack)
(show them your blue ox) (your animal companion)
(show them the marks left where you merged)
(they said they were covered with scruples)
(they needed some tearlifts) (you can seed them
with dryice) (that will use up all of the liquid
assets we have left) (then we can sell off some of
the dunking contraptions) (we don’t need them)
(we can act the way hummingbirds act) (we can fight
the way hummingbirds fight) (you can wear your red
vest) (you can wear your red cowboy hat) (it looks
awful) (as if it were made for television) (the
worst kind) (remember the scripts that were written
to teach us something) (past the stratosphere the
sky isn’t blue anymore) (we were unteachable)
(we were woodblocks) (we lived in a sawmill)
(when there was lightning) (it nearly burned down)
(we were unwashed) (we were scoured) (we felt untouch-
able) (and somewhat equivocal again in our science)
(you were always exact to me) (like a storm cellar)
(I liked it near your airstreams) (you never called
me a social parasite and I felt good about that)
(you never said things like the handwriting is on the
wall) (you never said we were biding our time) (you
weren’t a warden) (you weren’t a damper) (you didn’t
live in a chimney) (you didn’t work for management)
(we were still under construction) (there were
warning signs all over us) (in that shocking pink
orange) (like we’d been pickled) (as if we were beets
or some other kind of root vegetables) (you weren’t
a gladiator) (you weren’t resistant) (you weren’t
a virus) (you didn’t know what a firewall was)
(sometimes you did do a little fire-breathing)
(not like a firebrand) (more like a fire that some-
one banked in the evening waiting around until
morning) (there were streets of clouds over the
plains) (we were ice crystals) (laboratory grade)
I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.
But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.
— Alfred Lord Tennyson
from “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
No one’s serious at seventeen.
–On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need
–You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.
Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds–the town is near–
And carries scents of vineyards and beer…
–Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Strung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so mall and white…
June nights! Seventeen!–Drink it in.
Sap is champagne, it goes to your head…
The mind wanders, you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing…
The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
–And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp’s pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father’s starched collar…
Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,
She turns on a dime, eyes wide,
Finding you too sweet to resist…
–And cavatinas die on your lips.
You’re in love. Off the market till August.
You’re in love.–Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you’re bad news.
–Then, one night, your beloved, writes…!
That night…you return to the blinding cafés;
You order beer or lemonade…
–No one’s serious at seventeen
When lindens line the promenade.
– Arthur Rimbaud
Translated by Wyatt Mason
On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
– John Keats
In appreciation of Amy Lawless, to whom I dedicate this post.
1. Please meet Amy Lawless. Some call her Amy Flawless. Amy is to cellophane as cellophane is to 1,000 empires. Amy will make you laugh. Amy will make you cry. Amy will laugh at you when you cry. Amy has a lot of thoughts in her head and with these thoughts she writes poetry. She has a blog. She teaches. As a guest blogger on the Best American Poetry Blog, Amy deliberately talks about important things. She takes thoughts that are in her head and transports them to our head. What fun we have with these thoughts! What inspiration she lends to our souls! What a joy!
2. Gavin Wassung makes beautiful things.
3. Please meet Ben Mirov. Ben Mirov also does a lot of things. He makes a spinage shake every morning and posted the recipe on his blog. His chapbook I is to Vorticism is really something great. You should read it.
by Elizabeth Bishop
The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she’s a daytime sleeper.
By the Universe deserted,
she’d tell it to go to hell,
and she’d find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well
into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.
I am happy to be posting on an even-numbered day in an even-numbered month in an even-numbered year.
Give It Up!
It was very early in the morning, the streets clean and deserted, I was on my way to the station. As I compared the tower clock with my watch I realized it was much later than I had thought and that I had to hurry; the shock of this discovery made me feel uncertain of the way, I wasn’t very well acquainted with the town as yet; fortunately, there was a policeman at hand, I ran to him and breathlessly asked him the way. He smiled and said: “You asking me the way?” “Yes,” I said, “since I can’t find it myself.” “Give it up! Give it up!” said he, and turned with a sudden jerk, like someone who wants to be alone with his laughter.
by Franz Kafka
Nearly every morning, a certain woman in our community comes running out of her house with her face white and her overcoat flapping wildly. She cries out, “Emergency, emergency,” and one of us runs to her and holds her until her fears are calmed. We know she is making it up; nothing has really happened to her. But we understand, because there is hardly one of us who has not been moved at some time to do just what she has done, and every time, it has taken all our strength, and even the strength of our friends and families too, to quiet us.3
by Lydia Davis