Friday, August 31, 2007

_The Dream Songs_, #4, John Berryman

Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her

or falling at her little feet and crying
'You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry's dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.' I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.--Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.

--Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast . . . The slob beside her feasts . . . What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
--Mr. Bones: there is.

From The Dream Songs by John Berryman, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 by John Berryman. Used with permission.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moon and Earth, Alicia Ostriker

Of one substance, of one
Matter, they have cruelly
Broken apart. They never will touch

Each other again. The shining
Lovelier and younger
Turns away, a pitiful girl.

She is completely naked
And it hurts. The larger
Motherly one, breathlessly luminous

Emerald, and blue, and white
Traveling mists, suffers
Birth and death, birth

And death, and the shock
Of internal heat killed by external cold.
They are dancing through that blackness.

They press as if
To come closer, to obtain
A reunion. What divides them

Will always be as invisible as glass.
The girl will always appear to be serene
As a young actress. She does not shed a tear.

The blue-clad woman moans,
Sings to herself, and following
The daughter’s distant

Movements as best
They can, back and forth, in turbulence
Or in calm, rising and falling,

Her waters
Make the image
Of everything.

Alicia Ostriker
_A Woman Under the Surface_

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bleeding, May Swenson

Swenson's shaped version of "Bleeding" with the gash of white space zigzagging down the center of the poem is not preserved in my blog version. But if you click on the above title, you'll go to the Washington U site where several of Swenson's poems, including "Bleeding," are displayed in their shaped version as they originally appeared in _Iconographs_, 1970.

Stop bleeding said the knife
I would if I could said the cut.
Stop bleeding you make me messy with the blood.
I'm sorry said the cut.
Stop or I will sink in farther said the knife.
Don't said the cut.
The knife did not say it couldn't help it but
it sank in farther.
If only you didn't bleed said the knife I wouldn't
have to do this.
I know said the cut I bleed too easily I hate
that I can't help it I wish I were a knife like
you and didn't have to bleed.
Well meanwhile stop bleeding will you said the knife.
Yes you are a mess and sinking in deeper said the cut I
will have to stop.
Have you stopped by now said the knife.
I've almost stopped I think.
Why must you bleed in the first place said the knife.
For the same reason maybe that you must do what you
must do said the cut.
I can't stand bleeding said the knife and sank in farther.
I hate it too said the cut I know it isn't you it's
me you're lucky to be a knife you ought to be glad about that.
Too many cuts around said the knife they're
messy I don't know how they stand themselves.
They don't said the cut.
You're bleeding again.
No I've stopped said the cut see you are coming out now the
blood is drying it will rub off you'll be shiny again and clean.
If only cuts wouldn't bleed so much said the knife coming
out a little.
But then knives might become dull said the cut.
Aren't you still bleeding a little said the knife.
I hope not said the cut.
I feel you are just a little.
Maybe just a little but I can stop now.
I feel a little wetness still said the knife sinking in a
little but then coming out a little.
Just a little maybe just enough said the cut.
That's enough now stop now do you feel better now said the knife.
I feel I have to bleed to feel I think said the cut.
I don't I don't have to feel said the knife drying now
becoming shiny.

From Iconographs by May Swenson. Published by Scribner Copyright © 1970 the Literary Estate of May Swenson.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Paper Nautilus by Marianne Moore

For authorities whose hopes
are shaped by mercenaries?
Writers entrapped by
teatime fame and by
commuters' comforts? Not for these
the paper nautilus
constructs her thin glass shell.

Giving her perishable
souvenir of hope, a dull
white outside and smooth-
edged inner surface
glossy as the sea, the watchful
maker of it guards it
day and night; she scarcely

eats until the eggs are hatched.
Buried eight-fold in her eight
arms, for she is in
a sense a devil-
fish, her glass ram'shorn-cradled freight
is hid but is not crushed;
as Hercules, bitten

by a crab loyal to the hydra,
was hindered to succeed,
the intensively
watched eggs coming from
the shell free it when they are freed,--
leaving its wasp-nest flaws
of white on white, and close-

laid Ionic chiton-folds
like the lines in the mane of
a Parthenon horse,
round which the arms had
wound themselves as if they knew love
is the only fortress
strong enough to trust to.

From The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. Copyright © 1961 Marianne Moore, © renewed 1989 by Lawrence E. Brinn and Louise Crane, executors of the Estate of Marianne Moore.

Monday, August 06, 2007

"Anna Claire" by Chella Courington

I adore Anna Claire.
She has soft brown hair, deeply violet eyes.
I ask Jesus to make mine just like hers.

We seal a pact in blood--
best friends forever--
prick our index fingers,
press them so tight
the tips turn white.

September we bury photos
taken in a booth where we played hooky.
We grin, hug, kiss, and wave.

We share Saturday night basement parties.
Mostly girls dance with girls
but some boys, like Billy Frank, break in.

Anna Claire calls him a clod with two left feet.
When he walks away to put on Johnny Mathis,
she grabs my hand, drags me to the side.
'Chances Are' is our song.

He calls Anna Claire a downright bitch,
sometimes to her face, more often to mine.
He usually sounds full of himself
like the time he asks me to the drive-in,
says I better go or he’ll nab a real girl.
Anna Claire laughs,
ugly jackass.

He’s okay, not a dreamy Troy Donahue
but other girls want him.
I don’t turn him down.
Anna Claire flies into me,
says not to do anything I don’t want to.
You’re just a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

She’s right.
I want to dance, sing, talk away the days with her.
At fourteen I desert Anna Claire,
move to another world
where real girls do exactly as they want.

“Anna Claire” was first published in the anthology _Regrets_. Ed. Martha Manno. Seekonk, MA: Little Pear Press, 2006.
The poem was written in August 2003, the summer I returned to writing poetry after more than a 20-year lapse.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Dream Song 29 by John Berryman

There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart
só heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry's ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

And there is another thing he has in mind
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of. Ghastly,
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears;

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

From The Dream Songs by John Berryman, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 by John Berryman. From