Sunday, December 28, 2008

Paper Covers Rock by Chella Courington

I can’t stop buying scissors. I walk into Home Depot for geraniums & lilies, leave with gardening shears, green ergonomic handles. Gelson’s for halibut. Shiny poultry shears. At a garage sale I find a pair of hedge clippers. By December paper cutters, pinking shears, hair trimmers—any blades you want are boxed in the kitchen pantry.

Saturday he takes his 14 clubs & disappears. In hot water, I clean scissors. Prop them on the counter before drying with muslin. Each blade I shine with baking soda. In high school I hung with cutters. They used whatever worked: broken glass, coat hangars,paper. Arms tracked with violet scars like stretch marks. Hidden under long-sleeve shirts.

Reflections in a Golden Eye: Mrs. Langdon uses garden shears to clip her nipples when she loses her baby. Snip snip—easy as pinching off deadheads. Sunday in January, I hold my left nipple between the blades of barber shears. Warm steel triggers goose bumps. Is a nipple like a finger? Can they sew it back on?

Recurrent dream: blades-down, scissors drop from the ceiling, rattling & hissing. Impale the cherry nightstand, down comforter, my Land’s End bathrobe. I crouch in the tub, rocking to the sound of hail. Open my thigh—blood a rusty penny melting on my tongue.

I get an Alabama divorce. He signs the papers & hauls his Titliest clubs, Lazy Boy, & mahogany desk back to Illinois. Parting words: The cat stays with you. I never liked him. I keep Moot, the crystal, & the condo. Start selling the scissors on E-Bay
—box by box.

First appeared in Mademoiselle’s Fingertips (Summer 2008).

Monday, December 15, 2008

KATHE KOLLWITZ by Muriel Rukeyser



Women as gates, saying:
"The process is after all, like music:
like the development of a piece of music.
The fugues come back and
again and again
A theme may seem to have been put aside,
but it keeps returning—
the same thing modulated,
somewhat changed in form.
Usually richer.
And it is very good that this is so."

A woman pouring her opposites,
"After all there are happy things in life too.
Why do you show only the dark side?"
"I could not answer this. But I know—
in the beginning my impulse to know
the working life
had little to do with
pity or sympathy.
I simply felt
that the life of the workers was beautiful."

She said, "I am groping in the dark."

She said, "When the door opens, of sensuality,
then you will understand it too. The struggle begins.
Never again to be free of it,
often you will feel it to be your enemy.
you will almost suffocate,
such joy it brings."

Saying of her husband: "My wish
is to die after Karl.
I know no person who can love as he can,
with his whole soul.
Often this love has oppressed me;
I wanted to be free.
But often too it has made me
so terribly happy."

She said : "We rowed over to Carrara at dawn,
climbed up to the marble quarries
and rowed back at night. The drops of water
fell like glittering stars
from our oars."

She said: "As a matter of fact,
I believe
that bisexuality
is almost a necessary factor
in artistic production; at any rate,
the tinge of masculinity within me
helped me
in my work."

She said : "The only technique I can still manage.
It's hardly a technique at all, lithography.
In it
only the essentials count."

A tight-lipped man in a restaurant last night saying to me:
"Kollwitz? She's too black-and-white."


Held among wars, watching
all of them
all these people

Looking at
all of them
death, the children
patients in waiting-rooms
the street
the corpse with the baby
floating, on the dark river

A woman seeing
the violent, inexorable
movement of nakedness
and the confession of No
the confession of great weakness, war,
all streaming to one son killed, Peter;
even the son left living; repeated,
the father, the mother; the grandson
another Peter killed in another war; firestorm;
dark, light, as two hands,
this pole and that pole as the gates.

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open ....


Click on the poem's title for a brief bio of Kathe Kollwitz & brief view of her work.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

At Baia by H.D.

I should have thought
in a dream you would have brought
some lovely, perilous thing,
orchids piled in a great sheath,
as who would say (in a dream),
"I send you this,
who left the blue veins
of your throat unkissed."

Why was it that your hands
(that never took mine),
your hands that I could see
drift over the orchid-heads
so carefully,
your hands, so fragile, sure to lift
so gently, the fragile flower-stuff--
ah, ah, how was it

You never sent (in a dream)
the very form, the very scent,
not heavy, not sensuous,
but perilous--perilous--
of orchids, piled in a great sheath,
and folded underneath on a bright scroll,
some word:

"Flower sent to flower;
for white hands, the lesser white,
less lovely of flower-leaf,"


"Lover to lover, no kiss,
no touch, but forever and ever this."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Waste Management by Maurya Simon

Every night a bear comes round our house to scare up
some windfall pears or to forage for fragrant garbage,
trudging on soft-padded feet & slightly open-mouthed.
He's an ursine Tony Soprano, I think, seeking refuge

from autumnal hungers as he forages the town's alleys.
Burly as a nightclub bouncer, near-sighted, he browses
through our lives' detritus, appearing as a refugee
from day's ample shadows. Our bear noisily chases

a neighborhood cat, a disemboweler of mouses,
then he eats the worst types of underworld scum—
larval worms in day-glow trousers-food storehoused
in a huge belly that sways to & fro when he travels.

Despite his slovenly slouch, our bear's a marvel
of Mafia etiquette as he curses & wantonly carouses
in the dim byways of the forest, as he sways in raveling air
to snap the bark off trees with his tough teeth & calluses.

We curse the furry rampages of our famished bear
who's surely gotten high on gruff power as he struggles
to grip trashcan rims with iron fingers—ever roused
to action by brisk whiffs of winter or our ribald catcalls.

O made man, living drunk or dour, don't settle
for trudging on soft-padded feet, staying tight-hearted—
know, as I do, how fear & desire drive us all. Look how
nightly a bear circumambulates our lives with such ardor.

"Waste Management" by Maurya Simon from Cartographies: Uncollected Poems: 1980-2005. © Red Hen Press, 2008. (buy now)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Music Swims Back To Me by Anne Sexton

Today, November 9, is the birthday of Anne Sexton.

Music Swims Back To Me

Wait Mister. Which way is home?
They turned the light out
and the dark is moving in the corner.
There are no sign posts in this room,
four ladies, over eighty,
in diapers every one of them.
La la la, Oh music swims back to me
and I can feel the tune they played
the night they left me
in this private institution on a hill.

Imagine it. A radio playing
and everyone here was crazy.
I liked it and danced in a circle.
Music pours over the sense
and in a funny way
music sees more than I.
I mean it remembers better;
remembers the first night here.
It was the strangled cold of November;
even the stars were strapped in the sky
and that moon too bright
forking through the bars to stick me
with a singing in the head.
I have forgotten all the rest.

They lock me in this chair at eight a.m.
and there are no signs to tell the way,
just the radio beating to itself
and the song that remembers
more than I. Oh, la la la,
this music swims back to me.
The night I came I danced a circle
and was not afraid.

--Anne Sexton. Complete Poems of Anne Sexton. Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

sarah palin funny

click on the above & once you have the pic, click anywhere on it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ode to Joy by Chris Abani

John James,14
Refused to serve his conscience up
to indict an innocent man
handcuffed to chair; they tacked his penis
to the table
with a six inch nail
and left him there

to drip
to death
3 days later

Risking death; an act insignificant
in the face of this child’s courage
we sang:

Oje wai wai,
Moje oje wai, wai.

they went
on a
killing rampage


even canisters of tear-gas,
fired close up or
directly into mouths, will
take the back
your head off
and many men
died singing,
that night.

Notes caught,
as blows bloodied mouths
clotting into silence.

After reading the poem, click on the title above & go to Abani's Website to hear him read "Ode to Joy."

Monday, October 20, 2008


Rose, harsh rose
marred and with stint of petals,
meagre flower, thin,
sparse of leaf,

more precious
than a wet rose
single on a stem --
you are caught in the drift.

Stunted, with small leaf,
you are flung on the sand,
you are lifted
in the crisp sand
that drives in the wind.

Can the spice-rose
drip such acrid fragrance
hardened in a leaf?

-- Hilda Doolittle (1916)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stars Wheel in Purple by H.D.

Stars wheel in purple, yours is not so rare
as Hesperus, nor yet so great a star
as bright Aldeboran or Sirius,
nor yet the stained and brilliant one of War;

stars turn in purple, glorious to the sight;
yours is not gracious as the Pleiads are
nor as Orion's sapphires, luminous;

yet disenchanted, cold, imperious face,
when all the others blighted, reel and fall,
your star, steel-set, keeps lone and frigid tryst
to freighted ships, baffled in wind and blast.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Helen in Egypt, Eidolon, Book III: 4 by H. D.

Helen herself seems almost ready for this sacrifice--at least, for the immolation of herself before this greatest love of Achilles, his dedication to "his own ship" and the figurehead, "an idol or eidolon . . . a mermaid, Thetis upon the prow."

Did her eyes slant in the old way?
was she Greek or Egyptian?
had some Phoenician sailor wrought her?

was she oak-wood or cedar?
had she been cut from an awkward block
of ship-wood at the ship-builders,

and afterwards riveted there,
or had the prow itself been shaped
to her mermaid body,

curved to her mermaid hair?
was there a dash of paint
in the beginning, in the garment-fold,

did the blue afterwards wear away?
did they re-touch her arms, her shoulders?
did anyone touch her ever?

Had she other zealot and lover,
or did he alone worship her?
did she wear a girdle of sea-weed

or a painted crown? how often
did her high breasts meet the spray,
how often dive down?

Copyright © 1982 by the Estate of Hilda Doolittle. From
Click on title for

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Portrait by Stanley Kunitz

My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time

and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I came down from the attic

with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year

I can feel my cheek
still burning.

Friday, September 19, 2008


The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.


We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1963 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of Gwendolyn Brooks.

Click on the above title for more on Gwendolyn Brooks from the Poetry Foundation.

Friday, September 12, 2008

poetry readings by Charles Bukowski

poetry readings have to be some of the saddest
damned things ever,
the gathering of the clansmen and clanladies,
week after week, month after month, year
after year,
getting old together,
reading on to tiny gatherings,
still hoping their genius will be
making tapes together, discs together,
sweating for applause
they read basically to and for
each other,
they can't find a New York publisher
or one
within miles,
but they read on and on
in the poetry holes of America,
never daunted,
never considering the possibility that
their talent might be
thin, almost invisible,
they read on and on
before their mothers, their sisters, their husbands,
their wives, their friends, the other poets
and the handful of idiots who have wandered
from nowhere.

I am ashamed for them,
I am ashamed that they have to bolster each other,
I am ashamed for their lisping egos,
their lack of guts.

if these are our creators,
please, please give me something else:

a drunken plumber at a bowling alley,
a prelim boy in a four rounder,
a jock guiding his horse through along the
a bartender on last call,
a waitress pouring me a coffee,
a drunk sleeping in a deserted doorway,
a dog munching a dry bone,
an elephant's fart in a circus tent,
a 6 p.m. freeway crush,
the mailman telling a dirty joke


"poetry readings," by Charles Bukowski from Bone Palace Ballet © Ecco, 2002.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Spirits in the Night"

The boss's "Spirits in the Night" inspired the short story "Greasy Lake" by TC Boyle. He uses this line from the song as an epigraph: "It's a mile down on the dark side of Route 88." Springsteen lyrics are below. Click the title above to see/hear the boss in performance.

Crazy Janey and her mission man
Were back in the alley trading hands
Along came Wild Billy with his friend Gee Man
All duded up for Saturday night

Well, Billy slammed on his coaster brakes, said
Anybody wanna go to Greasy Lake
It's a mile down on the dark side of Route 88
I got a bottle of ros� let's try it

We'll pick up Hazy Davey and Killer Joe and
I'll take you all out to where the gypsy angels go
They're built like light and they dance like

Spirits in the night, all night
Oh you don't know what they can do to you
Spirits in the night, all night
In the night, all night
Stand right up and let them shoot through you

Wild Billy was a crazy cat
And he shook some dust out of his coon skin cap
He said try some of this it'll show you where you're at
Or at least it'll help you to feel it

By the time we made it up to Greasy Lake
My head was out the window
Janey's fingers were in the cake
I think I really dug her, I was too loose to fake
I said I'm hurt she said Honey let's heal it

And we danced all night to a soul fairy band
And she kissed me just right
Like only a lonely angel can
She felt so nice, just as soft as a

Spirit in the night, all night
Janey don't know what she do to you
Spirits in the night, all night
In the night, all night
Stand right up and let her shoot through me

Spirits in the night, in the night
Spirits in the night, all night
Spirits in the night, in the night
Spirits in the night, all night

How the night was bright and the stars threw light
On Billy and Davey dancing in the Moonlight
Down near the water in a stoned mud fight
Killer Joe passed out on the lawn

Hazy Davey got really hurt
He ran into the lake in just his socks and a shirt
Me and Crazy Janey's making love in the dirt
Singing our birthday songs

Janey said it was time to go, so we closed our eyes
And said goodbye to gypsy angel row
Felt so right together we moved like

Spirits in the night, all night
Oh you don't know what they can do to you
Spirits in the night, all night
All night, all night
Stand right up and let them shoot through you
Spirits in the night, all night
Oh you don't know what they can do to you
Spirits in the night, all night
Spirits in the night
Spirits in the night

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Power by Audre Lorde

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being
ready to kill
instead of your children.
I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.
The policeman who shot down a 10-year-old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said "Die you little motherfucker" and
there are tapes to prove that. At his trial
this policeman and in his own defense
"I didn’t notice the size or nothing else
only the color." and
there are tapes to prove that, too.
Today that 37-year-old white man with 13 years of police forcing
has been set free
by 11 white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one black oman who said
"They convinced me" meaning
they had dragged her 4’10" black woman’s frame
over the hot coals of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.
I have not been able to touch the destruction within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85-year-old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in ¾ time
"Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are."

"Power" is a poem written about Clifford Glover, the ten-year-old Black child shot by a cop who was acquitted by a jury on which a Black woman sat. In fact, the day I heard on the radio that O’Shea had been acquitted, I was going across town on Eighty-eight Street and I had to pull over. A kind of fury rose up in me; the sky turned red. I felt so sick. I felt as if I would drive this car into a wall, into the next person I saw. So I pulled over. I took out my journal just to air some of my fury, to get it out of my fingertips. Those expressed feelings are are that poem"
-- Audre Lorde, "My Words Will Be There," in Black Women Writers, 1983

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

THE MOON IN YOUR HANDS by HD & read by Tandy Cronyn

If you take the moon in your hands
and turn it round
(heavy, slightly tarnished platter),
you're there;

if you pull dry seaweed from the sand
and turn it round
and wonder at the underside's bright amber,
your eyes

look out as they did here
(you don't remember)
when my soul turned round,
perceiving the other side of everything,
mullein leaf, dogwood leaf, moth wing
and dandelion seed under the ground.

Note: After reading the poem, click on the above title to hear it recited by Tandy Cronyn.

"The Moon in Your Hands" by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), from COLLECTED POEMS: 1912-1944,
copyright ©1982 by The Estate of Hilda Doolittle.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

When You Are Old by WB Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

*Note: After reading this poem, click on the above title to see a video of Matthew Mcfayden reading this poem.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

5 & 7 & 5 by Anselm Hollo

follow that airplane
of course I'm high this is
an emergency


giant Scots terrier
I thought I saw was known as
Taxicab Mountain


brown photo legend
"serene enjoyment" they suck
pipes bones crumbled back


night train whistles stars
over a nation under
mad temporal czars


round lumps of cells grow
up to love porridge later
become The Supremes


lady I lost my
subway token we must part
it's faster by air


"but it's our world"
tiny blue hands and green arms
your thought in my room


sweet bouzouki sound
another syntax for heads
up to the aether


in you the in moon
its rays entwined in my mind's
hair hangs down right in


viewing the dragon
there they ride slim through my dream
Carpaccio's pair


slow bloom inside you
the mnemonics of loving
incessant chatter


far shore Ferris wheel
turning glowing humming love
in our lit-up heads


switch them to sleep now
the flying foxes swarm out
great it's flurry time


wind rain you and me
went looking for a new house
o the grass grows loud

From Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence, by Anselm Hollo, published by Coffee House Press. Copyright © 2001 Anselm Hollo. Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Persephone the Wanderer by Louise Gluck

In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,

that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
unconscious harm:

we may call this
negative creation.

Persephone's initial
sojourn in hell continues to be
pawed over by scholars who dispute
the sensations of the virgin:

did she cooperate in her rape,
or was she drugged, violated against her will,
as happens so often now to modern girls.

As is well known, the return of the beloved
does not correct
the loss of the beloved: Persephone

returns home
stained with red juice like
a character in Hawthorne—

I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
"home" to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
an existential
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?

You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.

Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise

the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.

You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?

White of forgetfulness,
of desecration—

It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn't know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
of mind?

She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes

she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.

The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.

You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us

that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.

White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—

They say
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth

asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read

as an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.

When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother's
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.

Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life—

My soul
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—

What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?

"Persephone the Wanderer" from Averno by Louise Glück. Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.
Permissions information.

Copyright 1988 by Billy Collins.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Star Block by Kay Ryan, Poet Laureate

There is no such thing
as star block.
We do not think of
locking out the light
of other galaxies.
It is light
so rinsed of impurities
(heat, for instance)
that it excites
no antibodies in us.
Yet people are
curiously soluble
in starlight.
Bathed in its
absence of insistence
their substance
loosens willingly,
their bright
designs dissolve.
Not proximity
but distance
burns us with love.

From _Say Uncle_, 2000.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Cat/A Future by Kay Ryan, Poet Laureate

A cat can draw
the blinds
behind her eyes
whenever she
decides. Nothing
alters in the stare
itself but she's
not there. Likewise
a future can occlude:
still sitting there,
doing nothing rude.

From _Elephant Rocks_, 1997.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Massage by Chella Courington

Breathe into your belly. Let your mind follow your breath.
She presses the balls of her hands calmly

into my shoulders, my body flattens into the sheet.
Breathe into your belly. Let your mind follow your breath.

I remember my first love, small hands cupping my heels
in lavender. Like a priestess, she caressed each toe

until it tingled & anchored her fist at the top of my sole
her left palm at the top of my foot, sliding down

I dreamed of a love with slender fingers. Hers were
stubby, raw from pruning rose plants.

Breathe into your belly. Let your mind follow your breath.
Under her touch, fingers tapered toward my thigh.

Monday, July 28, 2008

At the Maximum Security Prison for Men by Chella Courington

Students come to me from solitary confinement
concrete oven set on high—
they come to me
a young woman from the University
who wants to talk about Paradise Lost.

They want to talk too.
Tony says when he broke in, he spotted a dog
and shot a man. Thought the house empty.
Billy Ray says he just needed money from the girl
at the ATM. My hand shook and the trigger went off.

They know why Milton’s God
clips Satan’s wings and kicks him out of heaven.
The man can’t take much lip. Just like my own daddy
knocking me three ways into Sunday when I say no to him.
Knuckles kneading my cheek blue till I cry stop.

The students ask if Satan’s the hero. And I wonder.
Did he endure that heavy hand one too many times?
Punched and mauled like a yard animal
taken behind the barn
left in darkness to find his way back.

Reprint. Illumen (Fall 2007). Ed Tyree Campbell and Erin Donahoe.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Edge of Morning by Chella Courington

We pass a joint, barely long
enough for a clip. You accuse me
of hiding my sex under tight sheets.
I breathe as deep as I can. Your words
bounce against the wall, single letters back
and forth: Navratolova slams one ball after a
nother. Chrissie’s flummoxed. Too late to drive
too high to care. And you invoke my mother’s ghost
like you always do this time of night: her hand reaches
from the grave to bless us. I roll more grass, lick the edge
to forget I’ll stumble off to bed with you and blame Mother
for pushing me into your arms.

SUB-LIT, 1.4 (Spring 2008). Ed. Michael Ogletree et al.

Friday, July 11, 2008

When Berryman Died by Chella Courington

He left his shoes, scuffed loafers,
on the bridge. A cordovan pair
he could have shed
anywhere: at the university
beside his desk, under Tate’s coffee table,
at the foot of a lover’s bed.

Every night he thought, tomorrow.
Mornings, he remembered
his suit at the cleaners, his essay
on Marlowe, students waiting
outside his office. January 7
reasons ran dry.

He bathed and trimmed his beard,
putting on a new shirt.
In eight degrees he walked
to the bridge.

First published in Touchstone (SP 2008), #40. Ed. David Murphy.

Monday, July 07, 2008

September by Chella Courington

Fog on the horizon
hides hard island edges.
Close to the patio
sprinklers swish: streams rise
in sun before falling in the garden.
Six plastic-pink flamingoes
parade by the sago palm.
A pair of dolphins, together
still after twenty years, watch
from the granite fountain.

Stripping an apple, peel swinging
in air, I think of Mother
who sliced what grew around her.
From wood the size of playing cards
she whittled small animals:
our cat on haunches, neck turned.
She carved a woman
on her knees, mostly stomach,
hands buried her bowed face.

Santa Ana winds blow dry
scatter dust in their wake.
Hummingbirds circle coral bells.
Their wings, shadow puppets
on stucco. Heavy with petals,
dahlias bend to rocky dirt.
Once I caught a Regal Moth—
panes of ruby and jade.
For three days, she flew.

Tonight my namesake calls
like Linda Blair from The Exorcist:
voice gravelly, emerging
from Minnesota. At 25 Satan
and God crowd her head.
No meds can wash them out.
God will kill you for leaving me.
I squeeze the receiver
not forgetting her butterfly nightshirt—
wings pressed against me.

First published in Touchstone (SP 2008), #40. Ed. David Murphy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

[the cocktail hour finally arrives: whether ending a day at the office],D.A. Powell

the cocktail hour finally arrives: whether ending a day at the office

or opening the orifice at 6am [legal again to pour in californica]: the time is always right

we need a little glamour and glamour arrives: plenty of chipped ice

a green jurassic palm tree planted. a yellow spastic monkey swinging

a pink classic flamingo impaled upon the exuberant red of cherries

dash of bitters. vermouth sweet. enough rye whiskey to kill

this longing: I take my drinks still and stuffed with plastic. like my lovers

my billfold full of rubbers. OPENs my mouth: its tiny neon lounge

From Cocktails by D. A. Powell. Copyright © 2004 by D. A. Powell. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Spring and All by William Carlos Williams

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines-

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher @

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In an Artist's Studio by Christina Rossetti

One face looks out from all his canvasses,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans;
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer greens,
A saint, an angel; — every canvass means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

DA Powell

[dogs and boys can treat you like trash. and dogs do love trash]

dogs and boys can treat you like trash. and dogs do love trash
to nuzzle their muzzles. they slather with tongues that smell like their nuts

but the boys are fickle when they lick you. they stick you with twigs
and roll you over like roaches. then off with another: those sluts

with their asses so tight you couldn't get them to budge for a turd
so unlike the dogs: who will turn in a circle showing & showing their butts

a dog on a leash: a friend in the world. he'll crawl into bed on all fours
and curl up at your toes. he'll give you his nose. he'll slobber on cuts

a dog is not fragile; he's fixed. but a boy: cannot give you his love
he closes his eyes to your kisses. he hisses. a boy is a putz

with a sponge for a brain. and a mop for a heart: he'll soak up your love
if you let him and leave you as dry as a cork. he'll punch out your guts

when a boy goes away: to another boy's arms. what else can you do
but lie down with the dogs. with the hounds with the curs. with the mutts

[Originally published in the October/ November 2001 issue of Boston Review]

Monday, April 28, 2008

Workshop by Billy Collins

I might as well begin by saying how much I like the title.
It gets me right away because I’m in a workshop now
so immediately the poem has my attention,
like the Ancient Mariner grabbing me by the sleeve.

And I like the first couple of stanzas,
the way they establish this mode of self-pointing
that runs through the whole poem
and tells us that words are food thrown down
on the ground for other words to eat.
I can almost taste the tail of the snake
in its own mouth,
if you know what I mean.

But what I’m not sure about is the voice,
which sounds in places very casual, very blue jeans,
but other times seems standoffish,
professorial in the worst sense of the word
like the poem is blowing pipe smoke in my face.
But maybe that’s just what it wants to do.

What I did find engaging were the middle stanzas,
especially the fourth one.
I like the image of clouds flying like lozenges
which gives me a very clear picture.
And I really like how this drawbridge operator
just appears out of the blue
with his feet up on the iron railing
and his fishing pole jigging—I like jigging—
a hook in the slow industrial canal below.
I love slow industrial canal below. All those l’s.

Maybe it’s just me,
but the next stanza is where I start to have a problem.
I mean how can the evening bump into the stars?
And what’s an obbligato of snow?
Also, I roam the decaffeinated streets.
At that point I’m lost. I need help.

The other thing that throws me off,
and maybe this is just me,
is the way the scene keeps shifting around.
First, we’re in this big aerodrome
and the speaker is inspecting a row of dirigibles,
which makes me think this could be a dream.
Then he takes us into his garden,
the part with the dahlias and the coiling hose,
though that’s nice, the coiling hose,
but then I’m not sure where we’re supposed to be.
The rain and the mint green light,
that makes it feel outdoors, but what about this wallpaper?
Or is it a kind of indoor cemetery?
There’s something about death going on here.

In fact, I start to wonder if what we have here
is really two poems, or three, or four,
or possibly none.

But then there’s that last stanza, my favorite.
This is where the poem wins me back,
especially the lines spoken in the voice of the mouse.
I mean we’ve all seen these images in cartoons before,
but I still love the details he uses
when he’s describing where he lives.
The perfect little arch of an entrance in the baseboard,
the bed made out of a curled-back sardine can,
the spool of thread for a table.
I start thinking about how hard the mouse had to work
night after night collecting all these things
while the people in the house were fast asleep,
and that gives me a very strong feeling,
a very powerful sense of something.
But I don’t know if anyone else was feeling that.
Maybe that was just me.
Maybe that’s just the way I read it.

"Workshop" from The Art of Drowning, by Billy Collins, © 1995. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I See He Sees by Chella Courington

An upward draft
catches Mama’s hem
at forty-first & twelfth
raising it in waves
around her knees & over her thighs
a pink-striped dress
dances like the awning
at Lida’s Cantina
when a man at the corner
clutching a boy’s hand
sees Mama naked
under her flying skirt
& I see he sees
wondering why
she doesn’t hold it down
& he sees me see him
before the light turns green

First Published in _Permafrost_ 28 (Summer 2006) under title of "Second Memory."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ode to Joy by Chris Abani

John James,14,
refused to serve his conscience up
to indict an innocent man.
Handcuffed to chair, they tacked his penis
to the table
with a six inch nail
and left him there

to drip
to death
3 days later.

Risking death, an act insignificant
in the face of this child’s courage,
we sang:

Oje wai wai,
Moje oje wai, wai.

they went
on a
killing rampage.


even canisters of tear-gas,
fired close up or
directly into mouths, will
take the back
your head off
and many men
died singing,
that night.

Notes caught,
as blows bloodied mouths,
clotting into silence.

From _Kalakuta Republic_. London:SAQI, 2000.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Toi Derricotte

The Weakness
by Toi Derricotte

That time my grandmother dragged me

through the perfume aisles at Saks, she held me up

by my arm, hissing, "Stand up,"

through clenched teeth, her eyes

bright as a dog's

cornered in the light.

She said it over and over,

as if she were Jesus,

and I were dead. She had been

solid as a tree,

a fur around her neck, a

light-skinned matron whose car was parked, who walked

on swirling

marble and passed through

brass openings--in 1945.

There was not even a black

elevator operator at Saks.

The saleswoman had brought velvet

leggings to lace me in, and cooed,

as if in service of all grandmothers.

My grandmother had smiled, but not

hungrily, not like my mother

who hated them, but wanted to please,

and they had smiled back, as if

they were wearing wooden collars.

When my legs gave out, my grandmother

dragged me up and held me like God

holds saints by the

roots of the hair. I begged her

to believe I couldn't help it. Stumbling,

her face white

with sweat, she pushed me through the crowd, rushing

away from those eyes

that saw through

her clothes, under

her skin, all the way down

to the transparent

genes confessing.

From Captivity by Toi Derricotte, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Copyright © 1989 Toi Derricotte. From the online Academy of American Poets.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wintering by Alicia Ostriker


I had expected more than this.
I had not expected to be
an ordinary woman.
--Lucille Clifton

It snows and stops, now it is January,
The house plants need feeding,
The guests have gone. Today I'm half a boy,
Flat as something innocent, a clean
Plate, just lacking a story.
A woman should be able to say
I've become an Amazon,
Warrior woman minus a breast,
The better to shoot arrow
After fierce arrow,
Or else I am that dancing Shiva
Carved in the living rock at Elephanta,
Androgynous deity, but I don't feel
Holy enough or mythic enough.
Taking courage, I told a man I've resolved
To be as sexy with one breast
As other people are with two
And he looked away.

Spare me your pity,
Your terror, your condolence.
I'm not your wasting heroine,
Your dying swan. Friend, tragedy
Is a sort of surrender.
Tell me again I'm a model
Of toughness. I eat that up.
I grade papers, I listen to wind,
My husband helps me come, it thaws
A week before semester starts.

Now Schubert plays, and the tenor wheels
Through Heine's lieder. A fifteen-year survivor
Phones: You know what? You're the same person
After a mastectomy as before. An idea
That had never occurred to me.
You have a job you like? You have poems to write?
Your marriage is okay? It will stay that way.
The wrinkles are worse. I hate looking in the mirror.
But a missing breast, well, you get used to it.

From _The Crack in Everything_. Alicia Suskin Ostriker. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh Press, 1996.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Politics & Poetry

When Gloria Steinem writes of Senator Clinton in _The New York Times_, January 8, Steinem's prose is rich with anaphora and elements of poetic style.

Click on the above: Politics & poetry