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.