“An old foot bellows organ which wheezed and squeaked dusty puffs of prayer books and cold, Methodist chapels. Mice lived inside it and when they were away it could be persuaded to make a sound. Out of tune and rotting it was, but the red velvet washers on the stops were still bright and attractive and it drew Cathy into the rockpools of her music. It’s sad that we have not learned to use tape recorders like cameras.” - Kate’s brother John Carder Bush
Forges a new language,
Those who’ve been there,
-A. S. Kline, from “All The Tongues” —
you want to live
forever—to grow so
transparent, so fragile,
even the weight of the sea
cannot crush you.”
-William Greenway, from “Drinking Like a Fish” —
Remember, poetry is not
It is uttered sincerity,
Or your child’s eyes
Spoken in what you do.
It is every brick you kiss as you build,
Or a curse in the absence of love.
As for poets, they are all around you
Hidden in bad employment or
Prose. And remember each metaphor is
A house you will have to live in,
And wisdom is knowing when to leave.
You will have to pronounce “sentiment”
As something that is the reason for
In a country that fears its heart.
This too is a cross,
No greater than the market greed
And the golem of bright ideology.
And then there are the poems that are
That arrive like dew if you have the sense
To grow a garden,
Let no one talk you into languages
You do not know
That said, you are a poet, and the world will fear
You and desire you
As a blessing,
And if you are useless for a time
There will be a way to return home,
When your words are needed,
When the dreams are revived,
And the fevers of children
-Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, “The Last Poem”
but only the terrible
would bring us close, the mercy of chance,
a death, the room collapsing, a blindness.
rather than that, i sit & watch you talk,
with hopes impossible as your lies.”
-Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, from “The Household Gods’” —
Let me make this perfectly clear.
I have never written anything because it is a Poem.
This is a mistake you always make about me,
A dangerous mistake. I promise you
I am not writing this because it is a Poem.
You suspect this is a posture or an act.
I am sorry to tell you it is not an act.
You actually think I care if this
Poem gets off the ground or not. Well
I don’t care if this poem gets off the ground or not
And neither should you.
All I have ever cared about
And all you should ever care about
Is what happens when you lift your eyes from this page.
Do not think for one minute it is the Poem that matters.
It is not the Poem that matters.
You can shove the Poem.
What matters is what is out there in the large dark
And in the long light,
-Gwendolyn MacEwen, “Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear”
Out there in the large dark and in the long light is the breathless
As ruthless and beautiful and amoral as the world is,
As nature is.
In the end there’s just me and the bloody Poem and the murderous
Tongues of the trees,
Their glossy green syllables licking my mind (the green
Work of the wind).
Out there in the night between two trees is the Poem saying:
Do not hate me
Because I peeled the veil from your eyes and tore your world
To shreds, and brought
The darkness down upon your head. Here is a book of tongues,
Take it. (Dark leaves invade the air.)
Beware! Now I know a language so beautiful and lethal
My mouth bleeds when I speak it.
-Gwendolyn MacEwen, “But”
I learned poems
Could be letters
The Living address
To their dead.
Years before I knew
poems in the book
Were answers they send.”
-Gregory Orr, from “Concerning The Book That Is The Body Of The Beloved” —
Zelda’s drawing of F. Scott Fitzgerald
-Sherman Alexie, from “Indian Education” —
Chanted the first lines of this poem,
And committed them to memory.
And if a few strangers thought me crazy
For writing poetry, aloud, in public,
Like another homeless schizophrenic,
Then fuck them for wanting clarity
And fuck them for fearing mystery.”
-Sherman Alexie, from “Mystery Train” —
When I woke up on the batture
& you were not only gone
but had never been there
& I heard the aluminum
silence of the river
I was scared—
it wasn’t metaphysical
I just thought they were firing
cannons over the water
to make Huck’s carcass rise
-Everette Maddox, “Composed On the Back Of A Dark Green
Muddy Waters Poster”
-Leo Tolstoy, from “Family Happiness” —
After a certain age, there’s no one left to turn to.
You’ve got to find Eurydice on your own,
to find the small crack
between here and everywhere else all by yourself.
How could it be otherwise?
Everyone’s gone away, the houses are all empty,
and overcast starts to fill the sky like soiled insulation.
-Charles Wright, “No Direction Home”
On the other side of a mirror there’s an inverse world, where the insane go sane; where bones climb out of the earth and recede to the first slime of love.
And in the evening the sun is just rising.
Lovers cry because they are a day younger, and soon childhood robs them of their pleasure.
In such a world there is much sadness which, of course, is joy …
-Russell Edson, “Antimatter”
This is no comfort, though, when you howl, yearning for familiar hands, the chest, the one dear body.”
Anna Kamienska, (trans. Clare Cavanagh) from “In That Great River: A Notebook”” —
from “Blue Yodel of the Desperado”
I went to New York to leave you
Flowers of blood and light
In the Picture Shows I dreamed
Of your birthmark in the shape of a pistol
There you were alone and asleep
In your bed like a lake
And your Father watched over you
And his land
As always you slept naked
With the windows wide open
The down on the small of your back
Was like dust on the guitar
Holding up the pane
I believe you left strawberries
And a glass of water
Untouched on the desk
There were ashes hidden in your drawers
And your fingers smelled like backwater…
I wanted to ride down to where I come from
On an appaloosa
And take you away for good
I wanted to tie your hands with my belt
And watch you stare at the campfire
In the mountains not saying a word
So it was in this dream
I gave you things to eat
So you would speak to me
I watched you grow silent and hungry
Like the middle of the night…
The first time you wept like a wooden boat
Was just launched
The sounds of the night…
At dawn you said you were thirsty
Even the darkest night must give in
When you spoke
It was hard for me to say a word
I couldn’t open my mouth
It was like being underwater
A bird came from nowhere
And lighted on your wrist
In the dream it drank from your palm
You stroked its throat and I could have sworn
Your finger was on the trigger
The wind came up you looked away
You were always cold…
When luck and money ran out
I deserted you somewhere in South America…
And stowed away on the first rig I saw
A ship full of wild horses
bound for America
I hid below with the animals that were
To be broken at sea
More than once I put my teeth to the tapaderas
Hunting the musk of your white feet…
I had nightmares about the vessel
Going down with the horses…
My sleep was like a long swim…
I dreamed they brought you aboard
To commend you to the sea
I dreamed you rode off to your wedding sidesaddle
And the only thing you let between your legs
Was the melancholy blood of the cello
You with your instinct for music and danger
Always without escort…