Poem for June 28

June 28, 2012 § Leave a comment


undisturbed was the first word,
the first metaphor, the
first moral

the first visual arrangement

there never was a first narrative,
no first ambition

but the classical plugs of light
and snow
and the tightness of mud
rings, and undisturbed glass
resting on your fingers,
the evergreens and ferns

if I could avoid it
I would never tell you anything

“But there’s always that tension
of being burdened with ‘I'”

there are two crazy trees in your eyes

the first time he burned the town
it fell like a grove of
giant chrysanthemums

the second time he burned the town
green stagnant water
came between his teeth

the third time he burned the town
his fingers were filled with
white chrysanthemums

the first time he burned the town
he hated himself
and he hated the town

the second time he burned the town
he loved himself
though he hated the town

there was no third time he burned the town

-Joseph Lease, from Human Rights (Zoland Books, 1998)


“Alt” Realities

June 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Van der Graaf Generator‘s new album, Alt, was released earlier this week (the band is currently in the midst of a very small¬† tour of the Mid-Atlantic portion of the United States, as well as a few dates in Quebec, and are not playing anything from this new recording). Last week, my review of the album was published on the Avant Music News blog. Today, Peter Hammill, the unofficial spokesperson for the band, writes about the album on his blog. It’s interesting to see the overlap between his take and mine, and my assumptions going into the review not knowing (obviously) factoids that Hammill would reveal.

Poem for June 27

June 27, 2012 § Leave a comment


I am tired of forgiving like
At night. A forum for seriousness is like
An intervention. Pleased to be cast
As a serious aid like a pretty thing to the memory.
Like a belligerent thing in the memory true.

An attachment like trees is not like
A human attachment at all.
To hear a bell ring and then put a bell in it
Is like trees that hear the sun and then
Put a sun in it like thirst

-Katy Lederer, from Winter Sex (Verse Press, 2002)

Poem for June 26

June 26, 2012 § Leave a comment


I would like to go into the office next to mine
–it belongs to Dean, a kind, sweet man —
and just sit and cry. I would like to sit and
cry, sit and cry without inhibition, shoulders
shuddering, big tears rolling down my
hands. I would like to wander into his office
with its filing cabinets, sticky notes, and
bulletin board, sit in his client chair, and cry
for nothing and for everything. “Love,” I
might mutter, “mountains,” “children,”
dissimilar words pulled from a larger and
deeper phrase whose meaning I lost long
ago. How nice it would be to crumble be-
fore a man, without shame or guilt, to curl
into a sculpture of pain and hopelessness
and fall apart. As simple as a blossom
widening before sun, a man aware of his
humanity. I would like to go into Dean’s
office for he is a kind, sweet man, no
longer a boy nor yet an adult opportun-
ist and, solvent of bone, muscle and
curvature of skin disassemble in a chair
in the center of the day, to say in that
soundless abyss underlying words: under-
standing is emptiness, vision is puncturing,
and loss a bubble exploding in our hands.

-Gordon Massman,   0.174: The Complete Numbers Cycle (NYQ Books, 2011)

Poem for June 25

June 25, 2012 § Leave a comment


Meth labs dot the countryside,
our cottage industry, lives junked
like abandoned cars bleeding rust
in the fallow fields and blind
as he still is Teiresias sees
what can’t be seen, predicts
what we don’t want to know.

What can you do? You try for balance
but out on the interstate you’re not much
different from the guy in a red
Toyota four-runner who pumped six bullets
into a pickup truck
after it cut him off. Vigilante, you
watch for the dangerous ones, see them
in the rear view heading toward you
darting in and out of traffic. You box
them in, won’t let them pass.

You want to keen, the highest whine,
the sorriest lament. On the best days,
the days when you pretend none of this
is your fault, you hold hold your hand out
and the red-headed song bird
alights on your finger,
its tiny webbed claws so delicate
you’re touched by something from another world
and for a second you forget the scientist
will dissect its brain to trace the route of song.

-Maxine Scates, Undone (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2011).

Poem for June 24

June 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

William Cowper, in Twenty-six Letters on Religious Subjects (compiled by John Newton, originally published in 1774).

Twenty-six letters on religious subjects. To which are added Hymns, and an appendix containing fourteen letters, &c. formerly published separately under the signature of Vigil. By Omicron.

Poem for June 23

June 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Jonathan Edwards in Western Massachusetts

Edwards’ great millstone and rock
of hope has crumbled, but the square
white houses of his flock
stand in the open air,

out in the cold,
like sheep outside the fold.
Hope lives in doubt.
Faith is trying to do without

faith. In western Massachusetts,
I could almost feel the frontier
crack and disappear.
Edwards thought the world would end there.

We know how the world will end,
but where is paradise, each day farther
from the Pilgrim’s blues for England
and the Promised Land.

Was it some country house
that seemed as if it were
Whitehall, if the Lord were there?
so nobly did he live.

Gardens designed
that the breath of flowers in the wind,
or crushed underfoot,
came and went like warbling music?

Bacon’s great oak grove
he refused to sell,
when he fell,
saying, “Why should I sell my feathers?”

Ah paradise! Edwards,
I would be afraid
to meet you as a shade.
We move in different circles.

As a boy, you built a booth
in a swamp for prayer;
lying on your back,
you saw the spiders fly,

basking at their ease,
swimming from tree to tree —
so high, they seemed tacked to the sky.
You knew they would die.

Poor country Berkeley at Yale,
you saw the world was soul,
the soul of God! The soul
of Sarah Pierrepont!

So filled with delight in the Great Being,
she hardly cared for anything —
walking the fields, sweetly singing,
conversing with some one invisible.

Then God’s love shone in sun, moon and stars,
on earth, in the waters,
in the air, in the loose winds,
which used to greatly fix your mind.

Often she saw you come home from a ride
or a walk, your coat dotted with thoughts
you had pinned there
on slips of paper.

You gave
her Pompey, a Negro slave,
and eleven children.
Yet people were spiders

in your moment of glory,
at the Great Awakening — “Alas, how many
in this very meeting house are more than likely
to remember my discourse in hell!”

The meeting house remembered!
You stood on stilts in the air,
but you fell from your parish.
“All rising is by a winding stair.”

On my pilgrimage to Northampton,
I found no relic,
except the round slice of an oak
you are said to have planted.

It was flesh-colored, new,
and a common piece of kindling,
only fit for burning.
You too must have been green once.

White wig and black coat,
all cut from one cloth,
and designed
like your mind!

I love you faded,
old, exiled and afraid
to leave your last flock, a dozen
Houssatonic Indian children;

afraid to leave
all your writing, writing, writing,
denying the Freedom of the Will.
You were afraid to be president

of Princeton, and wrote:
“My defects are well known;
I have a constituion
peculiarly unhappy:

flaccid solids,
vapid, sizzy, scarse fluids,
causing a childish weakness,
a low tide of spirits.

I am contemptable,
stiff and dull.

Why should I leave behind
my delight and entertainment,
those studies
that have swallowed up my mind?”

Robert Lowell, from Life Studies & For the Union Dead (NoondayPress, 1956)

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