Poem for September 2

September 6, 2012 § Leave a comment


We think of
you often
in Portland —

One night there
Mark & I
walked around

a small pond —
raindrops made
ripples. At

that moment
I said to
Mark – Somehow

this makes me
think of Cid —
and he smiled

and said he’d
been thinking
of you too.

A little rain
has begun to
fall as night falls

* * *


Quiet quiets
if we’d only
sometimes let it.

-Cid Corman, from YEA (The Lapis Press, 1989).

Poem for September 1, 2012

September 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Unturning

for Ben S., 1936-2010

My friend said: write about the dog in The Odyssey
four hundred pages in. I found him lying on a dungheap
where ticks sipped his blood, though in his youth
he’d taken down wild animals, eager to kill
for a man the gods favored! Who comes back
in disguise; you expect the dog to give him away
with a lick or a yip, but this is not what happens.
Instead we’re told that “death closed down his eyes,”
instant he saw his master after twenty years away.
And I wondered if my friend had played a trick–

setting me up with this dog who does not do much
but die. When the gods turn away, what can we do
but await their unturning? That means: don’t think
that after so many years of having such a hard pillow,
the dog wasn’t grateful. But I wonder
if, for the sake of the shape of the plot,
the author ought to have let him remain
for another line or two, if only to thump again his tail.

-Lucia Perillo, from On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon, 2012)

Poem for August 19

August 19, 2012 § Leave a comment



Numerous singularities

slight stutter
a short letter

embrace at departure

body backward
in a tremendous forward direction

house and host



-Susan Howe, from Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974 – 1979 (New Directions, 1996)

Poem for August 18

August 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

relic / relict: some users of nails

for Divya Victor

1. take a disused verb– say : disorb– & stick
a pin in it. what is left. in the area of interest
due to age or having been relinquished
or surviving in the sense of all else is lost.
let me burden your head with firn.

2. the precision of a suffix, bereft
of all superstition & filthy lucre. (remember how
Krapp looks up ‘viduity’?)
disambiguate, revive a word
for it– say : depintrix– & count
any number of hands remaining,
a rehearsal of our best grammar.

3. objects in the category brandea do not concern the body, but rather
contact with the body. the witch Erichtho went grave-robbing specifically
for insertum manibus chalybem, iron that has passed through the hands.

4. frags, smithereens. we need
a useful word– say: the days in nowadays
or the qua in quag & its antecedent hwaet.
the orts & scraps & bits, to paraphrase,
that remain, a fraction of the body & we parse
the vernacular, unless it’s a dialect (with
or without an army.)

-Pattie McCarthy, from Table Alphabetical of Hard Words (Apogee Press, 2010)

Poem for August 17

August 17, 2012 § Leave a comment


Who remains in the city in August?
Only the poor and the insane,
Old ladies left behind,
Pensioners with Pomeranians,
Thieves, here and there an aristocrat, and cats.
Along the deserted streets
You hear a percussive beat of heels
And you see women with plastic bags
Standing in the line of shade along the walls.
Under the fountain with the turret
In the green algaed pool
There’s a middle-aged naiad
Ten and a half centimeters tall
With nothing on but a bra.

A few meters away,
Despite the well-known prohibition,
Panhandling pigeons
Set upon you
And steal the bread out of your hand.
You hear in the sky the whoosh,
In exhausted flight, of the noonday demon.


-Primo Levi, translated by Harry Thomas & Marco Sonzogni, from the anthology Counterfeits (Center for the Art of Translation, 2011; no. 17 in the Two Lines: World Writing in Translation series)

Poems for August 16

August 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Two Poems



Whenever you were not going in from
the cold, you were gloveless.

SAPPHIRE: You had little hands
THE BUTCHER: And a sapphire
THE CHILDREN: And a butcher
THE MOTHERS: Give us our children.

In the spaceship, they were increasing
the parameter of experience

slowly. Back down, children.
THE LITTLE HANDS: Where are the little gloves?

THE MILES: We better stop.

I like that song that goes:
God only knows what I’d be without you.





Everybody has been hanging around here
a lot.

ANITA: I stubbed my toe on the ottoman.
JEAN-BERTRAND: I touched myself in the eye.
A LAMP: If there is some music, there is a room.
WIKIPEDIA: Some people are listening to “The Dolphin’s Cry.”

I cannot think of anything sadder
than your parents’ clothes in a suitcase —

besides the mass production of spoons.
DOLLY (THE SHEEP): If the world had a face, I’d spit on it.

LOVE (THE SHEEP): I’m famous for being famous.
THE CARNIES: Philosophy can be a means.

of exploring joy and its intricacies.
There is a wooden bird that drinks water.


-Paul Legault, from The Other Poems (Fence Books, 2011)

Poem for August 15

August 15, 2012 § Leave a comment


I am in love with this Holiday season and you
Are doing research as feet drop on the cluster of splinters
On the squeezed tip of the middle finger on my left hand
With men looking at it in the room designed for men.
What holiday is this, Clarence? Why it’s the fasching season
When Lords and Ladies play ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ or lay abed
Because they don’t have to know the right ping-pong table size
To stop climbing up a ladder toward a certain gray fat
Hee-haw there kid! How could you stand Pat
Coming in while your hand was under the dressmaker’s machine?
Danger in them thar hills, said Boy, finger, and nostril
Too much room here said the fat
Miniature of Mao Tse-tung, as you dropped a tear on the crockery
Rubbing me the wrong way near the Manhattan Bridge.
So now we’re zipping up a one-way street
Only, who turned on the cameras, you charming Boy?
Here is the glum Bengali of the dangling hairs, at his
Cub Scout meeting; remember the time he kissed you and broke his tooth?
Yes, he was with the alcoholic young lady in white
Who disappeared through the rectangle with the dangling thing!
Followed at a distance of one half inch by seven men and a posse.
What excitement when your hairy pants were not a hit!
No, I’d rather not take it home since it’s bubbling
In the other room. Please apply the gush to it.
Gush! but it was Pepsi-Cola so how could you take place?
You who offered milk so freely that soothed my bare boil.
The bus pulled to a stop emitting seven red napkins
A technique common among zookeepers and spies
Got off the bus years later. That day our homestead vanished
Just as the contest began. What about love then, Clarence, you sot!
Disguised as a roll of nickles the lump surged and surged
In front of the imperative sentence, “Do not erase.”
As the winning bus grunted to a stop you came off too quickly
In order to collect the two-penny prize. You chose the snooze as usual.
But behind the door Clarence continued to fondle the mustache
Then placed it in a little box marked, “Do not open until Christmas.”

-Ted Berrigan & Ron Padgett, from Bean Spasms, originally published by Kulchur Press in 1967; long overdue reprinting by Granary Books is due out Sept. 30, 2012. In the meantime, this excerpt was taken from the third issue of GAS (Summer, 1991, the “Ted Berrigan” issue).












Poem for August 14

August 14, 2012 § Leave a comment


When the motorboat man asked me to love him

I whispered precipice
the word for the no-more-boyfriend feeling
because precipice contains ice (practically twice)
because I wanted teetering—
What? he said
His ears from the engines—so hard of hearing—his hands always
  so hot
Mid our first winter—I’d clung so long to the dock
he had to crowbar my fingers off
Each digit cracked so cleanly
Would you say they break like icicles? I asked sweetly
I knew I was nothing! But if I could sustain one song—
I is, I is, I is I is I is
I could be: ice
Sex on the bathroom’s cold marble counter was best
I whispered statuette, monument
What? he, sculpting my legs, said
The child? I named her Cecily
It sounded like iced lily
For pure, I said pristine
At the ocean, I said brine
Isle for vacation; for flowers, edelweiss
But when I said (only of late, late!) I choose ice
Brittle pearls broke behind my syllables
Did he hear me?
Again, twice, thrice:
For my love
we would need to live
in a great pyramid
We would need to sleep
beneath the continental shelf
with Antarctic crust blanketing us
The only driveway to any kind of house
is an iceberg-ridden Northwest Passage
When I whispered universe
you were to translate it as
one bright line
one bright rime
-Darcie Dennigan, from Madame X (Canarium Books, 2012)
Thanks to the Poetry Foundation and Lisa Marie Basile for bringing this great poem to my attention.

Poems for August 13

August 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today on LBAO, two poems by one of the Midwest’s finest poets, Teresa J. Scollon. This is her first book, but she’s been writing and publishing for some time. Her book is on the shortlist for the Looking Back at Orpheus Best of 2012!

Friday Nights the Whole Town Goes to the Basketball Game

Nick said, “Listen, Bill,
this is no joke. Chinese
tanks. Chi. Nese. Tanks,

Bill. Were spotted rolling up
I-75. What you think you know
about the United Nations

is lies, lies spread
by an international conspiracy
to take over our homeland.

We’ve got to protect our country,
protect our constitutional right
to bear arms. But I’m ready.

I’m ready. I’ve got guns
and ammunition
buried in my front yard.

I’m warning you —
you’ll regret it
if you don’t do the same.”

Bill said, “Nick,
Nick, whaddaya thinking?
What if the Chinese

show up in February,
Nick? This is Michigan,
for chrissake. How’re you

going to get those guns
out of your front yard
when the ground is frozen?

Whaddaya gonna do then,

~ ~ ~

Death and the Photocopier

My father is on the other side of the river
now. I’m here with his ashes, fluttering
scraps of paper in my hands, an immigrant

among people who never knew him.
I’ve only a clutch of articles to show
he lived, he died — pages of the book

I’m torn from — I’m standing over
the machine in a corner of the office
making copies: light and hum, memory,

the fragile drum, bright hot attention
to each detail, the same hard pull and pause
of the rhythm of oars, of hard sobbing.

This is so contained. What I want is to lie
down full length with my hair spread over
a grave, weeping. I want to be still

floating between life and death, on the river
with its fine filtered mist and its view of both banks,
his body still warm, his breath

lingering over our heads. But he’s left
his cooled ashes behind, and he’s already
trekking deep into the country beyond the bank.

I can’t see him anymore. I’m left here
on the stranger shore, trying to explain my passage.
Making copies under false light, in a place

where paper is seen as merely paper,
and not as the remains of living trees,
not as the breath before ashes.

-Teresa J. Scollon, from To Embroider the Ground with Prayer (Wayne State University Press, 2012)

Poem for August 12

August 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Excerpt from The Bridge of Change


Nearby on this island the gargoyles of Notre Dame
gawk in ancient horror and some
forever gnaw on stone rabbits in the parapets
or wail in winged, formal misery outside the set
limits of the orthodox Church —
all glory happening within the walls where they squat:
so hunched, so beaked, so horrorstruck.

-John Logan, from The Bridge of Change (Boa Editions, 1978)

N.B.: The cover depicted above is of a different edition of The Bridge of Change. I will add the correct cover image in the next day or two.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with poetry at Looking Back at Orpheus.