Thursday, August 9, 2007

Retribution by Nicole Burdette


He turned around like Orpheus and fire was everywhere

I can’t remain here he said
Clumsy and hell-bent
He gave her chocolates wrapped in white
And paced in small spaces

It’s a tough racquet – confessing
As a wolf rises in the heart
He won’t escape his father’s sins this time around
Or his brother’s

Walking down hereditary roads reluctant and slow
It’s an incandescence that only blood knows
Distant like he was for all his success and sorrow
He closes his eyes, with their white Irises
There’s hardly a soul left in eyes that blue

He swears he’ll put his hand in the fire for her
He reads the Greeks define truth
As ”what is not forgotten”
And listens to what’s false

Like twigs broken on a trail
A voice distracts him
He says good-bye and - looks back
As the fog lowers on the other side of the world
Plunged into the water, down fast – helpless, lightless
Down an isle of cypress

Trailed by the furies, who so loudly follow him
He begs them to remember;
“I once led sailors to their destination safely
I drown out the temptation of sirens
I knew the seas”

Now across the ocean that reaches far east
He walks across this eternal prairie
And remembers the fruits of the desert; apricots, roses and peaches
And riding in an elevator in Monterey
A dove-drawn picture flooded with memory and cunning desire


At home visitors come home in from the rain
He’s praying for Dutch courage
Standing under a stoic flag
Why is his devotion so numb?

He remembers the night she sent him into a storm
These supposed Eden’s ride like waves under him
Captured by lust and bedeviled by simpatico
He finds he can not hide this anymore than a fugitive
Can hide himself

The scene changes again
Further down – past the volcano
Are oxcarts and dirty, closed gates
The crowds have had the romance beaten out of them
They mill on the cobblestones
Plaintive and damaged

It was never a question of character
He’d always find what was distinguished in what other people overlooked
But this cloud that hovered tonight, boy
Was surely the shadow of the world
The royal palms and bent coconut palms swung and snapped
Only the paper weights – whose use had seemed minimal
Before, decorative at best
now saved all he had left

He usually picked words
And saved them for another time
Words like ambrosia or deterred
At a loss of words so often
He found it best to do the other thing
And chips fall where they may

Like the genetic creasing of a Stetson hat
Dirty and trampled on – a gift from a relative
Then there’s words again
The ones he’d actually put down
And ones he spoke
He even spoke her words sometimes
It was getting hard to know the difference


Old letters just left
To love like that, sloppy, and have it spill over –
To divulge like that and vanish
Letters, in a box, in a closet, in an attic, in the sky
He didn’t like to be buried like that

The forest was not far off but full of erotic suspicion
Better to watch the towering abandonment of the surf
As it piles up on the beach
It’s been a pilgrimage (defined in 1750 as)
A ‘confused voyage of devotion’

He’d not have altitude sickness this time
He’d grown used to the heights
And surrendered to the falls
He knew humanity could not be objective
And that he had survived the waste
And extravagance of his own tolerance

After a lifetime of black dogs – retribution came
Like an obedient rebel
Even the scholar of fainting American meadows
is witness

He stands behind a heavy door
The wild honeysuckle perfume is potent
It drowns out the mixture of passionflowers and orchids
Even the hummingbirds from Brazil
Or the hours in the afternoon playing chess
Against his infant thoughts of locusts and mulberries
Behind the grove of oak and beeches
He’s living a noble lie; the nobility of impulse
Which was always as chaotic as the void surrounding him

His Olympian detachment –
His crudeness worthy of a turbulent sky
He’d have to exercise courtliness to understand savagery
He had loved
Out there among the Dutch elms and mango trees of exile
He knew, as Einstein said, that
“The moon exists even if no one is watching it”

Posted with the author's permission

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On sad suburban afternoons of autumn by Reginald Gibbons

On sad suburban afternoons of autumn,
       the piercings, leather and tattoos that bought
these bungalows from mixing bowls and golf
       barbeque and drink beer, watch football, eat,
laugh like ponies--everything has changed
       and not a lot except which music blares
through the meat-scented smoke and streaks of sun.
       Big motorcyles drip dark staining oil
where Oldsmobiles once waited between breakdowns.
       Slightly aslant on windows are the self-
adhesive souvenirs of stadium concerts
       by rockers getting osteoporosis;
T-shirts advertise five-pointed leaves;
       kids are neglected in the age-old ways,
unkempt and shrieking as they run--or older,
       buy their own weed, sneak drinks, ditch school and fuck.
In front yards, back yards, alleys and dead ends
       may all these signs convince the distant gods--
or Fate, or The Fates, an absent "G-d," a Christ
       somewhere or other, not right here, an Allah
with gnashing prophets, or a great magician,
       or the chance events that can destroy a life--
that there's no need to bring down any more
       than customary miseries and brief
illusions of good luck on such old, young,
       different, same, frail creatures of a day.

first appeared in Ontario Review #62
republished with author's permission

Thursday, June 7, 2007

6 by Catullus, translated by Peter Green

Flavius, that sweetie of yours (Catullus speaking)
must be totally inelegant and unsmart-
you couldn't keep quiet otherwise, you'd tell me.
Fact is, it's just some commonplace consumptive
tart you're mad for, and you blush to say so.
Look, your nights aren't solitary: silence
won't help out when your own bedroom shouts it--
stinking Syrian perfume, all those garlands,
both your pillows, on each side of the bed, all
rumpled, and the gimcrack bedstead shaken
into sharp creaking, loud perambulation!
It's no good, no good at all, your saying
nothing. Why? You wouldn't look so fucked out
if you weren't up to some inept adventure.
So, whatever you've got there, nice or awful,
tell us! I'm after you, man, and your lovebird,
want to ensky you both in witty poems.

posted with permission of the translator

Monday, May 21, 2007

Series #22 (white) by Page Starzinger

Oil and gesso on canvas    Robert Ryman, 2004


As if it were still the 17th century, when conscious
just entered the English language, meaning secret and shameful:


the whitewash of brushstrokes over black. It was like erasing
to put white over it,
Ryman says, but gives no hint of what—


everything we have words for is dead.
No wonder, Nietzche said, I forget; so it repeats, like a series


of couplets: In Hebrew darkness is not unrelated to childlessness.
Being 47, unmarried, without children and in love with men who don’t


is not a choice. It’s a compulsion. Last night I dreamt that I was a little
dressed in white, running behind a boy, down a dirt road,


searching for a home, and because we couldn’t tell which was best
we stopped at any house. It was owned by a blind man.


In Jane Eyre, it is after Rochester is blind in a fire that burns his house
      to the ground
that he is finally free to marry Jane. And in the paintings,


what is present is what matters. And what is present
is not white paint, but paint that reflects white,


a lightwave, a stream of minute packets of energy photons.

first appeared in Colorado Review, Spring 2007
republished with author's permission

Monday, May 14, 2007

Memoria Historikoa, or Historical Memory, by Kirmen Uribe, translated from the Basque by Elizabeth Macklin

Londres. Brixton auzoa. Eskuot batean hiru japoniar.
Afaria egin dugu. Bihar hegaldia daukat Bilbora.
Te beroaz Bigarren Mundu Gerra hizpide.
Japoniako zaharrek horri buruz ez dute ezer esaten,
kontatu du batek. Are gehiago, eskola-liburuetan
ez da gerrari buruz ia aipamenik agertzen.
Gutxi gorabehera, esaldi bakar hau:
“Bigarren Mundu Gerra
1942-1945 urteetan gertatu zen eta
Hiroshima eta Nagasakiko bonbekin amaitu”.

Hegaldian noa Bilbora.
Txiki-txikiak dira hemendik Bizkaiko etxeak.

London. Brixton. Three Japanese in a squat.
We’ve had supper. Tomorrow I fly to Bilbao.
Over hot tea, speaking of the Second World War:
The old people of Japan tell nothing about it,
one says. What’s more, in the schoolbooks
there’s nearly no mention at all of the war.
Or, more or less, this lone sentence:
“The Second World War
took place between 1942 and 1945 and
ended with the bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.”

Now on the flight to Bilbao.
The houses of Vizcaya are minute from here.

published with author's permission

Monday, May 7, 2007

Useful Advice by Carl Dennis

Suppose you sat writing at your desk
Between days, long before dawn,
The only one up in town,
And suddenly saw out the window
A great star float by,
Or heard on the radio sweet voices
From wandering Venus or Neptune,
A little hello from the voids.
Who would believe you in the morning
Unless you'd practiced for years
A convincing style?
So you must learn to labor each day.
Finally a reader may write he's certain
Whatever you've written or will write is true.
Then all you need is the patience to wait
For stars or voices.

published with author's permission

Monday, April 30, 2007

Anniversary by Mary Stewart Hammond

Tonight they were bringing my brother up from the deep,
nothing so grand as the sea, merely
a quarry in Georgia, barely
a mile or two wide and flooded
to a depth of 200 feet, no bigger
in the scheme of things
than a soup spoon's bowl,
but it held him, it cradled him,
this place vast as death,
small as life. It reduced him
to a speck in the universe.
The size of him, after all,
was vast and small.
It filled the spoon; it disappeared.

published with author's permission

Monday, April 23, 2007

Portrait of Man with a Lily by Linda Bierds

After the miniature by Hans Holbein the Younger

Through the window, winter,
black oxen slumped in the pastures. Someone's whistle,
then the chatter of wagon wheels as, carriage
by carriage, some king or black-eyed queen
bobs through the countryside, outrunning the plague.

In the clouds the ice storms gather. Cold sun
tints the ground to the roan of peaches.
And in a silk tunic, Hans Holbein studies

immaculacy: the dust-free room, the lint-free silk,
his wrists and lye-washed hands. Then he strokes
to the back of a playing card-some king
or flat-eyed queen-a tinted ground.

And waits, powders an eggshell, a peach pit, a stone
from the gall of a black ox. Waits. Sits
at the window, where high on the hillsides

dusk's pandemic wash
darkens the carriages, the clouds that offer
their white petals to the darkening province
of space. Until only a clatter

remains--wagon wheels, ice--as he bends
to the card, outlines in miniature
a swatch of cloak. Then smaller still,
a placid, wide-cheeked, tentative face.
Then smaller still, a lily.

published with author's permission

Monday, April 16, 2007

Swans by Henri Cole

From above we must have looked like ordinary

tourists feeding winter swans, though it was

the grit of our father we flung hard

into the green water slapping against the pier,

where we stood soberly watching the ash float

or acquiesce and the swans, mooring themselves

against the little scrolls churned up out of the grave

by a motorboat throbbing in the distance.

What we had in common had been severed

from us. Like an umbrella in sand, I stood

rigidly apart - the wind flashing its needles

in air, the surf heavy, nebulous - remembering

a sunburned boy napping between hairy legs,

yellow jackets hovering over an empty basket.

published with author's permission

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Partial Clearance by John Koethe

Barely a week later
I'd returned to myself again.
But where a light perspective of particulars
Used to range under an accommodating blue sky
There were only numb mind tones, thoughts clenched like little fists,
And syllables struggling to release their sense to my imagination.
I tried to get out of myself
But it was like emerging into a maze:
The buildings across the street still looked the same,
But they seemed foreshortened,
Dense, and much closer than I'd ever realized,
As though I'd only seen them previously in a dream.
Why is it supposed to be so important to see things as they actually are?
The sense of life, of what life is like--isn't that
What we're always trying so desperately to say?
And whether we live in between them,
Mirror each other out of thin air, or exist only as reflections
Of everything that isn't ours, we all sense it,
And we want it to last forever.

published with author's permission

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Objet by Mary Kinzie

Dear child, why
is it still, along the pillow
this hand of yours half
open on the brightness
thrown by the lamp
anemone in
water the current
once passed through

In sleep you answer
that life catches
against the edge of
its own likeness
vein ever blue
in the body's
marble drift

posted with the author's permission

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Day More Like the Next Than Like the One Before by Mark Bowen

The sun raises itself, tired and unsteady,
into a sky tilting with the insolence
of an uninspired painting. It's a mild day,
the temperature of a gentle acid-trip
as experienced by shy, quietly
self-aggrandizing people. I have always
admired the way they look at me
when they can't think of anything
more to say, the way I admire a sword
for the damage that it can do.

posted with the author's permission

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Elements by Katie Hartsock

The air you breathe freezes
on your beard, rough strands
icicled and gleaming like the trees.
I bring my mouth to your chin
and with my tongue
I eat your breath.
We are walking in an ice land;
Does Iceland’s name mean Iceland in Icelandic?
Who names countries
by what they can’t be sure defines them?
The only hints the island lets slip
as to how hot the earth gets towards her middle
are the geysers, the springs, the steam billowing
like a rumor over the blue snow.
I take your gloved hand in my gloved hand
so that you might open
your warm wet mouth again, say
something you have not been taught.

published with author's permission

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Poem Half in the Manner of Li Po by Charles Wright

All things aspire to weightlessness,
some place beyond the lip of language,
Some silence, some zone of grace,

Sky white as raw silk,
opening mirror cold-sprung in the west,
Sunset like dead grass.

If God hurt the way we hurt,
he, too, would be heart-sore,
Disconsolate, unappeasable.

Li Ho, the story goes, would leave home
Each day at dawn, riding a colt, a servant boy
walking behind him,
An antique tapestry bag
Strapped to his back.
When inspiration struck, Ho would write
The lines down and drop them in the bag.
At night he'd go home and work the lines up into a poem,
No matter how disconnected and loose-leafed they were.
His mother once said,
"He won't stop until he has vomited out his heart."

And so he did.
Like John Keats,
He died believing his name would never be written among the

Without hope, he thought himself--that worst curse--unlucky.
At twenty-seven, at death's line, he saw a man come
In purple, driving a red dragon,
A tablet in one hand, who said,
"I'm here to summon Li Ho."

Ho got from his bed and wept.
Far from the sick room's dragon-dark, snow stormed the passes,
Monkeys surfed the bo trees
and foolish men ate white jade.

How mournful the southern hills are,
how white their despair
Under December's T'ang blue blank page.

What's the use of words--there are no words
For December's chill redaction,
for the way it makes us feel.

We hang like clouds between heaven and earth,
between something and nothing,
Sometimes with shadows, sometimes without.

Posted with permission of the author
Please note: this poem lacks the author's intended indentations

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Aglow by Matthew Zapruder


Hello everyone, hello you. Here we are under this sky.
Where were you Tuesday? I was at the El Rancho Motel in Gallup.
Someone in one of the nameless rooms was dying, slowly
the ambulance came, just another step towards the end. An older
couple asked me to capture them with a camera, gladly I rose
about three inches and did and then back to my chair. I thought of
Paul Celan, one of those poets everything happened to strangely
as it happens to everyone. In German he wrote he rose
one pain inch above the floor, I don’t understand
but I understand. Did writing in German make him a little
part of whoever set in motion the chain of people talking
who pushed his parents under the blue grasses of the Ukraine?
No. My name is Ukrainian and Ukranians killed everyone but six
people with my name. Do you understand me now? It
hurts to be part of the chain and feel rusty and also a tiny squeak
now part of what makes everything go. People talk a lot, the
more they do the less I remember in one of my rooms someone
is always dying. It doesn’t spoil my time is what spoils my time. No
one can know what they’ve missed, least of all my father who
was building a beautiful boat from a catalog and might still be. Sometimes
I feel him pushing a little bit on my lower back with a palm
made of ghost orchids and literal wind. Today I’m holding onto
holding onto what Neko Case called that teenage feeling. She means
one thing, I mean another, I mean to say that just like when I was thirteen
it has been a hidden pleasure but mostly an awful pain talking to you
with a voice that pretends to be shy and actually is, always in search of
the question that might make you ask me one in return.

Posted with permission of the author

What Hands Remember by Johanna Ekstrom

What hands remember

arms at sides
seeming to be waiting

the big words
sleep beneath
the palm of the hand

a sweet sucked
to a sliver
words like glass
a splinter under the fingernail

Who died of love?

In the lining all the children sleep
mouths and eyes wiped clean
They have no mouths where mouths should be
no sight where sight should be
Whoever would trust to the injury itself?

From these hands fires can dart
characteristics be burned away

Hands fall like tulip petals
sweep away a facial feature

As hands do in sleep
they remember their loneliness

She places the petals over the children
covers them with the palm of her hand

No-one died of love
There is a contrary wind I have never known

Johanna Ekström, borne 1970, is a writer and artist. She lives in Stockholm, Sweden.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What Remains by Zachary Sussman

On the nightstand, a glass of water,
a blank mirror: you’ve grown more remote
than either, the fan of your ribcage
now opening, now closed,
in time with the rasping pipes.

You’ve entered a place behind your eyes
where nothing can reach you, ignorant
of the ivy loosening the mortar, the bright
stain of the harbor, the brass clock
I forgot to wind.

Outside, if it matters, a man lights a fire
under a bridge. He has stood
a long time in the trashcan’s shadow,
waiting for the heat to bless him.

Even as the flames perform their work,
weaving a thin bandage
of smoke above the rooftops,
some cavity in his chest
still shivers under his flannel shirt.

There are places in the body
we cannot find or name.
So I am left in a room
the shape of your sleep

as the headlights of a passing taxi
graze the curtains like brushstrokes,
falling over the bedposts
until your limbs, before darkening,
are remade entirely out of light.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Collapse by Nicole Burdette

I’ve seen you cross an empty room
With a bottle of booze in one hand
And a paper cup in the other
I’ve seen you thinking you were alone
But I know better
And I’ve had visits from you
We were leaning in the hallway
When you turned on the radio saying good-bye
And then later when you collapsed at the counter
When you wept so hard your knees gave out
The unnatural light hit your features hard
Digging in your pockets, you put something in my hand
And looked at the other for an answer in my palm
So I sat there with you,
One hand open and the other clutching your coins
You hung on me with the weight of a bear, heavy
After some coffee and a couple of times around the block
We walked through more alleys and barren roads,
Hitting dead ends, turning around
Both of us are from the Midwest
Where men and women really do hate each other
I knew that
You are another Hamlet
So when you tell me to stay away
Because you are crazy and not nice sometimes
I believe you
And manage a smile
At you and I crammed in a corner
Dancing to Roy Orbison because you said
“We have to dance. It’s Roy Orbison.

Professor of Law Chris Borgen on "unacknowledged legislators"

Literature, at its best, bridges gaps of experience and culture. It helps you stand in another’s shoes. If one of the things we, as international lawyers, care about is a just world then fostering an understanding of each other’s views is an important step in that direction, regardless as to whether we actually agree with those views. You cannot let rhetoric bury nuance, anger bury analysis. Anger can spur great literature and righteous anger can be the seed of political reform, but great literature and just policies are more than angry reactions. Writers (and international lawyers) are fortunately not the world’s legislators. But both can have a profound influence in how we understand and shape our world.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Rotary by Christina Pugh

Closer to a bell than a bird,
that clapper ringing
the clear name
of its inventor:

by turns louder
and quieter than a clock,
its numbered face
was more literate,

triplets of alphabet
like grace notes
above each digit.

And when you dialed,
each number was a shallow hole
your finger dragged
to the silver

then the sound of the hole
traveling back
to its proper place
on the circle.

You had to wait for its return.
You had to wait.
Even if you were angry
and your finger flew,

you had to await
the round trip
of seven holes
before you could speak.

The rotary was weird for lag,
for the afterthought.

Before the touch-tone,
before the speed-dial,
before the primal grip
of the cellular,

they built glass houses
around telephones:
glass houses in parking lots,
by the roadside,
on sidewalks.

When you stepped in
and closed the door,
transparency hugged you,
and you could almost see

your own lips move,
the dumb-show
of your new secrecy.

Why did no one think
to conserve the peal?

Just try once
to sing it to yourself:
it's gone,

like the sound of breath
if your body left.

posted to TMP/UL with permission of Christina Pugh


Good-Bye Finch by Robyn Schiff

When that which closes
hopes. Better to
measure. Leaner
weaves the raven
nearer the center, our
single reminder which the black bird makes
"find me, I am here" music,
crying out
"this food is not filling." Find me
time, pleasure, ocean, ever,
or pure abstraction
as if the lightness

Forget that which is
rare? ounce? blessed?
Do you know the word for
what you do not
want. Transactions take place
Always a disruption
Transactions take the place of you

posted to TMP/UL with permission of Robyn Schiff

Courtesy by David Ferry

It is an afternoon toward the end of August:
Autumnal weather, cool following on,
And riding in, after the heat of summer,
Into the empty afternoon shade and light,

The shade full of light without any thickness at all;
You can see right through and right down into the depth
Of the light and shade of the afternoon; there isn't
Any weight of the summer pressing down.

In the backyard of the house next door there's a kid,
Maybe eleven or twelve, and a young man,
Visitors at the house whom I don't know,
The house in which the sound of some kind of party,

Perhaps even a wedding, is going on.
Somehow you can tell from the tone of their voices
That they don't know each other very well--
Two guests at the party, one of them, maybe,

A friend of the bride or groom, the other the son
Or the younger brother, maybe, of somebody there.
A couple of blocks away the wash of traffic
Dimly sounds, as if we were near the ocean.

They're shooting baskets, amiably and mildly.
The noise of the basketball, though startingly louder
Than the voices of the two of them as they play,
Is peaceable as can be, something like meter.

The earnest voice of the kid, girlish and manly,
And the voice of the young man, carefully playing the game
Of having a grown-up conversation with him:
I can tell the young man is teaching the boy by example,

The easy way he dribbles the ball and passes it
Back with a single gesture of wrist to make it
Easy for the kid to be in synch;
Giving and taking, perfectly understood.

posted to TMP/UL with permission of David Ferry

Our Lady of the Snows by Robert Hass

POEM: Our Lady of the Snows by Robert Hass

In white,
the unpainted statue of the young girl
on the side altar
made the quality of mercy seem scrupulous and calm.

When my mother was in a hospital drying out,
or drinking at a pace that would put her there soon,
I would slip in the side door,
light an aromatic candle,
and bargain for us both.
Or else I'd stare into the day-moon of that face
and, if I concentrated, fly.

Come down! come down!
she'd call, because I was so high.

Though mostly when I think of myself
at that age, I am standing at my older brother's closet
studying the shirts,
convinced that I could be absolutely transformed
by something I could borrow.
And the days churned by,
navigable sorrow.

... posted to TMP/UL, with permission of Robert Hass





Poem: Manhattan Nocture by Joseph Brodsky

Buenos noches.
Don't mind the roaches.

Sunday, February 11, 2007