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