Tuesday, May 26, 2015

POEM: "By The Goat's Skull, Near The Scrolls"

By The Goat’s Skull, Near The Scrolls 

Each dawn gaze at the horizon
then don’t look on it all day long

It will be determined
stretched tight as a winter rope

Night or day birth or death
numb-dumb of twin nothing at all

A suggestion not a commandment
a caravan determines to keep going 

One excavation of the heart
one brown hand for pomegranate

Can the naming of either part 
determine the cadenas of a life

An anti-whip prevent a snap
in sand in the vagaries of love? 

Sunday again I see no ants crawling 
just stray dogs a cat negotiating a roof

© 2015 Rob Schackne

A Michael Anania Poem

Memorial Day

It is easily forgotten, year to
year, exactly where the plot is,
though the place is entirely familiar—
a willow tree by a curving roadway
sweeping black asphalt with tender leaves;

damp grass strewn with flower boxes,
canvas chairs, darkskinned old ladies
circling in draped black crepe family stones,
fingers cramped red at the knuckles, discolored
nails, fresh soil for new plants, old rosaries;

such fingers kneading the damp earth gently down
on new roots, black humus caught in grey hair
brushed back, and the single waterfaucet,
birdlike upon its grey pipe stem,
a stream opening at its foot.

We know the stories that are told,
by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy
regarding the precise enactments of their own
gesturing. And among the women there will be
a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering.

The morning may be brilliant; the season
is one of brilliances—sunlight through
the fountained willow behind us, its splayed
shadow spreading westward, our shadows westward,
irregular across damp grass, the close-set stones.

It may be that since our walk there is faltering,
moving in careful steps around snow-on-the-mountain,
bluebells and zebragrass toward that place
between the willow and the waterfaucet, the way
is lost, that we have no practiced step there,
and walking, our own sway and balance, fails us.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Marge Piercy Poem

Doors opening, closing on us

Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else. But

while some doors lead to cathedrals
arching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
and some to caves of nuclear monsters

most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
Still, the image of a door is liminal,
passing from one place into another
one state to the other, boundaries

and promises and threats. Inside
to outside, light into dark, dark into
light, cold into warm, known into
strange, safe into terror, wind

into stillness, silence into noise
or music. We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase. We see

ourselves progressing from room
to room perhaps dragging our toys
along until the last door opens
and we pass at last into was.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

POEM: "About Reticence"

About Reticence

                                 for R.S.

Tears, runny nose
the snot, the kisses
the railing on a pier

3pm of an afternoon
birdshit is everywhere
how did it get to this
supposed to be farewell
gulls, rattus aerealis, suck
on the desiccated beach
old thong, paper wrapper
our last loving, the sun
it celebrates our lives

I need to get some gas
and nothing stirs but pity.                     


Well, there's a place
for reticence in poetry
I can’t tell you now but
the truth is ever so precise
like a screw to a screwdriver
it follows a modest grain
now breathe and wait a sec
maybe it's better to be lost
you ever take a trip on a poet
and their will looks wobbly
don't walk on hot coals with
them they won’t hold back
not much good with love
you can relax all you want.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Saturday, May 16, 2015

POEM: "All The Screaming Poets"

All The Screaming Poets

The Sheik of Araby
the Sultan of Ogosh
the butcher Hermann
the strange boy Oskar
the waitress with corns
the incarcerated souls
the demented tracing of
the name over and over again
the good man trying to protect
the swamplands of Florida
the mother with twin monsters
the teachers and the students
the lovers and the dreamers
the tired porn stars and athletes
the kids who don’t get the math
the father who keeps trying
the suppression of power
the suicidal executives
the homicidal police
o all the screaming poets
the tears o the tears that flow
o the tears the tears that flow

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Franz Wright Poem

Morning Arrives

Morning arrives
by limousine: the tall
emaciated chairman

of sleeplessness in person
steps out on the sidewalk
and donning black glasses, ascends
the stairs to your building

guided by a German shepherd.
After a couple faint knocks
at the door, he slowly opens
the book of blank pages

pointing out
with a pale manicured finger
particular clauses,
proof of your guilt.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

POEM: "For Good"

For Good

                      “One hundred and fifty thousand people die every day,” he continues. 
                       “And a lot of them have dinner plans.” 
                            Anthony Martin, Escape Artist

                         So, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 
                              Psalms 90:12

Let it counsel against hating
The strong and clean and good
But admit that blood covers it all
As even sunlight works with promise
To show us the pain every day

Everything rotting, it's hopeless
It wouldn’t work in an iron lung
As the literate despair insists
Because the memory works like that
Against chance and change and sky

We'll die because there's no choice
We'll write poems because of what
The world could be (it would only try)
Work in an iron lung for nearly nothing
Ignore the nothingness till it goes for good.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

POEM: "A Cloud Song"

A Cloud Song

                    pace G. Gershwin

I could cry salty tears
bread and wine, roses
for roses, an empty chair
ten thousand got drunk
that never was born
your picture's on the wall
above an unfamiliar bed where
have I been all these years
a cloud beginning to descend
my little wow, tell me how
I won't be seeing you again
how long has this been going on?

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Michael Palmer Poem

[In the Empire of Light]

In the Empire of Light
the water's completely dry

floating on a surface of itself
around islands pointed south-southwest

The wind fills it then
with more of itself

according to the rules
which cause parallel lines

to vibrate and cross
less and less

among the hanging baskets from a rain forest
among the visiting statesmen

from a rain forest
Here the dancer stops

to regain her balance
and reelaborate the distance

from the feet to the head
The risk is a part of the rhythm

She steps out of
and into balance

with those who are left
Chalk-marks show them where to stand


Sunday, May 10, 2015

POEM: "If The Universe Be Curved Not Flat"

If The Universe Be Curved Not Flat

Please remember the apple rain
the speedfilled dawn at falling dream
the scent the image left behind

leave the red signs in the junkyard
leave it to the mothers of China
leaving their Masters behind

include the moving clouds
including as many objects as they can
include the underside of this house

if the universe be curved not flat
against time or set or box of matches 
if anything should exceed its direction

jigsaw pieces see all things flash
the sound an old barn door makes
listen to almost the taste of apples

the photo down (as in a book)
the photo up (as on the wall)
the photo round (as on a planet)

© 2013 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Water"


One day water looks like death
Inviting the concentrated minute
But my hair has spun too wild
In the winds ever to be still again
Clothed (I am always clothed)

To inch under the appearance
Of what looks placid and blue
The cold shock and the slowing
Descent is not as painful as
The first rude intake of water

Mother I thought she'd forgive
My father would come rescue me
All memory would be stored safe

The trees just sway (time is staying)
Before I was not drawn to water.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Dorothea Lasky Poem

The Birth

The birth isn't about poetry
It is about screaming pain on a Sunday
Hailing a cab and head racing
To the hospital, now so close to the new apartment

I had a baby inside of me
But no one expected it to happen so fast
Or then at least they said they didn't
Maybe they expected it to happen so fast
All along

Alone in the waiting room I shook and shook
And the blood ran down my legs
Later with the magnesium
I thought of the many permutations of the bald head
Pale, pickling fish skin, glowing with scales

When she came out, she was dark and full of hair
No blood, but born in the caul
Like the other magical realities of my past accomplishments
When she came out she cried and it sounded like me
But passed me, into her new reality

Now 3 weeks later, they say I am still not an erotic object
So I wander the park in the snow with my friend
We light candles and pray to the darkness
We light the park on fire and the police come and find us

When they take us to the jail, I say no, it's not right
I am a mother after all
They say, but where is your baby
And I say, no no, my baby my baby
They say, yes yes, look at your beautiful baby

I say, I do, I do
Look, look, and listen
My baby my baby
She's here


Friday, May 8, 2015

POEM: "So What If Memory Isn't True"

So What If Memory Isn't True

I found an old scalpel a new blade
she carefully shaved my corns
as gently as her dear mother’s

Drank like magicians smoked like fish
strange of kind her mahou tsukai
how she put geomancy in the air

She walked after a fight about my photos
balance of probabilities she was crazy
(though most likely I am too)

She whose goddess was so pristine
my poetry was dirty in the shower
she rubbed me down like a horse

Tried to scrub the naysayer off me
she got some here missed a little there
then refused to have sex for a year

Fires raged on the Kobe streets
she got lost in the great earthquake
so what if memory isn’t true.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Randall Jarrell Poem

The Woman at the Washington Zoo

The saris go by me from the embassies.

Cloth from the moon. Cloth from another planet.
They look back at the leopard like the leopard.

And I....
              this print of mine, that has kept its color
Alive through so many cleanings; this dull null
Navy I wear to work, and wear from work, and so
To my bed, so to my grave, with no
Complaints, no comment: neither from my chief,
The Deputy Chief Assistant, nor his chief—
Only I complain.... this serviceable
Body that no sunlight dyes, no hand suffuses
But, dome-shadowed, withering among columns,
Wavy beneath fountains—small, far-off, shining
In the eyes of animals, these beings trapped
As I am trapped but not, themselves, the trap,
Aging, but without knowledge of their age,
Kept safe here, knowing not of death, for death—
Oh, bars of my own body, open, open!

The world goes by my cage and never sees me.
And there come not to me, as come to these,
The wild beasts, sparrows pecking the llamas' grain,
Pigeons settling on the bears' bread, buzzards
Tearing the meat the flies have clouded....
When you come for the white rat that the foxes left,
Take off the red helmet of your head, the black
Wings that have shadowed me, and step to me as man:
The wild brother at whose feet the white wolves fawn,
To whose hand of power the great lioness
Stalks, purring....
                             You know what I was,
You see what I am: change me, change me!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Gary Snyder Poem

A Maul for Bill and Cindy's Wedding

Swung from the toes out,
Belly-breath riding on the knuckles,
The ten-pound maul lifts up,
Sails in an arc overhead,
And then lifts you!

It floats, you float,
For an instant of clear far sight—
Eye on the crack in the end-grain
Angle of the oak round
Stood up to wait to be split.

The maul falls—with a sigh—the wood
Claps apart
    and lies twain—
In a wink. As the maul
Splits all, may

You two stay together.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Charlotte Smith Poem

On Being Cautioned Against Walking on an Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It Was Frequented by a Lunatic

Is there a solitary wretch who hies
  To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,
And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes
  Its distance from the waves that chide below;
Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs
  Chills his cold bed upon the mountain turf,
With hoarse, half-uttered lamentation, lies
  Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?
In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,
  I see him more with envy than with fear;
He has no nice felicities that shrink
  From giant horrors; wildly wandering here,
He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know
The depth or the duration of his woe.


Monday, May 4, 2015

POEMS: "Poems Of There's No Tomorrow"

Poems Of There's No Tomorrow

                                              These words say this
                                                  and these words don't.

                                                  Louis C.K.


No it's hell and it seems
the guitar is warped the effort
reaches a point I don't care anymore
do the work write like a motherfucker
if it pans out there will be a port
only not the one I steered for
no there will be strange music
between a promise and a pity
monkeys dancing on the pier
and a woman wearing a set of eyes
brings a bowl of chili and walks away
the sun like it belongs to no one else.


Yes it's a bizarro poem
and hatred for this art
and everybody around it
makes for heavy reading
after the first thirteen faces
yes the itch and the scratching
when next week the car crashes
it's totalled and though I'm OK
the poem in the backseat is injured
now bizarro means it's nothing
this poem crawls away from me.


Water calligraphy
it's not flowers and light
it disappears as soon
as sense arrives
might be a level head
could even be a crazy
wishing to debate
the invisible
I walk past smiling
that there was joy
did any madman ever
write to evaporate
passing readers
see the water see the air
watch the brush
it stays it leaves
the bucket the piss
he moves away
people disperse
he wrote a little.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Sunday, May 3, 2015

POEM: "Hardly A Poem"

Hardly A Poem

But I love comics for their timing...
It’s a summer day, you’re lying in bed
Your mother walks in, you’re jerking off
With a magazine, and just as you come
She says something so perfect, so off-hand
What are you doing to that magazine?

Respect. Poets spend years working on
Their material before they can do that.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Tracy K. Smith Poem

I Don't Miss It

But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven't left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It's impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

BOOK COVERS: Gustave Doré (1884) / Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven" (1845)

   Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
   For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
   Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

POEM: "One Meditation One Love"

One Meditation One Love 

I know now why the Earth hums
The Earth hums because the oceans
Love to strum the bits of land they fill

I know tonight why little kids point
With an arm and a finger to call us out
It's time to see the future and the past

And I know why it rains for everyone
It's because the streets fill with love, else
The night won't fall and I fail to understand

Why hum is sometimes an affliction 
It's when ordinary storms wake up demons

It's when plants and trees burn with ruin

And I know tonight we misread the future
(I know it's raining, and I'm still not ready)
I know that somehow we've mislaid a planet

The lightning is striking outside my window 
The hum in my ears inside a bouncer’s umbrella
Leaving the bar should be timely and respectful.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Monday, April 27, 2015

An Evie Shockley Poem

du bois in ghana

at 93, you determined to pick up and go—
and stay gone. the job nkrumah called you to,
to create, at last, your encyclopedia africana
              (encompassing a continent chipped

like wood beneath an axe, a large enough
diaspora to girdle the globe, and a mere four
thousand years) was either well-deserved
               sinecure or well-earned trust

that your health was as indestructible as
your will. my mind wrestles with possible pictures:
the victorian sensibility, the charcoal wool
              formality of your coats and vests, the trim

of your beard as sharp as the crease of your
collar—how would these du boisian essentials
hold up to sub-saharan heat? would
              your critical faculties wilt in accra’s

urban tropics as i’ve read that westerners’
are wont to do? dr. du bois, i presume
you took the climate in stride, took to it,
              looked out your library’s louvered windows

onto a land you needed
neither to condemn nor conquer,
and let the sun tell you what you already knew:
             this was not a port to pass on.

your 95th birthday photo found you bathed
in white cloth, cane still in hand, sharing a smile
with a head of state who knew your worth—joy
             that this nation’s birth occurred in time

for you to step out of a cold, cold storm
into outstretched arms. would your pan-
african dream have survived a dictatorial
             nkrumah, an nkrumah in exile? you took

the prerogative of age and died without telling,
without knowing. a half-century later, here
in the country where you were born, i look
             into a screen and watch as, near and far, a pan-

demic of violence and abuse staggers the planet.
we seed the world with blood, grow
bleeding, harvest death and the promise
             of more. when i turn bitter, seeing no potential

for escape, i think of the outrages you saw—wars,
lynchings, genocide, mccarthy, communism’s
failure to rise above corrupting power
             any better than capitalism had, the civil rights

movement’s endless struggle—and how
you kept writing and walking, looking
for what you knew was out there. your memory,
             your tireless radiant energy, calls me

to my work, to my feet, insisting
that somewhere on the earth, freedom is
learning to walk, trying not to fall,
             and, somewhere, laboring to be born.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

POEM: "Lines By The Pint (CXXX)"

Lines By The Pint (CXXX)

It's no small thing like the fold
Of a dress which suddenly speaks
Or a light switch from another world

But even by those kindly lights I see
Reaching deep inside the common face
Where language is mixed with nonsense

There's no limit to a foolish greed
And cosmetics can't hide a smart woman
And I wonder what my next beauty looks like ­­­­­­­

If we'll slap hands together and conjure glee
Till the sun rises roughly over our secrets
And the bed we’re in hears the music wrong.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Saturday, April 25, 2015

POEM: "Deux Trous Rouges au Côté Droit"

Deux Trous Rouges au Côté Droit

                                        Arthur Rimbaud et les milliards d’autres

How long since war first broke out
vexing the moment, the tipping point
deux trous rouges au côté droit
was it ten thousand years before
shouting turned into bombings
deux trous rouges au côté droit
deliberate bloodshed that repeated
walks of anguish for the rest of time
deux trous rouges au côté droit
the real rage of being human
going to the village well for water
deux trous rouges au côté droit
the sudden soldiers of sharp death
and then the ditches filled with rain?

                                                Anzac Day 25/4/15

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Friday, April 24, 2015

POEM: "But You See It, Don't You?"

But You See It, Don't You?

The clouds perfect, reflected
in a pristine watercourse. Sunny
and warm. Interesting breeze off the hills.
They (the old ones) sit outside in the sun.
But every place there is a shop, people
scattering sunflower seeds and waiting
for the next busloads of you and me.
And you wonder, why duplicate beauty
and why do it like that? It was just itself
and minding its own business, like a cat.
No point to anything but its own rest.
But if you can take a photo of something
the people want to look at, it's real money.
(Spirit was moved, it took a real deep breath)
Money that the perfect clouds tried to wash
with intemperate rain. They thunderstruck 
the village, asking for it to listen up and mop.
To no avail. The river grew rubbish. Plants died.
Today, they (the young ones) spend their days
snotting on the steps, or fast asleep. Tomorrow
is about their phones trying to talk with ghosts.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Jiang Hao Poem

The Shape Of The Ocean

Every time you ask about the shape of an ocean
I should bring you two bags of ocean water.
This is ocean's shape, like a pair of eyes,
or the shape of ocean that eyes have seen. 

You touch them, as if wiping away two burning tears, 
as tears are the ocean’s shape, too, the clarity
springing from the same deep soul.
Putting the bags together will not
make the ocean wider. They are still fresh,
as if two non-fish will soon swim out.
You sprinkle the water to the sand of flour,
the bread, also, is the shape of the ocean.
Before you slice it with a sharp sail
it leaves, like a departing boat. The plastic bags
left on the table also have the ocean's shape, flat
with tides retreating from the beaches.
When the real tide goes away
there’s salt left, shaped as the ocean too.
You don't believe? I should bring you a bag
of water and a bag of sand, the shape of ocean.
You affirm, you deny; then you non-affirm,
and non-deny? Go on and try out yourself,
as this is your shape too. But you say
“I’m only the image of myself.”

(2003) Tr. Ming Di and Afaa Weaver (2009)