Wednesday, December 17, 2014

POEM: "Adventures Of An Incognito"

Adventures Of An Incognito

                                                for Andrew Duguid

Prestidigitator, smoke and shaman
Out of the shadows, from the outside
Carter, butcherman, cowboy, business
Of poetry and slide, the sun is setting
When the flocks of birds wheel away
Never was a man so incognito, he says
With a pint in hand and a dry stilletto
Parks his ass on a stool and tells them
His stories of in-between, the outback
Min Min lights and the Visitor he saw

Never was a man so incognito, he says
The night has fallen low, the bar flies
Will insist on buying him many drinks
He will struggle for less than a minute
Tomorrow is only Thursday, excuse him
He needs the dark to get ready. Thank you.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Monday, December 15, 2014

POEM: "Going For A Walk"

Going For A Walk

                                       Pawned my guitar so many times
                                        That it’s a crying shame…

Like seeing something
In the window that’s yours
But it’s not really a window
And yeah it isn’t really a shop
And yeah it’s not really yours
It belongs to a really big fat guy
Married to an even fatter woman
And yeah neither one loves the blues
The wind of the world against the shroud
And what's still left out there in the cold
If only you had enough for a hot dog
(If only they had better management)
Because of a rainy Monday afternoon
Because of the troubles of your own
Because it isn't your guitar anymore
And you're not really going for a walk
Money's not a mystery I need 5 dollars
Yeah the rhythm of this falling rain
And the secrets waiting everywhere.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Thursday, December 11, 2014

POEM: "A Definition of Homelessness"

A Definition of Homelessness

A person, place or thing
words of misfortune modify
declaim but don't support

O me, o my, you'll never see
the wreckage where I sleep
or the carnage of my dreams

The shopping carts, the air tickets
the black cat that my brother hates
a noisy apartment, fractious neighbors

The fork of my life
has become too short
and my fingers are getting dirty

You can't understand me
and words of anger modify
the words of loss

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Mary Avidano Poem

City Lights 

My father, rather a quiet man,
told a story only the one time,
if even then—he had so little
need, it seemed, of being understood.
Intervals of years, his silences!
Late in his life he recalled for us
that when he was sixteen, his papa
entrusted to him a wagonload
of hogs, which he was to deliver
to the train depot, a half-day’s ride
from home, over a hilly dirt road.
Lightly he held the reins, light his heart,
the old horses, as ever, willing.
In town at noon he heard the station-
master say the train had been delayed,
would not arrive until that evening.
The boy could only wait. At home they’d
wait for him and worry and would place
the kerosene lamp in the window.
Thus the day had turned to dusk before
he turned about the empty wagon,
took his weary horses through the cloud
of fireflies that was the little town.
In all his years he’d never seen those
lights—he thought of this, he said, until
he and his milk-white horses came down
the last moonlit hill to home, drawn as
from a distance toward a single flame.


Monday, December 8, 2014

POEM: "The Big Cat Show"

The Big Cat Show 

The big cat show, see wronged cops
travel to the capital to kill themselves
you breathe one sigh and say for what
they’re arrested after drinking poison

All their lives, their guts hammered
see held against their will in hospital
see survival punished, don’t do it again
(an awful press gets away with murder)

See happy man has no past and maybe
see unhappy man has got nothing else
and you are a solid citizen of the world
and nothing you see can ever freeze you

See in Amerika the black man is feared
Lord see the lawful moment is absent
look he is killed by a police who swore
to be righteous before this world ends.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Friday, December 5, 2014

POEM: "Swing"


I remember the swing
The wind the chain the rattle
The seat the trees and the children
Pumping so far forward then way back
The little cloud of knowing I could jump off
Years later when translation got the best of me
I was on another ride, but invisible, vice-like
Knowing how easy it is to be pushed off
Leaning too far falling back so soon
The seat the trees and the flies
The wind the chain the hills
I remember the swing

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

POEM: "Monday At The Germbar After Work"

Monday At The Germbar After Work 

“There is no epiphany or revelation or aha moment or big click. There is no redemption. There is no great lesson learned. There is only the unknowable and the unspeakable.”

                                                                      Meghan Daum (2014)

I don’t know. I was killed. I died and I came back
And what I didn’t know about it was so immense
That the huge gap reached out to become a teacher
Of dreams and invisible beauty. True I lost track a lot
So many languages were spoken. Some I understood
Some clicked me knowable, some clicked me unspeakable
(Afterwards of course one must return and get on with it)
I never spoke of epiphanies or redemption. Anyway it is
Poor manners to come upon a moment & deny a companion
And though of course it’s quite impossible to give as a present
I got very involved in writing poetry. I bring a message back
Sit you down in a silent classroom at dusk. The one alone
I expected nothing but death. I had the grace of surprise.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

POEM: "New Note"

New Note

               LA BEAUTÉ EST DANS LA RUE

New note. Derive in the streets
This note. Non-related dancing
Performing a nervous situation
When all is cut and struggling
Show, don’t tell. What rubbish
This lyrical divide. With no song
You couldn’t put your shoes on
Your animal mask would warp
All Fall was born and died in Fall
Don’t ask me why I still sell fruit
Because I have no more appetite
Just park your red body over there
Between the red bicycle and the
Red bulldozer. Pay me later with
A poem that belongs to the world
With a life that walks a crooked way
A dog looks at me. Watch the tail
This rainy day reads and writes it
The subway EXIT is a holy name.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Monday, December 1, 2014

POEM: "Awed (I)"

Awed (I)

We do I guess because others don’t 
Because the others gave up too early 
Sound drove them on like the drone of bees 
They ran out and covered their heads. 

So take away music, take away words 
Take away the colours and the birds
Steal love and steal the seasons too
How much the spectrum changes.

That field of corn would never see a plow
That field of corn would be deserted now
A man is born but he's no good no-how
Without a song...

Slam through time, study the light
Shake it till it rattles no more. Shout
Like there's no tomorrow. Scream away
The rough bits and crackles. Why do I care?

The torch is out. The wind is up. You
And me, us and them, antidote of the anger
Dark is done. After silence, after violence
The stranger emerges alive and well.

What? My inspiration is under my arm 
It's behind my knees, in a cup of coffee
It’s in your cup of coffee. Productive?
I don’t think so. It’s almost everywhere.

© 2014 Rob Schackne


Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Richard Blanco Poem



Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half a dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.


There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year's Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day—pork,
fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips, and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio's Mercado on the corner of Eighth Street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—"Ese hijo de puta!"
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another's lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.


By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parent's didn't.
We didn't live in a two-story house
with a maid or a wood-panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on the Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke's family wasn't like us either—
they didn't have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn't have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.


A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain's majesty,
"one if by land, two if by sea,"
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the "masses yearning to be free,"
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.


Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamá set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolas,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworth's.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
"DRY," Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—"esa mierda roja," he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Jennifer Michael Hecht Poem

Funny Strange

We are tender and our lives are sweet

and they are already over and we are
visiting them in some kind of endless
reprieve from oblivion, we are walking
around in them and after we shatter
with love for everything we settle in.

Thou tiger on television chowing,
thou very fact of dreams, thou majestical
roof fretted with golden fire. Thou wisdom
of the inner parts. Thou tintinnabulation.

Is it not sweet to hand over the ocean's
harvest in a single wave of fish? To bounce
a vineyard of grapes from one's apron
and into the mouth of the crowd? To scoop up
bread and offer up one's armful to the throng?
Let us live as if we were still among

the living, let our days be patterned after
theirs. Is it not marvelous to be forgetful?


Saturday, November 22, 2014

POEM: "Private Man One Evening At The Club"

Private Man One Evening At The Club
                                 “The final value of action is, that it is a resource.” 
                                            Ralph Waldo Emerson

The mist gathers in advance of the storm
Nature is closing down. Things go quiet
Rain begins. The soul has found its resource
Two little bugs bouncing on the high seas
In the cup on the hard 14th hole. Which part 
Of the strange universe is part of this world
"Let nothing disturb you. Patience gains all things."
Draw the golden curtains. Ring up room service
Take a shower. Get shampoo in both my eyes
Lobster à la fanculo. Bananas aux pommes frites
Sweet sparkling wine. Forget being empty
Remember a story about Saint Teresa de Ávila
Slip out of the perfect bath. Fall heavily on my hip
Limp to the telephone. Lightning shock.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Friday, November 21, 2014

POEM: "Beijing Women's Mental Health Survey 2014"

Beijing Women's Mental Health Survey 2014

It’s because I sit on the border
Of knowing and not knowing
And my skin is stretched so tight
That my nerves are crying out

Because I’m a woman in a country
That fears and hates their women
Where marriage is an act of cruelty
And laughter chases the unlucky

Because I have never been loved
And I have yearned to be childless
And I have felt the draw of erasure
And that is why I attend these sessions.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

MUSIC: Jimmy Ruffin, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" (1965)

You're right. "The song had the kind of words one can feel." As you sang it for the millions who have walked home, on nights too dark to see, asking the question. And for the millions who got their answers. RIP.

Monday, November 17, 2014

POEM: "A True And Fitting Thing"

A True And Fitting Thing

I once hooked up with a contortionist
Whacko, she was extended twenty-six
With legs that almost reached her middle
She cuddled my days and bent my nights
Each small woe bridged and stretched us over

(Ah, you don’t believe how well heaven fits)
We rolled from that one here to this one there
Unbelievable when the circus moved to applaud
May to December, well it was crazy as a bucket
A little bit wonderful, well it was way out of hand
And the old sea sighed when it thought for a while
Something in nature stirred, and then it stopped
A limb wobbled, a joint detached that shouldn’t have
The birds went still, not one would leave the nest

(What's true, Lord knows what we invested in)
There was a quick rescheduling of itineraries
But if to leave is only to run a little faster then
It's a true and fitting thing at the end of day
I gave up almost all her tricks, she got away
I doubt that I shall care so much again.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Bill Knott Poem

The Consolations of Sociobiology
                                         (to JK)

Those scars rooted me. Stigmata stalagmite
I sat at a drive-in and watched the stars
Through a straw while the Coke in my lap went
Waterier and waterier. For days on end or

Nights no end I crawled on all fours or in
My case no fours to worship you: Amoeba Behemoth.
—Then you explained your DNA calls for
Meaner genes than mine and since you are merely

So to speak its external expression etcet
Ergo among your lovers I’ll never be ...
Ah that movie was so faraway the stars melting

Made my thighs icy. I see: it’s not you
Who is not requiting me, it’s something in you
Over which you have no say says no to me.


A Bill Knott Poem (2)

Weltende Variation #I

                                 (homage Jacob van Hoddis)

The CIA and the KGB exchange Christmas cards
A blade snaps in two during an autopsy
The bouquet Bluebeard gave his first date reblooms
Many protest the public stoning of a guitar pick

Railroad trains drop off the bourgeois’ pointy head
A martyr sticks a coffeecup out under a firehose
Moviestars make hyenas lick their spaceship
God’s hand descends into a glove held steady by the police

At their reunion The New Faces recognize each other
A spoiled child sleeps inside a thermometer
A single misprint in a survival manual kills everyone
The peace night makes according to the world comes


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

POEM: "Ghosts Read The Papers"

Ghosts Read The Papers

As sensible a comment as I've heard all week
The hand that points the bone points each way
The breathtaking paucity of common sense

Archimedes says "Do not disturb my circles"
Means if you only had a place to stand on
Watch while the screw takes you up and up

Circles getting larger and advantage changed
The other power now too close for comfort
Suddenly you’re very far from the fulcrum

And it may be that not all progress is forward
And the dead men say let go the bloody switch
Make our day, ghosts say, tell us when you stop.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Ben Belitt Poem

Veteran's Day

Bringing “only what is needed—essential
toilet articles” in a paper bag,
dressed as for dying, one sees the dying plainly.
These are the homecomings of Agamemnon,
the odysseys to the underside of the web
that weaves and unweaves while the suitors gorge upon plenty
and the languishing sons at home unwish their warring
fathers with strong electric fingers.

                                                                       The fathers are failing.

In the Hospital Exchange, one sees the dying plainly:
color televisions, beach towels, automatic razors—
the hardware of the affluent society marked
down to cost, to match the negative afflatus
of the ailing, the bandages and badges of their status.
Under the sandbags, rubber hoses, pipettes, bed-clamps,
tax-exempt, amenable as rabbits,
the unenlisted men are bleeding through their noses
in a perimeter of ramps and apparatus.

In that prosthetic world, the Solarium
lights up a junk-pile of used parts: the hip that caught
a ricochet of shrapnel; tattoos in curing meats;
scars like fizzled fuses; canceled postage stamps;
automated claws in candy; the Laser’s edge; and barium.
The nurses pass like mowers, dressing and
undressing in the razor-sharp incisions
and the flowering phosphorescence. The smell
of rubbing alcohol rises on desertions and deprivals
and divorces. It is incorruptible. A wheelchair aims
its hospital pajamas like a gun-emplacement.

The amputee is swinging in his aviary.
His fingers walk the bird-bars.

                                                                        There is singing
from the ward room—a buzzing of transistors
like blueflies in a urinal. War over war,
the expendables of Metz and Chateau-Thierry,
the guerillas of Bien Hoa and Korea,
the draftees, the Reserves, the re-enlisters,
open a common wavelength.
                                                          The catatonic
sons are revving up their combos in the era
of the angry adolescent. Their cry is electronic.
Their thumbs are armed with picks. The acid-rock guitarist
in metal studs and chevrons, bombed with magnesium,
mourns like a country yokel, and the innocents
are slaughtered.

                            On the terrace, there are juices
and bananas. The convalescent listens to his
heartbeat. The chaplain and his non-combative daughter
smile by the clubbed plants on the portico.

                                                                “They shall overcome.”


Monday, November 10, 2014

POEM: "A Found Poem, 10/11/14"

A Found Poem, 10/11/14
                        pace Poetry Foundation & Kevin Young

How a philosopher
turned a writer into a poet
forward to a friend
by bardic Wiggenstein
on digital Veterans Day
to poetry off the shelf

on sound over sense
a yard beyond the moon
an intoxicated aesthetic

getting plants to write poems
in what new book sense I am I
barbershop rhetoric and notary

cut it clean off I’m through courting
and hair only gets in the way

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emailed to you each day
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© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, November 9, 2014

POEM: "Idle Thoughts On A Sunday"

Idle Thoughts On A Sunday

                                               for Chris Harvey

Screaming children run from their souls
their voices pitch them ever closer to hell
(the misfortune to be born too soon too late)
though if they were lost we couldn't be having
this conversation you & me here like this

Subway demons are exorcised by the wind
the screech of brakes the lucky fireworks
in this incomplete disguise of indifference
we sit on long benches and count the stops
we were never lost or we'd not be talking now

Though it's true we're too slow to flee our souls
and true that conversation advances knowledge
and while misfortune will go running to distraction
though we count the stops we're never lost
(it's my stop here I must get off)

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Jane Hirshfield Poem

Like the Small Hole by the Path-Side Something Lives in

Like the small hole by the path-side something lives in,
in me are lives I do not know the names of,

nor the fates of,
nor the hungers of or what they eat.

They eat of me.
Of small and blemished apples in low fields of me
whose rocky streams and droughts I do not drink.

And in my streets—the narrow ones,
unlabeled on the self-map—
they follow stairs down music ears can’t follow,

and in my tongue borrowed by darkness,
in hours uncounted by the self-clock,
they speak in restless syllables of other losses, other loves.

There too have been the hard extinctions,
missing birds once feasted on and feasting.

There too must be machines
like loud ideas with tungsten bits that grind the day.

A few escape. A mercy.

They leave behind
small holes that something unweighed by the self-scale lives in.


Friday, November 7, 2014

POEM: "A Soldier's Cough"

A Soldier’s Cough

Head feels like a drum when it’s scratched
Left ear still sore after a blow 25 years ago

A throat that lost its whisper song and shout
A lonely whisker creeps to just below the eye
The neck that shook the bridge for days is weak
The old chest looks full but the heart is hollow
Comrades tell me that vitamins will put it right
(Pity the right side doesn’t quite match the left)
Broken leg the pelvis spine back knees and feet
Sore from a million steps in the wrong direction
The cough that alerts the dog who begins to bark
The doctors say there will be no more fighting
I climb the stairs to my apartment every day
Grateful my spectacles still see you waving
While you hang the wind in your white clothes.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Thursday, November 6, 2014

PHOTO: Tom Jenkins (2014)

Not really a photograph. It's a painting. (If could do this, I'd leave this dream for a little while and go play alto sax late nights in a smokey basement jazz club.)

photo: Tom Jenkins

Monday, November 3, 2014

PIECES: Sheila Melvin, "Two or Three Things about Mr. Lu Xun" (2014); Pankaj Mishra, "The Western Model Is Broken" (2014)

Ms Melvin's fine piece goes into my Abiding Admiration for Lu Xun file. Mr Pankaj Mishra as usual turns an intelligent screw. He might even be channelling Lu Xun. Below is an old thing of mine, small (and certainly out of breath) in such company.


To Lu Xun, From The Iron House

Locked inside the iron house
Seventeen others are snoring
There are no windows anywhere
No ventilation means we’re dying
(Getting sleepy too, I’ll lie down soon)
We have attempted the Big Breakout
We have filled our bodies with Blood
We have hammered and screamed for it
It? I mean of course we went for our lives
Like threshing machines, no help for it
No one from outside came to our rescue
No friends, no lovers, no family came
Though at one point we imagined voices
Crying a strange word that sounded like KEEZ
Which we all stripped buck naked for
Which we shook our dictionaries for
Which we questioned the waiting children for
And we looked deep into each other’s eyes.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Sunday, November 2, 2014

POEM: "Drive"


If life is just a gamble 
Why are the bets so small
Should have taken the tunnel
Instead of the bridge, subway
All the way minimum traffic
Thunder every three minutes
Going in opposite directions

Maybe this is all they have to say
Maximum speed is what matters
My arm around her shoulders
Lying in bed her leg crosses

Her own special line, drawing
The meal a story the afternoon
Now it's started raining heavily

I am not where I wanted to be

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Saturday, November 1, 2014

MUSIC: The Grateful Dead, "Touch of Grey" (1987)

It must be getting early
Clocks are running late
Paint by numbers morning sky
Looks so phony

Dawn is breaking everywhere

Light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains, I don't care
'Cause it's alright

Thursday, October 30, 2014

MUSIC: The Andrews Sisters & Bing Crosby, "Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive" (1944)

Sure he is. What? Just because you don't see him, you think he's not there? He's been sitting out there for days watching us. You don't mess with Mister In-Between. So, for all you stupids...keep low. Very low.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

POEM: "Three Gestures"

Three Gestures

I. Dharmacakra

The gesture of teaching
beyond a gesture of learning
the spaces in your attention
and all my gaps, all that I forgot

As Roethke said, we mostly learn
by going where we have to go
and this we see without the mirror
in the whiteouts and the sand

Crazy streets still grow wild weed
it's the contemplative mind, so best to
be alert while addressing the antipasto
heed well the angle at deadly corners

So strange now the dirty deals we made
(not you of course but I know it's me)
the twinge and the fidget and the snore
the life-span, the sweet rose and the sea

Teach the cups how to draw the tide
how to learn the perfect cup of tea
teach me to dance the broken arrow
and I will show you the broken step

II. Varada

A kitten was run over by a car
tonight it lay on the road crying
intestines strewn like sausages

Before I could crush her skull
she got up and licked her gore
then walked back over to the curb

Nighttime, a parade of people
crossing the perilous borders

begin their journeys of freedom

Probably died in the bushes
from her first true crossing
a kid, a plan, a nalpadika 

No walk for this in any language
no word can toy with compassion
we learn too late it's mostly deadly

I wrap the story up and let it go
later seal it inside a diamond heart
and send this poem to the ones I love

III. Abhaya

How these days pass
the pillows are difficult
old speeches are regretted

Faces will carry faces
baskets within baskets
a foot in parallel worlds

A burning house next to
an insipid day at work
a Möbius twist of tracks 

Nature, it isn't feckless
sometimes rabbits wait 
for the big train to pass

Faces to faces watch
the mirrors cracking
waiting for the train to leave

Birds go search in the wind
an egg falls from the nest
an old lizard sucks it dry

Freedom is on the bend
now go, going home try
and practise courage

© 2014 Rob Schackne