Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQU4sIn96M4&list=RDUQU4sIn96M4#t=0

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 answer. 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
Well 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.


(1983)

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


(1989)

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.”

(1970)

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

sign up to have a poem
emailed to you each day
subscribe issue podcast follow


© 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.


(2012)

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

A Tom Jenkins Photo (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.

http://english.caixin.com/2014-10-31/100745459.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/14/-sp-western-model-broken-pankaj-mishra?CMP=fb_gu

........................................

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"



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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZUmAbi0Vm4

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Allen Grossman Poem



The Piano Player Explains Himself


When the corpse revived at the funeral,
The outraged mourners killed it; and the soul
Of the revenant passed into the body
Of the poet because it had more to say.
He sat down at the piano no one could play
Called Messiah, or The Regulator of the World,
Which had stood for fifty years, to my knowledge,
Beneath a painting of a red-haired woman
In a loose gown with one bared breast, and played
A posthumous work of the composer S—
About the impotence of God (I believe)
Who has no power not to create everything.
It was the Autumn of the year and wet,
When the music started. The musician was
Skilful but the Messiah was out of tune
And bent the time and the tone. For a long hour
The poet played The Regulator of the World
As the spirit prompted, and entered upon
The pathways of His power - while the mourners
Stood with slow blood on their hands
Astonished by the weird processional
And the undertaker figured his bill.

    We have in mind an unplayed instrument
Which stands apart in a memorial air
Where the room darkens toward its inmost wall
And a lady hangs in her autumnal hair
At evening of the November rains; and winds
Sublime out of the North, and North by West,
Are sowing from the death-sack of the seed
The burden of her cloudy hip. Behold,
I send the demon I know to relieve your need,
An imperfect player at the perfect instrument
Who takes in hand The Regulator of the World
To keep the splendor from destroying us.
Lady! The last virtuoso of the composer S—
Darkens your parlor with the music of the Law.
When I was green and blossomed in the Spring
I was mute wood. Now I am dead I sing.



(1991)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

POEM: "How To Spend A Birthday"



How To Spend A Birthday

                                               
First find the ducks, and get them in a row
Then walk the line, look each one in the eye
Dismiss the distended and mildewed ones
Locate a good supply of water, and herd them
Towards their birthdays and listen to their joy
Give them some pork crackling as they emerge
Shaking feathers and preening (they are proud)
And by now they're following you everywhere
Little souls, their shit and feathers on the carpet
Into your library, the kitchen, even to the bedroom
Where of course you find them tonight, in autumn
In half a dream of water and half a dream of flight
How you toss and turn in how to spend a birthday
But it's good to have ducks, they are simple creatures
And nothing bothers them as long as you stay happy
And who studies mortality today sighs in pleasure.


© 2014 Rob Schackne


Drawing by Michael Leunig

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

POEM: "Recently A Fellow Poet Wrote"



Recently A Fellow Poet Wrote


Recently a fellow poet wrote
Highjacked by a book of poems, I want
To know more about my captor. What
Has given rise to such intentions?

Diesel smack and smeared mirages
A searing mark under a damning sun
Off the track from an untargeted village
Safe enough for the story and the pics

Now I don't want to know more about them
(I overstepped my bounds, they're very twitchy)
I want to know about my options to get free
And except for my camera there, I'm unrifled
And except for my papers in the hotel
I’m fucked.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

POEM: "Listening To Birds At Dawn"



Listening To Birds At Dawn


And the machinery we depend on
Lasts till we get where we’re going
Five minutes or five inches in reserve
Our heart pounds guessing we made it
(Five pounds more and we wouldn't have)
Hardly feeling five of the something less
Could crash this plane, could send us
Out of control, desperate, terrified;
Strange craft, the inefficiency by
Which the world runs fractured
As if the doors that barely close
Contained enough for long enough

That it all worked fine before the system
We almost had worked out, gave up.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Monday, October 6, 2014

POEM: "By Charlotte At The Riverside"



By Charlotte At The Riverside


There I was again in the evening air
As though my rivers keep flowing past
Maybe I never left my little boat at all
One half then, a bit now, one half future
At times there will be a person missing
To lend a heavy hand to warm our chills

Even if the old wind carries familiar smells
Later in the autumn breeze, after tying up
My river skiff, after I get out to walk home
The ghosts I speak with have such cold breath
They say it over and over again, half-counsel
Starting over will mean giving up so much.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Jessica Greenbaum Poem



A Poem for S.


Because you used to leaf through the dictionary,
Casually, as someone might in a barber shop, and
Devotedly, as someone might in a sanctuary,
Each letter would still have your attention if not
For the responsibilities life has tightly fit, like
Gears around the cog of you, like so many petals
Hinged on a daisy. That's why I'll just use your
Initial. Do you know that in one treasured story, a
Jewish ancestor, horseback in the woods at Yom
Kippur, and stranded without a prayer book,
Looked into the darkness and realized he had
Merely to name the alphabet to ask forgiveness—
No congregation of figures needed, he could speak
One letter at a time because all of creation
Proceeded from those. He fed his horse, and then
Quietly, because it was from his heart, he
Recited them slowly, from aleph to tav. Within those
Sounds, all others were born, all manner of
Trials, actions, emotions, everything needed to
Understand who he was, had been, how flaws
Venerate the human being, how aspirations return
Without spite. Now for you, may your wife's
X-ray return with good news, may we raise our
Zarfs to both your names in the Great Book of Life.



(2012)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

MUSIC: Japan, "Ghosts" (1982)



David Sylvian sings:

Just when I think I'm winning
When I've broken every door
The ghosts of my life
Blow wilder than before


Just when I thought I could not be stopped
When my chance came to be king
The ghosts of my life
Blew wilder than the wind

MUSIC: The Royalettes, "It's Gonna Take A Miracle" (1965)


I know, I know. That's not their real hair. This is the cheesiest clip you ever saw. Black and white sucks. They don't make music like this anymore. Now shut up.

Friday, October 3, 2014

WOODBLOCK PRINT: Yuko Shimizu (2014)



Print by Yuko Shimizu

POEM: "Letter From My Apartment, Oct. 3, 2014"


Letter From My Apartment, Oct. 3, 2014


Love predates nationalities
Wind originates beyond the sky
Earth has water older than the sun

Still things will travel faster than light
(I could go on but you're grateful I won’t)
No one lives in caves though we might as well
A poem of white is no more the absence of colours
Than a poem of black includes them all forever
And though a red umbrella is small protection
Against the ravages of teargas in Hong Kong
A bottle of water applied to the eyes will help.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Interior Anthem #1 (The Rig)"


Interior Anthem #1 (The Rig)


On any National Day, made
Unhappy by unfulfilled promises
Standing out upon a sea-platform
Clouds rolling in, smell the spray
The giant sculpture’s great unreal
It stumbles on its waves, it says
No flowers here, no biscuits there

The half-moon helps light the derrick
Its tower stacked with rotting fruit
What the fuck are you on about anyway?
I want fine food, a normal family
A job that doesn’t make me too crazy
A sane head, ten fingers, ten toes will do
Some good poems from time to time
Stop promising me nonsense.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

PHOTO: Kathleen Robbins, "Asher On Belle Chase" (2010) / POEM: "The Sun Goes Down"





The Sun Goes Down


                             You might light out for the Territory
                             someday, you know it's coming, you
                             toy with perspective, test the distance
                             and watch how the horizon moves...


Dismal science isn’t economics
or accounting, it's mostly dreams
that skip fast under the setting sun
while birds wait for quiet enough
to breach the low horizon, to pass
beneath, sinking down to get off free

Definite article of serious wishes
a very serious accounting that excites
the dismal and hopeless, the depressed kept
low, holding up, their mouths set just right
they get it hopping crazy in the farmyard
three-legged dogs and deformed lambs

Broken halters of horses run amok
the
 sky gets higher, the moon is swelling
these old roads will only stand so much
before this precious, probable, sundrian
will stop the lessening (if you ever could)
take the nothings and turn it into light.


© 2014 Rob Schackne



PHOTO: Kathleen Robbins, "Asher on Belle Chase" (2010)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

POEM: "Lines By The Pint (XXVII)"



Lines By The Pint (XXVII)


It’s a small thing like the fold
Of a dress that suddenly speaks
Like a light switch from another world
Even after all the harbor lights I play
I’m powerless to stop the sorrow

Reaching inside the common faces
Way down to where the memory sits
Words long since become nonsense
Cosmetics too stupid for a smart woman
I wonder what the next beauty will wear

Alas there’s no limit to my blockhead
And no limit either to her foolish greed
We’ll slap hands together and conjure glee
Until the sun rises roughly over our secrets
Till the bed we’re in hears the music wrong.



© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

MUSIC: Fatboy Slim, "Weapon of Choice" / Christopher Walken (2010) / POEM: "Right" (2014)



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCDIYvFmgW8


Right. Flow.
Left foot goes there
no, the other right
now unweight the right
then slide it over to the left
hands block and turn  if
you walk without rhythm
ah, you never learn
OK let's try it again.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Kenneth Koch Poem



One Train May Hide Another


In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
That is, if you are waiting to cross
The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at
Least after the first train is gone. And so when you read
Wait until you have read the next line—
Then it is safe to go on reading.
In a family one sister may conceal another,
So, when you are courting, it's best to have them all in view
Otherwise in coming to find one you may love another.
One father or one brother may hide the man,
If you are a woman, whom you have been waiting to love.
So always standing in front of something the other
As words stand in front of objects, feelings, and ideas.
One wish may hide another. And one person's reputation may hide
The reputation of another. One dog may conceal another
On a lawn, so if you escape the first one you're not necessarily safe;
One lilac may hide another and then a lot of lilacs and on the Appia Antica
     one tomb
May hide a number of other tombs. In love, one reproach may hide
   another,
One small complaint may hide a great one.
One injustice may hide another—one colonial may hide another,
One blaring red uniform another, and another, a whole column. One bath
   may hide another bath
As when, after bathing, one walks out into the rain.
One idea may hide another: Life is simple
Hide Life is incredibly complex, as in the prose of Gertrude Stein
One sentence hides another and is another as well. And in the laboratory
One invention may hide another invention,
One evening may hide another, one shadow, a nest of shadows.
One dark red, or one blue, or one purple—this is a painting
By someone after Matisse. One waits at the tracks until they pass,
These hidden doubles or, sometimes, likenesses. One identical twin
May hide the other. And there may be even more in there! The
   obstetrician
Gazes at the Valley of the Var. We used to live there, my wife and I, but
One life hid another life. And now she is gone and I am here.
A vivacious mother hides a gawky daughter. The daughter hides
Her own vivacious daughter in turn. They are in
A railway station and the daughter is holding a bag
Bigger than her mother's bag and successfully hides it.
In offering to pick up the daughter's bag one finds oneself confronted by
   the mother's
And has to carry that one, too. So one hitchhiker
May deliberately hide another and one cup of coffee
Another, too, until one is over-excited. One love may hide another love or
   the same love
As when "I love you" suddenly rings false and one discovers
The better love fingering behind, as when "I'm full of doubts"
Hides "I'm certain about something and it is that"
And one dream may hide another as is well known, always, too. In the
   Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve may hide the real Adam and Eve.
Jerusalem may hide another Jerusalem.
When you come to something, stop to let it pass
So you can see what else is there. At home, no matter where,
Internal tracks pose dangers, too: one memory
Certainly hides another, that being what memory is all about,
The eternal reverse succession of contemplated entities. Reading A
   Sentimental Journey look around
When you have finished, for Tristram Shandy, to see
If it is standing there, it should be, stronger
And more profound and theretofore hidden as Santa Maria Maggiore
May be hidden by similar churches inside Rome. One sidewalk
May hide another, as when you're asleep there, and
One song hide another song; a pounding upstairs
Hide the beating of drums. One friend may hide another, you sit at the
   foot of a tree
With one and when you get up to leave there is another
Whom you'd have preferred to talk to all along. One teacher,
One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man
May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It can be
   important
To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.


(1994)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A T.S. Eliot Poem



Preludes


I

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

And then the lighting of the lamps.


II

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.


III

You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.


IV

His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.



(1917)

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Le Silence", Gil Roth / POEM: "First Day In The Afterlife"





First Day In The Afterlife


Don't get around much any more

(I might not get around at all)
silenced with a middle finger
waiting to do nothing more
live a life, write, fight, then fuck off
(the Silenus kicks over a few chairs
and then quickly gallops away)

"...reality scarier than science fiction
he says pushing against the storm
crashing rain, the deck is non-negotiable
the din of wind is furious, others below
with their smokes and bottles play cards
betting both ends against the middle"


My first day in the Afterlife

I have an horrible hangover, also 
an idea almost on the verge of memory
there was a victory, yes, a plan that worked
very few casualties, the flag, the wind etc.
but I'm an eagle now and when I fly over
all is silent, beautiful, and covered in trees

One streaks past, then another one fast

I wonder what they are, what they do
so many of them now zipping from yes to no
the speed means I need to slow down
it's the Afterlife after all, they shout at me
pause it, restart, look closely, look again
and watch it happening for the first time.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Jim Daniels Poem



Work Boots: Still Life 


Next to the screen door
work boots dry in the sun.
Salt lines map the leather
and laces droop
like the arms of a new-hire
waiting to punch out.
The shoe hangs open like the sigh
of someone too tired to speak
a mouth that can almost breathe.
A tear in the leather reveals
a shiny steel toe
a glimpse of the promise of safety
the promise of steel and the years to come.


(2003)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

MUSIC: Tears For Fears, "Mad World" (1983)




I know, I know. Now leave me alone.


POEM: "The World Is Bad, Let Me Sleep"



The World Is Bad, Let Me Sleep


The Great Barrier Reef
is the size of Italy or Japan
our nearest star closer than
the nearest human heart
stretched from you to me
from the cosmos to the sea


I once tied a life around my neck
with the tensile strength of spider silk
after meditation upon the aggregates
and form was returning to nothingness
I rested my case, I drew the curtains
the world was bad I said, let me sleep

Dreams rattle the door before the fall
when the nothing spins a web of matter
for the bangles of the ten-thousand arms
when your cell dreams become your alarm
back to the greed and jealousy and envy
so tough shit, the world is bad, let me sleep

Reading Levine’s poem about the kids of
factory fodder in a hell of a town somewhere
the people we could love, we must imagine hope
but a good poem it is, that draws the curtains
against knowing more than a bit about the future
the world was bad, it's starting to rain, let me sleep.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

A Philip Levine Poem



Among Children


I walk among the rows of bowed heads--
the children are sleeping through fourth grade
so as to be ready for what is ahead,
the monumental boredom of junior high
and the rush forward tearing their wings
loose and turning their eyes forever inward.
These are the children of Flint, their fathers
work at the spark plug factory or truck
bottled water in 5 gallon sea-blue jugs
to the widows of the suburbs. You can see
already how their backs have thickened,
how their small hands, soiled by pig iron,
leap and stutter even in dreams. I would like
to sit down among them and read slowly
from The Book of Job until the windows
pale and the teacher rises out of a milky sea
of industrial scum, her gowns streaming
with light, her foolish words transformed
into song, I would like to arm each one
with a quiver of arrows so that they might
rush like wind there where no battle rages
shouting among the trumpets, Hal Ha!
How dear the gift of laughter in the face
of the 8 hour day, the cold winter mornings
without coffee and oranges, the long lines
of mothers in old coats waiting silently
where the gates have closed. Ten years ago
I went among these same children, just born,
in the bright ward of the Sacred Heart and leaned
down to hear their breaths delivered that day,
burning with joy. There was such wonder
in their sleep, such purpose in their eyes
dosed against autumn, in their damp heads
blurred with the hair of ponds, and not one
turned against me or the light, not one
said, I am sick, I am tired, I will go home,
not one complained or drifted alone,
unloved, on the hardest day of their lives.
Eleven years from now they will become
the men and women of Flint or Paradise,
the majors of a minor town, and I
will be gone into smoke or memory,
so I bow to them here and whisper
all I know, all I will never know.



(1992)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Khaled Mattawa Poem



Date Palm Trinity


Today the date palms were pruned,
the branches taken before the fruit ripened,
before sweetness littered the sidewalks.
The man who sawed them worked alone,
a crane lifting him to the yellowed fronds.
Beside his truck, he stood tall, American,
a pensive pioneer. The top of each palm
looked like the back of a man's head
after a close-crop haircut, the neck
cooled to a stubbly remembrance of hair,
or was like a cat after being spayed,
startled by a strange newness, pacing
familiar rooms, darting, confused, and you
(had you wished to console) are greeted
with a barren gaze. The rubble of bark
and fronds reminded me of Iraq,
not the ruined bridges, or the surrendering
soldiers' hands begging food, but the 16 million
date palms, one per capita, lining
the seams of the Tigris and Euphrates,
a reminder of my own Libya
and its 10 million date palms and the years
of easy wealth that brought them neglect
except in Huun, a magical city where
they stuffed dates with almonds and sent them
as far as Tanta and Oum Dourman.
From Huun this story: a boy stands by a palm
imploring his uncle to toss him a fistful of dates.
Flustered by the boy's monotonous cries
the uncle loses his feet, and as he falls
to his death, cries down "Here nephew,
I'm coming down with the dates!"
So that's what we got from Huun, almond
stuffed wonders and proverbial last words.
There was another reminder, a tale
of the prophet Muhammad living for months
on water and coarse wheat bread, his wives
protesting the austere measures of his faith.
Muhammad, who praised honey and had
a professed love for cantaloupes, and who once
declared "the best meat is that which lines the bones,"
found in dates the solution he required.
To his Arab followers, and to his wives,
the fruit was "three skies above luxury,"
and as indispensable as water and air.



I once had this dream of Whitman:
I found him under one of the palms
on Sherman Way gazing admiring.
Though he had seen palms by the Gulf of Mexico,
he had never tasted a date. So we drove
to a supermarket, and he who had been
thoughtful, even dignified, until then, began
to sign and moan at the taste of "Araby's
sugared dust clouds." When we walked
the aisles he insisted on pushing the cart.
The frozen foods did not surprise him since
his Granny buried potatoes in the cold dirt
of her homestead. Still I had to explain
tofu, plastic, tacos, and the foods labeled free.
He ran his hands caressing the waxed floor;
"Smooth as a girl's wrist," he exclaimed.
The bright fluorescent lights reminded him
of the opera, and Walt sang a gravelly tune.
The children sitting in carts reached for him,
their hands were Lorca's butterflies on his beard.
At the cashier he filled pockets with candy,
and was shocked by the headlines of our news.
Honda, Toyota, Saturn, Oldsmobile—
in the parking lot the names waltzed
on his tongue. At the fast food stand he ate
heartily, the burger's slipperiness amused him,
and at his clumsiness we both had a laugh.
Then the talk grew quiet, the table stretching
like the expanse of time dividing us; I felt
he no longer wanted company, having begun
to understand our world. Despite his old resentment
of Blacks, and now my neighbors, the foreign-born
Hispanics and their engines roaring through
Balboa and Saticoy, and the Koreans' karoake—
the baseline's muffled thuds, voices doused
in Canadian Mist, and the off-key pleadings
to the lover who never comes—, America
remained to him luminous-industrial-fuming-
sublime, and as he wished, beyond others'
adjectives, beyond what anyone could have conceived.
Mumbling a farewell, Whitman stood to leave.
And with this my dream ended, Whitman wishing
to depart and I holding on to his wrists.
All day I wanted to hold his wide wrists.



If you drive west of Alexandria
your path will run through Alamain,
Barani, and Matrouh. Then Egypt will end
with a town on a steep hill called Sallum.
If you go through the two checkpoints,
Libya will unfold its dry pastures for you.
On the Sallum hill there is a hotel
where people stay to await relatives
crossing the border or to hear word
if it is safe to return. Across the road
a tired bluegreen tea house sits
like a bruise permanently on the verge
of fading from the prairies' skin.
You will also see the money changers—
all teenage boys. With their right hands
they will wave thick wads of money
at your windshield, and with their left
they will jostle to give you the best rate.
The last time I stayed in Sallum
few cars came from either direction,
and among the boys fights flared
with curses and stones hurled at brows.
When the boys' rabble grew loud
a man lazily stepped out of the tea house
to call them bastards and sons of whores.
This went on for hours until
the sun settled in the middle of the sky,
the boys taking shelter under
a torn canvas shed, and the man
to the tea house's dusty cool.
Then just when all movement
and noise seemed to surrender
to the September wind and heat,
four of the boys broke for a run
racing—money still clutched in their hands—
to a young date palm in the distance.
Pressing shoulders and backs against it,
they shook the palm until the season's
first fruit began to rain. The other boys
joined them, and soon the tea house
emptied of the men slouching inside.
Those were my brothers who cowered beneath
the date palm to gather handfuls of fruit,
rubbing each date clean on their sleeves,
chewing softly to savor the taste
as though it were a good omen, and rising
to resume their lives, on their faces
the smiles of those who once were blessed.


(1995)