Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Ruth Stone Poem


Up There

Belshazzar saw this blue
as he came into the walled garden,
though outside all was yellow
sunlight striking the fractals of sand,
the wind striating the sand in riffles.

Land changes slowly, the fathoms
overhead accruing particles,
reflecting blue or less blue.

Vapor, a transient thing; a dervish
seen rising in a whirl of wind
or brief cloud casting its changing shadow;
though below, the open-mouthed might stand
transfixed by mirage, a visionary oasis.

Nevertheless, this deep upside down
wash, water color, above planted gardens,
tended pomegranates, rouged soles of the feet
of lovers lounging in an open tent;
the hot blue above; the hareem
tethered and restless as the camels.

This quick vision between walls, event,
freak ball, shook jar of vapor,
all those whose eyes were not gouged out,
have looked up and seen within the cowl
this tenuous wavelength.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Barbara Köhler Poem


Rondeau Allemagne

I’m hanging on, a stranger to this land,
Caught up by love that drives me beyond the bounds
Between the skies. Where you are is your look-out.
I’m hanging on a stranger to this land.

Caught up by love that drives me beyond the bounds,
To break the agreements is to me what matters,
To laugh, although I tear my heart in tatters,
Caught out by love that drives me beyond the bounds.

Between the skies where you are is your look-out:
The bloody pennant’s raised, the airship falls,
No land in sight, a rope, perhaps, that holds
Between the skies. Where you are is your look-out.

(1991) Tr. Georgina Paul

POEM: "Towards An Aesthetics Of Being Here"

Towards An Aesthetics Of Being Here
                                                               for Will Knox

First, the tunnel metaphor will favor you too
If the desperate sides be avoided, estrangement
From all we were never invited to understand;
A sometimes unstately progress through
The peppery knowledge that we don't belong.

Then, unwelcome, untie that hurt from our own hurt;
There is no skirmish that is worth the battle
That lost the war. We’re survivors, not soldiers.
You will leave the brothers to fight each other
And pick an artful way through the darkness.

When, untouched by ignorance, insult & deceit
We emerge at last in daylight on the other side
And looking back…but no, we will never look back
At the unhappiness we did not cause, nor the pain
We did not stop to answer. We were not saints.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Monday, December 12, 2011

POEM: "Drive The Dog Away"

Drive The Dog Away

In the old days villagers banged
their woks with sticks of wood to
drive the dog away into the night
but odd now that so few look up

I use this finger to point holding
her from behind my head resting
on her neck I say we’re pretty lucky
& then we both walk back into the bar

Take deception to the limit, trying
yet again to pour joy into the intellect
the memory of other eclipses
following quietly behind

These days that effortlessly fall
away to nothing save their return
tonight the Moon is bitten by a dog
& all that I can say is we’re lucky.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Federico Garcia Lorca Poem


City That Does Not Sleep

In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the stars.

Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead dahlias.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the eyes of cows.

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes are waiting,
where the bear's teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one. No one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night,
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

(c. 1929) Tr. Robert Bly 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

POEM: "Robbie and Sabine"

Robbie and Sabine

                                   (and the Penguin Café Orchestra)

The loneliness
at the well of
your lips the beauty
of untidy hair

crosses the creek
dismounts & enters
the cave puts a note
under a rock

the sound
of someone
you love who's
going away but
it doesn't matter

this time when
there's no shouting
no brokenness
or deaf doors

only that love
that sings
over & over
& over again
perfection, now.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A William Carlos Williams Poem


For Elsie

The pure products of America
go crazy—
mountain folk from Kentucky

or the ribbed north end of
with its isolate lakes and

valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves
old names
and promiscuity between

devil-may-care men who have taken
to railroading
out of sheer lust of adventure—

and young slatterns, bathed
in filth
from Monday to Saturday

to be tricked out that night
with gauds
from imaginations which have no

peasant traditions to give them
but flutter and flaunt

sheer rags—succumbing without
save numbed terror

under some hedge of choke-cherry
or viburnum—
which they cannot express—

Unless it be that marriage
with a dash of Indian blood

will throw up a girl so desolate
so hemmed round
with disease or murder

that she'll be rescued by an
reared by the state and

sent out at fifteen to work in
some hard-pressed
house in the suburbs—

some doctor's family, some Elsie—
voluptuous water
expressing with broken

brain the truth about us—
her great
ungainly hips and flopping breasts

addressed to cheap
and rich young men with fine eyes

as if the earth under our feet
an excrement of some sky

and we degraded prisoners
to hunger until we eat filth

while the imagination strains
after deer
going by fields of goldenrod in

the stifling heat of September
it seems to destroy us

It is only in isolate flecks that
is given off

No one
to witness
and adjust, no one to drive the car


Monday, November 28, 2011

POEM: "Civics"


I read of conscientiousness
& how it increases the life-span
When this afternoon I see a man
On a bike porting a long sharp pole

But there is no flag of red alert
So maybe now it's the accident
Waiting to happen to that small girl
Who steps off the curb in such a hurry

Grandmother moves too slow
The pole pierces her precious eye
And enters her brain for a moment
And shuts down her primary function

So sudden the need for a civil society
Last seen haggling over the money
One experience of liability bleeding
One man looking for the first chance to run.

© 2004/2011 Rob Schackne

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Ivor Gurney Poem

To His Love

He’s gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We’ll walk no more on Cotswolds
Where the sheep feed
Quietly and take no heed.

His body that was so quick
Is not as you
Knew it, on Severn River
Under the blue
Driving our small boat through.

You would not know him now…
But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
With violets of pride
Purple from Severn side.

Cover him, cover him soon!
And with thick-set
Masses of memoried flowers—
Hide that red wet
Thing I must somehow forget.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

POEM: "Zirkusmusik/Angel Fragments"

The 5 Zirkusmusik/Angel Fragments poems that follow are about Wim Wenders' 1987 film Wings of Desire, set in West Berlin before the Wall came down, where a group of invisible angels observe human activity. The angel Damiel falls in love with Marion, a circus artist  and decides to become mortal. The actor Peter Falk, another angel who years ago elected to live as a human, plays himself getting ready for his role in a film about Nazi Berlin. He senses Damiel's presence and offers him some advice. Peter Handke wrote much of the dialogue.

POEM: "Marion"


                           Lovers, if they knew how, might utter
                           strange things in night air. Since it seems
                           eveything hides us.

                           R.M. Rilke, Second Duino Elegy (Tr. Kline)

When she was a child she made faces
Whenever they took photographs

Already knowing that she was
At grave odds with the world

Hearing the loud machinery
Outside the levelling of the choir

At 12 years old reading Nietzsche
Tossing that aside for Rilke at 14

Then the Japanese Zen cases later
Other mystics social astrophysics

Not waiting around the silent library
For knowledge at the end of the world

Accidents come after painting & music
Poetry and the men came after that

I place my hand on her shoulder
She spits and shivers like a cat.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Marion & Damiel"

Marion & Damiel

Circus dreams. Is this the end?
Clumsy performance that eventually
Changed to pleasure, now slipping off
I'm going down, suddenly forgetting how
These fake wings could ever fly with art and love

How I watch her beautiful on the trapeze
Arguing with all the gravities of need
Less effort, Marion! More swing!
Today the circus Berlin is pulling down the tent
And elephants are doing tricks for themselves

O Angels of solitude and tears
Why do you all look like criminals?
How do you spend the eternal days?
Would you have me sing my song
At night alone in my little van?

There is no answer, why be desperate?
This shall go on for a very long time
Singing the epic of peace, dreaming
Like the old man, breathless, he looks
For the past and remembers Nazi flags

You're the angel. They almost lived happily
Ever after. Sensing the breezy motions
The dozens everywhere, tremor or itch
I can't even tell if you're beside me now
Hiding, utter me anything real tonight.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Peter Falk"

Peter Falk

                             "These people are extras...extra humans."


A single tree grows out of a lake
Primordial, surrounded by fog and
Quiet water. Water as cold as it gets

Winter in Berlin. Bombs were dropped
An old man walks through a wasteland
His Potsdamer Platz still can't be found

A pre-war car is taken out for a drive
Every street has its own hard borderline
A schoolgirl waits for a john in the cold


The clowns don't speak, doubles and ghosts
The clowns try on hats, ghosts and doubles
Lies, if you didn't have it, you would miss it

Charivari. A trained goat is walking a barrel
It's their last performance, free for the kids
They race into the ring to get their balloons

This one is for those who wished they were alive
This one is for all the evil places in the world
This one is for the poets. 

© 2011 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Who Would Rather Not Think Anymore"

Who Would Rather Not Think Anymore

Sit in the van getting ready
The last night will be your best
A little bit afraid of the full moon
Thinking where were our angels
When the bombs were falling?

Before the story of war
It was going quite well
The days of ecstatic dance
Learning to live with animals
Before it was all paved over

Is the antiphon dirge or beatus
That plays when life is risky?
There will be a party afterwards
But first the audience applauds
The woman who fights the air

Furry ropes and tired props
And cigarette butts joining
White feathers on the water
All of it invents the story
You will keep on having

Glory is all drunken singing
There is a sorrow in angels
No doorways or corners
The set of war is suicide
Why are you crying?

© 2011 Rob Schackne

POEM: "So Many Good Things"

So Many Good Things

                                                Als das Kind Kind war...
                                                Peter Handke


It is very late. A Turkish woman
Is vacuuming the empty library

Then she'll go to an all-night laundromat
And watch hope go through its cycles

When the child was a child
She lived in Room 29 next to mine
She could imagine anything


Wake up with the holy armor
When it is thrown down at you
Later that day you'll pawn it for $50

Your head is still bleeding a little
But there are so many good things left

A stranger gives you your first money
To buy your very first cup of coffee

And you'll burn your mouth
Wondering about the first snow

You give a stranger exquisite directions
And wait for first bliss in a circle of sand

Compañero, compañero, they whisper 
Other wings will grow that will be valid

You will find her. You will find a home.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

POEM: "It Doesn't Have To Be Perfect"

It Doesn't Have To Be Perfect

At 5 o’clock listening for the birds
They wake up and start their calling
(As if nobody again will listen)

Drive in to work, play Keith Jarrett
And there’s no one there to disagree
Driving home, AC/DC’s Highway To Hell

On Sunday you don’t go to church, instead
You go to the pharmacy “Family Planning” section
& stare too long at the inverted commas

The music in there is horrible
All mixed up with improbable fears
(You probably still love your wife a little)

A parking lot in the afternoon—
But no she says, it’s more like sunset
She throws her leg over you and sighs.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Philip Larkin Poem


High Windows

When I see a couple of kids
And guess he’s fucking her and she’s
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought,
That’ll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds.
And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Tomas Tranströmer Poem


One evening in February I came near to dying here.
The car skidded sideways on the ice, out
on the wrong side of the road. The approaching cars –
their lights – closed in.
My name, my girls, my job
broke free and were left silently behind
further and further away. I was anonymous
like a boy in a playground surrounded by enemies.
The approaching traffic had huge lights.
They shone on me while I pulled at the wheel
in a transparent terror that floated like egg white.
The seconds grew – there was space in them –
they grew as big as hospital buildings.
You could almost pause
and breathe out for a while
before being crushed.
Then something caught: a helping grain of sand
or a wonderful gust of wind. The car broke free
and scuttled smartly right over the road.
A post shot up and cracked – a sharp clang – it
flew away in the darkness.
Then – stillness. I sat back in my seat-belt
and saw someone coming through the whirling snow
to see what had become of me.
I have been walking for a long time
on the frozen Östergötland fields.
I have not seen a single person.
In other parts of the world
there are people who are born, live and die
in a perpetual crowd.
To be always visible – to live
in a swarm of eyes –
a special expression must develop.
Face coated with clay.
The murmuring rises and falls
while they divide up among themselves
the sky, the shadows, the sand grains.
I must be alone
ten minutes in the morning
and ten minutes in the evening.
– Without a programme.
Everyone is queuing at everyone's door.

(2011) Tr. Robin Fulton

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Norman Dubie Poem

 The Novel as Manuscript
                         — an ars poetica

I remember the death, in Russia,
of postage stamps 
like immense museum masterpieces
wrapped in linen, tea stained,
with hemp for strapping...

these colored stamps designed for foreign places
were even printed during famine—
so when they vanished, so did the whole
Soviet system:
the Berlin Wall, tanks from Afghanistan
and Ceausescu's bride before a firing squad.

It had begun with the character of Yuri Zhivago
in a frozen wilderness, the summer house
of his dead in-laws, his 
pregnant mistress asleep
before the fireplace
with flames dancing around a broken chair, piano keys
and the gardener's long black underwear.

Lara lying there. A vulgar fat businessman
coming by sleigh to collect her for the dangers
of a near arctic escape...

But for Yuri, not that long ago, he was
with celebrity, 
a young doctor publishing a thin volume
of poems in France, he was writing
now at a cold desk
poems against all experience
and for love of a woman buried
in moth-eaten furs on the floor—

while he wrote
wolves out along the green treeline
howled at him. The author of this novel,
Boris Pasternak arranged it all. Stalin would
have liked to have killed him. But superstition kept him from it.

So, the daughter of Pasternak's mistress eventually 
is walking with a candle
through a prison basement—
she is stepping over acres of twisted corpses
hoping to locate her vanished mother...
she thinks this reminds her of edging slowly
over the crust on a very deep snow, just a child who believes 
she is about to be swallowed by the purity of it all,
like this write your new poems.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

POEM: "Spirit As Evidence Based On Non-Zero Mass"

Spirit As Evidence Based On Non-Zero Mass

How to press firm against the world
concrete pavement and harder hearts
now at the smallest threads of gravity?

On ground from which we are not free
the strains, the stops, the push, the hold
& every single thing we come across
we ask, could anything not work better?

On this day when prayers are answered
careless men do sometimes fall from Earth
who leap up like fish without grip to dance.

Tonight, generous equinox, it is for them
the inflected half-moon, herself unfolded
when all are invited to a golden exit, then
to be perfect, unbound, graceful and alone.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

POEM: "Waxes"


                       for Rosemary Nissen-Wade

Except the brushes sigh
drawing in more detail
their love is a painting

when she waxes the moon
(broom is not a surfboard)
the bushes look different

he walks safe in his sleep
in the garden after midnight
you seldom read about it

when he grows weaker
her poems get stronger
the points of measurement

bag of grain, good souls
at the gravity of love
point of hope (and heaven)

the sun and sweet fields
& at night in the granary
water mixed with wine and tears.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Maurice Riordan Poem

 Stars And Jasmine

Each of them has been a god many times:
cat, hedgehog and – our summer interloper – the tortoise.
A perfect triangle, they can neither eat
nor marry one another.
And tonight they are gods
under the jasmine under the stars.

Already the hedgehog has scoffed the cat’s supper
and she’s walked nonplussed beside him
escaping headlong into the bushes.
Wisely now, she keeps an eye on him there,
and on the tortoise
noisily criss-crossing the gravel.

For the cat, jasmine is white
but the stars have colours.
For the hedgehog, there are no stars
only a sky of jasmine,
against which he sniffs something dark,
outlined like a bird of prey.

Wisely, the tortoise ignores both jasmine and stars.
Isn’t it enough, she says, to carry the sky on your back,
a sky that is solid, mathematical and delicately coloured –
on which someone, too, has painted
our neighbours’ address: 9a Surrey Rd.
Come September, we will post her through their letterbox.