Monday, February 27, 2012

A Donald Hall Poem



"Up, down, good, bad," said
the man with the tubes
up his nose, "there's lots
of variety…
However, notions
of balance between
extremes of fortune
are stupid—or at
best unobservant."
He watched as the nurse
fed pellets into
the green nozzle that
stuck from his side. "Mm,"
said the man. " Good. Yum.
(Next time more basil…)
When a long-desired
baby is born, what
joy! More happiness
than we find in sex,
more than we take in
success, revenge, or
wealth. But should the same
infant die, would you
measure the horror
on the same rule? Grief
weighs down the seesaw;
joy cannot budge it."


"When I was nineteen,
I told a thirty-
year-old man what a
fool I had been when
I was seventeen.
'We were always,' he
said glancing down, 'a
fool two years ago.'"


The man with the tubes
up his nostrils spoke
carefully: "I don't
regret what I did,
but that I claimed I
did the opposite.
If I was faithless
or treacherous and
cowardly, I had
my reasons—but I
regret that I called
myself loyal, brave,
and honorable."


"Of all illusions,"
said the man with the
tubes up his nostrils,
IVs, catheter,
and feeding nozzle,
"the silliest one
was hardest to lose.
For years I supposed
that after climbing
exhaustedly up
with pitons and ropes,
I would arrive at
last on the plateau
of walking-level-
But of course, of course:
A continual
climbing is the one
form of arrival
we ever come to—
unless we suppose
that the wished-for height
and house of desire
is tubes up the nose."


POEM: "Is That Really Me"

Is That Really Me

There is so much in demand he says
Night lights guaranteed us the return
Yes I say and of even complicated sleep
The so much unhappiness we don't discern
Ah he says but we see that in each other
For aren't we wise men calling for another?
Why won't we finally go home to a missus
Whose please don't stay out too late this time
Asks us to tilt our view of happiness?
Because life and death are both so endless
We would uncomplicate each and every step.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Esther Ettinger Poem

Photo Esther Ettinger © Image: Iris Nesher  The Sadness Cage 

It’s the sadness cage
not even ten by ten. A lioness
walks back and forth on a bare concrete floor
from end to end, from side to side, six measured paces and three
wild ones and two leaps of pain.

It’s the sadness cage,
three walls plastered over greenish iron studs,
and rain and sun and wind and leaves, and people’s hot faces,
and lights at night, through bars that rust every winter.
She sees all this, but she watches the whitewashed floor,
her rough and golden fresco.
And her legs take her into the corner where she rolls up
into a big dry woolly ball and in another corner she
sprawls out pain-struck.
Because it’s the sadness cage
the sugar of sadness that streams in her veins covered
in blackening fur leads from dead end to dark end
sometimes measured, sometimes wild,
her only food the meat of her household.

She knows, it was also suggested
that the bars are a stage set, that the metal is painted on cardboard
and what’s cardboard to a lioness, and what’s iron.
Everything’s open
and she doesn’t go out to the grass, the sun, the flowers
in front of the soft warm people who wonder at her
who push in to see her, who tell her ad nauseum
rise up go forth
shake your head in a circular motion
rise up go forth race
out there carpets of space, a world.

(1991) Tr. Lisa Katz, 1999

(Translator's note: “the meat of her household” is from Proverbs 31:15)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

POEM: "Kung-An"


                                  Mind is the Buddha

Master Ma-Tzu is very full of joy
For today he can give each monk
A pane of precious glass to hold

After the hard running warm-up
He bids them sit & behold two things
Both of them true both of them false

Behind before and in the glass
A chilling task Ch'an has set them
Hour by hour their chattering teeth

Don't even think about reality, he said
Don't ever turn your gaze into a mirror
As they now try to leave the world

Master meets them in a distant garden
Don't even think of leaving this world
Your Master Winter examines the bones!

A monk stands up and starts shouting
What could be simpler than reality!
Another passes out from the strain.

© 2006/2012 Rob Schackne