Thursday, April 26, 2012

A D.A. Powell Poem

 Useless Landscape

A lone cloudburst hijacked the Doppler radar screen, a bandit
hung from the gallows, in rehearsal for the broke-necked man,
damn him, tucked under millet in the potter's plot. Welcome
to disaster's alkaline kiss, its little clearing edged with twigs,
and posted against trespass. Though finite, its fence is endless.

Lugs of prune plums already half-dehydrated. Lugged toward
shelf life and sorry reconstitution in somebody's eggshell kitchen.
If you hear the crop-dust engine whining overhead, mind
the orange windsock's direction, lest you huff its vapor trail.
Scurry if you prefer between the lime-sulphured rows, and cull
from the clods and sticks, the harvest shaker's settling.

The impertinent squalls of one squeezebox vies against another
in ambling pick-ups. The rattle of dice and spoons. The one café
allows a patron to pour from his own bottle. Special: tripe today.
Goat's head soup. Tortoise-shaped egg bread, sugared pink.
The darkness doesn't descend, and then it descends so quickly
it seems to seize you in burly arms. I've been waiting all night
to have this dance. Stay, it says. Haven't touched your drink.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

POEM: "Nica & Monk"

Nica & Monk

Enormous house, servants for everything
curtains drawn to protect the paintings
a Rothschild, she dreams at needlework
denied what you’d really call a schooling
gets married, has children, waits a moment
flees to New York City, she’s falling for jazz
and Thelonius Monk (who’s got problems)
Nica is very rich (that you can’t deny)
she’s heard of a thing money cannot buy
smokey music in the basement clubs
bass notes and the thunder of Charlie Parker
then that hesitant, hopeless, hopeful piano
‘round midnight when the crowd thins
when connoisseurs of the soul sit still
and a dirty draw of perfect sound
permits the long drawn out breath of bliss
Nica, Nica, Nica, Pannonica, a butterfly
like Cho-Cho-San, casting off her own angels
another subject of the foreign winds of love
a rich white lady faces prison for a black man
you read it and you say it over and over again
try and imagine this power any way you can
at Monk’s funeral she sits next to his wife
and all who come pay homage to them both.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A John Koethe Poem


The Perfect Life

I have a perfect life. It isn’t much,
But it's enough for me. It keeps me alive
And happy in a vague way: no disappointments
On the near horizon, no pangs of doubt;
Looking forward in anticipation, looking back
In satisfaction at the conclusion of each day.
I heed the promptings of my inner voice,
And what I hear is comforting, full of reassurance
For my own powers and innate superiority—the fake
Security of someone in the grip of a delusion,
In denial, climbing ever taller towers
Like a tiny tyrant looking on his little kingdom
With a secret smile, while all the while

Time lies in wait. And what feels ample now
Turns colorless and cold, and what seems beautiful
And strong becomes an object of indifference
Reaching out to no one, as later middle age
Turns old, and the strength is gone.
Right now the moments yield to me sweet
Feelings of contentment, but the human
Dies, and what I take for granted bears a name
To be forgotten soon, as the things I know
Turn into unfamiliar faces
In a strange room, leaving merely
A blank space, like a hole left in the wake
Of a perfect life, which closes over.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Jane Springer Poem


Pretty Polly

Who made the banjo sad & wrong?
Who made the luckless girl & hell bound boy?
Who made the ballad? The one, I mean,
where lovers gallop down mountain brush as though in love—
where hooves break ground to blood earth scent.
Who gave the boy swift words to woo the girl from home,
& the girl too pretty to leave alone? He locks one arm
beneath her breasts as they ride on—maybe her apron comes
undone & falls to a ditch of black-eyed susans. Maybe
she dreams the clouds are so much flour spilt on heaven's table.

I've run the dark county of the heart this music comes from—but
I don't know where to hammer-on or to drop a thumb to the
haunted string that sets the story straight: All night Willie's dug
on Polly's grave with a silver spade & every creek they cross
makes one last splash. Though flocks of swallows loom—the one
hung in cedar now will score the girl's last thrill. Tell
me, why do I love this sawmill-tuned melancholy song
& thud of knuckles darkening the banjo face?
Tell me how to erase the ancient, violent beauty
in the devil of not loving what we love.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An Adam Clay Poem


Scientific Method

Twenty-three percent when placed under
intense pressure did in fact kick
the door in. Soldiers creep on the other side
of the turn. Every little thing
is destined for ease. Music, be still.
Keep the mannequin secrets
to yourself. Remember a ladder
can take you both up and down.
The weather grows less stable
than us. This line here is where
the season starts. Spring seems
fluorescently golden. Too much
milk in the fridge. When left alone
long enough, the prisoners
began to interrogate themselves.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

An Henri Cole Poem


Gravity and Center

I’m sorry I cannot say I love you when you say
you love me. The words, like moist fingers,
appear before me full of promise but then run away
to a narrow black room that is always dark,
where they are silent, elegant, like antique gold,
devouring the thing I feel. I want the force
of attraction to crush the force of repulsion
and my inner and outer worlds to pierce
one another, like a horse whipped by a man.
I don’t want words to sever me from reality.
I don’t want to need them. I want nothing
to reveal feeling but feeling—as in freedom,
or the knowledge of peace in a realm beyond,
or the sound of water poured into a bowl.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

POEM: "Per Una Selva Oscura"

Per Una Selva Oscura

                            Ma tu perché ritorni a tanta noia?
                            perché non sali il dilettoso monte                           
                            ch'è principio e cagion di tutta gioia?

My friend wrote a poem about
an unkind remark she once heard
and a deep wound took hold of
this compassionate old friend
nel mezzo del cammin to the laundry
but now I'm a dozen countries away
and so many years have passed us both

trying to make sense of unfairness
wrong-headed intemperate thinking
only I get nowhere remembering
the heavy blood in the awful words
that we do our damndest to let go of
the shock they caused the tears and pain
or the other acts that held a bigger knife

but in the dark woods of the tongue
in the wilful distance from the heart
just seven years after the scattering
of all the poetry washed under
looking for ever better tidings
one nation under a blessèd sky
it's now moved on, fuck that guy.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Jan de Roek Poem


In Hoc Signo

In this world of listed buildings
of comics, singers, couturiers, travel agencies and novelists
not of poets, in this world, this laundry
of civil servants, in this world of meetings,
of meetings with the same, the eternal speakers and writers
in this silk-lined time of minks and furs, in this dolled-up
cautious time, this paper time of paper
people, this time of insurances and shrieking popes
in this dulling time, not of poets,
of copywriters, of journalists and advertising
tonight, as a poet, I lend this occasional poem – as you will see.
In this time of rubber stamps and counters, of forms,
not of hands, in this disinfected, prefabricated
time, I read you these, my credentials.
In this time of plush, this sticky time
in this faltering time. In this ritual time
of capital letters. In this raging time.
In this time when only brothels flourish.
In this time of wigs and whining
I stand with you defending myself.
I want them to listen. I want to speak to someone
in this soundproof time, in this grave,
polite, impersonal time. In this world suffering
from chronic prosperity, this contagious world of prestige
and ambition. In this world of photocopies,
of enlargements, in these lowlands where homage
is grown in rows, where they like to hold commemorations.
In this quenching land, in this land of bend or break
this grinding land, in this land of nail-biters
where the priests are surly judges. In this humanist
land from before the Renaissance. In these late middle ages.
In this time of euphemisms, in this, the time
of subjunctive moods, in this belle époque
in this fin-de-siècle, in this time garnished with whipped cream
and with mayonnaise, this time of ice-cream parlours
and afternoon concerts, I am attempting to write a poem
with words that are familiar to me. In this land of
thirteen thousand nine hundred and seventy-three parishes
where the church catches the rats with jukeboxes.
In this land of giving and taking and of grabbing
of grabbing. In the midst of this pastoral people,
in the midst of the sheep, in this, the applauding time.
In this time of open doors, in which the generals
undress in public. In this hygienic time.
In this time of nude culture. With a minister of scouting.
In this time of nickel, in this chrome-plated, silver-plated,
gold-plated time of sports trophies and medals.
In this time of immortals. In this time of mediation
and of house calls. In this time they still speak Dutch,
even the animals speak Dutch,
but there are no poets left.
In this, the parboiled, plodding, passive time.
In this time of indirect speeches, in this, the timid time,
this time of excuses, this time of lack of time for
lack of time. In this posing, plumaged time. In the sleeping cars
of this, the yawning age, the yawning age
I am trying to speak.
See how we are snowed under with rubbish,
with avalanches of newspapers. The drool of news reports
sticking to our faces. We know our beauty queens.
Sometimes we wake up in the middle of a film.
Sometimes we say I’ve read that before: an eye for an eye
and a tooth for a tooth then back to sleep. In this, the obscene time,
in this, the neutral time. In this time,
in which the poets no longer swear.
In this, the bitter time.
Here, nothing is lost. Here everything is useful,
to somebody or other. In this, the competitive time,
this time of for or against. In this world of storeys
and towers, in this, the steep world, on each
floor the world becomes smaller for these, the surviving Babylonians
(Nieuwenhuys, you should know) and the fear grows
amongst the Quakers. In this world of enclosures
a poet knows only shame.
And he is equally ashamed of the Vienna Boys’ Choir
and the inevitable ice show.
In this, the idyllic time, in this time of pastorals
and ballads. He is ill at ease in the saunas of politics,
in the ready-to-wear off-the-peg behind the scenes in the parties’ compartments
in the foaming future. In this time of imitation,
of curves and axes, of averages. In this literal
time, in this close-cropped time, in this time of tinned food,
in this sterilised time, this museum time,
in this shadow of old masters, beside the gloss
of the oils a poet can no longer speak.
Here everything is diluted, adulterated, cut and
shut away in the remote refinery of authority.
Here, in this deep-frozen time, every breath is broken off,
frozen to death. Here, only the barracks stand open.
In this, the world of glasshouses, only the shares
and forget-me-nots flourish, not the poems,
and a poem is every necessary word that needs to be said
in this, the grim time.
For believe me, poetry serves not for trade
but for discussion, in this, the one-sided,
the superstitious time. And it is no revolutionary
floor show, either, no international rock or beat, but
it holds the attention in this, the time of headlong
and hurrah and hosanna. In this, the time of Geiger counters
and the atom. In this time of false teeth and teeth whiter
than white. In this time of make-up, this time of
radar screens, documents and archives. In this time
where stop is a swearword. Defenceless, the poet looks on
with a lump in his throat. In this time of
polyester, in this, the plastics time and sings out of tune.
And still living and pressing patience on the lotteries. In this, the thrilling
time. In this, the paper time. This written time,
this sung time. From behind their armoured glass
the showrooms of politics still beckon
to the rat-catchers and believers. The poet, he looks on
he watches it with his underground friends
if needs be he can undermine it.

13 February 1970

Tr. Rosland Buck, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

POEM: "Let There Be Junk"

Let There Be Junk

                              for Oliver Raw

To the true progress
The line in-and-out

A bee flies to the candle
A hand is upon the wheel

Let scattered indirection
Be your god's perfect lie

Every straight edge tries
A falling off to the side

Like a stamp lies in the atlas
The cat on top of the fridge

A glove on a snowbank
A sandal in the waves

All things lost someplace
Please let there be junk

That when it comes to us
We can relax & move fast.

© 2012 Rob Schackne