Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Horace Poem

To Licinius

You'll do better, Licinius, not to spend your life
Venturing too far out on the dangerous waters,
Or else, for fear of storms, staying too close in
To the dangerous rocky shoreline. That man does best
Who chooses the middle way, so he doesn't end up
Living under a roof that's going to ruin
Or in some gorgeous mansion everyone envies.
The tallest pine shakes most in a wind storm;
The loftiest tower falls down with the loudest crash;
The lightning bolt heads straight for the mountain top.
Always expect reversals; be hopeful in trouble,
Be worried when things go well. That's how it is
For the man whose heart is ready for anything.
It's true that Jupiter brings on the hard winters;
It's also true that Jupiter takes them away.
If things are bad right now, they won't always be.
Apollo isn't always drawing his bow;
There are times when he takes up his lyre and plays,
And awakens the music sleeping upon the strings.
Be resolute when things are going against you,
But shorten sail when the fair wind blows too strong.

(Horace, Odes II, 10
Tr. David Ferry, 1998

Sunday, September 22, 2013

POEM: "How We Might Look Like Fools"

How We Might Look Like Fools

When a little kid puts his pants on backwards
the shoes on the wrong foot proudly to display
ah we might look like fools mismatched ideas
a bit of this a bit of that maybe you don’t get it
a little kid listening to the grown-ups laughing
the glasses raised high the noise getting louder
Uncle Alice is passed out and put into my room
I go in to look at him snoring and touch his nose
how we might look like fools strange match moods
it’s one part Paul Desmond one part of Jim Hall
then time for bed like the kid what does it mean
I see this but I want something else go to sleep
aye we might look like fools look at everything
proudly the ideas images and music come along
don’t look like anything you’ve ever seen before
you're told it’s different maybe the dreams will fit.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Jack Gilbert Poem (2)

Ovid in Tears

Love is like a garden in the heart, he said.
They asked him what he meant by garden.
He explained about gardens. “In the cities,”
he said, “there are places walled off where color
and decorum are magnified into a civilization.
Like a beautiful woman,” he said. How like
a woman, they asked. He remembered their wives
and said garden was just a figure of speech,
then called for drinks all around. Two rounds
later he was crying. Talking about how Charlemagne
couldn’t read but still made a world. About Hagia
Sophia and putting a round dome on a square
base after nine hundred years of failure.
The hand holding him slipped and he fell.
“White stone in the white sunlight,” he said
as they picked him up. “Not the great fires
built on the edge of the world.” His voice grew
fainter as they carried him away. “Both the melody
and the symphony. The imperfect dancing
in the beautiful dance. The dance most of all.”


Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Michael Palmer Poem

Your Diamond Shoe

Don't write poems about what's going on.
Murderers and liars, dreams and desires,

they're always going on.
Leave them outside the poem.

Don't describe your sad-eyed summer home
or wide-eyed winter home.

Don't write about your being homeless
or your home-away-from-home.

Don't write about war,
whether you're against or for,

it's the same fucking war.
Don't talk about language,

don't talk about loss.
Don't mention truth or beauty

or your grandpa's bones.
No one wants to know

how your father/brother/lover
deducted himself. Razor, rope, or gun,

what's the difference?
Whisper nothing of the snow

on the Contrescarpe,
nothing of moths, their fluttering arcs,

or the towers--how we watched them fall.
Don't write at all.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

A K.J. Bishop Poem

The Crone Meets Her Son (On The Battlefield)

The revolution, this time, was 'to actualise the marvellous'. 
   The gunslinger

enlisted, far from sure of his part, for his weapons fired only
   common lead,

not multicoloured lights or waves of kundalini. But he had,
   in his dreams,

dived to the bottom of the ocean and seen the carcass of a
   whale, with hagfish

at it all around like mad sperm around a dead egg, devouring
   the infertile germ,

and felt his private share of responsibility, like a new organ
   in his body, a harmonica,

maybe. He had always been around the edges, among the
   listeners, tapping a foot,

but if he really was a boar leaping out of the sea, he wanted
   to know that furious joy.

There was no commander as such to give orders, so he found
   a place on the left flank

with the giraffes, and an old woman who had a tray of
   buttons and a thermos

of black coffee, infinitely replenishing, which she shared
   around like a suave host.

With gratitude he drank the unsweet brew in the tin cup and
   remembered how, as a boy,

he'd loved the tubes of buttons in the haberdasher's shop,
   like lasting candy,

kaleidoscopes, or magic money for buying magic things
   from magicians.

Perhaps, he mused, that was where his longtime love of
   finery budded in tulip-stripes.

Looking back, said the woman, it's all ravines and tempests.
   You're cold, have my coat,

he said, stripping down to waistcoat and watch-chain. It's
   bulletproof, and keeps the rain out.

Well, I like rain, but thank you, and here, choose some
   buttons, son. The pearl is smart,

but please yourself. Thank you, ma'am, and in the yellow
   dawn he chose plastic sections of Jupiter

and brass wafers for the charity of the poor, and pearl for the
   whale and the egg,

and fake tortoiseshell for the giraffes, and fuchsia velvet
   domes for sex and love

and loaded them in his old shotgun, and grinned like a fox
   sucking shit through a sieve

because that's how it's done, and he followed the old woman,
   who followed no one,

cocking her leg at every pillar, eating out of garbage cans,
   sniffing bums in trousers,

her jubilant howl assuring him this wasn't desertion at all.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

POEM: " Folding Paper"

Folding Paper

I ask him if he likes to read
sure he says I read all the time
terrific what are you reading now?
The Practical Illustrated Encyclopedia of Origami
sounds like a pretty complete guide I say
oh yes he says it’s very useful, tell me
what do you do in your free time?

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Seamus Heaney Poem

From The Frontier Of Writing

The tightness and the nilness round that space
when the car stops in the road, the troops inspect
its make and number and, as one bends his face

towards your window, you catch sight of more
on a hill beyond, eyeing with intent
down cradled guns that hold you under cover

and everything is pure interrogation
until a rifle motions and you move
with guarded unconcerned acceleration—

a little emptier, a little spent
as always by that quiver in the self,
subjugated, yes, and obedient.

So you drive on to the frontier of writing
where it happens again. The guns on tripods;
the sergeant with his on-off mike repeating

data about you, waiting for the squawk
of clearance; the marksman training down
out of the sun upon you like a hawk.

And suddenly you're through, arraigned yet freed,
as if you'd passed from behind a waterfall
on the black current of a tarmac road

past armor-plated vehicles, out between
the posted soldiers flowing and receding
like tree shadows into the polished windscreen.