Wednesday, April 30, 2014

PHOTO: "Marcello Mastroianni On The Set Of La Dolce Vita" / POEM: "Anyone Knows Any Better"

Anyone Knows Any Better

A deep thinker
exhales the smoke
from an unfiltered cigarette

I ask for their numbers
the women laugh at me
they whisper I walk away

escapades and epilogues
she lives there in a cloud
me ne frega un cazzo

enter the marketplace
secrets from her secrets
an itch that picks the heart

my dear friend Steiner
takes his children’s life
says bye-bye paparazzi

the house was bombed
like the way we ran away
and the debts we never repaid.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Photograph: Arturo Zavattini /Solares Fondazione delle Arti (1960)

Friday, April 25, 2014

An Elizabeth Bishop Poem

The Man-Moth

                               Man-Moth: Newspaper misprint for “mammoth”

             Here, above,
cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,
and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.
He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,
feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,
of a temperature impossible to record in thermometers.

             But when the Man-Moth
pats his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,
the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges
from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,
proving the sky quite useless for protection.
He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.
             Up the fa├žades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer’s cloth behind him
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.

             Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.

             Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie
his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,
for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,
runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease
he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep
his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.

             If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention
he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

POEM: "Pray for Rain"

Pray for Rain

Pray for rain. Against the scratching desert. All life is sacred.
The silica listens for the wind. The wind is faraway. No cloud.
She runs every morning. Not much cooler than it will be at noon.
Breathing dryness. Oiled piston arms and legs moving very well.
Let her meditate. Run the last 2K fast. Let her race her kangaroo.

Rain is coming. Yesterday and today and tomorrow. Listen. Listen.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Monday, April 21, 2014

POEM: "Small Tests of Truth"

Small Tests of Truth

History will decide, will decide
if the military budget goes crazy

how the deserts are grown larger
now the half-moon is upside down
whether you'll ever grow tired of me

History will decide, will decide
you’ll make your position clear
why destruction is so silent
whether sweetness ever returns
to the slaughterhouse that wasn’t hit

History will decide, will decide
how long Spring should be delayed
whether the banana is really a cake
why missiles point in this direction
if the device is meant to be eaten

History will decide, will decide
the up is down & the then is now
how we manage the toxic asset
why you decode me like that
while the strawberries sweeten.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Rhinoceros"


Rhinoceros was confirmed
grazing on the beach, a stone
of shell last seen in the jungle
snorting now sandcastles tremble

The secret of freedom is courage
the very weird is resurrected
hoons spraypaint the sculpture
some words don’t make any sense

The hand reaches in the dark
the light switch is always found
the imagination is another beast
press a trillion steps of flashing sand

I go back to my Thucydides
I turn the pages of our history
birds are fighting over a plastic bag
almost everything goes out with the tide.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, April 20, 2014

POEM: "By Water"

By Water

By water in the dark home
to the fire thickets on the beach
some sail, oars, land, a few birds
would make the last miles easier

Did I ever wish to return
with an impressive tribute
to show the people I loved that
adventure was not a bad thing?

Now I float mostly wounded
my clothes are mostly bandage
my body is a bloated skeleton
& memory bumps against my skin

Time’s a pig floating down a river

the code’s already been broken
the odd dog will piss on your leg
the cold seas are getting bigger

For the record, because you ask
a million miles is not enough
to make the last effort to the beach
where we retrieve the precious soul

Sure this world is no House Of Joy
cargo dislodges the fastest ropes
the swimmers are coming closer
clouds part the moon as I go under.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "To Lu Xun, from the Iron House"

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

POEM: "In Our Brave Moonshine"

In Our Brave Moonshine 

Believe me, the Ancestors
Are not jealous of our lives.
Believe me, the Ancestors
Wait in our brave moonshine
Are not pleased we're still at work.
If they have any emotions left
Pity is what they feel. They frown.
Do they see us? Do they complain?
Laugh more. Love more. Be more.
So unhappy with what we've got.
They whisper in the shadows
Asking that we benefit better
From all they did without.

                                                     Qing Ming 2014

© 2014 Rob Schackne

A Song Xiaoxian Poem

A Life

I queued up to be born: I was a second child, neglected
I queued up to go to school: I was six and wasn’t welcome
I queued up to buy rice: I watched people fighting
after queuing up to go to the toilet, we
went to bed in a set order—gee,
I experienced so many things like that as a student

they wouldn’t let me into the hospital
that year I got really sick,
so I slept in a corridor
and was often startled awake by nightmares
my tears queuing up in the dark

then I fell in love, my lovers
queued up along the river bank
I queued up for housing, queued up for the marriage licence

waiting for ages in some corner
the days slip by in a queue
like the short, colourful skirts you wear out
my whole life got lost
in the smoke of the rank and file

then there’s all the humiliation
we queue up to be cheated
or to get raped by thugs
and before any of it makes sense
our hair queues up to turn grey
wrinkles chase one another like waves, muttering
one day, all our joy and sorrows
will queue up to leave for somewhere far, far away

(2005) Tr. Simon Patton

An Ouyang Jianghe Poem


In the quiet of your living room we talked for an hour.
Wide vistas, transparence. Always
at times like these, I look back, see—
a beautiful face flashes
and is gone. An hour of winter
reflected in sunset. We say our goodbyes.
Outside, it's getting dark. Lights
are on in your house, and in all the other houses.

To have seen that face: such pain,
such joy. So many faces before, each
its own kind of incoherent and brief.
An hour is enough: living room
leads to kitchen, to a small cold hand
laying out plates for a meal years before
I reached out my hand to touch
your silver tableware.

Hour of silver, hour of chill.
Face flashes and is gone.
Always at times like these I look back—
The room is bright. A beautiful face
is not a thing that light can reveal.
Deep-hidden face, soundless conversation
in shadow. A single hour—
ten years ago, would we have talked all night?

An hour's tenderness, held back like tears.
The years I have left will speed faster
than this hour. To vanish
is happiness: Flash, face. Be gone.
Always at times like these,
darkness falls. A child pouts,
and someone taps at the door.

(2012) Tr. Austin Woerner

A Czeslaw Milosz Poem

A Song On The End Of The World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

(1944) Tr. Anthony Milosz

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

POEM: "Yves Bonnefoy"

Yves Bonnefoy

I persuaded him to live on credit
reading on the outskirts of town
near the oil refinery I worked in

& everything was a creep or a ghoul
aiming for the shortest night in history
my girlfriend toiled in a cafeteria

& we estimated the distances
it all looked like a Martian movie
galoots and wastrels bullies and finks

waiting at the last stages of their shift
come down I said listen to a live one
push you past our granite days

the skeptics protested clocked out
tried to clock me too they missed
Yves Bonnefoy I loved your name.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Corey Zeller Poem

Caucasian Spirituals

It begins with a sheared end, a circle of stones, short words such as mud and sun and hay. It begins the way this man’s life must have begun: with a vague understanding of sustainability, of the difference between the dirt and the dandelions. Yet there is another man here, the one who spends his days sailing tiny boats through white pages. Who notices the city is missing a whole color. Who sees a woman standing at a window and then just the light and the dark making a woman out what was never there, out of the susurrus.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

POEM: "The Aliens Watch"

The Aliens Watch

All Aliens Welcome!
tattooed on my wrist
holding the kite that
apprehends all contra-
ventions of the law (I
lost the string years ago
and now I fit right in)
you don’t know promise
I’m just buying the apple
for your dream of wisdom
(I’ll get you the discount
you've got to keep a secret.)

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

POEM: "I Shall Not Care"

I Shall Not Care

I shall not care
there are no poems
in gas stations, or
birds steal things
the sight unseen
not even missed
I close the book
of you, of photos
of what we saw
most is forgotten.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Photo: Ed Ruscha (1963)