Monday, June 30, 2014

PHOTO: "Man With Kite"

Hi, kids. This is my kite. His name is George. He is a bird. He is your friend. Do you want to play with him? No? This is my city. He is my friend. His name is Shanghai. My house is just over there, across the river. Do you want to go there with me? No?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Kazim Ali Poem (2)


You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month's

nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?

If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets
into the air and harvest the fog.

Hunger opens you to illiteracy,
thirst makes clear the starving pattern,

the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,
the angel stops whispering for a moment—

The secret night could already be over,
you will have to listen very carefully—

You are never going to know which night's mouth is sacredly reciting
and which night's recitation is secretly mere wind—


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Raúl Zurita Poem

from Sunday Morning


Over the cliffs of the hillside: the sun
then below in the valley
the earth covered with flowers
Zurita enamored friend
takes in the sun of photosynthesis
Zurita will now never again be friend
since 7 P.M. it's been getting dark

Night is the insane asylum of the plants


Enclosed with the four walls of
a bathroom: I looked up at the ceiling
and began to clean the walls and
the floor the sink all of it
You see: Outside the sky was God
and he was sucking at my soul —believe me!
I wiped my weeping eyes


In the narrow broken bed
restless all night
like a spent candle lit again
I thought I saw Buddha many times
At my side I felt a woman's gasp for air
but Buddha was only the pillows
and the woman is sleeping the eternal dream


Today I dreamed that I was King
they were dressing me in black-and-white spotted pelts
Today I moo with my head about to fall
as the church bells' mournful clanging
says that milk goes to market


They've shaved my head
they've dressed me in these gray wool rags
—Mom keeps on smoking
I am Joan of Arc

They catalog me on microfilm


The glass is transparent like water
Dread of prisms and glass
I circle the light so as not to lose myself in them

(2009) trans. Anna Deeny

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Wisława Szymborska Poem

A Poem

Nothingness unseamed itself for me too.
It turned itself wrong side out.
How on earth did I end up here—
head to toe among the planets,
without a clue how I used not to be.

O you, encountered here and loved here,
I can only guess, my arm on yours,
how much vacancy on that side went to make us,
how much silence there for one lone cricket here,
how much nonmeadow for a single sprig of sorrel,
and sun after darknesses in a drop of dew
as repayment—for what boundless droughts?

Starry willy-nilly! Local in reverse!
Stretched out in curvatures, weights, roughnesses, and motions!
Time out from infinity for endless sky!
Relief from nonspace in a shivering birch tree’s shape!

Now or never wind will stir a cloud,
since wind is exactly what won’t blow there.
And a beetle hits the trail in a witness’s dark suit,
testifying to the long wait for a short life.

And it so happened that I’m here with you.
And I really see nothing
usual in that.

(2014) trans. Clare Cavanagh

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Valerie Mejer Poem


Nothing's in the nest. No needles. No newborn ravens.
Maybe something like night in the deep hollow,
an eggshell planet, cracked in the middle, an empty bowl of soup.
Nothing's in the nest. No thread. No webs of words.
Maybe something like my navel, the eclipse of a magnifying glass.
A slice, mute with regard to its empty depths.
In the nest, nothing. The web unwoven. Dismembered.
In the space, something, yes. A piece of cloth. Sounding like flags
taking wing, a worm in its beak and suddenly, eyes, my eyes
which, cutting across the empty air, direct themselves at

                                                                        something noiseless over there.                                                                                                                 

(2013) trans. Forrest Gander

A Mariana Schackne Poem

The Spider on the Screen

“John”, I said
In a delirium of fever and painkillers
“There is a very large spider on my screen.
He has been there for three days.”
Or so I thought. I was, after all,
Not quite myself.
“Where?” John asked.
“Up there. In the upper right corner”, I said
Proud that I could be so coherent.
“Oh, cool!” was his response.
“No”, I said. “Not cool. He has been there for three days
Staring at me."
“He is a she”, John said.
John knows these things,
And I am proud of that.
“Well”, said I, “would you do –
Would you do something with her, please?”
We both knew what I meant.
We have opposing views on spiders.
“She’s on the outside of the screen”, he pointed out reasonably.
“Oh”, I said
And went back into my fog.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

POEM: "Shanghai Yangpu Lilong"

Shanghai Yangpu Lilong

                                                     for JR & Sue Anne Tay

Her huge portrait grips the wall
An errant balloon has run its course
Surrounded by demolition rubble
Now lodged against a period gutter
She nailed memory as long as she could
The children the stories and the pain
Yearning to return her old home love
The photographer nailed one image
Against the need for ever going back
But what does he really hope for this
How can any big picture tell the truth
Of one part dead and one part still lives
I wonder about the shape of her bed
Whether it provides proper dreams.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

photo by permission © 2010 Sue Anne Tay

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

POEM: "Not A Second Glance"

Not A Second Glance

                                             for Greg Gamage

Not a second glance will you get
No second thoughts, no compliment
People step on your shoe, hit past
On their way out, will not regard
The thankful loops most live in –
Sometimes you want to ask them
Ask why do you – of all your goodness
Why will none ever be directed at me
And when the warm days arrive
When you start to see lovers again
When the spring is finally returned
And you look to rhyme what you see
A sullenness still waits there, open –
The obviousness of such indifference
You will resent – the attack is personal
Only because it is you and me and them.


Monday, June 16, 2014

A Charles Wright Poem (1)

In The Midnight Hour

This, too, is an old story, yet
It is not death. Still,

The waters of darkness are in us.
In fact, they are rising,

Are rising toward our eyes.
And will wash against those windows

Until they have stilled, until,
Utterly calmed, they have cleansed.

And then our lives will take substance,
And rise themselves.

And not like water and not like darkness, but
Like smoke, like prayer.


A Charles Wright Poem (2)

After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard

East of me, west of me, full summer. 

How deeper than elsewhere the dusk is in your own yard. 
Birds fly back and forth across the lawn 
                                      looking for home 
As night drifts up like a little boat. 

Day after day, I become of less use to myself. 
Like this mockingbird, 
                     I flit from one thing to the next. 
What do I have to look forward to at fifty-four? 
Tomorrow is dark. 
                Day-after-tomorrow is darker still. 

The sky dogs are whimpering. 
Fireflies are dragging the hush of evening 
                                        up from the damp grass. 
Into the world’s tumult, into the chaos of every day, 
Go quietly, quietly.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

A David Tomas Martinez Poem

The Mechanics of Men

I have never been the most mechanically inclined of men.
Wrenches, screwdrivers, or shovels
have never made nice with me. In the shipyard,

I worked alone, in the dark, deep in
the bilges of frigates. For two months,
I hooked a torch to an oxygen tank with a green line and pulled a red

hose through bulkheads to gas. The brass tool
hissed like an ostrich
when it fed on metal. That day, my flame cut

permanent deck fittings; the loops fell like bright oranges;
I ripened the rusty metal. I knew
that this was a job to baby-sit me, a job they gave to bad burners,

beginners playing with their tools: who pretended their brass torches
were trumpets, and that gulls in the bay were tables
of distracted diners. When my father was a boy, his father loaded him

and his siblings in the car and dropped them off downtown
so my grandfather could get drunk and my
grandmother could pretend he wasn’t drinking again. When I was a boy,

I enjoyed watching my father dig; with dirt between his palms, he spun
the shovel before he dug. As I grew, I tried
to stay away from work, even when he paid me. I stayed away from him too.

I never understood how he could work around so much grass. For him,
life was work. For him, everything was hard. For me,
it was not hard. He stalked my mother a long time after their divorce.

He never understood she was not sod to be laid, or a sprinkler to be
attached to a pvc pipe seven inches in the ground.
That pregnant at fifteen was too soon. Neither of us is the most

mechanical of men, yet we still pride ourselves on how we fashion our tools.
I wake up shivering and crying in an empty bed,
the afternoon light entering and leaving an empty bottle of wine near

an emptier glass—or roll over and try, and fail, to remember a woman’s
name, which never really gets old, just uncouth
to say so, and feel fixed. To feel fixed is to feel a mechanical spirit, to feel love,

or at least to play at paste for an evening, to make believe she will never leave me,
as life almost did when I cut the green hose, and was
lonely and shaking that day on the deck of the destroyer, looking into the

green water, and wondered what would be written on my tomb:
“Killed by oxygen was this unmechanical man.”
In that moment close to death, I only wanted my own lungs. I didn’t regret

returning home and sleeping on my father’s couch. And that summer, I returned
to each of the women of my past and bedded
them all, trying to reheat our want. I don’t regret that– drinking wine

and making love, or writing poems and making love, of wanting to stay
but nonetheless leaving. I don’t regret returning
with Said and Spivak, with Weil and Augustine, of telling my father

“All sins are an attempt to fill voids,” or rebuilding my grandfather’s
house with Hopkins in my head
as I ripped the tar and shingles off the old roof with a shovel.

And I am not mad for being the second favorite son,
Esau turned inside out. Can’t regret saying
that summer, I was, in fact, already, a bigger and better man

than my father because I understood more. I didn’t mind he
favored my younger brother, who knew less
than him. I favored my brother’s way of living, of skating

in the park and smoking weed while I studied and wondered for us all.
How ridiculous I was that summer for us all;
for not attempting to rebuild any of his love that summer, at all.


Friday, June 13, 2014

POEM: "The Poetry Brothel"

The Poetry Brothel

                                            "da do-wah do-wah do-wah ditty 
                                             talk about the girls in New York City"

The poetry brothel is the place we work at
Nervous bodies come and sit for a few hours
We wear no clothes at all and we are fetching
Say outrageous things then watch them sweating
Tonight we write home “All is well. I have a job”

Ah, but to weave those new words into you
The recollected dialects of an uncountable people
No hesitation and lots of surprise here’s the thing
Nothing is more kind or blue or close or distant
When you join our lovely dreamy people at the bar

Shanghai, New York and Rotterdam observe
Friendly poets are the friendly whores are us

In the end nothing is more exciting than reality
Look, we can play anywhere, we’ll do anything!
(Not for fame exactly my dear but for love)

Many glorious moments shine in you

High feelings work beneath the waves
We'll dream you in any direction it takes
And guess what: tonight we're giving it away
Darling just come inside when you’re ready

The poetry brothel is where we usually are
The carols of our bodies are designed to please
We dance alot (good sex is always a possibility)
You jump up from the table and start to shake it
Maybe later you write “All is well. I have a home.”

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Le Bain Turc, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1862

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Cyril Wong Poem

Excerpts from Satori Blues


What fails to be reined in
pushes out, freezes, breaks off—crashes.
No telling who might place a chunk
in their mouth. (Who wouldn’t pay to watch them
taste it?) Some protrusions merge with air, but
not before melting a little, flowing everywhere
within the self, hardening in places it never
meant to make a home.


Fields of emptiness between the wild arc
of electrons and every atom—a vacuum not
nothing after all, but the purest form
of something like compulsion that fixes
us into being, stopping the self from
coming, no, flying everywhere apart.


What we talk about when we talk about loss
are the catastrophes: walls collapsing
and the terrible flood. What we forget is what
we fail to detect: the line opening like an eye
from one end of a dam to another;
a startled look and the averted vision
at a wrong word at yet another wrong time.
Loss is an ever-growing thing. The same
is true of how we win.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Xánath Caraza Poem

Que la poesía

Que la poesía se vuelva lluvia
Que moje todos los techos
Inunde las charcas vacías
Y reviva los renacuajos secos

Que la poesía se convierta en viento
Que ulule entre los árboles,
Choque en las ventanas rotas
Y viaje por toda la tierra

Que la poesía se haga relámpago
Fulmine pensamientos cuadrados
Llenándolos de círculos
Y amarillas ondas floreadas

Que la poesía se ponga color verde
Que cubra la tierra
Se enrede en los patios y
Las flores blancas se hagan poemas

Que la poesía se haga granizo
Que golpee mi cuerpo,
Me dé frío y absorba
Cada sílaba incompleta

Que la poesía se torne en fuego
Que devore las casas,
Las llene, recorra los muebles y
Queme la indiferencia

Que la poesía se vuelva rayo
De luna para que por las noches
Nade entre aguas oscuras
Alumbrada por ella

Que la poesía se haga tornado
Se lleve la apatía
Despierte del letargo
A poetas despistados

Que la poesía se transforme
En agua de rosas
Y apague ese fuego
Que llevo dentro

(Granada, Andalucía, España, verano de 2012)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

POEM: "Almost A Postcard"

Almost A Postcard

Where aggression rules
big city men push ahead

bravado is what fuels them
the little people are astounded

the country girls are moving
suzhi suzhi look at her hands

babies are sold in the provinces
big protests in the north-west

sunrise is a gentle promise
everyday comes the river tide

the terror of one child failing
30,000 fingers lost in a year

the hard city can protect us
the way cars protect bicycles

the small collapses into big
the sun sets fast into the sea

(tongues ever spoke like eyes
everyone would be undone)

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Friday, June 6, 2014

POEM: "The Fool's Vernacular"

The Fool's Vernacular

We might find this evidence for ourselves
If there should ever be galaxies without stars
Preemptive pockets with only dark matter
And would you sigh for the big long press of it
To think for a time around the infinite clouds
And consider who or what had it plundered?

Anti-matter, anti-meaning, irrecoverable
Knowing where or why you’re not, in parallel
Multiverses bubbling like busted washing machines
Sure, you’ll be missing that, and the laundry too
Eleven different dimensions, but you’re dreaming
If you think any dark matter will be missing you

There was a time string theory was the theory of string
When you pulled hard it almost stretched the distance
Hell, we know everything complains it's being pulled
A million light-years later radio telescopes still stretch
Deep theories of empty space, of yours, of hers, of mine
Dark energies indeed, when we’re in a dark time alone

Poetry provokes what science takes time proving

In the aberrant darkness of our star-lit days, when
Poor buggers scan the moonlight for enough light to see
The thought keeps dropping on us like parallel coconuts
After we read about it and talk about it and write about it
Yes, it was always pretty much like we suspected.

© 2005/2014 Rob Schackne

Monday, June 2, 2014

POEM: "There She Goes"

There She Goes

                               …chasing down my lane…
                                        The La’s (1988)

Concrete falls on the street
her heel catches rocks a boat
the weather looks very foreign
her ass sways rides a swell
our eyes meet two little smiles
seems we both take a breath
maybe it's the real red thread
2 people hold draw ever closer
(alley cats sit up take notice
umbrella birds all go quiet)
she floats a moment she shines
then goes like she always goes
& into the abyss like rain goes
nothing mentioned comes back.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, June 1, 2014

MUSIC: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Ahem. My soulful nephew Sam Holt (trumpet) is in Europe now on tour with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Here's their May 19th show at that great place, AB - Ancienne Belgique, in Brussels. Watching this, I wish we'd both been there.

(Sure I learn things the hard way too.)