Thursday, July 31, 2014

POEM: "Everyday in the same lane..."

"Everyday in the same lane..."

Everyday in the same lane 
a clock tower on legs in summer 
getting slower a little bit older
balding fast beginning to talk
back to his two-year-old self
I can’t make out what he says 
every form is dissimilar, lame
on the left side, the line is wrong
and to the right, very hard to protect
(we were on that face for 3 bloody days)
he looks awfully close and I nod
and he nods I tell myself I don't 
really know what it is he sees.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Rui Xiao Poem (1)

A Night In Moscow

The delicious writing night
A glass bowl of cherries
The vodka apple juice
An outsider in the supermarkets
And on my way to St. Petersburg

All the forests and the lakes
I was flying to the end of the world
To know the edges of the land and sea
This is a high fence of language
That stands between us now

Me, always in some orbit
Like a pet bird, free for awhile
I see the limits of time and space
And yes freedom is very delicious
This was only one night in Moscow.

(2014) Tr. 2014

A Rui Xiao Poem (2)

A Song for Changyu, My Niece

The garden you’ll play in is ready
A bamboo awning stretched across
We made you a little wooden stool
We’ll sing your name in the rain

The vines have sprouted
There are ten strawberries
All facing the gentle sun
(How long you’ve had to wait)

Fish are sleeping in their tank
The sun lives in the glasshouse
Your clothes have long been made
Your blanket has been woven

Open your eyes on a warm rainy day
To see the phoenix flower
To see sunflowers smile
Baby, you’ll sing in the rain

We’ll call your little pig Stephen
Call you Changyu
Call you Baby

Now we’re in separated worlds
But here is a paper door
Where we wait for you
Baby, you’ll sing in the rain

Your time has come
To be our baby
Open your eyes
Do not be afraid

Happiness or suffering
Baby you can't choose
We must learn how to love

Roofs are baked white by the sun
This world agrees to have you
As long as you think you want it
Hold the giant world like a toy

Baby, you’ll sing in the rain.

(1995/6) Tr.

A Rui Xiao Poem (3)

Drinking Songs

Let me propose a toast
To the blue bays of Finland in the sun
Let me propose a toast
To other shores far away in the Baltic Sea

Let me propose a toast
To the great Pushkin
And to the great Dostoyevsky
Who both belong to the world

To the elves in St. Petersburg
And to all the great hearts of Russia

Let me propose a toast
To my own beautiful lost youth
When I read Pushkin and Lermontov

Let me propose a toast
To galloping on the ocean with Bacchus
Orgiastic winds of spring and summer
In a riot of want

Let me propose a toast
To my heart in amber

Which beats on the Neva
That rushes out to the Baltic Sea

Let me propose a toast
To the blue sea and sky
In my champagne glass
Glittering and translucent

Let me propose a toast
To liberation from all impurities
As I drink the golden sunlight

Come on, hear me
God of lonely rivers
King of Russia’s ocean
Let me be drunk and sleep alone
Let me drift away tonight
On the flow of time

(2014) Tr. 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Ruben Quesada Poem


              (After Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii)

There was a time when giants ruled the earth
and women were gods, too. But here in this moment
of mortality who, woman, will hold back your heart
from the imminent cliffs of grief? You cry out instead
of speaking, and if you were allowed you’d take the oath
and follow your husband, guard him against the wretched
spell of death like a shadow of black silk unraveling,
like a permanent shadow forged onto the ground
after an atomic blast, your arms outstretched;
in the background a curtain surrenders in the wind.
Beloved woman, twisted with torment
your spinning head cries like a god out of control:
Be brief! Let the weight of your serrated edges
cut this sorrow out of me.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

MUSIC: Weird Al's "Tacky" (2014)

Equal-time rule. Weird Al gives us real tacky. Right. "Bring me shame, I never know why, I'm probably tacky too". OK. But wait a sec... What if he means me?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

POEM: "This Wheel"

This Wheel

These dinosaur rivers
the wheels of chariots
the so-called joy of angels

leaving on a marvellous spree
hammerhead & inside loop
(the details aren't important)

if my memory serves me well
the devils hide in the crannies
where the angels get short sticks
meanwhile by the riverside I sit
arms-length & long spoons divided
supping with a band of demons
looks like the wind is picking up
dark clouds now are sailing past
the spokes have turned inward
don’t know how long this will last.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

POEM: "A Thousand"

A Thousand

I hardly knew how to begin this poem:

I was a young sausage in a butcher shop
Just a little lamb chop lightly seasoned

Disembodiment to be expected
Sure she handled me like meat

Now I’m old enough to get that look
When I show a pretty thing my look

Maybe I should stop the drooling now
Funny a thousand fucks come to this

It'll happen to you, so pay attention.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

MUSIC: Johnny Winter at Woodstock 1969 / "Highway 61 Revisited" (Revisited)

Some drivin' Texas blues by the late great Johnny Winter. Listen hard you can hear Lightnin' Hopkins. Listen a little bit harder you might even hear you & me. (We all live right close to Highway 61.) Since the blues ain't never gonna end, his fine work will be revisited for a very long time. Brother Johnny. RIP.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Rigoberto González Poem

Other Fugitives and Other Strangers

The nightclub's neon light glows red with anxiety
as I wait on the turning lane. Cars blur past,
their headlights white as charcoal.
I trust each driver not to swerve. I trust each stranger
not to kill me and let me cross
the shadow of his smoky path.
Trust is all I have for patrons at the bar:
one man offers me a line, one man buys the kamikaze,
another drinks it. Yet another wraps his arm
around my waist. I trust him not to harm my body
as much as he expects his body to remain unharmed.
One man asks me to the dance floor, one asks me
to a second drink, another asks me home.
I dance, I drink, I follow.
I can trust a man without clothes.
Naked he conceals no weapons, no threat
but the blood in his erection. His bed unfamiliar,
only temporarily. Pillows without loyalty
absorb the weight of any man, betray
the scent of the men who came before.
I trust a stranger's tongue to tell me
nothing valuable. It makes no promises
of truth or lies, it doesn't swear commitments.
The stranger's hands take their time exploring.
Undisguised, they do not turn to claws or pretend
artistic skill to draw configurations on my flesh. They
are only human hands with fingertips
unsentimental with discoveries, without nostalgia
for what they leave behind. I trust this stranger
not to stay inside me once he enters me.
I trust him to release me from the blame
of pleasure. The pain I exit with no greater
than the loneliness that takes me to the bar.
He says good night, I give him back
those words, taking nothing with me that is his.
The front door shuts behind me, the gravel
driveway ushers me away. The rearview mirror
loses sight of threshold, house, sidewalk, street.
Driving by the nightclub I pass a car
impatient on the turning lane. My hands are cold
and itch to swerve the wheel, to brand
his fender with the fury of my headlights.
But I let this stranger live

to struggle through the heat and sweat
of false affections, anonymous and
borrowed like the glass that washed my prints
to hold another patron's drink.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Richard Garcia Poem

Mozart's Concerto for Glass Harmonica

There you are, at the gate of the memory palace
underneath the rusted teeth of the portcullis,
your hand raised in a puzzling gesture—
is it farewell, come here, get back, no blame,
or are you just trying to hitch a ride? But I've seen
that gesture when you sleep, as if you were saying
to someone, on the one hand . . . on the other hand.
Here is a memory to store in the palace—
You and I at the circus. The arena is dark
except for one blue spotlight. In it, a clown
stands before a table. On the table an array,
crystal wine glasses filled with different levels
of water. He's dressed in white with a conical hat,
tear marks on one cheek. With a wet finger,
he plays music that was once forbidden
because it made musicians lose their minds.
There is a blank look in his eyes and he performs
perfectly, as if he were a mechanical clown.
Now look up, the lady on the trapeze
is dropping large blue crepe-paper flowers.
Maybe the palace is the size of a dollhouse
and my eye at the window is the eye of a giant.
Maybe the palace is in my chest and my heart
is beating too loud inside. I remember
when I woke but was still asleep and saw
my chest rising and falling on its own
and then I accidentally rolled out of my body
and there were two of me lying side by side.
In an alcove shaped like a scallop shell I've placed
a list of the way lovers have said goodbye.
Developer fluid heated up, passed off
as consommé, is a standout. As is GOODBYE
written in shaving cream on the dusty windows
of a row of abandoned cars in Baja. Just as I begin
to suspect what is wrong with this picture
I notice how lightly you step over the grillwork
of the oubliette, that terrible lace under which
men are forgotten. You raise your hand again
and now I understand that gesture—
it's how you erase the distant mountains,
the palace, the sky, everything.


Friday, July 18, 2014

POEM: "Reading A Letter of Bukowski's"

Reading A Letter of Bukowski's

This letter spells it out:
Fear makes us eat shit.
Not a happy image.
But it explains
why you needed those
twenty-five jobs to retire early
and thrive as a beach bum.

Or a builder.
Or a bartender. 
Or a barfly poet.
Or an English teacher 
living on the foreign edge where 
they only understand 40% 
of what you're saying.
They tried to murder me.
Your days are different now.
You write about the perfect moments.
Near the airport
your calico cat smirks
under the flightpath.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Garcilaso de la Vega Poem

"When I Stop To Consider..."

Cuando me paro a contemplar mi estado
y a ver los pasos por do me han traído,
hallo, según por do anduve, perdido,
que la mayor mal pudiera haber llegado;

mas cuando del camino estó olvidado,
a tanto mal no sé por dó he venido;
sé que me acabo, y más he yo sentido
ver acabar conmigo mi cuidado.

Yo acabaré, que me entregué sin arte
a quien sabrá perderme y acabarme
si quisiere, y aún sabrá querello;

que, pues mi voluntad puede matarme,
la suya, que no es tanto de mi parte,
pudiendo, ¿qué hará sino hacello?


Monday, July 14, 2014

Little Bit 4th Wall, A Little Bit Aside 14/7/14

Constant Reader, 4 years on, it occurs to me that the ordering of these poems bears far too much relation to the material world, what with the one thing always being stuck behind the other, even while another one, possibly better, keeps nagging for a spot. I don't blame you for being antsy. (But I'm grateful that you haven't mentioned this.) Once again, thanks very much for coming here to read these little poems. They come at random. And when they're scattered like this, we all go together into the lucky dip to determine what any of it has to do with us.

A Pierre Martory Poem


You let your shirt hang down
putting on airs of cuffs
at the edge of ending night
like the end of a java with double ritournelles
or the way the canaries in the cage of still-closed mornings
were singing that it mattered little
to them that their windows were open
the stones the paving stones the door-frames the armatures
the window-frames the sheets of the bed clothes in their colors
were beating the dawn along with us
better drums than your belly
better drumsticks than my fingers
and the trees and the roofs the river and its bridges
the clear distances of the city the factories without smoke
bathed as at their birth stammered
a trial hello
that only ended however
in this word round as a doubloon
placed on the edge of that day
by a considerate friend
the sun on your arms naked against my cheeks
hello I said to you
the day of quatorz'juillet

(1961) trans. John Ashbery

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Ben Jonson Poem

On My First Son

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy.
Seven years tho' wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O, could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon 'scap'd world's and flesh's rage,
And if no other misery, yet age?
Rest in soft peace, and, ask'd, say, "Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry."
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such,
As what he loves may never like too much.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

POEM: "After A Lifetime Spurning Science"

After A Lifetime Spurning Science

Maybe the penny drops a little
faster than the tar pitch drip
70 years at the one experiment
white coats, cigarettes, cameras
the viscosity has been vicious
said a scientist (name withheld)
the tension killed many of us
meanwhile comes another one
slower than ideal, slower than
the time it takes this all to fall
between two people, a lifetime
to drop that distance, how slow
it needs a moment to be formed
(the glance, the touch, the kiss)
tonight about this tar pitch.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

MUSIC: John Legend, "You & I (Nobody in the World)" & "All Of Me" (2013)

Go on. Have a listen. Don't be such a miserable bastard. Have a heart.

Friday, July 11, 2014

POEM: "Drones"

                   "War is boring, we do it so you don't have to."

Do drones drink beer at 
the consoles and fall sleep
dream of the other games 
they'd rather be good at
ticker-tape parades when 
you come back successful
spin the wheels on a Chevy
Bel Air and bounce with joy
like that pretty girl sitting
across the table looking likely
is there a drone policy for you
do some sorties get messed up
talk to me a minute about 
your training for this job.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A John Poch Poem

Liquid Italy

                     If you don’t drink wine, God won’t give you water.

The summer the Bolognesi went crazy
for the spritz with orange Aperol,
I stuck to chilled and sweating Prosecco
though switched to Sangiovese
and later couldn’t refuse a little red fizzy
(one tries to stay hydrated)
in a second floor flat in Casalecchio
where we three poets had been invited
for a full-blown home-cooked supper
by Mina, Italian grandmother,
who had been warming up the apartment
all day, and what I got to compliment
that perfect 100 degree heat we wallowed in,
Fahrenheit our God, water the religion,
and our Italian host seeming nearly heroic
when she brought it iceless, stoic,
to us seated at the table next to the little kitchen
with the big stove where water boiled, rabid
for the fettuccini while a ragu of wild rabbit
simmered, and only one window of three
was open but no breeze graced us anyway
so our shirts hung like wet laundry
the Italians hang out their windows
(Oh, if someone could have only
hung me out a window), what I got
was a wild boar tortellini
drowned in a salty chicken broth
for starters and then the steaming fettuccine
and saltless bread to soak up the last of the sauce,
and when the gelato finally came
even that added fat to the heat and warmed
our tongues with vanilla liqueur and cream
so thick no ice crystal could hope to form,
of course with grappa and nocino following it all,
and/or limoncello (who could recall?)
thinking the burn up our nasal passages
and down our throats might distract us
while the golden hillside wheatfields drying
bleached under the last of the purifying
Emilia-Romagna sun declining
by, we prayed, degrees
that evening, and the figs in the trees
and the grapes green and waxing clearer
were just beginning to fatten at the height
of summer on the longest day of the year.


MUSIC: Anya Marina, "High On The Ceiling" (2011)

A fine track by an artist even you might not know. Recommended for when you're ready to drop from the ceiling. Also recommended for when you're not. Enjoy.

Monday, July 7, 2014

MUSIC: Jens Lekman, NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert (2011)

Jens Martin Lekman was born 33 years ago in Angered, Sweden. 
(He is not now (and never was) any singer named Blind Dennis.)

POEM: "Talk Talk"

Talk Talk

Fake monks all talk talk 
fake dreams on the street
soteriology is a foreign word
fake talking nearly everything
up the big stack of the world
every night hear the screams 
loud enough for gorillaland
tired men say all women want them
tired women just say it's all talk talk
air quality readings moderate today
the week’s reading list see teacher
don’t come to me all moaning 
talk talk they can’t feel love
fake monks talk anger all talk
how they all got here talk talk.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Lynn Emanuel Poem

Frying Trout While Drunk

Mother is drinking to forget a man
who could fill the woods with invitations:
come with me he whispered and she went
in his Nash Rambler, its dash
where her knees turned green
in the radium dials of the 50's.
When I drink it is always 1953,
bacon wilting in the pan on Cook Street
and mother, wrist deep in red water,
laying a trail from the sink
to a glass of gin and back.
She is a beautiful, unlucky woman
in love with a man of lechery so solid
you could build a table on it
and when you did the blues would come to visit.
I remember all of us awkwardly at dinner,
the dark slung across the porch,
and then mother's dress falling to the floor,
buttons ticking like seeds spit on a plate.
When I drink I am too much like her—
the knife in one hand and the trout
with a belly white as my wrist.
I have loved you all my life
she told him and it was true
in the same way that all her life
she drank, dedicated to the act itself,
she stood at this stove
and with the care of the very drunk
handed him the plate.


Friday, July 4, 2014

An Elizabeth Alexander Poem

Praise Song for the Day

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

POEM: "Illuminatus"


A natural darkness
one by one the flashes
swallowed up by dark

trillions of light globes
see them all burnt out 

black intent bad dreams 
miss abyss depression
nothing to know besides

the lights that say ghost 
the whole compassion of
small things needs adjusting. 

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

POEM: "From A Tired News Agent"

From A Tired News Agent

How does the news improve your day?
Let me count the ways. The sun rises at 6:05.
Killing Myanmar. Killing Ukraine. My great-grandson
Graduates from university with an accounting degree.
I've been reading crime for 60 years. It's not journalism.
There is corruption in high places. Pretty girls are sexy.
The world grows warmer. People grow more vicious.
Poisoned watermelons. Record monsters caught in the deep.
Worse than it's ever been. Better than it's ever been.
You're as smart as they let you be. My faded eyesight
Has turned inward. I read the furrows on every brow.

The cars are double-parked. Everyone piles out.
There's no reason for the changes to be worse.
I don't know why you're reading this.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

POEM: "These Defended"

These Defended

                                ...and saved the sum of things for pay
                                     A.E. Housman (1914)

Restless, not knowing, we turn away
From what we are convinced is not real

Anguished, angry, wailing, taking the lie
To bed with us, wake and tell no one

Keep no blanket, save none from burning
Brook no curiosity about what set this fire

We are iced. We cannot stop this shivering
Every night we need remember how to sleep

All spirits, does every dream have to stop?
The times can’t be sustained. We mustn’t hope

It won’t do to suffer a reckless childhood
Suffer the enemy, this battle, our selves

Keeping a book, open up her look again
Mindful of your post, aghast, that memory

Reversed, humbled, change is awkward
Falling to the mud. Miracle, day brings sun

Rubs our eyes with the eyes of some other
Sees the next second’s flash of thunder.

© 2014 Rob Schackne