Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Richard Blanco Poem



América

I.

Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half a dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

II.


There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year's Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day—pork,
fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips, and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio's Mercado on the corner of Eighth Street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—"Ese hijo de puta!"
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another's lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

III.

By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parent's didn't.
We didn't live in a two-story house
with a maid or a wood-panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on the Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke's family wasn't like us either—
they didn't have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn't have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

IV.

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain's majesty,
"one if by land, two if by sea,"
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the "masses yearning to be free,"
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

V.


Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamá set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolas,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworth's.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
"DRY," Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—"esa mierda roja," he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.


(1998)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Jennifer Michael Hecht Poem (1)



Funny Strange


We are tender and our lives are sweet

and they are already over and we are
visiting them in some kind of endless
reprieve from oblivion, we are walking
around in them and after we shatter
with love for everything we settle in.

Thou tiger on television chowing,
thou very fact of dreams, thou majestical
roof fretted with golden fire. Thou wisdom
of the inner parts. Thou tintinnabulation.

Is it not sweet to hand over the ocean's
harvest in a single wave of fish? To bounce
a vineyard of grapes from one's apron
and into the mouth of the crowd? To scoop up
bread and offer up one's armful to the throng?
Let us live as if we were still among

the living, let our days be patterned after
theirs. Is it not marvelous to be forgetful?



(2003)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

POEM: "Private Man One Evening At The Club"



Private Man One Evening At The Club
                                      
                                 “The final value of action is, that it is a resource.” 
                                            Ralph Waldo Emerson

The mist gathers in advance of the storm
Nature is closing down. Things go quiet
Rain begins. The soul has found its resource
Two little bugs bouncing on the high seas
In the cup on the hard 14th hole. Which part 
Of the strange universe is part of this world
"Let nothing disturb you. Patience gains all things."
Draw the golden curtains. Ring up room service
Take a shower. Get shampoo in both my eyes
Lobster à la fanculo. Bananas aux pommes frites
Sweet sparkling wine. Forget being empty
Remember a story about Saint Teresa de Ávila
Slip out of the perfect bath. Fall heavily on my hip
Limp to the telephone. Lightning shock.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

MUSIC: Jimmy Ruffin, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" (1965)




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQU4sIn96M4&list=RDUQU4sIn96M4#t=0

You're right. "The song had the kind of words one can feel." As you sang it for the millions who have walked home, on nights too dark to see, asking the question. And for the millions who got their answers. RIP.

Monday, November 17, 2014

POEM: "A True And Fitting Thing"



A True And Fitting Thing


I once hooked up with a contortionist
Whacko, she was extended twenty-six
With legs that almost reached her middle
She cuddled my days and bent my nights
Each small woe bridged and stretched us over

(Ah, you don’t believe how well heaven fits)
We rolled from that one here to this one there
Unbelievable when the circus moved to applaud
May to December, well it was crazy as a bucket
A little bit wonderful, well it was way out of hand
And the old sea sighed when it thought for a while
Something in nature stirred, and then it stopped
A limb wobbled, a joint detached that shouldn’t have
The birds went still, not one would leave the nest

(What's true, Lord knows what we invested in)
There was a quick rescheduling of itineraries
But if to leave is only to run a little faster then
It's a true and fitting thing at the end of day
I gave up almost all her tricks, she got away
I doubt that I shall care so much again.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Bill Knott Poem



The Consolations of Sociobiology
                                                             
                                         (to JK)

Those scars rooted me. Stigmata stalagmite
I sat at a drive-in and watched the stars
Through a straw while the Coke in my lap went
Waterier and waterier. For days on end or

Nights no end I crawled on all fours or in
My case no fours to worship you: Amoeba Behemoth.
—Then you explained your DNA calls for
Meaner genes than mine and since you are merely

So to speak its external expression etcet
Ergo among your lovers I’ll never be ...
Ah that movie was so faraway the stars melting

Made my thighs icy. I see: it’s not you
Who is not requiting me, it’s something in you
Over which you have no say says no to me.


(1983)

A Bill Knott Poem (2)

Weltende Variation #I

                                 (homage Jacob van Hoddis)

The CIA and the KGB exchange Christmas cards
A blade snaps in two during an autopsy
The bouquet Bluebeard gave his first date reblooms
Many protest the public stoning of a guitar pick

Railroad trains drop off the bourgeois’ pointy head
A martyr sticks a coffeecup out under a firehose
Moviestars make hyenas lick their spaceship
God’s hand descends into a glove held steady by the police

At their reunion The New Faces recognize each other
A spoiled child sleeps inside a thermometer
A single misprint in a survival manual kills everyone
The peace night makes according to the world comes


(1989)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Ben Belitt Poem



Veteran's Day


Bringing “only what is needed—essential
toilet articles” in a paper bag,
dressed as for dying, one sees the dying plainly.
These are the homecomings of Agamemnon,
the odysseys to the underside of the web
that weaves and unweaves while the suitors gorge upon plenty
and the languishing sons at home unwish their warring
fathers with strong electric fingers.

                                                                       The fathers are failing.

In the Hospital Exchange, one sees the dying plainly:
color televisions, beach towels, automatic razors—
the hardware of the affluent society marked
down to cost, to match the negative afflatus
of the ailing, the bandages and badges of their status.
Under the sandbags, rubber hoses, pipettes, bed-clamps,
tax-exempt, amenable as rabbits,
the unenlisted men are bleeding through their noses
in a perimeter of ramps and apparatus.

In that prosthetic world, the Solarium
lights up a junk-pile of used parts: the hip that caught
a ricochet of shrapnel; tattoos in curing meats;
scars like fizzled fuses; canceled postage stamps;
automated claws in candy; the Laser’s edge; and barium.
The nurses pass like mowers, dressing and
undressing in the razor-sharp incisions
and the flowering phosphorescence. The smell
of rubbing alcohol rises on desertions and deprivals
and divorces. It is incorruptible. A wheelchair aims
its hospital pajamas like a gun-emplacement.

The amputee is swinging in his aviary.
His fingers walk the bird-bars.

                                                                        There is singing
from the ward room—a buzzing of transistors
like blueflies in a urinal. War over war,
the expendables of Metz and Chateau-Thierry,
the guerillas of Bien Hoa and Korea,
the draftees, the Reserves, the re-enlisters,
open a common wavelength.
                                                          The catatonic
sons are revving up their combos in the era
of the angry adolescent. Their cry is electronic.
Their thumbs are armed with picks. The acid-rock guitarist
in metal studs and chevrons, bombed with magnesium,
mourns like a country yokel, and the innocents
are slaughtered.

                            On the terrace, there are juices
and bananas. The convalescent listens to his
heartbeat. The chaplain and his non-combative daughter
smile by the clubbed plants on the portico.

                                                                “They shall overcome.”

(1970)

Monday, November 10, 2014

POEM: "To My Brother Jack"



To My Brother Jack


Passing time, several jars with you
In a public bar with bashful service
The hours fix the world with glue


Watching glasses fracture as we see
Dead end on that path of solution
Flat lines, the end of our capacity


Lead on past our dreams, behold
By this deaf of night, duplications
& why we march in darkness, cold.


© 2012 Rob Schackne

Sunday, November 9, 2014

POEM: "Idle Thoughts On A Sunday"



Idle Thoughts On A Sunday

                                               for Chris Harvey

Screaming children run from their souls
their voices pitch them ever closer to hell
(the misfortune to be born too soon too late)
though if they were lost we couldn't be having
this conversation you & me here like this
subway demons are exorcised by the wind
the screech of brakes the lucky fireworks
in this incomplete disguise of indifference
we sit on long benches and count the stops
(we were never lost or we'd not be talking now)
yes it's true we're too slow to flee our souls
and true that conversation advances knowledge
and while misfortune will go running to distraction
though we count the stops we're never lost
(it's my stop here I must get off)



© 2014 Rob Schackne

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Jane Hirshfield Poem



Like the Small Hole by the Path-Side Something Lives in


Like the small hole by the path-side something lives in,
in me are lives I do not know the names of,

nor the fates of,
nor the hungers of or what they eat.

They eat of me.
Of small and blemished apples in low fields of me
whose rocky streams and droughts I do not drink.

And in my streets—the narrow ones,
unlabeled on the self-map—
they follow stairs down music ears can’t follow,

and in my tongue borrowed by darkness,
in hours uncounted by the self-clock,
they speak in restless syllables of other losses, other loves.

There too have been the hard extinctions,
missing birds once feasted on and feasting.

There too must be machines
like loud ideas with tungsten bits that grind the day.

A few escape. A mercy.

They leave behind
small holes that something unweighed by the self-scale lives in.


(2012)

Friday, November 7, 2014

POEM: "A Soldier's Cough"



A Soldier’s Cough


Head feels like a drum when it’s scratched
Left ear still sore after a blow 25 years ago

A throat that lost its whisper song and shout
A lonely whisker creeps to just below the eye
The neck that shook the bridge for days is weak
The old chest looks full but the heart is hollow
Comrades tell me that vitamins will put it right
(Pity the right side doesn’t quite match the left)
Broken leg the pelvis spine back knees and feet
Sore from a million steps in the wrong direction
The cough that alerts the dog who begins to bark
The doctors say there will be no more fighting
I climb the stairs to my apartment every day
Grateful my spectacles still see you waving
While you hang the wind in your white clothes.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Thursday, November 6, 2014

PHOTO: Tom Jenkins (2014)



Not really a photograph as much as a painting. If I was as good as this, I'd leave the writing game for a while and go play alto sax late nights in a basement jazz club.

photo: Tom Jenkins

Monday, November 3, 2014

PIECES: Sheila Melvin, "Two or Three Things about Mr. Lu Xun" (2014); Pankaj Mishra, "The Western Model Is Broken" (2014)



Ms Melvin's fine piece goes into my Abiding Admiration for Lu Xun file. Mr Pankaj Mishra as usual turns an intelligent screw. He might even be channelling Lu Xun. Below is an old thing of mine, small (and certainly out of breath) in such company.

http://english.caixin.com/2014-10-31/100745459.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/14/-sp-western-model-broken-pankaj-mishra?CMP=fb_gu

........................................

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

Saturday, November 1, 2014

MUSIC: The Grateful Dead, "Touch of Grey" (1987)





It must be getting early
Clocks are running late
Paint by numbers morning sky
Looks so phony


Dawn is breaking everywhere

Light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains, I don't care
'Cause it's alright