Saturday, February 28, 2015

A George Mackay Brown Poem

The Old Women

Go sad or sweet or riotous with beer
Past the old women gossiping by the hour,
They'll fix on you from every close and pier
An acid look to make your veins run sour.

'No help', they say, 'his grandfather that's dead
Was troubled with the same dry-throated curse,
And many a night he made the ditch his bed.
This blood comes welling from the same cracked source.'

On every kind of merriment they frown.
But I have known a gray-eyed sober boy
Sail to the lobsters in a storm and drown.
Over his body dripping on the stones
Those same old hags would weave into their moans
An undersong of terrible holy joy.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Vasiliki Katsarou Poem

Pier At Cannes

seen at a film (fish)
marketacross the bay, a string of lights

never thought she’d find herself

in an Antonioni film

yet here she is and so is he—
mere witnesses to an abstraction

the dark sea and dark sky meet somewhere

                                          she thinks,
              directing herself to find a gesture
as apt as this moment

he stares back
in irreflection

The sea and sky may kiss at the horizon
Why not we?

                                         She turns
a cartwheel instead
                                         to approach him
and yet remain distant

absurdity strikes
at the very heart

of the proposition

What a child, an American!

He is of course a French polygamist
with several children by several wives in farmhouses
scattered about the French countryside

so fated to act out

two wholly different scripts,

he says

                                Un écrivain a dit…
                                [A writer once said]

là où toutes les eaux se mèlent, là où il y a un delta—
[Where all the waters come together, at the mouth]

la merde l’a créé.
[shit created it.]

But what about beauty

she wonders too late
                                   doesn’t beauty equal love?

she wanders too late
the sky darkens further

                                  La bêtise
is his reply

from the edge
of that shore
they part


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Jane Hirshfield Poem (2)

A Person Protests To Fate

A person protests to fate:

“The things you have caused
me most to want
are those that furthest elude me.”

Fate nods.
Fate is sympathetic.

To tie the shoes, button a shirt,
are triumphs
for only the very young,
the very old.

During the long middle:

conjugating a rivet
mastering tango
training the cat to stay off the table
preserving a single moment longer than this one
continuing to wake whatever has happened the day before

and the penmanships love practices inside the body.


Friday, February 20, 2015

A Seamus Heaney Poem


I returned to a long strand,
the hammered curve of a bay,
and found only the secular
powers of the Atlantic thundering.

I faced the unmagical
invitations of Iceland,
the pathetic colonies
of Greenland, and suddenly

those fabulous raiders,
those lying in Orkney and Dublin
measured against
their long swords rusting,

those in the solid
belly of stone ships,
those hacked and glinting
in the gravel of thawed streams

were ocean-deafened voices
warning me, lifted again
in violence and epiphany.
The longship’s swimming tongue

was buoyant with hindsight—
it said Thor’s hammer swung
to geography and trade,
thick-witted couplings and revenges,

the hatreds and behind-backs
of the althing, lies and women,
exhaustions nominated peace,
memory incubating the spilled blood.

It said, ‘Lie down
in the word-hoard, burrow
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.

Compose in darkness.
Expect aurora borealis
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.

Keep your eye clear
as the bleb of the icicle,
trust the feel of what nubbed treasure
your hands have known.’


Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Philip Levine Poem (2)

Our Valley

We don’t see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn’t your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.


Monday, February 9, 2015

POEM: "Raiments"


Unrequited clothing sounds silly.
I wish I wore her memory as well

As I still wear the knitted clothes
She once made for me. Comfortable

In the extreme, that fit me perfectly.
Had them for years. Anyway at this rate

They’ll outlast me. The shell cast away,
The cosmic sea, then where will they be?

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Sunday, February 8, 2015

An Emily Dickinson Poem (4)

774. "It is a lonesome Glee"

It is a lonesome Glee —
Yet sanctifies the Mind —
With fair association —
Afar upon the Wind

A Bird to overhear
Delight without a Cause —
Arrestless as invisible —
A matter of the Skies.

(ca. 1863)

Friday, February 6, 2015

BOOK COVERS: "Reading The OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages" (2009)

He remembers that as a boy he frequently had his nose in either The Times Atlas of the World or The Oxford English Dictionary. (A solace in taxonomy? Sure, he was a strange child.) Come to think of it though, whether language can hold sufficient territory, or whether any such loci are even defensible today, largely explains what this different fellow is still searching for.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A D.H. Lawrence Poem (2)


And who has seen the moon, who has not seen
Her rise from out the chamber of the deep,
Flushed and grand and naked, as from the chamber
Of finished bridegroom, seen her rise and throw
Confession of delight upon the wave,
Littering the waves with her own superscription
Of bliss, till all her lambent beauty shakes towards us
Spread out and known at last, and we are sure
That beauty is a thing beyond the grave,
That perfect, bright experience never falls
To nothingness, and time will dim the moon
Sooner than our full consummation here
In this odd life will tarnish or pass away.


Monday, February 2, 2015

A Rosemary Nissen-Wade Poem (3)


They are all
dead, my husbands, so now I can choose.
Tonight for the Asian Cup
it's Bill I invite
to come watch.

As we did
a long time ago,
late nights with the kids in bed.
'How good is that goalie?' I say now —
then we score.

A tense game,
the Socceroos against Korea,
tied at the last minute
so now we're into
extra time.

It's almost
as good as that match
when underdog Sunderland
won the FA Cup ('73).

Like old times,
my soccer-loving second husband
sitting with me here tonight,
barracking with me.
Like old mates.

Countdown's on —
Queensland election —
right now I don't even care.
We get past that goalie one more time,
and we've won!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

POEM: "On Paul Celan"

On Paul Celan

                               to R.S.

For so long thought
merely a poet of pain
usurped by his exile
so much of memory
escape and near-escape
(and he was right)
the Seine took him
and delivered him to the sea

© 2015 Rob Schackne