Monday, March 30, 2015

A Joanna Klink Poem

Some Feel Rain

Some feel rain. Some feel the beetle startle
in its ghost-part when the bark
slips. Some feel musk. Asleep against
each other in the whiskey dark, scarcely there.
When it falls apart, some feel the moondark air
drop its motes to the patch-thick slopes of
snow. Tiny blinkings of ice from the oak,
a boot-beat that comes and goes, the line of prayer
you can follow from the dusking wind to the snowy owl
it carries. Some feel sunlight
well up in blood-vessels below the skin
and wish there had been less to lose.
Knowing how it could have been, pale maples
drowsing like a second sleep above our temperaments.
Do I imagine there is any place so safe it can't be
snapped? Some feel the rivers shift,
blue veins through soil, as if the smokestacks were a long
dream of exhalation. The lynx lets its paws
skim the ground in snow and showers.
The wildflowers scatter in warm tints until
the second they are plucked. You can wait
to scrape the ankle-burrs, you can wait until Mercury
the early star underdraws the night and its blackest
districts. And wonder. Why others feel
through coal-thick night that deeply colored garnet
star. Why sparring and pins are all you have.
Why the earth cannot make its way towards you.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Tomas Transtromer Poem

National Insecurity

The Under Secretary leans forward and draws an X
and her ear-drops dangle like swords of Damocles.

As a mottled butterfly is invisible against the ground
so the demon merges with the opened newspaper.

A helmet worn by no one has taken power.
The mother-turtle flees flying under the water.

(1997) Tr. Robin Fulton

Saturday, March 28, 2015

2 Philip Levine Poems (3)

The Simple Truth

I bought a dollar and a half’s worth of small red
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and
Then I walked through the dried fields
on the edge of town. In the middle of June the
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light. The woman who sold me the
was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater
   and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way,
she swore, from New Jersey. “Eat, eat," she said,
   “Even if you don’t I’ll say you did.”
                                      Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and
they must be said without elegance, meter and
they must be laid on the table beside the
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for
My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in
before I went away, before he began to kill
and the two of us betray our love. Can you taste
what I’m saying? It is onions and potatoes, a
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call
in a form we have no words for, and you live in it.


A Philip Levine Poem

Call It Music

Some days I catch a rhythm, almost a song
in my own breath. I’m alone here
in Brooklyn, it’s late morning, the sky
above the St. George Hotel is clear, clear
for New York, that is. The radio is playing
Bird Flight. Parker in his California
tragic voice fifty years ago, his faltering
“Lover Man” just before he crashed into chaos.
I would guess that outside the recording studio
in Burbank the sun was high above the jacarandas,
it was late March, the worst of yesterday’s rain
had come and gone, the sky was washed. Bird
could have seen for miles if he’d looked, but what
he saw was so foreign he clenched his eyes,
shook his head, and barked like a dog—just once—
and then Howard McGhee took his arm and assured
he’d be OK. I know this because Howard told me
years later, told me he thought Bird could
lie down in the hotel room they shared, sleep
for an hour or more, and waken as himself.
The perfect sunlight angles into my little room
above Willow Street. I listen to my breath
come and go and try to catch its curious taste,
part milk, part iron, part blood, as it passes
from me into the world. This is not me,
this is automatic, this entering and exiting,
my body’s essential occupation without which
I am a thing. The whole process has a name,
a word I don’t know, an elegant word not
in English or Yiddish or Spanish, a word
that means nothing to me. Howard truly believed
what he said that day when he steered
Parker into a cab and drove the silent miles
beside him while the bright world
unfurled around them: filling stations, stands
of fruits and vegetables, a kiosk selling trinkets
from Mexico and the Philippines. It was all
so actual and Western, it was a new creation
coming into being, like the music of Charlie
someone later called “glad," though that day
I would have said silent, “the silent music
of Charlie Parker.” Howard said nothing.
He paid the driver and helped Bird up two flights
to their room, got his boots off, and went out
to let him sleep as the afternoon entered
the history of darkness. I’m not judging
Howard, he did better than I could have
now or then. Then I was nineteen, working
on the loading docks at Railway Express,
coming day by day into the damaged body
of a man while I sang into the filthy air
the Yiddish drinking songs my Zadie taught me
before his breath failed. Now Howard is gone,
eleven years gone, the sweet voice silenced.
“The subtle bridge between Eldridge and
they later wrote, all that rising passion
a footnote to others, I remember in ‘85
walking the halls of Cass Tech, the high school
where he taught after his performing days,
when suddenly he took my left hand in his
two hands to tell me it all worked out
for the best. Maybe he’d gotten religion,
maybe he knew how little time was left,
maybe that day he was just worn down
by my questions about Parker. To him Bird
was truly Charlie Parker, a man, a silent note
going out forever on the breath of genius
which now I hear soaring above my own breath
as this bright morning fades into afternoon.
Music, I’ll call it music. It’s what we need
as the sun staggers behind the low gray clouds
blowing relentlessly in from the nameless ocean,
the calm and endless one I’ve still to cross.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Carol Ann Duffy Poem


My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
as incense, votive, vanishing; you own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.

These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end of time – an unknown, unfelt loss –
unless the Resurrection of the Dead…

or I once dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

POEM: "By Charlotte At The Riverside"

By Charlotte At The Riverside

There I was again in the evening air
As though all my rivers kept flowing past
(Maybe I never left the little boat at all)
One half then, a bit now, almost half a future
At times there will be someone missing
There's no gentle hand to warm the chills

Even if the old wind carries familiar smells
Later in the autumn breeze, after tying up
My river skiff, after I get out to walk home
(Sun due to set, every tomorrow's coming)
Ghosts I speak with will have such cold breath
They say it once, they'll say it again, half-counsel
Starting, starting over means giving up so much.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Brenda Shaughnessy Poem

Head Handed

Stop belonging to me so much, face-head.
Leave me to my child and my flowers.

I can't run with you hanging on to me like that.
It's like having ten dogs on a single lead

and no talent for creatures.
No hands, no trees. Not my dogs, nobody's.

Don't you have a place to go, face-head?
Deep into the brick basement of another life?

To kill some time, I mean. That furnace
light could take a shine to you.

There are always places, none of them mine.
And always time—rainbow sugar show

of jimmies falling from ice cream's sky—
but that stuff's extra, it's never in supply.

"Never," however, acres of it. Violet beans
and sarcasm. Too many flavors of it.

All those prodigal particles,
flimsily whimsical miracles, an embarrassment

of glitches. The chorus just more us.
But nowhere bare and slippery have I

got a prayer. If I had two hands
to rub together I wouldn't waste the air.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Carl Sandburg Poem

Still Life

Cool your heels on the rail of an observation car.
Let the engineer open her up for ninety miles an hour.
Take in the prairie right and left, rolling land and new hay crops, 
    swaths of new hay laid in the sun.
A gray village flecks by and the horses hitched in front of the post-office 
    never blink an eye.
A barnyard and fifteen Holstein cows, dabs of white on a black wall 
    map, never blink an eye.
A signalman in a tower, the outpost of Kansas City, keeps his place at a 
    window with the serenity of a bronze statue on a dark night when 
    lovers pass whispering.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

MUSIC: The Cascades, "Rhythm Of The Rain" (1962)

This strange little song, perhaps the perfected model of corniness in pop music, has nevertheless given me a great deal of solace over the years. I don't know why. But maybe you'll know why.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

POEM: "A Dream"

A Dream

Yea, though I dreamt 
I was in a horrid place
Full of terrible words
I could not swim away
Steamy towers, rest in fog
And our concrete mama
Was not self-healing
Later when I woke
I fished and fished
And fished for my soul
And when I caught it
I never gave it away again.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

PHOTO: Brad Wilson, "A Barn Owl" (2015) / POEM: "Later"


Later, says the
soul. Always later.
Later than time allows.

When the owl sings
in the daytime. I could
tell you about roses.

Let me get dressed.
How the wind comes
off the sea. How the

rain comes later. 
A bottle of wine.
Let me get dressed.
A bottle of wine.
An owl weighs
more than the soul.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Thylias Moss Poem

Interpretation of a Poem by Frost

A young black girl stopped by the woods,
so young she knew only one man: Jim Crow
but she wasn’t allowed to call him Mister.
The woods were his and she respected his boundaries
even in the absence of fence.
Of course she delighted in the filling up
of his woods, she so accustomed to emptiness,
to being taken at face value.
This face, her face eternally the brown
of declining autumn, watches snow inter the grass,
cling to bark making it seem indecisive
about race preference, a fast-to-melt idealism.
With the grass covered, black and white are the only options,
polarity is the only reality; corners aren’t neutral
but are on edge.
She shakes off snow, defiance wasted
on the limited audience of horse.
The snow does not hypnotize her as it wants to,
as the blond sun does in making too many prefer daylight.
She has promises to keep,
the promise that she bear Jim no bastards,
the promise that she ride the horse only as long
as it is willing to accept riders,
the promise that she bear Jim no bastards,
the promise to her face that it not be mistaken as shadow,
and miles to go, more than the distance from Africa to Andover,
more than the distance from black to white
before she sleeps with Jim.


Friday, March 13, 2015

POEM: "Dust"


With one chance it will 
ever see bright light
the golden countryside 
is only romantic
to those who never lived 
there in winter.
Today is far from war. 
We fight every day.
Father, the best war 
happens in peace.
A daydream may get 
loose, land in a tree
fighting memory, daylight 
saved from itself
win against win, the 
clock fixed, wound back.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

painting: Luo Zhongli, "Father" (1980)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Tomas Venclova Poem

In the Lake Region

When you open the door, everything falls into place—
the little ferry by the wharf, fir trees and thujas.
An old woman, feeding ducks, seems as old as Leni
Riefenstahl. At the base of the hill, chestnut trees, not yet in full bloom,
are younger—but probably as old as her films.
All is wet and bright. A hedgehog or God-knows-whose-soul
is rummaging in last year's leaves. Dead water and living water
fill the plain. The twins Celsius and Fahrenheit
are predicting spring weather—while a shadow obscures
the past (just like the present). The first serene weeks scour the bridges
in a peaceful corner of Europe between Wannsee and Potsdam—where
much has happened, but, probably, nothing more will.
For days we have been watching a ragged crow—in the garden,
sometimes on the roof. The ancients would have said her
stubbornness augurs something. Emerging from the wood's
depths, she lights on one antenna crossbar
then another, her surface bright as mercury
in a thermometer's glass. But these are fever marks
we are incapable of understanding. The beginning of agony?
The past does not enlighten us—but still, it attempts
to say something. Perhaps the crow knows more about us
and about history's dirt than we do ourselves.
Of what does she want to remind us? Of the black photos, the black headphones
of radio operators, black signatures under documents,
of the unarmed with their frozen pupils—of the prisoner's boot or the trunk
of the refugee? Probably not. We will remember this anyway,
though it won't make us any wiser. The bird signifies only stoicism
and patience. If you ask for them, your request will be granted.

(2008) Tr. Ellen Hinsey

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

An Edgar Allan Poe Poem


Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! tho’ that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
’Twere better than the cold reality
Of waking life, to him whose heart must be,
And hath been still, upon the lovely earth,
A chaos of deep passion, from his birth.
But should it be—that dream eternally
Continuing—as dreams have been to me
In my young boyhood—should it thus be given,
’Twere folly still to hope for higher Heaven.
For I have revell’d when the sun was bright
I’ the summer sky, in dreams of living light,
And loveliness,—have left my very heart
In climes of mine imagining, apart
From mine own home, with beings that have been
Of mine own thought—what more could I have seen?
’Twas once—and only once—and the wild hour
From my remembrance shall not pass—some power
Or spell had bound me—’twas the chilly wind
Came o’er me in the night, and left behind
Its image on my spirit—or the moon
Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon
Too coldly—or the stars—howe’er it was
That dream was as that night-wind—let it pass.

I have been happy, but in a dream.
I have been happy—and I love the theme:
Dreams! in their vivid colouring of life
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality which brings
To the delirious eye, more lovely things
Of Paradise and Love—and all our own!
Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.


Monday, March 9, 2015

An Edward Thomas Poem


The last light has gone out of the world, except
This moonlight lying on the grass like frost
Beyond the brink of the tall elm’s shadow.
It is as if everything else had slept
Many an age, unforgotten and lost
The men that were, the things done, long ago,
All I have thought; and but the moon and I
Live yet and here stand idle over the grave
Where all is buried. Both have liberty
To dream what we could do if we were free
To do some thing we had desired long,
The moon and I. There’s none less free than who
Does nothing and has nothing else to do,
Being free only for what is not to his mind,
And nothing is to his mind. If every hour
Like this one passing that I have spent among
The wiser others when I have forgot
To wonder whether I was free or not,
Were piled before me, and not lost behind,
And I could take and carry them away
I should be rich; or if I had the power
To wipe out every one and not again
Regret, I should be rich to be so poor.
And yet I still am half in love with pain,
With what is imperfect, with both tears and mirth,
With things that have an end, with life and earth,
And this moon that leaves me dark within the door.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

POEM: "Five Little Poems to Forget"

Five Little Poems to Forget

What is this
suck doesn’t 
really want
another one

The remora
its value is
an added 

sweet delay

Bed is warm
pillow between 
the legs won’t
take a lover

Her occupation
was Chinese
Tibetan time for
something else

Dark faces
vices hidden
only frighten
before dawn

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Five Little Poems to Remember"

Five Little Poems to Remember

No form for beauty
anywhere near the end
till I scuffle to get in line

Jeez even mangoes
which are born to be ripe
have Platonic form

Here I dream of bridges
that always lead to the same
places I’ve been before

Young Chinese Neighbor
has a finger up the nose
how perfected the search

Jeans dream of youth
no embarrassment
it's just a small project.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Friday, March 6, 2015

POEM: "To A Future Lover"

To A Future Lover

                                I.M. A. de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

The earth was noise and dust
my horse surprised a snake
I walked all night under the stars
the desert was a bank of hums

Dishevelled in this mirage
where desire is unkindled limit
a kiss that didn't even matter
night was an ocean of those days

Way back I stood there then
as fearsome as a pilot waking
to a slow smoke and a brandy
that spoke to him on his last day

Hard grim lines drawn in blood
for a time when laughter’s wrong
to continue in blood until there’s
no more discussion in blood

I'm still walking years later
distraught of many concerns
delinquent of the inconsequential
every animal drawn to its own smell

It hardly mattered what love was
shadows and the sun would not light
each caress or that busy time did not
search for the fine wreckage all about.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Thrown Into The Shade"

Thrown Into The Shade                                           
                                           for Jason Molina RIP

The jukebox is in an empty room
And only the gods are dancing there
A security guard checks the outdoor lock
Before thieves make their rounds of night
A Ducati Panigale screams past with love
There's enough strong nectar for everyone
Thor is hammered again, Zeus is passed out
A conga line of gods is winding through the bar
The robbers sigh and pour themselves a whisky
An old fellow in a cap unplugs the jukebox
Outside the moon sings high & lonesome
It's very late, all the buses have gone home
Across town the parties are in full swing.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Barbara Guest Poem


          "painting has no air..."
             — Gertrude Stein

That there should never be air
in a picture surprises me.
It would seem to be only a picture
of a certain kind, a portrait in paper
or glue, somewhere a stickiness
as opposed to a stick-to-it-ness
of another genre. It might be
quite new to do without
that air, or to find oxygen
on the landscape line
like a boat which is an object
or a shoe which never floats
and is stationary.

                              Still there
are certain illnesses that require
air, lots of it. And there are nervous
people who cannot manufacture
enough air and must seek
for it when they don't have plants,
in pictures. There is the mysterious
traveling that one does outside
the cube and this takes place
in air.

                               It is why one develops
an attitude toward roses picked
in the morning air, even roses
without sun shining on them.
The roses of Juan Gris from which
we learn the selflessness of roses
existing perpetually without air,
the lid being down, so to speak,
a 1912 fragrance sifting
to the left corner where we read
"La Merveille" and escape.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

POEM: "Outside Tianshui, Gansu Province"

Outside Tianshui, Gansu Province

                                                                          for Anna

 759. Du Fu went to Maijishan

There are few monks left in these remote shrines,
And in the wilderness the narrow paths are high.
The musk-deer sleep among the stones and bamboo,
The cockatoos peck at the golden peaches.
Streams trickle down among the paths;
Across the overhanging cliff the cells are ranged,
Their tiered chambers reaching to the very peak;
And for a 100 li one can make out the smallest thing.

2014. I've never been to Maijishan

Purple red sandstone in one cave
At the Maijishan Grottoes observes
The original male form of Guanyin
Not Mother Mary and not Madonna
Not Lady Gaga or your grandma either
But a fellow much like us who exudes
(Exudes? The man is dripping with it!) 
Sweetness tempered with no-nonsense
Obviously our man's a former dissident
At Wheatstack Mountain it’s understood
When Buddha turned into Bodhisattvas
The lout still packs one hell of a wallop
Stand here your head will be changed
(Changed? Are you a complete idiot!)
When on the other side you see knives
Guns on the floor the heavy truncheons
Soldiers in tanks the frightened students
But sharpness is all the memory has left 
You might understand there is nothing soft
About kindness or about compassion, there
(There? Come here, I'll give you compassion!)

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Monday, March 2, 2015

POEM: "Interior Anthem #1 (The Rig)"

Interior Anthem #1 (The Rig)

On any National Day, it's made
Unhappy by unfulfilled promises
Standing out upon a sea-platform
Clouds rolling in, smelling the spray
The giant sculpture’s great unreal
As it stumbles on its waves, says
No flowers here, no biscuits there

The half-moon is the derrick's light
Its tower is stacked with rotting fruit
What the fuck are you on about?
I want fine food, a normal family
A job that doesn’t make me too crazy
A sane head, ten fingers, ten toes will do
Some good poems from time to time
And stop promising me nonsense.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Crazy Diamond Sutra"

Crazy Diamond Sutra

                                                              Living beings, born from eggs,
                                                     from the womb, from moisture...

The future of poetry bright
the incandescense blinding
before the facts of expression

This hip-hop Dylan thing
is so very listenable awhile
words wait the pen and page

We're speaking normal speech
discussing the normal poundage
of poetic flesh we want to know

Is it poetry? Hipsters fighting
to get on the plastic treadmill
listen to the baffled instructions

Knock her off, Beamish! Get her!
And yet there is music playing
the Beach Boys maybe Beatles

Back in the penitentiary
the sky is dull earth swimming
through water a summer night

Taxis await us two directions
and supposing the same heart.

© 2011 Rob Schackne