Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A DJ Dolack Poem

From "Flying Point"

The sea
calls to witness
some vastness

or that which
is only a declaration
of the limited
and the countable.

And the sun some tourist
wades out each morning
in obligation

to touch
for a few moments
and to forget and drown.

And then later the moon
high as a pill
does its own work

emitting no light but re-guiding
light emitted by another:

six ships in the hour
follow each other
far off

into some great
length of silence.


Monday, June 29, 2015

POEM: "Neat Cold Warm"

Neat Cold Warm
                                   To my brother and sister poets in China

It wasn’t always this way you
Didn’t always break the glass
Warm forgot to check the mirror
Before the ideas went in reverse
These words I use you use too

I watched the landscape die
Awful dust I blew off the dust
The electric sound of willy-willy
Two dreams facing each other
Take a rock and a butterfly

The photograph looks inside
These words I use you will too
Conspicuous cold illuminated
A car is driven by its headlights
It was fifty years since I was a child.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

painting: Willy Tjunurrayi

Saturday, June 27, 2015

POEM: "A Very Sharp Fragment"

A Very Sharp Fragment 

The most beautiful woman in the world
present today at the moment of this poem
is safe in a psychiatric unit maybe in Indiana
and somewhere a very sharp fragment got

stuck in the mind she got on the wrong track
years ago she conceived an idea that all of love
was poisoned and all of gaze was murderous
we are born to die and we must suffer the years

medications come and go like nervous visitors
she screams whenever someone looks at her

she reads then doodles to pass the next 30 years
calm down it’s alright you’ll never meet her.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Friday, June 26, 2015

POEM: "Houston, Houston..."

“Houston, Houston...”

Biologists found the secret of life
Physicists found the key to the universe
You slip getting out of the bath
And find that you’ve got a sore neck
The universe looks a bit different now
Obviously your life’s still on the skids

The 4th most beautiful woman on earth

Actually a Miss Universe runner-up
Is a student in your language class
Well-spoken, tall, no make-up, smart
Wonders if in some other galaxy
The next Miss Universe is being judged

The keys and secrets of everything
Walking superstitious rounds as you
Preach a modesty that puts your self first
Until you see the parallel worlds
As clearly as your own feet at the exit
And that life and the universe look on

The red pill or the blue pill?
Behind us is the great bazaar
The drone of confusion continues
Is knowledge the incandescent one?
Is beauty ever the shield rubbed raw
That hides the other side of night?

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A William Matthews Poem (2)

Spring Snow

Here comes the powdered milk I drank
as a child, and the money it saved.
Here come the papers I delivered,
the spotted dog in heat that followed me home

and the dogs that followed her.
Here comes a load of white laundry
from basketball practice, and sheets
with their watermarks of semen.

And here comes snow, a language
in which no word is ever repeated,
love is impossible, and remorse...
Yet childhood doesn’t end,

but accumulates, each memory
knit to the next, and the fields
become one field. If to die is to lose
all detail, then death is not

so distinguished, but a profusion
of detail, a last gossip, character
passed wholly into fate and fate
in flecks, like dust, like flour, like snow.


Monday, June 22, 2015

A Megan Fernandes Poem

The Jungle

In midsummer, in Los Angeles,
the night is fractured

with mountains, grilling ink
into the blue thaw. I trail

into pools and pastures,
and in the diner,

tattoos speck
and skirt up booths,

the waitress, Dottie, is whipping
shells, mac and cheese,

waffles and chickens,
all oracles in the oil.

You think I’m kidding? Look
at Hopper’s orange rooms,

his lone man. Vineyards
are boring to paint,

the coffee rumbling us all
into a primal scene, the mismatched

silverware like guns in a Western,
all the possibilities

of a warm night.
The thing about LA is

anyone can walk through
the door. The drunk drive, the

open-air and clipping down
Highland Avenue. Here are all the streets

I remember: Alvarado and Effie.
Mohawk and Montana. Before

all this? The hills of Carpinteria,
cattle punk, the drained floodplains

and eucharistic jimson weed.
But dig that ditch city,

those impersonal stones,
the great vigilance

of the 19th century,
the circus of eggs on the plate,

Dottie full of lips, just lips
sipping, stinging the sandy air.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

POEM: "Deuteroscopy"


                        The severe schools shall never laugh me out of the philosophy of Hermes.
                              Sir Thomas Browne, 1643

Yea all severe schools take turns
to prosecute to judge to sentence
the sentences that attach the words

with chains set round our ankles but
take it easy it takes us out of the glue
hands free the mind enter hermetic

get into the car go to the supermarket
where in the floating aisles I’m reading

all the letters I need spread for islands 

editor of the severe school see her smile
Hermes stacking shelves I hear him sing
the unridiculous side is always falling

caught between the stretch and the slide
so surely it's a severe school to be a poet

to take the second look at everything

the product the loving the alchemy
bid me go on in a more lasting story
a friend tries to laugh me out of it.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Robert Duncan Poem

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind, 

that is not mine, but is a made place, 

that is mine, it is so near to the heart, 
an eternal pasture folded in all thought 
so that there is a hall therein 

that is a made place, created by light 
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall. 

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am 
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved 
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady. 

She it is Queen Under The Hill 
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words 
that is a field folded. 

It is only a dream of the grass blowing 
east against the source of the sun 
in an hour before the sun’s going down 

whose secret we see in a children’s game 
of ring a round of roses told. 

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow 
as if it were a given property of the mind 
that certain bounds hold against chaos, 

that is a place of first permission, 
everlasting omen of what is.


Friday, June 19, 2015

POEM: "Endgame"


Playing to fuck someone
pieces all black or all white
(the table belongs to someone else)

I carve some pieces myself
but the tactics have no colour
the opening generally sucks

No clear platform of rules
the other’s pieces willy-nilly
they’re put neatly to one side

Middle game’s a slaughter
tenderness a gambit that works
the glass walls of the obvious

Storm turns thunder comes
endgame nearly wrecks the bed
one two lightnings bump the mind

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Thursday, June 18, 2015

2 Juan Felipe Herrera Poems

In the Cannery the Porpoise Soul

In the cannery the porpoise soul
& the shadow fins of spirit boats lie awake
the hundred hooks & flying reels
one harpoon
& the silver fleshing in the nets

the mayor is waiting/counting scales
dreaming new quotas & tuna coasts
(under the table blood & payrolls
swim to the shores on a crucifix of oil)

in the cannery the porpoise soul
steals a dagger for the engines throat
tuna fins etch an X
on the green stone of the ships floor

there are documents with worker sweat
files & rolled sleeve salt
a spear of sails & anchor years
inside the shoulders & against the ropes
a policy gunned the waves back
before the porpoise sea was born


Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings

                                                        for Charles Fishman

Before you go further,
let me tell you what a poem brings,
first, you must know the secret, there is no poem
to speak of, it is a way to attain a life without boundaries,
yes, it is that easy, a poem, imagine me telling you this,
instead of going day by day against the razors, well,
the judgments, all the tick-tock bronze, a leather jacket
sizing you up, the fashion mall, for example, from
the outside you think you are being entertained,
when you go in, things change, you get caught by surprise,
your mouth goes sour, you get thirsty, your legs grow cold
standing still in the middle of a storm, a poem, of course,
is always open for business too, except, as you can imagine,
it isn’t exactly business that pulls your spirit into
the alarming waters, there you can bathe, you can play,
you can even join in on the gossip—the mist, that is,
the mist becomes central to your existence.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

MUSIC: The Grateful Dead, "It Must Have Been The Roses" (1980)

It Must Have Been The Roses

Annie laid her head down in the roses.
She had ribbons, ribbons, ribbons, in her long brown hair.
I don't know, maybe it was the roses,
All I know I could not leave her there.

I don't know, it must have been the roses,
The roses or the ribbons in her long brown hair.
I don't know, maybe it was the roses,
All I know I could not leave her there.

Ten years the waves roll the ships home from the sea,
Thinkin' well how it may blow in all good company,
If I tell another what your own lips told to me,
Let me lay 'neath the roses, till my eyes no longer see.

I don't know, it must have been the roses,
The roses or the ribbons in her long brown hair.
I don't know, maybe it was the roses,
All I know I could not leave her there.

One pane of glass in the window,
No one is complaining, no, come in and shut the door,
Faded is the crimson from the ribbons that she wore,
And it's strange how no one comes round any more.

I don't know, it must have been the roses,
The roses or the ribbons in her long brown hair.
I don't know, maybe it was the roses,
All I know I could not leave her there.

Annie laid her head down in the roses.
She had ribbons, ribbons, ribbons, in her long brown hair.
I don't know, maybe it was the roses,
All I know I could not leave her there.

Robert Hunter

OK. OK. Leggo the stereo! Jeez. "Ripple" then...



If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they're better left unsung
I don't know, don't really care
Let there be songs to fill the air

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Ripple in still water

When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow 

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home

Robert Hunter

...and some more of the New Year concert.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

POEM: "The Whole Book of Poems"

The Whole Book of Poems

You might have
been born any time
nesting on a red stage
an egg balanced
on a trembling chair

you might have
played the cornet
but no no no
you’re here instead
with a great prize

selfish a little mad
the whole book of poems
that is that was 
I won’t repeat it 
history what a chop suey
there’s really no point.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Gabrielle Calvocoressi Poem

Achingly Beautiful How the Sky Blooms Umber at the End of the Day, Through the Canopy 

Summers spent practicing in the apartment
stairwell: hand on the bannister, one foot after
another. Did I ever tell you I couldn’t walk

until I was three and then sort of dragged
myself up and downstairs until I was seven
or eight? That burgundy carpet.

I’d stop to breathe and look out the window,
over brick tenements, toward the Capital
building. Oak leaves so full of late summer

sun even I thought, “Obscene” and stood stunned
for a moment. My God. The urge to rest like the birds
on the phone wires, chatting like barristers

at the end of the day. Myself the useless
Ambassador from the third floor. I was the last one
up so the door was left open. I can still see it gaping

from two stories down. Sometimes music played.
Sometimes I’d smell supper. Neighbors stopped
to say hello. Achingly beautiful how the sky

looked as I stood after they left. Nicer somehow
in the middle. All the trees tucking blackbirds
into their darkness. It really did take this long.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

POEM: "Reading W.G. Sebald"

Reading W.G. Sebald 

A faithless record skips
as the rent is to yesterday
as chocolate is to strawberry
as the sunset is to love

or last night's quiet cold
as you read those pieces
for the promise and reward
as the augmented notes sing
dreams down an ocean slope

the tired mind goes to muscle
insisting that it must go on
as she looks at you and waves
and nothing brings her back.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Saturday, June 13, 2015

POEM: "Never Put Bananas In The Refrigerator"

Never Put Bananas In The Refrigerator

Chiquita Banana died today
United Fruit mourned the dividends

Growers, peons, executives, they
all did a tropical prance for her

She who closed an era of product
with fruity hat, a voice, her sweet sell

That shaped a banana to die for – no
she didn’t die for the CIA or for me

Tuna was the chicken of the sea, and
there was ham in Spam, pretty swell

But how can you market a banana?
Oh, oh oh oh, Chiquita Banana!

                                             R.I.P. Monica Lewis, The Voice (1922-2015)

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Friday, June 12, 2015

POEM: "After Eurydice"

After Eurydice

It’s no white tiger
to come back
the white tiger is
painted white
to come back
white as paper
white as Sunday
and white as
the snow that falls
on the blue tigers
to come back
near the blue
and behind them
the red flowers
to come back
keening for the sun

the sun is water
the sun is black
to come back
you who work
in the dream world
listen to me.

© 2105 Rob Schackne

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Gerard Manley Hopkins Poem


I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, in the white and the walk 
     of the morning:
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail held to 
     the candle,
Or paring of paradisaïcal fruit, lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, of dark Maenefa 
     the mountain;
A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, entangled him, not quit 
This was the prized, the desirable sight, unsought, presented so easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, eyelid and eyelid of slumber.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

POEM: "To A Grizzled Tranny Gentleman"

To A Grizzled Tranny Gentleman

                                      for Kay Perry

But you cannot trump it
unless you replace one earring
in bedecked ear with a bell
and ring it till lunchtime

(today was a soup kitchen)
to set before a magic herring
and a pair of tiny chopsticks
as the bell says love from china
and the fish is moving off the plate
but the cat says study gravity
till the dining room is cleared
of consumption and of waste.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Margaret Atwood Poem

Variation on the Word Sleep

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and as you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Jorge Luis Borges Poem (2)

Arte Poética

Mirar el río hecho de tiempo y agua
Y recordar que el tiempo es otro río,
Saber que nos perdemos como el río
Y que los rostros pasan como el agua.

Sentir que la vigilia es otro sueño
Que sueña no soñar y que la muerte
Que teme nuestra carne es esa muerte
De cada noche, que se llama sueño.

Ver en el día o en el año un símbolo
De los días del hombre y de sus años,
Convertir el ultraje de los años
En una música, un rumor y un símbolo,

Ver en la muerte el sueño, en el ocaso
Un triste oro, tal es la poesía
Que es inmortal y pobre. La poesía
Vuelve como la aurora y el ocaso.

A veces en las tardes una cara
Nos mira desde el fondo de un espejo;
El arte debe ser como ese espejo
Que nos revela nuestra propia cara.

Cuentan que Ulises, harto de prodigios,
Lloró de amor al divisar su Itaca
Verde y humilde. El arte es esa Itaca
De verde eternidad, no de prodigios.

También es como el río interminable
Que pasa y queda y es cristal de un mismo
Heráclito inconstante, que es el mismo
Y es otro, como el río interminable.



Ars Poetica

To look at the river made of time and water
And remember that time is another river,
To know that we are lost like the river
And that faces dissolve like water.

To be aware that waking dreams it is not asleep
While it is another dream, and that the death
That our flesh goes in fear of is that death
Which comes every night and is called sleep.

To see in the day or in the year a symbol
Of the days of man and of his years,
To transmute the outrage of the years
Into a music, a murmur of voices, and a symbol,

To see in death sleep, and in the sunset
A sad gold—such is poetry,
Which is immortal and poor. Poetry
returns like the dawn and the sunset.

At times in the evenings a face
Looks at us out of the depths of a mirror;
Art should be like that mirror
Which reveals to us our own face.

They say that Ulysses, sated with marvels,
Wept tears of love at the sight of his Ithaca,
Green and humble. Art is that Ithaca
Of green eternity, not of marvels.

It is also like the river with no end
That flows and remains and is the mirror of one same
Inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
And is another, like the river with no end.

(Tr. W.S. Merwin)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A George David Clark Poem

Kiss Over Zero

anything over zero is zero 
anything over one is itself

a bed over zero
is a funhouse mirror aimed

at a cloudy sky
a sky and its clouds over zero

a storm over one
is an infinite storm

a night over one
is a kiss over zero

and the minute hand eating its tail
is a red ear on a wet pillow

the memory of laughter
is a lamp over one

one inhales before one sighs
a lamp over zero is zero

the hole in a satin sheet
slowly ate up the yellow

till splitting the hem
the hole was unleashed

like a kiss
a long kiss over zero


Friday, June 5, 2015

MUSIC: Bill Fay, "Jesus, Etc." (2012), Wilco, "Jesus, Etc." (2002), Wilco, "Impossible Germany" (Live)

Wilco, the great American band, doesn't need trumpets as much as Bill Fay, the great English singer-songwriter, does. And so here is a very fine Jeff Tweedy/Jay Bennett tune that he sings. Enjoy both versions.



OK. OK. You were just about to insist. Here's Wilco playing "Impossible Germany" live, with Nels Cline on stunning guitar. 4 guitars. Primus inter pares.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

POEM: "Light"


It ought to behave itself.
But the light skids off track
while it bends an unfamiliar way,
rising at 5am and fidgets till 7pm,
all day figures to put the shadow
somewhere it's never been before.
Take the photos. Keep the records.
The results will leave us breathless
running this way and that, nearly
catching how we look to ourselves.
Dark, a dog, a thing astounds our back.
The night draws it away like the tide,
and there is no more light, we sleep and
see how shadows see themselves in mirrors.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Down by the Gates of Heaven"

Down by the Gates of Heaven

Imagine what you've got there
tanks filled with nervous soldiers
the square filled with friends
relatives weeping and shouting

You're just holding a book-bag
imagine what you've got inside it

For one reason move from the edge
angry and scared and trembling
but you don't go there very fast
every other step is wrong

And your reason's getting shorter
till suddenly you're stopped
in front of the whole wide world
loud speakers and flashes

An American reporter wins
a Pulitzer prize for this shot

In your bag there's a long letter
from a very lovely gentle girl
no memory of the time you spent
inside her special light

And now the light looks different
you will not allow this tank to pass
you are going to take an extra breath

you take the extra breath

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Fernando Pessoa Poem


O poeta é um fingidor.
Finge tão completamente
Que chega a fingir que é dor
A dor que deveras sente.
E os que lêem o que escreve,
Na dor lida sentem bem,
Não as duas que ele teve,
Mas só a que eles não têm.
E assim nas calhas de roda
Gira, a entreter a razão,
Esse comboio de corda
Que se chama coração.




The poet is a faker
Who's so good at his act
He even fakes the pain
Of pain he feels in fact.

And those who read his words
Will feel in his writing
Neither of the pains he has
But just the one they're missing.

And so around its track
This thing called the heart winds,
A little clockwork train
To entertain our minds.

Tr. Richard Zenith (2012)


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

An Elizabeth Bishop Poem (2)

The Moose

                            for Grace Bulmer Bowers

From narrow provinces 
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats’
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;

on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,

through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;

down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.

Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts. The light
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.

Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens’ feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;

the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string
on the whitewashed fences;
bumblebees creep
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.

One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies—
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper.

A pale flickering. Gone.
The Tantramar marshes
and the smell of salt hay.
An iron bridge trembles
and a loose plank rattles
but doesn’t give way.

On the left, a red light
swims through the dark:
a ship’s port lantern.
Two rubber boots show,
illuminated, solemn.
A dog gives one bark.

A woman climbs in
with two market bags,
brisk, freckled, elderly.
“A grand night. Yes, sir,
all the way to Boston.”
She regards us amicably.

Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb’s wool
on bushes in a pasture.

The passengers lie back.
Snores. Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
slow hallucination....

In the creakings and noises,
an old conversation
—not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,
back in the bus:
Grandparents’ voices

talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,
things cleared up finally;
what he said, what she said,
who got pensioned;

deaths, deaths and sicknesses;
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.

He took to drink. Yes.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away.

“Yes ...” that peculiar
affirmative. “Yes ...”
A sharp, indrawn breath,
half groan, half acceptance,
that means “Life’s like that.
We know it (also death).”

Talking the way they talked
in the old featherbed,
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,
down in the kitchen, the dog
tucked in her shawl.

Now, it’s all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
—Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.

A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus’s hot hood.

Towering, antlerless,
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man’s voice assures us
“Perfectly harmless....”

Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
childishly, softly,
“Sure are big creatures.”
“It’s awful plain.”
“Look! It’s a she!”

Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
grand, otherworldly.
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?

“Curious creatures,”
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r’s.
“Look at that, would you.”
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,

by craning backward,
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;
then there’s a dim
smell of moose, an acrid
smell of gasoline.


Monday, June 1, 2015

PAINTING: Joan Miró, from "The Constellations" Series, 1941

The Constellations are a sublime break. They are the way to the power. Towards the universe. They are a door to escape from a circumstantial war, from a genocide, from the brutality of nonsense. The Constellations are like saying: my only salvation in this world tragedy is the spirit, the soul that leads me to heaven. That brings me to the sublime. It is as if Miró was a nocturnal bird able to escape from the earth, leaving the sky, traveling across the sky, the stars, to the constellations, to capture them all with one hand, and draw back to earth them on a sheet of paper.

— John Punyet