Friday, January 30, 2015

A Patricia Smith Poem


Hurricanes, 2005

Arlene learned to dance backwards in heels that were too high.
Bret prayed for a shaggy mustache made of mud and hair.
Cindy just couldn't keep her windy legs together.
Dennis never learned to swim.
Emily whispered her gusts into a thousand skins.
Franklin, farsighted and anxious, bumbled villages.
Gert spat her matronly name against a city's flat face.
Harvey hurled a wailing child high.
Irene, the baby girl, threw pounding tantrums.
José liked the whip sound of slapping.
Lee just craved the whip.
Maria's thunder skirts flew high when she danced.
Nate was mannered and practical. He stormed precisely.
Ophelia nibbled weirdly on the tips of depressions.
Philippe slept too late, flailing on a wronged ocean.
Rita was a vicious flirt. She woke Philippe with rumors.
Stan was born business, a gobbler of steel.
Tammy crooned country, getting the words all wrong.
Vince died before anyone could remember his name.
Wilma opened her maw wide, flashing rot.

None of them talked about Katrina.
She was their odd sister,
the blood dazzler.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Robert Louis Stevenson Poem

To Any Reader

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

A William Butler Yeats Poem


High Talk

Processions that lack high stilts have nothing that catches the eye.
What if my great-granddad had a pair that were twenty foot high,
And mine were but fifteen foot, no modern stalks upon higher,
Some rogue of the world stole them to patch up a fence or a fire.
Because piebald ponies, led bears, caged lions, make but poor shows,
Because children demand Daddy-long-legs upon his timber toes,
Because women in the upper storeys demand a face at the pane,
That patching old heels they may shriek, I take to chisel and plane.

Malachi Stilt-Jack am I, whatever I learned has run wild,
From collar to collar, from stilt to stilt, from father to child.
All metaphor, Malachi, stilts and all. A barnacle goose
Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the dawn breaks loose;
I, through the terrible novelty of light, stalk on, stalk on;
Those great sea-horses bare their teeth and laugh at the dawn.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

BOOK COVERS: Casey Walker, 'Last Days In Shanghai" (2014)

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Charles Dickens, "A Tale Of Two Cities" (1859)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

IDLE THOUGHTS: "Le Sept Janvier On Est Tous Charlie?"

There are times when I can't hang up my pen even if I wanted to. It sighs like a dog. Other times I would sorely miss it. And while I might be a minor uncelebrated poet and not a widely-read cartoonist, I am still a Francophile, so please let me buy in, for two cents, about the recent Charlie Hebdo massacres in Paris. (May the dead all rest in peace.) One could say that a grievous blasphemy was properly silenced by rubbing out disrespectful infidels, who got what they deserved, and let that be a lesson to them (and aren't we lucky that you are nowhere near being in charge of anything); or that such cartoons should henceforth be more carefully considered, and exercising the freedom of speech should be tempered by an understanding of what will likely flow from it; or that the subject really isn't that funny (fools find everything funny), and anyway it's high time to move on from subjects that we don't really care enough about to understand, because the desperate fixations of culture are inherently non-dialogic and non-negotiable. Or finally, that there is a hard grim line that must be drawn in blood, to continue in blood, until there will be no more discussion in blood. But I won't say any of that. See the links to the two artists below, Art Spiegelman and Joe Sacco, who can say it much better.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Hugh Seidman Poem

After the Ear Inn After the Snow

The river icy in the wind.
Jersey glinting from night’s amalgam. Neon shines
from the luminous, frosted window.
Drunk, twenty years back,

I pitched over handlebars to snow,
proud of my scarred chin at 2 AM
on the Tenth Avenue bridge
after the Mixers had closed.

There Berryman, the drinker of sherry and gin,
would jump to the Mississippi.
But Charlotte Mew drank
disinfectant and begged: Let me go —

obsessed that her dead sister was not dead,
since no vein had been opened.
Blood throbs in my own. A truck
shifts on West Street through the snow,

brilliant under the street light:
the microphotographs, the hexagonal
crystals on black hung once in a show,
caught in their fall to the literal.

Thus had a man entered under
the camera’s hood, to cull them,
for what reason, from the cold:
molecule, cell, sun from the billions.

And I think of the friend who wept at Vallejo:
Tánta vida y jamás!
So much life and never!
Her fervor embarrassed, but then exalted.

But the cold strikes my chest
and many will tire and fail,
as always some must in the account,
when night falls like a sheet to the face.

And what shall be said for whoever
had no more to say to that sky:
so clear now, as thought I were young
on that bridge to its stars.

As I walk the street home, toward a sun
that burns and is consumed—
that first power of the light,
coming in the dark, hours from now.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

PIECES: South Park, Kyle (2010)

“I learned something today,” Kyle starts. “The magical power of threatening people with violence. That’s obviously the only true power. If there’s anything we’ve all learned, it’s that terrorizing people works.”

“That’s right,” Jesus says. “If you don’t want to be made fun of anymore, all you need are guns and bombs to get people to stop.”

“That’s right, friends,” Santa Claus agrees. “All you need to do is instill fear and be willing to hurt people and you can get whatever you want. The only true power is violence.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

PHOTO: Ding Yuin Shan, "Monk" (2014) / POEM: "China Monks"

China Monks

Down these mean streets
some real monks must go
they are not mean men
although they are hard men

the dusty streets divided
by their lonely presence
neither this one nor that one
unusual men still proud

neither tarnished nor afraid
walking out of the smoke
weathered by inevitability
reflexes sometimes a mess
I walk those streets at night
when my life's too one-sided
photographer, seasonal crab
let me depend on their reason.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

photo: Ding Yuin Shan

Monday, January 5, 2015

MUSIC: The Grateful Dead, "Uncle John's Band" (Oakland Dec 26, 1979)

Well the first days are the hardest days, don't you worry any more
'Cause when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door
Think this through with me, let me know your mind
Wo, oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?

It's a buck dancer's choice, my friend, better take my advice
You know all the rules by now and the fire from the ice
Will you come with me? Won't you come with me?
Wo, oh, what I want to know, will you come with me?

Goddamn, well I declare, have you seen the like?
Their walls are built of cannonballs, their motto is don't tread on me
Come hear Uncle John's Band playing to the tide
Come with me, or go alone, he's come to take his children home

It's the same story the crow told me, it's the only one he knows
Like the morning sun you come and like the wind you go
Ain't no time to hate, barely time to wait
Wo, oh, what I want to know, where does the time go?

I live in a silver mine and I call it Beggars Tomb
I got me a violin and I beg you call the tune
Anybody's choice, I can hear your voice
Wo, oh, what I want to know, where does the song go?

Come hear Uncle John's Band by the riverside
Got some things to talk about, here beside the rising tide

Come hear Uncle John's Band playing to the tide
Come on along, or go alone, he's come to take his children home
Wo, oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?

Friday, January 2, 2015

POEM: "Epistemology"


She said she took her daughter
To a kiddie play on the weekend
It was garbage she said too much
Non-related dancing they clapped
Like the little birds do in a cage
And the subject was do not litter.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Jericho Brown Poem


They lie like stones and dare not shift. Even asleep, everyone hears in prison.
Dwayne Betts deserves more than this dry ink for his teenage years in prison.

In the film we keep watching, Nina takes Darius to a steppers ball.
Lovers hustle, slide, and dip as if none of them has a brother in prison.

I eat with humans who think any book full of black characters is about race.
A book full of white characters examines insanity—but never in prison.

His whole family made a barricade of their bodies at the door to room 403.
He died without the man he wanted. What use is love at home or in prison?

We saw police pull sharks out of the water just to watch them not breathe.
A brother meets members of his family as he passes the mirrors in prison.

Sundays, I washed and dried her clothes after he threw them into the yard.
In the novel I love, Brownfield kills his wife, gets only seven years in prison.

I don't want to point my own sinful finger, so let's use your clean one instead.
Some bright citizen reading this never considered a son's short hair in prison.

In our house lived three men with one name, and all three fought or ran.
I left Nelson Demery III for Jericho Brown, a name I earned in prison.


POEM: "If You and I Were Innocent"

If You and I Were Innocent

The sun would also rise in the west
The best of things would be visible
And big dogs wouldn’t bark like fury
The river stay plain as long as you like
The good cane grown again on the Brazos
But we aren’t really such good innocents
This river's a wild one, I say impassable
And at dawn most days rise invisibly
Barking at the dogs, who bark back at
The riders still as mean as rattlesnakes
And if we were truly innocent, my love
Likely we'd both be in slavery to the road

They done grind it all in molasses, oh, oh, oh!
This century’s bags of innocence, so easy
Old Hannah setting once there to the east
Over a box here, possibly gold, unopened.

© 2014 Rob Schackne