Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Zhang Zao Poem

The Chairs Sit Out In The Winter...

The chairs sit out in the winter, all in all
three of them—coldness being muscle—
spaced out in a line,
terrified of logic. Among angels,
there are not three who could
sit themselves down in them, waiting for
the barber who skates across a river of ice, though
ahead is still a large mirror,
magpies tidying away small coins.

The wind’s weaving loom weaves the surroundings.
The Void is Lord, remote
he stands on the outskirts, exhaling warm air,
features painted heavily, counting the chairs:
without touching it, he could eliminate
that middle position,
if he were to transplant that chair on the left
all the way to the farthest right, forever—

Such an assassin at the heart of
the universe. Suddenly,
in among the three chairs, that unwarranted
fourth chair, the one and only,
also sits out in the winter. Just as it was that winter . . .
                     . . . I love you.


Trans. Simon Patton, 2003

Saturday, January 30, 2016

POEM: "This Hunger Note"

This Hunger Note

Notice how once you’re hungry
strange Chinese kebabs duōshao
a peanut cabbage dumpling xièxie

in-between the tired body the soul
and the miles we walk disappear
the distance from A to B is nought
except that there be men with fire
after us through the oily streets
demons follow across a lifeless desert

while Heaven wants a moment fades
the sweet food we wished for gone
you don't respect time unless you have to
the extraterrestrial team watches from afar
they’re curious I mean they're impressed
This is magic. Really. Think about it.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Yu Jian Poem

Two or Three Things from the Past

So hot then
red trucks loaded with burning tongues
forward forward again disappearing deep down inside escaped students rolling toward hometown
Ah the summer of the era schools closed
theaters closed weeds in parks
loudspeakers over the basketball courts a revolution full blast in Mandarin
only teenagers on the bank of an ancient river
felt the call they opened their pants
took hold of that little thing that had always brought them
pleasure like cavemen drilling on a piece of wood
till it sparked a yellow flame

We must visit the exhibition
we must stand in line
with a serious attitude past
the portraits of those villains each of them
in line all wearing
the same prison uniform confessing their crimes
their sins come
from somewhere else it's as
if our obedience becomes a boring crime
with great attitude we walk in single file
our heads turn in unison from the left wall to the right like products
being inspected from different
sides their serious attitudes
the same as if their crimes are walking out from the wall
seriously into our bodies

These people stand in my parents' bedroom
as if standing in a trench, serious expressions
only for
those who are furthering the grandest cause
a little nothing for my mother's face a box with soap
stamped under the heel of a Liberation sneaker
cracked open
the green soap
popped out
like a plant's eyeball

He stood on the side watching everyone play
as lonely as a shepherd
at twelve grapes growing in his eyes
at twelve he understood the whisper
of the little dwarfs at twelve
a loyal younger brother but all the children
turned their backs forbade him to touch their
spinning tops or to curse his father was
a counterrevolutionary thus he grew into
an adult

Spring 1967 his cousin suffered from schizophrenia
day and night he suspected
someone was persecuting him
You're only a worker
Who will come to arrest you? Wouldn't listen
asked the monkeys at the zoo
Are you coming to arrest me?
His work unit decided to commit him
cousin refused to leave like a rock
he pressed against the bed
sleeping with all his might
as if glued to his bed forever
at the end of their wits
his co-workers squatted
lifted him and the bed like lifting a car
and carried him to the madhouse

For twenty years at 1:10 A.M.
he rode his bike past the square
at the end of Nanping Street like a
thief who had just stolen something
from the state warehouse
for twenty years under the moonlight
in a thunderstorm
when lightning lit up this skinny night worker
and the bronze statue
in the square neither
had a raincoat on
for twenty years when it was time
the broken bike wheels started clanking punctually
he was always afraid of what
he had no idea he was a lathe turner
in a factory forever felt like a criminal
forever worried about someone watching behind his back
till one day
he fell from his bike
his empty lunch box
rolled away broke apart
only once in his life he had a heart attack
in the middle of the square after a quick dance
he dropped died
on Nanping Street Square
at 1:10 A.M.
only one immortal figure
stood fearlessly

Winter 1966
two grown-ups arrived at our home they
were not cops but revolutionary comrades
from my dad's work unit they wanted me to expose
my father what he had written in his diary
he had counterrevolutionary thoughts had been hiding
in our army said his old comrades
whom I'd been calling uncles
on the stairs on a spring day they handed me
a big handful of milk candies
smiling like two trustworthy cows
even touched my head that was growing bigger every day
suddenly the grassland collapsed exposing
the iron hooves that'd been hiding in the grass
I kept quiet looking at my father's hands
his stubborn left-handedness
that year I'd just started writing
just learned how to imagine my country
as a golden grassland but I
hadn't learned from my father
a more sophisticated way to imagine
such as linking the finger calloused
from writing to a wiggling

The beautiful woman lived above us
the beautiful woman worked in the propaganda department
she played the only piano
summer became beautiful roses beautiful
my teen years beautiful
the beautiful woman looked at the blue sky beautifully
the beautiful woman gave me an apple
the beautiful woman reached out her featherlike finger
to touch my face ah that summer
my life flew out of my homework
she was a woman I was a boy
I wanted to say something like a man
didn't know how I was still in grade school
I tried for a whole year from the summer
of 1965 to the summer of 1966
when I was finally ready to say it
her neck hung from the bloody sky
turned into a frozen scarf

On Book Forest Street there's a pagoda from the age of Nanzhao
Nanzhao, king of the ancient Yunnan
ruled his kingdom west of the Tang Dynasty territory
one day I came to the tower
the big-character poster had a crack
that revealed a black line
I pressed my head against it to peek
someone shouted What are you looking at
I was so startled that winter
popped out of my cracked back
he laughed Nothing to see
only bricks inside

Once I wrote a letter to my father far away
his name turned into a nest of fleas under my pen
the three characters had become strangers at home
he was still the only boss but on paper I rarely
wrote about Father he wasn't history but a particular
smell of sweat a very heavy
hand suspended above my homework notebook
I was used to the accent I'd learned in my mother's womb
my vernacular impossible to write down all tangled up
and in his rocking chair he mocked my scribbles
then one day I saw his name on the street
painted in bold black every stroke
regular correct within the boundary
black words on white paper crossed out in red
people couldn't help reading it out loud
that day I suddenly lost my voice at dinner
I quietly handed him his toothpick
not knowing what to call him
this so-and-so whose name was on the big poster
whom I had to eat with three times a day

April 3, 1970 Little Ding finally got hold of his father's
only property a radio
with three wave bands hidden in his greasy uniform
I followed him to the fields outside his steel factory
endless wheat not a peasant around
everyone was at meetings only Little Ding and I
our ears bright red longer and longer
his hands that stroke iron every day turned the dial
awkwardly searching for foreign devils'
short waves I looked about
staring at the wheat
for fear of the masses their bright eyes
hidden inside after a lot of fiddling around
we finally heard someone speaking Chinese
ears pressed closely
like rabbits gone nuts inside a cage
the black plastic box was talking
I confess it said nothing
counterrevolutionary only a deep voice
broadcasting a football game

Wang Xiangdong's father was a rebel
whose mother had bound feet loved millet porridge
and peaches and whose father was a calligrapher
who loved Li Yu's poems addicted all his life
to two plum trees a deep pond and new moon
at sixteen he broke away from his father's compound
his two-acre plot Wang Xiangdong's father
walked out left his hometown
feared neither hardship nor death
became a government official at twenty-three
seen on the street running
shouting waving his right arm with a red band
before him women withered as if in a drought
dimmed dried hardened
he exposed his wife bravely to his work unit
her diary hidden in a pillow
showered in cold water every day arrived at work punctually
boiled everyone's tea water hated colors hated
pleasure cursed loudly at the kids bathing
in the winter sun Too lazy to get ahead, you!
His son Wang Xiangdong head bent fled like a chicken
revolution struggle five or six battles
now he reached seventy
moved a sixth time a big apartment
allotted by his work unit the biggest
but still not as big as his father's house
under the new chandelier one leg on top of the other
sitting awkwardly on the new couch
the smell of paint a little stinky
the gray-haired revolutionary
sighed "So bright!"
then had a stroke
before his death he said:
"I'm homesick Mama"
it startled Wang Xiangdong in his sunglasses
who had been condemned as decadent all his life
the filial son sent his father's coffin
back to his native Wang Village in Hubei Province
in his old home Wang Xiangdong
who grew up in a government compound
saw for the first time
plum blossoms


Trans. Wang Ping and Ron Padgett

Thursday, January 28, 2016

POEM: "Such blue. Such brown."

“Such blue. Such brown.”

Such blue. Such brown.
The waters are deep.

Watch the people come.

I would travel the earth.
See the police look at me.

Leave me and my sisters and my brothers alone.
Wave us on.
Wish us the sunset.

The bedroom.
All the water.
Sweet dreams.

Salt from earth. Earth from salt.
Tears from you. Bedroom. Night.

Tomorrow the buses.

We draw the windows and the doors.

Goodnight to everyone.

Oceans and deserts.

Poetry is everywhere.
But how things lean away.
Another day.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

POEM: "Having a screw at the whiteness""

"Having a screw at the whiteness""

Having a screw at the whiteness
puts the vowels of snow on her
one word at a time
sure the animals dream of things like the rest of us
when a panda first sees snow.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

POEM: "2 Riffs On Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here'"

2 Riffs On Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”

I. “A green field from a cold steel rail”

Those of us there are
Carry the ocean inside

As others that we lost
To pain or death or madness

Carry on regardless
As we carry on regardless

People sitting on a train
We ignore each another

We dream of other moments
Do you think you can tell

II. “Hot ashes for trees”

How the night hides all things
Except for shining words

96 tears, fears from fog
Youth from detachment

The sound of all the words
I heard and then forgot

The precise definition
Of these nails and tears

Wish, wishes, wished
Do you think you can tell

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Robert Burns Poem

A Sonnet upon Sonnets

Fourteen, a sonneteer thy praises sings; 

What magic myst’ries in that number lie! 
Your hen hath fourteen eggs beneath her wings 
That fourteen chickens to the roost may fly. 
Fourteen full pounds the jockey’s stone must be; 
His age fourteen – a horse’s prime is past. 
Fourteen long hours too oft the Bard must fast; 
Fourteen bright bumpers – bliss he ne’er must see! 
Before fourteen, a dozen yields the strife; 
Before fourteen – e’en thirteen’s strength is vain. 
Fourteen good years – a woman gives us life; 
Fourteen good men – we lose that life again. 
What lucubrations can be more upon it? 
Fourteen good measur’d verses make a sonnet.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

POEM: "Jimmie Rodgers In China 1930"

Jimmie Rodgers In China 1930

A thousand miles away from home 
I'm waiting for a train 

my pocket book is empty
no one seems to want me 
or lend me a helping hand 
my heart is filled with sorrow
I suppose I'm going south
find me a boxcar full of women 
go where the water tastes like wine 
happy new year suckers 
just another one going home 
the moon and stars in the sky above 
and I’m a sucker too.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A W.B. Yeats Poem (4)

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

POEM: "Diplomacy by Cartography out of Geography"

Diplomacy by Cartography out of Geography

Space and sovereignty
present a map face
to the ageing world

Drop the ball you never get it back

Monkeys watch the river banks
and slow boats ply a trade
along the new tides

Demarcate, cut, remarcate, reform

Jokes and jibes are
turned into clouts
pigs and punches

Sovereign heads are split

The people believe
there is no plan
there is no map

The sea's path in moonlight

Horses in their stalls 
they're off racing
the field is even

A city changes a memory

The people’s thunder
wonders if there’s 
no going back.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

An Anselm Berrigan Poem


drawn frogs appear to serve the exoskeletal goddess
in full mollusk shrug, shelves built for dated wreck
registers, cranial outbursts finely detailed, opening
at the outline of a spotlit ribcage, lists of thefts enter
micro-entry zones, respectability a possessive monster
needleteeth palms, langorous working in a front of
poured-in window light, off-white airshaft blue pushing
forward into the flatness of a room masquerading as
two wear out a corner, somnambulist soap performance
trickles along, black & white docu-film footage of
my fam’s thing-strewn space makes way into numbered
views, anyone may anonymously enter the screen
version of your interior & very few will, column
of skulls stands up a bulb socket, speed hump ahead
15 mph, minnows twig-hopping, playing pick up styx
in the hydroponic vape church fuming newness outs
of touch, & truth kicks back at a fool’s conception of
neutrality, thump thump, these kids need to stop falling
out of bed, ghost marooned on sock induces mock
shriek from the sub-aquatic generation I raise on stay
or no cookie, name of network: true, like & hurt go
hand in hand, the zebraic cosmologic selfie rides with
a drone stick, acktility expenses, tick trick carriers
careening into shape of snakes, sonar belts aura
saying activate instead of turn on, to radicalize a golden
tongue, dig the corpse & call it rotary possiblimity, we
just can’t help wiping the weird out of intelligence


Monday, January 18, 2016

POEM: "The Wrecking Crew"

Tang poetry on Shikumen walls 02
The Wrecking Crew

There's no irony present
couple workers look over
these old poems beating
witness to the bulldozer
a masterpiece on a wall
today hard to remember
in this dust this busy mess
to believe that there will be
at least one Angel of Beauty
who sits across the street
drinking a double expresso
who waits on the last brick
to be picked up thrown upon
the truck that's revving up
who will sigh right back
and then say God bless.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

photo by permission © 2013 Sue Anne Tay

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A David Ignatow Poem

Against the Evidence

As I reach to close each book
lying open on my desk, it leaps up
to snap at my fingers. My legs
won't hold me, I must sit down.
My fingers pain me
where the thick leaves snapped together
at my touch.
                       All my life
I've held books in my hands
like children, carefully turning
their pages and straightening out
their creases. I use books
almost apologetically. I believe
I often think their thoughts for them.
Reading, I never know where theirs leave off
and mine begin. I am so much alone
in the world, I can observe the stars
or study the breeze, I can count the steps
on a stair on the way up or down,
and I can look at another human being
and get a smile, knowing
it is for the sake of politeness.
Nothing must be said of estrangement
among the human race and yet
nothing is said at all
because of that.
But no book will help either.
I stroke my desk,
its wood so smooth, so patient and still.
I set a typewriter on its surface
and begin to type
to tell myself my troubles.
Against the evidence, I live by choice.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Tess Taylor Poem

Mud Season

We unstave the winter’s tangle.
Sad tomatoes, sullen sky.

We unplay the summer’s blight.
Rotted on the vine, black fruit

swings free of strings that bound it.
In the compost, ghost melon; in the fields

grotesque extruded peppers.
We prod half-thawed mucky things.

In the sky, starlings eddying.
Tomorrow, snow again, old silence.

Today, the creaking icy puller.
Last night I woke

to wild unfrozen prattle.
Rain on the roof—a foreign liquid tongue.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

MUSIC: David Bowie, "Heroes" (Live in Berlin 1987)

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing, nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, forever and ever
Oh we can be heroes, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)

And the shame, was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes, just for one day

Monday, January 11, 2016

POEM: "This is serious"

“This is serious”

                           for Robert Brown

This is serious. It knocks
At places I don't usually visit
Let it in. The machinery of the brain
I go deeper into my own nature.

The rain asks me to sleep
Dreams then ask me to come
With her. We'll fly. Let it happen
I’m serious. Nature is a machine.

Daytime so different. See it
Missing the components. But
That isn’t really where we'll go
Let all the good air through.

Let it happen. We let nature go
Let the rain that's so indifferent
Supersede what is missing
Wet with tears again.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, January 10, 2016

POEM: "Delilah"


She looks at me
I look at her
She turns away
I look at her
She looks away
I look at her
She looks at me
I look away
She looks at me
I turn away
She looks away
I look at her
She looks at me

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, January 9, 2016

POEM: "The Paper Cut"

The Paper Cut

Handling a precious calendar
with only my normal frenzy
when shit the left index finger
is sliced you know the one
I use to switch stuff on & off
in the spaceship before reentry
then before assessing the damage
I manage to twist my ankle
and further damage the nerves
I'm shouting at Scuttles the Robot
to go fetch the skin spray then go
back to the lab for the micromovie
How it throbs for the days on Earth
the Fool laughs under its breath

under the lens unfolds the reason
the blood had a latch that was undone
and the tiny blade came through
with astonishing ferocity.

© 2013 Rob Schackne­­

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Rainer Maria Rilke Poem

"As long as you catch what you've thrown yourself"

As long as you catch what you've thrown yourself, it's all 
just clever agility and venial gain;
but when you suddenly come to catch a ball
an eternal playmate has thrown
at you, at your center, has exactly set
in mastered motion, in an arc
out of God's great bridge-building -
then that you catch is real power:
not yours, the world's. And when you even
have the strength to throw it back,
no, better yet: have forgotten courage and strength
and thrown it back already...(the way the year
throws birds, the flocks of migrating birds
hurled over the ocean from an old to a new
warmth - ) then, that gamble, is the first moment
you too can be said to play. You
unburden yourself of the throw no longer; you burden
yourself with the throw no longer. Out of your hands steps
the meteor and it races into its skies...


Thursday, January 7, 2016

POEM: "The Cured As Was"

The Cured As Was

Trolls at the toll-booth 
Charging a lot to convert
Matter into spirit, one way
(Spirit into matter, other way)
And the light is in the windows
What’s your game? They sneer
When I display it upside down
While they look at it jabbering
Stubby grey fingers stabbing
What’s this then? They are irate
They think my desires are unclear
I gather up the papers and turn back.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Sam Sax Poem

Description for Police

what did the suspect look like?

the sound a shadow makes breathing tallow & spume back
into its heaving barnacled body, deranged gospel of milk-teeth,
a votive candle extinguished in a flat glass of cola.

what was the suspect’s gender?

something like a brick buried in the walls of a library.
or maybe just the word – brick – buried in books: demolished
tower scattered amidst babel, a building hidden in a building.

what was the suspect’s race?

a beam of light
throws up its hands
& is skinned alive.

did the suspect have a weapon?

thank god we no longer carve the shape of our dead
general’s faces into mountains. thank god we’ve bred
wolves into dogs into dolls

thank god we’ve deformed wheat germ & corn
into new edible organism. don’t forget all the good
that can be done with a scythe.

what was the suspect wearing?

cotton, trapped in a bottle of rubbing alcohol, or caught on a length of chain fence,
or woven into the fabric of a bulk-pack of white t’s from the grocery. gets dirty
easy but for that one night, you’ve never seen anything cleaner in your life

what did the suspect say?

if you look at any animate object
under a microscope, you’ll see
it’s made of smaller screaming parts.

if you smash the microscope, take the blood
it makes of your hands & bathe your eyes. tell me
what you see, how simple & red the light.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

POEM: "How badly does"

“How badly does”

How badly does
it want her to leave
with her little red laugh
the slammed door
a broken irreplaceable
and you (me) stinking
with a 4-day beard
eyes like a panda bear’s
whiskey again for breakfast
pages scattered about the floor
your (my) music on a loop
notes between the notes
and no job, no money
no holidays to share
outside of your (my)
own mind, imagine that.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Jane Hirschfield Poem

My Doubt

I wake, doubt, beside you,
like a curtain half-open.

I dress doubting,
like a cup
undecided if it has been dropped.

I eat doubting,
work doubting,
go out to a dubious cafe with skeptical friends.

I go to sleep doubting myself,
as a herd of goats
sleep in a suddenly gone-quiet truck.

I dream you, doubt,
for what is the meaning of dreaming
if not that all we are while inside it
is transient, amorphous, in question?

Left hand and right hand,
doubt, you are in me,
throwing a basketball, guiding my knife and my fork.
Left knee and right knee,
we run for a bus,
for a meeting that surely will end before we arrive.

I would like
to grow content in you, doubt,
as a double-hung window
settles obedient into its hidden pulleys and ropes.

I doubt I can do so:
your own counterweight governs my nights and my days.

As the knob of hung lead holds steady
the open mouth of a window,
you hold me,
my kneeling before you resistant, stubborn,
offering these furious praises
I can’t help but doubt you will ever be able to hear.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

POEM: "Is Who A Photographer?"

Is Who A Photographer?

I am a writer
I spend my life in the visual arts

I have a great memory
I’ve spent my life in film

I hear music everywhere
I’ve spent a lifetime making music

Joy has mingled with sorrow
Love was mixed with hate

Clinging to life or death
Keats will live longer than me

Already 60 with no prospects of fame.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, January 2, 2016

POEM: "Indra's Net"

Indra’s Net

Wispy the reticulum
That stretches invisibly
From the dark end to the light

Observe the landscape
The old hills covered by road
The ghosts of trees still sighing

Consider that nature loves you
It communicates its assets
The seconds stop moving

Look up at the burning stars
You will be safe in the dark
Sleep will be bestowed

The heart floats in crystal ships
Love, this hope, that dreams
From palace to new palace

Wispy the reticulum
That stretches invisibly
From the dark end to the light

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Friday, January 1, 2016

POEM: "New Year Poets"

New Year Poets 

It’s not spring, it’s not 
we agree it doesn’t
poetry dead
     around the world

but alive around 
     our table
twenty tigers eating 
drinking wine instead
     of water
a smile here, a smile
eating our vegetable
beauty in a circle
     we take deep breaths

     the traffic jams
back to 
the zoo. 

© 2015 Rob Schackne