Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Jim Harrison Poem (1)


I’m trying to create an option for all
these doors in life. You’re inside
or out, outside or in. Of late, doors
have failed us more than the two-party system
or marriages comprising only one person.
We’ve been fooled into thousands of dualisms
which the Buddha says is a bad idea.
Nature has portals rather than doors.
There are two vast cottonwoods near a creek
and when I walk between them I shiver.
Winding through my field of seventy-seven
large white pine stumps from about 1903
I take various paths depending on spirit.
The sky is a door never closed to us.
The sun and moon aren’t doorknobs.
Dersu Uzala slept outside for forty-five years.
When he finally moved inside he died.


A Jim Harrison Poem (2)


The man eating lamb’s tongue salad
rarely thinks of the lamb.
The oral surgeon jerking twenty teeth out
in a day still makes marinara sauce.
The German sorting baby shoes at Treblinka
writes his wife and children frequently.
The woman loves her husband, drops two kids
at day care, makes passionate love
to an old boyfriend at the Best Western.
We are parts. What part are you now?
The shit of the world has to be taken
care of every day. You have to choose
your part after you take care of the shit.
I’ve chosen birds and fish, the creatures
whose logic I wish to learn and live.


Monday, March 28, 2016

POEM: "Of Falling/The First Trilliums Of Spring"

Of Falling/The First Trilliums Of Spring

The first trilliums of spring
Emerge in another country
(Not in China where I live)
Where they never stumble
And so have no place to fall
Everyday displaying their beauty
Just like some women I’ve known
But (also) a small white flower
Lives in the big thickets of us
Quietly brushing the bees away
And apart from where we live
There are really no places to fall.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, March 27, 2016

POEM: "A Jesus Poem"

A Jesus Poem

In a Shanghai bar
the local guy sings
The Rivers of Babylon
like it didn’t matter
his workmates (he’s the boss)
clap like crazy Jamaicans
because it doesn’t matter
I sit here clapping too
like it doesn’t really matter
today it's Easter Sunday

but that is Heaven's part
time is gone to another place
barbershops full of thick hair
the mad in China working hard
to gather all their babies in

I'm trying hard to imagine you
drinking another drink
singing a heart-felt song
like it ought to matter.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

A W.B. Yeats Poem (5)

Easter, 1916

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.


Monday, March 21, 2016

POEM: "Calligraphy"


                       for Tie Wu

Let me hold this brush
And I will remember
The drops of water

Upon the white paper
Watch the water strokes
Disappear like Spring

Let me hold my breath
A cloud begins to form
I remember emptiness

How it looked before
The way it was afterwards
Watch me do this again.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Yan Li Poem

Give It Back to Me 

Please give me back the door without a lock
   even without a room still I want it back please!
Please give me back the rooster that awakens me
   in the morning
   even if you have finished eating it
   still I want the
   bones back please!
Please give me back the shepherd‘s song
   from the side of the hill
   even if it is on tape still I want it back please!
Please give me back a relationship to my
   brothers and sisters
   even if it lasts no more than a year, still I want it
   back please!
Please give me back the space of love
   even if you‘ve worn it out, still I want it
   back please!
Please give me back the whole of the globe
   even divided into thousands of nations
   hundreds of thousands of villages
   still I want it back please!


Trans. John Chow

Saturday, March 19, 2016

POEM: "Chūnfēn"


The equinox is but one beam
against the night, open window
the federated dreams fly off
and the dark birds arrive
chattering like monkeys

The thunder sounds crazy
the trees lose their marbles
my day of light is a sheet of rain
she comes up the stairs to my place
drinks my tea, then undresses

Lightning starts, the shivering
of a sky demanding attention
of a spring still on its way
she steps out of the shower
and all the lights go out.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Thursday, March 17, 2016

POEM: "A Thousand Fucks"

A Thousand Fucks

I hardly knew how to begin this poem
A young sausage in a butcher shop
A little lamb chop, light seasoning
All of it disembodied on a hook
(Of course they handled me like meat)
But now I'm old enough to get that look
When I show them my noble thing
Sure one day it will stop standing, right
Funny that a thousand fucks come to this
The cold store, the engine, the bumpy night
And it’ll happen to you, so pay attention.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, March 14, 2016

POEM: "Make Us Love"

Make Us Love

Make us love a different metaphor
the intelligible sphere whose big center
is everywhere whose circumference is nowhere
pan to the monkeys pan to the tigers pan to the trains
at Shanghai South if you want to see a million people
proud of no compassion the neighborhood gone
because the bells have stopped their ringing
bring the dented compass to a desert island

two months of packaged food no other people
two years lucky with no diseases or disasters
the fish are waiting in the waters to be caught
because the first day the compass will point north
because on the second the needle will drop off
and that's exactly where you'll find it.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, March 13, 2016

POEM: "How real and imaginary can turn"

"How real and imaginary can turn"

How real and imaginary can turn
A new flower into a dream
Or a voice into a woman

How a boat took us to an island
Where a stone moved a little
And softly played a song

How real and imaginary can turn
And where the new voices sang
The roses grew from stone

How we were waking from a dream
While the horses were all stirring
And the moon was going down

How real and imaginary can turn
A dream into a new song
Or a woman into a flower

How the stone was turned to stars
And the island made us a boat
While the sea was singing

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, March 12, 2016

MUSIC: The Beatles, "A Day In The Life" (1967)

A Day In The Life

I read the news today, oh boy 
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph.

He blew his mind out in a car
He didn't notice that the red lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They'd seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords.

I saw a film today, oh boy
The English army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book
I'd love to turn you on.

Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.

Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.

I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
I'd love to turn you on.

Friday, March 11, 2016

POEM: "Rock-a-bye Baby"

Rock-a-bye Baby

It waits near the treetops
For charm or challenge
Or promise of rain
The baby’s name is Cassandra
There’s a birthmark on her chest

It stirs a young storm
A fine gale is driving nails
Through nest and branch
Cradle, cradle and all
The birds must leave the baby there

The day she flies away
Down will come the poetry
The rocks will break and fall
And the truth she tells to honesty
The world regrets repeatedly.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Thursday, March 10, 2016

POEM: "You think you've got it all worked out"

"You think you've got it all worked out"

You think you've got it all worked out
discovered how to put the grim to rest
i.e. the mortgage the family the job the Plan
the map's parting clouds baby it starts to rain
the hunter stops (supply how many minutes) 
someplace in western Mongolia with his eagle
after all it's the car radio you're listening to
someday you'll slow to an arm or shoulder too
see the turn-off to the left (supply the miles)
there's a lookout ahead you think it best to stop
a big blue sky it's your breath and a little smoke
Central Asia understands you're another picture

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Photo: Simon Morris (2014)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

POEM: "White Spring"

White Spring 

Yes. We wake each day 
to a terrible liberty
poets are lucky they can
enclose themselves in night
when we wake, the day
is often a pale version
surprised that people are
so earnest about their realities
but we don’t work in that department
I say we. I mean me
I say they. I mean them
but how sometimes people
are populated against their will
thirsty shadows on a white spring wall.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

POEM: "Peach Blossom Spring"

Peach Blossom Spring 

                                         for Rui Xiao

Big waves crash 
on some frigid beach
far from my warm cottage

Cold time stretched
winter moved to one side
I get up and walk to the garden

Living in China
how do I dare write a poem
called Peach Blossom Spring?

I hear Eliot
when I write the word peach
and imagine his trousers rolled

(You might too
wading into the water
in just your underwear)

Pink blossoms fell
beneath the old peach trees
remembering spring

Under the roses
I find a shell and a bone
listening together to the sea

At my desk
I take a brush
and lightly dust.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, March 7, 2016

POEM: "Of The Spirit"

Of The Spirit

All I know of this life
I cannot be afraid of the next
Getting on a plane or a bus
Punishing the bags, sweat
Out of the darkness, still
As my mind in a quiet bar
That listens to forgetting
The cruelty of my work
The awful prisons of the ring
One more old fighter says
Unluck has to be good luck
All I know of the next life
I cannot be afraid of this one.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Saturday, March 5, 2016

An Eileen Myles Poem


You’re like
a little fruit
you’re like
a moon I want
to hold
I said lemon slope
about your
because it’s one
of my words
about you
I whispered
in bed
this smoothing
the fruit &
then alone
with my book
but writing
in it the pages
against my knuckles
in the
light like a


Friday, March 4, 2016

POEM: "Three Minutes With Reality"

Three Minutes With Reality

                                                for Astor Piazzolla

It takes so little to get the three minutes
Or so much depending on where you are
Those three minutes might be sombre
They could be ecstatic or just be quiet
The only trick is to be there at the time

After that they who look back will say
Your life is never going to be the same
Three minutes of a battle or a burn or love
You were outside it and now you're in
Well what do they know it's not a club

You survive that and you survive the next
And then three minutes fall down like rain
It gets louder and louder and then it stops
Three minutes with reality float by like clouds
But please don't get the wrong idea.

© 2010 Rob Schackne

Thursday, March 3, 2016

POEM: "Museum Of Locks"

Museum of Locks

                                             for Lily Tan

Every time I go across the river
My taxi passes a tiny place called
Museum of Locks, between
Two hapless shops in Fuxing Lu
& if we hit the traffic just right
I manage to look inside where
The tight walls are covered with
Hundreds of locked examples
Whose ancient doors and closets
Are unlocked like old memories
Now free to roam, now free to all
Or maybe not, waiting patiently
Locked up again, re-opened.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

POEM: "Beijing Women's Mental Health Survey 2014"

Beijing Women's Mental Health Survey 2014

Because my life is on the border
Between knowing and not knowing
And my skin's stretched so tight
That my nerves are crying out.

Because I’m a woman in a country
That fears and hates their women
Where marriage is a cruel circus
And laughter chases the unlucky.

Because a child was never loved
Before I then yearned to be childless
Because my wrists feel the draw of erasure
And that is why I attend these classes.

© 2014 Rob Schackne