[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"I know the anger that lies inside me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit. It is easier to be angry that to be hurt. Anger is what I do best. It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness for admitting that we are worth wanting each other."
--Audre Lorde

"Anger unvented becomes pain, pain unspoken becomes rage, rage released becomes violence."
--Joseph Beam, "Brother to Brother: Words from the Heart"

"Love Crosses Its Islands"
Love crosses its islands, from grief to grief,
it sets its roots, watered with tears,
and no one––no one––can escape the heart's progress
as it runs, silent and carnivorous.

You and I search for a wide valley, for another planet
where the salt wouldn't touch your hair,
where sorrows couldn't grow because of anything I did,
where bread could live and not grow old.

A planet entwined with vistas and foliage,
a plain, a rock, hard and unoccupied:
we wanted to build a strong nest

with our own hands, without hurt or harm or speech,
but love was not like that: love was a lunatic city
with crowds of people blanching on their porches.
--Pablo Neruda, translated from the Spanish by Stephen Tapscott
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"The invariable mark of wisdom is seeing the miraculous in the common."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."
--Dorothy Parker

"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
--T. S. Eliot

"Whatever is the lot of humankind
I want to taste within my deepest self.
I want to seize the highest and the lowest,
to load its woe and bliss upon my breast,
and thus expand my single self titanically
and in the end go down with all the rest."
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust

I love the handful of the earth you are.
Because of its meadows, vast as a planet,
I have no other star. You are my replica
of the multiplying universe.

Your wide eyes are the only light I know
from extinguished constellations;
your skin throbs like the streak
of a meteor through rain.

Your hips were that much of the moon for me;
your deep mouth and its delights, that much sun;
your heart, fiery with its long red rays,

was that much ardent light, like honey in the shade.
So I pass across your burning form, kissing
you--compact and planetary, my dove, my globe.
--Pablo Neruda

"The mountains appalled me with their 'permanence,' with that awful and irrefutable rock-ness that seemed to intensify my sense of my own transience. Perhaps this dread of transience explains our greed for the few gobbets of raw experience in modern life, why violence is libidinous, why lust devours us, why soldiers choose not to forget their days of horror: we cling to such extreme moments, in which we seem to die, yet are reborn. In sexual abandon as in danger we are impelled, however briefly, into that vital present in which we do not stand apart from life, we are life, our being fills us; ecstasy with another being, loneliness falls away into eternity. But in other days, such union was attainable through simple awe."
--Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

"If There Is Something to Desire"
If there is something to desire,
there will be something to regret.
If there is something to regret,
there will be something to recall.
If there is something to recall,
there was nothing to regret.
If there was nothing to regret,
there was nothing to desire.
--Vera Pavlova

"It must be those brief moments
when nothing has happened--nor is going to.
Tiny moments, like islands in the ocean
beyond the grey continent of our ordinary days.
There, sometimes, you meet your own heart
like someone you've never known."
--Hans Børli

"We Alone"
We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.

Feathers, shells
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.

This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
what's scarce.
--Alice Walker

"No man should escape our universities without knowing how little he knows."
--J. Robert Oppenheimer

"...happiness is not only a hope, but also in some strange manner a memory...we are all kings in exile."
--G. K. Chesterton
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Every face, every shop, bedroom window, public-house, and dark square is a picture feverishly turned--in search of what? It is the same with books. What do we seek through millions of pages?"
--Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room

"To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now and again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks--all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere."
--Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
--Wallace Stevens

I returned to a long strand,
the hammered curve of a bay,
and found only the secular
powers of the Atlantic thundering.

I faced the unmagical
invitations of Iceland,
the pathetic colonies
of Greenland, and suddenly

those fabulous raiders,
those lying in Orkney and Dublin
measured against
their long swords rusting,

those in the solid
belly of stone ships,
those hacked and glinting
in the gravel of thawed streams

were ocean-deafened voices
warning me, lifted again
in violence and epiphany.
The longship's swimming tongue

was buoyant with hindsight--
it said Thor's hammer swung
to geography and trade,
thick-witted couplings and revenges,

the hatreds and behind-backs
of the althing, lies and women,
exhaustions nominated peace,
memory incubating the spilled blood.

It said, 'Lie down
in the word-hoard, burrow
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.

Compose in darkness.
Expect aurora borealis
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.

Keep your eye clear
as the bleb of the icicle,
trust the feel of what nubbed treasure
your hands have known.'
--Seamus Heaney

"Are they remedial measures--trances in which the most galling memories, events that seem likely to cripple life for ever, are brushed with a dark wing which rubs their harshness off and gilds them, even the ugliest, and basest, with a lustre, and incandescence? Has the finger of death to be laid on the tumult of life from time to time lest it rend us asunder? Are we so made that we have to take death in small doses daily or we could not go on with the business of living?"
--Virginia Woolf, Orlando

"Bog Queen"
I lay waiting
Between turf-face and demesne wall,
Between Heathery levels
And glass-toothed stone.

My body was Braille
For the creeping influences:
Dawn suns groped over my head
And cooled at my feet,

Through my fabrics and skins
The seeps of winter
Digested me,
The illiterate roots

Pondered and died
In the cavings
Of stomack and socket.
I lay waiting

On the gravel bottom,
My brain darkening,
A jar of spawn
Fermenting underground

Dreams of Baltic amber.
Bruised berries under my nails,
The vital hoard reducing
In the crock of the pelvis.

My diadem grew carious,
Gemstones dropped
In the peat floe
Like the bearings of history.

My sash was a black glacier
Wrinkling, dyed weaves
And phoenician stichwork
Retted on my brests'

Soft moraines.
I knew winter cold
Like the nuzzle of fjords
At my thighs -

The soaked fledge, the heavy
Swaddle of hides.
my skull hibernated
in the wet nest of my hair.

Which they robbed.
I was barbered
And stripped
By a turfcutter's spade

Who veiled me again
And packed coomb softly
Between the stone jambs
At my head and my feet.

Till a peer's wife bribed him.
The plait of my hair,
A slimy birth-cord
Of bog had been cut

And I rose from the dark,
Hacked bone, skull-ware,
Frayed stitches, tufts,
Small gleams on the bank.
--Seamus Heaney

"Penis Envy"
I envy men who can yearn
with infinite emptiness
toward the body of a woman,

hoping that the yearning
will make a child,
that the emptiness itself
will fertilize the darkness.

Women have no illusions about this,
being at once
houses, tunnels,
cups & cupbearers,
knowing emptiness as a temporary state
between two fullnesses,
& seeing no romance in it.

If I were a man
doomed to that infinite emptiness,
& having no choice in the matter,
I would, like the rest, no doubt,
find a woman
& christen her moonbelly,
madonna, gold-haired goddess
& make her the tent of my longing,
the silk parachute of my lust,
the blue-eyed icon of my sacred sexual itch,
the mother of my hunger.

But since I am a woman,
I must not only inspire the poem
but also type it,
not only conceive the child
but also bear it,
not only bear the child
but also bathe it,
not only bathe the child
but also feed it,
not only feed the child
but also carry it
everywhere, everywhere...

while men write poems
on the mysteries of motherhood.

I envy men who can yearn
with infinite emptiness
--Erica Jong

"Sojourn in the Whale"
Trying to open locked doors with a sword, threading
the points of needles, planting shade trees
upside down; swallowed by the opaqueness of one whom the seas

love better than they love you, Ireland--

you have lived and lived on every kind of shortage.
You have been compelled by hags to spin
gold thread from straw and have heard men say:
"There is a feminine temperament in direct contrast to ours,

which makes her do these things. Circumscribed by a
heritage of blindness and native
incompetence, she will become wise and will be forced to give in.
Compelled by experience, she will turn back;

water seeks its own level":
and you have smiled. "Water in motion is far
from level." You have seen it, when obstacles happened to bar
the path, rise automatically.
--Marianne Moore

"Sky News from the Garden of Eden"
(Iraq – 10th April 2003)

Soldiers break
through a hotel lounge
fingering death.

A girl sits with her family--

Her dress is thin
as this paper;
her terror as white.

She holds up her hands
like wheat to the scythe.
This gesture says:

We are nothing, spare us.
We will live unseen
beneath the body of a tank,
claim no sunlight,
drink rain, eat insects.

Not even her eyes have fire enough
to touch those terrible gods.

Within this year
her dress will be rags,
she will grow old,
while others gather silk
around their bellies,
deal in gold.

Perhaps she's already dead,
in camouflage of dust,
owning no grief--no grave,

no mark but this frail surrender
on my screen.

I switch off:
my tears leave nothing but salt.
--Gerard Rochford

"If You Forget Me"
I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
--Pablo Neruda

"A Pity, We Were Such a Good Invention"
They amputated
Your thighs off my hips.
As far as I'm concerned
They are all surgeons. All of them.

They dismantled us
Each from the other.
As far as I'm concerned
They are all engineers. All of them.

A pity. We were such a good
And loving invention.
An aeroplane made from a man and wife.
Wings and everything.
We hovered a little above the earth.

We even flew a little.
--Yehuda Amichai

In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?
just to hear his sister
promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,
just to hear his brother say,
A house inside a house,
but most of all to hear his mother answer,
One more song, then you go to sleep.

How could anyone in that bed guess
the question finds its beginning
in the answer long growing
inside the one who asked, that restless boy,
the night's darling?

Later, a man lying awake,
he might ask it again,
just to hear the silence
charge him, This night
arching over your sleepless wondering,

this night, the near ground
every reaching-out-to overreaches,

just to remind himself
out of what little earth and duration,
out of what immense good-bye,
each must make a safe place of his heart,
before so strange and wild a guest
as God approaches.
--Li-Young Lee

"Long Afternoons"
Those were the long afternoons when poetry left me.
The river flowed patiently, nudging lazy boats to sea.
Long afternoons, the coast of ivory.
Shadows lounged in the streets, haughty manikins in shopfronts
stared at me with bold and hostile eyes.

Professors left their schools with vacant faces,
as if the Iliad had finally done them in.
Evening papers brought disturbing news,
but nothing happened, no one hurried.
There was no one in the windows, you weren’t there;
even nuns seemed ashamed of their lives.

Those were the long afternoons when poetry vanished
and I was left with the city’s opaque demon,
like a poor traveler stranded outside the Gare du Nord
with his bulging suitcase wrapped in twine
and September’s black rain falling.

Oh, tell me how to cure myself of irony, the gaze
that sees but doesn’t penetrate; tell me how to cure myself
of silence.
--Adam Zagajewski

"Keeping Things Whole"
In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.
--Mark Strand

"True Love"
In the middle of the night, when we get up
after making love, we look at each other in
complete friendship, we know so fully
what the other has been doing. Bound to each other
like mountaineers coming down from the mountain,
bound with the tie of the delivery-room,
we wander down the hall to the bathroom, I can
hardly walk, I wobble through the granular
shadowless air, I know where you are
with my eyes closed, we are bound to each other
with huge invisible threads, our sexes
muted, exhausted, crushed, the whole
body a sex--surely this
is the most blessed time of my life,
our children asleep their beds, each fate
like a vein of abiding mineral
not discovered yet. I sit
on the toilet in the night, you are somewhere in the room,
I open the window and snow has fallen in a
steep drift, against the pane, I
look up, into it,
a wall of cold crystals, silent
and glistening, I quietly call to you
and you come and hold my hand and I say
I cannot see beyond it, I cannot see beyond it.
--Sharon Olds

Not for these lovely blooms that prank your chambers did
I come. Indeed,
I could have loved you better in the dark;
That is to say, in rooms less bright with roses, rooms more
casual, less aware
Of History in the wings about to enter with benevolent air
On ponderous tiptoe, at the cue "Proceed."
Not that I like the ash-trays over-crowded and the place
in a mess,
Or the monastic cubicle too unctuously austere and stark,
But partly that these formal garlands for our Eighth Street
Aphrodite are a bit too Greek,
And partly that to make the poor walls rich with our un-
aided loveliness
Would have been more chic.

Yet here I am, having told you of my quarrel with the taxi-
driver over a line of Milton, and you laugh; and you
are you, none other.
Your laughter pelts my skin with small delicious blows.
But I am perverse: I wish you had not scrubbed—with
pumice, I suppose--
The tobacco stains from your beautiful fingers. And I
wish I did not feel like your mother.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

"So it wasn't just memory. Memory was just half of it, it wasn't enough. But it must be somewhere, he thought. There's the waste. Not just me. At least I think I don't mean just me. Hope I don't mean just me. Let it be anyone, thinking of, remembering, the body, the broad thighs and the hands that liked bitching and making things. It seemed so little, so little to want, to ask. With all the old graveward-creeping, the old wrinkled withered defeated clinging not even to the defeat but just to an old habit; accepting the defeat even to be allowed to cling to the habit--the wheezing lungs, the troublesome guts incapable of pleasure. But after all memory could live in the old wheezing entrails: and now it did stand to his hand, incontrovertible and plain, serene, the palm clashing and murmuring, dry and wild and faint in the night, but he could face it, thinking, Not could. Will. I want to. So it is the old meat after all, no matter how old. Because if memory exists outside of the flesh it won't be memory because it won't know what it remembers so when she became not then half of memory became not and if I become not then all of remembering will cease to be.--Yes, he thought, between grief and nothing I will take grief."
--William Faulkner, The Wild Palms
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"A critique does not consist in saying that things aren't good the way they are. It consists in seeing on just what type of assumptions, of familiar notions, of established and unexamined ways of thinking the accepted practices are based...To do criticism is to make harder those acts which are now too easy."
--Michel Foucault

I touch hatred like a covered breast;
I without stopping go from garment to garment,
sleeping at a distance.

I am not, I'm of no use, I do not know
anyone; I have no weapons of ocean or wood,
I do not live in this house.

My mouth is full of night and water.
The abiding moon determines
what I do not have.

What I have is in the midst of the waves,
a ray of water, a day for myself,
an iron depth.

There is no cross-tide, there is no shield, no costume,
there is no special solution too deep to be sounded,
no vicious eyelid.

I live suddenly and other times I follow.
I touch a face suddenly and it murders me.
I have no time.

Do not look for me when drawing
the usual wild thread or the
bleeding net.

Do not call me: that is my occupation.
Do not ask my name or my condition.
Leave me in the middle of my own moon
in my wounded ground.
--Pablo Neruda

I was six.
The fence was high and as I leapt
the barbs wrote perfect lines
straight across my chest.
My skin ripped easy as a rag.

I dangled there
My blood was thick and red.

That was when
I first began
to know the price
of jumping
over fences.


In love with women
and men, he says they're both
the same: "I could close
my eyes and groan and groan
all night. Hands are hands.
And when they knead
my body like bread
I rise to meet the touch."


Sad and old, she opened her house
to elders knocking at her door.
They promised to visit her
daily. She agreed to join
their church. She was asked
to rid herself of statues
saved on alters in her room.
She told them she was ready
to renounce. Next day, when they
returned, she told them how she'd
thrown her statues out: "I beat
them into nothing." Each day
when the elders left her home,
she took her statues from a closet
and raised them back to life.


A drink in hand, she talks:
"When I have sex
my mind dissolves.
In the everything of touch,
the nothingness of language
disappears. When thought
returns, I am left with sadness
and with words. I want to live
on the silent side of speech."


I stood before
the Torah. I searched
for Yahweh's name whose face
cannot be seen, whose name
cannot be said.
When I found
letters that stood
for his name, I touched them
trembling. Lines on fragile
parchment: what about them
takes us close to God?


I write in English, dream
in Spanish, listen to Latin chants.
I like streets where
Chicanos make up words.
Sometimes, I shout
Italian words to wake
the morning light.
At dusk, I breathe out
fragments of Swahili.
I want to feel words
swimming in my throat
like fighting fish
that refuse to be hooked
on a line.
--Benjamin Alire Saenz

"I Can Write the Saddest Lines Tonight"
I can write the saddest lines tonight.

Write for example: 'The night is fractured
and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance.'

The night wind turns in the sky and sings.
I can write the saddest lines tonight.
I loved her, sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like these I held her in my arms.
I kissed her greatly under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could I not have loved her huge, still eyes.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
To think I don't have her, to feel I have lost her.

Hear the vast night, vaster without her.
Lines fall on the soul like dew on the grass.

What does it matter that I couldn't keep her.
The night is fractured and she is not with me.

That is all. Someone sings far off. Far off,
my soul is not content to have lost her.

As though to reach her, my sight looks for her.
My heart looks for her: she is not with me.

The same night whitens, in the same branches.
We, from that time, we are not the same.

I don't love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the breeze to reach her.

Another's kisses on her, like my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body, infinite eyes.

I don't love her, that's certain, but perhaps I love her.
Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.

Since, on these nights, I held her in my arms,
my soul is not content to have lost her.

Though this is the last pain she will make me suffer,
and these are the last lines I will write for her.
--Pablo Neruda
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits."
--George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"

"For a Senior Killed on Prom Night"
It's useless to pretend you would have been
a genius. I taught you and I know.
You made the team, but others made it win.
A ready smile made up for being slow.

You'd have been ordinary in the end:
the hardest worker someone ever had,
one woman's husband and one man's best friend,
recipient of cards for "world's best dad."

So why, where you'd have been, is there a blank
so huge, a hole where all thoughts go to die?
The world has only lost one of its rank
and file. You didn't even make me cry.

Why do I go outside at one a.m.
and search the stars as though I'd numbered them?
--Gail White

"Variations on the Word Love"
This is a word we use to plug
holes with. It's the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing
like real hearts. Add lace
and you can sell
it. We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn't what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed--
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.

Then there's the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It's not love we don't wish
to fall into, but that fear.
This word is not enough but it will
have to do. It's a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.
--Margaret Atwood

At a certain point I lost track of you.
They make a desolation and call it peace.
when you left even the stones were buried:
the defenceless would have no weapons.

When the ibex rubs itself against the rocks,
who collects its fallen fleece from the slopes?
O Weaver whose seams perfectly vanished,
who weighs the hairs on the jeweller's balance?
They make a desolation and call it peace.
Who is the guardian tonight of the Gates of Paradise?

My memory is again in the way of your history.
Army convoys all night like desert caravans:
In the smoking oil of dimmed headlights, time dissolved--all
winter--its crushed fennel.
We can't ask them: Are you done with the world?

In the lake the arms of temples and mosques are locked in each other's

Have you soaked saffron to pour on them when they are found like this
centuries later in this country
I have stitched to your shadow?

In this country we step out with doors in our arms
Children run out with windows in their arms.
You drag it behind you in lit corridors.
if the switch is pulled you will be torn from everything.

At a certain point I lost track of you.
You needed me. You needed to perfect me.
In your absence you polished me into the Enemy.
Your history gets in the way of my memory.
I am everything you lost. You can't forgive me.
I am everything you lost. Your perfect Enemy.
Your memory gets in the way of my memory:

I am being rowed through Paradise in a river of Hell:
Exquisite ghost, it is night.

The paddle is a heart; it breaks the porcelain waves.
It is still night. The paddle is a lotus.
I am rowed--as it withers--toward the breeze which is soft as
if it had pity on me.

If only somehow you could have been mine, what wouldn't
have happened in the world?

I'm everything you lost. You won't forgive me.
My memory keeps getting in the way of your history.
There is nothing to forgive. You can't forgive me.
I hid my pain even from myself; I revealed my pain only to myself.

There is everything to forgive. You can't forgive me.

If only somehow you could have been mine,
what would not have been possible in the world?
--Agha Shahid Ali

"Adjectives of Order"
That summer, she had a student who was obsessed
with the order of adjectives. A soldier in the South
Vietnamese army, he had been taken prisoner when

Saigon fell. He wanted to know why the order
could not be altered. The sweltering city streets shook
with rockets and helicopters. The city sweltering

streets. On the dusty brown field of the chalkboard,
she wrote: The mother took warm homemade bread
from the oven. City
is essential to streets as homemade

is essential to bread. He copied this down, but
he wanted to know if his brothers were lost before
older, if he worked security at a twenty-story modern

downtown bank or downtown twenty-story modern.
When he first arrived, he did not know enough English
to order a sandwich. He asked her to explain each part

of Lovely big rectangular old red English Catholic
leather Bible.
Evaluation before size. Age before color.
Nationality before religion. Time before length. Adding

and, one could determine if two adjectives were equal.
After Saigon fell, he had survived nine long years
of torture. Nine and long. He knew no other way to say this.
--Alexandra Teague

"Here I Love You"
Here I love you
In the dark pines the wind disentangles itself.
The moon glows like phosphorous on the vagrant waters
Days, all one kind, go chasing each other

The snow unfurls in dancing figures.
A silver gull slips down from the west.
sometimes a sail. High, high stars.

Oh the black cross of a ship.
Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.
Far away the sea sounds and resounds.
This is a port.
Here I love you.

Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.
I love you still among these cold things.
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
that cross the sea towards no arrival.
I see myself forgotten like those old anchors.
The piers sadden when the afternoon moors there.
My life grows tired, hungry to no purpose.
I love what I do not have. You are so far.
My loathing wrestles with the slow twilights.
But night comes and starts to sing to me.
The moon turns its clockwork dream.

The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.
--Pablo Neruda, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"You're spending your life talking, writing things, getting bills through, missing what seems natural. Still, there's the mind of the widow--the affections; those you leave untouched. But you waste your own. I would point out that a human being is not a set of compartments, but an organism. Imagination, Miss; use your imagination; that's where you fail. Conceive the world as a whole."
--Virginia Woolf

"Sonnet LXV"
Matilde, where are you? Down there I noticed,
under my necktie and just above the heart,
a certain pang of grief between the ribs,
you were gone that quickly.

I needed the light of your energy,
I looked around, devouring hope.
I watched the void without you that is like a house,
nothing left but tragic windows.

Out of sheer taciturnity the ceiling listens
to the fall of the ancient leafless rain,
to feathers, to whatever the night imprisoned:

so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.
--Pablo Neruda

"You cannot save people. You can only love them."
--Anaïs Nin

"Motion Sickness"
Rain in New Jersey devouring the landscape
like those mythic dragons of another time,
another country. The train window frames it

like ink scrolls of brooding masters,
and now the shingle-roofed towns unroll
one after the other, panoramas

of domestic assurances, warm rooms,
nights with beer and TV. I'm only looking in,
and fictive homes are turning on their lamps,

and I remember mother taking me on the train
out of Manila-–I was four or five, and we sat
at the station and she said you could hear it coming,

first the thunder and then the charged heat
and full stop to stillness. We were running away
but never too far nor too long, because each time

there was nowhere far enough to go.
Her face was purple with bruises, which she hid
with paste the color of early sky. In a day or two

father would be weeping in her arms,
then we'd be home watching TV. Here you feel
the pull of perpetual motion, the blunt gunmetal

of the tracks and the empty stations, the fierce
rush towards and away from absence.
In Eliseo Subiela's Hombre Mirando al Sudeste

an alien has chosen to come to an asylum
to study the earth, and wonders why so much beauty
leaves us emptier, more solitary. And when he finds

no answers, he dies like humans do,
numb with morphine, unable to dissect
the filaments of love. Mother and I always came back

on the same train: the same fake leather seats,
the smell of condiments and rotten produce,
the landscape unreeling backwards. Thirty years later

I am still watching tracks, I try not to look back
too much, I believe beauty is a hint of storm
but it could be anything, the way the alien found it

everywhere, in Beethoven or a frozen brain–
dawn, the perfect ink of it, the nervous arrival
of familiars, and the stillness recurring without fail.
--Eric Gamalinda

"Something Bright, Then Holes"
I used to do this, the self I was
used to do this

the selves I no longer am
nor understand.

Something bright, then holes
is how a girl, newly-sighted, once

described a hand. I reread
your letters, and remember

correctly: you wanted to eat
through me. Then fall asleep

with your tongue against
an organ, quiet enough

to hear it kick. Learn everything
there is to know

about loving someone
then walk away, coolly

I'm not ashamed
Love is large and monstrous

Never again will I be so blind, so ungenerous
O bright snatches of flesh, blue

and pink, then four dark furrows, four
funnels, leading into a infinite ditch

The heart, too, is porous;
I lost the water you poured into it
--Maggie Nelson

"It suck to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it.

"Poverty doesn't give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor."
--Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

" 'Listen,' he said one afternoon in the library. 'You have to read a book three times before you know it. The first time you read it for the story. The plot. The movement from scene to scene that gives the book its momentum, its rhythm. It's like riding a raft down a river. You're just paying attention to the currents. Do you understand that?'

" 'Not at all,' I said.

" 'Yes, you do,' he said.

" 'Okay, I do,' I said. I really didn't, but Gordy believed in me. He wouldn't let me give up.

" 'The second time you read a book, you read it for its history. For its knowledge of history. You think about the meaning of each word, and where that word came from. I mean, you read a novel that has the word 'spam' in it, and you know where that word comes from, right?'

" 'Spam is junk e-mail,' I said.

" 'Yes, that's what it is, but who invented the word, who first used it, and how has the meaning of the word changed since it was first used?'

" 'I don't know,' I said.

" 'Well, you have to look all that up. If you don't treat each word that seriously then you're not treating the novel seriously.'

"I thought about my sister in Montana. Maybe romance novels were absolutely serious business. My sister certainly thought they were. I suddenly understood that if every moment of a book should be taken seriously, then every moment of a life should be taken seriously as well.

" 'I draw cartoons,' I said.

" 'What's your point?' Gordy asked.

" 'I take them seriously. I use them to understand the world. I use them to make fun of the world. To make fun of people. And sometimes I draw people because they're my friends and family. And I want to honor them.'

" 'So you take your cartoons as seriously as you take books?'

" 'Yeah, I do,' I said. 'That's kind of pathetic, isn't it?'

" 'No, not at all,' Gordy said. 'If you're good at it, and you love it, and it helps you navigate the river of the world, then it can't be wrong.'

"Wow, this dude was a poet. My cartoons weren't just good for giggles; they were also good for poetry. Funny poetry, but poetry nonetheless. It was seriously funny stuff.

" 'But don't take anything too seriously, either,' Gordy said.

"The little dork could read minds, too. He was like some kind of Star Wars alien creature with invisible tentacles that sucked your thoughts out of your brain.

" 'You read a book for the story, for each of its words,' Gordy said, 'and you draw your cartoons for the story, for each of the words and images. And, yeah, you need to take that seriously, but you should also read and draw because really good books and cartoons give you a boner.'

"I was shocked:

" 'Did you just say books should give me a boner?'

" 'Yes, I did.'

" 'Are you serious?'

" 'Yeah...Don't you get excited about books?'

" 'I don't think you're supposed to get that excited about books.'

" 'You should get a boner! You have to get a boner!' Gordy shouted. 'Come on!'

"We ran into the Reardan High School Library.

" 'Look at all these books,' he said.

" 'There aren't that many,' I said. It was a small library in a small high school in a small town.

" 'There are three hundred four thousand and twelve books here,' Gordy said. 'I know that because I counted them.'

" 'Okay, now you're officially a freak,' I said.

" 'Yes, it's a small library. It's a tiny one. But if you read one of these books a day, it would still take you almost ten years to finish.'

" 'What's your point?'

" 'The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don't know.'

"Wow. That was a huge idea.

"Any town, even one as small as Reardan, was a place of mystery. And that meant that Wellpinit, that smaller, Indian town, was also a place of mystery.

" 'Okay, so it's like each of these books is a mystery. Every book is a mystery. And if you read all the books ever written, it's like you've read one giant mystery. And no matter how much you learn, you just keep on learning there is so much more you need to learn.'

" 'Yes, yes, yes, yes,' Gordy said. 'Now doesn't that give you a boner?'

" 'I am rock hard,' I said.

"Gordy blushed.

" 'Well, I don't mean boner in the sexual sense,' Gordy said. 'I don't think you should run through life with a real erect penis. But you should approach each book--you should approach life--with the real possibility that you might get a metaphorical boner at any point.'

" 'A metaphorical boner!' I shouted. 'What the heck is a metaphorical boner?'

"Gordy laughed.

" 'When I say boner, I really mean joy,' he said.

" 'Then why didn't you say joy? You didn't have to say boner. Whenever I think about boners, I get confused.'

" 'Boner is funnier. And more joyful.' "
--Sherman Alexie

"When anybody, no matter how old they are, loses a parent, I think it hurts the same as if you were only five years old, you know? I think all of us are always five years old in the presence and absence of our parents."
--Sherman Alexie

" 'You can do it,' Coach said.

" 'I can do it.'

" 'You can do it.'

" 'I can do it.'

"Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult? Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody? It's one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they're the four hugest words in the world when they're put together."
--Sherman Alexie

"Acts of Disappearance"
It was a world where a moose
could pull a squirrel out of his hat,

children disappeared down holes,
and the lake outside your window

could suddenly go missing.
You sip your coffee and ponder:

abduction, subduction...


Freud said, when we look at the sea,
something like the sea opens in us--

which might explain Scully
drowning in himself or the night

Bobby didn't make it home, and why
I feel like a slick of mud.

Freud was talking about God,
not wax-winged punks shooting up

in a three-story walk-up, not a boy
building a fort--the hammer, the needle,

the report driven hellward.


It was a trick no one showed you--
how one could turn a lung into a lake,

a boy into air, carp on their sides,
the prevalence of sinkholes.

They keep asking for more;

the sea, of course, is not endless,
it only feels that way.
--James Hoch

Like nights we knelt on the dirt floor
of a dugout, leaned our heads back,
eyes twitching gone, and popped nitrous

canisters into the communion shapes
of our mouths, slipped inside where
everything seemed to be falling snow,

ice, the time split between chasing flies
through a darkened park and sprawling
in a sycamore bark--how clean that abyss

we drifted in, like dew, more like pollen,
on our skins; and, beneath, a want
for touch, a kiss, a return. Like nothing,

back then, to break an arm latching on
to the bumper of an Impala, or settling back
as the car took us as far as the salted bridge,

before letting the ride go with a mitten
caught behind the chrome waving
from the other side of the river. Like this,

you said, sliding a needle, watching
dope plunge, the body's rush and tow
until you felt something like an angel

hovering above, but it was only pigeon
feathers deviling the air. Those friends
are gone: some dead, dying, locked up

or jailed in themselves; and when I see
some kids running in the heat of a taillight
swirling behind them, I remember we

wanted only to quiet our bodies, their
unnatural hum, a vague pull inward,
some thin furrows gliding over the snow.
--James Hoch

"Problems with Windows"
Leave them closed, clear of curtains,
inevitably a sparrow ends itself

on the glass. You must imagine
how sudden everything is

for the sparrow keening away from a jay:
There's somewhere to go,

rectangle of light, glint, reflection,
then nothing. The bird

doesn't hear the thud of its skull,
twitch of its neck; that's for the air.


Leave them open long enough,
sparrows simply fly in. This one

must've tired of the heat beneath
the elms where young couples

grope in the shade under each
other's shirts before it shuttled

through the museum window hexed
with iron bars, and perched on

a light above Caravaggio's boy
holding a fruit basket, the way he looks

alone, almost burdened.


We had windows like that in a kitchen
I once worked, above a table

where we boned and skinned cases
of chickens that bobbed and thawed

in a sink, floating there, headless, wingless,
as if the birds had never been birds.

Shit can fly in, Franky would say, closing
the window, heat, and chickens in on us.


Franky, who was skinny but dangerous,
who lived by the river, had a knack for it

and, like Caravaggio, a penchant for blades.
You see, you had to break them open,

yank out the sternum, knife between
rib and tendon, leave no shard, then mallet

the meat until you could make out
the grain of wood beneath.


Nothing catastrophic happened.
The sparrow didn't crap on the painting

nor try to end itself in the shaft of light
behind the boy's head. It shuttled

room to room, passed Bernini's Apollo,
above the armless statues in the portico,

and out a window at the other end,
though such a rush, it felt torn;

which is to say, it filled me with memory.


Sometimes I look at a painting and forget
what to live for: the histories

perpetuated in the face of the boy,
or for the aloneness, the jitteringly nervous

suspension of a bird. I don't know
if Franky ended the way everyone thought.

The thing I remember is his eyes:
if they looked at you, shit was going down,

and if he stood still long enough,
they trembled like two dark pools.


And I imagine if you looked in the eye
of that sparrow, you would see the same

and a window of blue reflected
and curved and vulnerable

over its surface. Of course, to do so,
you'd first have to capture it, learn how to

hold a thing without crushing it.
--James Hoch

In the museum of the perverse,
in Mütter's turn-of-the-century

collection of elephantic scrotums,
cumuli of colon, gray hearts

conjoined and floating in jars,
they have a child drying

in an exhibit case, strung by
wire, drawn by wrist, like

he's levitating. What wasted
him was not clear, for years,

only that he grew rapidly old,
but tacked and splayed as if

being converted or slaughtered,
arms flung like that, how could

Christ or Icarus not come to mind;
yet cured, aged thin, the grain of bone

seems carved, Etruscan or, older,
the size of ones sunk in bogs,

woven in glaciers; though posed
like the dead in the tombs of Fayum,

you have to face them, have to
wait for a pure gaze, a figment

of soul, an image exact enough
the next world will know him.

Somehow the body keeps us
looking beyond form, keeps us

marveling over its hollows: empty
skull, depressed sockets--absences

we tend to, as we tend to narrative:
ash, grind, leaf, until he's only

a child again, selfsame--Look,
he's riding a bicycle, no-hands.

No, he's trying to hug the air.

--James Hoch

"Painting of a Cart"
It's like some ancient machine brought from storage, another age,
and if it weren't selling imported flowers, you'd think the cart was
something you'd throw a few bodies on and haul through town,
regular enough its wheels warn of pestilence, poverty, reliable
as a church tower; and if you close your eyes and forgive the blossoms
the old stench might come wafting back, like a distant field feculent
and Dutch, spreading as the cart makes its way down the rancid
alleys, an odor thick as myrrh, slowly rising to a window, a kitchen
where you imagine you are chopping parsley, obliterating the leaves
into a stain of green; how you say to yourself, the wood, the knife knock,
the delinquent kids dragging a cart, clobbering the stones smooth with
their tiny hooves, how could this have ever been so lovely?
--James Hoch

"All Things End in Fragrance"
Out the window, starlings
fidget in the wasted eaves

of a bar burned down last summer.
They pilfer, figure,

charred wire, booth cushion,
anything light enough

to haul by beak, wedge high
between blackened 2 x 4.

A nest,
a bed for the dying
or just born--
The birds shuttle,

their feathers taking on
what they inhabit,

the way, Dear Witness, the silk
in your shirts took asafetida,

mustard oil burning
in a skillet, as this letter

makeshift and late
the leaden face of broken type,

a shape which, for now, says
Stay. Live here awhile

before rising into some other sorrow.
--James Hoch
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"I think people are often quite unaware of their inner selves, their other selves, their imaginative selves, the selves that aren't on show in the world. It's something you grow out of from childhood onwards, losing possession of yourself, really. I think literature is one of the best ways back into that. You are hypnotized as soon as you get into a book that particularly works for you, whether it's fiction or a poem. You find that your defenses drop, and as soon as that happens, an imaginative reality can take over because you are no longer censoring your own perceptions, your own awareness of the world."
--Jeanette Winterson

"Keeping Quiet"
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
--Pablo Neruda, translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid

"Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving."
--bell hooks

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."
--George Orwell

"Because I'll Never Swim in Every Ocean"
Want is ten thousand blue feathers falling
all around me, and me unable to stomach
that I might catch five but never ten thousand.
So I drop my hands to my sides and wait
to be buried. I open a book and the words
spring and taunt. Flashes--motel, lapidary,
piranha--of every story, every poem I'll never
know well enough to conjure in sleep.
What's the point of words if I can't
own them all? I toss book after book
into my imaginary trashcan fire.
Or I think I'll learn piano. At the first lesson,
we're clapping whole and half notes
and this is childish, I'm better than this.
I'd like to leave playing Ravel. I'd like
to give a concerto on Saturday. So I quit.
I have standards. Then on Saturday,
I have a beer, watch a telethon. Or
we watch a documentary on Antarctica.
The interviewees are from Belarus, Lima, Berlin.
Everyone speaks English. Everyone names
a philosopher, an ethos. One man carries a raft
on his back at all times. I went to Nebraska once
and swore it was a great adventure. It was.
I think of how I'll never go to Antarctica,
mainly because I don't much want to. But
I should want to. I should be the girl
with a raft on her back. When I think
of all the mountains and monuments
and skyscapes I haven't seen, all the trains
I should take, all the camels and mopeds
and ferries I should ride, all the scorching
hikes I should nearly die on, I press
my body down, down into the vast green
couch. If I step out the door, the infinity
of what I've missed will zorro me across
the face with a big L for Lazy. Sometimes
I watch finches at the feeder, their wings small
suns, and have to grab the sill to steady myself.
Metaphorically, of course. I'm no loon.
Look--even my awestruck is half-assed.
But I'm so tired of the small steps--
the pentatonic scale, the frequent flyer
hoarding, the one exquisite sentence
in a forest of exquisite sentences.
There is a globe welling up inside of me.
Mountain ranges ridging my skin,
oceans filling my mouth. If I stay still
long enough, I could become my own world.
--Catherine Pierce

"To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, light-weight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store. In Godard's Les Carabiniers (1963), two sluggish lumpen-peasants are lured into joining the King's Army by the promise that they will be able to loot, rape, kill, or do whatever else they please to the enemy, and get rich. But the suitcase of booty that Michel-Ange and Ulysse triumphantly bring home, years later, to their wives turns out to contain only picture postcards, hundreds of them, of Monuments, Department Stores, Mammals, Wonders of Nature, Methods of Transport, Works of Art, and other classified treasures from around the globe. Godard's gag vividly parodies the equivocal magic of the photographic image. Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood.

"To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge--and, therefore, like power. A now notorious first fall into alienation, habituating people to abstract the world into printed words, is supposed to have engendered that surplus of Faustian energy and psychic damage needed to build modern, inorganic societies. But print seems a less treacherous form of leaching out the world, of turning it into a mental object, than photographic images, which now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present. What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual statements, like paintings and drawings. Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire."
--Susan Sontag, On Photography

"A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it--by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir."
--Susan Sontag

"Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events."
--Susan Sontag

"Like a car, a camera is sold as a predatory weapon--one that's as automated as possible, ready to spring. Popular taste expects an easy, an invisible technology. Manufacturers reassure their customers that taking pictures demands no skill or expert knowledge, that the machine is all-knowing, and responds to the slightest pressure of the will. It's as simple as turning the ignition key or pulling the trigger.

"Like guns and cars, cameras are fantasy-machines whose use is addictive. However, despite the extravagances of ordinary language and advertising, they are not lethal. In the hyperbole that markets cars like guns, there is at least this much truth: except in wartime, cars kill more people than guns do. The camera/gun does not kill, so the ominous metaphor seems to be all bluff--like a man's fantasy of having a gun, knife, or tool between his legs. Still, there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder--a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.

"Eventually, people might learn to act out more of their aggressions with cameras and fewer with guns, with the price being an even more image-choked world. One situation where people are switching from bullets to film is the photographic safari that is replacing the gun safari in East Africa. The hunters have Hasselblads instead of Winchesters; instead of looking through a telescopic sight to aim a rifle, they look through a viewfinder to frame a picture. In end-of-the-century London, Samuel Butler complained that 'there is a photographer in every bush, going about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.' The photographer is now charging real beasts, beleaguered and too rare to kill. Guns have metamorphosed into cameras in this earnest comedy, the ecology safari, because nature has ceased to be what it always had been--what people needed protection from. Now nature--tamed, endangered, mortal--needs to be protected from people. When we are afraid, we shoot. But when we are nostalgic, we take pictures.

"It is a nostalgic time right now, and photographs actively promote nostalgia. Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art. Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos. An ugly or grotesque subject may be moving because it has been dignified by the attention of the photographer. A beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feelings, because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists. All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person's (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt."
--Susan Sontag

"A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence. Like a wood fire in a room, photographs--especially those of people, of distant landscapes and faraway cities, of the vanished past--are incitements to reverie. The sense of the unattainable that can be evoked by photographs feeds directly into the erotic feelings of those for whom desirability is enhanced by distance. The lover's photograph hidden in a married women's wallet, the poster photograph of a rock star tacked up over an adolescent's bed, the campaign-button image of a politician's face pinned on a voter's coat, the snapshots of a cabdriver's children clipped to the visor--all such talismanic uses of photographs express a feeling both sentimental and implicitly magical: they are attempts to contact or lay claim to another reality."
--Susan Sontag

"One's first encounter with the photographic inventory of ultimate horror is a kind of revelation, the prototypically modern revelation: a negative epiphany. For me, it was photographs of Bergen-Belsen and Dachau which I came across by chance in a bookstore in Santa Monica in July 1945. Nothing I have seen--in photographs or in real life--ever cut me as sharply, deeply, instantaneously. Indeed, it seems plausible to me to divide my life into two parts, before I saw those photographs (I was twelve) and after, though it was several years before I understood fully what they were about. What good was served by seeing them? They were only photographs--of an event I had scarcely heard of and could do nothing to relieve. When I looked at those photographs, something broke. Some limit had been reached, and not only that of horror; I felt irrevocably grieved, wounded, but a part of my feelings started to tighten; something went dead; something is still crying.

"To suffer is one thing: another thing is living with the photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more--and more. Images transfix. Images anesthetize. An event known through photographs certainly becomes more real than it would have been if one had never seen the photographs--think of the Vietnam War. (For a counter-example, think of the Gulag Archipelago, of which we have no photographs.) But after repeated exposure to images it also becomes less real."
--Susan Sontag

"Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.

"Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks. All possibility of understanding is rooted in the ability to say no. Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph. Of course, photographs fill in blanks in our mental pictures of the present and the past: for example, Jacob Riis's images of New York squalor in the 1880s are sharply instructive to those unaware that urban poverty in late-nineteenth-century America was really that Dickensian. Nevertheless, the camera's rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses. As Brecht points out, a photograph of the Krupp works reveals virtually nothing about that organization. In contrast to the amorous relation, which is based on how something looks, understanding is based on how it functions. And functioning takes place in time, and must be explained in time. Only that which narrates can make us understand."
--Susan Sontag

"Steichen's choice of photographs assumes a human condition or a human nature shared by everybody. By purporting to show that individuals are born, work, laugh, and die everywhere in the same way, 'The Family of Man' denies the determining weight of history--of genuine and historically embedded differences, injustices, and conflicts. Arbus's photographs undercut politics just as decisively, by suggesting a world in which everybody is an alien, hopelessly isolated, immobilized in mechanical, crippled identities and relationships. The pious uplift of Steichen's photograph anthology and the cool dejection of the Arbus retrospective both render history and politics irrelevant. One does so by universalizing the human condition, into joy; the other by atomizing it, into horror."
--Susan Sontag

"The photographer is always trying to colonize new experiences or find new ways to look at familiar subjects--to fight against boredom. For boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other."
--Susan Sontag

"The photographer both loots and preserves, denounces and consecrates. Photography expresses the American impatience with reality, the taste for activities whose instrumentality is a machine. 'Speed is at the bottom of it all,' as Hart Crane said (writing about Stieglitz in 1923), 'the hundredth of a second caught so precisely that the motion is continued from the picture indefinitely: the moment made eternal.' Faced with the awesome spread and alienness of a newly settled continent, people wielded cameras as a way of taking possession of the places they visited. Kodak put signs at the entrances of many towns listing what to photograph. Signs marked the places in national parks where visitors should stand with their cameras.

"Sander is at home in his country. American photographers are often on the road, overcome with disrespectful wonder at what their country offers in the way of surreal surprises. Moralists and conscienceless despoilers, children and foreigners in their own land, they will get something down that is disappearing--and, often, hasten its disappearance by photographing it. To take, like Sander, specimen after specimen, seeking an ideally complete inventory, presupposes that society can be envisaged as a comprehensible totality. European photographers have assumed that society has something of the stability of nature. Nature in America has always been suspect, on the defensive, cannibalized by progress. In America, every specimen becomes a relic.

"The American landscape has always seemed too varied, immense, mysterious, fugitive to lend itself to scientism. 'He doesn't know, he can't say, before the facts,' Henry James wrote in The American Scene (1907),

" 'and he doesn't even want to know or to say; the faces themselves loom, before the understanding, in too large a mass for a mere mouthful: it is as if the syllables were too numerous to make a legible word. The illegible word, accordingly, the great inscrutable answer to questions, hangs in the vast American sky, to his imagination, as something fantastic and abracadabrant, belonging to no known language, and it is under this convenient ensign that he he travels and considers and contemplates, and, to the best of his ability, enjoys.'

"Americans feel the reality of their country to be so stupendous, and mutable, that it would be the rankest presumption to approach it in a classifying, scientific way. One could get at it indirectly, by subterfuge--breaking it off into strange fragments that could somehow, by synecdoche, be taken for the whole."
--Susan Sontag
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"An Otter"
Underwater eyes, an eel's
Oil of water body, neither fish nor beast is the otter:
Four-legged yet water-gifted, to outfish fish;
With webbed feet and long ruddering tail
And a round head like an old tomcat.

Brings the legend of himself
From before wars or burials, in spite of hounds and vermin-poles;
Does not take root like the badger. Wanders, cries;
Gallops along land he no longer belongs to;
Re-enters the water by melting.

Of neither water nor land. Seeking
Some world lost when first he dived, that he cannot come at since,
Takes his changed body into the holes of lakes;
As if blind, cleaves the stream's push till he licks
The pebbles of the source; from sea

To sea crosses in three nights
Like a king in hiding. Crying to the old shape of the starlit land,
Over sunken farms where the bats go round,
Without answer. Till light and birdsong come
Walloping up roads with the milk wagon.

The hunt's lost him. Pads on mud,
Among sedges, nostrils a surface bead,
The otter remains, hours. The air,
Circling the globe, tainted and necessary,

Mingling tobacco-smoke, hounds and parsley,
Comes carefully to the sunk lungs.
So the self under the eye lies,
Attendant and withdrawn. The otter belongs

In double robbery and concealment--
From water that nourishes and drowns, and from land
That gave him his length and the mouth of the hound.
He keeps fat in the limpid integument

Reflections live on. The heart beats thick,
Big trout muscle out of the dead cold;
Blood is the belly of logic; he will lick
The fishbone bare. And can take stolen hold

On a bitch otter in a field full
Of nervous horses, but linger nowhere.
Yanked above hounds, reverts to nothing at all,
To this long pelt over the back of a chair.
--Ted Hughes

"The Naming of Beasts"
You were wrong about the blood.
It is the meat-eating lamb we are terrified of,
not the meat-eating lion.
The noisy Soul shrieking and spitting and bleeding set us off--
the smell of nice clean grass confused us.
It is the eyes, it is the old sweet eyes showing just a little fear.
It is the simple mouth full of honest juices.
It is the little legs crossed at the bony joints.
--It is not greed--it can't be greed--it is fasting;
it is not divorce--it is custody;
it is not blood--it is supineness.
--Gerald Stern

"Ode to the Black Panther"
Thirty-one years ago,
I haven't forgotten,
in Singapore, rain
warm as blood
was falling
ancient white walls
by the humidity that left in them
leprous kisses.
The dark multitude
would be lit up
suddenly by a flash
of teeth
or eyes,
with the iron sun up above
an implacable spear.
I wandered through the streets flooded
with betel, the red nuts
beds of fragrant leaves
and the dorian fruit
rotting in the muggy siesta.
Suddenly I was
in front of a gaze,
from a cage in the
middle of the street
two circles
of coldness,
two magnets,
two hostile electricities,
two eyes
that entered into mine
nailing me
to the ground
and to the leprous wall.
I saw then
the body that undulated
and was
a velvet shadow,
a flexible perfection,
pure night.
Under the black pelt,
making a subtle rainbow,
were powderlike
topaz rhomboids
or hexagons of gold,
I couldn't tell which,
that sparkled
the lean
The panther
and palpitating
in a cage
in the middle of
the miserable
Of the lost jungle
of deceit,
of stolen space,
of the sweet-and-sour smell of
human beings
and dusty houses
with mineral
only expressed
her scorn, her burning
and her eyes were
seals that
till eternity
a wild door.

She walked
like fire, and, like smoke,
when she closed her eyes
she became the invisible, unencompassable night.
--Pablo Neruda, translated from the Spanish by Stephen Mitchell

When I was a boy here,
traveling the fields for pleasure,
the farms were worked with teams.
As late as then a teamster
was thought an accomplished man,
his art an essential discipline.
A boy learned it by delight
as he learned to use
his body, following the example
of men. The reins of a team
were put into my hands
when I thought the work was play.
And in the corrective gaze
of men now dead I learned
to flesh my will in power
great enough to kill me
should I let it turn.

I learned the other tongue
by which men spoke to beasts
--all its terms and tones.
And by the time I learned,
new ways had changed the time.
The tractors came. The horses
stood in the fields, keepsakes,
grew old, and died. Or were sold
as dogmeat. Our minds received
the revolution of engines, our will
stretched toward the numb endurance
of metal. And that old speech
by which we magnified
our flesh in other flesh
fell dead in our mouths.
The songs of the world died
in our ears as we went within
the uproar of the long syllable
of the motors. Our intent entered
the world as combustion.
Like our travels, our workdays
burned upon the world,
lifting its inwards up
in fire. Veiled in that power
our minds gave up the endless
cycle of growth and decay
and took the unreturning way,
the breathless distance of iron.

But that work, empowered by burning
the world's body, showed us
finally the world’s limits
and our own. We had then
the life of a candle, no longer
the ever-returning song
among the grassblades and the leaves.

Did I never forget?
Or did I, after years,
remember? To hear that song
again, though brokenly
in the distances of memory,
is coming home. I came to
a farm, some of it unreachable
by machines, as some of the world
will always be. And so
I came to a team, a pair
of mares--sorrels, with white
tails and manes, beautiful!--
to keep my sloping fields.
Going behind them, the reins
I fight over their backs as they stepped
their long strides, revived
again on my tongue the cries
of dead men in the living
fields. Now every move
answers what is still.
This work of love rhymes
living and dead. A dance
is what this plodding is.
A song, whatever is said.
--Wendell Berry

You read the old Irish poet and complain
I do not offer you impossible things--
Gloves of bee's fur, cap of wren's wings,
Goblets so clear light falls on them like a stain.
I make you the harder offer of all I can,
The good and ill that make of me this man.

I need no fancy to mark you as beautiful,
If you are beautiful. All I know is what
Darkens and brightens the sad waste of my thought
Is what makes me your wild, truth-telling fool
Who will not spoil your power by adding one
Vainglorious image to all we've said and done.

Flowers need no fantasy, stones need no dream:
And you are flower and stone. And I compel
Myself to be no more than possible,
Offering nothing that might one day seem
A measure of your failure to be true
To the greedy vanity that disfigures you.

A cloak of the finest silk in Scotland--what
Has that to do with troubled nights and days
Of sorry happiness? I had no praise
Even of your kindness, that was not bought
At such a price this bankrupt self is all
I have to give. And is that impossible?
--Norman MacCaig

"There Was Earth inside Them"
There was earth inside them, and
they dug.

They dug and dug, and so
their day went past, their night. And they did not praise God,
who, so they heard, wanted all this,
who, so they heard, witnessed all this.

They dug and heard nothing more;
they did not grow wise, invented no song,
devised for themselves no sort of language.
They dug.

There came a stillness then, came also storm,
all of the oceans came.
I dig, you dig, and it, the worm, digs too,
and the singing there says: They dig.

O one, O none, O no one, O you:
Where did it go, then, making for nowhere?
O you dig and I dig, and I dig through to you,
and the ring on our finger awakens.
--Paul Celan

From Belsen a crate of gold teeth,
from Dachau a mountain of shoes,
from Auschwitz a skin lampshade.
Who killed the Jews?

Not I, cries the typist,
not I, cries the engineer,
not I, cries Adolf Eichmann,
not I, cries Albert Speer.

My friend Fritz Nova lost his father--
a petty official had to choose.
My friend Lou Abrahms lost his brother.
Who killed the Jews?

David Nova swallowed gas,
Hyman Abrahms was beaten and starved.
Some men signed their papers,
and some stood guard,

and some herded them in,
and some dropped the pellets,
and some spread the ashes,
and some hosed the walls,

and some planted the wheat,
and some poured the steel,
and some cleared the rails,
and some raised the cattle.

Some smelled the smoke,
some just heard the news.
Were they Germans? Were they Nazis?
Were they human? Who killed the Jews?

The stars will remember the gold,
the sun will remember the shoes,
the moon will remember the skin.
But who killed the Jews?
--William Heyen

Listen, if stars are lit
it means--there is someone who needs it.
It means--someone wants them to be,
that someone deems those specks of spit magnificent.

And overwrought,
in the swirls of afternoon dust,
he bursts in on God,
afraid he might be already late.
In tears,
he kisses God's sinewy hand
and begs him to guarantee
that there will definitely be a star.
He swears
he won't be able to stand
that starless ordeal.

He wanders around, worried,
but outwardly calm.

And to everyone else, he says:
it's all right.
You are no longer afraid,
are you?'

if stars are lit,
it means--there is someone who needs it.
It means it is essential
that every evening
at least one star should ascend
over the crest of the building.
--Vladimir Mayakovsky

"The Colonel"
What you have heard is true. I was in his house.
His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His
daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the
night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol
on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on
its black cord over the house. On the television
was a cop show. It was in English. Broken bottles
were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his
hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings
like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of
lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes,
salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed
the country. There was a brief commercial in
Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk of how difficult it had become to govern.
The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel
told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the
table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to
bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on
the table. They were like dried peach halves. There
is no other way to say this. He took one of them in
his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a
water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of
fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone,
tell your people they can go f--- themselves. He
swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held
the last of his wine in the air. Something for your
poetry, no? he said. Some of the ears on the floor
caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on
the floor were pressed to the ground.
--Carolyn Forché

"Red, Orange, Yellow"
For five years of my life, or ten,
I lived no-color.
In a beige room I talked
clipped whispers
with a lady who faded while I looked at her.
Even our voices were oyster-white.
My generous monsters
were pale as puff-balls of dust.
Leaves on trees I grew
turned dingy. I mowed pale grass.
Friends parked station-wagons like huge dead mice
by my house that was nearly invisible.
Dollar bills lost color
when I kept them in my wallet.
I dreamed of mountains gray like oceans
with no house-lights on them,
only coffins that walked and talked
and buried each other continually
in beige rock in beige sand.

So I looked for the color yellow.
I drank yellow for breakfast,
orange at lunch, gold for dinner.
Red was the color of pain.
Now I eat red
all day. The sky is her yellow.
Sometimes no-color years
rise in slow motion,
like Mozart on drums. Their name is Chumble.
They smile
like pale grass, looking downward.
But red sticks
needles in my eyes.
dozes on the beach at Big Sur
or in the center of my new room
like a cactus
that lives without water, for a year.
--Donald Hall

"Practising Bach"
for performance with Bach's E Major
Partita for Solo Violin, BMV 1006


There is, said Pythagoras, a sound
the planet makes: a kind of music
just outside of our hearing, the proportion
and the resonance of things--not
the clang of theory or the wuthering
of human speech, not even
the bright song of sex or hunger, but
the unrung ringing that
supports them all.

The wife, no warning, dead
when you come home. Ducats
on the fishheads that you salvaged
from the rubbish heap. Is the cosmos
laughing at us? No. It's saying
improvise. Everywhere you look
there's beauty, and it's rimed
with death. If you find injustice
you'll find humans, and this means
that if you listen, you'll find love.
The substance of the world is light,
is water: here, clear
even when it's dying; even when the dying
seems unbearable, it runs.
--Jan Zwicky

"For the Dead"
I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting long after midnight
--Adrienne Rich

"Burning Oneself Out"
We can look into the stove tonight
as into a mirror, yes,

the serrated log, the yellow-blue
gaseous core

the crimson-flittered grey ash, yes,
I know inside my eyelids
and underneath my skin

Time takes hold of us like a draft
upward, drawing at the heats
in the belly, in the brain

You told me of setting your hand
into the print of a long-dead Indian
and for a moment, I knew that hand,

that print, that rock,
the sun producing powerful dreams
A word can do this

or, as tonight, the mirror of the fire
of my mind, burning as if it could go on
burning itself, burning down

feeding on everything
till there is nothing in life
that has not fed that fire
--Adrienne Rich

"To Live in the Borderlands Means You"
To live in the Borderlands means you
are neither hispana india negra Española
ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata,
half breed
caught in the crossfire between camps
while carrying all five races on your back
not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

To live in the Borderlands means knowing
that the india in you,
betrayed for 500 years,
is no longer speaking to you,
that mexicanas call you rajetas,
that denying the Anglo inside you
is as bad as having denied
the Indian or Black;

Cuando vives en la frontera
people walk through you, the wind
steals your voice,
you're a burra, buey, scapegoat,
forerunner of a new race,
half and half—both woman and man,
a new gender;

To live in the Borderlands means to
put chile in the borscht,
eat whole wheat tortillas,
speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;
be stopped by la migra at the border checkpoints;

Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to
resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,
the pull of the gun barrel,
the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;

In the Borderlands
you are the battleground
where the enemies are kin to each other;
you are at home, a stranger,
the border disputes have been settled
the volley of shots have shattered the truce
you are wounded, lost in action
dead, fighting back;

To live in the Borderlands means
the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off
your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart
pound you, pinch you roll you out
smelling like white bread but dead;

To survive the Borderlands
you must live sin fronteras
be a crossroads.
--Gloria Anzaldúa

"Perpetual Motion"
In a little while I'll be drifting up an on-ramp,
sipping coffee from a styrofoam container,
checking my gas gauge with one eye
and twisting the dial of the radio
with the fingers of my third hand,
Looking for a station I can steer to Saturn on.

It seems I have the traveling disease
again, an outbreak of that virus
celebrated by the cracked lips
of a thousand blues musicians--song
about a rooster and a traintrack,
a sunrise and a jug of cherry cherry wine.

It's the kind of perceptual confusion
that makes your loved ones into strangers,
that makes a highway look like a woman
with air conditioned arms. With a
bottomless cup of coffee for a mouth
and jewelry shaped like pay phone booths
dripping from her ears.

In a little while the radio will
almost have me convinced
that I am doing something romantic,
something to do with "freedom" and "becoming"
instead of fright and flight into
an anonymity so deep

it has no bottom,
only signs to tell you what direction
you are falling in: CHEYENNE, SEATTLE,
WICHITA, DETROIT--Do you hear me,
do you feel me moving through?
With my foot upon the gas,
between the future and the past,
I am here--
here where the desire to vanish
is stronger than the desire to appear.
--Tony Hoagland
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"The Drowned Girl"
My head is wet
My head is wet

I forget

I did not want to wash my hair

Something terrible
or maybe not

Sometimes babies are born dead

It doesn't matter
in the water
what I wanted or forgot
--Ursula K. Le Guin

"Sonnet XVII: Love"
I don't love you as if you were a salt rose, a topaz
or an arrow of carnations that propogate fire:
I love you the way one loves certain dark things,
secretly, between shadow and soul.

I love you like a plant that doesn't flower and carries
inside itself, hidden, the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love lives dark in my body
the tight scent that rose from the earth.

I love without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
that's how I love you because I don't know any other way to love,

but so, this way, in which neither I am nor you are,
so close that your hand on my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my sleep.
--Pablo Neruda

"Fuck You Poem #45"
Fuck you in slang and conventional English.
Fuck you in lost and neglected lingoes.
Fuck you hungry and sated; faded, pock marked and defaced.
Fuck you with orange rind, fennel and anchovy paste.
Fuck you with rosemary and thyme, and fried green olives on the side.
Fuck you humidly and icily.
Fuck you farsightedly and blindly.
Fuck you nude and draped in stolen finery.

Fuck you while cells divide wildly and birds trill.
Thank you for barring me from his bedside while he was ill.
Fuck you puce and chartreuse.
Fuck you postmodern and prehistoric.
Fuck you under the influence of opium, codeine, laudanum and paregoric.
Fuck every real and imagined country you fancied yourself princess of.
Fuck you on feast days and fast days, below and above.
Fuck you sleepless and shaking for nineteen nights running.
Fuck you ugly and fuck you stunning.

Fuck you shipwrecked on the barren island of your bed.
Fuck you marching in lockstep in the ranks of the dead.
Fuck you at low and high tide.
And fuck you astride
anyone who has the bad luck to fuck you, in dank hallways,
bathrooms, or kitchens.
Fuck you in gasps and whispered benedictions.

And fuck these curses, however heartfelt and true,
that bind me, till I forgive you, to you.
--Amy Gerstler

"The Little Girl"
When Mother sends me to see Gran
I wear my old red hood
and walk as fast as ever I can,
trit-trotting through the wood.

And when I see the Wolf in bed
in Granny's flannel gown,
he says the things he's always said
and gobbles me right down.

Inside his gut I play my drums
and Granny plays her sax,
until the noble Woodsman comes
and splits him with an ax.

Then she and I come crawling out
all bilious and gory,
and listen to the people shout
and tell the hero's story.

He smiles modestly; they cheer;
and I trot home alone,
and nobody will ever hear
Little Reddy Ridey Roodey on the
and Great Gut Granny on the alto saxophone.
--Ursula L. Le Guin
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adultress,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur

of your brain's exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles' webbing
and all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.
--Seamus Heaney

"Tie Your Heart at Night to Mine"
Tie your heart at night to mine, love,
and both will defeat the darkness
like twin drums beating in the forest
against the heavy wall of wet leaves.

Night crossing: black coal of dream
that cuts the thread of earthly orbs
with the punctuality of a headlong train
that pulls cold stone and shadow endlessly.

Love, because of it, tie me to a purer movement,
to the grip on life that beats in your breast,
with the wings of a submerged swan,

So that our dream might reply
to the sky's questioning stars
with one key, one door closed to shadow.
--Pablo Neruda

You do look a little ill.

But we can do something about that, now.

Can't we.

The fact is you're a shocking wreck.

Do you hear me.

You aren't all alone.

And you could use some help today, packing in the
dark, boarding buses north, putting the seat back and
grinning with terror flowing over your legs through
your fingers and hair...

I was always waiting, always here.

Know anyone else who can say that.

My advice to you is think of her for what she is:
one more name cut in the scar of your tongue.

What was it you said, "To rather be harmed than
harm, is not abject."


Can we be leaving now.

We like bus trips, remember. Together

we could watch these winter fields slip past, and
never care again,

think of it.

I don't have to be anywhere.
--Franz Wright

"My Story in a Late Style of Fire"
Whenever I listen to Billie Holiday, I am reminded
That I, too, was once banished from New York City.
Not because of drugs or because I was interesting enough
For any wan, overworked patrolman to worry about--
His expression usually a great, gauzy spiderweb of bewilderment
Over his face--I was banished from New York City by a woman.
Sometimes, after we had stopped laughing, I would look
At her & and see a cold note of sorrow or puzzlement go
Over her face as if someone else were there, behind it,
Not laughing at all. We were, I think, "in love." No, I'm sure.
If my house burned down tomorrow morning, & if I & my wife
And son stood looking on at the flames, & if, then
Someone stepped out of the crowd of bystanders
And said to me: "Didn't you once know...?" No. But if
One of the flames, rising up in the scherzo of fire, turned
All the windows blank with light, & if that flame could speak,
And if it said to me: "You loved her, didn't you?" I'd answer,
Hands in my pockets, "Yes." And then I'd let fire & misfortune
Overwhelm my life. Sometimes, remembering those days,
I watch a warm, dry wind bothering a whole line of elms
And maples along a street in this neighborhood until
They're all moving at once, until I feel just like them,
Trembling & in unison. None of this matters now,
But I never felt alone all that year, & if I had sorrows,
I also had laughter, the affliction of angels & children.
Which can set a whole house on fire if you'd let it. And even then
You might still laugh to see all of your belongings set you free
In one long choiring of flames that sang only to you--
Either because no one else could hear them, or because
No one else wanted to. And, mostly, because they know.
They know such music cannot last, & that it would
Tear them apart if they listened. In those days,
I was, in fact, already married, just as I am now,
Although to another woman. And that day I could have stayed
In New York. I had friends there. I could have strayed
Up Lexington Avenue, or down to Third, & caught a faint
Glistening of the sea between the buildings. But all I wanted
Was to hold her all morning, until her body was, again,
A bright field, or until we both reached some thicket
As if at the end of a lane, or at the end of all desire,
And where we could, therefore, be alone again, & make
Some dignity out of loneliness. As, mostly, people cannot do.
Billie Holiday, whose life was shorter & more humiliating
Than my own, would have understood all this, if only
Because even in her late addiction & her bloodstream's
Hallelujahs, she, too, sang often of some affair, or someone
Gone, & therefore permanent. And sometimes she sang for
Nothing, even then, & it isn't anyone's business, if she did.
That morning, when she asked me to leave, wearing only
The apricot tinted, fraying chemise, I wanted to stay.
But I also wanted to go, to lose her suddenly, almost
For no reason, & certainly without any explanation.
I remember looking down at a pair of singular tracks
Made in a light snow the night before, at how they were
Gradually effacing themselves beneath the tires
Of the morning traffic, & thinking that my only other choice
Was fire, ashes, abandonment, solitude. All of which happened
Anyway, & soon after, & by divorce. I know this isn't much.
But I wanted to explain this life to you, even if
I had to become, over the years, someone else to do it.
You have to think of me what you think of me. I had
To live my life, even its late, florid style. Before
You judge this, think of her. Then think of fire,
Its laughter, the music of splintering beams & glass,
The flames reaching through the second story of a house
Almost as if to--mistakenly--rescue someone who
Left you years ago. It is so American, fire. So like us.
Its desolation. And its eventual, brief triumph.
--Larry Levis

Imagine spring's thaw, your brother said,
each house a small rain, the eaves muttering
like rivers and you the white skin
the world sheds, your flesh unfolded

and absorbed. You walked Newark together,
tie loosened, a silk rainbow undone,
his fatigues the flat green of summer's end,
all blood drained from the horizon.

It would have been easier had you music
to discuss, a common love for one
of the brutal sports, if you shared
his belief that breath and sumac are more

alike than distinct, mutations of the same
tenacity. You almost tried it for him,
cinched a belt around your arm, aimed
a needle at the bloated vein, your window

open to July's gaunt wind and the radio
dispersing its chatty somnolence. When
he grabbed your wrist, his rightful face
came back for a moment: he was fifteen

and standing above Albert Ramos, fists
clenched, telling the boy in a voice
from the Old Testament what he'd do if certain
cruelties happened again. Loosening the belt,

you walked out, each straight and shaking,
into the hammering sun, talked of the past
as if it were a painting of a harvested field,
two men leaning against dust and pitchforks.

That night he curled up and began to die,
his body a pile of ants and you on the floor
ripping magazines into a mound of words
and faces, touching his forehead with the back

of your hand in a ritual of distress, fading
into the crickets' metered hallucination.
When in two days he was human again, when
his eyes registered the scriptures of light,

when he tried to stand but fell and tried
again, you were proud but immediately
began counting days, began thinking
his name was written in a book

locked in the safe of a sunken ship,
a sound belonging to water, to history,
and let him go, relinquished him
to the strenuous work of vanishing.
--Bob Hicok

"I Do It in My Sleep"
All I ever wanted
Was to have the skinniest thighs ever
Okay, and a Porsche
And a sugar daddy
And maybe a mansion

I've never been thin
I mean really thin
Well I've been thin
Like in a sick way
Where you could jab
Yourself on my collar bone
It was jagged and sharp
I could hang keys on it
If I wanted to

Selfish people always love me
That's because I can give more than I can take
And I always love the poor ones
If they tell me I look pretty in this light or that one

Sometimes I've wanted to kill myself
But I never would
never would
Because it would give you too
Much satisfaction
To see me choke on my neck blood
and gargle out your name
My final syllables

* *

The best I can hope for
Is a shot in the head
A warm bed
The best I can hope for
Is that I forget your name
And remember my own
The best I can hope for
Is that I wake up in my own bed
not yours
Save the explaining for someone else
I know everything already
And what I don't know
I'll find out after
I pull all the pulp from my neck
Off my list of things to do
After I find myself
In the laps of others
On the floor shivering
In a basement crying

Once I was so fucked up I forgot the alphabet
I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't black out again
But black beauties taste like absinthe and
I was riding the free train to Sunset Park
And I was going to meet you in your bed
And Curl up at your feet like a cat and beg you to take me back
Because I felt so low
Because I wasn't the pretty girl you remembered

All good stories begin and end the same way
Either you die
Or I die
But someone has to tell the fucking story
I keep on saying
I don't want this story to end
I don't want you to walk out on me
To leave this apartment

You can play me like a violin
You know where to put your fingers
Around my throat
Knot them like a noose
Tangle me up in all
Your fucked up scenarios
Scratch all my records and throw them
from the 5th story window

you sewed up my eyes
with some fishing wire
I knew you'd gut the middle part
But that's the part they throw out anyway
My stomach is hollow as a steel drum

I am told I am too forward
I give people the wrong idea
I'd marry you in a heartbeat
But I'm leaving
Taking a train
To St. Louis
I'm in love with a right wing politician

There's very little truth in this world
So really it's not about truth
It's about the times I was too fucked up to drive
And you knew to take the wheel
The time you slipped your hands down my pants
Looked under my tongue with a flashlight
And saw my ghost
It's never been easy being me
Or anyone else for that matter
It's never been easy
To tread lightly over anyone
I am always the first to pull out the death card
I am always the first to take turns eating what's left
Of your flesh after the birds have their way with it

I am the one who eats the leftovers
Spoiled at the back of the refrigerator
After someone went out to eat
Somewhere posh
I've never been posh
Down-home maybe
I've got a few tricks left up my sleeve
And cuts
I've got cuts
Sometimes I cut myself on purpose
Sometimes they just appear
And I don't know where they came from
Sometimes I think I do it in my sleep
--Zoe Alexander

"Way Out"
It's never been like this before.
I've never been able to say no to anything before.
Now that's all I can say.
Except to you.

I don't know how I'd begin to gratify you.
All of my vocabulary is selfish.
Sometimes I want to drown
when you tell me about growing up
and you were on some special diet
and couldn't eat what your brothers ate,
That you always felt different.
That you shot up at 15.
That I could never be like you.
Strong features
Eyes that carve holes into my face.
The perfect carpenter.
The worst track marks I have ever seen.

Let's pretend I'm lonely
and you're around
and I can hear you inhale from my bed.
Let's pretend that you'd placate me
In a way no one else can.
Let's pretend we'd never speak again.

Hi, my name is no one
and I have a face of wrecked glass.
Don't get too close or it'll slice you.
Don't touch me or you'll make me hemorrhage.

If I could read your thoughts
I'd know that you think I'm fat
With awful skin
And a strange laugh;
Or maybe I'm just projecting.

Let's touch hands.
Let's touch faces.
Let's climb into each other's skin
and never leave.
I want you inside of me forever.

I don't need a compass anymore.
I know where I'm going,
Straight to hell again
With no more drinks to drown in,
No more names to call myself.
I'm finally anonymous.
I'm finally on my way out.

Your eyes are piercing,
Your hair is falling out,
Your mouth is too far away for me to touch,
And I'd let you call me names.

I can't remember what you said about Vegas,
Something about the bunny ranch,
Something about doing heroin.
Your arms were kept separate,
One for shooting coke and
one for shooting dope.
You were always organized.
I have always been polite;
Even when I'm yelling
There's a voice inside of me saying
Be quiet
Just be still and quiet.

My mother used to climb the stairs like an assassin
There were never enough pills to calm her
Never enough booze to shut her up
Her face was a cherry snow cone that day
And I'll always remember it,
At 3 how she wanted to die and leave me
All the blood in the bathtub
All the empty bottles hitting the tile.
I remember the blood but I forget her voice.
I remember her hands, cracked and covered in dry blood.
I remember the towel over her face.

I remember boxes, bearing my name
In pastel cursive, Zoe
I love you
All the letter bracelets
All the handiwork they let you make
In the psych ward.

My father slicked my hair back before school
My father made the PTA brownies
And I became the daddy's girl
You'll always resent me for being.

After too many days of crying
After too many days of holding my breath under water
I promised myself I'd never need anyone again

But I've needed you.
--Zoe Alexander

"Help I'm Alive"
Almost three years sober
And I am still learning
How to keep my head above water
To feel the spark I felt after my first sip
Of Jack Daniels, the rush I know,
If I drank enough I would spin
Like the skirt of a Flamenco dancer
But I could keep from falling down
If I knew just the right amount,
Just the right recipe for success
The spark in his eye, seeing me
When I felt like no one
Made me feel like something

Self-esteem and loveless dancing
Tragedy and the art of deception
Are all man-made words,
I pull the threads out and unravel
The sweater of my life
All the pink threads that were supposed to lead
Me somewhere
I am fragile and these red lines on maps
Give me panic attacks
If I could go wherever I wanted
I'd never come back
But uncertainty makes me nauseous
And still I don't want to know what
Is true
I believe in your skin like tissue
All the femurs and fissures beneath
All seem make-believe
But I wanted to see them
To know if you were real

You are electric but still falling apart
The stuffing falling from your ears
I try to push it back in.
I am lost and confused
All the ledges seem daunting
Every night comes without warning
My skin is tracing paper
My eyes are wet
You don’t know how to read the maps
In my skin
The quiet sighs I make when I am sleeping
You don’t know how to solve
The algebra in my face
The lipstick marks on the cups
Can stay
I am pacing in slow motion around our apartment
It took only a few hours to watch everything
If I were prettier
If I had more degrees
If I could look you in the eye
Like a viper, ready
To attack at any moment
How would you react?
I have no tact but you consume
Me and suspend me into belief.
--Zoe Alexander

I am addicted to this city, having seen Houston Street high
on substances;

The marijuana causes much headiness

On speed the lights flash electricity -- the word "Katz" burns
itself to the insides of my eyeballs

Tequila brings heightened awareness on Ludlow Street

From the corner of Stanton I begin to negotiate how I am going
to cross Delancey

It's a Saturday night
I'm home watching America's Most Wanted
And I'm writing a poem about addictions, perversions, and
debauchery proper
A poem about New York
On the TV, a cop wrestles a guy to the ground
Apparently he was cooking crank in his bathtub
A baby toddles out onto the lawn where her daddy is flopping
about like a fish

When my father died, I fought for his fishing trophies, his
fisherman statue carved out of wood and the humongous striped
bass that hung in the garage, still smelling like ocean

I remember the trip to the taxidermist and helping my father pick
out the watchful glass eye, it was green and cloudy and I swore
I saw it move once when I was in high school and on acid

In the end, my brother packed up my father's car, with my
father's electronic equipment, his statues and trophies

My mother and I stood in the driveway and watched my brother
drive away before we went back inside to finish the thank-
you cards

I once wrote an essay about my father, how when he taught me
how to swim, he taught me how to treat the ocean

I told my mother not to touch the fish

I was going to rent a truck and drive it away, along with my old
books and journals

I was going to hang it on my kitchen wall so I could smell the
ocean as I drank my morning coffee

When I returned to her house the following week the fish was
gone -- in the garbage or maybe at the Goodwill, she couldn't
remember what she did with it

So it's Saturday night
I'm single and this time I'm not drinking
All I can do is reminisce
Like when I pass by the Polish bar as someone swings the
door open
And the beautiful noise of drunken chatter, the rhapsody of
secondhand smoke and the familiar strains of "Sympathy for
the Devil"escape
I am reminded of the quarts of beer served in Styrofoam cups,
beer nuts that I later find trapped in my bra
And for some reason my pants are in the kitchen in the morning

I stopped drinking when I woke up one day with a man I did not
know, snoring next to me on the bed
I stopped partying when I didn't want to wake up anymore

This city is full of madness and I am addicted to this city

Having seen First Avenue on mushroms and a bit of magic
It began to snow
I said to my lover "this snow, it looks like snowflakes,
stereotypical snowflakes the kind you cut out of paper and
see in cartoons"
"I feel like they're kissing my face," he said
On the train ride home to Brooklyn, he said "honey I may not
be able to perform tonight"
And I said, "that's okay, I just want to touch your chin"

This city is full of escape and I am addicted to this city

In the tiny bathroom of a way-off Broadway theater, five of
us crowd around a full-length mirror we have just removed
and balanced on the toilet. On this mirror we
vacuum up powder and caked-on dust through cutoff straws
into our noses. We return late for the second act but stand at
attention in the back, feeling the dialogue as if it is our own.
Later we form a circle on the floor of someone's apartment,
a lazy Susan sits and spins in the middle, a pile of white is
distributed evenly among us. Our fourth walls display their
ability to break down.

This city is full of promise and I am addicted to this city

Then there's the ecstasy, oh the ecstasy! When have I not felt
like jumping from rooftop to rooftop, singing a punk rock
version of "Rose's Turn," wrapped in satin sheets the color
of the night sky? Kicking in you feel like jumping out, that
tiny explosion that turns complacency into elation, enemies
into friends, friends into lovers, lovers into mythological
creatures with unimaginable, near embarrassing talents.
Through a kiss you can reach their soul. Your fingers never
felt so good, a furnace of sensation burns between you and
the person you are sitting next to on the couch and you are
both eaten by the flames.

This city is full of freedom and I am addicted to this city.

Having seen Sixth Avenue under the influence of abstracts,
that moment at a party on Twenty-Fifth Street with a
friend you almost lost to jealousy and nonsense. You sit on
the couch, cry, embrace, say "I love you, I miss you." You
walk the thirty blocks to her apartment, holding her hand
wanting to hold her all night. Later, you both stand in her
doorway, raccoon-eyed, feeling closer to her than you ever could
to a lover.

All roads lead to the walk of shame, sex-funky and subversive,
awakening to a new day in a new place. Early in the
morning I roam amongst people who deliver newspapers,
walk dogs and jog. The most I can do is thank the goddess I
remembered my sunglasses. In my vinyl pants and sparkly
tank top, I am a yesterday person in the land of today. I
ignore the stares and my strappy platform shoes continue to
cut ribbons into my feet as I hobble along, not enough money
for a taxi.

The summer sky is a sight. At dusk, the buildings bask in an
orange glow. I have seen this from a sloped roof on the
Lower East Side, my fingers walking a precarious trail down
my lover's arm. I lie on my back, my head hangs over the
side of the building, the world is upside down. I can see a
candle burning in the window across the street. A woman is
rinsing a shirt in the sink, the water drips down her arms.
She notices me watching and we smile at each other. I close
my eyes and think of the ocean, when my father taught me
how to swim, the waves broke into tiny ripples at the shore.
He held me by the waist, dipping my lower half into the sea.
I could taste the salt water in the air, feel the sand in my toes
as my father taught me how to keep my head above water.

There are days now when I wake up and can't believe he's gone.

There are days when I wake up and I can't believe what's past.

My father told me if I learned how to float, I could always save myself. I learned how to float and I can carry myself to safety.

And this is me, not the drugs talking. This is me trying hard to
be better.
--Cheryl Burke
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"A Dog after Love"
After you left me
I let a dog smell at
My chest and my belly. It will fill its nose
And set out to find you.

I hope it will tear the
Testicles of your lover and bite off his penis
Or at least
Will bring me your stockings between his teeth.
--Yehuda Amichai

"What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)"
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

"Every Day You Play"
Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
--Pablo Neruda

"I cannot live with You"
I cannot live with You –
It would be Life –
And Life is over there –
Behind the Shelf

The Sexton keeps the Key to –
Putting up
Our Life – His Porcelain –
Like a Cup –

Discarded of the Housewife –
Quaint – or Broke –
A newer Sevres pleases –
Old Ones crack –

I could not die – with You –
For One must wait
To shut the Other's Gaze down –
You – could not –

And I – could I stand by
And see You – freeze –
Without my Right of Frost –
Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise – with You –
Because Your Face
Would put out Jesus' –
That New Grace

Glow plain – and foreign
On my homesick Eye –
Except that You than He
Shone closer by –

They'd judge Us – How –
For You – served Heaven – You know,
Or sought to –
I could not –

Because You saturated Sight –
And I had no more Eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise

And were You lost, I would be –
Though My Name
Rang loudest
On the Heavenly fame –

And were You – saved –
And I – condemned to be
Where You were not –
That self – were Hell to Me –

So We must meet apart –
You there – I – here –
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer –
And that White Sustenance –
Despair –
--Emily Dickinson

"jasper texas 1998"
for j. byrd
i am a man's head hunched in the road.
i was chosen to speak by the members
of my body. the arm as it pulled away
pointed toward me, the hand opened once
and was gone.

why and why and why
should i call a white man brother?
who is the human in this place,
the thing that is dragged or the dragger?
what does my daughter say?

the sun is a blister overhead.
if i were alive i could not bear it.
the townsfolk sing we shall overcome
while hope bleeds slowly from my mouth
into the dirt that covers us all.
i am done with this dust. i am done.
--Lucille Clifton

"When You Go"
When you go,
if you go,
and I should want to die,
there's nothing I'd be saved by
more than the time
you fell asleep in my arms
in a trust so gentle
I let the darkening room
drink up the evening, till
rest, or the new rain
lightly roused you awake.
I asked if you heard the rain in your dream
and half dreaming still you only said, I love you.
--Edwin Morgan

"Billy the Kid"
The radio that told me about the death of Billy The Kid
(And the day, a hot summer day, with birds in the sky)
Let us fake out a frontier -- a poem somebody could hide in with a sheriff's posse after him -- a thousand miles of it if it is necessary for him to go a thousand miles -- a poem with no hard corners, no houses to get lost in, no underwebbing of customary magic, no New York Jew salesmen of amethyst pajamas, only a place where Billy The Kid can hide when he shoots people.
Torture gardens and scenic railways. The radio
That told me about the death of Billy The Kid
The day a hot summer day. The roads dusty in the summer. The roads going somewhere. You can almost see where they are going beyond the dark purple of the horizon. Not even the birds know where they are going.
The poem. In all that distance who could recognize his face.

A sprinkling of gold leaf looking like hell flowers
A flat piece of wrapping paper, already wrinkled, but wrinkled
again by hand, smoothed into shape by an electric iron
A painting
Which told me about the death of Billy The Kid.
Collage a binding together
Of the real
Which flat colors
Tell us what heroes
really come by.
No, it is not a collage. Hell flowers
Fall from the hands of heroes
fall from all our hands
As if we were not ever able quite to include them.
His gun
does not shoot real bullets
his death
Being done is unimportant.
Being done
In those flat colors
Not a collage
A binding together, a

There was nothing at the edge of the river
But dry grass and cotton candy.
"Alias," I said to him. "Alias,
Somebody there makes us want to drink the river
Somebody wants to thirst us."
"Kid," he said. "No river
Wants to trap men. There ain't no malice in it. Try
To understand."
We stood there by that little river and Alias took off his shirt
and I took off my shirt
I was never real. Alias was never real.
Or that big cotton tree or the ground.
Or the little river.

What I mean is
Will tell you about the pain
It was a long pain
About as wide as a curtain
But long
As the great outdoors
Three bullet holes in the groin
One in the head
Right below the left eyebrow
What I mean is I
Will tell you about his

Billy The Kid in a field of poplars with just one touch of moonlight
His shadow is carefully
distinguished from all of their shadows
as perception is
No one will get his gun or obliterate
Their shadows

The gun
A false clue
Nothing can kill
Not a poem or a fat penis. Bang,
Bang, bang. A false
Nor immortality either (though why immortality should occur to
me with somebody who was as mortal as Billy The Kid or
his gun which is now rusted in some rubbish heap or shined
up properly in some New York museum) A
False clue
Can kill anybody. Your guy, Billy,
And your fresh

Grasshoppers swarm through the desert.
Within the desert
There are only grasshoppers.
Of Guadalupe
Make my sight clear
Make my breath pure
Make my strong arm stronger and my fingers tight.
Lady of Guadalupe, lover
Of many make
Me avenge

Back where poetry is Our Lady
Watches each motion when the players take the cards
From the deck.
The Ten of Diamonds. The Jack of Spades. The Queen
of Clubs. The King of Hearts. The Ace
God gave us when he put us alive writing poetry for unsuspecting
people or shooting them with guns.
Our Lady
Stands as a kind of dancing partner for the memory.
Will you dance, Our Lady,
Dead and unexpected?
Billy wants you to dance
Will shoot the heels off your shoes if you don't dance
Being dead also wants

So the heart breaks
Into small shadows
Almost so random
They are meaningless
Like a diamond
Has at the center of it a diamond
Or a rock
Being afraid
Love asks its bare question--
I can no more remember
What brought me here
Than bone answers bone in the arm
Or shadow sees shadow--
Deathward we ride in the boat
Like someone canoeing
In a small lake
Where at either end
There are nothing but pine-branches--
Deathward we ride in the boat
Broken-hearted or broken-bodied
The choice is real. The diamond. I
Ask it.

Billy The Kid
I love you
Billy The Kid
I back anything you say
And there was the desert
And the mouth of the river
Billy The Kid
(In spite of your death notices)
There is honey in the groin
--Jack Spicer

"Goodnight Moon"
Beloved, tell me--

Why do you come
only when I
orphan my ambitions?

Why do you show
only when all hope
has fled?

Why, Honeyed Moon,
will you meet me
only on my funeral bed?

And, tell me--

Why won't the dead
stay dead?
--Ivan Granger

"War Poet"
I am the man who looked for peace and found
My own eyes barbed.
I am the man who groped for words and found
An arrow in my hand.
I am the builder whose firm walls surround
A slipping land.
When I grow sick or mad
Mock me not nor chain me;
When I reach for the wind
Cast me not down
Though my face is a burnt book
And a wasted town.
--Sidney Keynes

"You Can't Be a Star in the Sky without Holy Fire"
Why should I keep telling you what I love, and whom?
I am so dull and awkward, what difference would it make?
Yet I can't shut up. I'm like that mockingbird up on the
bee-riddled pole at the corner of our basement. He is de-
mented, singing I must have sex, singing stay away from me.
Every once in a while he does a little hip-hop, he flaps his
wings, he does a break-down. When does he breathe? When
does he sleep? And beneath him are the morning glories,
who could teach me a thing or two about the absolute rage to live,
and also the trumpet vine, which is serene and alluring, but which
is all muscle and will underneath. And the wisteria! You
would stand naked in the snow-white shower of its blossoms, but it
would send a root down through you and plant a stake in your heart.
No, I can't shut up, it's not in my nature, just as beauty is not,
just as all those virtues I read about have gone missing. And I
don't want everyone to gather round either. In another world
I am ready to lie down in solidarity with all the doomed blossoms
along the white fences. In another world I would stop grinding
my own bones. In another world I would convert all my failures
and consume them in a holy fire. But then there is that mindless
bird--he can't shut up--and it's one world only, and he knows it.
--Frank X. Gaspar

"A good deal of what passes for religion is just a vague fear or homesickness."
--Archie Robertson
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
I'm going to wrinkle this word,
twist it,
it's too smooth,
as if the tongue
of a big dog or a big river's water
had washed it
for years and years.

I want to see
roughness in the word,
ironlike salt,
toothlike strength,
the blood
of those who spoke out and those who didn't.

I want to see thirst
deep in its syllables.
I want to touch fire
in the sound.
I want to feel
the darkness of a scream.
I want rough words
like virginal stones.
--Pablo Neruda, translated by Ilan Stavans


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November 2015



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