Sunday, December 18, 2011

How the Rainbow Works, by Al Young

Johannes Brahms - Sonata No.3 D Minor, Allegro
with Itzhak Perlman, violin & Daniel Barenboim, piano

(for Jean Cook, on learning of her mother's death)

Mostly we occupy ocular zones, clinging
only to what we think we can see.
We can't see wind or waves of thought,
electrical fields or atoms dancing;
only what they do or make us believe.

Look on all of life as color -
vibratile movement, heart-centered,
from invisibility to the merely visible.
Never mind what happens when one of us dies.
Where were you before you even get born?
Where am I and all the unseeable souls
we love at this moment, or loathed
before birth? Where are we right now?

Everything that ever happened either
never did or always will with variations.
Let's put it another way: Nothing ever
happened that wasn't dreamed, that wasn't
sketched from the start with artful surprises.
Think of the dreamer as God, a painter,
a ham, to be sure, but a divine old master
whose medium is light and who sidesteps
tedium by leaving room both inside and outside
this picture for subjects and scenery to wing it.

Look on death as living color too: the dyeing
of fabric, submersion into a temporary sea,
a spectruming beyond the reach of sensual
range which, like time, is chained to change;
the strange notion that everything we've
ever done or been in until now is past
history, is gone away, is bleached, bereft,
perfect, leaving the scene clean to freshen
with pigment and space and leftover light.

from Soul Food, ed. by Neil Astley and Pamela Robertson-Pearce (Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 2007)
as posted on

Saturday, November 26, 2011

[5], from Winter Love, by H.D.

Franz von Vecsey (Vecsey Ferenc) - violinist and composer - Valse Triste

So we were together
though I did not think of you
for ten years;

it is more than ten years
and the long time after;
I was with you in Calypso's cave?

no, no - I had never heard of her,
but I remember the curve of honey-flower
on an old wall, I recall

the honey-flower as I saw it
or seemed to see it
for the first time,

its horn was longer, whiter -
what do I mean?
"bite clear the stem

and suck the honey out,"
a child companion or old grandam
taught me to suck honey

from the honey-flower;
what is Calypso's cave?
that is your grotto, your adventure;

how could I love again, ever?
repetition, repetition, Achilles, Paris, Menelaus?
but you are right, you are right,

there is something left over,
the first unsatisfied desire -
the first time, that first kiss,

the rough stones of a wall,
the fragrance of honey-flowers, the bees,
and how I would have fallen but for a voice,

calling through the brambles
and tangle of bay-berry
and rough broom,

Helen, Helen, come home
there was a Helen before there was a War,
but who remembers her?

from Hermetic Definition (New Directions, 1972)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Words from the Front, by Ron Padgett

Niccolò Paganini - Cantabile, with Leonid Kogan

We don’t look as young
as we used to
except in the dim light
especially in
the soft warmth of candlelight
when we say
in all sincerity
You’re so cute
You’re my cutie.
two old people
behaving like this.
It’s enough
to make you happy.

poem from

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Gift, by Denise Levertov

Pyotr Iliych Tchaikovksy - Souvenir D'un Lieu Cher, Meditation
with Miron Polyakin (violin)

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.

from Sands of the Well (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1996)

The Hawk, by Franz Wright

Giacomo Puccini - "In questa reggia," from Turandot
with Joan Sutherland & London Philharmonic Orchestra (1972)

Maybe in a million years
a better form of human
being will come, happier
and more intelligent. A few already
have infiltrated this world and lived
to very much regret it,
I suppose.
I'd prefer to have come
in the form of that hawk, floating over
the mirroring fire
of Clearlake's
hill, my gold
skull filled with nothing
but God's will
the whole day through, instead
of these glinting voices incessantly
unerringly guiding me
to pursue
what makes me sick, and not
what makes me glad. And yet
I am changing: this three-pound lump
of sentient meat electrified
by hope and terror has learned to hear
His silence like the sun,
and sought to change!
And friends
on earth at the same time
as me, listen: from the sound of those crickets
last night, Rene Char said
prenatal life
must have been sweet -
each voice perhaps also a star
in that night
from which
this time
we won't be
interrupted anymore - but
fellow monsters while we are still here, for one minute, think
about this: there is someone right now who is looking
to you, not Him, for whatever
love still exists.

from God's Silence (Knopf, 2006)
posted at

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ballad of the Poverties, by Adrienne Rich

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64, Finale

There’s the poverty of the cockroach kingdom and the rusted toilet bowl
The poverty of to steal food for the first time
The poverty of to mouth a penis for a paycheck
The poverty of sweet charity ladling
Soup for the poor who must always be there for that
There’s the poverty of theory poverty of the swollen belly shamed
Poverty of the diploma mill the ballot that goes nowhere
Princes of predation let me tell you
There are poverties and there are poverties

There’s the poverty of cheap luggage bursted open at immigration
The poverty of the turned head, the averted eyes
The poverty of bored sex of tormented sex
The poverty of the bounced check the poverty of the dumpster dive
The poverty of the pawned horn the poverty of the smashed reading glasses
The poverty pushing the sheeted gurney the poverty cleaning up the puke
The poverty of the pavement artist the poverty passed-out on pavement
Princes of finance you who have not lain there
There are poverties and there are poverties

There is the poverty of hand-to-mouth and door-to-door
And the poverty of stories patched-up to sell there
There’s the poverty of the child thumbing the Interstate
And the poverty of the bride enlisting for war
There’s the poverty of prescriptions who can afford
And the poverty of how would you ever end it
There is the poverty of stones fisted in pocket
And the poverty of the village bulldozed to rubble
Princes of weaponry who have not ever tasted war
There are poverties and there are poverties

There’s the poverty of wages wired for the funeral you
Can’t get to the poverty of the salary cut
There’s the poverty of human labor offered silently on the curb
The poverty of the no-contact prison visit
There’s the poverty of yard sale scrapings spread
And rejected the poverty of eviction, wedding bed out on street
Prince let me tell you who will never learn through words
There are poverties and there are poverties

You who travel by private jet like a housefly
Buzzing with the other flies of plundered poverties
Princes and courtiers who will never learn through words
Here’s a mirror you can look into: take it: it’s yours.

post inspiration from Behind the Lines: Poetry, War, & Peacemaking
poem first appeared in Monthly Review
from Adrienne Rich's recent book Tonight No Poetry Will Serve (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Alpha Zulu, by Gary Copeland Lilley

Tania León - Mistica (2003), with Adam Kent

I know more people dead than people alive,
my insomniac answer to self-addressed prayers

is that in the small hours even God drinks alone.
My self-portrait; gray locks in the beard, red eyes

burning back in the mirror, the truths of grooves
and nicks on my face, one missing tooth.

I'm a man who's gathered too many addresses,
too many goodbyes. There's not much money

or time left to keep on subtracting from my life.
Except for needs I can pack everything I have

into my old black sea-bag. To all the bloods
I'll raise a bourbon, plant my elbow on the bar

and drink to the odds that one more shot
won't have me wearing a suit of blues.

I'm so exposed, with you all of me is at risk,
and if that's only one side of being in love

that's the one deep down that proves it.
Here you are sleeping with me, narcotic as night,

naked as an open hand, and the skinny of it is,
what makes you think I am afraid of this

when I once lived in a cave, moss on the cold wall,
all my bones scattered across the floor.

from Alpha Zulu (Ausable Press, 2008)

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Have Walked a Long Time, by Sonia Sanchez

George Antheil - Jazz Symphony

i have walked a long time
much longer than death that splinters
wid her innuendos.
my life, ah my alien life,
is like an echo of nostalgia
bringen blue screens to bury clouds
rinsen wite stones stretched among the sea.
you, man, will you remember me when i die?
will you stare and stain my death and say
i saw her dancen among swallows
far from the world's obscenities?
you, man, will you remember and cry?
and i have not loved.
while the body prowls
the soul catalogues each step;
while the unconscious unbridles feasts
the flesh knots toward the shore.
ah, i have not loved
wid legs stretched like stalks against sheets
wid stomachs drainen the piracy of oceans
wid mouths discarden the gelatin
to shake the sharp self.
i have walked by memory of others
between the blood night
and twilights
i have lived in tunnels
and fed the bloodless fish;
between the yellow rain
and ash,
i have heard the rattle
of my seed,
so time, like some pearl necklace embracen
a superior whore, converges
and the swift spider binds my breast.
you, man, will you remember me when i die?
will you stare and stain my death and say
i saw her applauden suns
far from the grandiose audience?
you, man, will you remember and cry?

poem from Homegirls and Handgrenades (White Pine Press, 2007)
poem also part of Full Moon of Sonia CD

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Then, by Muriel Rukeyser

Aleksandr Porfírievich Borodín - String Quartet No 2, III. Notturno: Andante
with Quartetto d´archi della Scala*

When I am dead, even then,
I will still love you, I will wait in these poems,
When I am dead, even then
I am still listening to you.
I will still be making poems for you
out of silence;
silence will be falling into that silence,
it is building music.

from A Muriel Rukeyser Reader, W.W. Norton & Co. (1995)
thank you Moles for the music

* Francesco Manara - Violin 1; Pierangelo Negri - Violin 2; Simonide Braconi - Viola; Massimo Polidori - Violoncello

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Midnight Dip, by Don McKay

Howard Shore - The Fellowship
from the soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Whose dumb idea was this
anyhow?    Silently
the chill air purges content and establishes
its interrogative. This is going to be
more dangerous than we supposed, wrapped
in our living room of beer and friendly conversation.
sheds itself along the path, madly
abandoned underwear.
What essence awaits us in the lake,
that lived inside our talk as easily
as bath and wash, now
sharpening to something like the afterlife of music moving in an
arc beyond the reaches of its melody?

from Camber: Selected Poems (McClelland & Stewart, 2004)