Five poems that remind us the current is not the permanent

Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun: “In the first part of my life with Sotatsu, he lived in a cell in a jail where the sun came south through the window on an avenue all its own where it was forced to stoop and stoop again until when it arrived at its little house it was hardly the sun at all, just a shabby old woman. Yet we were always looking for her, this sun, when she would come, always eager to have her meager presents, her thin delineations.”

Robert Frost,  writing a letter in 1913: “The best place to get the abstract sound of sense is from voices behind a door that cuts off the words.”

These two quotes are the only two reasons I’ve dog-eared pages recently. The first is from late in this story, and the second is from late in this one.

I haven’t been focusing as much as I’d like. I’ve been working or packing all the time recently, one or the other. I’m getting ready to move, and tasks at the other end of the apartment are always calling, no matter at which end I may be. Work is kind of the same. These poems have broken through a bit and directed my focus outward, at least for short periods of time. Yes, they deserve better. They throw me off kilter in a way both scary and hopeful.

Son of Fog,” Dean Young.  Makes me think of being in San Francisco two or some  years ago, staring into a foggy cove and having no idea where life would go next. “What a mess. We stand at the edge / of a drop that doesn’t answer back,  / fog our only friend although it’s hell  / on shrimpboats.”

From “The Sonnagrams,” K. Silem Mohammad. He puts a Shakespearean sonnet into an anagram engine, then rearranges the text until it makes some sense again. I feel this way at the end of almost every week these days. Productive but scrambled. “A purple fist, a Federalist, a sunspot, / A bird that’s got a big big butt to study, / A guy named Toots, ten dumb galoots, a gunshot, / Die Fledermaus by good ol’ Strauss (my buddy)….”

You’re,” Sylvia Palth. For Plath, happiness looking at her baby before her eventual final sadness. “Clownlike, happiest on your hands, / Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled, / Gilled like a fish.” And then we flip the journey…

Epilogue,” Robert Lowell. Starts with sadness, ends with a higher calling, within sight of happiness? In life, sadness haunted him, but he never gave in.  “Pray for the grace of accuracy / Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination / stealing like the tide across a map / to his girl solid with yearning.”

Song,” John Fuller. Naturalism of the face. “You don’t listen to what I say.  / When I lean towards you in the car / You simply smile and turn away.” A lover? God? Life? Take your pick, your perspective. Take the smile, at least.

Not really resolutions but maybe sort of for 2014

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. But picking up Dean Young’s The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction again today — as this vacation nears its end — has left two passages stuck in my brain.


Two explains how you might deal with birds. Which, as I have dream after dream about work this vacation, is something at which I need to do better. Adding paragraph breaks to the passage to make it more Web-readable:

Poetry is an art of beginnings and ends. You want middles, read novels. You want happy endings, read cookbooks. Not closure, word filched from self-help fuzzing the argument. The ever-grudge of love and endsville. I believe in scars and making scars shine.

Kaput. Form is the shape of the selecting intelligence because time is running out. Form enacts fatality. To pretend otherwise is obfuscation, philosophical hubbub. A lie. We die. We go to art to learn the unlearnable, experience the unexperienceable. Art reports back.

Form is the connect, primal haunt, carbon chain end-stopped. You can tell it’s late because we prefer the songs of Orpheus after he’s torn apart. Pattern as much a deficiency as a realization. No one gets to count forever. When you slice yourself open, you don’t find a construct.

Bloom rhyming with doom pretty much took care of Keats. Already I feel the flowers growing over me, he said, looking up at the daisy design in the ceiling. Wire in the monkey’s diencephalon prints out a wave most beautiful. Open form prone to mouse droppings just as closed to suffocation. The river swims in the fish. The girl ties back her hair in a universal gesture. “The world of dew / is the world of dew / and yet, and yet” (Issa). A menu isn’t a meal.

“Put your trust in the exhaustible nature of the murmur.” Breton said that and know when to shut up, I’m saying that.

We’re not equations without hats. Nothing appears without an edge. There’s nothing worse than a poem that doesn’t stop. No one lives in a box. The heart isn’t grown on a grid. The ship has sailed and the trail is shiny with dew. Door slam, howling in the wood, rumble strips before the toll booth. Enter: Fortinbras. Ovipositor. Snow. Bam bam bam, let’s get out of here. What I know about form couldn’t fill a thimble. What form knows about me will be my end.

Six poems with which to escape the week

It’s only Monday. How is it only Monday? Do the number of problems to solve ever become less rather than more? Coming through my streams recently: “Bird-Understander” by Craig Arnold, “Extinction of Silence” by A.E. Stallings, “Almost Ashore” by Gerald Vizenor,  “Muscadine” by Mary Moore Easter, “For Jane” by Stephen Stepanchev, and “Emerald Spider Between Rose Thorns” by Dean Young. I am escaping this very minute.

That it was shy when alive goes without saying.
We know it vanished at the sound of voices

Or footsteps. It took wing at the slightest noises,
Though it could be approached by someone praying.


So many poem links in this blog, but I can’t stop

They’re all so good. And they keep coming my way! I have to share them.

“How I got from then to now / is the mystery that could fill a whole library / much less an arbitrary stanza…” – Al Young’s “Birthday Poem.”

“Strike deep, divide us from cheap-got doubt, / Leap, leap between us and the easy out; / Teach us to seize, to use, to sleep well, to let go…” – Marie Ponsot’s “Private and Profane.”

“This morning I have the distinct impression my house is about to crumble so let rubble be my crown.” – Dean Young’s “How to Glow.”

From Rilke’s “Letters on Cezanne,” quoted by Laura Morris in the February issue of Poetry mag, remembering artist (and poetry lover) Joan Mitchell:

As if these colors could heal one of indecision once and for all. The good conscience of these reds, these blues, their simple truthfulness, it educates you; and if you stand beneath them as acceptingly as possible, it’s as if they were doing something for you.… It’s as if every place were aware of all the other places — it participates that much; that much adjustment and rejection is happening in it; that’s how each daub plays its part in maintaining equilibrium and in producing it; just as the whole picture finally keeps reality in equilibrium.

Lydia Davis, writing about Mitchell’s “Les Bluets” (the cornflowers).

Eventually I began to find answers to my questions, but they were not complete answers, and after a time I did not feel the need for complete answers, because I saw that part of the force of the painting was that it continued to elude explanation. I became willing to allow aspects of the painting to remain mysterious, and I became willing to allow aspects of other problems to remain unsolved as well, and it was this new tolerance for, and then satisfaction in, the unexplained and unsolved that marked a change in me.

Plink plink, perfect poetry for the subway

How much have I enjoyed reading Dean Young’s Elegy on Toy Piano poems? Very much. Who knows what the other people on the Metro must think, with a cover so strange on a paperback so thin. But the book has accompanied me on my rides the past couple weeks, and no one has said anything. Except in my head where I’ve been reading every poem aloud.

The collection — and Dean Young in general — fits the train. When there isn’t silence, there are noises, bodies and parcels from every direction. But there is some silence, and life (and poems) are unexplainable without it.


Original Monkey. “I’m working on my vanishing point. / I’m practicing my zenith.” Ghost Gash (not online). “You’ll have maybe forty dollar, maybe a roadmap of Vermont, only an inkling of what you’re escaping….” Facet. “I can’t make it any clearer than that / and stay drunk.” Alarm Clock (not online). “Clank of the lightning factory, clank / of the leopard’s leash.”

Peach Farm. “How far we are from kissing / our damage deposit goodbye.” Whirlpool Suite (not online). “Every day is crash day.” Bathed in Dust and Ash. “So the shadows vanish and return / carrying their young in their jaws….” Elegy on Toy Piano. “The injured gazelle falls behind the / herd. One wild last enjambment.” Last Words. “What if everyone’s combined into one big poem / and I’m stuck with a preposition?” And another, Flamenco, which cannot be quoted well and instead must be danced in one’s head.

I continue to bookmark poems, too many of them

But probably just enough. Because I want you to read them. I read them and think, “I want everyone to read this!” And I rush to the bookmarking machine. Straight from the machine to you now:

“Butter, like love, / seems common enough / yet has so many imitators.” — “Butter” by Connie Wanek.

“I am learning to abandon the world / before it can abandon me.” — “I Am Learning To Abandon the World” by Linda Pastan.

“We are the characters / who have invaded the moon, / who cannot stop their computers.” — “The End of Science Fiction” by Lisel Mueller.

“Asleep until noon, I’m dreaming / we’ve been granted another year.” — “Forbidden City” by Gail Mazur.

“Be precise / authority is magic.” — “Editing the Moon” by Caroline Caddy.

“My dragon may be your neurotoxin. / Your electrocardiogram may be my fortune cookie.” — “Handy Guide” by Dean Young.

I also find I’ve bookmarked a rerun of Greg Sellers’ “Shy Boy,” which I blogged about here once two years ago. “I wait for my shadow to forget me, / to take that one phantom step that I keep / from taking.”