Category Archives: Poetry

-second thoughts that complicate the time one simply wastes-

 

Chester
John Koethe

__________________________

Wallace Stevens is beyond fathoming, he is so strange; it is as if he had a morbid secret he would rather perish than disclose . . .
          —Marrianne Moore to William Carlos Williams

***

Another day, which is usually how they come:
A cat at the foot of the bed, noncommittal
In its blankness of mind, with the morning light
Slowly filling the room, and fragmentary
Memories of last night’s video and phone calls.
It is a feeling of sufficiency, one menaced
By the fear of some vague lack, of a simplicity
Of self, a self without a soul, the nagging fear
Of being someone to whom nothing ever happens.
Thus the fantasy of the narrative behind the story,
Of the half-concealed life that lies beneath
The ordinary one, made up of ordinary mornings
More alike in how they feel than what they say.
They seem like luxuries of consciousness,
Like second thoughts that complicate the time
One simply wastes. And why not? Mere being
Is supposed to be enough, without the intricate
Evasions of a mystery or offstage tragedy.
Evenings follow on the afternoons, lingering in
The living room and listening to the stereo
While Peggy Lee sings “Is That All There Is?”
Amid the morning papers and the usual
Ghosts keeping you company, but just for a while.
The true soul is the one that flickers in the eyes
Of an animal, like a cat that lifts its head and yawns
And looks at you, and then goes back to sleep.

 

If you think this is a poem in dispassionate defense of laziness, you’re probably right. But how can it be that the “true soul [which] flickers in the eyes”  is that of the cat who simultaneously exhibits a “blankness of mind”? I don’t know. You figure this one out.

-Aida

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Visual Discombobulations, Sometimes Referred to as Poetry

This is a (visual) poem entitled “fallen”, created by Jorg Piringer.

It is comprised of the fallen English letters of a translation of The Communist Manifesto. Out of context, stripped of meaning, jammed together, in effect failed and discarded. You see where this is going.

This medium is as old as painting and writing themselves. Those of us at one time or another disposed to flights in the direction of fanciful thought and stuck in the mud of very loosely grasped esotericism have offered, perhaps, that a particularly poetic painting or other work of art can legitimately be referred to as a visual poem. Indeed, it cannot. If something is poetic all it is, in the end, is poetic. Being poetic does not a poem make. So, all this gibberish to say that visual poems are not regular-Joe poems, they are not paintings; they are a sometimes-silly-other-times-stupid-often-poignant category unto themselves wherein people who can’t string together coherent sentences or draw actual figures combine their two non-talents to make something silly/stupid/poignant of them. I’m going to stop kidding around now and invite you to

enjoy:

“Labile” by Michael Basinski

*

“untitled” by Derek Beaulieu

*

“The Disremembered Glossolalist” by Peter Ciccariello

*

“alwaysendeavor” by Bob Dahlquist

*

“haiku #62” by Scott Helmes

All poems first published in Poetry magazine.

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-I kick your shins when we go out for meals-

Dependants
by Paul Farley
from The Atlantic Tunnel

How good we are for each other, walking through
a land of silence and darkness. You
open doors for me, I answer the phone for you.

I play jungle loud. You read with the light on.
Beautiful. The curve of your cheekbone,
explosive vowels, exact use of cologne.

What are you thinking? I ask in a language of touch
unique to us. You tap my palm nothing much.
At stations we compete senses, see which

comes first—light in the tunnel, whiplash down the rail.
I kick your shins when we go out for meals.
You dab my lips. I finger yours like Braille.

***

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-every syllable becomes a sore-

The Wound
by Ruth Stone
___________________
The shock comes slowly
as an afterthought.

First you hear the words
and they are like all other words,

ordinary, breathing out of lips,
moving toward you in a straight line.

Later they shatter
and rearrange themselves. They spell

something else hidden in the muscles
of the face, something the throat wanted to say.

Decoded, the message etches itself in acid
so every syllable becomes a sore.

The shock blooms into a carbuncle.
The body bends to accommodate it.

A special scarf has to be worn to conceal it.
It is now the size of a head.

The next time you look,
it has grown two eyes and a mouth.

It is difficult to know which to use.
Now you are seeing everything twice.

After a while it becomes an old friend.
It reminds you every day of how it came to be.

***

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Ebb

Ebb
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I know what my heart is like
Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
Left there by the tide,
A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.

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‘detail of my sort of so-early half-lit eyelid light’

I want to share this poem with you. If you like it, you’ll know why. If you don’t, you should read it again.

-Aida

Detail of My Sort of Light
by Ander Monson
from The Available World

Now I know that everything is a body,
so even the snow and the sand and
the blood rivered down in the snow,
and snowed on again so it’s buried
is a body. All things are bodies in photos—
detail of the left side of a breast and the arm’s
pit—detail of the sled slumbered under
by the storm’s leavings. Detail of my sort
of so-early half-lit eyelid light that bodies
are near to invisible and touch is no longer
the sole way of knowing, and outline is all
that there is. Detail of your body as it does
its morning leaving thing. Detail of what
light there is on your skin. Detail of land-
scape of let me in please and coffee, warm
when the weather’s action on this body is less
than ideal. Landscape with pear. Landscape
with weather and part of a breast in the frame.

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-instead of having sex-

It brings me to tears sometimes to realize how deeply rooted poetry is in our most mundane but necessarily honest exchanges. The necessarily open, necessarily genuine, unaffected and bare exchanges.

-Aida

Asking About You
by Eloise Klein Healy
from Passing

Instead of having sex all the time I like to hold you and not get into some involved discussion of what life means. I want you to tell me something I don’t know about you. Something about the day before that photograph in which you’re standing on your head. I want to know about softball and the team picture. Why are you so little next to the others? Were you younger? Were you small as a girl? What I want most is to have been a girl with you and played on the opposite team so I could have liked you and competed against you at the same time.

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“What My House Would Be Like If It Were A Person”


I’m very fond of this question. As Jess Collins put it in an interview once, “I don’t see that much difference between the spiritual and the material. All matter is energy, and all matter and energy are infused with spirit.” The things I’ve filled my living space with are made of matter and they, generally speaking, possess the very spiritual ability to sustain me and my very base need for textural beauty. My house would definitely be a mentally disturbed person obsessed with stuffing books down his throat, stockpiling paint cans and rocking back and forth on old, creaky chairs. He would be a man, of course, who’s embraced the feminine.

But they do have moods, don’t they, our homes? I suspect you’d glean everything important about me the minute you walked into mine and were perceptive enough…

-Aida

What My House Would Be Like If It Were A Person
by Denise Levertov
from Poems 1972-1982

This person would be an animal.
This animal would be large, at least as large
as a workhorse. It would chew cud, like cows,
having several stomachs.
No one could follow it
into the dense brush to witness
its mating habits. Hidden by fur,
its sex would be hard to determine.
Definitely it would discourage
investigation. But it would be, if not teased,
a kind, amiable animal,
confiding as a chickadee. Its intelligence
would be of a high order,
neither human nor animal, elvish.
And it would purr, though of course,
it being a house, you would sit in its lap,
not it in yours.
***
Here is Denise Levertov reading some more poems.

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-the unsymboling sun-

This poem arrived from Poets.org this morning and I’ve read it about 7 times since then. It’s difficult to access in the beginning, maybe, but there is a story here– a long, old story. I still don’t know what to say about it, except that it has the power to touch you if today is the right day, if the light is coming in from the right angle, if you need to be touched.

-Aida

Passage I
by Maureen N. McLane
from World Enough

little moth
I do not think you’ll escape
this night

I do not think
you’ll escape this night
little moth

*

bees in clover
summer half over
friends without lovers

*

I bite a carrot
horsefly bites me

*

I thought it was you
moving through the trees

but it was the trees

I thought it was your finger
grazing my knee

it was the breeze

I thought prayers were rising
to a god alive in my mind

they rose on the wind

I thought I had all the time
and world enough to discover what I should

when it was over

I thought I would always be young
though I knew the years passed

and knowing turned my hair gray

I thought it was a welcome
what I took for a sign—

the sun…the unsymboling sun…

*

watch the clouds
on any given day
even they don’t keep their shape
for more than a minute

sociable shifters
bringing weather from elsewhere
until it’s our weather
and we say now it’s raining here

*

Vermont shore lit
by a fugitive sun
who doesn’t believe
in a day’s redemption

*

sunset renovation
at the expected hour
but the actual palette
still a surprise

*

gulls alit on the lake
little white splendors
looking to shit on the dock

*

little cat
kneading my chest
milkless breasts
take your pleasure
where you can

*

not that I was alive
but that we were

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-my heart exceeding my need-

The aim is to use no verbs, placing each line, and therefore the reader, resolutely in the present. But verbs are used — they just happen to be being verbs. And they’re just not the same thing at all, are they?
-Aida
A Noun Sentence
by Mahmoud Darwish
translated by Fady Joudah
A noun sentence, no verb
to it or in it: to the sea the scent of the bed
after making love…a salty perfume
or a sour one.  A noun sentence: my wounded joy
like the sunset at your strange windows.
My flower green like the phoenix.  My heart exceeding
my need, hesitant between two doors:
entry a joke, and exit
a labyrinth.  Where is my shadow — my guide amid
the crowdedness on the road to judgment day?  And I
as an ancient stone of two dark colors in the city wall,
chestnut and black, a protruding insensitivity
toward my visitors and the interpretation of shadows.  Wishing
for the present tense a foothold for walking behind me
or ahead of me, barefoot.  Where
is my second road to the staircase of expanse?  Where
is futility?  Where is the road to the road?
And where are we, the marching on the footpath of the present
tense, where are we?  Our talk a predicate
and a subject before the sea, and the elusive foam
of speech the dots on the letters,
wishing for the present tense a foothold
on the pavement …

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