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June 15, 2014

Looking at My Father

I do not think I am deceived about him.

I know about the drinking, I know he's a tease,

obsessive, rigid, selfish, sentimental,

but I could look at my father all day

and not get enough: the large creased

ball of his forehead, slightly aglitter like the

sheen on a well-oiled baseball glove;

his eyebrows, the hairs two inches long,

black and silver, reaching out in

continual hope and curtailment; and most of

all I could look forever at his eyes,

they way they bulge out as if eager to see and

yet are glazed as if blind, the whites

hard and stained as boiled eggs

boiled in sulphur water, the irises

muddy as the lip of a live volcano, the

pupils glittering pure black,

magician black.  Then there is his nose

rounded and pocked and comfy as the bulb of a

horn a clown would toot, and his lips

solid and springy.  I even like to

look in his mouth, stained brown with

cigars and bourbon, my eyes sliding down the

long amber roots of his teeth,

right in there where Mother hated, and

up the scorched satin of the sides and

vault, even the knobs on the back of his

tongue.  I know he is not perfect but my

body thinks his body is perfect, the

fine stretched coarse pink

skin, the big size of him, the

sour-ball mass, darkness, hair,

sex, legs even longer than mine,

lovely feet.  What I know I know, what my

body knows it knows, it likes to

slip the leash of my mind and go and

look at him, like an animal

looking at water, then going to it and

drinking until it has had its fill and can

lie down and sleep.

                                        --Sharon Olds

June 23, 2012

                                                            SEARCH MY SOUL

                                                            Writing need not be a trial.
                                                            There's no reason to take stock.
                                                            Heck, I ignore growing piles
                                                            of crumpled sheets, sure I will lock
                                                            on the scent of words in a while--
                                                            at least my soul's not yet in hock!

                                                            I see with the surety of the hawk
                                                            the small, darting prize in my trial-
                                                            and-error starts--the game I stalk
                                                            as the self-criticisms pile.
                                                            I wish I could at these times lock
                                                            up parts of my mind for a while...

                                                            Young life feels so easy to while
                                                            away: I cough, I scratch, I hock
                                                            lugees at a past on trial
                                                            for providing only the stock
                                                            answers to my questions that pile--
                                                            sogged driftwood barred from river lock.

                                                            You of life-as-combination-lock,
                                                            incredulous, all ask why'll
                                                            you not come down from those high hawk
                                                            gyrations to give life a trial?
Before you lead me to your stock-
                                                            yards--just throw my soul in the trash pile!

                                                            I will sit long, risking piles
                                                            and the greying of curly locks.
                                                            I must be still, ready while
                                                            the muse delivers her shocks.
                                                            Any less a steadfast try'll
                                                            land me in writers' laughing stocks.

                                                            Rather climb like Jack his beanstalk--
                                                            cloud-head purpose higher than piles
                                                            of natal drafts with their death-lock;
                                                            Faust whispering all the while
                                                            his vow to soar me above the hawk
                                                            if I quit this error-filled trial!

                                                            Please excuse me while I grab a beer to take stock.
                                                            We'd agree it's a lock that no drafts will pile
                                                            those days I watch the trials of those damned Seahawks!

                                                                --if you live, your time will come


June 11, 2012


                                               Toward The Heart of Priscilla Jean


                                                Gee, Mom, I guess God

                                                packed a lot of surprises

                                                into your small but sturdy body:

                                                a womb fearless enough to deliver

                                                eight vibrant souls into this

                                                challenging world,

                                                and a heart big enough

                                                to love them, and their own,

                                                through storm after storm.


                                                A heart this strong keeps making room

                                                for the defects borne of the womb:

                                                desertion and return,

                                                failure and rebound,

                                                loss of the innocent and

                                                discovery of the eternal,

                                                the proud coming out

                                                and the humility of rebirth,

                                                strength through persistence,

                                                vulnerability to love and

                                                wandering—yet never too far.


                                                No wonder such a heart,

                                                welcoming so many

                                                so often

                                                and so much,

                                                has pulled a part of you

                                                into its sphere!


                                                Now, let all those hearts

                                                that beat with your rhythm

                                                return to you

                                                the steady strength

                                                needed to bear this trespass

                                                and forgive all past trespasses.


                                                Please allow us our small

                                                jealousy that it’s your gut,

                                                not one of your loving eight,

                                                poised to smother you

                                                with such visceral intimacy.


                                            --if you live, your time will come




June 3, 2012

Ritual for the Heart Land

Clouds blacken the sky and pelt my garden--

as ugly a day as I've seen in a lifetime.

Yet in company of fine music and good books

I warm my feet on the hearth,

and smile to myself enough to forget

past and future.

--if you live, your time will come



June 24, 2011

                                                           O  Waters

                                                           wash us, me,

                                                under the sprinkled granite

                                                         straight-up slab,

                                          and sitting by camp in the pine shade

                                          Nanao sleeping,

                                          mountains humming and crumbling

                                                     snowfields melting


                                                     building on tiny ledges

                                            for wild onions and flowers






                                                                --Gary Snyder

                                                        (Turtle Island)



June 12, 2011

                                                            Retaining Wall

                                                            Will it hold--

                                                            the terrace wall and willows--

                                                            when the planet melts

                                                            just in time

                                                            for our retirement?

                                                            Is it enough to back-fill

                                                            with crossword puzzles,

                                                            contract bridge and Chinese for Beginners?

                                                            If the sky blackens and pours,

                                                            and the hill slides

                                                            mud, toys and matted pets,

                                                            lawn furniture, garbage cans,

                                                            and that neat shed

                                                            where I keep the mower and a few ideas,

                                                            can we hang on?  Anti-oxidants, fish oil, yoga.

                                                            Is it enough?  Sentences tangling

                                                            such a soft mound of mind.

                                                            What will it take, my dear, to stay off the slope

                                                            where nobody remembers?  That spotted yellow bed

                                                            and washed-out gully

                                                            where we always see the bones

                                                            of something.

                                                                                    --Henry Hughes

                                                            (published in  MOIST MERIDIAN)



June 4, 2011

                                                                        Adam's Complaint

                                                                        Some people,
                                                                        no matter what you give them,
                                                                        still want the moon.

                                                                        The bread,
                                                                        the salt,
                                                                        white meat and dark,
                                                                        still hungry.

                                                                        The marriage bed
                                                                        and the cradle,
                                                                        still empty arms.

                                                                        You give them land,
                                                                        their own earth under their feet,
                                                                        still they take to the roads

                                                                        And water: dig them the deepest well,
                                                                        still it’s not deep enough
                                                                        to drink the moon from.

                                                                                --Denise Levertov


June 30, 2010

                                                            Waking After Dickinson 

                                                            And then a Plank in reason, broke,
                                                            And I dropped down, and down
—#280 E.D.

                                                            I slept then waked into the same film gris,
                                                            every edge eroded, dull and blunt,
                                                            mornings of mist and afternoons of drizzle,
                                                            in an any-season drone.

                                                            After the dial tone, Jovial,
                                                            a voice promised "bright clouds."
                                                            It was the best that he could offer.
                                                            I understood, accepted, almost glad.

                                                            Tomorrow's trash day,
                                                            Thursday's neurosurg.
                                                            On the back porch,
                                                            that one damp board still sags

                                                            beneath the weight of one wife and two trash bags.
                                                            It jolts my dream back—black silk quatrains
                                                            pulled like a drawstring through my brain—
                                                            while above me, behind a crazy weft of trees,

                                                            one cloud glares a cold insistent white
                                                            like a birthday flare.
                                                            The porch creaks just once more, then holds,
                                                            as I balance there.

                                                                        --Paula Tatarunis, MD, Waltham, Mass

                                                            (published in JAMA. 1998;279:1168)



June 29, 2010


                                                                        A teacher asked Paul

                                                                        what he would remember

                                                                        from third grade, and he sat

                                                                        a long time before writing

                                                                        "this year sumbody tutched me

                                                                        on the sholder"

                                                                        and turned his paper in.

                                                                        Later she showed it to me

                                                                        as an example of her wasted life.

                                                                        The words he wrote were large

                                                                        as houses in a landscape.

                                                                        He wanted to go inside them

                                                                        and live, he could fill in

                                                                        the windows of "o" and "d"

                                                                        and be safe while outside

                                                                        birds building nests in drainpipes

                                                                        knew nothing of the coming rain.

                                                                                        --Naomi Shihab Nye

                                                            (published in NEW AMERICAN POETS OF THE '90s)


June 28, 2010

                                                                                Home Place

                                                                                It is not hard to imagine arriving after so many years

                                                                                to find yourself in the place and watch the road

                                                                                that brought you going on without you, and the swale

                                                                                beside it like a green finger pointing back

                                                                                the way you came.  It is not hard to imagine

                                                                                a sunken pasture between the road and the house

                                                                                with a few cows grazing, one now looking up

                                                                                to stare at you for a moment, then lowering its head

                                                                                to the grass, and to hear a meadowlark's sudden

                                                                                aria again, never forgotten note for note.  It is not

                                                                                hard to imagine finding the house set far back

                                                                                from the road beneath poplars, the narrow lane

                                                                                leading to it, the barn and chicken house and weeping

                                                                                willows and outhouse, exactly as you remember them

                                                                                more than 65 years ago, although all of it is gone now.

                                                                                At night no one lowers the blinds--there is no one

                                                                                to look in--and amber light flows from the windows

                                                                                and remains on the grass as if painted there, and those

                                                                                inside, when they pass the windows, create shadows

                                                                                passing through the lights painted on the grass.

                                                                                The windows will be open and we can hear night noises:

                                                                                the pounding of insects against the screen, giant

                                                                                hummingbird moths and beetles, a bullfrog

                                                                                down at the creek, the sudden question of an owl,

                                                                                a cowbell, a huge horse snuffling in the barn.

                                                                                In spite of all this racket, it is not hard to imagine

                                                                                that if we listen when we go outside to empty

                                                                                our bladders before going to bed, we can hear

                                                                                the stars singing, they are that near.

                                                                                                    --Richard Shelton

                                                                                (published in THE LAST PERSON TO HEAR YOUR VOICE)


June 27, 2010

                                                                                Chest X-Ray

                                                                                She adjusts my hip, spine, shoulder

                                                                                against the roentgen plate.  Note

                                                                                my waxy flexibility

                                                                                is so perfect

                                                                                it might have been borrowed

                                                                                from a catatonic!

                                                                                I am so well behaved and chaste

                                                                                in my lead apron

                                                                                and Cerenkov-blue gown:

                                                                                there are medical gods to propitiate

                                                                                with lumberjack appetites--

                                                                                meat and potato men,

                                                                                trenchermen, gourmands--

                                                                                so when she tells me to take a deep breath

                                                                                and hold it without swaying

                                                                                I clasp my hands on my head

                                                                                as if praying

                                                                                for a schooldesk

                                                                                and inkpot to descend.

                                                                                And I wait.

                                                                                This is how prisoners of war stand,

                                                                                obedient, afraid, elbows forward,

                                                                                ready to cast

                                                                                their gamma shadow anywhere,

                                                                                just as I am standing here

                                                                                in this little August entre-deux-guerres

                                                                                holding my crouched heart

                                                                                in its slatted cage,

                                                                                bird and refugee,

                                                                                right between the eyes

                                                                                of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

                                                                                            --Paula Tatarunis

                                                            (published in BLOOD & BONE, POEMS BY PHYSICIANS)


June 26, 2010

                                                    The Fossil Imprint

                                                    The impress of a whelk

                                                    in hard brown rock,

                                                    fluted as a plinth.

                                                    Its life gone utterly,

                                                    throb, wet and chalk,

                                                    left this shape-transmission,

                                                    a kin boat of fine brick.

                                                    Just off center is a chip

                                                    healed before its death.

                                                    Before some credit help

                                                    this glazed biographee

                                                    beat surf-smash, stone rap,

                                                    maybe even saurid bite

                                                    in a swamp Antarctic.

                                                    Here, and where you are

                                                    have been Antarctic.

                                                                    --Les Murray

                                                    (published in SUBHUMAN REDNECK POEMS)




June 25, 2010

                                                    I Don't Wanna Get Drafted


				Special delivery ... registered mail ...

				you're gonna hafta sign for this buddy ...

				come on out ... I know you're in there !

I don't wanna get drafted I don't wanna go I don't wanna get drafted ... phooey ! I don't wanna get drafted I don't wanna go I don't wanna get drafted.
Roller skates in disco is a lot of fun. I'm too young'n stupid to operate a gun.
I don't wanna get drafted I don't wanna get drafted I don't wanna get drafted I don't wanna get drafted.
My sister don't wanna get drafted she don't wanna go ... sister don't wanna get drafted my sister don't wanna get drafted she don't wanna go ... sister don't wanna get drafted.
Wars are really ugly they're dirty an' they're cold I don't want nobody to shoot her in the fox hole fox hole.
                       					 --Frank Zappa


June 24, 2010

                                                    A Kind of Glory

                                                    years after the neighbors
                                                    started using machines
                                                    Grandpa still did the milking
                                                    with his small-boned
                                                    delicate hands
                                                    but his cows gave better milk
                                                    than any herd in the valley

                                                    at night he danced the schottische
                                                    with Grandma and always
                                                    put his little foot right there
                                                    more gracefully than she could manage

                                                    he smelled of cow manure
                                                    and Prince Albert pipe tobacco
                                                    women found him irresistible

                                                    we knew we would never be famous
                                                    or anything out of the ordinary
                                                    but for awhile after Grandpa
                                                    dropped his flashlight
                                                    into the outhouse hole we had
                                                    a kind of glory

                                                    it continued to shine
                                                    straight up from down there
                                                    and our most private moments
                                                    were illuminated

                                                                    --Richard Shelton

                                                    (published in SELECTED POEMS [1982])


June 23, 2010

                                                        Your Laughter

                                                        Take bread away from me, if you wish,

                                                        take air away, but

                                                        do not take from me your laughter.

                                                        Do not take away the rose,

                                                        the lanceflower that you pluck,

                                                        the water that suddenly

                                                        bursts forth in your joy,

                                                        the sudden wave

                                                        of silver born in you.

                                                        My struggle is harsh and I come back

                                                        with eyes tired

                                                        at times from having seen

                                                        the unchanging earth,

                                                        but when your laughter enters

                                                        it rises to the sky seeking me

                                                        and it opens for me all

                                                        the doors of life.

                                                        My love, in the darkest

                                                        hour your laughter

                                                        opens, and if suddenly

                                                        you see my blood staining

                                                        the stones of the street,

                                                        laugh, because your laughter

                                                        will be for my hands

                                                        like a fresh sword.

                                                        Next to the sea in the autumn,

                                                        your laughter must raise

                                                        its foamy cascade,

                                                        and in the spring, love,

                                                        I want your laughter like

                                                        the flower I was waiting for,

                                                        the blue flower, the rose

                                                        of my echoing country.

                                                        Laugh at the night,

                                                        at the day, at the moon,

                                                        laugh at the twisted

                                                        streets of the island,

                                                        laugh at this clumsy

                                                        boy who loves you,

                                                        but when I open

                                                        my eyes and close them,

                                                        when my steps go,

                                                        when my steps return,

                                                        deny me bread, air,

                                                        light, spring,

                                                        but never your laughter

                                                        for I would die.

                                                                    --Pablo Neruda

                                                        (published in THE CAPTAIN'S VERSES)


June 22, 2010

                                            The Rural Carrier Discovers That Love is Everywhere

                                            A registered letter for the Jensens.  I walk down their drive
                                            Through the gate of their thick-hedged yard, and by God there they are,
                                            On a blanket in the grass, asleep, buck-naked, honeymooners
                                            Not married a month.  I smile, turn to leave,
                                            But can't help looking back.  Lord, they're a pretty sight,
                                            Both of them, tangled up in each other, easy in their skin--
                                            It's their own front yard, after all, perfectly closed in
                                            By privet hedge and country.  Maybe they were here all night.

                                            I'd want to believe they'd do that, not thinking of me
                                            Or anyone but themselves, alone in the world
                                            Of the yard with its clipped grass and fresh-picked fruit trees  
                                            Whatever this letter says can wait.  To hell with the mail.
                                            I slip through the gate, silent as I came, and leave them
                                            Alone.  There's no one they need to hear from.

                                                                    --T.R. Hummer

                                            (published in THE ANGELIC ORDERS)


June 21, 2010

                                                            Beauty, Danger and Dismay

                                                            Beauty, danger and dismay

                                                            Met me on the public way.

                                                            Whichever I chose, I chose dismay.

                                                                        --James Fenton

                                                            (published in OUT OF DANGER)



June 20, 2010

                                                    Nothing Ventured

                                                    Nothing exists as a block

                                                    and cannot be parceled up.

                                                    So if nothing's ventured

				it's not just talk;
				it's the big wager.
				Don't you wonder
				how people think
				the banks of space 
				and time don't matter?
				How they'll drain
				the big tanks down to 
				slime and salamanders
				and want thanks?

                                                            -- Kay Ryan


June 19, 2010

                                                    My Dad

                                                    When I was just a tiny kid,
                                                    Do you remember when,
                                                    The time you kissed my bruises,
                                                    Or cleaned by soiled chin?

                                                    You scrambled for the balls I hit,
                                                    (Short-winded more than not,)
                                                    Yet, every time we'd play a game,
                                                    You praised the "outs" I caught.

                                                    It seems like only yesterday,
                                                    You wiped away my tears,
                                                    And late at night I called your name,
                                                    To chase away my fears.

                                                                    -- Anonymous


June 18, 2010

                                                                        The Edges of Time

                                                                        It is at the edges
                                                                        that time thins.
                                                                        Time which had been
                                                                        dense and viscous
                                                                        as amber suspending
                                                                        intentions like bees
                                                                        unseizes them. A
                                                                        humming begins,
                                                                        apparently coming
                                                                        from stacks of
                                                                        put-off things or
                                                                        just in back. A
                                                                        racket of claims now,
                                                                        as time flattens. A
                                                                        glittering fan of things
                                                                        competing to happen,
                                                                        brilliant and urgent
                                                                        as fish when seas

                                                                                            --Kay Ryan

                                                                        (published in THE BEST OF IT)


June 17, 2010

                                                                        Time Away


                                                                        Ticking away

                                                                        With quick small bites

                                                                        Of our lives.

                                                                        All day I forgot

                                                                        About time

                                                                        Leaking away

                                                                        In small mechanical


                                                                        My wrist was bare,

                                                                        And life flowed

                                                                        With creeks

                                                                        And rivers

                                                                        To the ocean.

                                                                        With a heartbeat,

                                                                        Bright and red.

                                                                            --Kurt Kristensen

                                                                        (published in POETSPEAK)


June 16, 2010

                                                                        Poem Against the Rich

                                                                        Each day I live, each day the sea of light

                                                                        Rises, I seem to see

                                                                        The tear inside the stone

                                                                        As if my eyes were gazing beneath the earth.

                                                                        The rich man in his red hat

                                                                        Cannot hear

                                                                        The weeping in the pueblos of the lily,

                                                                        Or the dark tears in the shacks of the corn.

                                                                        Each day the sea of light rises

                                                                        I hear the sad rustle of the darkened armies,

                                                                        Where each man weeps, and the plaintive

                                                                        Orisons of the stones.

                                                                        The stones bow as the saddened armies pass.

                                                                                                --Robert Bly

                                                                        (published in VITAL SIGNS, CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN
                                                                         POETRY FROM THE UNIVERSITY PRESSES ed. Ronald Wallace)


June 15, 2010

                                                                        Boy and Mom at the Nutcracker Ballet

                                                                        There's no talking in this movie.

                                                                                    It's not a movie!  Just watch the dancers.
                                                                                    They tell the story through their dancing.

                                                                        Why is the nutcracker mean?

                                                                                    I think because the little boy broke him.

                                                                        Did the little boy mean to?

                                                                                    Probably not.

                                                                        Why did the nutcracker stab his sword through the mouse king!
                                                                        I liked the mouse king.

                                                                                    So did I.  I don't know.  I wish that part wasn't in it.

                                                                        You can see the girl's underpants.

                                                                                    No, not underpants.  It's a a costume called a "tutu"--same word
                                                                                    as "grandmother" in Hawaiian.

                                                                        Are those real gems on their costumes?
                                                                        Do they get to keep them?
                                                                        Is that really snow coming down?

                                                                                    No, it can't be, it would melt and their feet get wet.

                                                                        I think it's white paper.

                                                                                    Aren't they beautiful!

                                                                        They are very beautiful.  But what do the dancers do
                                                                        when we can't see them, when they're off the stage
                                                                        and they're not dancing!
                                                                        Do you have any more pistachios in your purse?

                                                                                       --Naomi Shihab Nye

                                                                            (published in  FUEL)


June 14, 2010

                                                                            so galactic

                                                                            My new band name

                                                                            the Macronauts really

                                                                            captures the largeness

                                                                            of what it's like

                                                                            to be in Los Angeles

                                                                            where often it feels (

                                                                            such as at the Edendale

                                                                            on Saturday) as if you

                                                                            are very floating the

                                                                            night full of night

                                                                            also captures the

                                                                            glamour not grocery

                                                                            store check out line

                                                                            but real glitz you

                                                                            can taste taste taste

                                                                            God bless me for now

                                                                            I have dyed pink hair

                                                                            and I am ready Lord

                                                                            I have crapped up Vans

                                                                            and a studded thunder belt

                                                                            I am the light of the

                                                                            light at the center of the

                                                                            thing that's happening

                                                                            the most important thing

                                                                            that's happening currently

                                                                                    --Aaron Belz

                                                                            (published on WWW) 


June 13, 2010

                                                                    Outside the Operating Room of the Sex-Change Doctor

                                                                                Outside the operating room of the sex-change doctor, a tray

                                                                    of penises.

                                                                                There is no blood.  This is not Vietnam, Chile, Buchenwald.

                                                                    They were surgically removed under anaesthetic.  They lie there

                                                                    neatly, each with a small space around it.

                                                                                The anaesthetic is wearing off now.  The chopped-off sexes lie

                                                                    on the silver tray.

                                                                                One says I am a weapon thrown down.  Let there be no more


                                                                                Another says I am a thumb lost in the threshing machine.

                                                                    Bright straw fills the air.  I will never have to work again.

                                                                                The third says I am a caul removed from his eyes.  Now he

                                                                    can see.

                                                                                The fourth says I want to be painted by Gericault, a still life

                                                                    with a bust of Apollo, a drape of purple velvet, and a vine of ivy


                                                                                The fifth says I was a dirty little dog, I knew he'd have me

                                                                    put to sleep.

                                                                                The sixth says I am safe.  Now no one can hurt me.

                                                                                Only one is unhappy.  He lies there weeping in terrible grief,

                                                                    crying out Father, Father!

                                                                                                        --Sharon Olds

                                                                                (published in THE GOLD CELL)


June 12, 2010

                                                                    Night in the House of Cards

                                                                    A lot of dust has settled today,
                                                                    The Evening News said.                                               
                                                                    The walls still shook from time to time
                                                                    As if the night was a truck
                                                                    Loaded with gravel rumbling by.

                                                                    Then it was quiet.
                                                                    The builder of the house of cards
                                                                    Had rushed off
                                                                    Holding her masked children by the hand.
                                                                    I didn't dare light another match
                                                                    And look at the walls.
                                                                    There were pictures everywhere of bearded men
                                                                    And their bearded wives.
                                                                    The match flame made them dance
                                                                    So that afterwards
                                                                    I lay sleepless in the dark.

                                                                    In the night, the wind
                                                                    That chills the stars to a squint
                                                                    Blew a card off the roof
                                                                    Up one of its dark sleeves.
                                                                    The dawn sky was like a torn red dress
                                                                    The girl on the back of the card wore.

                                                                                    --Charles Simic

                                                                    (published in WALKING THE BLACK CAT)


June 11, 2010

                                                                    Earthmoving Malediction

                                                                    Bulldoze the bed where we made love,
                                                                    bulldoze the goddamn room.
                                                                    Let rubble be our evidence
                                                                    and wreck our home.

                                                                    I can't give touching up
                                                                    by inches, can't give beating
                                                                    up by heart.  So set the comforter
                                                                    on fire, and turn the dirt

                                                                    to some advantage--palaces of pigweed,
                                                                    treasuries of turd.  The fist
                                                                    will vindicate the hand,
                                                                    and tooth and nail

                                                                    refuse to burn, and I
                                                                    must not look back, as Mrs. Lot
                                                                    was named for such a little--
                                                                    something in a cemetery,

                                                                    or a man.  Bulldoze the coupled
                                                                    ploys away, the cute exclusives
                                                                    in the social mall.  We dwell

                                                                    on earth, where beds
                                                                    are brown, where swoops
                                                                    are fell.  Bulldoze

                                                                    the pearly gates:
                                                                    if paradise comes down
                                                                    there is no hell.

                                                                            --Heather McHugh

                                                                    (published in NEW AMERICAN POETS OF THE 90s)


June 9, 2010

                                                                    Train Trip to Horsens

                                                                    Today is simple, a bike against a brick wall.

                                                                    Near Grena a longfish net hangs on a stump.

                                                                    Forty swans glide the flooded pastures near Kolind.

                                                                    At Ryomgarrd, we stop for one woman with a child

                                                                    and pram then float over the thack thack thack,

                                                                    absorb the dimples of track until Hornsleths

                                                                    where twenty school kids crowd the car chattering

                                                                    words a syllable long.  Out my window, twin ponies,

                                                                    a row of white houses, and east, a freshly plowed field.

                                                                    One hawk stands true as a fence post.  Herning,

                                                                    the school kids' stop, and twenty miles to sit

                                                                    while silence fills the space children owned.

                                                                                                    --Kevin Miller

                                                                    (published in LIGHT THAT WHISPERS MORNING)


June 8, 2010

                                                                    Nipple Piercing Monkey Screams
                                                                                        a review

                                                                    Call me old-fashioned, but I find them

                                                                    exhilarating, not just their

                                                                    mindless, driving rhythms or

                                                                    the painfully inarticulate lyrics,

                                                                    but their irrepressible sexual charm,

                                                                    the suggestive desire to fuck

                                                                    whoever is in the front row,

                                                                    the playful push and pull of

                                                                    safety and danger

                                                                    between audience and musicians,

                                                                    punctuated by

                                                                    pelvic thrusts and stretching arms.

                                                                    I find myself

                                                                    drawn to the primitive

                                                                    forces of creativity, the urgency of

                                                                    Bach facing a Sunday deadline,                                                                  

                                                                     the agony or ecstasy of                                                                   

                                                                    Michelangelo squatting on scaffolding

                                                                    fifty feet above the cold stone

                                                                    floor of the Sistine Chapel, thinking,

                                                                    "How can I make this look like God?"

                                                                                                --Scott Lubbock

                                                                        (published in ON THE WAY TO WATER)



June 7, 2010

                                                            Wallis Lake Estuary
                                                                    for Valerie

                                                            A long street of all blue windows,
                                                            the estuary bridge is double-humped
                                                            like a bullock yoke.  The north tide
                                                            teems through to four arriving rivers,
                                                            the south tide works the sinus channel
                                                            to the big heart-shaped real estate lake.
                                                            Both flood oyster farms like burnt floor joists
                                                            that islands sleep out among like dogs.

                                                            Glorious on a brass day the boiling up
                                                            from the south, of a storm above those paddocks
                                                            shoal-creamed wake-dolphined water.
                                                            Equally at dusk, when lamps and pelicans
                                                            are posted, the persistence of dark lands
                                                            out there on the anodised light void.

                                                                                --Les Murray

                                                            (published in SUBHUMAN REDNECK POEMS)


June 6, 2010

The New Feeling

Lately I've had this permanent feeling of falling.

Concentrating on this takes all my time,

so I've become an expert at the istant getaway,

the one-liner: "Excuse me," I say, "I'm falling."

I'm not falling because something had once happened

and I'm not disappointed or bitter.

As naturally as blood rains down in me

I fall like a closed umbrella.

No one notices this in me and no one ever said, "Look,

this strange thing will happen one day."  So it must be

everyone's falling, only no one's saying a word.

Once I saw this movie about a woman obsessed

with dancing who wore these great red shoes.

Whenever she put them on, she leaped and lurched and

twirled and finally got crushed by a train.

That meant something to and for thirty years I thought

it was my own queer dream.  Then I discovered everyone

had seen the movie, only no one was saying a word.

Well, this time I'm saying it first.

I'm calling it as I feel it.

It isn't love and it isn't death.

I'm talking about falling.

--Jack Myers

(published in AS LONG AS YOU'RE HAPPY)


June 5, 2010

Some Herons

A blue preacher
flew toward the swamp,
in slow motion.

On the leafy banks,
an old Chinese poet,
hunched in the white gown of his wings,

was waiting.
The water
was the kind of dark silk

that has silver lines
shot through it
when it is touched by the wind

or is splashed upward,
in a small, quick flower,
by the life beneath it.

The preacher
made his difficult landing,
his skirts up around his knees.

The poet's eyes
flared, just as a poet's eyes
are said to do

when the poet is awakened
from the forest of meditation.
It was summer.

It was only a few moments past the sun's rising,
which meant that the whole long sweet day
lay before them.

They treated each other,
rumpling their gowns for an instant,
and then smoothing them.

They entered the water,
and instantly two more herons--
equally as beautiful--

joined them and stood just beneath them
in the black, polished water
where they fished, all day.

--Mary Oliver



June 3, 2010

                                                                    A Brave and Startling Truth   

                                                                    We, this people, on a small and lonely planet 
                                                                    Traveling through casual space 
                                                                    Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns 
                                                                    To a destination where all signs tell us 
                                                                    It is possible and imperative that we learn 
                                                                    A brave and startling truth 

                                                                    And when we come to it 
                                                                    To the day of peacemaking 
                                                                    When we release our fingers 
                                                                    From fists of hostility 
                                                                    And allow the pure air to cool our palms 

                                                                    When we come to it 
                                                                    When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate 
                                                                    And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean 
                                                                    When battlefields and coliseum 
                                                                    No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters 
                                                                    Up with the bruised and bloody grass 
                                                                    To lie in identical plots in foreign soil 

                                                                    When the rapacious storming of the churches 
                                                                    The screaming racket in the temples have ceased 
                                                                    When the pennants are waving gaily 
                                                                    When the banners of the world tremble 
                                                                    Stoutly in the good, clean breeze 

                                                                    When we come to it 
                                                                    When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders 
                                                                    And children dress their dolls in flags of truce 
                                                                    When land mines of death have been removed 
                                                                    And the aged can walk into evenings of peace 
                                                                    When religious ritual is not perfumed 
                                                                    By the incense of burning flesh 
                                                                    And childhood dreams are not kicked awake 
                                                                    By nightmares of abuse 

                                                                    When we come to it 
                                                                    Then we will confess that not the Pyramids 
                                                                    With their stones set in mysterious perfection 
                                                                    Nor the Gardens of Babylon 
                                                                    Hanging as eternal beauty 
                                                                    In our collective memory 
                                                                    Not the Grand Canyon 
                                                                    Kindled into delicious color 
                                                                    By Western sunsets 

                                                                    Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe 
                                                                    Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji 
                                                                    Stretching to the Rising Sun 
                                                                    Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor, 
                                                                    Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores 
                                                                    These are not the only wonders of the world 

                                                                    When we come to it 
                                                                    We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe 
                                                                    Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger 
                                                                    Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace 
                                                                    We, this people on this mote of matter 
                                                                    In whose mouths abide cankerous words 
                                                                    Which challenge our very existence 
                                                                    Yet out of those same mouths 
                                                                    Come songs of such exquisite sweetness 
                                                                    That the heart falters in its labor 
                                                                    And the body is quieted into awe 

                                                                    We, this people, on this small and drifting planet 
                                                                    Whose hands can strike with such abandon 
                                                                    That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living 
                                                                    Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness 
                                                                    That the haughty neck is happy to bow 
                                                                    And the proud back is glad to bend 
                                                                    Out of such chaos, of such contradiction 
                                                                    We learn that we are neither devils nor divines 

                                                                    When we come to it 
                                                                    We, this people, on this wayward, floating body 
                                                                    Created on this earth, of this earth 
                                                                    Have the power to fashion for this earth 
                                                                    A climate where every man and every woman 
                                                                    Can live freely without sanctimonious piety 
                                                                    Without crippling fear 

                                                                    When we come to it 
                                                                    We must confess that we are the possible 
                                                                    We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world 
                                                                    That is when, and only when 
                                                                    We come to it.

                                                                                                        --Maya Angelou

                                                                    (presented to United Nations Assembly
                                                                    at the UN's fiftieth anniversary)


June 2, 2010

                                                                    The Piano

                                                                    Sounds drift

                                                                    through the air, smelling sweet--

                                                                    salty cigar smoke.

                                                                    The room dark,

                                                                    faces blend together;


                                                                    induced fiery



                                                                              The middle of the room.

                                                                    A grand piano.

                                                                    Keys glistening,

                                                                    beckoning light fingers.

                                                                    Music lilts,

                                                                    the ivories sing

                                                                    melodious song.

                                                                    Rhythm fills me.

                                                                    Eyes shut, I feel


                                                                    Jazz clubs--

                                                                    my refuge.

                                                                            --Jessica Talmon

                                                        (published in NORTHWEST PASSAGE)


June 1, 2010

                                                            The Friend

                                                            We sat across the table.

                                                            he said, cut off your hands.

                                                            they are always poking at things.

                                                            they might touch me.

                                                            I said yes.

                                                            Food grew cold on the table.

                                                            he said, burn your body.

                                                            it is not clean and smells like sex.

                                                            it rubs my mind sore.

                                                            I said yes.

                                                            I love you, I said.

                                                            that's very nice, he said

                                                            I like to be loved,

                                                            that makes me happy.

                                                            Have you cut off your hands yet?

                                                                                    --Marge Piercy

                                                            (published in VITAL SIGNS

June 30, 2009
                                                            Orchid Island

                                                            Let's, honey, moon
                                                            on that island
                                                            of my heart.

                                                            Yes, lover, soon
                                                            we'll find our wings
                                                            and depart

                                                            to a sainted isle
                                                            where mysteries'
                                                            miracles abound:

                                                            brave bloom of the wild
                                                            orchid--like you--
                                                            startling beauty found.

                                                            I delight in you:
                                                            just-born-bare body
                                                            bright in the moonlight,

                                                            then darting right through
                                                            the ocean waters
                                                            (you harbor inside!)

                                                            more gorgeous, too,
                                                            than all the snorkel fish
                                                            after the long boat ride.

                                                            We will marry every year,
                                                            and better still,
                                                            come together in a heart-beat
                                                            on that island
                                                            of two hearts made three.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from IF YOU LIVE, YOUR TIME WILL COME)



June 29, 2009
                                                            Unplanned Parenthood

                                                            Perched, stiff, on exam table

                                                            black-root chemical blonde

                                                            in scuffed Doc Martens

                                                            and crisp combat greens

                                                            hunches over herself

                                                            even when not toking.


                                                            Curved thoughts crawl down

                                                            to hide between tummy muscles

                                                            elastic in rapid breathing--

                                                            mindless of latex not placed

                                                            (confessed after the exam)

                                                            in one trespass of passion.


                                                            Uncertainty drips from her--

                                                            a warm and sticky liquid

                                                            freed of lunar rhythms.

                                                            Yeah, it's two weeks late,

                                                            but I can't be pregnant....

                                                            gotta be my damned period, man!

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from IF YOU LIVE, YOUR TIME WILL COME)




June 28, 2009
                                                                THE FISH

                                                                                I caught a tremendous fish
                                                                                and held him beside the boat
                                                                                half out of water, with my hook
                                                                                fast in a corner of its mouth.
                                                                                He didn’t fight.
                                                                                He hadn’t fought at all.
                                                                                He hung a grunting weight,
                                                                                battered and venerable
                                                                                and homely. Here and there
                                                                                his brown skin hung in strips
                                                                                like ancient wallpaper,
                                                                                and its pattern of darker brown
                                                                                was like wallpaper:
                                                                                shapes like full-blown roses
                                                                                stained and lost through age.
                                                                                He was speckled with barnacles,
                                                                                fine rosettes of lime,
                                                                                and infested
                                                                                with tiny white sea-lice,
                                                                                and underneath two or three
                                                                                rags of green weed hung down.
                                                                                While his gills were breathing in
                                                                                the terrible oxygen
                                                                                — the frightening gills,
                                                                                fresh and crisp with blood,
                                                                                that can cut so badly —
                                                                                I thought of the coarse white flesh
                                                                                packed in like feathers,
                                                                                the big bones and the little bones,
                                                                                the dramatic reds and blacks
                                                                                of his shiny entrails,
                                                                                and the pink swim-bladder
                                                                                like a big peony.
                                                                                I looked into his eyes
                                                                                which were far larger than mine
                                                                                but shallower, and yellowed,
                                                                                the irises backed and packed
                                                                                with tarnished tinfoil
                                                                                seen through the lenses
                                                                                of old scratched isinglass.
                                                                                They shifted a little, but not
                                                                                to return my stare.
                                                                                — It was more like the tipping
                                                                                of an object toward the light.
                                                                                I admired his sullen face,
                                                                                the mechanism of his jaw,
                                                                                and then I saw
                                                                                that from his lower lip
                                                                                — if you could call it a lip —
                                                                                grim, wet, and weaponlike,
                                                                                hung five old pieces of fish-line,
                                                                                or four and a wire leader
                                                                                with the swivel still attached,
                                                                                with all their five big hooks
                                                                                grown firmly in his mouth.
                                                                                A green line, frayed at the end
                                                                                where he broke it, two heavier lines,
                                                                                and a fine black thread
                                                                                still crimped from the strain and snap
                                                                                when it broke and he got away.
                                                                                Like medals with their ribbons
                                                                                frayed and wavering,
                                                                                a five-haired beard of wisdom
                                                                                trailing from his aching jaw.
                                                                                I stared and stared
                                                                                and victory filled up
                                                                                the little rented boat,
                                                                                from the pool of bilge
                                                                                where oil had spread a rainbow
                                                                                around the rusted engine
                                                                                to the bailer rusted orange,
                                                                                the sun-cracked thwarts,
                                                                                the oarlocks on their strings,
                                                                                the gunnels — until everything
                                                                                was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
                                                                                And I let the fish go.

                                                                                                    --Elizabeth Bishop

                                                                                (published in The Complete Poems,1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop)

June 27, 2009
                                                                    HORSES AT DAWN

                                                                    The horses the horses the wild horses at dawn

                                                                    as in a watercolor by Ben Shahn

                                                                    they are alive in the high meaadow

                                                                    in the high country on the far mesa

                                                                    you can see them galloping

                                                                    you can see them snorting

                                                                    you can hear their thunder distantly

                                                                    you can hear the small thunder

                                                                    of their small hooves


                                                                    like wooden hammers thrumming

                                                                    on a distant drum

                                                                    The sun roars &

                                                                    throws their shadows

                                                                    out of the night

                                                                                --Lawrence Ferlinghetti

                                                                    (published  in Endless Life: Selected Poems)


June 26, 2009

                                                            Universe manifest

                                                            before unveiled eyes

                                                            teases eternity

                                                            with its luminous trance,

                                                            yet suffers no stall there

                                                            where fast I realize

                                                            surging colors neither

                                                            halt nor run as they dance.

                                                            Melting measures of time

                                                            rhythm hugs me fluid;

                                                            without missing a beat

                                                            unravels me complete.

                                                            Spinning water droplets

                                                            charged with sun's cadence

                                                            re-embody ballet

                                                            as whirling cells commence.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Create That Love That Love Creates)


June 25, 2009
                                                            NIGHT MOVES

                                                            Cigarette butt flare
                                                            flickers as eclipsed moon
                                                            thrusts its borrowed glow
                                                            from under earth's
                                                            shadow cloak.
                                                            Ears warm and eyes dip
                                                            as I sense I'm watching a body
                                                            wanting to disrobe--
                                                            to head a chorus line of stars
                                                            (Those named long ago are still.
                                                            Modern stars move
                                                            toward Portland and San Francisco.)

                                                            Plane's night-light flashing
                                                            (like a late summer firefly)
                                                            just threads the needle
                                                            between moon and Saturn.
                                                            In some full-moon-crazed derby
                                                            another's on his tail,
                                                            but lower,
                                                            and fails to repeat the feat.

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in Medicinal Purposes)


June 24, 2009
                                                            THE DAILY DEATHS

                                                            Like her spring-cut roses
                                                            mother finally tired--
                                                            of being dwarfed in a king-sized
                                                            with only radio companions
                                                            and fear of silent phones--
                                                            her spirit doused, salty,
                                                            flowing through tears
                                                            I almost cried.
                                                            Which is the genetic trait:
                                                            she nearly died,
                                                            I nearly cried?

                                                            As a flashed sneer
                                                            (like a mugger's blade
                                                            in sodium's dirty light)
                                                            I feel the trespass of pain
                                                            long held inside--
                                                            memories of mother's
                                                            attempt at suicide.

                                                            Long carving knife
                                                            with blade burnished as a saber
                                                            was one of her tools.
                                                            Worn handle of wood
                                                            oiled by daily embrace
                                                            reminded me of Father McInery's
                                                            neck-draped crucifix.

                                                            Just four years old
                                                            I'd grabbed that knife,
                                                            waved it at her
                                                            like the wooden swords of my play
                                                            to announce, "Mommy I'm going to kill you."
                                                            And she, "Now what would you want to do that for?"

                                                            Razored blade glinting in her familiar grip
                                                            (decades later at my brother's wedding)
                                                            seemed to drive her bitter stare
                                                            burning into my chest
                                                            such that I longed for the protection
                                                            of Father McInery's cross.

                                                            Seeing her storm flash my father
                                                            I prayed for the summer of childhood
                                                            to blow through me dry and clear
                                                            that I might believe,
                                                            "Now what would you want to do that for?"

                                                            God, we were all born to die!
                                                            Where, oh mother where,
                                                            did I learn to attempt it every day:
                                                            watching my child's acts flow by unpraised
                                                            as I choke in streams of self-immersion;
                                                            selfish lies not whispered--
                                                            even in confession--
                                                            swallowing colors too quickly to taste?

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in Archives of Family Medicine)


June 23, 2009
                                                            ODE TO A BORN-AGAIN SHED

                                                            You watch us peek past the porch door
                                                            or though kitchen windows
                                                            to lose ourselves in the blizzard
                                                            of photons you throw
                                                            right back to the sun.

                                                            We fit you a jacket,
                                                            one I had seen you wear
                                                            when my mind's eye would play
                                                            inner tricks with physics.
                                                            Sprayed your cedar skeleton
                                                            luminescent like the oyster shells
                                                            scattered as charms to fetch hens' eggs.

                                                            Sing us bone songs time-tempered
                                                            like the drum-dry cattle skull
                                                            hanging on your wall.
                                                            Or hum your solid columns
                                                            ageless as the four directions.

                                                            North's wall's darkened by shadow
                                                            while south's beams to flowers.
                                                            West side welcomes all birds,
                                                            Take a bath, eat for free.
East buffers garden from winds,
                                                            transforms light to warmth.

                                                            We've given but make-up
                                                            in applause for these roles--
                                                            performances that sway
                                                            our daily lives.

                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Nothing Else Matters)


June 22, 2009
                                                            FOREST FALL

                                                            She stands mute and tall,

                                                            Bark-dress clutters wooden feet--

                                                            Fir stripped by seasons.

                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                (from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
                                                                    Profound Dittycism


June 21, 2009
                                                THE GOOSE FISH

                                                On the long shore, lit by the moon
                                                To show them properly alone,
                                                Two lovers suddenly embraced
                                                So that their shadows were as one.
                                                The ordinary night was graced
                                                For them by the swift tide of blood
                                                That silently they took at flood,
                                                And for a little time they prized
                                                   Themselves emparadised.

                                                Then, as if shaken by stage-fright
                                                Beneath the hard moon's bony light,
                                                They stood together on the sand
                                                Embarrassed in each other's sight
                                                But still conspiring hand in hand,
                                                Until they saw, there underfoot,
                                                As though the world had found them out,
                                                The goose fish turning up, though dead,
                                                   His hugely grinning head.

                                                There in the china light he lay,
                                                Most ancient and corrupt and grey.
                                                They hesitated at his smile,
                                                Wondering what it seemed to say
                                                To lovers who a little while
                                                Before had thought to understand,
                                                By violence upon the sand,
                                                The only way that could be known
                                                   To make a world their own.

                                                It was a wide and moony grin
                                                Together peaceful and obscene;
                                                They knew not what he would express,
                                                So finished a comedian
                                                He might mean failure or success,
                                                But took it for an emblem of
                                                Their sudden, new and guilty love
                                                To be observed by, when they kissed,
                                                   That rigid optimist.

                                                So he became their patriarch,
                                                Dreadfully mild in the half-dark.
                                                His throat that the sand seemed to choke,
                                                His picket teeth, these left their mark
                                                But never did explain the joke
                                                That so amused him, lying there
                                                While the moon went down to disappear
                                                Along the still and tilted track
                                                   That bears the zodiac.

                                                                    --Howard Nemerov

                                                (published in The Winter Lightning)


June 20, 2009

                                                            I think of the California poets,
                                                            how easy it is for them.
                                                            They have vast open spaces,
                                                            they drive jeeps and live nowhere,
                                                            they drift from cabin to cabin
                                                            on mountains with beautiful Spanish names
                                                            and there are girls in the cabins
                                                            who love poetry and sleep with the poets freely,
                                                            for in California there is no guilt nor shame
                                                            nor hunger, life is as a dream,
                                                            lobsters crawl up on the shore to be caught,
                                                            they shoot seabirds and fry them in butter on the beach.

                                                            There are no seasons in California.
                                                            You make your own, you move from
                                                            places where the sun shines all the time
                                                            to places where it rains or snows forever.
                                                            If you want June or October or some cross-country skiing,
                                                            you go to that place in your jeep
                                                            and the season is there always.

                                                            It is a good climate for poetry, since it is full
                                                            of images.  You pluck them from the trees like breadfruit
                                                            with your feet or knock them down like coconuts.
                                                            It is good also for religion, as the Three Winds
                                                            bring secret doctrines from the East,
                                                            sensual and voluptuous names for the emotions,
                                                            creeds that make holy your underground desires,
                                                            your daily habits and the parts of your body.

                                                            In New England we scratch in the soil with sticks,
                                                            find scarce turnips among the rocks,
                                                            have no religion at all, fence out our neighbors,
                                                            wear clothes, work hard, abstain from sex
                                                            and write poems, when we do, on the way to the madhouse.

                                                            I spent some time in the Midwest, where they
                                                            were neither wholly free nor wholly tragic.
                                                            They lived, screwed, married, divorced, and died
                                                            like regular folk.  They grew corn and fed it to
                                                            their pigs, then shipped them east and west
                                                            for slaughter.  It made sense.
                                                            When I am finished with this rocky ground,
                                                            wet weather and neurotic ocean,
                                                            I will become a Baptist in Des Moines,
                                                            rise early and drive over to the river
                                                            to watch the fall migrations.
                                                            I will take photographs and keep
                                                            a family album, write no poems, for poems,
                                                            Maine or California, drive you crazy.

                                                                                        --William Carpenter

                                                            (published in Vital Signs an anthology edited by Ronald Wallace)


June 19, 2009
                                                            ODE TO AN ELEVATOR

                                                            On rare sun-drenched Seattle mornings
                                                            I looked up to the Visitacion Valley
                                                            hillside flaunting its gigantic tiara
                                                            as I approached our new VA hospital
                                                            for daily psychiatry rounds.
                                                            More often than not
                                                            a granite gargoyle lay waiting
                                                            grim with greeting the damp grey
                                                            of another Puget Sound day.

                                                            Most evenings sent me home licking
                                                            invisible wounds over dinner,
                                                            saddened by psychic gashes
                                                            in people without retreat.
                                                            Nights on call simmered over a steady
                                                            yearning for release through sleep.
                                                            "Room two, doctor"
                                                            Claire informed a tired intern
                                                            coughed from an elevator at 2 a.m.

                                                            Couldn't believe his name was Hatch;
                                                            that's exactly what he appeared
                                                            to search for face on floor--
                                                            as if a level lower than this dive
                                                            into drink called.  As he lay at my feet
                                                            in the VA emergency room
                                                            beyond a spindly reach,
                                                            I wondered what lessons lay here.

                                                            A study in shabby clothes,
                                                            Mr. Hatch laughed brighter than your
                                                            favorite holiday uncle.  He spun
                                                            golden tales Rumpelstiltskin might envy--
                                                            before vanishing A.M.A.,
                                                            forgotten as readily
                                                            as each of last year's failures.

                                                            Left behind until a year later
                                                            when in another hospital elevator--
                                                            his smile buoying above my hung head--
                                                            he sang out, "Hey, what's up doc;
                                                            you takin' good care of my friend?"
                                                            His presence now like a slap to the face
                                                            reminding me how heavily I too fall.
                                                            As he left I prayed thanks for lifts
                                                            and lessons hard to explain.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Nothing Else Matters)


June 18, 2009
                                                           MY LOVE

                                                    You give me sunshine,

                                                       You bring me rain.

                                                    You charge my feelings

                                                        With hope again!

                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                    (from Collected Words)


June 17, 2009

                                                            Some thing has been loosed:

                                                            hundreds of light creatures

                                                            careen about me,

                                                            ant-like explorations

                                                            (without panicked desire to brush them off.)

                                                            Brush stroke beats

                                                            land and lift like breezes

                                                            or moon-lit moths'

                                                            maiden winging:

                                                            the reborn refueling,

                                                            the born anew alternately

                                                            launching and lighting.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Create That Love That Love Creates)


June 16, 2009
                                                            ORGANIC CHEMISTRY LECTURE NOTES

                                                            While you are gliding gracefully
                                                            Over symbols oft etched hastily
                                                            Suspend final judgment, for in sooth
                                                            These figures can never capture Truth.

                                                            You are hearing wrong if you hear 'don't study',
                                                            For even though some mechanisms are muddy
                                                            Remember this always as your first step:
                                                            The mind must be practiced and flexible kept.

                                                            Only then, perhaps, might Truth arise--
                                                            Not springing from words before your eyes,
                                                            But always coming from deep within
                                                            To remind you of the Awe again.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Collected Words)


June 15, 2009
                                                            READING YOU REMINDS ME

                                                            when bored stuffed with crinkling
                                                            carton-peanut thoughts
                                                            I may borrow fresh thinking
                                                            for just a few bucks.

                                                            Brain dark as last year's glads
                                                            forgotten beneath the weeds
                                                            gets to follow your spade
                                                            to a symmetry of color it needs.

                                                            Sometimes I forget how we work
                                                            for one another.

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in FIREWEED)


June 14, 2009

                                                        Enter through the door marked "Linac4."
                                                        Take the tiny towel, for false
                                                        modesty is always better than none.  Now
                                                        drop your trousers, mount the table,
                                                        bring your bony knees
                                                        upward to your chest while they
                                                        insert the rectal balloon, inflate it,
                                                        give it a tug.  Let them tie your feet together
                                                        and give you the rubber ring to squeeze
                                                        what little comfort you can from misdirection.
                                                        Let them levitate you and then
                                                        apply the ultrasound gel, the prescient probe,
                                                        adjusting the planning parameters
                                                        with the computer's sleight-of-hand.
                                                        Ah, the indignity of it!  You
                                                        feel like such a rube,
                                                        caught with your proverbial pants down
                                                        as they vanish from the room.
                                                        Let Linac 4 begin to hum
                                                        its cool, dispassionate hum, the classic
                                                        apparatus with its obligatory patter
                                                        moving its mesmeric armature
                                                        over your rigid body.
                                                        And if finally it all comes down to mathematics--
                                                        how the cells divide and multiply--
                                                        and the physics of how the trick's done,
                                                        who's to say that there could be
                                                        no alchemy in the 21st century,
                                                        no magic, necromancy?
                                                        All you want is just to be
                                                        a stage prop in the act of Linac 4,
                                                        your cancer but a coin, a card, a key, a rope,
                                                        a rabbit in the top hat of the prostate:
                                                        Now you see it, now you don't.

                                                                                --Ronald Wallace (Madison, Wisconsin)

                                                        (published in JAMA Jan 5, 2005--Vol 293, No. 1)


June 13, 2009
                                                        A REFLECTION

                                                        There must be a time of day
                                                        When the person who makes plans forgets his plans,
                                                        And acts as if he had no plans at all.


                                                        There must be a time of day
                                                        When the person who has to speak falls very silent.
                                                        And her mind forms no more propositions,
                                                        And she asks herself:
                                                        Did they have a meaning?


                                                        There must be a time
                                                        When the person of prayers goes to pray
                                                        As it were the first time in his life
                                                        he had ever prayed,
                                                        When the person of resolutions
                                                        Puts her resolutions aside as if they had all been broken
                                                        And learns a different wisdom:


                                                        distinguishing the sun from the moon,
                                                        The stars from the darkness,
                                                        The sea from the dry land,
                                                        And the night sky from the shoulder of a hill.

                                                                                --Thomas Merton

                                                        (published in The Hidden Ground of Love)

                                                                                (thank you, Jerry Braza)



June 12, 2009
                                                               MANKIND'S MIND





                                                                            --Tim Van Ert


June 11, 2009
                                                            CINDER CONES

                                                            Cinder cones cloistered in a glacier (black
                                                            Tutus poised aeons after the small spilling)

                                                            Insinuate a path for drifting eyes--
                                                            Trekkers needing no tools to pick their way

                                                            Over tumbled blue-ice boulders whose
                                                            Aerosolized edges could razor lungs.

                                                            Like the studded blades of olive aloe
                                                            Press against my skylight as if to

                                                            Brush away snow heaped upon glass,
                                                            My fingers stretch, ready to overcome

                                                            The cold confusions of frozen fluids.
                                                            Brave climbers would secure a hug's hold

                                                            To tug you down, far below iced water,
                                                            Into the bowels where earth gestates her warmth.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Nothing Else Matters)


June 10, 2009
                                                           PETER PETER


                                                  Pumpkin come and pumpkin go


                                                  And when he come, he steal da show


                                                  But for us there is no mo’


                                                  Only pumpkin come


                                                                         and PumpKing go.

                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                (from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
                                                                    Profound Dittycism


June 9, 2009
                                                            STARLIGHT ON ICEBERG

                                                            Hurry, see baby cow come out!
cries Rio, himself aglow
                                                            with the suckling of infancy.

                                                            No part of him understands
                                                            my planted response
                                                            to his tug on my hand.

                                                            He still learns through his eyes.
                                                            How could I explain
                                                            that I see with my mind:
                                                            two legs out,
                                                            two still in,
                                                            eyes wild, nose wet,
                                                            mother's bellow reverberating
                                                            our hollow guts.

                                                            I freeze there as I imagine.
                                                            Rio shines with what he saw.

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in Seeds On a Wind Ride)


June 8, 2009
                                                            SENDS ME NO DANCERS

                                                            Nudged from dream's nest
                                                            my eyes flitter;
                                                            finding the horizon
                                                            they glide...
                                                            to the invisible palace
                                                            where you hide
                                                            fully exposed
                                                            to inner eyes.

                                                            Teaming with time
                                                            dawn's light pulls firs'
                                                            shadows away
                                                            while your limbs would draw me
                                                            to the solar nexus
                                                            where we've re-created
                                                            the universe
                                                            so many times.

                                                            Soaring now I wonder,
                                                            are you thinking of our love?
                                                            Soundless your soul shimmers
                                                            but sends me no dancers.

                                                            If my soul sent out dancers
                                                            where would they be:
                                                            sparrows hopping in Heathrow?
                                                            old men soft-shoeing
                                                            the muddy Thames?
                                                            Such beguiling old men
                                                            don't expect tired souls to dance
                                                            the way we young men do.

                                                            No, if I sent out dancers
                                                            they'd find you.
                                                            They'd find you

                                                                            without answers
                                                            to remind you
                                                            of the Universes
                                                            we've yet to create.

                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in Pointed Circle)



June 7, 2009
                                                            FOR MY MOTHER

                                                            You were my first child, really.
                                                            When my sister moved into the guest room
                                                            you started to come to me at night
                                                            like a child who cannot sleep, coming to
                                                            the mother's bed, so I became a mother
                                                            at seven.  Like the nurse laying the firstborn
                                                            in a mother's arms, you came sometimes
                                                            and laid yourself in my arms, you were spongy and felt
                                                            almost boneless, sacs of this
                                                            and that, wet feathers across your eyes.
                                                            Where does it come from, the love of babies--
                                                            I took you in my arms without thought, I felt lucky,
                                                            your cheek to my hard, ribby chest,
                                                            its nipple flat as a stroke of color,
                                                            a spot where some god had laid a thumb
                                                            for an instant.  I was not impatient, I did not
                                                            mind the boiled-egg smell you had brought
                                                            from his bed--what I wanted was to feed strength up like
                                                            heat or color into your body,
                                                            to pump life into your life.  Where had I learned that?
                                                            I had learned it from you, from the months you had held me
                                                            to your breast and given me hot, plentiful
                                                            milk, it was seven years since then, I had forgotten nothing.

                                                                                            --Sharon Olds

                                                            (published in The Wellspring)


June 6, 2009
                                                            DEPARTURE'S GIRL-FRIEND

                                                            LONELINESS leapt in the mirrors, but all week
                                                            I kept them covered like cages.  Then I thought
                                                            Of a better thing.

                                                            And though it was late night in the city
                                                            There I was on my way
                                                            To my boat, feeling good to be going, hugging
                                                            This big wreath with the words like real
                                                            Silver: Bon Voyage.

                                                                                        The night
                                                            Was mine but everyone's, like a birthday.
                                                            Its fur touched my face in passing.  I was going
                                                            Down to my boat, my boat,
                                                            To see it off, and glad at the thought.
                                                            Some leaves of the wreath were holding my hands
                                                            And the rest waved good-bye as I walked, as though
                                                            They were still alive.

                                                            And all went well till I came to the wharf, and no one.

                                                            I say no one, but I mean
                                                            There was this young man, maybe
                                                            Out of the merchant marine,
                                                            In some uniform, and I knew who he was; just the same
                                                            When he said to me where do you think you're going,
                                                            I was happy to tell him.

                                                            But he said to me, it isn't your boat,
                                                            You don't have one.  I said, it's mine, I can prove it:
                                                            Look at this wreath, I'm carrying to it,
                                                            Bon Voyage. He said, This is the stone wharf, lady,
                                                            You don't own anything here.

                                                                                                        And as I
                                                            Was turning away, the injustice of it
                                                            Lit up the buildings, and there I was
                                                            In the other and hated city
                                                            Where I was born, where nothing is moored, where
                                                            The lights crawl over the stone like flies, spelling now,
                                                            Now, and the same fat chances roll
                                                            Their many eyes; and I step once more
                                                            Through a hoop of tears and walk on, holding this
                                                            Buoy of flowers in front of my beauty,
                                                            Wishing myself the good voyage.

                                                                                --W. S. Merwin

                                                            (published in Contemporary American Poetry
                                                                                                          ed. Donald Hall)


June 5, 2009
                                                            BLACKBERRY ATTACK

                                                            Mute monsters creep through summer heat.
                                                            Where soft leaves of lettuce once thrived,
                                                            Barb-studded tentacles deny
                                                            Passive access to sun and earth.

                                                            Brambles of no eye and less heart
                                                            Feel only the succor of strength--
                                                            Nourish green thorns to grow sharper
                                                            On organic scorn for soft flesh.

                                                            Claws dig like the feral kitten
                                                            Picked up by the gleeful toddler.
                                                            Bush born of Satan's seduction
                                                            Demands blood from each passerby.

                                                            Nothing on earth can match its might.
                                                            But there is that helicopter...
                                                            Traitorous heart warms to hear it
                                                            Whacking June's thick blanket of air.

                                                            Poison rain dribbles leaf-to-leaf.
                                                            I hide indoors.  Herbicidal
                                                            Murder is not pleasant to see.
                                                            But what on earth deserves it more?

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in Seeds On a Wind Ride)


June 4, 2009

                                                          CAMBERWELL BEAUTY


                                                                      A lust


                                                                      is just

                                                                    a dream


                                                                     it seems

                                                                   to my eyes.


                                                                 --Tim Van Ert

                                                         (from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
                                                                    Profound Dittycism


June 3, 2009

                                                            NPR in the morning


                                                            bombs are falling in Baghdad.


                                                            My ears late at night


                                                            bombs falling from our pear tree.


                                                            Through the years

                                                            I hear

                                                            bums are failing my sister.


                                                            All Sunday long

                                                            I feel

                                                            blisters wailing on my thumb.


                                                            I live amidst the bombs, and bums, until

                                                            I fall

                                                            back into the earth.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)


June 2, 2009
                                                            SWEET FRUITS

                                                            We have a love of questions,
                                                            you and I--
                                                            faithful to those
                                                            which pose no certain answers.
                                                            To these we return,
                                                            like the meetings of old
                                                            friends in new cities,
                                                            with more to offer
                                                            after another season's harvest.
                                                            Then, forgetting ourselves,
                                                            our urgencies, our pasts--
                                                            two kids in an apple orchard--
                                                            we chase one another
                                                            to separate conclusions.

                                                            You will remind me,
                                                            next time we meet,
                                                            that I've accumulated much
                                                            since last we queried:
                                                            new ledges to view our questions,
                                                            new chairs in which to sit
                                                            reflecting answers and--
                                                            after a ripe summer--
                                                            new questions' sweet fruits
                                                            to send you home with.

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Nothing Else Matters)


June 1, 2009

                                                                                WALK THE DOG

                                                                                Get up,

                                                                walk the dog

                                                                past death's

                                                                panting fog.

                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                          (from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
                                                                    Profound Dittycism