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Saturday, June 7, 2014


Splinter            Ewa Lipska, translated from the Polish by Robin Davidson and Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska

I like you a twenty-year-old poet writes to me.
A beginning carpenter of words.

His letter smells of lumber.
His muse still sleeps in rosewood.

Ambitious noise in a literary sawmill.
Apprentices veneering a gullible tongue.

They cut to size the shy plywood of sentences.
A haiku whittled with a plane.

Problems begin
with a splinter lodged in memory.

It is hard to remove
much harder to describe.

Wood shavings fly. The apple cores of angels.
Dust up to the heavens.

No Sky
Martha Ronk

after Robert Adams’s California: Views

No sky a gray backdrop merely and absence
and below: the scraggle of dusty fronds, the scrub oak and scrub jay
whose abrasive noises sharpen in response.

Shadows proliferate in deep furrows no sky above
merely a scrim registering conical thrusts, a heightened flurry &
outlines of branches, the dead ones slowly petering out.

magnificent ruin the cut through the field blasted chaparral

As I understand my job, it is, while suggesting order, to make things appear as much as possible to be the way they are in normal vision.

An unvoiced series of sentences, without articulation,
with gray shapes, formulating a syntax loosening and then tightening from edge to edge.

The frame sets a border down from which a thin straggle hangs at random &
like purposeful intrusion, and so unlike

and the interstate (in the title) missing from the photograph itself
merely a dry riverbed, the density of shadows trapped in the confusion
of bush and bush-like tree

except from higher up than the rest, its thin trunk arched against
no sky

colorless, less often remarked upon, appositely emotionless these days,
a relic, like the fan palm living at the edges of water. 

Halo             Melissa Stein
A swirl of it: a stain, like cinnamon:
that's how it was, at the base
of her skull, radiating like a halo.
I watched, for a long time, her outline,
her shadow, her second self
sink into sand. They say the soul
lifts from the body; that it takes wing
from sullied matter, a perfumed storm,
petals and light. I saw a slackening,
a gradual collapse to paleness tinged
in yellow, in slate. A lowering, not a lifting
as the earth that once held her up
loosened to take her in. A sigh.
Then a quiet that was more than quiet,
a listening that itself became like noise

Anyone involved with the institutions of poetry would do well to remember this. With all the clamor in this country about the audience for poetry, a veritable barnyard of noise into which I myself have been known to bray, we shouldn't lose sight of one of poetry's chief strengths: how little of it there is. I don't mean how little there is in the culture, but how little there is at any one time that is truly excellent. Poetry's invisibility is deplorable and worth fighting. Its rareness is admirable and the chief source of its strength. Indeed, I sometimes think that if we honored its rarity more, poetry's invisibility would be less of a problem, or at least we might define the notion of visibility differently. Seamus Heaney has noted that if a person has a single poem in his head, one that he returns to and through which, even in small ways, he understands his life better, this constitutes a devotion to the art. It is enough. And in fact I find that this is almost always how non-specialists read poetry – rarely, sparingly, but intensely, with a handful of high moments that they cling to. The emphasis is on the memorable individual poem, and poetry in bulk is rarely memorable.

Christian Wiman, Poetry, Dec. 2006

Last Trip to the Island                                      Erin Belieu

You're mad that I can't love the ocean,

but I've come to this world landlocked
and some bodies feel permanently strange.
Like any foreign language, study it too late and
it never sticks. Anyway,

we're here aren't we? —
trudging up the sand, the water churning
its constant horny noise, an openmouthed heavy

breathing made more unnerving by
the presence of all these families, the toddlers

with their chapped bottoms, the fathers
in gigantic trunks spreading out their dopey
circus-colored gear.

How can anyone relax
near something so worked up all the time?

I know the ocean is glamorous,
but the hypnosis, the dilated pull of it, feels

impossible to resist. And what better reason to
resist? I'm most comfortable in

a field, a yellow-eared patch
of cereal, whose quiet rustling argues for
the underrated valor of discretion.

And above this, I admire a certain quality of
sky, like an older woman who wears her jewels with
an air of distance, that is, lightly,
with the right attitude. Unlike your ocean,

there's nothing sneaky about a field. I like their
ugly-girl frankness. I like that, sitting in the dirt,

I can hear what's coming between the stalks.


drew said...

Ohh, that Erin Belieu poem is just great!

Thanks Jessica. I enjoy these themed posts of yours, and this week "Noise" is just where I'm at. Thank you!

Jessica Goodfellow said...

That Erin Belieu poem gets me every time too! I'm glad you are enjoying these themes. They are fun to put together as well.