Tuesday, April 22, 2014

POEM: "Pray For Rain"

Pray For Rain

Pray for rain. Against the scratching desert. All life is sacred.
The silica listens for the wind. The wind is faraway. No cloud.
She runs every morning. Not much cooler than it will be at noon.
Breathing dryness. The oiled piston arms and legs moving very well.
Let her meditate. Run the last 2K fast. Let her race her kangaroo.

Rain is coming. Yesterday and today and tomorrow. Listen. Listen.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Monday, April 21, 2014

POEM: "Make The Bowls Sing"

Make The Bowls Sing

Periphery you know future you do not
Walking home see China’s tallest building
Its shrouds (good word) in smog (bad word)

Waves of song beating an invisible ocean
Patiently watch the islands drowning
& bless its generations of scavengers

Circle every planet dar una vuelta
This scandal forms part of the molecule
Lucky there's no birdsong on the moon

How the streets run high with words
The bronze bowls forever hum with joy
They ever figure out this disguise of noise

One faith in hope that the music holds
Everywhere the edges of sound & if health
For happiness then happiness for 1000 years.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

PHOTO: Matt Ming, "Newspapers" (2014) / POEM: "From A Tired News Agent"

From A Tired News Agent

How does the news improve your day?
Let me count the ways. The sun rises at 6:05.
Killing in Myanmar. Killing in Ukraine. My grandson
Graduates from university. With an accounting degree.
I've been reading crime for 60 years. It's not journalism.
There is corruption in high places. Pretty girls are sexy.
The world grows warmer. People grow more vicious.
Record watermelon. Monsters are caught in the deep.
Worse than it's ever been. Better than it's ever been.
You're as smart as they let you be. My faded eyesight
Has turned inward. I read the furrows on your brow.

The cars are double-parked. Everyone piles out.
There's no reason for any change to be worse.
I don't know why you're reading this.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Pathos: The Poem"

Pathos: The Poem

The pestering mouth
a table across the way
the hurt eyes filling
her head on my breast
prolepsis? I don't know
wait my gentle reader
the busboy drops his plates
the lamp is 3000 drachmae
I'm sure this is my table
she was the love of my life.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Cave, Mastodon & Antlered Creature"

Cave, Mastodon & Antlered Creature

Crystals gleam before the night
she awakes before the others
a cave will light in both directions

Putting hands on hard stone walls
she walks beyond their last erasure
midnight of vision or dawn of sleep

She’ll walk 50 feet past the erasure
in and out again by the force of fire

surprised when the subject is the same

They call her simple they say she’s crazy
which hardly concerns dark principles
toting the bag with the colors she needs.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Small Tests Of Truth"

Small Tests Of Truth

History will decide, will decide
if the military budget goes crazy

how the deserts are grown larger
now the half-moon is upside down
whether you'll ever grow tired of me

History will decide, will decide
you’ll make your position clear
why destruction is so silent
whether sweetness ever returns
to the slaughterhouse that wasn’t hit

History will decide, will decide
how long Spring should be delayed
whether the banana is really a cake
why missiles point in this direction
if the device is meant to be eaten

History will decide, will decide
the up is down & the then is now
how we manage the toxic asset
why you decode me like that
while the strawberries sweeten.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Fake"


A glut of magnificent forgeries
Duped experts adding value

Fakes more real than the real work
Originals tired of being one-offs

The field looked very strong
Favourites given short odds

On the home straight all is silent
The Ironic overtakes The Ideal

Punters tear up their tickets
No one writing home to Mother

No one will win back the farm
With a forged deed of title

The band is canned in the streets
The sunset reproduced on the news

This poem is already written
In a hundred identical ways

The only thing you know 
To be real is a fake fake

Our conversation has a used air
Its subject is second-hand, sorry

That I failed in originality
I just paint what I see, my dear

Come to me now and whisper
Everything good will be copied.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Rhinoceros"


Rhinoceros was confirmed
grazing on the beach, a stone
of shell last seen in the jungle
snorting now sandcastles tremble

The secret of freedom is courage
the very weird is resurrected
hoons spraypaint the sculpture
some words don’t make any sense

The hand reaches in the dark
the light switch is always found
the imagination is another beast
press a trillion steps of flashing sand

I go back to my Thucydides
I turn the pages of our history
birds are fighting over a plastic bag
almost everything goes out with the tide.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, April 20, 2014

POEM: "The Wrecking Crew"

Tang poetry on Shikumen walls 02
The Wrecking Crew

There's no irony present
couple workers look over
these old poems beating
witness to the bulldozer
a masterpiece on a wall
today hard to remember
in this dust this busy mess
to believe that there will be
at least one Angel of Beauty
who sits across the street
drinking a double expresso
who waits on the last brick
to be picked up thrown upon
the truck that's revving up
who will sigh right back
and then say God bless.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

photo by permission © 2013 Sue Anne Tay

POEM: "By Water"

By Water

By water in the dark home
to the fire thickets on the beach
some sail, oars, land, a few birds
would make the last miles easier

Did I ever wish to return
with an impressive tribute
to show the people I loved that
adventure was not a bad thing?

Now I float mostly wounded
my clothes are mostly bandage
my body is a bloated skeleton
& memory bumps against my skin

Time’s a pig floating down a river

the code’s already been broken
the odd dog will piss on your leg
the cold seas are getting bigger

For the record, because you ask
a million miles is not enough
to make the last effort to the beach
where we retrieve the precious soul

Sure this world is no House Of Joy
cargo dislodges the fastest ropes
the swimmers are coming closer
clouds part the moon as I go under.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "This Knowledge"

This Knowledge

I never knew each mark of the season
(Secret signs of go and come I don’t know)
Would have a different address in my heart
Or, in traffic buzz supermarkets, a racing beauty
That strange birds would speak the song I heard
Still, my life is dimmed & I wonder what the fuck
What taught us to make the wrong decisions?
Sure, everything sucks from the big remorse
Sure kid, dreadful times take your breath away
Hope is a broken guitar in a garbage dump
Loopy birds land on the strings for a minute
Occasionally you hear it on the winds, I know
Not much to go on with, on the big back of love
But as Will Shakespeare said, there is always this.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "To Lu Xun, From The Iron House"

To Lu Xun, From The Iron House

Locked inside the iron house
Seventeen others are snoring
There are no windows anywhere
No ventilation means we’re dying
(Getting sleepy too, I’ll lie down soon)
We have attempted the Big Breakout
We have filled our bodies with blood
We have hammered and screamed for it
It? I mean of course we went for our lives
Like threshing machines, no help for it
No one from outside came to our rescue
No friends, no lovers, no family came
Though at one point we imagined voices
Crying a strange word that sounded like KEEZ
Which we all stripped buck naked for 
Which we shook our dictionaries for 
Which we questioned the waiting children for
And we looked deep into each other’s eyes.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

POEM: "In Our Brave Moonshine"

In Our Brave Moonshine 

Believe me, the Ancestors
Are not jealous of our lives.
Believe me, the Ancestors
Wait in our brave moonshine
Are not pleased we're still at work.
If they have any emotions left.
Pity is what they feel. They frown.
Do they see us? Do they complain?
Laugh more. Love more. Be more.
So unhappy with what we've got.
They whisper in the shadows
Asking that we benefit better
From all they did without.

                                                     Qing Ming 2014

© 2014 Rob Schackne

A Song Xiaoxian Poem

A Life

I queued up to be born: I was a second child, neglected
I queued up to go to school: I was six and wasn’t welcome
I queued up to buy rice: I watched people fighting
after queuing up to go to the toilet, we
went to bed in a set order—gee,
I experienced so many things like that as a student

they wouldn’t let me into the hospital
that year I got really sick,
so I slept in a corridor
and was often startled awake by nightmares
my tears queuing up in the dark

then I fell in love, my lovers
queued up along the river bank
I queued up for housing, queued up for the marriage licence

waiting for ages in some corner
the days slip by in a queue
like the short, colourful skirts you wear out
my whole life got lost
in the smoke of the rank and file

then there’s all the humiliation
we queue up to be cheated
or to get raped by thugs
and before any of it makes sense
our hair queues up to turn grey
wrinkles chase one another like waves, muttering
one day, all our joy and sorrows
will queue up to leave for somewhere far, far away

(2005) Tr. Simon Patton

An Ouyang Jianghe Poem


In the quiet of your living room we talked for an hour.
Wide vistas, transparence. Always
at times like these, I look back, see—
a beautiful face flashes
and is gone. An hour of winter
reflected in sunset. We say our goodbyes.
Outside, it's getting dark. Lights
are on in your house, and in all the other houses.

To have seen that face: such pain,
such joy. So many faces before, each
its own kind of incoherent and brief.
An hour is enough: living room
leads to kitchen, to a small cold hand
laying out plates for a meal years before
I reached out my hand to touch
your silver tableware.

Hour of silver, hour of chill.
Face flashes and is gone.
Always at times like these I look back—
The room is bright. A beautiful face
is not a thing that light can reveal.
Deep-hidden face, soundless conversation
in shadow. A single hour—
ten years ago, would we have talked all night?

An hour's tenderness, held back like tears.
The years I have left will speed faster
than this hour. To vanish
is happiness: Flash, face. Be gone.
Always at times like these,
darkness falls. A child pouts,
and someone taps at the door.

(2012) Tr. Austin Woerner

A Czeslaw Milosz Poem

A Song On The End Of The World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

(1944) Tr. Anthony Milosz

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

POEM: "Yves Bonnefoy"

Yves Bonnefoy

I persuaded him to live on credit
reading on the outskirts of town
near the oil refinery I worked in

& everything was a creep or a ghoul
aiming for the shortest night in history
my girlfriend toiled in a cafeteria

& we estimated the distances
it all looked like a Martian movie
galoots and wastrels bullies and finks

waiting at the last stages of their shift
come down I said listen to a live one
push you past our granite days

the skeptics protested clocked out
tried to clock me too they missed
Yves Bonnefoy I loved your name.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Monday, April 14, 2014

POEM: "So What If Memory Isn't True"

So What If Memory Isn't True

I found an old scalpel a new blade
she carefully shaved my corns
as gently as her dear mother’s

Drank like magicians smoked like fish
strange of kind her mahou tsukai
how she put geomancy in the air

She walked after a fight about my photos
balance of probabilities she was crazy
(though most likely I am too)

Fires raged on the Kobe streets
she was lost in the great earthquake
so what if memory isn’t true

She whose goddess was so pristine
my poetry was dirty in the shower
she rubbed me down like a horse

Tried to scrub the naysayer off me
she got some here missed a little there
then refused to have sex for a year.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Corey Zeller Poem

Caucasian Spirituals

It begins with a sheared end, a circle of stones, short words such as mud and sun and hay. It begins the way this man’s life must have begun: with a vague understanding of sustainability, of the difference between the dirt and the dandelions. Yet there is another man here, the one who spends his days sailing tiny boats through white pages. Who notices the city is missing a whole color. Who sees a woman standing at a window and then just the light and the dark making a woman out what was never there, out of the susurrus.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

POEM: "The Aliens Watch"

The Aliens Watch

All Aliens Welcome!
tattooed on my wrist
holding the kite that
apprehends all contra-
ventions of the law (I
lost the string years ago
and now I fit right in)
you don’t know promise
I’m just buying the apple
for your dream of wisdom
(I’ll get you the discount
you've got to keep a secret.)

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

POEM: "I Shall Not Care"

I Shall Not Care

I shall not care
there are no poems
in gas stations, or
birds steal things
the sight unseen
not even missed
I close the book
of you, of photos
of what we saw
most is forgotten.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Photo: Ed Ruscha (1963)