Thursday, October 23, 2014

POEM: "Three Gestures"

Three Gestures


I. Dharmacakra

The gesture of teaching
Beyond a gesture of learning
The spaces in your attention
And all my gaps, all that I forgot


As Roethke said, we mostly learn
By going where we have to go
And this we see without the mirror
In the whiteout and desert sands

Crazy streets still grow wild city weed
It's the contemplative mind, so best to
Be alert while polishing off the antipasto
And judge well the distance at deadly corners

Now so strange the dirty deals we made
(Not you of course but I know it's me)
The twinge and the fidget and the snore
The life-span, the sweet rose and the sea

Teach the cups how to tea-time
How to learn the perfect cup of tea
Teach me to dance the broken arrow
And I will show you the broken step


II. Varada

A kitten was run over by a car
Tonight it lay on the road crying
Intestine strewn like sausages


Before I could crush her skull
She got up and licked her gore
Then walked back over to the curb


Probably died in the bushes
From her first true crossing
A cat, a plan, a nalpataca


No word for this in any language
Nothing toys with compassion
Life we learn too late is deadly

Nighttime, a parade of people
Crossing the perilous borders

Begin their journeys of freedom

I wrap the story up and let it go
Later put it inside a diamond heart
And send this poem to the ones I love



III. Abhaya

How go the days
Do I go with the days
Faces that carry faces
Baskets within baskets

A foot in parallel worlds
Into a burning house, into work
Into the Möbius twist of freeways

Freedom, go home and practise dreams

In the motionless void
Old speeches are repeated
The pillows are difficult
Nature, it's not feckless

Waves fit in, birds keep on searching
An egg falls from a nest, a lizard sucks it dry
Rabbits in their holes are waiting for a train to pass


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, October 12, 2014

POEM: "How To Spend A Birthday"



How To Spend A Birthday

                                               
First find the ducks, and get them in a row
Then walk the line, look each one in the eye
Dismiss the distended and mildewed ones
Locate a good supply of water, and herd them
Towards their birthdays and listen to their joy
Give them some pork crackling as they emerge
Shaking feathers and preening (they are proud)
And by now they're following you everywhere
Little souls, their shit and feathers on the carpet
Into your library, the kitchen, even to the bedroom
Where of course you find them tonight, in autumn
In half a dream of water and half a dream of flight
How you toss and turn in how to spend a birthday
But it's good to have ducks, they are simple creatures
And nothing bothers them as long as you stay happy
And who studies mortality today sighs in pleasure.


© 2014 Rob Schackne


Drawing by Michael Leunig

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

POEM: "Recently A Fellow Poet Wrote"

Recently A Fellow Poet Wrote


Recently a fellow poet wrote
Highjacked by a book of poems, I want
To know more about my captor. What
Has given rise to such intentions?

Diesel smack and smeared mirages
A searing mark under a damning sun
Off the track from an untargeted village
Safe enough for the story and the pics

Now I don't want to know more about them
(I overstepped my bounds, they're very twitchy)
I want to know about my options to get free
And except for this big camera, I am unrifled
And except for my papers in the hotel
I’m fucked.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

POEM: "Listening To Birds At Dawn"

Listening To Birds At Dawn


And the machinery we depend on
Lasts till we get where we’re going
Five minutes or five inches in reserve
Our heart pounds guessing we made it
(Five pounds more and we wouldn't have)
Hardly feeling five of the something less
Could crash this plane, could send us
Out of control, desperate, terrified;
Strange craft, the inefficiency by
Which the world runs fractured
As if the doors that barely close
Contained enough for long enough

That it all worked fine before the system
We almost had worked out, gave up.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Monday, October 6, 2014

POEM: "By Charlotte At The Riverside"

By Charlotte At The Riverside


There I was again in the evening air
As though my rivers keep flowing past

Maybe I never left my little boat at all
One half then, a bit now, one half future
At times there will be a person missing
To lend a heavy hand to warm our chills

Even if the old wind carries familiar smells
Later in the autumn breeze, after tying up
My river skiff, after I get out to walk home
The ghosts I speak with have such cold breath
They say it over and over again, half-counsel
Starting over will mean giving up so much.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Jessica Greenbaum Poem



A Poem for S.


Because you used to leaf through the dictionary,
Casually, as someone might in a barber shop, and
Devotedly, as someone might in a sanctuary,
Each letter would still have your attention if not
For the responsibilities life has tightly fit, like
Gears around the cog of you, like so many petals
Hinged on a daisy. That's why I'll just use your
Initial. Do you know that in one treasured story, a
Jewish ancestor, horseback in the woods at Yom
Kippur, and stranded without a prayer book,
Looked into the darkness and realized he had
Merely to name the alphabet to ask forgiveness—
No congregation of figures needed, he could speak
One letter at a time because all of creation
Proceeded from those. He fed his horse, and then
Quietly, because it was from his heart, he
Recited them slowly, from aleph to tav. Within those
Sounds, all others were born, all manner of
Trials, actions, emotions, everything needed to
Understand who he was, had been, how flaws
Venerate the human being, how aspirations return
Without spite. Now for you, may your wife's
X-ray return with good news, may we raise our
Zarfs to both your names in the Great Book of Life.



(2012)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

MUSIC: Japan, "Ghosts" (1982)



David Sylvian sings:

Just when I think I'm winning
When I've broken every door
The ghosts of my life
Blow wilder than before


Just when I thought I could not be stopped
When my chance came to be king
The ghosts of my life
Blew wilder than the wind

MUSIC: The Royalettes, "It's Gonna Take A Miracle" (1965)


I know, I know. That's not their real hair. This is the cheesiest clip you ever saw. Black and white sucks. They don't make music like this anymore. Now shut up.

Friday, October 3, 2014

WOODBLOCK PRINT: Yuko Shimizu (2014)



Print by Yuko Shimizu

POEM: "Letter From My Apartment, Oct. 3, 2014"

Letter From My Apartment, Oct. 3, 2014


Love predates nationalities
Wind originates beyond the sky
Earth has water older than the sun

Still things will travel faster than light
(I could go on but you're grateful I won’t)
No one lives in caves though we might as well
A poem of white is no more the absence of colours
Than a poem of black includes them all forever
And though a red umbrella is small protection
Against the ravages of teargas in Hong Kong
A bottle of water applied to the eyes will help.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Interior Anthem #1 (The Rig)"

Interior Anthem #1 (The Rig)


On any National Day, made
Unhappy by unfulfilled promises
Standing out upon a sea-platform
Clouds rolling in, smell the spray
The giant sculpture’s great unreal
It stumbles on its waves, it says
No flowers here, no biscuits there

The half-moon helps light the derrick
Its tower stacked with rotting fruit
What the fuck are you on about anyway?
I want fine food, a normal family
A job that doesn’t make me too crazy
A sane head, ten fingers, ten toes will do
Some good poems from time to time
Stop promising me nonsense.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

PHOTO: Kathleen Robbins, "Asher On Belle Chase" (2010) / POEM: "The Sun Goes Down"





The Sun Goes Down


                             You might light out for the Territory
                             someday, you know it's coming, you
                             toy with perspective, test the distance
                             and watch how the horizon moves.


Dismal science isn’t economics
or accounting, it's mostly dreams
that skip fast under the setting sun
while birds wait for quiet enough
to breach the low horizon, to pass
beneath, sinking down to get off free

Definite article of serious wishes
a very serious accounting that excites
the dismal and hopeless, the depressed kept
low, holding up, their mouths set just right
they get it hopping crazy in the farmyard
three-legged dogs and deformed lambs

Broken halters of horses run amok
the
 sky gets higher, the moon is swelling
these old roads will only stand so much
before this precious, probable, sundrian
will stop the lessening (if you ever could)
take the nothings and turn it into light.


© 2014 Rob Schackne



PHOTO: Kathleen Robbins, "Asher on Belle Chase" (2010)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

POEM: "Lines By The Pint (XXVII)"

Lines By The Pint (XXVII)


It’s a small thing like the fold
Of a dress that suddenly speaks
Like a light switch from another world
Even after all the harbor lights I play
I’m powerless to stop the sorrow

Reaching inside the common faces
Way down to where the memory sits
Words long since become nonsense
Cosmetics too stupid for a smart woman
I wonder what the next beauty will wear

Alas there’s no limit to my blockhead
And no limit either to her foolish greed
We’ll slap hands together and conjure glee
Until the sun rises roughly over our secrets
Till the bed we’re in hears the music wrong.



© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

MUSIC: Fatboy Slim, "Weapon of Choice" / Christopher Walken (2010) / POEM: "Right" (2014)



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCDIYvFmgW8


Right. Flow.
Left foot goes there
no, the other right
now unweight the right
then slide it over to the left
hands block and turn  if
you walk without rhythm
ah, you never learn
OK let's try it again.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Kenneth Koch Poem



One Train May Hide Another


In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
That is, if you are waiting to cross
The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at
Least after the first train is gone. And so when you read
Wait until you have read the next line—
Then it is safe to go on reading.
In a family one sister may conceal another,
So, when you are courting, it's best to have them all in view
Otherwise in coming to find one you may love another.
One father or one brother may hide the man,
If you are a woman, whom you have been waiting to love.
So always standing in front of something the other
As words stand in front of objects, feelings, and ideas.
One wish may hide another. And one person's reputation may hide
The reputation of another. One dog may conceal another
On a lawn, so if you escape the first one you're not necessarily safe;
One lilac may hide another and then a lot of lilacs and on the Appia Antica
     one tomb
May hide a number of other tombs. In love, one reproach may hide
   another,
One small complaint may hide a great one.
One injustice may hide another—one colonial may hide another,
One blaring red uniform another, and another, a whole column. One bath
   may hide another bath
As when, after bathing, one walks out into the rain.
One idea may hide another: Life is simple
Hide Life is incredibly complex, as in the prose of Gertrude Stein
One sentence hides another and is another as well. And in the laboratory
One invention may hide another invention,
One evening may hide another, one shadow, a nest of shadows.
One dark red, or one blue, or one purple—this is a painting
By someone after Matisse. One waits at the tracks until they pass,
These hidden doubles or, sometimes, likenesses. One identical twin
May hide the other. And there may be even more in there! The
   obstetrician
Gazes at the Valley of the Var. We used to live there, my wife and I, but
One life hid another life. And now she is gone and I am here.
A vivacious mother hides a gawky daughter. The daughter hides
Her own vivacious daughter in turn. They are in
A railway station and the daughter is holding a bag
Bigger than her mother's bag and successfully hides it.
In offering to pick up the daughter's bag one finds oneself confronted by
   the mother's
And has to carry that one, too. So one hitchhiker
May deliberately hide another and one cup of coffee
Another, too, until one is over-excited. One love may hide another love or
   the same love
As when "I love you" suddenly rings false and one discovers
The better love fingering behind, as when "I'm full of doubts"
Hides "I'm certain about something and it is that"
And one dream may hide another as is well known, always, too. In the
   Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve may hide the real Adam and Eve.
Jerusalem may hide another Jerusalem.
When you come to something, stop to let it pass
So you can see what else is there. At home, no matter where,
Internal tracks pose dangers, too: one memory
Certainly hides another, that being what memory is all about,
The eternal reverse succession of contemplated entities. Reading A
   Sentimental Journey look around
When you have finished, for Tristram Shandy, to see
If it is standing there, it should be, stronger
And more profound and theretofore hidden as Santa Maria Maggiore
May be hidden by similar churches inside Rome. One sidewalk
May hide another, as when you're asleep there, and
One song hide another song; a pounding upstairs
Hide the beating of drums. One friend may hide another, you sit at the
   foot of a tree
With one and when you get up to leave there is another
Whom you'd have preferred to talk to all along. One teacher,
One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man
May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It can be
   important
To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.


(1994)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A T.S. Eliot Poem

Preludes


I

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

And then the lighting of the lamps.


II

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.


III

You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.


IV

His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.



(1917)

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Le Silence", Gil Roth / POEM: "First Day In The Afterlife"





First Day In The Afterlife


Don't get around much any more

(I might not get around at all)
silenced with a middle finger
waiting to do nothing more
live a life, write, fight, then fuck off
(the Silenus kicks over a few chairs
and then quickly gallops away)

"...reality scarier than science fiction
he says pushing against the storm
crashing rain, the deck is non-negotiable
the din of wind is furious, others below
with their smokes and bottles play cards
betting both ends against the middle"


My first day in the Afterlife

I have an horrible hangover, also 
an idea almost on the verge of memory
there was a victory, yes, a plan that worked
very few casualties, the flag, the wind etc.
but I'm an eagle now and when I fly over
all is silent, beautiful, and covered in trees

One streaks past, then another one fast

I wonder what they are, what they do
so many of them now zipping from yes to no
the speed means I need to slow down
it's the Afterlife after all, they shout at me
pause it, restart, look closely, look again
and watch it happening for the first time.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Jim Daniels Poem



Work Boots: Still Life 


Next to the screen door
work boots dry in the sun.
Salt lines map the leather
and laces droop
like the arms of a new-hire
waiting to punch out.
The shoe hangs open like the sigh
of someone too tired to speak
a mouth that can almost breathe.
A tear in the leather reveals
a shiny steel toe
a glimpse of the promise of safety
the promise of steel and the years to come.


(2003)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

MUSIC: Tears For Fears, "Mad World" (1983)




I know, I know. Now leave me alone.


POEM: "The World Is Bad, Let Me Sleep"

The World Is Bad, Let Me Sleep


The Great Barrier Reef
is the size of Italy or Japan
our nearest star closer than
the nearest human heart
stretched from you to me
from the cosmos to the sea


I once tied a life around my neck
with the tensile strength of spider silk
after meditation upon the aggregates
and form was returning to nothingness
I rested my case, I drew the curtains
the world was bad I said, let me sleep

Dreams rattle the door before the fall
when the nothing spins a web of matter
for the bangles of the ten-thousand arms
when your cell dreams become your alarm
back to the greed and jealousy and envy
so tough shit, the world is bad, let me sleep

Reading Levine’s poem about the kids of
factory fodder in a hell of a town somewhere
the people we could love, we must imagine hope
but a good poem it is, that draws the curtains
against knowing more than a bit about the future
the world was bad, it's starting to rain, let me sleep.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

A Philip Levine Poem

Among Children


I walk among the rows of bowed heads--
the children are sleeping through fourth grade
so as to be ready for what is ahead,
the monumental boredom of junior high
and the rush forward tearing their wings
loose and turning their eyes forever inward.
These are the children of Flint, their fathers
work at the spark plug factory or truck
bottled water in 5 gallon sea-blue jugs
to the widows of the suburbs. You can see
already how their backs have thickened,
how their small hands, soiled by pig iron,
leap and stutter even in dreams. I would like
to sit down among them and read slowly
from The Book of Job until the windows
pale and the teacher rises out of a milky sea
of industrial scum, her gowns streaming
with light, her foolish words transformed
into song, I would like to arm each one
with a quiver of arrows so that they might
rush like wind there where no battle rages
shouting among the trumpets, Hal Ha!
How dear the gift of laughter in the face
of the 8 hour day, the cold winter mornings
without coffee and oranges, the long lines
of mothers in old coats waiting silently
where the gates have closed. Ten years ago
I went among these same children, just born,
in the bright ward of the Sacred Heart and leaned
down to hear their breaths delivered that day,
burning with joy. There was such wonder
in their sleep, such purpose in their eyes
dosed against autumn, in their damp heads
blurred with the hair of ponds, and not one
turned against me or the light, not one
said, I am sick, I am tired, I will go home,
not one complained or drifted alone,
unloved, on the hardest day of their lives.
Eleven years from now they will become
the men and women of Flint or Paradise,
the majors of a minor town, and I
will be gone into smoke or memory,
so I bow to them here and whisper
all I know, all I will never know.



(1992)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Khaled Mattawa Poem



Date Palm Trinity


Today the date palms were pruned,
the branches taken before the fruit ripened,
before sweetness littered the sidewalks.
The man who sawed them worked alone,
a crane lifting him to the yellowed fronds.
Beside his truck, he stood tall, American,
a pensive pioneer. The top of each palm
looked like the back of a man's head
after a close-crop haircut, the neck
cooled to a stubbly remembrance of hair,
or was like a cat after being spayed,
startled by a strange newness, pacing
familiar rooms, darting, confused, and you
(had you wished to console) are greeted
with a barren gaze. The rubble of bark
and fronds reminded me of Iraq,
not the ruined bridges, or the surrendering
soldiers' hands begging food, but the 16 million
date palms, one per capita, lining
the seams of the Tigris and Euphrates,
a reminder of my own Libya
and its 10 million date palms and the years
of easy wealth that brought them neglect
except in Huun, a magical city where
they stuffed dates with almonds and sent them
as far as Tanta and Oum Dourman.
From Huun this story: a boy stands by a palm
imploring his uncle to toss him a fistful of dates.
Flustered by the boy's monotonous cries
the uncle loses his feet, and as he falls
to his death, cries down "Here nephew,
I'm coming down with the dates!"
So that's what we got from Huun, almond
stuffed wonders and proverbial last words.
There was another reminder, a tale
of the prophet Muhammad living for months
on water and coarse wheat bread, his wives
protesting the austere measures of his faith.
Muhammad, who praised honey and had
a professed love for cantaloupes, and who once
declared "the best meat is that which lines the bones,"
found in dates the solution he required.
To his Arab followers, and to his wives,
the fruit was "three skies above luxury,"
and as indispensable as water and air.



I once had this dream of Whitman:
I found him under one of the palms
on Sherman Way gazing admiring.
Though he had seen palms by the Gulf of Mexico,
he had never tasted a date. So we drove
to a supermarket, and he who had been
thoughtful, even dignified, until then, began
to sign and moan at the taste of "Araby's
sugared dust clouds." When we walked
the aisles he insisted on pushing the cart.
The frozen foods did not surprise him since
his Granny buried potatoes in the cold dirt
of her homestead. Still I had to explain
tofu, plastic, tacos, and the foods labeled free.
He ran his hands caressing the waxed floor;
"Smooth as a girl's wrist," he exclaimed.
The bright fluorescent lights reminded him
of the opera, and Walt sang a gravelly tune.
The children sitting in carts reached for him,
their hands were Lorca's butterflies on his beard.
At the cashier he filled pockets with candy,
and was shocked by the headlines of our news.
Honda, Toyota, Saturn, Oldsmobile—
in the parking lot the names waltzed
on his tongue. At the fast food stand he ate
heartily, the burger's slipperiness amused him,
and at his clumsiness we both had a laugh.
Then the talk grew quiet, the table stretching
like the expanse of time dividing us; I felt
he no longer wanted company, having begun
to understand our world. Despite his old resentment
of Blacks, and now my neighbors, the foreign-born
Hispanics and their engines roaring through
Balboa and Saticoy, and the Koreans' karoake—
the baseline's muffled thuds, voices doused
in Canadian Mist, and the off-key pleadings
to the lover who never comes—, America
remained to him luminous-industrial-fuming-
sublime, and as he wished, beyond others'
adjectives, beyond what anyone could have conceived.
Mumbling a farewell, Whitman stood to leave.
And with this my dream ended, Whitman wishing
to depart and I holding on to his wrists.
All day I wanted to hold his wide wrists.



If you drive west of Alexandria
your path will run through Alamain,
Barani, and Matrouh. Then Egypt will end
with a town on a steep hill called Sallum.
If you go through the two checkpoints,
Libya will unfold its dry pastures for you.
On the Sallum hill there is a hotel
where people stay to await relatives
crossing the border or to hear word
if it is safe to return. Across the road
a tired bluegreen tea house sits
like a bruise permanently on the verge
of fading from the prairies' skin.
You will also see the money changers—
all teenage boys. With their right hands
they will wave thick wads of money
at your windshield, and with their left
they will jostle to give you the best rate.
The last time I stayed in Sallum
few cars came from either direction,
and among the boys fights flared
with curses and stones hurled at brows.
When the boys' rabble grew loud
a man lazily stepped out of the tea house
to call them bastards and sons of whores.
This went on for hours until
the sun settled in the middle of the sky,
the boys taking shelter under
a torn canvas shed, and the man
to the tea house's dusty cool.
Then just when all movement
and noise seemed to surrender
to the September wind and heat,
four of the boys broke for a run
racing—money still clutched in their hands—
to a young date palm in the distance.
Pressing shoulders and backs against it,
they shook the palm until the season's
first fruit began to rain. The other boys
joined them, and soon the tea house
emptied of the men slouching inside.
Those were my brothers who cowered beneath
the date palm to gather handfuls of fruit,
rubbing each date clean on their sleeves,
chewing softly to savor the taste
as though it were a good omen, and rising
to resume their lives, on their faces
the smiles of those who once were blessed.


(1995)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

POEM: "At Some Point During The Night"

At Some Point During The Night


I wonder whether every sip takes and gives
away something that’s never coming back.
The illusionist so expert at indirecting
the familiar from other matters nods wisely
then pours another one. Hardly knowing why.
We barely know enough to quit. Though it’s true
that visions will read the first chapters of the mind.
But wear and tear affects the world. Snake laughs
and gives my skin to a pretty Muse who sits
with her long legs spread apart on the barstool
sipping a wet martini. Her blouse is open.
She gazes. She grins. Pokes out her tongue.
Wants me to sit down. She buys the drinks.
Keeps smiling. Not sure about this summation
or whether it’s much of a guide to being normal.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

POEM: "Untitled Beetles"



Untitled Beetles

                                         for Patterson Schackne

I too believe that beetles speak from longing
loved by a God that never speaks to them
that after looking around for somebody
else to do the work finally it's up to us
the beetle people the beetle poets
to examine the records very closely
and listen for the scratches near the heart
for the ones that work closest to the outer bark
skrilling and carving writing a message no one hears
except you and me and that small child over there
also loved by a God that can't clean up his mess
this commonality is but one encouragement we give
as we see the souls gathering in their places
under the sky by the trees standing in the wind



© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Clive James Poem (2)

Japanese Maple


Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colors will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.


(2014)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Christian Wiman Poem



After The Diagnosis


No remembering now
when the apple sapling was blown
almost out of the ground.
No telling how,
with all the other trees around,
it alone was struck.
It must have been luck,
he thought for years, so close
to the house it grew.
It must have been night.
Change is a thing one sleeps through
when young, and he was young.
If there was a weakness in the earth,
a give he went down on his knees
to find and feel the limits of,
there is no longer.
If there was one random blow from above
the way he's come to know
from years in this place,
the roots were stronger.
Whatever the case,
he has watched this tree survive
wind ripping at his roof for nights
on end, heats and blights
that left little else alive.
No remembering now...
A day's changes mean all to him
and all days come down
to one clear pane
through which he sees
among all the other trees
this leaning, clenched, unyielding one
that seems cast
in the form of a blast
that would have killed it,
as if something at the heart of things,
and with the heart of things,
had willed it.


(2011)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

MUSIC: Tears For Fears (1985) / The Bad Plus (2007), "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"





The great TFF and the great Bad Plus both saying "Welcome to your life/There's no turning back". It might not make Patti Smith very happy, but the song reminds me a little of her Babelogue: "I haven't fucked much with the past/But I've fucked plenty with the future." Let us try to be punctual. Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST86JM1RPl0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9hOSZGMXlI

POEM: "Why I Don't Want To Own The North Pole"



Why I Don’t Want To Own The North Pole


You'll see it for yourself
the ocean in children’s eyes
& how the ordinary people
graduated from chocolate
think they should own the pieces of the world

The presumption of
some inviolate wilderness
atop this blessèd planet
maybe it should be the braincap
(South Pole wants to be the female partner)

Now that it's our primitive
the tantrums are forgiven
we've got a brand new thing
one-two collect the little planet
(likely to be too much Brainiac there)

We wander the old market
we'll buy our codfish frozen
& far beneath the arctic waters
drumming the probable reserves
the oligarchs watch us from submarines.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Adam Zagajewski Poem (2)

Try to Praise the Mutilated World


Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees going nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.


(2002)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

POEM: "Wind Leaves"

Wind Leaves 


I'm standing in a forest bumped by trees
but the great sky looks plainly visible

A fresh breeze is just beginning to stir
A drop of something lands on my head

Nothing above the belt, nothing red
I have misunderstood her too easily

The trees are often fooled by the forest
While the forest responds to the wind

The waves are shaking the leaves again
Nothing below the belt, nothing blue

Each new breeze reacts to her storm
To her breath, her songs, her poems

The leaves are shaking the waves again
I am suspected of speaking my mind.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

POEM: "Tethered"

Tethered

                           for Jack Gilbert

Nothing be nothing or strong
the humming started yesterday
the plastic bag fell in the street
see nothing be nothing be long
the wind blows the same black bag
every single day stays the same
tethered in an alley blind of sight
drawn by a light if you noticed it. 


© 2012 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

POEM: "Ah Dreams"



Ah Dreams


We grapple with violence
we look down we don’t look up
beyond the dust beyond the harvest
the clothes are just a trickery one smell
of invidious wanting or not wanting
little night scuffles with big darkness
the rats fight under the promenade
in the cinema she watches a movie
skittish proud curious boys up for murder
mid-autumn moon-cakes made of ice cream
none of it as real as the dog she keeps as pet
ah rattus dreams rattus love me from it
cover up my heart and my stomach
take away the nearest mouth.



© 2013 Rob Schackne

Monday, September 8, 2014

POEM: "Outside Tianshui, Gansu Province"



Outside Tianshui, Gansu Province

                                                             for Anna


 In 759 Du Fu went to Maijishan

There are few monks left in these remote shrines,
And in the wilderness the narrow paths are high.
The musk-deer sleep among the stones and bamboo,
The cockatoos peck at the golden peaches.
Streams trickle down among the paths;
Across the overhanging cliff the cells are ranged,
Their tiered chambers reaching to the very peak;
And for a 100 li one can make out the smallest thing.



I've never been to Maijishan

Purple red sandstone in one cave
At the Maijishan Grottoes observes
The original male form of Guanyin
Not Mother Mary and not Madonna
Not Lady Gaga or your grandma either
But a fellow much like us who exudes
Exudes? The man is dripping with it!
Sweetness tempered with no-nonsense
Obviously our man's a former dissident
At Wheatstack Mountain it’s understood
When Buddha turned into Bodhisattvas
The lout still packs one hell of a wallop
Stand here your head will be changed
Changed? Are you a complete idiot!
When on the other side you see knives
Guns on the floor the stun grenades
Soldiers in tanks the frightened students
Sharp objects is all the memory has left 
You might understand there is nothing soft
About kindness or about compassion, there
There? Come here, I'll give you compassion!

                                                                         
© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Rosemary Nissen-Wade Poem (2)



Kuta Beach

(After Reading Lorca)


Death comes in
with the salt
at the tavern

in this country
both gentle and sinister

prancing white horses
wave-dancing men

their soft guitars at night
from across the bay

the noises
the bursts of light

mistaken for fireworks
at first

young men
with trembling hands

hard-muscled
young men of the sea
an odour of salt
and blood

death enters into the salt
as the salt enters into the death
in that tavern.


(2005)

Published Diverse-City 2006 (Anthology of the Austin International Poetry Festival, Texas)

Friday, August 29, 2014

MUSIC: Hall & Oates (1981) / Tears For Fears (1985) / Simply Red (1985)





In no special order, except for when the artists listed above recorded these songs. Listen to four short years a hundred years ago. You're a certain age, it feels good to say that pop music sucked in the 80s. But I still like these songs very much. A guilty pleasure? Hardly. I'll speed up again soon. I promise. Any day now. Really.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGZwPGsfcwM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ni_c0IMP-c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yG07WSu7Q9w

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MUSIC: Robert Palmer, "Medley" (1974)





(Don't know which side you come down on in the matter of Robert Palmer...me, I come down on the right side.) Recorded in 1974. The Meters, Lowell George. But wait...you still calling this "white boy junk funk"?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMnzytIbH1I

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A POEM: "Be There In A Minute"



Be There In A Minute


Love, I see you over there
In the writer’s standard pose
(I could be there in a minute)
Write, pause, think, and erase
Gaze off into the inner distance
Wonder why it was all born so daft
You go back to the pretty good idea
That was causing you so much trouble
Though of course I'm presuming alot
You might not be writing a poem at all.


© 2014 Rob Schack
ne

Monday, August 25, 2014

POEM: "The River"



The River

                            for Rui Xiao

The sun goes down
    Life goes across

The boat tries to cross the river
  The boat can't cross the river
    The currents take it

The boat, the people
    But the poets’ voices go across

You see someone from long ago
  You can't cross the deck
    The moment takes it

What does “voices go across” mean

Does this mean distance, or else
    Is it the inability to connect

Does this mean time, or is it
    Our ageing bodies & minds

Love tries to cross the minute
  It can't cross the hours
    The currents take it

The oily swell of time
  You can't cross the river
    The moon takes it

Is anything going anywhere



© 2014 Rob Schackne

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Rosanna Warren Poem



A Way


She said she sang very close to the mike
to change the space. And I changed the space
by striding down the Boulevard Raspail at dusk in tight jeans
until an Algerian engineer plucked the pen from my back pocket.
As if you're inside my head and you're hearing the song from in there.
He came from the desert, I came
from green suburbs. We understood
nothing of one another over glasses of metallic red wine.
I was playing Girl. He played
Man. Several plots were afoot, all
misfiring. One had to do with my skimpy black shirt
and light hair, his broad shoulders and hunger
after months on an oil rig. Another
was untranslatable. Apollinaire
burned his fingers on June's smoldering lyre
but I had lost my pen. The engineer
read only construction manuals. His room
was dim and narrow and no,
the story didn't slide that way though there are many ways
to throw oneself away.
One singer did it by living by a broken wall
until she shredded her voice but still she offered each song,
she said, like an Appalachian artifact.
Like trash along the riverbank chafing at the quay
plastic bottles a torn shirt fractured dolls
through which the current chortles an intimate tune.



(2014)

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Dylan Thomas Poem (2)



"And death shall have no dominion"


And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.



(1943)

Monday, August 18, 2014

POEM: "Air Blows Through The Bowery"



Air Blows Through The Bowery


Nothing is real that wasn’t before
but sets all a bite of tailspin lies
like a horsehead in a drum of fire
smoke floats on this and on that


I’ll never remember you enough
a hundred steps above the grotto
a hundred chances to get higher
I walk to the edges to be thrilled

It wants me killed fifty times
till finally my other better eyes
spy a piece of green glass honey
I take it, then dive into the green

Fifty people seated on their shelves
those old white walls so shining
below love clear deep blue water
love says splash doesn’t matter.



© 2012 Rob Schackne

POEM: "Another Fine Mess"

Another Fine Mess


Then welcome the ghost
who brought the mystery

installed in the easiest chair
supplied with food & water

Put on some Shostakovich
show her some recent poems

refrain from asking questions
let it be for at least an hour

I've always felt it is that right?
Do you mean we should be awed?

Write the answers in invisible ink
ask her if she wants a shower

watch her from the other room
then go about your business.


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Dylan Thomas Poem

"The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower"


The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.



(1957)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Robert Hass Poem



Winged And Acid Dark


A sentence with "dappled shadow" in it.
Something not sayable
spurting from the morning silence,
secret as a thrush.

The other man, the officer, who brought onions
and wine and sacks of flour,
the major with the swollen knee,
wanted intelligent conversation afterward.
Having no choice, she provided that, too.

Potsdamer Platz, May 1945.

When the first one was through he pried her mouth open.

Basho told Rensetsu to avoid sensational materials.
If the horror of the world were the truth of the world,
he said, there would be no one to say it
and no one to say it to.
I think he recommended describing the slightly frenzied
swarming of insects near a waterfall.

Pried her mouth open and spit in it.
We pass these things on,
probably, because we are what we can imagine.

Something not sayable in the morning silence.
The mind hungering after likenesses. "Tender sky," etc.,
curves the swallows trace in air.


(2007)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy, 1963





You were 10 years old, you probably felt reason applied for the first time too. FUCK.

A Robert Pinsky Poem



Samurai Song


When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.



(2000)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Maryam Mirzakhani, Fields Winner, 2014




Touched by Athena. Her beautifully intelligent gaze. Who knows so well the shape of the universe. Maryam Mirzakhani is the first woman to win the Fields Medal, the greatest prize in mathematics. But that's a realm I can barely imagine -- since I seem to have trouble adding up my own years, don't understand why some months can move faster than others, or how so many days will collect in a troubled week.

Monday, August 11, 2014

POEM: "Pick A Flower, Any Flower"



Pick A Flower, Any Flower


The farthest star is moving
flowers strangely disappear
dans les champs de l'observation
le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés

it's well that we work the fields
we've looked closely at small things

a little dog with its tongue out
the beggar with her hand out
a sick man with his dick out
no prize for guessing wrong
risk sleeps upon the plains

but if it were finally possible 
I mean relief from pain 
liberation from confusion 
would you really do it?


© 2014 Rob Schackne

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Ron Slate Poem (2)



Stop-Time


Frank McCabe bought on credit at my father’s liquor store,
they had gone to school together. Finally my father said,
teach my son to play drums and we’re even, for now.


Late afternoon lessons in his cellar, first the basics
rapped out on rubber pads, then rolls, drags, flams, paradiddles and ratamacues.
Moving on to a real kit and the flair of fills, underbelly routines
of the bass and flights between cymbals, crash and sizzle.


While I practiced, he scribbled on charts for his quintet --
Thursdays at the Knotty Pine and weddings on weekends.
No lessons for most of the summer after his heart attack.

Autumn rain, water seeping up through linoleum tiles,
staining the peeling baseboards. Mold and mildew,
back beat and double time. Smoker’s cough and drinker’s nose.
Soon he set up his kit next to mine, laying out the opening bars
of “From This Moment On” and I’d play inside him.
That’s how he put it, stay inside me and listen with your wrists.


When Mrs. McCabe came down to say they caught the man
who killed the president, he dropped the needle on “Opus One”
and said play. We listened to Krupa’s “Rockin’ Chair”
and Buddy Rich’s big band doing “Time Check.”


Lying on their sides, quarts of bourbon behind cans
of dried paint. You make the high-hat bark,
a sixteenth-note. You don’t keep time, you make time.
The standards, renowned yet open to reinvention,
thus eternal. But I lived inside a body, Mrs. McCabe returned
from the hospital with no breasts, a week later
she was playing piano upstairs while Frank critiqued me –


Don’t play with your whole arm, it looks cool
but it isn’t. He lit a Winston. Don’t be like a bass player,
use deodorant. Never let a wimp carry your gear.
Listen carefully to the songs you hate the most.


Verse and chorus, shuffle, bridge, fill, drag, fill, stop-time,
ghost-note. Rumble of the sagging boiler, steam knocking the pipes.
Soon you won’t have to remember, you’ll just make the sound.


(published in The Plume Anthology of Poetry, 2014)