Thursday, November 26, 2015

POEM: "For Once"

For Once
                               pace R.L.F.

Over Mr Frost's well-curb
Peering down into the deep
Echoes of the past, for once
Asking are they well-meaning
And only then a flash of white
I believe this is more than truth
More than well-whiskered cloud
But if two worlds why not three?
Your heart's drumming like crazy
Dreams visit, a dizziness comes
Now what you see is what you get
They never thought to warn you.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Monday, November 23, 2015

POEM: "Act 1, Scene 3"

Act 1, Scene 3

The night succesfully prosecuted. The band excellent.
A little friction. A misunderstanding. Nothing bad.
Sitting with the lead singer's husband. He writes songs.
I remember we talked about ancient history. How sad.
We raised our children. How happy. Their lives go on.
Then we surveyed the future. There are words enough.
Johna with a pad and a pen. I requested Anita Baker.
Anna Lee didn't know the singer. I danced.
Good night. It's still raining.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Sunday, November 22, 2015

POEM: "One By One Crept Silently To Rest"

"One By One Crept Silently To Rest"

Of the body, the belly, both the legs
That get in first, then the dick, the balls
Follow (she's away and nothing happened)
The hot head is a small problem, actually
It’s a big problem, it’s such a Spanish night
The fincas and the ferias, her lustrous hair
Under imaginary stars and all the flamenco
Relax the breathing, start thinking of the rain
Like the next holy day you're waiting for

The crystal palaces riding high in the sky
But no, you still see the waves emerging
Out of the moon's eye and you turn over again.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Saturday, November 21, 2015

POEM: "Chest Fever"

Chest Fever

You say chest fever won't last 
Now I wonder if you're right. But
No, you'll have to plan the get-away

The side-entrance, the alleyways and exits 
Remove the extensions and anxiety 
(A relief when you're last in line) 

A single life is sad, she said, legs over mine
Everyone's chest fever is waiting everyplace 
In our ultimate marrow the other one never comes 

Chest fever, a day that rejects us 
Chest fever, a line on an X-ray 
Chest fever, leaving our glasses behind.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

POEM: "After Du Fu"

After Du Fu

I signal the emptiness
I will take leave of you
I watch the passing of time
The speaker is erased
Absence fills with memory
Everyone is the same
Everyone is lonely.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

POEM: "After Han Shan"

After Han Shan

No taxis to Cold Mountain
No trains, no buses, no horses
The way is clear, there is no path
Dark clouds point at nothing
The wind says Don’t stop!
I have eaten enough today
Now it rains because I’m thirsty
See you on Cold Mountain!

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

POEM: "Confirmation"


Fifty years ago today
On the island of Barbados
That smelled of rum and mangoes
Running from wild dogs that scared me
Climbing trees where I could be safe
(Thanking God for His gift of life)
I am having Confirmation lessons
In a small parish chapel made of wood

Of the colonial Church of England
It is hot mid-summer, hot no fans
In the presence of beautiful black girls
Dressed in best Sunday school white
I'm probably eight they're so worldly
As they radiate that little girl frenzy
Nervous I'm the only white boy there
And they tease me, You so ma-lee-shus!
So fa-cee-shus! How you gwan get Hay-van?
Lord I didn’t know, but they laughed so much
I just kept falling in love, they looked so pious.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Monday, November 16, 2015

PHOTO: Turtles Beached

Sea turtles arriving to lay their eggs on Playa Ostional, 180 miles north-west of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. More than 250,000 olive ridley turtles came ashore on the beach in a mass nesting known as an arribada.

Sea turtles arriving to lay their eggs on Playa Ostional, 180 miles north-west of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. More than 250,000 Olive Ridley turtles came ashore on the beach in a mass nesting known as an arribada. Xinhua Press/Corbis

And sure that's a lovely sight of them all come ashore to the beach all looking the same like that and they driving forward with an olive ridley energy you don't know anything about and there you are walking amongst them like a ________.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Louis Simpson Poem

I Dreamed that in a City Dark as Paris

I dreamed that in a city dark as Paris 
I stood alone in a deserted square.
The night was trembling with a violet
Expectancy. At the far edge it moved
And rumbled; on that flickering horizon
The guns were pumping color in the sky.

There was the Front. But I was lonely here,
Left behind, abandoned by the army.
The empty city and the empty square
Was my inhabitation, my unrest.
The helmet with its vestige of a crest,
The rifle in my hands, long out of date,
The belt I wore, the trailing overcoat
And hobnail boots, were those of a poilu.
I was the man, as awkward as a bear.

Over the rooftops where cathedrals loomed
In speaking majesty, two aeroplanes
Forlorn as birds, appeared. Then growing large,
The German Taube and the Nieuport Scout,
They chased each other tumbling through the sky,
Till one streamed down on fire to the earth.

These wars have been so great, they are forgotten
Like the Egyptian dynasts. My confrère
In whose thick boots I stood, were you amazed
To wander through my brain four decades later
As I have wandered in a dream through yours?

The violence of waking life disrupts
The order of our death. Strange dreams occur,
For dreams are licensed as they never were.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

POEM: "Friday 13th"

Friday 13th

There's more fossil fuel in reserve
now than can ever be inhaled

There's more hatred in supply
than anyone could ever need

Wake up roll out of bed put down
feet on the carpet of a flayed man

Play a little bit of Clifford Brown shave
shit shower and shampoo it’s just jazz

Happy Friday I tell them on the Thursday
just in case you don’t show up tomorrow

Sweet Tooth tells the story of how his youth
went to work and just blew up dead just blues

I remind the students of all the other work
remains to be done and better done well.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Jane Kenyon Poem

Afternoon in the House

It's quiet here. The cats
sprawl, each
in a favored place.
The geranium leans this way
to see if I'm writing about her:
head all petals, brown
stalks, and those green fans.
So you see,
I am writing about you.

I turn on the radio. Wrong.
Let's not have any noise
in this room, except
the sound of a voice reading a poem.
The cats request
The Meadow Mouse, by Theodore Roethke.

The house settles down on its haunches
for a doze.
I know you are with me, plants,
and cats - and even so, I'm frightened,
sitting in the middle of perfect


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

POEM: "Stari Most"

Stari Most

In southern Bosnia
where I first knew you 
where there was so much death 
there was a beautiful bridge 
you can't kill memory
where there is a beautiful bridge
this is a story about Mostar
a story about Stari Most
but no, it's a story about us
and the fight we had 
on the beautiful bridge
and how I swore to you
we would both grow old
there would be no war
you don't listen (I remember)
you kept on slapping me
we got home we didn't speak
we made japrak and chorba
we cried and held each other tight
later they tortured you 
then they killed you
it was a beautiful bridge
all the water gone
of course I write this.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

An Anne Sexton Poem

Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

POEM: "Ladders"


                        "You say you don't know, but you do know."

Incy-wincy wake up in the dark
go outside to the expansion
piss and look up at the stars

walk around the orchard 
it’s a kind of animal park 
working around the clock

the fruit was as dangerous 
as we once picked for knowledge
(the evil pastoral grins)

screw you a life on the land
working three months of Mondays
one rung up and two more down

with heigh-ho and awful rash
sweat and concentrated bugs
the fork-lift collects the bins

a shotgun resting underneath
apple-pickers worse than bad apples
economics of loss and flowers

© 2015 Rob Schackne

POEM: "How A Japanese Farmhouse Changed Their Lives"

How A Japanese Farmhouse Changed Their Lives

First, the execrable outhouse, unlettered haste to go,
a lingering pong stuck in the clothes. Then, the bug life.
More bugs than tried out for the moon shoot. But ambitious.
The noises started to make them crazy after the first week.

Groaning wood had to settle differently in every weather,
the scratchy music of the bamboos could never be stilled.
No electricity was a big problem, before they turned in early
to gaze for hours at the happy lizards going after the bugs.

There was a nauseating stench they couldn’t locate.
They talked to each other, sure, it was as boring as fuck.
They took turns reading aloud, but it became a farce.
Time passed very slowly. Arguments. The third month.

Sure, they drank the local hooch. Yes, it had a nasty kick.
They took back their old smoking habits and lost condition
tooting as they struggled to draw water from the well.
They got rashes. The water started tasting a little funny.

The books they brought to read grew attached to the shelves
like ruined lizards. Odd mould. They walked down to the village
that could not understand them and returned with garbage
they had to dig holes for and bury, swatting at the horseflies.

They bathed in natural water in a small natural wooden tub
in the icy water that each determined almost killed the other one.
When the time came to sell up, there were twenty sweaty farmers
watching them get screwed, happy their lives were changed.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Saturday, November 7, 2015

POEM: "After A Poem By Guan Guan"

After A Poem By Guan Guan
                                                for Anna

The nightgardener 
under moonlight
the sleeping blossoms
shadows lengthened
there was a lake
a lake of mud
this was the ground
a ground of lotus
and now this room
once rooms of marsh
somewhere near here
there was a pond

was it really a pond
that is now a pond
that is now a house
once a house of lotus?

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Ron Slate Poem (3)

Naked City

Apprehended in Herald Square carrying the head of his sister-in-law
by her sprung hair. Hoop earrings. He said, I’m trapped in a story I heard.
Unsure of motive, the DA couldn’t say where the accused,
striding through the streets, was going.


On victory night, when celebrations erupt,
young men rock a pizza delivery van, striving for something
unprecedented but find no means, no proper subject.
Meanwhile, a videographer shooting a blocked intersection,
violence in her viewfinder, makes
no remark, here where photographers wearing fedoras
once belittled the corpses with tart epithets:

A Bottom Feeder was one who plummeted into a river from a bridge.
A Roast was the shape carried from a blaze.
A man lying in the street after a hit and run was a Flat Mammal.
A Dry Diver leapt from a ledge into the street.

Against the density of darkness, grotesque angle of neck to torso,
the flashgun’s light was so intrusive and swift
the police were printed in odd, feckless positions
as if they’d relinquished control of their bodies.


Even after decades of seeing these things,
explicated with captions of gangland hits and strangled hookers,
the city still gave rise to libidinous visions, couplings
on rooftop gardens, giddy spillage in limousines.
But it was the few words passed quickly,
conventional gestures between strangers,
newspaper vendor and his customer,
that barely kept a timed routine in place.


In the street, below streaming headlines (retaining their own light)
across the façades of commerce, the slightest lapse
of syntax between us could lead to ruin.
Stand back, say nothing for a moment.


We were walking up Broadway — a cab swerved
to avoid another cab and jumped the curb, harming no one,
but knocked in the side of a newspaper stall and startled the seller within.
A man took his child in his arms, we’ve been saved
he said as a page of newsprint shrouded his feet.


Zoom in on a cop’s son crushed under the overturned pizza van.
Everyone move back, move back, move back!


A city is coming,
not the city of the future or the world to come,
but the city of our glimpse and tread.
A city that may not ever be our city.
So proclaims a soiled evangelist with a sign
misspelled with sins as crowds leave
the stadium after a season-ending win.
High spirits, someone tosses him a bag of nuts.


A few inches in today’s paper:
An ancient river has been found, not in our city
but beneath Toronto. A cap blew off an artesian well.
While workers repaired it, another top blew nearby —
the Laurentian River, long surmised
in a soaking valley of bedrock debris,
had exposed itself at last.

Hydrologists could only speak of it, there are no images.
It’s drinkable, with a ferrous tang,
but the water is not its fine excess.
The rumor of discovery is.


Published in Plume Poetry #52 (Oct/Nov 2015)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

POEM: "The Osprey"

The Osprey

                                    Guan guan cry the ospreys
                                    On the islet in the river.

                                    from Shi Jing (The Book Of Songs) 7th cent. BCE

Athena carries King Pandion to safety in Megara
A rehabber rescues an osprey fallen prey to our debris

A rest from the shit the oil slick the plastics the DDT
She should be mesmerizing fish with her razor feet

Greetings from the Blancan the seas are getting colder
A cousin’s claw fossil 2½ million years old says hello

She asks you if hubris is the left side of madness
Whether it brings ruin to the “sovereignty of nature”

Like grabbing hold of a fish so heavy it will drown me
The waters rising over my old heart getting colder

The sun shines in her eyes she shades them with a wing
Tomorrow the shoals of decent fish who dream of light

99% of the moon illuminated and the waters are calm
The sky big & clear tonight who knows how late this is

                                                         for Charles Causey in Islamorada

© 2013 Rob Schackne

photo: Charles Causey

Sunday, November 1, 2015

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

The great TFF and the great Bad Plus. "Welcome to your life/There's no turning back". It won't make Patti Smith very happy, but the song reminds me a bit of Babelogue"I haven't fucked much with the past/But I've fucked plenty with the future." Let's all just try to be punctual, OK?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Gary Hershorn Photo (NYC, 2015)

Write even a slightly better poem than the one I'm trying to write now about Siamese twins contemplating suicide after spending a glorious day in Central Park watching the squirrels...and everyone will thank you very much, I'm sure.

Friday, October 30, 2015

MUSIC: The Suffers, 6 Songs

The Suffers are an American soul band from Houston, Texas consisting of Kam Franklin, Adam Castaneda, Alex Zamora, Kevin Bernier, Cory Wilson, Jon Durbin, Michael Razo, José Luna, Patrick Kelly, and Nick Zamora. They were formed in 2011. Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2015

POEM: "The Fisherman"

The Fisherman 

Fish for bait, or the other
the eyes tell it deep or shallow
knowledge, such as it is, hard-won

the day begins with diesel smell 
and rags, I read luck with hope 
sixty years and never read a book
writing a thousand poems in my head

it’s early morning on the river, very still 
I put on a clean shirt and start the motor.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Photo: Kristin Krahl (2015)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

POEM: "You think you've got it all worked out"

"You think you've got it all worked out"

You think you've got it all worked out
discovered how to put the grim to rest
i.e. the mortgage the family the job the Plan
the map's parting clouds baby it starts to rain
the hunter stops (supply how many minutes) 
someplace in western Mongolia with his eagle
after all it's the car radio you're listening to
someday you'll slow to an arm or shoulder too
see the turn-off to the left (supply the miles)
there's a lookout ahead you think it best to stop
a big blue sky it's your breath and a little smoke
Central Asia understands you're another picture

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Photo: Simon Morris (2014)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

POEM: "Suboptics"


What does it mean
the night's a dark box
and dogs are barking in it

reading the reports
of a spectacular sunset
looking at Colombian coffee

but the road's invisible
how do you know where you are
why sleep for a thousand years

there must be drums
before the poem is shouted
and spirits roll up to the dance

his big eyes are lifted
to the glorious Andean Condor
fading into tired binoculars

like sleep is to a hangar
like an airplane taking off
airspace turns to outer space

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Friday, October 23, 2015

POEM: "Gloop.Soup.Sand"


Sometimes a ditch
makes a body stop
gloop or soup or sand
one itch from staying there

One reason for altering a mind
anyway, this is my declaration
my didactic, my fierce invitation
it's the Sunday I'm in this bar

Trying to write you this poem
it's a perfect autumn evening
I'm making notes to perfection
on the subject of making love

But so blinkered and scattered
the thing won't happen tomorrow
I wonder why more women don't
just make their menfolk laugh.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Painting: Edward Hopper, "People In The Sun"

Thursday, October 22, 2015

MUSIC: Titi Robin & Mehdi Nassouli, "La Femme Idéale" (Live, 2015)

The great French guitar, buzuq, mandolin and ’oud player Thierry "Titi" Robin, with the great young Moroccan guembri player El Mehdi for a few minutes you can stop what you're doing now and listen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

POEM: "Incubo"


I. Politica/Sogni

Reach down under the blanket
late night attaching to your body
a little preening thing nondescript
misshapen unformed maybe white
like an invisible tail anyway it is
useless and indigent now certo
not a she this is no beautiful dream
it doesn’t intend to warm your bed
it wants you it’s not clear what for

II. Bertolt Brecht/Billy Strayhorn

The lush lives glide o’er the sea
a pinch here a pinch there you there
entitled to a rest with peaceful thoughts
the rest of service surrenders to the hungry ghosts
who cannot speak unqualified for the street
well it’s dumb waiting for unexpected things
lift my leg swerve avoid shun cross over
anything I don’t know yet is waiting
I won’t transubstantiate my sober body

III. Nessun Dorma

Were I a better fighter I’d stop writing
these letters to the future change me
into a demon that recharges fate
and if a better poet I’d crack skulls
till there was only the two of us here
tossing yarrow stalks in a dream
nothing won nothing gained nothing
that wouldn’t sit quietly inside the clock
waiting for our fortunes to flick past

IV. If It’s Not Asking Too Much

No matter where the male or female sings
a chattering ape sits in the corner of the room
the rule of fourths says that three-quarters
who have the disease will never be at peace
all teeth are grinding through the visitation
tie the fellow up he’ll listen to your counsel
providence offers a haven to the pirate tribes
men walked proud from the bluest ocean
out of frame there was a steep cliff and trees

V. Poetry/Sex/Eat/Sleep

Of course it will get something from you
third wife the boss girlfriend the barbie
incubi will incorporate all shapes remember
it’s not a fantastic dream there is no bed
awash in smells of precious oils these sheets
so wound in washing machine dreams
you awake wild-eyed lately even a hint
of smoke in the air above the pillows
the words poor teacher a poet this world

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Robin Beth Schaer Poem


In a time of faint beasts, no room
is left in the boats. With thin hands,

we huddle sheep and dip a hundred
reeds in mud. The nets wheel away

so often now, sinking through days
poured furious over threshing feet.

As though dared in a foreign tongue
to knot our sleeves, we swim through

broken oars, shout off slender days.
Snakes may cling to trees, and men

tear at bread, but the sky stays hinged.
Only heaven is full of furniture.

We harness ourselves over and over,
wherever hope is a yellow shore.


Monday, October 19, 2015

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.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

POEM: "To The Who That's Who I'm Talking To"

To The Who That’s Who I’m Talking To

Today the President got freaky
The bank manager killed himself
The kindergarten teacher cried all day
(You wonder what this has to do with you)
Your boss’s husband left for good last night
Your old waitress is thinking about quitting
The shoes you’re wearing will die next month
And you’re reading because you want some what?

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Louise Glück Poem (2)

The Night Migrations

This is the moment when you see again
the red berries of the mountain ash
and in the dark sky
the birds’ night migrations.

It grieves me to think
the dead won’t see them

these things we depend on,
they disappear.

What will the soul do for solace then?
I tell myself maybe it won’t need
these pleasures anymore;
maybe just not being is simply enough,
hard as that is to imagine.


Friday, October 16, 2015

A W.B. Yeats Poem (2)

The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water

I HEARD the old, old men say,
"Everything alters,
And one by one we drop away."
They had hands like claws, and their knees
Were twisted like the old thorn trees
By the waters.
I heard the old, old men say,
"All that's beautiful drifts away
Like the waters."


Thursday, October 15, 2015

POEM: "That Spoonful"

That Spoonful
                               Some men dies about it.
                                  Willie Dixon

Could be a spoonful of money
One more spoonful of hope
The spoon of one more tired mile

That spoon of her look as she walked past

Instant coffee under desert clouds
Of one more inch in the yard
Of the rain that mixes down

The spoonful of you and me
Could be a spoonful of little dreams
A spoonful of the ways and means

I don't think I remember

The many ways to come here
Of the cups that are poured in the sand
A spoonful of what a word can mean

Could be the spoon of old desire
Could be the spoonful of mystery
Maybe the spoon when the door is shut

Every story that was true

Could be the spoon of bad weather
The spoonful sitting in the dark
The spoonful against coming home

Everybody lies about it

The spoonful of being gone.

© 2011 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

POEM: "Casus Belli, A Slight Misunderstanding"

Casus Belli, A Slight Misunderstanding

The last war in Disneyland started when
Mary Poppins let off a few angry rounds
Mickey dives for cover, Minnie grabs an M-16

The tourists head for Goofy (lost it completely)
They then circle back around to Yosemite Sam
Who thunders Send those varmints to tarnation!

Elmer Fudd quickly hands out his rifle collection
Daffy (in his element) looks for better defilade
Beep-beep says Roadrunner this one's for you asshole!
Heckle and Jeckle are conducting some aerial recon
Unca Donald's ducks-in-diapers guerrillas move out
(Popeye and Olive Oyl are looking after the kids)
Then Tweetie Pie and Sylvester in common cause
Suspend their misery, they get détente, they get cracking
Put down an RPG on the enemy flank (for once exposed)
Scrooge McDuck is furious at his helicopter throttle
The tourists rally forces and overcome the rebels
Bugs Bunny emerges from his position singing.

© 2014 Rob Schackne

Saturday, October 10, 2015

POEM: "Past the pot-holes"

"Past the pot-holes"

Past the pot-holes
and the hot dust
all advice is bias

an empty cicada shell
is halfway down
a cormorant's throat

a gathering of memories
on the riverbank
noise like you don't believe

the magicians produce
jars of time and laughter     
there is no tomorrow

© 2015 Rob Schackne