19 December 2015

all we shall know for truth

"Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh."
(WB Yeats, A Drinking Song)

16 December 2015

suffering caused by efforts to interpret suffering

barricades and bulwarks against human loneliness


Who knew that the sweetest pleasure of my fifty-eighth year
would turn out to be my friendship with the dog?
That his trembling, bowlegged bliss at seeing me stand there with the leash
would give me a feeling I had sought throughout my life?
Now I understand those old ladies walking
their Chihuahuas in the dusk, plastic bag wrapped around one hand,
content with a companionship that, whatever
else you think of it, is totally reliable.
And in the evening, at cocktail hour,
I think tenderly of them
in all of those apartments on the fourteenth floor
holding out a little hotdog on a toothpick
to bestow a luxury on a friend
who knows more about uncomplicated pleasure
than any famous lobbyist for the mortal condition.
These barricades and bulwarks against human loneliness,
they used to fill me with disdain,
but that was before I found out my metaphysical needs
                                                                      could be so easily met
by the wet gaze of a brown-and-white retriever
with a slight infection of the outer ear
                                           and a tail like a windshield wiper.
I did not guess that love would be returned to me
as simply as a stick returned when it was thrown
again and again and again—
in fact, I still don’t exactly comprehend.
What could that possibly have to teach me
about being human?
“Fetch” by Tony Hoagland from Application for Release from the Dream. © Graywolf Press, 2015.

where do the words go when we have said them?

The Small Cabin

The house we built gradually
from the ground up when we were young
(three rooms, the walls
raw trees) burned down
last year            they said
I didn’t see it, and so
the house is still there in me
among branches as always        I stand
inside it looking out
at the rain moving across the lake
but when I go back
to the empty place in the forest
the house will blaze and crumple
suddenly in my mind
collapsing like a cardboard carton
thrown on a bonfire, summers
crackling, my earlier
selves outlined in flame.
Left in my head will be
the blackened earth: the truth.
Where did the house go?
Where do the words go
when we have said them?
“The Small Cabin” by Margaret Atwood from Selected Poems 1965-1975. © Houghton Mifflin.

10 November 2015

she might be someone i loved once,/or the other me i sense now


I fall in love with that one
glimpse of her from behind,
something about the bend of her arm,
the tilt of her head now, listening,
or simply the weight and sheen of her hair,
hoping sooner or later she may turn,
that she might be someone I loved once,
or the other me I sense now
standing beside me may have loved.

"Sometimes” by Dan Gerber from A Primer on Parallel Lives. © Copper Canyon Press, 2007.

09 November 2015

There were times my life and I made jokes together.

My Life Was the Size of My Life

by Jane Hirshfield

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.
In its background, mitochondria hummed,
above it sun, clouds, snow,
the transit of stars and planets.
It rode elevators, bullet trains,
various airplanes, a donkey.
It wore socks, shirts, its own ears and nose.
It ate, it slept, it opened
and closed its hands, its windows.
Others, I know, had lives larger.
Others, I know, had lives shorter.
The depth of lives, too, is different.
There were times my life and I made jokes together.
There were times we made bread.
Once, I grew moody and distant.
I told my life I would like some time,
I would like to try seeing others.
In a week, my empty suitcase and I returned.
I was hungry, then, and my life,
my life, too, was hungry, we could not keep
our hands off               our clothes on
our tongues from

"My Life Was the Size of My Life” by Jane Hirshfield from The Beauty. © Knopf, 2015.

i drink because i'm lonesome and i'm lonesome 'cause i drink

[Verse 1]
There’s a bottle on the dresser by your ring
And it’s empty so right now I don’t feel a thing
And I’ll be hurting when I wake up on the floor
But I’ll be over it by noon
That’s the difference between whiskey and youm
Come tomorrow, I can walk in any store
It ain’t a problem, they’ll always sell me more

But your forgiveness
Well, that’s something I can’t buy

There ain’t a thing that I can do
That’s the difference between whiskey and you

One’s the devil, one keeps driving me insane
At times I wonder if they ain’t both the same
But one’s a liar that helps to hide me from my pain
And one’s the long gone bitter truth
That’s the difference between whiskey and you

[Verse 2]
I’ve got a problem but it ain’t like what you think
I drink because I’m lonesome and I’m lonesome ‘cause I drink
But if I don’t break down and bring it on myself
It’ll hit out of the blue
That’s the difference between whiskey and you

26 October 2015

I am unable/ to understand the forms of my vanity

To the Harbormaster

I wanted to be sure to reach you; 
though my ship was on the way it got caught   
in some moorings. I am always tying up   
and then deciding to depart. In storms and   
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide   
around my fathomless arms, I am unable   
to understand the forms of my vanity   
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder   
in my hand and the sun sinking. To   
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage   
of my will. The terrible channels where   
the wind drives me against the brown lips   
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet   
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and   
if it sinks, it may well be in answer   
to the reasoning of the eternal voices, 
the waves which have kept me from reaching you.
Frank O’Hara, “To the Harbormaster” from Meditations in an Emergency. Copyright © 1957 by Frank O’Hara. 

1999 Cat Power. poor old man likes sad songs.

07 September 2015

apart from the things i touched, nothin got broken that much

mermaids. and i'll be here soon

get yourself and bring her here fix yourself up in the mirror we'll fix ourselves another beer and you know we'll be here soon.

your hand in mine stills the thunder

The old man is so very fond of the second track--original by Woody Guthrie

I Ain't Got No Home

Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

I ain't got no home, I'm just a-roamin' 'round,
Just a wandrin' worker, I go from town to town.
And the police make it hard wherever I may go
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore. 
My brothers and my sisters are stranded on this road,
A hot and dusty road that a million feet have trod;
Rich man took my home and drove me from my door
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore. 
Was a-farmin' on the shares, and always I was poor;
My crops I lay into the banker's store.
My wife took down and died upon the cabin floor,
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.
I mined in your mines and I gathered in your corn
I been working, mister, since the day I was born
Now I worry all the time like I never did before
'Cause I ain't got no home in this world anymore 
Now as I look around, it's mighty plain to see
This world is such a great and a funny place to be;
Oh, the gamblin' man is rich an' the workin' man is poor,
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.

feel one hundred years old

Stolen Car

I met a little girl and I settled down
In a little house out on the edge of town
We got married, and swore we'd never part
Then little by little we drifted from each other's hearts

At first I thought it was just restlessness
That would fade as time went by and our love grew deep
In the end it was something more I guess
That tore us apart and made us weep

And I'm driving a stolen car
Down on Eldridge Avenue
Each night I wait to get caught
But I never do

She asked if I remembered the letters I wrote
When our love was young and bold
She said last night she read those letters
And they made her feel one hundred years old

And I'm driving a stolen car
On a pitch black night
And I'm telling myself I'm gonna be alright
But I ride by night and I travel in fear
That in this darkness I will disappear

Bruce Springsteen

buckets of rain. "everything about you is bringin' me misery"

12 August 2015

vacant parking lots across the street

Red ribbons hanging up 
Tennessee Square 
Old people laughing and singing 
And dancing down there
I'd like to join them
I got no money to spare
So I sit here and watch from the porch
Drinking whiskey in granddaddy's chair
Ferris wheel lights look like pictures
I'd seen in a book somewhere
Vacant parking lots across the street
Remind me I'm going nowhere
I'd like to join them
I got no money to spare
So I sit here and watch from the porch
Drinking whiskey in granddaddy's chair
It's difficult to go on
Knowing you're out there somwhere
Vacant parking lots across the street
Remind me I'm going nowhere

05 August 2015

he showed his vacation to his camera

The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

"The Vacation” by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems. © Counterpoint Press, 2012.

13 May 2015

scribble sunlight in the margins

a remix for remembrance


For my students

This is for the boys whose bedrooms are in the basement,
who press creases into jeans, who carve their names in pavement,
the girls whose names are ancient, ancestry is sacred,
the Aztec and the Mayan gods abuela used to pray with

This is for the dangerous words hiding in the pages
of composition notes, holy books, and Sanskrit
This is for the patients who wait for medication,
for the mothers microwaving beans and rice at day’s end

This is for the marching bands and girls at quinceañeras,
the skaters and the writers whose moms are eloteras,
laughing “Cops don’t scare us, we sag so elders fear us
We will rewrite our textbooks in our own language if you dare us”

This is for the Sarahs, the Angelicas, and Shawns,
the Beatrices, Paolas, Danielas, and the dawns
we scribble sunlight in the margins of horizons with our songs,
for all the voices tangled with the silence on our tongues

Rivals in the parks, fireworks at dark,
tired shirts that sweat your scent on hangers in the closet
For the boys who fix the faucet while their sister fixes coffee
’cause mommy had to leave for work at 6 AM and laundry
isn’t folded yet: you don’t have to hold your breath

You don’t have to behave: stage your own rebellion,
paint canvases with rage and religion and prayers for pilgrims
sleeping in the train cars at the border and their children
Filibust the Senate and bust markers on the Pink Line,
stain the prosecution’s case and force the judge to resign,
force the crowd the rewind the lyrics you invented

Speak away the limits to heights of your existence
Be a witness, be a record, be a testament, a triumph
Set your poems flying in the glitter of the planets
Feed open mouths with truth, the truth is we are famished
The Universe is starving for the symphonies you play
Clarinets and thunder and the syllables you say
are the instruments: you are infinite. Stretch your hands to heaven
Let your throat throttle the rhythms of all your fallen brethren
Your legacy is present, your history is now
You are the tenth degree of sound
You are the nephews of the sky
You are the bass line and the hi-hat and the snare drum and the cry
of red Septembers. You’re the architects of winter
You are the builders of the roads that you’re told you don’t
      remember          You are
      the builders of the roads
      that you’re told
      you don’t remember       You are the builders
           of the roads that you’re told you don’t

Cast poems in the river and tell them you remember
Skate City Hall to splinters and tell them you remember
Send diamonds to your islands and tell them you remember
Find your God inside your mirror and tell Her you remember

Source: Poetry (April 2015).