April 28, 2009

Shopping Urban by Jane Shore

Posted in poetry tagged , at 6:08 pm by placeinthestars

Shopping Urban
by Jane Shore

Flip-flopped, noosed in puka beads, my daughter
breezes through the store from headband to toe ring,
shooing me away from the bongs,
lace thongs, and studded dog collars.
And I don’t want to see her in that black muscle tee
with SLUT stamped in gold glitter
shrink-wrapped over her breasts,
or those brown and chartreuse retro-plaid
hip-huggers ripped at the crotch.

There’s not a shopper here a day over twenty
except me and another mother
parked in chairs at the dressing room entrance
beyond which we are forbidden to go.
We’re human clothes racks.
Our daughters have trained us
to tamp down the least flicker of enthusiasm
for the nice dress with room to grow into,
an item they regard with sullen, nauseated,
eyeball-rolling disdain.

Waiting in the line for a dressing room,
my daughter checks her cleavage.
Her bellybutton’s a Cyclops eye
peeking at other girls’ armloads of clothes.
What if she’s missed something—
that faux leopard hoodie? those coffee-wash flares?
Sinking under her stash of blouses,
she’s a Shiva of tangled sleeves.

And where did she dig up that new tie-dyed
tank top I threw away in ’69,
and the purple wash ‘n’ wear psychedelic dress
I washed and wore
and lost on my Grand Tour of Europe,
and my retired hippie Peace necklace
now recycled, revived, re-hip?

I thought they were gone—
like the tutus and tiaras and wands
when she morphed from ballerina
to fairy princess to mermaid to tomboy,
refusing to wear dresses ever again.
Gone, those pastel party dresses,
the sleeves, puffed water wings buoying her up
as she swam into waters over her head.



April 27, 2009

Knife-play by Fleur Adcock

Posted in poetry tagged , at 6:34 pm by placeinthestars

by Fleur Adcock

All my scars are yours. We talk of pledges,
and holding out my hand I show
the faint burn on the palm and the hair-thin
razor-marks at wrist and elbow:

self-inflicted, yes; but your tokens—
made as distraction from a more
inaccessible pain than could have been
caused by cigarette or razor—

and these my slightest marks. In all our meetings
you were the man with the long knives,
piercing the living hopes, cutting connections,
carving and dissecting motives,

and with an expert eye for dagger-throwing:
a showman’s aim. Oh, I could dance
and dodge, as often as not, the whistling blades,
turning on a brave performance

to empty stands. I leaned upon a hope
that this might prove to have been less
a gladiatorial show, contrived for murder,
than a formal test of fitness

(initiation rites are always painful)
to bring me ultimately to your
regard. Well, in a sense it was; for now
I have found some kind of favour:

you have learnt softness; I, by your example,
am well-schooled in contempt; and while
you speak of truce I laugh, and to your pleading
turn a cool and guarded profile.

I have now, you might say, the upper hand:
these knives that bristle in my flesh
increase my armoury and lessen yours.
I can pull out, whet and polish

your weapons, and return to the attack,
well-armed. It is a pretty trick,
but one that offers little consolation.
such a victory would be Pyrrhic,

occurring when my strength is almost spent.
No: I would make an end of fighting
and, bleeding as I am from old wounds,
die like the bee upon a sting.


from the ghost that guards her grave

Posted in books tagged , at 1:02 am by placeinthestars

I just finished The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte (trans. Margaret Sayers Peden). I didn’t dislike this book, but I felt the narrative strategy was gimmicky when it was revealed, and there was also a lot of claptrap about how women are mysterious and unknowable etc. etc. which made me roll my eyes a lot. And I get that it was probably more the narrator than Coy having all those ruminations, but they kind of got annoying after a while, spoilers

April 26, 2009

there’s love waiting for the both of you

Posted in books tagged , at 1:09 am by placeinthestars

I’ve just finished reading Georgette Heyer’s Black Sheep, and I enjoyed it tremendously. Abby is wonderfully non-missish and full of good sense and good humor, and I liked Miles and his pragmatism quite a lot. The plot is predictable, but never overly convoluted, and nobody acts like an idiot in order to make it work.


April 24, 2009

Lines For Painting On Grains Of Rice by Craig Arnold

Posted in poetry tagged , at 4:58 pm by placeinthestars

Lines For Painting On Grains Of Rice

You are the kind of person who buys exotic fruits
      leaves them out on the counter until they rot
You always mean to eat them     sometimes you rearrange them
      rousing over the bowl a cloud of tiny flies


How do they balance     the parrot who chews a walnut
sideways     holding it up in his right foot
the owl perched on a just-lit lamppost
      scratching behind its ear    like a big dog


Your pencil eraser wears down long before the point
      for every word you write    you rub out two


Where the slice of toast rested     the plate is still warm
      a film of fog     little points of dew


Love is like velocity     we feel the speeding up
      and the slowing down     otherwise not at all
the more steady    the more it feels like going nowhere
      my love I want to go nowhere with you


I cannot bring myself to toss the cup of cold coffee
you set down by the door on your way to the taxi
all day I have sipped it    each time forgetting
your two tablets of fake sugar    too sweet

~Craig Arnold


April 21, 2009

At the River by Louise Glück

Posted in poetry tagged , at 4:15 pm by placeinthestars

At the River

One night that summer my mother decided it was time to tell me about
what she referred to as pleasure, though you could see she felt
some sort of unease about this ceremony, which she tried to cover up
by first taking my hand, as though somebody in the family had just died—
she went on holding my hand as she made her speech
which was more like a speech about mechanical engineering
than a conversation about pleasure. In her other hand
she had a book from which, apparently, she’d taken the main facts.
She did the same thing with the others, my two brothers and sister,
and the book was always the same book, dark blue,
though we each got our own copy.

There was a line drawing on the cover
showing a man and woman holding hands
but standing fairly far apart, like people on two sides of a dirt road.

Obviously, she and my father did not have a language for what they did
which, from what I could judge, wasn’t pleasure.
At the same time, whatever holds human beings together
could hardly resemble those cool black-and-white diagrams, which suggested,
among other things, that you could only achieve pleasure
with a person of the opposite sex,
so you didn’t get two sockets, say, and no plug.

School wasn’t in session.
I went back to my room and shut the door
and my mother went into the kitchen
where my father was pouring glasses of wine for himself and his invisible guest
who—surprise—doesn’t appear.
No, it’s just my father and his friend the Holy Ghost
partying the night away until the bottle runs out,
after which my father continues sitting at the table
with an open book in front of him.

Tactfully, so as not to embarrass the Spirit,
my father handled all the glasses,
first his own, then the other, back and forth like every other night.

By then, I was out of the house.
It was summer; my friends used to meet at the river.
The whole thing seemed a grave embarrassment
although the truth was that, except for the boys, maybe we didn’t understand
The boys had the key right in front of them, in their hands if they wanted,
and many of them said they’d already used it,
though once one boy said this, the others said it too,
and of course people had older brothers and sisters.

We sat at the edge of the river discussing parents in general
and sex in particular. And a lot of information got shared,
and of course the subject was unfailingly interesting.
I showed people my book, Ideal Marriage—we all had a good laugh over it.
One night a boy brought a bottle of wine and we passed it around for a while.

More and more that summer we understood
that something was going to happen to us
that would change us.
And the group, all of us who used to meet this way,
the group would shatter, like a shell that falls away
so the bird can emerge.
Only of course it would be two birds emerging, pairs of birds.

We sat in the reeds at the edge of the river
throwing small stones. When the stones hit,
you could see the stars multiply for a second, little explosions of light
flashing and going out. There was a boy I was beginning to like,
not to speak to but to watch.
I liked to sit behind him to study the back of his neck.

And after a while we’d all get up together and walk back through the dark
to the village. Above the field, the sky was clear,
stars everywhere, like in the river, though these were the real stars,
even the dead ones were real.

But the ones in the river—
they were like having some idea that explodes suddenly into a thousand ideas,
not real, maybe, but somehow more lifelike.

When I got home, my mother was asleep, my father was still at the table,
reading his book. And I said, Did your friend go away?
And he looked at me intently for a while,
then he said, Your mother and I used to drink a glass of wine together
after dinner.

~Louise Glück


April 20, 2009

Jewel Box by Eamon Grennan

Posted in poetry tagged , at 2:42 pm by placeinthestars

Jewel Box

Your jewel box of white balsa strips
and bleached green Czechoslovakian rushes
stands open where you keep it shelved
in the bathroom. Morning and evening
I see you comb its seawrack tangle of shell,
stone, wood, glass, metal, bone, seed
for the bracelet, earring, necklace, brooch
or ring you need. Here’s brass from Nepal,
a bangle of African ivory and chased silver
for your wrist, a twist of polished
sandalwood seeds, deep scarlet,
gleaming like the fossil tears
of some long-gone exotic bird
with ruby crest, sapphire claws. Adriatic
blue, this lapis lazuli disc will brighten
the pale of your throat, and on this small
alabaster seal-ring the phantom of light
inscribes a woman tilting an amphora, clear
as day, almost as old as Alexander. To the
ebony velvet brim of your hat you’ll pin
a perfect oval of abalone, a dark-whorled
underwater sheen to lead us to work
this foggy February morning. We’ll leave
your nest of brightness in the bathroom
between the mirror and the laundry-basket
where my dirty shirts sprawl like
drunks amongst your skirts and blouses. Lace-
work frills and rainbow silk pastels, your panties
foam over the plastic brim, and on the shower-rail
your beige and talc-white bras dangle by one strap
like the skinned Wicklow rabbits I remember
hanging from hooks outside the victuallers’
big windows. We’ve been domesticated strangely,
love, according to our lights: when you
walk by me now, naked and not quite dry
from the shower, I flatten my two hands
on your wet flank, and wonder at the tall
column of flesh you are, catching the faint
morning light that polishes you pale as
alabaster. You’re warm, and stay a moment
still like that, as though we were two planets
pausing in their separate orbits, pendant,
on the point of crossing. For one pulse-stroke
they take stock of their bodies
before returning to the journey. Dressed,
you select a string of chipped amber
to hang round your neck, a pair of star-shaped
earrings, a simple ring of jet-black
lustrous onyx. Going down the stairs and
out to the fogbound street, you light my way.

~Eamon Grennan


April 19, 2009

Conversation with Objects by Viola Lee

Posted in poetry tagged , at 5:06 pm by placeinthestars

Conversation with Objects

there are so many things here
that will be forgotten come winter
so many things that will be forgotten
things like bra on yellow bench
or even watch on the wooden nightstand
all these plain objects
that we are slowly leaving behind

there are so many things that remind me
of spaces that need forgetting
so many things like the heat of that summer
where things outgrew themselves
where even showers tasted of metal
where there was no way
of escaping that body clinging to this body
there are days where my body feels inanimate
feels like bottle  hairbrush  night stand        
there are so many things here that are inanimate
this is a comb      this is her hair    
this is    the comb    she uses
to comb her hair      
this is his spoon      this is his body      this is the spoon     
he uses to nourish his body
this is a stone this is a hand
this is the stone
he nervously clenches with his hand
all of this will be forgotten
come colder days when no one is out
and the only things that echo
are the streets without their lights

~Viola Lee


April 18, 2009

Spanish Dancer by Rainer Maria Rilke

Posted in poetry tagged , at 8:14 pm by placeinthestars

Spanish Dancer

As in one’s hand a lighted match blinds you before
it comes aflame and sends out brilliant flickering
tongues to every side — so, within the ring of the
spectators, her dance begins in hasty, heated rhythms
and spreads itself darting flames around.

And suddenly the dance is altogether flame!

With a fierce glance she sets her hair alight.
Unexpectedly she turns with daring artfulness
the swirling flounces of her dress within this
conflagration, out of which her upheld naked arms,
clapping the castanets, appear like serpents striking.

And then, afraid her fire were diminishing,
she gathers it all up and flings it down
with an imperious haughty gesture, and watches
as it lies there writhing on the ground, unyielding
and unwilling to concede the dance has ended.
Yet she shows victory in her sweet swift smile
as she lifts up her face, while with her small firm feet
she stamps out the last of the dying embers.

~Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

April 17, 2009

Woman in the I-65 Rest Stop by Juliana Gray

Posted in poetry tagged , at 8:49 pm by placeinthestars

Woman in the I-65 Rest Stop

Emerging from a stall, she clicks
across the tiles in backless heels
not meant for driving. The jeans and tee
she’d worn inside are stashed in a bag,
replaced by a tight blouse and skirt,
bare legs, a look that says
Now, now we’re getting somewhere.
She spreads her lipstick tubes and compacts
like discs of bright, hard candy
across the mirror ledge. She’s quick,
meticulous—she’s done all this
before—the warped and sagging face
the metal mirror throws back at her
can’t distort, can’t hide the facts:
you’re beautiful.

                  Outside, it’s dark,
another closely humid night
in Nowhere, Tennessee. The songs
of lovesick tree frogs call to her.
She’s almost ready. Perhaps her eye
catches mine as she slips her rings
inside her beaded purse. The blood
that flashes to her cheeks—how
to read that gorgeous bloom?
Her heels ring out staccato beats
as she turns and pushes through the door,
the heavy air coursing past
like an old story. I wash my hands.
The woman, blooming, does not look back.

~Juliana Gray


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