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
          mechanics.
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

***

April 16, 2009

The Astronomer and the Poet by Jessica Piazza

Posted in poetry tagged , at 2:51 pm by placeinthestars

The Astronomer and the Poet

1. Why I stargaze

We share ninety-eight percent of our genetic code
with rats. Over half with grain. The stars, then,
must contain us somehow in their burning.

Something must contain this burning. Uptown,
our physics building is sequestered in a bubble
of certainty. And Harlem explodes around it.

We gaze because we’re so small, despite
our need for choosing. We look skyward
to leave the best question hanging—why

an amazing woman is always amazing, even
with her head in her hands. It’s true; there is no
way to know how small we are, or large.

2. Why I study the text

There is the same assurance in the open
page as in the open fist: closure
must happen eventually.

In the open-ended argument we find
one truth. This is all of us, we are so large
that another person’s story can lacquer the soft

wood of history. We are so like the weed,
so like the blade of grass that our organic parable
is biblical. There is no need to believe in us.

I believe what is written: that a wind lifted
from a bay in Asia can travel a long and haunted
journey to touch his face, to slip through my fingers

and loose a lock of hair from my forehead
as it sinks into my tired palms. I believe in
the inevitable. We read the texts closely

because we are so large that the answers locked
in our most sacred physiology are not our own.
They are buried in the skin we choose to reach for.

3. How they are logical

He knows how things work. This moves her.
This is what makes her perpetually
move. On his desk, a Newton’s Cradle—
silver balls always in motion. She will make
the long trip uptown and back again and again
to sit with him. She cannot understand how

we relate to stars, but she finds clues in small things,
the mark a fingertip will leave on every object, the fine
film of breath slicking surfaces. We are so large

there is something of ourselves in everything we touch.
They talk for hours. He speaks of lenses and women
and beyond. She is full of ink and bindings, the unknowable

we find in form, in limit. She reaches for his papers soaked
in symbol, gauging the weight of planets. He fingers
the square notebook she carries. They leave a trail of skin,

a path for them to follow to each other. Always,
her voice reaches him and he is lifted. Returns to her
again. She listens, and is lifted. Crashes back.

4. How they are illogical

Imagine a corner so large that being backed into it
does not mean an ending, but the beginning of a journey
toward the wall, toward the place where walls meet.

Sometimes it is impossible to know how things work.
If there is perpetual motion why does he lie so still
sometimes, why does she become hard and unmoved?

They lay their bodies down inside a telescope so large
it’s like a tunnel—observers, if permitted, would see the planets
of their bodies orbiting. It is the only motion they both understand.

~Jessica Piazza
from Spork

***

April 15, 2009

Tonight, Everyone Is In Love by Jan Bottiglieri

Posted in poetry tagged , at 5:34 pm by placeinthestars

Tonight, Everyone Is In Love

Tonight, everyone is in love.
Gaze at the face
of the spilling moon
and tell me this is not so.

Tonight,
a child is in love with an arm,
a boy is in love with a car,
a woman’s in love with a photo

of a man, of course, in love.
Old stories, true, but
tonight, wet with the fiery moon,
again we can love them.

One hundred striped spiders
are in love
with places in my house
I am afraid to go.

Tonight, a bride
is in love with a groom, a groom
is in love with a bride, a guest
is in love with

the groom’s pierced
ear, which is all she knows of him,
and with the way his black jacket moves
to show he is crying.

The cake on the table is
in love
with the knife my mother uses
to bless it.

Tonight, everyone is in love.
Look at the night’s blazing buckle of moon
and try telling
the desperate stars otherwise.

A girl is in love with a book tonight,
and the book is in love
with the swans’ necks of her sweet fingers
along its cracked spine.

Even the ram, its head inclined,
is in love with the thicket
where he waits in
white moonlight burning

for Abraham,
whom he loves.
Tonight, under the spilling moon,
I confess to you:

everyone is in love.

~Jan Bottiglieri

***

April 14, 2009

Confession by Gale Acuff

Posted in poetry tagged , at 1:52 pm by placeinthestars

Confession
by Gale Acuff

I’m in the first grade and falling in love
for the first time. In alphabetical
order we sit—I’m the first A of A’s
so that she’s sitting next to me, both of
us at the vanguard of the first two rows.
I love her because she’s near—I don’t know

that then but have figured it out since. I
love you, I write. Do you love me? I pass
the note to her, she reads it (and smiles), writes
something down, and hands it back to me. I
love you, too, it reads. Do you love me? I
do, of course, and say so again with my
thick pencil and my tongue sticking out of
my mouth. I give the note to her—it’s
heavy with sentiment and I almost
drop it. Yes, I’ve written, I love you. Do
you love me? This goes on until it’s time
for recess. I’m too overmatched to play,
so I stand and watch my friends bounce kickballs.
When I look away she’s there beside me
—I don’t know what to say that I can’t print.
She won’t stop smiling and I don’t know how

to act, so I hit her, on the shoulder,
and make her cry. She runs away and I
don’t know what to do but join my friends and
wait my turn to kick the ball and get on
base—I hope. I don’t. Back in the classroom
I write another letter: I’m sorry,

it claims. I love you. Do you love me? I
dangle it across the aisle to her but
she won’t bite. She doesn’t even see me
though she does. I lean out farther and try

to waft it to her desk but it has wings
and glides to the dirty tile floor. I rise
to pick it up but Teacher says, Sit down,
Gale. At least I think it’s Teacher but for
all I know it could be God. I give up

love for the first time then—it hurts too much,
like something I really want but can’t have,
like superpowers, a big allowance,
no chores, good marks, and living forever.
When the final bell rings I’m reaching down
to pick what I’ve been feeling off the floor.
I read it again and then wad it up
and put it in my pocket. On the bus
I fish it out and smooth the creases flat
and read it until it doesn’t make sense.
After dinner I get the shovel and
bury my confession in the yard, where
all our dead pets lie until they go to

Heaven. Maybe my letter will go, too,
on Judgment Day, when I’m dead myself. God
will show it to me again. You wrote this,
He’ll say. Come on in. I will, and angels
will be singing about the kind of love
I really know something about, I mean,
the kind without people goofing things up.
I look back and see God shaking His head.
I’m not too bright but I’d make a fair martyr.

***

April 10, 2009

The Seven Last Words by Mark Strand

Posted in poetry tagged , at 2:17 pm by placeinthestars

The Seven Last Words

1

The story of the end, of the last word
of the end, when told, is a story that never ends.
We tell it and retell it — one word, then another
until it seems that no last word is possible,
that none would be bearable. Thus, when the hero
of the story says to himself, as to someone far away,
‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do,’
we may feel that he is pleading for us, that we are
the secret life of the story and, as long as his plea
is not answered, we shall be spared. So the story
continues. So we continue. And the end, once more,
becomes the next, and the next after that.

2

There is an island in the dark, a dreamt-of place
where the muttering wind shifts over the white lawns
and riffles the leaves of trees, the high trees
that are streaked with gold and line the walkways there;
and those already arrived are happy to be the silken
remains of something they were but cannot recall;
they move to the sound of stars, which is also imagined,
but who cares about that; the polished columns they see
may be no more than shafts of sunlight, but for those
who live on and on in the radiance of their remains
this is of little importance. There is an island
in the dark and you will be there, I promise you, you
shall be with me in paradise, in the single season of being,
in the place of forever, you shall find yourself. And there
the leaves will turn and never fall, there the wind
will sing and be your voice as if for the first time.

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