Sunday, November 30, 2008

Making Sense of Insomnia

Down

Narrow lane lined
With night flowers

Up to dawn.

Paean aka Παιάνας

--for Elizabeth

O

Wonderful the ray
Of sun

Upon the freezing body,
The drop of rain

Upon the burning leaf;
Pure, unmitigated

Glory of footprints passing
Over the turning Earth.


(The original English version first published in The London Magazine April-May 2007 and dedicated to a dear friend Elizabeth Boleman-Herring. Elizabeth also throws plenty of red hot chili peppers into her deliciously pertinent and highly readable fare available here--well worth biting into, believe me.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Παιάνας

Ω,

Υπέροχη η ακτίδα
Του ήλιου

Πάνω στο παγομένο σώμα,
Η στάλα της βροχής

Στο φύλλο που καίγεται΄
Ανόθευτη, απόλυτη

Δόξα των πελμάτων που περνάνε
Πάνω στην στρεφόμενη Γη.

(Greek version--translated about a year after the English one was published.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Payάnas (Paean)

Ο

Ipέrohee e ahtίda
Tou έeliou

Pάno sto pagomέno sόma,
E stάla tis vrohίs

Pάno sto feέllo pou kaίyete;
Anόtheftee, apόleetee

Dόxa ton pelmάton pou pernάne
Pάno sti strefόmeni Yee.

(Greek transliteration)



Lily

She had an unearthly air
Of innocence

Even the nuns were ashamed of.



(from The Intricate Evasions of As)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Last Scene

Between sunset
And moonset,

With the old
Moon in the arms

Of the new, it seems as old
As anything is,

And as young
As the new.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Big Bang

The gang was getting pretty itchy--
They unhitched

Those dazzling diamond-
Studded belts,

She hitched up
That oh so plain Jane skirt

Above her comely head,
Above that heavenly body

The stars

Exploded one by one,
Four studs dropped dead.



Carnage on Route 66

Flash back--

To finish off what's left,
Before the crow

Swoops in to cross
The double white line,

He must make double sure
Not to be hit from behind.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Το Σαλιγκάρι αkα The Snail

ars longa, vita brevis

Αργά μπροστά--

Ασάλευτος σχεδόν
Περίπατος

Στ' ασημένιο πέρασμα
Του φεγγαριού--

Δρόμος βουβός μυστήριος

Πως πάει μακριά αθόρυβα,
Μα κραυγαλέα

Ποτέ να κάνει πίσω.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Slowly forward--

An almost unmoving
Perambulation

Under the moon's silver
Crossing--

Road mute and mysterious

How noiselessly onward going
But clamorously

Never turning back.


(The original Greek version written three years ago, the English translated today.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Toe Saligάri (The Snail)


Arghά brostά--

Αsάleftos schedhόne
Perίpatos

St' asimέnio pέrasma
Tou fegarioύ--

Drόmos vouvόs mysterious

Pos pie makriά athόriva,
Ma kravghalέa

Potέ na kάnee pίso.

(Update: The English transliteration added after a gentle prodding from William Michaelian and I do thank him for the suggestion.)


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Poem for Joe Hutchison

who said so

naturally that sweet shiver of rightness
in response to a poem

I'd written about my wife,
then went on with

that keeps poets writing
and their readers reading--

this one's for him
who read what I wrote,

then put it so

sweet and right,
just like my wife.

Killer Instinct

Insane, the insane fly

Which, over the city
Is the bright light of shipwreck

--George Oppen,

"Of Being Numerous"


Something keeps
Telling me

I have to put an end
To this fly which is

Driving me mad--

Like some still unfinished business,
Perhaps a poem--

The mere thought
Of executing

It excites me
To no end.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Somewhat Prosaic Love Poem

My wife's forever after me
To tell her what I'm writing

Day-after-day; when I look at her
And tell her I have nothing to say,

I see the way she looks at me
Has everything, everything to do

With what I have to say.

(First published in NOON: Journal of the Short Poem, #5.)

Friday, November 21, 2008




Recently and not-so-recently received: Tulpen in India by Peter Goedhart in Dutch, English and Hindi editions: Apart from the author, I must be the only proud owner of all three signed versions though I have no way of being certain--but does it really matter? Of course not. What does matter is that more people are made aware of this beautiful little book. Which reminds me. . . . . . . .

In 1997 Eleni and I had been living
in our half-completed, two-story stone house for about a year; at that time she had a tiny sandwich shop in Meligalas's lower square. This had previously been the town's first and only gift shop, which she ran from 1987 to 1996 and which had managed to run in the black long enough for other shop owners to get wind of a good thing and start stocking their own stores with what they hoped would be equally "nifty" gifts. Why not? The more the presents, the merrier the present. It finally got so bad that at one point one woman who lived a block away from the shop started selling gifts out of her living room. It was at this point that we decided to do our store over into a combo sandwich shop-ouzeri. Eleni ran this culinary oasis by herself until 2003, and it quickly became a hang-out for people who loved good food. Since I had an extensive collection of authentic rembetika (Greek urban blues) songs and I also played at "playing" the tzoura, it soon attracted those few denizens of upper Messenias who were hooked on this kind of music. In no time at all, people who could play bouzouki, tzoura and baglama began dropping by the place and it soon became the only watering hole in the vicinity where you could eat great food, drink good homemade wine, and listen to live though harshly-played rembetika--that is until the police started receiving complaints about the loud music being played after hours and told us we had to stop disturbing the peace. We never found out who had lodged the complaints but Eleni and I suspected a taverna owner farther up the street who had no good food, no good wine, and no live music.

Late one summer night that year, Eleni and I were about to close up and go home when I saw a couple on heavily loaded bicycles hesitate in front of the shop--clearly tourists and clearly confused as to their whereabouts. They had mistakenly assumed there was a hotel in Meligalas (long since razed but still mentioned in some
hopelessly outdated guide books) and had stopped in the upper square to ask its location. "No, no hotel here but you can camp behind church in lower square--no problem!" No problem? Well, at that time the area behind the church was a Rom ghetto where the local gypsies had been squatting in deplorable conditions for the last twenty years, waiting for the central government to find them a piece of land where they could live decently. I told the cyclists so and asked them to park their bicycles and have something to drink on us. After they had finished, Eleni suggested we invite them to stay the night at our house; they slept in their sleeping bags on the bare, concrete floor of our unfinished second-storey bedroom and had breakfast with us before continuing on their way to Ancient Messene. This chance meeting more than ten years ago with Peter Goedhart and Ans Brouwer of Wageningen, Holland morphed into a lasting friendship marked with visits to our house whenever they come to Greece. It was during one of these visits that Peter told me the organization he worked for--ICCO--was planning to publish a book of his short stories based on his field experiences in Nepal, India and Pakistan. The Dutch version came out in 2003, and when Peter and Ans visited us again, I suggested Peter try persuading ICCO to publish an English version of Tulpen in India--after all, how many people have access to Dutch and how many to English? ICCO was receptive to the proposal and the English version came out in 2005; the Hindi was published in 2008 by an independent Indian publisher who came across the English version and thought it would be a wonderful book for those Hindus who do not know English. So there you have it--Tulpen in India in Dutch, English, Hindi--and as an introduction, here is something taken from the blurb on the back cover of the English version: In twenty-four vignettes, Peter Goedhart has recorded his penetrating observations. He paints a surprising yet recognizable picture of people who are trying to improve their lives. Or hang onto their privileged position. And what we Westerners are doing there. Required reading for those who'd like to find out, written in a sparse prose punctuated by a wry, inimitable sense of humor by someone who definitely knows what he's talking about.

Voyeurism in Vertebrates

To get it off,

Humans watch their goons
Murder, pillage, rape--

Baboons, monkeys, apes
Gape at their masters,

And masturbate.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NOTE: My thanks to Joseph Hutchison for following my blog. Joseph has one of the most interesting, down-to-earth blogs dedicated to poetry that I've come across and I'm honored he's decided to be another definitely not lemmings.

Graveyard Shift Straw Boss, RJ Reynolds

Now you get this
and you get it good

you nicotine pocked hack
reared asinine son

of a dung-reeking hump-
back Camel sucker,

that was the last
straw--

now, drag that
sorry butt-

smoking carcass
to the meat wagon--

pack it in
, Slim.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cracks in the Sidewalk: Delmore Schwartz, American Poet (1913-1966)

So rich

a mainstream his
precocious

school of thought:

returns

rapidly diminishing
recesses skip-

ping the side-
walk

where the fault-
line breaks

a mind mid-
stride

. . . .

by the road to the contagious hospital
and elsewere?

the pure products of America
go crazy--

Doc Williams spelled it out, Delmore,
but you could not

. . . .

be faultless be
wary daddy suspicious

fissures crack
the poor

mind open daily
don't let them

take in that child-
like heart

to night.

(
First published in Poetry Salzburg Review #3
, Autumn 2002)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lesson in Piety


Observe then,
If you will

My child,

How when
Drinking water,

Even the lowly
Chicken will

Lift up its face
To face

God.

Inscrutable


Memory lives the moment

That moment's left it.



(from The Intricate Evasions of As)

Monday, November 17, 2008



Recently received: I first became aware of William Michaelian when I replied to a post he had sent to Ron Silliman's blog about a month- and-a-half ago (thanks Ron for being the unwitting go-between); in the meantime, we've exchanged each other's books and maintained a sporadic email correspondence. For those unacquainted with Michaelian's poetry, I know that after reading Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, winter--and the short poem--will no longer be just another song you know.

Inheritance

Every winter,
we pruned
the same
long
rows
of
vines.

Now we're older,
some of us have died.

I see the vineyard in my mind:
the brush is tangled, leafless, waiting.

Winter Poems

It helps to know
that I can burn them
to keep warm.


Both books available for mind stoking at Cosmopsis Books.

Dedication


Here's to that

spunky little green stink
bug blinded

by the treacherous

light and dropped
onto my key-

board with me straining
after one more

sweet-smelling charming moving death-
less line--O dear life-

less little bugger, thanks
for taking the time, for trying

to stop me smack in time,
sorry for this too,

too precious rhyme.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Featherweight


for
aging

spar

row
in

the
sparse

spar
row

grass,
spar

ring
in

the
wind,

who's
going

to
win?

Caveat Emptor, Or The Law of Diminishing Returns


Dear poet toiling, trying
To win your daily bread--

See Wit rearing its precious head
Investing you with promises, i.e.

Striking it rich with witticisms
Longing to be read?

By the powers invested in me
By Tom, Dick and Harry, Ltd.,

I hereby decree this writ to be read:
To all promising poets,

Before you declare bankruptcy,
Strike it dead.

Thursday, November 13, 2008



Noted: William Michaelian's most recent post mentioning a musty-smelling little book of verse he picked up from an equally musty-smelling little used book store sent me scurrying to my stacks of equally musty-smelling books to dig out one of my forgotten favorites: The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse, edited by D.B.Wyndham Lewis (no relation to the BLAST Lewis) and Charles Lee--a sheer delight, let me tell you, as well as an edifying experience--seeing what happens to poets whenever they get the urge to fly high in the sky on the ass-end of an inflated Pegusus. Highly recommended if you can find it--last published in 1963.


Light of My Life

--for Eleni

I know

White will be the color
Of my true love's hair,

For the light of a thousand-and-one
Suns shall put it there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vigilance

Vigilance is in sighting
The lance

Being thrust into air,
Watching it, following

Its arc

Ever watchful of gravity
Inscribing your signature

Indelibly there.


(from The Intricate Evasions of As)

Bestiality in the Badlands, Circa 1958

(Scripps)

Round Rushmore,
Stark weather,

While way back west
In Tinseltown,

Another heart
Crushed

Bunny's bleeding, but
Claude

Hopper's hitch--

Cock's not wholly
Above

Suspicion.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Compost Heap

Mine's over there,
Tucked a-

Way out of sight
Down in the corner,

You have to get real close
To see these worms

Never sleep.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Clarity, or Knife in the Water

Though we do not see the mind
Carving, the knife in question

Appears clearly inscribed
In the water's reflection.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Look Homeward, Angel

Guardian--

You thought I was looking
To call out to Him,

But how when
So many are still

Lost in a haystack
On the head of a pin?

Incompatibility, Or Two Separate Worlds

Sappho supplicant, hers was religiously highbrow,
Nuns versed in poetry, divinely delicate Greeks.

His? One where offal-eating Huns ran roughshod,
Licking bare-ass pussy whipped artistic geeks.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Recently received: My contributor's copy of the latest Poetry Salzburg Review arrived today: The best issue to date of a magazine that is rapidly evolving into one of the best English language poetry magazines in Europe.

Home Is Where The Heart Is

A bed of coals
Stoked for winter--

A dying fireplace,
A blackened hearth.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Harbinger

It would be good to hear
The news that keeps us

Enthralled, riveted here--
It would be good to hear

The news that friends
Once old and dear,

Are waiting for that message
For them to reappear

Beneath the weeping
Of the willows

Banking on the river,
It would be good to hear

The nightingale's approach
Before we disappear.

NOTE: Thanks again to William Michaelian for his most recent thoughtful and sensitive words.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pathetic Fallacy

Under heavens' sheltering
Canopy,

Cruel wind thrashing
Innocent palm tree--

All God's hands
Stand down,

Naturally.
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