The Luxury of Hesitation [excerpt from The Proof from Motion], by Keith Waldrop

things
forgotten
I could

burn in hell forever

set the glass
down, our
emotion’s moment

eyes vs sunlight

how removed
here, from
here

towards the unfamiliar and

frankincense forests
against the discerning light

everybody
sudden

frightful indeed, the sound of
traffic and
no appetite

the crowd

I would like to be
beautiful when
written

Father Outside, by Nick Flynn and Josh Neufeld

A black river flows down the center
of each page

& on either side the banks
are wrapped in snow. My father is ink falling

in tiny blossoms, a bottle
wrapped in a paperbag. I want to believe
that if I get the story right

we will rise, newly formed,

that I will stand over him again
as he sleeps outside under the church halogen
only this time I will know

what to say. It is night &
it’s snowing & starlings
fill the trees above us, so many it seems

the leaves sing. I can’t see them
until they rise together at some hidden signal

& hold the shape of the tree for a moment
before scattering. I wait for his breath
to lift his blanket

so I know he’s alive, letting the story settle

into the shape of this city. Three girls in the park
begin to sing something holy, a song
with a lost room inside it

as their prayerbook comes unglued

& scatters. I’ll bend
each finger back, until the bottle

falls, until the bone snaps, save him

by destroying his hands. With the thaw
the river will rise & he will be forced
to higher ground. No one

will have to tell him. From my roof I can see
the East River, it looks blackened with oil

but it’s only the light. Even now
my father is asleep somewhere. If I followed

the river north I could still reach him.

The Practice, by Aaron Shurin

They mistook me for illumination — a revenant in walking shoes — so I gathered significance and spread text…stood beneath the seven cardinal points with arms upraised — practical telepathy — in a white paper suit like a flag of surrender, thunder at my back… I was an open man of the open streets — a burnished sieve of common purpose — scrawled on walls, thrashed cans and blasted caps for equivalence. I wasn’t alone — the boulevards teemed with wiggly kids and mooing parents slow as boulders. In the Plaza Palabra on a green iron bench a grand senora suffered the odes of schoolboys and thugs — smiled behind an opal fan while they searched for words to match their tumultuous nights — and all words fit… In July — volubility — I hoarded cherries, catalogued their juices — were they Rainier, Blood Nut, Royal Ann, Squirrel Heart, Rosebud or Bing? —then swallowed them one by one like detonations…initiations…In a fever of taxonomy I followed a squadron of dragonflies right to the vanishing point…Incarnation is a provisional state, but stretches outward like noon. For practice, I wallowed and stretched…

The Uses of Distortion, by Caroline Crumpacker

(appendix to the     forgotten                                   )

See character         see costume               see ambassador conjugate of
toreador:

Country of origin     see that night I fell in love (wrong man).
Race and ethnicity   see mauve suite for women.
see   my boss is the mouth of god.

I went to another country as an ambassador, she begins,
and there I read the newspapers.
There was something so lovely about          the reportage.

All the reason.

He counters when I first came to your country (challenging her)
I was in love with the perfection of your apples.

It seems a lewd thing to say             but she knows

he has contempt          for the perfection of form.

Press conference.
Press harder.

She awakens from     her gray jacket               (     ).

She can’t help but     feel the air of her bourgeois
life     thickening like a locket.

This day     beginning now          ( )
in this morning          and the life to which it is bound.

She is holding up the finger   of     an illiterate woman
in triumph.

He says release that finger I want to use it.

Here begins the next bracketing     of their encounter.

She has already decided that   her own life
that thing she wears around               is nothing.

I would give it to you.

He says I spend hours in the supermarket.
She says I have no idea     how to shop.

He would press that finger     onto paper and call it meditations.

The official press release     does not.
Press instead   ensnare.

The Saint of the hand.

The men here are terrible lovers, she says.
where I come from they are               not lovers     but disciples.

Their fixation on women’s bodies     is a form of disassociation, he says.
She has already decided that nothing          could mean more
to her than                    serving the greater design.

She says There is every reason to be optimistic.

As a painter, he is understood to be inarticulate.

Can she imagine herself really IN a country (     )?

The closet of mauve and blue suits.
The belief that she can not be naked.
Her face an illumination of her non-nakedness. Her face   a clothing
advertisement.

She wears it well.
She says     I congratulate the women of this region.
He says Aren’t you of this region?
She says It’s like a dark room          where you talk to everyone
deeply
but without    seeing them.

Good Friday. Her hand in yours.

She says Everything we do makes us safer.
He says I painted you naked.

Here a hell of sorts enters.
Hers. His. That of the (nation).

from People Close To You, by Crystal Williams

I.

She asks if she can sit on the bench & it is that kind of day in Santa Monica, slow & gentle so that when she sits, properly, like a teacher or the pudgy mother of a girl named Marilyn, in unison you raise your round faces. The wind hefts the voices of your deadlings. They are serious & sorrowful women, full of warnings, but today seem content to let you be, saying only, Child, be thankful, open your chest, that great cavern, to our other sister. & so you watch the sea.Who knows what the woman beside you hears: there are so many languages in the world & your tongue is tied to this one. So you sip iced tea & lean a bit forward into them, your gone women, your sages, who seem to be stroking your head. You begin to imagine the ocean floor as a cup, the pouty lips of God, the soft foam, the salt as if food, tasting sweet & clear.

I am the People, the Mob, by Carl Sandburg

I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and
clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me
and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons
and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out
and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes
me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history
to remember. Then—I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the
lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year,
who played me for a fool—then there will be no speaker in all the
world say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a sneer in his
voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob—the crowd—the mass—will arrive then.


More by Carl Sandburg:

Fog, by Carl Sandburg — The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.

Grass, by Carl Sandburg — Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work— I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor: What place […]

Languages, by Carl Sandburg — There are no handles upon a language Whereby men take hold of it And mark it with signs for its remembrance. It is a river, this language, Once in a thousand years Breaking a new course Changing its way to the ocean. It is mountain effluvia Moving to valleys And from nation to nation Crossing […]

Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, by Carl Sandburg — The past is a bucket of ashes. 1 The woman named Tomorrow sits with a hairpin in her teeth and takes her time and does her hair the way she wants it and fastens at last the last braid and coil and puts the hairpin where it belongs and turns and drawls: Well, what of […]

I am the People, the Mob, by Carl Sandburg — I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass. Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me? I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and clothes. I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And then […]

 

Severance Songs, 2.1, by Joshua Corey

2.1

Many tiers make this world pillowed on stone
many collect in their fear to strive.
Yours the face aglow in the cold,
precarious thriver in the song-stung dark.
With glance and lip you collected me.
Where are you? Alien hip I catch you out,
refuse cheshire blazon, unpronounced tremolo.
Now to step into the prints you left.
Winglessly now to embrace your air
on tiptoe, phonetic and misprized answer—
know you me? Tease this mystery? Kiss,
cats, for your dear dog am I, better angled
to see you by night with eyes straight upward
and by your leave to praise and praise.


More by Joshua Corey:

Now, by Liam Rector

Now I see it: a few years
To play around while being
Bossed around

By the taller ones, the ones
With the money
And more muscle, however

Tender or indifferent
They might be at being
Parents; then off to school

And the years of struggle
With authority while learning
Violent gobs of things one didn’t

Want to know, with a few tender
And tough teachers thrown in
Who taught what one wanted

And needed to know; then time
To go out and make one’s own
Money (on the day or in

The night-shift), playing around
A little longer (“Seed-time,”
“Salad days”) with some

Young “discretionary income”
Before procreation (which
Brings one quickly, too quickly,

Into play with some variation
Of settling down); then,
Most often for most, the despised

Job (though some work their way
Around this with work of real
Delight, life’s work, with the deepest

Pleasures of mastery); then years
Spent, forgotten, in the middle decades
Of repair, creation, money

Gathered and spent making the family
Happen, as one’s own children busily
Work their way into and through

The cycle themselves,
Comic and tragic to see, with some
Fine moments playing with them;

Then, through no inherent virtue
Of one’s own, but only because
The oldest ones are busy falling

Off the edge of the planet,
The years of governing,
Of being the dreaded authority

One’s self; then the recognition
(Often requiring a stiff drink) that it
Will all soon be ending for one’s self,

But not before Alzheimer’s comes
For some, as Alzheimer’s comes
For my father-in-law now (who

Has forgotten not only who
Shakespeare is but that he taught
Shakespeare for thirty years,

And who sings and dances amidst
The forgotten in the place
To which he’s been taken); then

An ever-deepening sense of time
And how the end might really happen,
To really submit, bend, and go

(Raging against that night is really
An adolescent’s idiot game).
Time soon to take my place

In the long line of my ancestors
(Whose names I mostly never knew
Or have recently forgotten)

Who took their place, spirit poised
In mature humility (or as jackasses
Braying against the inevitable)

Before me, having been moved
By time through time, having done
The time and their times.

“Nearer my god to thee” I sing
On the deck of my personal Titanic,
An agnostic vessel in the mind.

Born alone, die alone—and sad, though
Vastly accompanied, to see
The sadness in the loved ones

To be left behind, and one more
Moment of wondering what,
If anything, comes next. . .

Never to have been completely
Certain what I was doing
Alive, but having stayed aloft

Amidst an almost sinister doubt.
I say to my children
Don’t be afraid, be buoyed

—In its void the world is always
Falling apart, entropy its law
—I tell them those who build

And master are the ones invariably
Merry: Give and take quarter,
Create good meals within the slaughter,

A place for repose and laughter
In the consoling beds of being tender,
I tell them now, my son, my daughter.

Cognitive Deficit Market, by Joshua Corey

She has forgotten what she forgot
this morning: her keys, toast in the toaster blackening
the insides of beloved skulls, little planetariums
projecting increasingly incomplete
and fanciful constellations: the Gravid
Ass, the Mesozoic Cartwheel, the Big
Goatee, the Littlest Fascist. Outside her window
a crowd gathers, seething in white confusion
like milk boiling dry in a saucepan—some
lift fingers to point this way and that
with herky-jerky certainty but
they’re standing too close for all
those flying hands so that eyeglasses and hats
fall—apologies inaudible, someone hands
a fist, the brawl overwhelms the meager traffic
of pedicabs and delivery trucks stacked high
with rotting lettuce. Meanwhile above it all
she’s setting out the tea things: ceramic cup and saucer,
little pewter spoon, pebbled iron pot, a slice
of Sara Lee. Waiting to remember
to turn the radio on, listen for the elevator, for
the lock to turn or a knock
on the door. In a little while she’ll put everything
away in the same configuration
at the bottom of a clean white sink
with its faucet dripping.
We who watch this, half-turned away already
toward sunny gardens or the oncoming semi—
being not the one dead but not exactly alive either.
The skin is a glove that wrinkles as it tightens.
The cerebellum’s the same. A game
of chess between walking sticks—I mean the insects
made up to resemble wood. I say we dissemble
from photos and repetition
our stakes in these weightless names.


 

More by Joshua Corey:

A Litany in Time of Plague, by Thomas Nashe

Adieu, farewell, earth’s bliss;
This world uncertain is;
Fond are life’s lustful joys;
Death proves them all but toys;
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made,
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave;
Swords may not fight with fate,
Earth still holds open her gate.
“Come, come!” the bells do cry.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death’s bitterness;
Hell’s executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Haste, therefore, each degree,
To welcome destiny;
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player’s stage;
Mount we unto the sky.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

For the Twentieth Century, by Frank Bidart

Bound, hungry to pluck again from the thousand
technologies of ecstasy

boundlessness, the world that at a drop of water
rises without boundaries,

I push the PLAY button:–

. . .Callas, Laurel & Hardy, Szigeti

you are alive again,–

the slow movement of K.218
once again no longer

bland, merely pretty, nearly
banal, as it is

in all but Szigeti’s hands

*

Therefore you and I and Mozart
must thank the Twentieth Century, for

it made you pattern, form
whose infinite

repeatability within matter
defies matter–

Malibran. Henry Irving. The young
Joachim. They are lost, a mountain of

newspaper clippings, become words
not their own words. The art of the performer.

What Was Told, That, by Jalal al-Din Rumi

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that’s happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

Bent Orbit, by Elaine Equi

I wind my way across a black donut hole
and space that clunks.
Once I saw on a stage,
as if at the bottom of a mineshaft,
the precise footwork
of some mechanical ballet.
It was like looking into the brain
of a cuckoo clock and it carried
some part of me away forever.
No one knows when they first see a thing,
how long its after image will last.
Proust could stare at the symptom of a face
for years, while Frank O’Hara, like anyone with a job,
was always looking at his watch.
My favorite way of remembering is to forget.
Please start the record of the sea over again.
Call up a shadow below the pendulum of a gull’s wing.
In a city of eight million sundials, nobody has any idea
how long a minute really is.

It sifts from Leaden Sieves – (311), by Emily Dickinson

It sifts from Leaden Sieves –
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road –

It makes an Even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain –
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again –

It reaches to the Fence –
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces –
It deals Celestial Vail

To Stump, and Stack – and Stem –
A Summer’s empty Room –
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them –

It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen –
Then stills its Artisans – like Ghosts –
Denying they have been –

My First Memory (of Librarians), by Nikki Giovanni

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
too short
For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.


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The Libraries Didn’t Burn, by Elaine Equi

despite books kindled in electronic flames.

The locket of bookish love
still opens and shuts.

But its words have migrated
to a luminous elsewhere.

Neither completely oral nor written —
a somewhere in between.

Then will oak, willow,
birch, and olive poets return
to their digital tribes —

trees wander back to the forest?

please advise stop [I was dragging a ladder slowly over stones stop], by Rusty Morrison

I was dragging a ladder slowly over stones stop
it was only from out of my thoughts that I could climb stop
not from the room please

my father’s dying offered an indelicate washing of my
perception stop
the way the centers of some syllables scrub away all other
sound stop
his corpse merely preparing to speak its new name at the
speed of nightfalling please

each loss grows from a previously unremarkable vestigial organ
stop
will I act now as if with a new limb stop
a phantom limb of the familial please advise

The Composition of the Text, by Adriano Spatola

1
an adjective breathing the window open
the insertion’s exact dimension in the rustling of pages
or see maybe how the text uses the body
see how the work is cosmic and biological and logical
in nocturnal voices in auroral explosions
in the croaking scratching scraping setting fire
here under the soft sky sticking all over the fingers
words that speak

2
he turns to the night cries out to it from the window
to slow down or existence is the circle is the space
is rhythmic swinging harpoon that brushes the lips
bronze gestures darkroom a stain left by the water
framed frozen hypocritical face dust hypnosis
see but how negation modifies the text
with possible words with impossible words

3
but the text is a living object furnished with keys
the crude resection its effect the incredible osmosis
this is the moment you wait for start cutting
see how it stretches and swells it’s ready to burst
it’s the young anaconda biting its own tail dragging
odor of marshes odor coined from the breath of swamps
a book a notebook a pen a painless desire
without words

4
tired now he becomes aware of his own purposes
it’s not difficult to try various tests various experiments
improbable preparations for a voyage by now certain
you too let yourself become sterile don’t throw open the door
untreatable eczema the stamped meat the ruins the slaughterhouse
in the text everything accumulates everything melts into vapor
remember it’s late remember it’s time to go to say goodbye
with a few careful innocuous words

5
after the first beats the material becomes insensible
or sensible uncertain private risky privileged declension
in terms of organic functions or malfunctions
or in terms of chipped awkward monodical alternatives
see at this point how the text begins to miss the beat
the refusal is to b lame you begin with the same refusal as before
but you will accept whatever other duty entrusted to you
that has no need of words

6
it’s incoherent it’s undetermined his sickness has no purpose
now that we are in the text the fixtures appear to subside
a noun is an excess of coughing the beginning of hysteria
the vulgar embellishment the shears dripping with blood
without falcons without promises without hunting horns without catharsis
the woods are full of fragile docile stupid victims
the woods are full of love and how it hates love
this word

7
before long in the text the final part will have begun
catalog of mannerisms and of rapes song and narcoses
marking on the calendar with a pencil the delivery date
a verb is the parasite the narcissus the rage beneath the skin
but see how the machine masticates and bubbles and heats up
the music rises the hand corrects the lights go down low
the head even lower open your arms wide don’t shut your eyes
cancel that word


 More by Adriano Spatola:

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Our Bodies Break Light, by Traci Brimhall

We crawl through the tall grass and idle light,
our chests against the earth so we can hear the river
underground. Our backs carry rotting wood and books
that hold no stories of damnation or miracles.
One day as we listen for water, we find a beekeeper—
one eye pearled by a cataract, the other cut out by his own hand
so he might know both types of blindness. When we stand
in front of him, he says we are prisms breaking light into color—
our right shoulders red, our left hips a wavering indigo.
His apiaries are empty except for dead queens, and he sits
on his quiet boxes humming as he licks honey from the bodies
of drones. He tells me he smelled my southern skin for miles,
says the graveyard is full of dead prophets. To you, he presents
his arms, tattooed with songs slave catchers whistle
as they unleash the dogs. He lets you see the burns on his chest
from the time he set fire to boats and pushed them out to sea.
You ask why no one believes in madness anymore,
and he tells you stars need a darkness to see themselves by.
When you ask about resurrection, he says, How can you doubt?
and shows you a deer licking salt from a lynched man’s palm.

The Difference between a Child and a Poem, by Michael Blumenthal

If you are terrified of your own death,
and want to escape from it,
you may want to write a poem,
for the poem might carry your name
into eternity, the poem
may become immortal, beyond flesh
and fashion, it may be read
in a thousand years by someone
as frightened of death as you are,
in a dark field, at night,
when he has failed once again at love
and there is no illusion with which to escape
the inward pull of his own flesh
against the narrowing margins of the spirit.

But if you have accepted your own death,
if you have pinched daily the corroborating flesh,
and have passed the infinite gravestones
bearing your name, if you know for certain
that the day will one day come
when you will gaze into the mirror in search of your face
and find only a silence, then
you may want to make a child, you may want to push
the small oracles of flesh forward
into some merely finite but lengthening story,
you may want to toss your seed into the wind
like a marigold, or a passion fruit, and watch
as a fresh flower grows in your place, as your face
inches onto another face, and your eyes
slip down over your cheeks onto the forehead
of your silenced, speakable future.

And, then, when you are done with all that,
you may want to write a poem.

On Translation, by Mónica de la Torre

Not to search for meaning, but to reedify a gesture, an intent.

As a translator, one grows attached to originals. Seldom are choices
so purposeful.

At midday, the translator meets with the poet at a café at the intersection
where for decades whores and cross-dressers have lined up at
night for passers-by to peruse.

Not a monologue, but an implied conversation. The translator’s
response is delayed.

The translator asks, the poet answers unrestrictedly. Someone
watches the hand movements that punctuate the flow of an
incomprehensible dialogue.

They’re speaking about the poet’s disillusionment with Freud.

One after another, vivid descriptions of the poet’s dreams begin to
pour out of his mouth. There’s no signal of irony in his voice.
Nor a hint of astonishment, nor a suggestion of hidden meanings,
rather a belief in the detritus theory.

“Se me aparece un gato fosforescente. Lo sostengo en mis brazos
sabiendo que no volveré a ser el mismo.”

“Estoy en una fiesta. De pronto veo que el diablo está sentado frente
a mí. Viste de negro, lleva una barba puntiaguda y un tridente en
la mano izquierda. Es tan amable que nadie se da cuenta de que
no es un invitado como los otros.”

“Anuncian en el radio que Octavio Paz leerá su poema más reciente:
‘Vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . .'”

“Entro a un laboratorio y percibo aromas inusitados. Aún los recuerdo.”
The translator knows that nothing the poet has ever said or written
reveals as much about him as the expression on his face when he
was asked to pose for a picture. He greets posterity with a devilish
grin. To the translator’s delight, he’s forced to repeat the gesture at
least three or four times. The camera has no film.

Falling, by James Dickey

A 29-year-old stewardess fell … to her
death tonight when she was swept
through an emergency door that
suddenly sprang open … The body …
was found … three hours after the
accident.
New York Times

The states when they black out and lie there rolling when they turn
To something transcontinental move by drawing moonlight out of the great
One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip some sleeper next to
An engine is groaning for coffee and there is faintly coming in
Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks
Of trays she rummages for a blanket and moves in her slim tailored
Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew

The door down with a silent blast from her lungs frozen she is black
Out finding herself with the plane nowhere and her body taking by the throat
The undying cry of the void falling living beginning to be something
That no one has ever been and lived through screaming without enough air
Still neat lipsticked stockinged girdled by regulation her hat
Still on her arms and legs in no world and yet spaced also strangely
With utter placid rightness on thin air taking her time she holds it
In many places and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems
To slow she develops interest she turns in her maneuverable body

To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her
Self in low body-whistling wrapped intensely in all her dark dance-weight
Coming down from a marvellous leap with the delaying, dumfounding ease
Of a dream of being drawn like endless moonlight to the harvest soil
Of a central state of one’s country with a great gradual warmth coming
Over her floating finding more and more breath in what she has been using
For breath as the levels become more human seeing clouds placed honestly
Below her left and right riding slowly toward them she clasps it all
To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways and
Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide wider and suck
All the heat from the cornfields can go down on her back with a feeling
Of stupendous pillows stacked under her and can turn turn as to someone
In bed smile, understood in darkness can go away slant slide
Off tumbling into the emblem of a bird with its wings half-spread
Or whirl madly on herself in endless gymnastics in the growing warmth
Of wheatfields rising toward the harvest moon. There is time to live
In superhuman health seeing mortal unreachable lights far down seeing
An ultimate highway with one late priceless car probing it arriving
In a square town and off her starboard arm the glitter of water catches
The moon by its one shaken side scaled, roaming silver My God it is good
And evil lying in one after another of all the positions for love
Making dancing sleeping and now cloud wisps at her no
Raincoat no matter all small towns brokenly brighter from inside
Cloud she walks over them like rain bursts out to behold a Greyhound
Bus shooting light through its sides it is the signal to go straight
Down like a glorious diver then feet first her skirt stripped beautifully
Up her face in fear-scented cloths her legs deliriously bare then
Arms out she slow-rolls over steadies out waits for something great
To take control of her trembles near feathers planes head-down
The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head gold eyes the insight-
eyesight of owls blazing into the hencoops a taste for chicken overwhelming
Her the long-range vision of hawks enlarging all human lights of cars
Freight trains looped bridges enlarging the moon racing slowly
Through all the curves of a river all the darks of the midwest blazing
From above. A rabbit in a bush turns white the smothering chickens
Huddle for over them there is still time for something to live
With the streaming half-idea of a long stoop a hurtling a fall
That is controlled that plummets as it wills turns gravity
Into a new condition, showing its other side like a moon shining
New Powers there is still time to live on a breath made of nothing
But the whole night time for her to remember to arrange her skirt
Like a diagram of a bat tightly it guides her she has this flying-skin
Made of garments and there are also those sky-divers on TV sailing
In sunlight smiling under their goggles swapping batons back and forth
And He who jumped without a chute and was handed one by a diving
Buddy. She looks for her grinning companion white teeth nowhere
She is screaming singing hymns her thin human wings spread out
From her neat shoulders the air beast-crooning to her warbling
And she can no longer behold the huge partial form of the world now
She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape watching it lose
And gain get back its houses and peoples watching it bring up
Its local lights single homes lamps on barn roofs if she fell
Into water she might live like a diver cleaving perfect plunge

Into another heavy silver unbreathable slowing saving
Element: there is water there is time to perfect all the fine
Points of diving feet together toes pointed hands shaped right
To insert her into water like a needle to come out healthily dripping
And be handed a Coca-Cola there they are there are the waters
Of life the moon packed and coiled in a reservoir so let me begin
To plane across the night air of Kansas opening my eyes superhumanly
Bright to the damned moon opening the natural wings of my jacket
By Don Loper moving like a hunting owl toward the glitter of water
One cannot just fall just tumble screaming all that time one must use
It she is now through with all through all clouds damp hair
Straightened the last wisp of fog pulled apart on her face like wool revealing
New darks new progressions of headlights along dirt roads from chaos

And night a gradual warming a new-made, inevitable world of one’s own
Country a great stone of light in its waiting waters hold hold out
For water: who knows when what correct young woman must take up her body
And fly and head for the moon-crazed inner eye of midwest imprisoned
Water stored up for her for years the arms of her jacket slipping
Air up her sleeves to go all over her? What final things can be said
Of one who starts her sheerly in her body in the high middle of night
Air to track down water like a rabbit where it lies like life itself
Off to the right in Kansas? She goes toward the blazing-bare lake
Her skirts neat her hands and face warmed more and more by the air
Rising from pastures of beans and under her under chenille bedspreads
The farm girls are feeling the goddess in them struggle and rise brooding
On the scratch-shining posts of the bed dreaming of female signs
Of the moon male blood like iron of what is really said by the moan
Of airliners passing over them at dead of midwest midnight passing
Over brush fires burning out in silence on little hills and will wake
To see the woman they should be struggling on the rooftree to become
Stars: for her the ground is closer water is nearer she passes
It then banks turns her sleeves fluttering differently as she rolls
Out to face the east, where the sun shall come up from wheatfields she must
Do something with water fly to it fall in it drink it rise
From it but there is none left upon earth the clouds have drunk it back
The plants have sucked it down there are standing toward her only
The common fields of death she comes back from flying to falling
Returns to a powerful cry the silent scream with which she blew down
The coupled door of the airliner nearly nearly losing hold
Of what she has done remembers remembers the shape at the heart
Of cloud fashionably swirling remembers she still has time to die
Beyond explanation. Let her now take off her hat in summer air the contour
Of cornfields and have enough time to kick off her one remaining
Shoe with the toes of the other foot to unhook her stockings
With calm fingers, noting how fatally easy it is to undress in midair
Near death when the body will assume without effort any position
Except the one that will sustain it enable it to rise live
Not die nine farms hover close widen eight of them separate, leaving
One in the middle then the fields of that farm do the same there is no
Way to back off from her chosen ground but she sheds the jacket
With its silver sad impotent wings sheds the bat’s guiding tailpiece
Of her skirt the lightning-charged clinging of her blouse the intimate
Inner flying-garment of her slip in which she rides like the holy ghost
Of a virgin sheds the long windsocks of her stockings absurd
Brassiere then feels the girdle required by regulations squirming
Off her: no longer monobuttocked she feels the girdle flutter shake
In her hand and float upward her clothes rising off her ascending
Into cloud and fights away from her head the last sharp dangerous shoe
Like a dumb bird and now will drop in      SOON      now will drop

In like this the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas down from all
Heights all levels of American breath layered in the lungs from the frail
Chill of space to the loam where extinction slumbers in corn tassels thickly
And breathes like rich farmers counting: will come along them after
Her last superhuman act the last slow careful passing of her hands
All over  her  unharmed body desired by every sleeper in his dream:
Boys finding for the first time their loins filled with heart’s blood
Widowed farmers whose hands float under light covers to find themselves
Arisen at sunrise the splendid position of blood unearthly drawn
Toward clouds all feel something pass over them as she passes
Her palms over her long legs   her small breasts and deeply between
Her thighs her hair shot loose from all pins streaming in the wind
Of her body let her come openly    trying at the last second to land
On her back    This is it     THIS

All those who find her impressed
In the soft loam gone down driven well into the image of her body
The furrows for miles flowing in upon her where she lies very deep
In her mortal outline in the earth as it is in cloud can tell nothing
But that she is there inexplicable unquestionable and remember
That something broke in them as well and began to live and die more
When they walked for no reason into their fields to where the whole earth
Caught her interrupted her maiden flight told her how to lie she cannot
Turn go away cannot move cannot slide off it and assume another
Position no sky-diver with any grin could save her hold her in his arms
Plummet with her unfold above her his wedding silks she can no longer
Mark the rain with whirling women that take the place of a dead wife
Or the goddess in Norwegian farm girls or all the back-breaking whores
Of Wichita. All the known air above her is not giving up quite one
Breath it is all gone and yet not dead not anywhere else
Quite lying still in the field on her back sensing the smells
Of incessant growth try to lift her a little sight left in the corner
Of one eye fading seeing something wave lies believing
That she could have made it at the best part of her brief goddess
State to water gone in headfirst come out smiling invulnerable
Girl in a bathing-suit ad but she is lying like a sunbather at the last
Of moonlight half-buried in her impact on the earth not far
From a railroad trestle a water tank she could see if she could
Raise her head from her modest hole with her clothes beginning
To come down all over Kansas into bushes on the dewy sixth green
Of a golf course one shoe her girdle coming down fantastically
On a clothesline, where it belongs her blouse on a lightning rod:

Lies in the fields   in this field   on her broken back as though on
A cloud she cannot drop through while farmers sleepwalk without
Their women from houses a walk like falling toward the far waters
Of life in moonlight toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms
Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands that tragic cost
Feels herself go go toward go outward breathes at last fully
Not and tries less once tries tries AH, GOD—

Eating Poetry, by Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

Ghost Notes [excerpt], by Ralph Burns

for Danny Fletcher

 

I. Call and Response

1

Plumbline of disaster, shadow storage
of the way thought travels, the opinion,
the sentiment, only assertion following silence,
only a way of everlasting breathing,
a verb searching for grammar too devoted
to making sense so that the self interrupts
with a final pitch. From stop to stop the mouth
makes music by holding sound in a razz
mixed with spit, air pushing through idea
to a new phrase, followed by a chill,
then riding on the other air. So the moment might live
outside itself, lips vibrate against
the mouthpiece of the horn, the face blooms
in concentration, the idea of interval.

2

Anoint the valves, they stick — my
it is bright when you bring out your trumpet
William, standing there, tapping your right
foot, bent like a cricket at the knee, slouching.
Whoever hears your Ode to Joy hears your knocking
then setting down of carrying
case, cradling of brass. Dizzy said it took
his whole life to learn what not
to play but in one month you deny nothing,
not even the feel of your embouchere,
who’d been in school all day. Lubricate the valves,
once neighbors lifted up their heads
like lilies in the field, and wind rolled over
the need to stay away.

3

It’s beauty people fear, bright
rose riding on Aunt Billie’s forehead,
the way light makes green everything
after her pickled okra, stubble
in the hands of day labor, callouses
of a parade of things and
touching them without seeing
or hearing without knowledge,
dumbstruck by a brooding need to define
or look without a place
to grieve, beauty and not faith
in truth in the light of justice —
just reach and nothing’s there
but what’s there already.

4

William — where — is — your — horn,
did you leave it in math class again
with Fibonacci’s sequence, flaring
bell, flex and curve in sunlight leaning
at a forty-five degree angle,
your teacher Mr. Fletcher having cranked
open the classroom window with an allen wrench,
merged with sunlight so a horsefly wheeled
blue-green in its own wingbeat
by a rote it answered to in music,
lesser to the greater as the greater
to the whole, tube twice bent
on itself, Sin curve on the line of displacement,
sending sound backwards until it’s now?

5

William, when thirty kids try out for basketball
calculate the odds, the tendency of mind
to see itself in transition — feminine green light
like call waiting — you might be playing trumpet
into the speaker, your girlfriend Corrine might
be listening, exhausting her telephone allotment
of fifteen minutes, holding her ear inches away, glint
of a clipboard watching you both. You might move out of
the paint. The yellow squeak of rubber on oak
wakes rivers of grain — what does it matter
that this matter jumps back or breaks for open court —
sometimes you only stand and scream,
wave both arms, put it on the floor and drive,
lay it up, put it down, take it home.

6

Let me find the keys says Candace
let’s go says William the water
nibbles at the bank sunlight shafts
the fog wait says Candace
clouds back off the water
what else the boat suspended
glint gray along the gunnels
here they are I’ve found them
the washing machine idles in its cycle
sun shattered in water slaps
let’s go says William the legs follow
the surface tension the door closes
the car starts the green wave slides
under the boat a day begins.

7

Slow it down, bring it down, bring it
on home, tympanum of the trumpet-
flower, raised hood, swollen yellow face,
pathological woe standing
in rank grass against the Hurricane fence,
half a brick bewildered, half
carried through slatted shadows, cracked
bell shrouded by buildings, doorways
listening, patiently waiting for someone to open
a paper bag and bring out the horn
and this one time it sounds exactly like
laughter, wind blows in your face,
from a high window in metallic light
long green trumpets beat back rain.

8

When the instruments linger in the band room,
snare leaning into itself,
tuba beached against green cinderblock,
do they riff where a fault opens,
make a crazy line in space, does brass
lie in bronze alloy, does longing
breathe in acoustic energy? Notes hang
to the skirt of the bell
like a city of light for a moment.
A tire spooks the gravel, you hear talk
about the weather, the leaning toward
and then away. Pierce the blind
to better hear the music, the fall
of each sound and pause between.

9

It damages people when they do not understand
the healing power of friendship.
I am damaged. The left front light of my transport
is out. A day doesn’t pass. An hour
does not go by. There are minutes that glow
in human flesh. A trumpet has a voice.
A place lives in music of people and time.
These are not things I know.
Things of the air are also not thought of
in time of need. That is why the passive
voice is so active in distortion, and well
to note that a slur is more expressive
than a sharp note timed to surface admiration,
though the fool in me shines to perfection.

10

Soft percussive no-look pass of summer,
flexion of bell, white seed
of longing and forgetfulness — I remember
stopping on the way home from school
at a car showroom, perching on vinyl I could smell
thinking I don’t belong here
and the place about to close. I hold the page
of music so you can see it, William,
your face reddens, your foot taps eight times
to push breath past unbelievable seconds,
a dandelion head floats out of sight
senseless and alive, full of feather
and plume, empty to itself wherever
it flies, drifting from its own heart.

11

The dog growls, a low unearthed intent stands
up on back of the neck — I am here and
somewhere else — back in time maybe, fingers
tap the valves. Make two trumpets
of silver Yahweh said to Moses —
and make them play flat and sharp notes
at the same time said Ornette Coleman,
no loose lipping. Wake the memory.
Wake the present tense. The tongue wicks the mouthpiece.
Horripilates the cause. Lights up the argument.
A column of air moving through an empty place,
three stops, an opening outward
toward no purpose or proof beyond the time
when people will not hear it.

12

My father’s there. Like fugitive dust
seeping through cracks and keyholes in Oklahoma
in the early 30’s. What happens when I try
to hold him is my arms pass through air.
Goodbye goodbye to the river and to
green metallic leaves. I leave
the darkness which sat on my shoulders
for love talk and grace of music.
Still, there are strains of darkness
dear to light. I found a photograph
under the couch. My father barbecuing
chicken with his shirt off, skin brown
as a berry. Grinning from the other side.
Into the lens. Of light and song.

II. Shout Trumpet

1

When passing the Trumpet in Zion Church,
red brick soaked with morning rain,
four cars parked on slickened blacktop,
marked yellow lines, redbud clusters,
heart-shaped lavender pods, I keep hearing
my own minor key. Even so,
a person puts a thumb out, an awning
cantilevers, traffic comes
to a rolling stop. Through an open window
high bright notes clarify the air
back to March wind, locked doors, to those who
have lost their love, decided
to go and not come back: the high C
of incalculable motion.

2

At the Trumpet in Zion they do the laying
on of hands — your long hair
passes over me, the purpose of
the body hidden in the word.
Thinking nothing. Resembling an eighth note.
If the rapture taketh then where
does the body go when hands lie down on air?
A flag dragged through the iris
upside down. Desire runs through its stops —
the dance rises to water level.
What happens inside music to make it run
over arms and legs like a squirrel?
Toot toot go to the water to the river
of folded wings,

3

where catalpa shade holds a body of gnats
just the shape of smoke and water
saturates yellow air and a water moccasin
displaces the imagination —
not away from but toward where the world
reaches and a song carries across water,
one they’ve been singing all along,
the same notes and fears,
the sound of pure tones. I wouldn’t know it
if I heard it. I might not
know if it were only mine.
I would like to think I could clearly hear
the music as it calls across so
I could know what you know.

4

Bats are back. Looping the Mulberry. Concentric
gravitational waves. I think I notice
my own radar. I loll in a yellow chair
with two ear plugs connected to Art Porter.
Art Porter Junior in background on clarinet.
Little Rock’s own. Follow the ogive turns
past Maybelline to Telegraph Road, past
Jimmy Doyle’s and the white birches,
signs for Alltel and Jesus, SunCom,
and Ruby Lube. Are you a holy roller
William asks his grandmother. No but I’m
spirit-filled. Her sisters’ faces
ghost across her own face as it is — Jean,
Billie in her garden, pious Lucille.

5

I ask myself riddles in sleep and part of me
thinks it knows the answers. My
body leaks, my ignorance, my desire. I keep a
gold tooth which is not the trumpet,
wood landing over water knock, photon locked
in early light wrapped around
a cove, people in a boat, not much talking
but it echoes, love is there, when
will I ever believe, fill the body up and sing.
A wireless chip with beams of light carries
itself in your eye. Who sleeps upside down
on a ledge with toes turned in, dreams of making
love mid-air, only you and me in water? Bats are back.
I feel a scarf of air rush past.

6

Some mean ass little red bug just bit the shit out of me!
So why does it grease the room with soulless
nasal noise, no antennae for opposites,
alighting on the trumpet case? Seven years
of mending, leaving and coming back through you,
I think I can hear syncopation
in the last half of the beat, cancellation
too, but I only want to touch the button
on your blouse. The hi-hat clears the moment.
Out of nowhere you came to me.
Where is memory with its leaning sideways solo
under a stone weight? Out of nowhere
you came back. Today and today an old wind blows,
music flares above the grasstips.

7

When the moon stares from its forehead
and sound waves and particles
knock on tiny hairs in the inner ear,
information travels — how can one not know
the only pressure occurs at a molecular
level? A channel forms in the flow of ions.
When one whacks at a cloud of flies,
one clarifies that insects don’t know where
the hell they are — they can’t hear
right so spend their remaining days
complaining that music by itself is trivial.
Their bristles get bent, ions
flow in to trumpet the brain, but still
no hard high note, no upward rip.

8

Plumbline of the asters, music caught inside
the throat, the implacability, the fluted crescent
of the body, the temple, the infarcted heart,
the age of reason, the tap tap tap of the baton:
one time one steps off the porch two stories high,
next the song sings itself:
the air, the ambient glue, the tongue
in mid-salute, the coup de langue,
the nation at war, the wormhole connecting nothing
to nothing, the creak of heaven over
the creek, the flat speckled rock, the event
horizon, the accretion disk, the no
which means no, the wide swing under stars,
the water, the verb, the hidden grammar.

9

Not long ago a fly landed in the butter.
The buzz stumbled, the the stared out
from the portable computer, the astral light
combined with the high speed line
to toot back an unheard, unseen opinion
so popular here in the South.
I reach for you and nothing, not anything
from all the days of walking, breathing
in and out, waking to change and resemblance,
quickened to the task of words,
time and timing unsung — belly to belly,
keyboard to hyperthought, one wing
gleaming on a salt sweet brick like a face
in the screen, increased singularity.

10

I hear the neighbors talking over the fence —
“He came driving up in that turd-colored
convertible and didn’t even open the door
when he saw his stuff all flayed out
in the bushes and grass, his shirt with the sleeve
drooping over the hostas . . .” The glass doors
screech, the monarch glisses over standing water,
the ego in its drifting boat interminably waits.
We have no ideas but why should we say goodbye?
The signature and sign don’t mean
the end of it. White azalea blossom stuck to mud.
That is the end of winter, this
a preoccupation with weather which has nothing
more than last night on its mind.

11

Thunder and rain all day like the drumming
of Zutty Singleton. Ivy gropes
the fern, a sprig of oak pollen navigates
over two bar breaks. One or two
octaves over, like a ghost flattened out, down
the basement, up one flight
to the dirty silver door with Judas hole, to a few
tables and wicker chairs, late afternoon — that’s
where to hear a phrase turn. The upright
shakes the floor, and when
however fast the falling torrent flows —
stop that please thinks management if people
stand too long and listen — the whole world knows
in wind when self assured, the roses blow.

12

You know that silo in Oklahoma, the one with
chipped tooth on the way to Grandma’s house
where apple blossoms lit the way to certain hell?
Well, it’s gone now. The leaping light
and silence. Through channels of urgent voluntary
sing-song, passing tones in the hallway
mirror, tension through the saunter of water cooled
air, all is gone. You don’t have to remember.
Only that violation in the upper registers which
sounded and does sound in houses
just a few blocks over, and in fact, in this house
which is hot at night and cunning,
waits for a future. Slap-tongue’s gone. The mouth
meets and notches the music.

A Note on Absence, by Martin Corless-Smith

The story over having wished it otherwise

The water surface/friendship

The drunk euphoric

Good Friday music

Not in this lifetime

A fig tree grows

No miserable deed will do

Space and time, dimensions that just bring more of this

For anyone who has a nose

Show gratitude

A king sat in a box

8 p.m. Friday

rain defeating snow

a space too narrow to pass through

A Wicker Basket, by Robert Creeley

Comes the time when it’s later
and onto your table the headwaiter
puts the bill, and very soon after
rings out the sound of lively laughter–

Picking up change, hands like a walrus,
and a face like a barndoor’s,
and a head without any apparent size,
nothing but two eyes–

So that’s you, man,
or me. I make it as I can,
I pick up, I go
faster than they know–

Out the door, the street like a night,
any night, and no one in sight,
but then, well, there she is,
old friend Liz–

And she opens the door of her cadillac,
I step in back,
and we’re gone.
She turns me on–

There are very huge stars, man, in the sky,
and from somewhere very far off someone hands
me a slice of apple pie,
with a gob of white, white ice cream on top of it,
and I eat it–

Slowly. And while certainly
they are laughing at me, and all around me is racket
of these cats not making it, I make it

in my wicker basket.

I Hear America Singing, by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Ruin, by Seth Abramson

and backwards go
the men into the garden, and what is it
herding them
but a haircut and a vacuous look they had
when they were twenty,
which earned its horns twice over
if they had the same
cut and look
when they were thirty. Forget about great

men, and soon the great forgetting
will be over, leaving all that is left all over.
Forward go long sleeves, a longitude,
and shame.
What is herding them
you are. All over the world, curtains drew
and obscured lush portages
the world over, and there were some sighs

but mostly it was better than continuing
to want better. Ponies cannot love
children. But O, those ponies. Those ponies.

S t r u c t u re — M a s o l i n o ‘ s E v e — T h e F e m a l e s n a k e, by ‘Annah Sobelman

: ~ a springy fire set inside pear prickles the vocative , a now bubble now that’s a thing

your nervous system might have been one of the paths on the Tree on earth , oddly like as

night where she was musing , under sap , blazed in here , hushed in under cover of , ,

: ~ a springy fire sets arm in arm on the athlete sea of interpretation bushes

where the moon was waxing under sap , here we make up the arbornauts

travelling around the islands

and the forests-of-summers amateurs we called ourselves

~ a forno with which to scratch her nickname , soften a groove

into a belt trout pan , her initials into how a highway feels ; ~

: ~ taking space out hanging it up along the clotheslines in that hour of the trees

: ~ the Brancacci chapel winds might have been one of the paths of the tree

Blazed in here , hushed in here under cover of painting : ~

The springy fire set by one long experience on earth , ,

On earth , through that roar gap makes through trees ‘ velvet amateurs

: ~ no longer ashamed to be a tree-like belly the I is laid upon , as if emblazoned

in vowels it must be the poise of the Linden leaves he is swimming with

: ~ it might have been a structural tense upbraiding in and out of

her saying what is the plural of one

that on their lapping undersides snake eggs lay their little heads ——

Birches, by Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do.  Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain.  They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust–
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows–
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer.  He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground.  He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return.  Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.