Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Horses at Midnight Without a Moon

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there's music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise 
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing. 
Our spirit persists like a man struggling 
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.


--Jack Gilbert

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Dancers Inherit the Party

When I have talked for an hour I feel lousy
Not so when I have danced for an hour:
The dancers inherit the party
While the talkers wear themselves out and
sit in corners alone, and glower.

 --Ian Hamilton Finlay

The relative life

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." --Anais Nin

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Poetry in Time of War

I want to forget their names, the generals,
advisors, puppet rulers,
the puffed-up and the brought-low,

I want not to know them,
not hear their plans, their excuses,
the President and the President's men,
the Pope with his white smoke for voodoo,

the suits, ties, teeth, insignia,
the guns, the names of trucks and weapons.

I want to forget them all,
to be washed of them,
to begin again: where no one knows who anyone is,
or what he believes.

To give my attention to:
frangipani leaves uncurling,
the smell of jasmine,
one person helping another across a street;

to the seeds,
to the beginnings; to one clear word for which
there is no disguise and no alternative.

--Rosalind Brackenbury

Monday, April 16, 2012

Getting Words In

In a circle of several, with vocals,
it can be hard to know when to go.

One pipes up, stops abrupt—
then begins again as though
there was no pause to speak of.
(Where’s the entry point there?)
From here on, I grant a wide berth
to a guy who seems to ask it.
But wouldn’t you know, there are
other arrangements, unforeseen.
Take this woman, essence of ease:
she’s just completed our guy’s
sentence. And this other one,
a kind of verbal cake decorator,
capping crumb, icing untidy edges
(false starts, awkward interruptions)
with effortless pastel grace.
He just knows his place.

And then there’s me,
waving around a big knife,
shearing sharings—lopping off
syllables, even whole words,
at first indication of trailing.
That, or just not saying.

This doesn’t even bring us
to the hazards of explaining.

--me

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Notes from a Composition Book, 1967

The world is in my head. My body is in the world.

The world has no objective existence. It exists insofar as we are able to perceive it. And our perceptions are necessarily limited. Which means that the world has a limit, that it stops somewhere. But where it stops for me is not necessarily where it stops for you.

No theory of art (if it is possible) can be divorced from a theory of human perception.

But not only are our perceptions limited, language (our means of expressing those perceptions) is also limited.

Language is not experience. It is a means of organizing experience.

What, then, is the experience of language? It gives us the world and takes it away from us. In the same breath.

The fall of man is not a question of sin, transgression, or moral turpitude. It is a question of language conquering experience: the fall of the world into the word, experience descending from the eye to the mouth. A distance of about three inches.


Faith in the word is what I call Classical. Doubt in the word is what I call Romantic. The Classicist believes in the future. The Romantic knows that he will be disappointed, that his desires will never be fulfilled. For he believes that the world is ineffable, beyond the grasp of words.

To feel estranged from language is to lose your own body. When words fail you, you dissolve into an image of nothingness. You disappear.


--Paul Auster

Friday, April 13, 2012

It comes down to this

It comes down to this: that everything should count, that everything should be a part of it, even the things I do not or cannot understand. The desire, for example, to destroy everything I have written so far. Not from any revulsion at the inadequacy of these words (although that remains a distinct possibility), but rather from the need to remind myself, at each moment, that things do not have to happen this way, that there is always another way, neither better nor worse, in which things might take shape. I realize in the end that I am probably powerless to affect the outcome of even the least thing that happens, but nevertheless, and in spite of myself, as if in an act of blind faith, I want to assume full responsibility. And therefore this desire, this overwhelming need, to take these papers and scatter them across the room. Or else, to go on. Or else, to begin again. Or else, to go on, as if each moment were the beginning, as if each word were the beginning of another silence, another word more silent than the last. --Paul Auster

Impossible words

"I dedicate these words to the things in life I do not understand, to each thing passing away before my eyes. I dedicate these words to the impossibility of finding a word equal to the silence inside me." --Paul Auster

Search for a Definition

(On Seeing a Painting by Bradley Walker Tomlin)

Always the smallest act

possible
in this time of acts

larger than life, a gesture
toward the thing that passes

almost unseen. A small wind

disturbing a bonfire, for example,
which I found the other day
by accident

on a museum wall. Almost nothing
is there: a few wisps
of white

thrown idly against the pure black
background, no more
than a small gesture
trying to be nothing

more than itself. And yet
it is not here
and to my eyes will never become
a question
of trying to simplify
the world, but a way of looking for a place
to enter the world, a way of being
present
among the things
that do not want us--but which we need
to the same measure that we need
ourselves. Only a moment before
the beautiful

woman
who stood beside me
had been saying how much she wanted
a child
and how time was beginning
to run out on her. We said
we must each write a poem
using the words "a small
wind

disturbing a bonfire." Since that time
nothing

has meant more than the small
act
present in these words, the act
of trying to speak

words

that mean almost nothing. To the very end
I want to be equal

to whatever it is
my eye will bring me, as if
I might finally see myself

let go
in the nearly invisible
things

that carry us along with ourselves and all
the unborn children

into the world.

--Paul Auster

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Best Moment of the Night [indeed]

You had a moment with the dog,
down near the base of the butcher-block table
just as the party was getting started.

Just as the guests were bringing in
their potluck salads and vegetarian lasagna,
setting them down on the buffet,

you had an unforeseeable exchange of warmth
with this scruffy, bug-eyed creature
who let you scratch his ears.

He lives down there, among the high heels
and the cowboy boots, below the human roar
rising to its boil up above. Like his, your evening

is just beginning--but you
are lonelier than him. You think
that if you disappeared tonight,

you would not be missed for years;
yet here, the licking of the hands and face;
and here, the baring of the vulnerable belly.

You are still panting, and alive, and seeking love;
yet no one who knows you
knows, somehow,

about your wet, black nose,
or that you can wag your tail.

--Tony Hoagland

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Warrior Pose [for my yoga peeps]

Blades fly from our arms in yoga class,
fingers vibrating from the stretch.
But are we ready?
Even though the blades are imaginary,
they throw us off balance, and we are less
brave warriors than if we stayed on the couch,
curled up balls, unprepared.
How can we think ourselves into the full bloom
of power and vigilance? Perhaps
by imagining buds curled in our palms,
opened by the ants of persistence
and fed by new focus into peony flowers,
huge, magenta and smothering our enemy's
surprised face with lunging beauty.

--Molly Peacock

The Flaw

The best thing about a hand-made pattern
is the flaw.
Sooner or later in a hand-loomed rug,
among the squares and flattened triangles,
a little red nub might soar above a blue field,
or a purple cross might sneak in between
the neat ochre teeth of the border.
The flaw we live by, the wrong bit of warp,
now wreathes among the uniform strands
and, because it does not match,
makes a red bird fly,
turning blue field into sky.
It is almost, after long silence, a word
spoken aloud, a hand saying through the flaw,
I’m alive, discovered by your eye.

--Molly Peacock

Monday, April 9, 2012

Old Friends

One waiting, one attending. Patience.
Now a gift will be delivered. Her food
from her hands. Her turn tonight. All the good
little dishes assembled and friendship hence
ever so slightly adjusted in level.
No one grows evenly. One surges. One lags.
But here comes a resting point. All
focus on a platter: two sole almost wag
their tails, so happy are they to be served.
Lovely. Think so? Thank you. Our pleasure
crosses and recrosses, making cursive
loops as if written on paper, a measure
of lines made by our lives as they swerve by
making letters. My meal. Her meal. A missive.

--Molly Peacock

The Throne

When I was afraid, fear took me in,
and gave me a cold seat in her kingdom
from which I looked for all my kin
and found no mother, no father. Dumb
I was, and deaf then, Touch only I had,
only the cold claws of the arm chairs did
I feel, and hollowness in my head.
My mother was dead. My father was dead.
I gripped the throne of fear with my right hand,
and the seat of the chair held me upright
or I would have fallen. I couldn't stand.
But the throne's left arm was warm with human might.
It took my hand and held me in its own,
that the kingdom of fear might be overthrown.

--Molly Peacock

Pink Paperclip [love this! relate to it!]

A pink plastic paperclip lies prone on
the counter, its curve-return-curve
out of reach of the dishcloth: I miss it
as I swipe the crumbs into the trash
with my ruthless urge to order.
My husband comes by, saying
"I've got a foster home for paperclips,"
and takes it to his room, to a little box
where it waits in readiness,
the color of a girl's barrette.
I might have chucked it,
and this is why the gods terrify me.
Yet they merely interest him, among all
the other beings in the world, including me,
whom he still finds useful,
even inspiring my new goal:
to personify everything,
each in the bloom of its use,
becoming a poet after all.

--Molly Peacock

More Than Me

There’s no other life inside you
after a miscarriage, technically.
The body is slow to register,
though, and mine holds on
to events I’ve come to associate
with bringing forth:
aversion to the singe of vinegar,
the tough of economy chuck;
noontime stomach flutters;
sleep so thick as to defy
dreams almost completely.
This doesn’t throw me.

What does: your right hand
over my uterus that night
we laid, hands clasping,
in the nursery, after everything.
How my whole circuitry,
beneath your touch, teemed
with the force of 6 million crickets.

Yesterday, working from home,
I wrote you from the rocking chair:
“I wonder what things look like
inside me right now.”
I sat there, my own hands
pressing the good, soft skin
of my belly, my blood coursing
hard, vigorous as love.
Coursing through disassembly,
coursing toward ready.

--me

The Cliffs of Mistake

To know you’re making a mistake as
you make it, yet not be able to stop,
is to step off a cliff, expecting to scramble
backwards and up through the air to stand
on the outcrop you stepped from,
even though it can’t unhappen as you
backpedal wildly with the second step,
looking far, far below onto the moraine
of pain you anticipate later, which is now
only the shock of recognizing the result
there’s no leaping back from.
Oh God, and this is only a metaphor.
Might this be what metaphors are for?
To say what it’s like before you hit what it is.

--Molly Peacock

Friday, April 6, 2012

Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah

My mother scraped the name Patricia Ann from the ruins
of her discarded Delta, thinking it would offer me shield
and shelter, that leering men would skulk away at the slap
of it. Her hands on the hips of Alabama, she went for flat
and functional, then siphoned each syllable of drama,
repeatedly crushing it with her broad, practical tongue
until it sounded like an instruction to God and not a name.
She wanted a child of pressed head and knocking knees,
a trip-up in the doubledutch swing, a starched pinafore
and peppermint-in-the-sour pickle kinda child, stiff-laced
and unshakably fixed on salvation. Her Patricia Ann
would never idly throat the Lord’s name or wear one
of those thin, sparkled skirts that flirted with her knees.
She'd be a nurse or a third-grade teacher or a postal drone,

jobs requiring alarm clock discipline and sensible shoes.
My four downbeats were music enough for a vapid life
of butcher shop sawdust and fatback as cuisine, for Raid
spritzed into the writhing pockets of a Murphy bed.
No crinkled consonants or muted hiss would summon me.

My daddy detested borders. One look at my mother's
watery belly, and he insisted, as much as he could insist
with her, on the name Jimi Savannah, seeking to bless me
with the blues-bathed moniker of a ball breaker, the name
of a grown gal in a snug red sheath and unlaced All-Stars.
He wanted to shoot muscle through whatever I was called,
arm each syllable with tiny weaponry so no one would
mistake me for anything other than a tricky whisperer
with a switchblade in my shoe. I was bound to be all legs,
a bladed debutante hooked on Lucky Strikes and sugar.
When I sent up prayers, God's boy would giggle and consider.

Daddy didn't want me to be anybody's sure-fire factory,
nobody's callback or seized rhythm, so he conjured
a name so odd and hot even a boy could claim it. And yes,
he was prepared for the look my mother gave him when
he first mouthed his choice, the look that said, That's it,
you done lost your goddamned mind. She did that thing
she does where she grows two full inches with righteous,
and he decided to just whisper Love you, Jimi Savannah
whenever we were alone, re- and rechristening me the seed
of Otis, conjuring his own religion and naming it me.

--Patricia Smith

Lapsarian

This bit-open earth.
Arbor: in the neigh of branches.
The shallow night, merging
with noon.

I speak to you
of the word that mires in the smell
of here-after.
I speak to you of the fruit
I shoveled up
from below.
I speak to you of speech.

Humus colors. Buried in the rift
till human. The day's prismatic blessing--divisible
by breath. Starling paths,
snake furrows, seeds. What burns
is banished.
Is taken with you.
Is yours.

A man
walks out from the voice
that became me.
He has vanished.
He has eaten
the ripening word
that killed you and
killed you.

He has found himself,
standing in the place
where the eye most terribly holds
its ground.

--Paul Auster (who knew he was a poet, too?)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hence Poetry

"The eye sees the world in flux. The word is an attempt to arrest the flow, to stabilize it. And yet we persist in trying to translate experience into language. Hence poetry, hence the utterances of daily life. This is the faith that prevents universal despair--and also causes it." --Paul Auster