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.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Editing as an act of empathy

"You edit poetry by listening deeply and taking on the voice of the poet. For me, it is an act of empathy. It is an act of taking on that poet's voice and plight and subject matter such that I can make intelligible suggestions that are within the conventions and voice of that writer. I go through everything that I think needs to be gone through." --Jeff Shotts

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Kindness

Banff, Alberta

The mother elk and 2 babies are sniffing
the metal handle of the bear-proof trash bin.
I remember the instructions for city people:
3 football fields of space between you &
the elk if their babies are with them.
I’m backing up slowly,
watching the calves run into each other
as they bend to eat grass/look up
at the mother at the same time.
The caramel color of their coat,
the sloping line of their small snouts &
I want to hold that beauty,
steal it for me,
but I’m only on football field # 2 & walking
into the woods past the lodge pole pines.
Their fragility, their awkward bumping
opens me to a long ago time—
            a hand on the door,
            I was walking in
to the psych hospital in Pittsburgh,
feeling broken and stripped down—
            a hand on the door
            from around my body
& I looked up to see the body
of a man, who said:
Let me get that for you—
            a hand on the door
            & the bottom of me
            dropped/
I couldn’t breathe for the kindness.
I couldn’t say how deep that went
for me.
I had been backing up, awkward/
I had been blind to my own beauty.

--Jan Beatty

Ghosts on the Road

A bookkeeping man,
tho one sure to knock on wood,
and mostly light

at loose ends—my friend
who is superstitiously funny, & always
sarcastic—save once,

after I’d told him
about Simone’s first time
walking—a toddler,

almost alone, she’d
gripped her sweater, right hand
clutched

chest-high, reassured
then, she held on to herself
so, so took a few

quick steps—
oh, he said, you know what? Leonard
Cohen, when he was 13,

after his father’s
out-of-the-blue heart attack, he slit
one of the old man’s

ties, & slipped a
message into it, then buried it
in his backyard—

73 now, he can’t
recall what he wrote—(threadbare
heartfelt prayer perhaps,

or complaint)—
his first writing anyway.
The need to comfort

ourselves is always
strongest at the start,
they say—

do you think
that’s true? my friend asked.
I don’t, he said,

I think the need
gets stronger, he said, it
just gets stronger.

--David Rivard

Cascades 501

The man sitting behind me
is telling the man sitting next to him about his heart bypass.

Outside the train’s window, the landscapes smear by—
the earnest, haphazard distillations of America. The backyards

and back sides of houses. The back lots of shops
and factories. The undersides of bridges. And then the
        stretches

of actual land, which is not so much land
but the kinds of water courses and greenery that register

like luck in the mind. Dense walls of trees.
Punky little woods. The living continually out-growing

the fallen and decaying. The vines and ivies taking over
everything, proving that the force of disorder is also the force

of plenty. Then the eye dilating to the sudden
clearings—fields, meadows. The bogs that must have been left

by retreating glaciers. The creeks, the algae broth
of ponds. Then the broad silver of rivers, shiny

as turnstiles. Attrition, dispersal, growth—a system unfastened
to story, as though the green sight itself

was beyond story, was peacefully beyond any clear meaning.
But why the gust of alertness that comes

to me every time any indication of the human
passes into sight—like a mirror, like to like, even though I am
        not

the summer backyard with the orange soccer ball resting
there, even though I am not the pick-up truck

parked in the back lot, its two doors opened
wide, and no one around to show whether it is funny

or an emergency that the truck is like that. Each thing looks 
        new
even when it is old and broken down.

They had to open me up—the man is now telling the other
        man.
I wasn’t there to see it, but they opened me up.

--Rick Barot