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.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Moonrise

I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, in the white and the 
walk of the morning:
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail 
held to the candle,
Or paring of paradisaïcal fruit, lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, of dark 
Maenefa the mountain;
A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, entangled him, 
not quit utterly.
This was the prized, the desirable sight, unsought, presented so 
easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, eyelid and eyelid of slumber.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins

Friday, June 12, 2015

Poetry: cure for our pervasive skepticism about whether language works

I take it that our having to ask ourselves what poems and pop songs are for, and our compulsion to suggest answers, is a good thing—that it’s the fields that are certain of their purpose and their standing that lend themselves most to reified thinking. I mean principally the natural sciences, which shade now so easily into the most preposterous scientism. Evolutionary psychologists will tell you that the arts exist to—well, there’s only one reason any human endeavor exists, according to evolutionary psychology. Phillips suggests that it’s worth asking what poetry’s good for because science is always providing answers to the question of what science is good for—vaccines, Google, drone strikes, showrooms filled with fabulous prizes. And for Phillips, poetry—and pop, I’d add—provides a “cure for our pervasive skepticism about whether language works.” Whether, that is, the right words can, as psychoanalysis teaches, make us better off.

--Michael Robbins

At My Best

August is the cruelest month: never enough daylight, too much
heat, no holidays and nothing matters except September’s

dawning responsibilities, but the August of 1994 I was Holden
Caulfield, summer camp senior counselor for the junior trail

blazers, black and brown children two weeks shy of first, second,
and third grade. Nothing is as positive, as motivating a force within

one’s life as a school bus full of kids singing along to the local
radio station blazing hip-hop and R&B. (Imagine this cherubic

chorus riding upstate to Ini Kamoze’s “Here Comes the Hotstepper.”
[“Muuur-derah!”]) My workday is filled with hazards like chocolate

melted sticky swim trunk pockets, insistent sunburn, and the assorted
rah rah of parental unsupervision, but those bus rides back from

upstate water parks and pools were my favorite times working.
Have you ever ridden in a cheesebus with ashy children asleep

against you, staring at sudden trees — more numerous than project
windows — blurring along the highways like confusion giving way

to doubt, the heady smell of dried chlorine and musty towels
lulling you into the soft timbre of a Midwest falsetto? Tell me

what it is to fall in love with a lightskin girl covering the Isley
Brothers. I was not two weeks into 21 years old. I had yet

to wear a box cutter in my fifth pocket, or see a semi-automatic
aimed at my center mass, to feel its dumbness against my spine.

My life was uncertain, save for its unlikely length under my control,
like the pilot who falls short of what he says, what he says

he’s all about, all about. All my homeboys were still alive, just
like Aaliyah Dana Haughton, not yet an angel of the cruelest August,

begging a boy, who may not be in the mood to learn what he thinks
he knows, to look beyond his world and try to find a place for her.

--John Rodriguez

molemen beat tapes

were copped from Gramophone.
cassettes jammed into a factory-
issued stereo deck of the hoopty
i rolled around in. a bucket. bass
and drum looped with some string
sample, fixed. a sliver of perfect
adjusted. the scrapes of something
reconstituted. there was so much
space to fill. an invitation to utter.
Iqra- Allah said to the prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon Him).
a- to b-side and around again. a circle
a cipher. i’d drive down and back
in my mom’s Dodge for the latest
volumes of sound. i’d stutter
and stop and begin again. lonesome
and on fire. none. no one i knew
rapped. i’d recite alone on Clark St.
free, styling, shaping, my voice
a sapling, hatchling, rapping
my life, emerging in the dark
of an empty car.

                                              •

there was a time when hip-hop felt like a secret
society of wizards and wordsmiths. magicians
meant to find you or that you were meant to find
like rappers i listened to and memorized in history
class talked specifically to me, for me.

                                              •

& sometimes
you’d see a kid whisper to himself
in the corner of a bus seat & you
asked if he rhymed & traded a poem
a verse like a fur pelt/trapping.
some gold or food. this sustenance.
you didn’t have to ride solo anymore.

                                              •

Jonathan was the first kid i met who rapped. he was Black
from a prep school, wore ski goggles on top his head & listened
to Wu-Tang which meant he was always rhyming about science
and chess. his pops made him read Sun Tzu. his mans was Omega
a fat Puerto Rican who wrote graffiti and smoked bidis.

& they’d have friends
& the backseat would swell
& the word got passed/scooped like a ball
on the playground. you’d juggle however long
your mind could double Dutch. sometimes you’d take
what you were given/lift off like a trampoline
rocket launch. sometimes you’d trip & scrape
your knees. tongue-tied, not quick. words stuck
on loop, like like words, stuck, like that. but break
thru, mind, knife sharp, mind darts
polished & gleaming we’d ride
for the sake of rhyming. take the long way
home or wherever the fuck we were going
cruise down Lake Shore & back, blasting
blazing. polishing these gems.
trying to get our mind right.

--Kevin Coval

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Doors opening, closing on us

Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else. But

while some doors lead to cathedrals
arching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
and some to caves of nuclear monsters

most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
Still, the image of a door is liminal,
passing from one place into another
one state to the other, boundaries

and promises and threats. Inside
to outside, light into dark, dark into
light, cold into warm, known into
strange, safe into terror, wind

into stillness, silence into noise
or music. We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase. We see

ourselves progressing from room
to room perhaps dragging our toys
along until the last door opens
and we pass at last into was.

--Marge Piercy