Tuesday, May 31, 2005

SALT's final issue / Part 5: Metrical Poetry Feature

SALT Metrical Poetry Feature / edited by Annie Finch

K. Silem Mohammad

Two poems

THE RAMONES

The storms name them
not smartest, nor
at rest, maroon
them on no shore.

Restore them, Mars,
one ransom more:
no theme more rash,
no ears so sore.

As some men moan,
so others snore.
No one tames them,
Namor nor Thor,

no Roman son,
no orator--
stern men at arms,
at stones to roar.


TULLY

Conscript fathers, how you adore your rhetor's
sweet declaiming! see how the curile aedile
tilts his chair back, not of a mind to veto
even a sparrow.

Bench by bench, a reverie tames the senate,
all Rome passed out, drunk on his eloquentia,
rococo Rome, buzzing with lyres and zithers,
goddesses bathing.

Marble columns girding the vatic dreamwork
form a ring supporting a convex awning,
Helicopters thump in the massive dome-space,
fiery searchlights

trawl the clouds, and bolts of polluted lightning
bas-relief the forum in yellow flashes.
Gazing up, the consul's opponents tremble:
Mars the avenger

rides in screaming. Faces of murder victims
rise in each conspirator's guilty conscience,
terrorized, insultingly mutilated,
slathered with lipstick.

Strip away the quaestor's oneiric bugbears:
under dead skin, honeycombs made of razors
harbor clumps of ten-in-the-evening mayflies,
terminal, flaccid.

Stony rhetor, cast in the role of the bad cop,
eulogize your laureled Italian headlands:
fields of honor, sweetened by phlox and lupine!
Watch as they vanish--

sunlit meadows brightening into evening,
crossed by horsemen, afterwards shadows of horsemen,
lastly, cankered remnants of fading twilight
spreading infection.

***

Arielle Greenberg

THE METER OF THE NIGHT SKY

I wonder what would happen if the K in knife was said,
if part of all the Hs in the book had rubbed away,
changing up the shapes of our ancestor's good white bones.

I wonder who's been sleeping in this bale of hay before,
how many eyes adore me, how many needles here.
I wonder who is bedded, sharp and low, like any twin,
kindled by the flickering camp lantern of my name.

It doesn't happen suddenly, but with a rolling hush:
some blossom, something citric, and oh so cavalier,
moves without me, moves in chorus with the pulse of the night sky.

It's my velvet artwork, making pleasure of a peephole.
without me, it can wonder every G-note in the scale,
every Aries made of starlight. It's the whirring of my plum.

***

Ann Fisher-Wirth

THE SKELETON LEAVES

I know how to find you.
I go where your sleeping
is filled with the shadows
of leaves, where the leaves have
bled their green,
and all that remain are
their skeletons, nearly
transparent, translucent,
and tissue gone blurred as
the moon among clouds, as
the fur on a moth's wing,
and tips as if trailing
through water--

Such leaves are not common.
In this snowy country
they cherish them, save them,
the white skelettbladen--
like us, they have died, to
become more enduring.

***

Ben Mazer

A STAR IS BORN

Her feigned indifference stung his vanity;
a small town girl with sawdust in her veins;
a modern pilgrim, who had changed her name;
a girl with glasses, thrumming in his brain;

the brazen hypocrite, she knew his name;
subscribed to Star and Screen, jumped out of cakes;
yet she had got his goat; he hit the brakes,
but felt his life was founded on a lie.

Big parties were his own familiar waters;
life took his coat; his name was on its lips;
he spent the evening in the servants' quarters,
trying to get a date, and washing cups.

He told the boss he wanted a screen test;
the studio would write him a blank check;
he told her that she never would be his,
that now she never could be like the rest.

His will was done; the out of town reviews
killed the first rushes, but the biggest news
was that her presence had eclipsed his fame;
each questionaire was filled out with her name.

Now in the afternoons when she came back
he had prepared a cozy little snack,
and they let down their hair; he didn't dare
tell her his fears, but she knew what they were.

He slapped a reporter, not the thing to do
when he had credit nowhere in the town,
except among the elder set who knew
just what it was the younger man had done.

Then finally left on his own holiday.
Prepared the picnic, but forgot the brunch.
He dropped his robe and swam out to the stars;
now you can see which one of them is hers.

***

Rodney Koeneke

FRANKENSTEIN'S PURSUIT

For weeks we yo-yo'd up and down the Five.
Stopping for gas, I’d find the bill was paid.
He'd wait for me when I fell behind.
Elizabeth, my perfect family, dead . . .

Near the interchange I caught his plates.
He slowed down, leering as I roared past.
His yolky eye, the tell-tale brainpan stitch--
Is it these imperfections that I hate?

I see in you a part of what I am.
You see in me the thing you cannot be.
Some incompletion drove me to persist;

Of all my rotting parts you are the sum.
Needing a god to blame, how could you see
It's in those borrowed eyes that I exist?

***

C.J. Sage

PRAYER FOR MANY EYES

Let the thousand visions fall away.
Let the sleep of reason grace our eyes
kindly with its many veils, to stay
the knowledge of the hurtful world. --Deny!
Men I know have fallen (many men)
prey to the temptations of sight and sense.
Women kept to their convictions, then
gave them all up, just to walk the fence:
pain on one side, more pain on the other.
Now let the lids of knowing take their rest;
let me close my own to the faults of brothers
and sisters in this life, difficult at best.
Let us be grateful for the wealths of boredom.
Let us, heirs of Argus, be more dumb.

***

Charlotte Mandel

Two poems

OF NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES

No, I do not envision sky-light welcome
Nor that bomb-shattered flesh evolves to angel
In Recovery, all stopped And I knew it
Spinal surgery siphons red from marrow--
Your black twin-mirror pupils distant . . . distant . . .

Blessing flows via tubes transfusing plasma
Tunnel high as you will, but take a flashlight--
Acid batteries stencil wings on darkness
Heaven stages desire and speaks in echo
Clouds like papery hymnals shuffle praise-songs

A blink rinses the eye of sorrow's visions
Windblown cirrus revolves in blades of jet smoke


DECEMBER PARADELLE

Days resemble each other like sheaves of wheat
Days resemble each other like sheaves of wheat
Gathering hurt feelings I trail after your blade.
Gathering hurt feelings I trail after your blade.
I like your hurt. Feelings resemble other days
gathering sheaves of wheat after each blade trail.

Your voice like smoke surrounds me in the room
Your voice like smoke surrounds me in the room
Blurs all words of a dream I want to recall
Blurs all words of a dream I want to recall.
I smoke to recall words in a voice like the room
Your dream surrounds, blurs all want of me.

Answer the telephone although it never rings.
Answer the telephone although it never rings.
Letters sleep in this box no postman comes to.
Letters sleep in this box no postman comes to.
It comes to this: the postman rings: letters sleep
in telephone box. Never answer no.

No smoke blurs the hurt to me of your answer.
Sheaves of dream letters trail the postman.
Days sleep in this room like a telephone box.
It rings. All words come to resemble each other.
I never voice feelings--although recall surrounds
like wheat after blade. I want your gathering in.

***

Anand Thakore

Two poems

DEAD, AT YOUR MOTHER'S FUNERAL

As if to quench the first little wisp of flame,
Rain fell in torrents when I reached the grounds,
Beating wildly upon the low tin roof,
Like a great hurt beast no will could tame.

Sweat covered your forehead, your blue sleeves wet,
As you took the hot brand into your palms,
Turning towards me before you lit the sticks,
Your brown hair drenched as when we first met.

Can I say I still loved the man I saw,
Whose loss I turned so quickly away from?
I saw you through tongues of leaping flame,
And cold eyes of ice no flame could thaw,

Your mother burning as I thought of my own,
Seeking no way into the cell of your grief;
No way out of mine as I heaped her with twigs,
Poured oil on damp wood and watched you like a stone.


FOG AT PANCHGANI

I have waited all morning for this fog to clear,
Looking through its folds for stray signs of green;
Yet now that the terraced slopes and paddy-fields
And the woods that it hid draw steadily near--

The thick moss on a branch, the full height
Of a hill, and the lily-spotted weir
Shimmering insistently in late noon heat,
The eye retreats in fear from approaching light;

And I long more strongly for the fog to come down,
Covering in a single length of shroud
The bright greens it wrapped in torn scraps of grey;
And the watcher outside whom it would not drown.

Great Maker of Fog, release my eyes.
Cast them into this swirl of grey and green,
Till they come to feel at home in change.
Grant them the craft of swift goodbyes.

***

Mary Agner

OLD DOMINIA

She wears tobacco tucked in her auburn hair.
Her eyes, the hues of Chesapeake Bay distilled.
               Hilt gripped, she stands prepared to sever
                      tyranny's neck in the muddy Piedmont.

Each empty, wind-wrenched autumn, her hands in paint
that splatters whole leaf piles and the yellow winged
                forsythia for me to play in--
                      loneliness blurred by kaleidoscoped trees.

Virginia, older sister that I have lost,
I almost see her cresting and winking waves
               here, moving through the pines. My palms freeze
                      missing her hand in my hand when leaves fall.

***

Oliver Murray

MONROVIA, LIBERIA

("Taylor's men roam and kill at will. They are
dressed in shower hats and wedding dresses
The shower hats are for the rain.
No one knows what the wedding-dresses
are for" --Denis Johnson, war correspondent. )

Mind your step because of the piled up corpses.
This night's haul is over two hundred dead and
killers roaming streets in their white lace dresses.
make people fearful.

Off the sidewalk, people in lanes and alleys,
retching, think of cannibal voodoo rumour
hope that what they've eaten was not cadaver--
that's what the dogs eat.

Sharks this year are circling in shallows waiting.
Wedding dresses add to the terror, killers
drag the corpses down to the blood-frilled surf for
that's what the sharks eat.

***

Jerry Harp

THE CREATURE FINDS HIS MARK

My man showed up again, the one
Whose skin I breathed for days--appeared
Among a sidewalk's tables and chairs.
He looked my way, his perfect wave
Of hair accosting the breeze.
Savvy monks crept from his eyes.
The sidewalk voices knocked and rang
Like iron balls beaten against brick walls.
He looked my way again, and in a single sweep
Took in a crow, a cloud, his table companion,
Some handsome guy in a vanilla suit.
His half smile told a tale.
My Creature wrath and desire were razed
To the street. Where else were they to go?
The flickering streetlight cast an aureole.

***

Eve Adamson

Two poems

THE AFTERNOON I WAS BORN OUT OF MY OWN HEAD

1.

Remember the serpent from the other story?
We'd met him before, read his CV

(Part myth, part bald-faced lie), found his cream-and-coral
Complexion something admirable.

Remember how we let him crawl all over us?
That was before you had a face,

Before you taught me what I didn't know I knew
That day we crumpled into two.

2.

I'd imagined this kind of birth before,
The inevitable yowling yellow terror,

The serpent a memory in the center,
The slicing of flesh, the bloody armor,

But nothing ever actually changed.
The severing and rearrangement

Birth requires offended me.
Then one afternoon, white sky,

Smack in the middle of the long light,
A stash of tools in the window seat

I found and told myself to get to work.
What I dug out squirmed in its own dark.

What I let loose struggled to stand
And as I squinted, held out my hand

For the thing to take, I knew it well.
It lived and grew and opened a hole

And there I was, straight out of my head,
Carrying on, armadillo-armored,

Helmeted and defying protection,
Challenging myself to a dual of dissection,

My wise assumptions on their knees.
Here swarms the yellow curtain of bees,

Folding in the warrior's wake,
Piqued and blushing, thundering in Greek,

Veiling with honey vapor the mother's eye.
Let's tell it like it is: relinquished "I,"

And Once there lived a snake, wise as dirt,
Stacking the bones to cage the throbbing heart,

But now his shredded skin is rent,
And where one waited, two contend:

The girl compelled to brandish a sword,
Scratching in stone them fightin' words;

The father whose immortal, gasping wound
Makes of his brow a portal; a jagged crown.


WRAPPED IN A WRINKLED SHEET

Wrapped in a wrinkled sheet, beside
           The window's senseless whisper,
Close to the weed-infested yard,
           Close to the pond's soft chatter,
           Loud in her cries and louder,
Erect above her gentleman,
           Sways the nocturnal lover,
           Sings the sirenical tongue.

Beneath the hot, mismanaged man,
           Past shriller groans and ranker,
She rolls her prey, a whirling fan,
           With blades and switch and cable,
           A sexual inspirer,
The fawn, the fay, the devotee,
           The decadent, the noble,
           Noble at least today.

The loveless and unlovely skin
           Reclined around about her,
The Nuzzled One, the Not-at-Home,
           The nuzzled and the sated,
           Her watchings-close have turned her eye,
She kicks against the weak and pale
           The careless and the fated
           With tongue and arch and nail.

***

Landis Everson

Three poems

Note: Landis Everson was part of the original "Berkeley Renaissance" in the late '40s, an intimate of the Duncan-Spicer-Blaser circle (Spicer was in love with him, and to Duncan he was the "Poet-King"), and later (circa 1960) a member of the Spicer-Blaser-Jim Herndon-Landis Everson Sunday reading group in San Francisco. Ashbery printed some of his things in Locus Solus in 1962, but Landis did not appear in print until two sequences (Postcard from Eden and "The Little Ghosts I Played With") were printed in their entirety last year in Ben Mazer's anthology of the Berkeley Renaissance in Fulcrum 3 (2004), Everson's first appearance in print in more than 40 years. He is now in his mid-70s, alive and well in San Luis Obispo, and has started writing poetry again. This spring, A volume of new and collected poems, Everything Preserved: Poems 1955-2005, edited by Ben Mazer, is forthcoming.


BALANCE

The morning snapped up like a window shade
When dogs came barking down the hill
Filling memories and the sleeping rooms
With savagery. Not hard to tell
What puny prize they chased or why a day
That warmed its fingers on my chest
Was busy elsewhere cheering life and death.

An egg and bacon regularity
The minutes calm as coffee passed
And stuck. I waited for the cry of fate
Outside the house and thought, this world
Of love pretends no modesty--hope
And fear like rancid habits bound
Across the apple seeds and dust of danger.


MEMORY CHEST

Things he had discovered,
A watch, a gold tooth, a diary,
Lay before him in the box
After sixty years of death.

The elephant was also there
Something like a rose leaf
Jammed in, pressed and faded
After sixty years of death.

Things he had discovered
Jammed in pressed and faded
Something like a rose leaf--
What else had he expected?

The elephant was also there
Lay before him in the box.
A watch, a gold tooth, a diary--
What else had he expected?

After sixty years of death
What else had he expected?
He jammed himself within the box
And hugged the dead-set elephant.


PANTOUM

Hunger led him to discover
(That ancient enemy of the belly)
Starving on a mountain top
The form that trembled in the thickets.

That ancient enemy of the belly
Told its knowledge to the heart.
The form that trembled in the thickets,
Something love and hate could eat,

Told its knowledge to the heart--
All is prey that can be swallowed.
Something love and hate could eat
The eye was well trained to remember.

All is prey that can be swallowed
The earth exceeds itself in offering
The eye was well trained to remember
Beauty has a double shape.

The earth exceeds itself in offering
Both the beauty and the flesh.
Beauty has a double shape--
One the bow kills one the heart.

Both the beauty and the flesh
(One the bow kills one the heart)
Leapt up stricken from his fancy--
He ate the world up with his eyes.

One the bow kills one the heart
Hunger led him to discover--
He ate the world up with his eyes
Starving on the mountain top.

***

Michael Ladd

MID LIFE

You notice which lights have gone out in which signs,
and Time, Time, how you paw over Time.
The sound, in your mind, of closing doors
is a distant, ominous roar
like the sea heard in a rented shack, late at night.
You pace, you fret on what might
or might not have been.
The thousand life possibilities that you saw
have come down now to three or four.
You follow the streets of this moonless town,
feeling youth come back like heat stored
in the day, released now from the night's brick walls.
In a shop window--an LP sleeve, a mirror ball,
tawdry things invested with such sweet aching;
a life once yours.
The past: chew on it, gnaw
the rancid bone, that's what it's for.

***

Regina Derieva

Two poems

Translated from the Russian by Alan Shaw

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

Consisting as I do of scraps of dreams,
of lands I've never seen, of underpinnings,
of air and salt, of elemental things
unmeddled with by endings or beginnings,

of clay and iron, and of ocean wave
and shingle crowds of feet have trod upon,
of faith and hope, stood at the wall, to brave
the rifles, turning into heavenly stone,

of quiet and simplicity, bestowed
upon us by a woman among women,
of emptiness that stretches like a road
into a vastness where things lose their meaning,

of whisperings, of looking long at that
which goes among us by the name of God,
at death, which never was, and now is not,
at life, of which so little can be had.


THE AGE WAS IRON: IT'S GONE TO RUST

The age was iron: it's gone to rust,
corroded over like a knife,
the edge of naked power lost
that had worlds trembling for their life.
A shard of dingy steel remains.
they carefully polish it with sand,
and the awful muscle strains,
with primal impulse, at the hand.

***

Gwyn McVay

SECOND BARDO SONG

Put your ears back
Put your eyes back
Put your mouth back
Put your mind back

You won't need them
Throw your arms down
Throw your legs down,
jump in after

        after falling

you'll hear voices
These are demons
Listen closely,

imitate them
with your shining
Put your ears back
Put your mind back

***

Harriet Zinnes

PINK

Pink--the very sound is odd.
Why "p" and "k" together?
The gentle and the harsh,
the melodious and the rugged?
Nothing is, after all,
that cannot be together,
and yet, and yet,
the marriage of the gentle and the harsh
is a combination questionable though real
Let the word resound anyway.
Let the child laugh at the pink hair on her doll,
and the servant in the kitchen
recall the pink undies of her fallen mistress.

***

Henry Gould

RIDDLE OF THE KINGDOM
A man becomes the song he sings.
--Irish proverb

You won't find it in the newspaper;
nor in some Caribbean hideaway.
Not in the careful phrases of professors, nor
the alcoholic dénouement of a working day.

Deep in the framed confusion of a window,
a bird's rehearsing (hidden in a tree).
Warbling the only song he knows,
with aching slowness, tenderly.

Only the bird knows it's an imitation.
Echo of a sound heard once, far off . . .
creak of a swing, or distant train . . . oh
grave, earthbound tune-freighted with love!

***

John Hennessey

CONNECTICUT RIVER REPORT

I'm jumping ship. We've keeled the shallows, beached
Along pacific rims that idle east
Of urgency, and old idioms won't work here.
The tide is always changing in the Berkshires.

We've measured quite a bit more mass than weight--
And run aground where steeples prick the nape
Of dusk beyond the bridge. The law's mosaic,
An orthodoxy of bits and pieces, cracked

Contingencies a sort of sexy gear.
The tightest seal's on the subliminal here:
An astronaut turned poet laureate snaps
His boots across the sky, his leather chaps

And halter burning. His death is comedy,
One side effect of zero gravity.

***

Lyn McCredden

Two poems

IN THE SUNNY AIR

Years from now, standing in the sunny air,
you're holding something precious in your hands.
Leaning, contented, by your side there,
someone's smiling; around you light expands.
The camera's keen, but it's unprophetic
and cannot tell me what it is you hold
so tenderly. It's your fragile secret
furled in the future. But it makes you bold:
those bright blue eyes look back, direct, assured,
reflecting open skies, a blessedness
you share with all you touch, unconfused
by tawdry prizes, this world's injustice.
The treasure you hold in the sunny air
is what I will never see, with you, there.


OLD FRIEND

I choose to live in a mongrel suburb,
my scruffy street a united nations.
You live on the leafy side, unperturbed
by sameness, your own face, your relations.
You tell me, over coffee and éclair,
that on a rare train trip last week you'd seen
a boy from Footscray, or somewhere out there,
you know, tats, moccasins and stove pipe jeans.
He'd vomited in the carriage, right there
in front of everyone. Didn't clean up,
just stared round with a stupid grin. Who cares?
The look on your face was not quite disgust,
telling your little Western suburb story,
but unamused, self-congratulatory.


***

Charles O. Hartman

FLAMENCO SKETCHES

I. Miles


Still fall
Another drift of sunshine
A day, and then some
No need for snow

Strange creatures scaled down
We tune a canny ear to the unmoved hour

Strung high, the icy cloud sings of a blue trapped
in a blue
And so: too

Off on one hand the rind of an undiscarded moon
Off-season fields lie paralyzed for some Persephone
Her place held firm by a zero
Between's return

Then again, the spring's wound one way


Ideally, the poem's rhythmic regime should need no explanation at all, because it means to be compulsory: granting only the need to speak slowly, a reader speaking these lines aloud should reproduce the exact rhythm of Miles's solo on the last track from Kind of Blue. [Note: the originally released cut, not the alternate take also available on current CDs.]

The principles are simple in the abstract: one syllable per note of course (though here and there identifying either one can be tricky), composed into lexical and syntactical strings that, aside from making sense locally and globally, enlist the intonation and rhythmic patterns of English to approximate the musical rhythms of the solo. Because syllable-length is audible in English (though not semantic as in Classical languages), it's possible to mimic musical notes' combination of duration and distribution within the bar. Consonant clusters can be used to slow down the speech, clitics to speed it up, assonance to foreground it. Line-breaks can enforce the boundaries of musical phrases and not merely indicate them. Denser and looser syntax, more and less figurative language, modulate the rhythm as much as word- and phrase-stress do. Rhythm concerns emphasis as well as speed.

In practice the application is difficult because features on all levels of the linguistic hierarchy from phoneme to clause are in play jointly and continuously--drawing to a four-dimensional inside straight.

This explains why section I is not yet accompanied by section II, "Coltrane" or section III "Cannonball." Miles, for instance, distributes just 97 notes over the 95 seconds of his solo; the densest of Coltrane's 25 measures contains 24 notes.

In this passage, italics are used to indicate the point in his solo where Miles moves closer to the microphone.

***

Tom See

UNUDHUR SOEJERNUZ NIITSONG

And dhoe dhe niit iz gadhring
and dhu skii groez daak,
uhed dhoez klaodz aar blaizing
and dhaer singing tou mii haat:

you--yaur daiy iz throu--
mai yau rest bee trouw!
And dhen niit staats:

Giv mee yaur weerines
--dhu haat uv aul mii loenlines--
iil giv you miin
soe wee boeth riim
in good tiim.

***

Rachel Loden

NINEVEH FALLEN
Kuyunjik, palace mound


Nineveh fallen. My
Ghostly battalion
Silver-bell ankle rings
Tatterdemalion

Babylon Cadillac. Black
Candle guttering
Nettle-leav'd bellflowers
Sweet-faced American

Elvis in Cuneiform
Black-winged deity
Fifteen-gate city of
Mooncalf & talisman

Nineveh fallen. My
Ghostly battalion
Daughters of Sargon
Be carried away

***

Mike Smith

WINTER SONNETS 1 & 2

1.

Snowfall after a softening week of rain.
We say the season's going, then it‚s gone.
Waking in the night, I feel the after-pain
of something broken, nothing to be done.

Something broken or something torn. Outside,
I hear the grate of a paw on muffled ground
and think, Pointless to resist the dark's sure slide;
binders of the dark, we are by darkness bound.

Then I think how often and against what odds
the poem gets written. Common as breath,
or the breath's slow ceasing. (The great head nods
toward the sudden figure at the door.) One wish:

To wake in the night and find the night has passed,
the world around us itching like a cast.

2.

One stopped his walk to watch the headlights grow.
One left the engine running in a grove.
One, by thirty, knew all there was to know
then happened on her lover with his love.
One learned to find her name carved in the sky.
One died to reach the wisdom of the bone.
One lived to get his own back in the eye.
One to this very day remains unknown--

Not pain, but after-pain, pain's reprobate.
(For they say it‚s winter and we‚ve come too late.)
Yet who among us, taking the moment‚s measure,
wouldn't mortgage fully the unglittering end?
Who among us could resist the ancient wager,
waking from its lair the hibernating fiend?

***

Amy King

RECORD KEEPING
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.
--Wittgenstein

These are the things you think you said.
It's just that I have no way of knowing
what to tell you. I fill you full
of roots and prefixes, signifiers and
the dialectic, and still my company mixes
with the party. I won't tow the line
though. Better the diagnoses than
prescriptions. Herein, my drink remains
displaced. She ambles along in
her careful constructions. Against
the wall, she overlaps her shadow upright.
The table over there offers refreshments.
When I say I am of does that follow
with good riddance? The end of man
often lies at hand, but whereof can one
not speak? It is on the table; it is in my grasp;
it has soaked into the carpet. As a woman,
my permission opens me aimlessly:
I move my mouth and walk therein.

***

Mimi Khalvati

GHAZAL

When you wake to jitters every day, it's heartache.
Ignore it, explore it, either way, it's heartache.

Youth's a map you can never refold,
from Yokohama to Hudson Bay, it's heartache.

The moon in a swoon, you're in his arms,
the fandango starts, the palm trees sway, it's heartache.

Oh love, love, who are centuries old.
It's not time or absence I can't weigh, it's heartache.

Heartache with women, heartache with men.
Call myself straight or call myself gay, it's heartache.

Stop at the wayside, name each flower,
the loveliness that will always stay: it's heartache.

Wherever I am, I'm elsewhere too
in a cloud you'd think, but isn't, grey. It's heartache.

Why do nightingales sing in the dark?
What the eye can't see, the soul will say, it's heartache.

Who would dare to call their pain despair?
As long as faith holds true, men can pray, it's heartache.

Let the Sufi meaning of my name,
'a quiet retreat', heal as it may its heartache.

***

Michael Helsem

FEGEFEUER

Distances I never chose
and those to come
converse together where I stand
abandoned and dumb.
The birds sing shrill and very loud
in a crowded tree;
I wonder what it takes to cure
futurity
that sings within my bloodstream like
a psychic gale,
and yet allows no single bare
airt to prevail . . .
So I remain, and cobble whims
of crimson from
distances I never chose,
and those to come.

***

Nikia Billingslea

Two poems

I. AFRO SAPPHO

Nappy heads make for strong minds against bullshit.
Dreadlocks are not so dreadful when they conduct
Ra energy, divine, on naked gray streets
strewn with blood money.

II. COFFEEHOUSE PROPHET

With long bony fingers tugging reddish brown
goatee, he sits at the bar‚s end watching
caffeine-stimulated drama; his onyx
eyes look straight through me.

III. S.I.N. ON STAGE

Caramel and Chocolate, Sappho‚s daughters.
When they speak, echoes of African drums beat
trance-inducing rhythm while they extol the
virtues of the P.

IV. JAZZ ELITE

Crescent and star on Black fingers pluck bass strings
under trapped sun, shining brilliant gold for
people who can afford to buy some sol on
an overcast night.

V. URBAN TAO

There are Taoist monks in our midst. Quietly
they walk concrete streets, flowing with the tide of
the masses, but impenetrable. With minds
of stone, hearts of clouds.

VI. SHEPSU

The crimson juice of strange fruit stains my white gown.
Head raised--not bowed--at the candle-lit alter
in reverence to ancestors who give me
strength when I falter.

VII. TRIBAL VIBE

The vibe collective, descendent of the tribe.
Not daisies and free love, it's how we survive.
Star babies left to die come in the cipher
and get loved alive.


INVESTIGATION OF THE ROYAL MASSACRE

The desert's share of elves
Alluringly recedes, a highway night
Disclosed in orbs that flicker, hover, melt
And leaving, jab with knives:
The desert's share of elves.

The thievish dealer says
One day you too shall vanquish with the moth;
Anything to lose this daily death.
You hazard it, because
The thievish dealer says.

The desert's share of elves,
The thievish dealer says,
Is more yours with the fading felth.

***

Sharon Dolin

FIRST SPRING FLOWERING YELLOW BUSH RETICULATED FORSPENT

Sore pity her   so pithy here
   pour hints to her   for
Cynthia   (seen rhymier   far
rheumier) nor rent to her   for
scent to her   fear soothing her   tore loose with her   more
ruth with her   worn
tooth with myrrh  withal
beware  forbear the ear
far worthier  so soiled there   ur springier  forcing the air
poor thing her hair  ignored a year
see farther err ere
warring rear  now firth in we're

  unpetalling here    [forsythia]
(sith he forswears).

***

Robert Stanton


natter quicker

uliginous

fame, the wanted

latent fuss

2 comments:

michael said...

NOTE: "Investigation of the Royal Massacre" is by Michael Helsem, not Nikia Billingslea.

m. h.

nikia billingslea said...

I second that. I did not submit the poem "Investigation of the Royal Massacre." However, I did enjoy reading the poem. Thank you, Michael Helsem.