Monday, November 28, 2016

BEFORE MY WINDSHIELD IN A TRAFFIC JAM

I SEE A WORM
DRIFTING ON THE WIND,
SUSPENDED ON A STRING,
ON A FILAMENT 
IN THE FIRMAMENT, 
FRAGILE AS A MOMENT ...
EMBRACING FUTURE NOW!
WILL WE BOTH EXPIRE
ON THIS CONCRETE BYWAY?


© Gerry Sackett, 2016

Christmas Tree Worm from the South China Sea
by Lepidlizard
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 14, 2016

Like roofers

we climb over each other, slipping and catching the other’s 
hands until our feet are steady.  We check eaves, clear leaves, smooth 
wrinkles in the casing, then fall to the heat of our slate-shingled skin.

We are a choir, ensemble of song, just two mouths earnest in 
harmony.  We make mice in the walls weep, our voices pound 
tympani, take captive the inner ear of all who stand near.

We are Isabella Bird in Kurdistan, Nelly Bly circling earth, Marco Polo 
riding Mongol empires. We navigate by planets and stars, by the dark 
pulse of our organs, by pupils meeting pupils, grasses’ murmur at our feet –   

With no permission, seven decades in, we hike up stairs, climb to highlands, 
walk inclines foreign to our peers, heights newly reached to see Bar-headed 
Geese cross the Himalayas four miles up, to hear a bank of trumpets shout.  

We scale high level ├ętage, Mares’ tails frozen above, countryside 
spread out like a toy town, gray and brown squares, dots of green, living 
bodies too small to see, some wet in wombs, some soon to die.  

I turn on the radio 
will myself to hear the news – 
only stories of us.

© Marti Snell, 2016


Mares' Tails by Nicholas A. Tonelli
from Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Still Life

Verra la morte e avra i tuoi occhi.
( Death will come and it will look with your eyes. )
Cesare Pavese


1

Things and humans
surround us.  Both
torture the eye.
Better to live in darkness.

I am on a bench
in the park, following with my eyes
a family passing by.
I am fed up with light.

It is January – winter,
according to the calendar.
When I am fed up with darkness,
then I shall speak.

2

It is time now.  I am ready to begin.
No matter with what.  To open
my mouth.  I can be silent.
But it’s better that I speak.

What about?  Of days and nights.
Or rather of nothing.
Or about things.
About things – 

not about people.  They will die.
All of them.  I will die too.
This is futile,
like pissing against the wind.

3

My blood is cold.
Its coldness is colder
than a river frozen in its bed.
I do not like people.

I do not like their looks.
Their faces impart 
some unforsakable
look.

Something in their faces
is disgusting to the mind.
Is flattering
who knows whom.

4

Things are more pleasant. They
mean neither good nor harm,
on the face of it. But if you probe
into them – into their innards – 

objects are dust inside.
Ashes.  A woodboring beetle.
Walls.  A dried bloodworm.
Unpleasant for your hands.

Dust.  Turn on the light  
and it will shine on only dust.
Even if the object 
is sealed tight.

5

An old cupboard looks
the same inside and out,
reminding me
of Notre-Dame de Paris.

The cupboard’s entrails are dark.
A mop, a rag
will not wipe off dust.
A thing itself is generally dust

that does not strive to overcome,
that does not raise the brow.
Because dust is the flesh
of time; it is flesh and blood.

6

Lately I’ve begun
to sleep in the daytime.
It seems my death
puts me to the test,

holding a mirror to my mouth
even if I breathe,
to see how I withstand
non-existence in the daylight.

I am immobile.  My two
thighs are as cold as ice.
Their venous blue flesh
looks like marble.

7

Surprising us
with the sum of its angles,
the thing stands out
from the common ways of words.

The thing is not at a standstill.  And
it does not move.  It is a delusion.
A thing is a space, outside of which
there isn’t a thing.

A thing can be banged down, burned,
eviscerated, broken.
Dropped. The thing
will not exclaim: ”What the fuck?!”

8

A tree.  Shade.  Dirt
under the tree for the roots.
Knotty monograms.
Clay.  A pile of rocks.

Roots.  Their entanglement.
A rock whose personal weight
liberates it from
the nexus of knots.

It is immobile.  It cannot be
moved or taken away.
Its shadow.  A man in its shade
is like a fish in the net.

9

A thing. The brown color
of the thing. Whose outlines are blurred.
Dusk.  No more
anything.  A still life.

Death will come and find
a body whose smoothness
will reflect death’s visit like
the coming of a woman.

It is absurd, a lie:
a skull, a skeleton, a scythe.
‘Death will come, and it
will look with your eyes.’

10

Says the mother to Christ:
Are you my son or my 
God?  You are nailed to the cross.
How can I go home?

How can I step over the sill
if I can’t understand or decide
whether you are my son or God?
That is, are you dead or alive?

He says in response:
“Dead or alive -
it doesn’t matter, woman.
Whether I am your son or God, I am yours.”

by Joseph Brodsky
Translated from the Russian by Leonid Gornik



The Vorona River frozen in its bed
Winter in Borisoglebsk
Oil painting by Alexey Bogolyubov
from Wikimedia Commons





Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Before and After

The night the bat flew in was the tipping point.
The tar paper stapled to the wood-framed maw of my shack
came away on a windy winter’s night in Upstate NY.
The bat, sensing no difference between the dark inside me and out,
flew in, settled upside down in its new cave.  

It was a homesteading year for me and my young son,
a way to keep him with me and our extended family,
working the land, plenty to eat, little money.
I milked cows, harvested honey from the bees, 
stayed awake all night with the birthing sows, 
watching that they didn’t roll over on their babies.
I fed the chickens, the horses, the cows, the pigs, 
jammed the pick through the ice in -40 degree winters 
to get water for the livestock,
slept in coat and hat and burned green pine
in the wood stove; burned anything I could get my hands on 
til the chimney caught fire from the creosote.
I named my shack “Sadness.”

I did nothing well enough to feel proud;
I worked hard but felt no connection to my tasks, 
no love for the animals or myself.
Everything was a burden, a weight filling my stomach,
a confirmation of  failure.
I couldn’t adjust to this life and its demands.
Every day was winter.

I want to go back to the minute 
before the bat flew into my house.
I sat in darkness with the bat.
I sat, thinking of the irony of yearning for the routine I hated - 
the milking, the mucking out, the infinity of farm life -
yearning for the familiar misery of it.

I watched my son, sleeping in his crib, 
unaware of the little drama around him.
I opened the door and shone the flashlight til I found the bat on a cross-beam.
I stood on a chair and threw a blanket over it, 
trembling that it would escape, would settle again,
too high for me to reach.
The bat fluttered as I held tight.
I walked away from the shack,
unfolded a corner of the blanket and ran back inside. 

In the morning, I climbed high on a ladder
and, with a staple gun, tacked the tar paper back to the wood frame.
I did it all in a state of numbness,
barely present, yet knowing  
somewhere in my primitive brain,
that if I kept on, 
kept on doing everything,
I would be transformed.


© Evie Safran, 2016

Photograph of a Woman with a Hay Stack
from the NARA archives
Wikimedia Commons


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Friending

Social media has redefined 
self-worth in measures not
measured by internal notches, 
like a metronome for honest

heartbeats, but by accounting 
records of follows, friends 
and likes. Like a peeping 
Tech-Tom, follows allow 

watchng someone without 
being friends. Fairytale 
profiles can be shared in 
the virtual world of voyeurs, 

with no flirty foreshadow or 
live commentary. So friends 
can like and others can follow, 
faster than speed-dating, 

without ever sharing air – 
a form of anonymous intimacy, 
an efficient method of world 
involvement without time-

consuming, actual interaction. 
Audience selector and block 
features promote world peace 
by eliminating face-to-face 

confrontation or messy real-time 
improvisation. Controversial 
explanation is assassinated by 
the stealth computer. The profile 

picture’s executive producer
has final say over timeline, 
events, and groups so interior 
life stays an Internet away. 

Discomforts and disparities 
are censored with a click 
of the spam key. Reality becomes 
a manageable board game.  

           © Patsy Asuncion, 2016                         


Disaster survivor Amy Frogge uses social media to show her flooded home
Photo by David Fine/FEMA
from Wikimedia Commons

   

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mouse

The mouse is dead.
I know this because my shoe,
And the foot it contains,
And all the weight of my body,
Now rest upon the rodent’s head.
Poor creature, his slowness and hunger,
And the poison I made available to him,
Drove him out of hiding,
Out into the middle of the room
Where a clumsy poet,  mind elsewhere,  with squinting eyes and uncertain step,
Squashed  him.
The odds of our unintended meeting are difficult to assess.
His  desperation is impossible to guess.

Looking with pity at calico  fur, motionless feet, 
Delicate whiskers, tiny eyes no longer sparkling,
I wonder who or what will step on me,

And when….


© George Phillips, 2016

Mouse, one month old
Picture uploaded by Roger McLassus
on Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 26, 2016

Visit by Christian Formoso

On Friday, September 30, a well-known young Chilean poet, Christian Formoso, will be coming to Charlottesville.  His visit is co-sponsored by the Live Poets Society and the JMRL’s Central Library.

Christian has won the Pablo Neruda Prize for poetry in his native country.  He will be presenting some of his work at the Central Library’s McIntire Room in downtown Charlottesville, along with his two U.S. co-translators, Terry Hermsen and Sydney Tammarine.  (Christian is bilingual, having earned both of his graduate degrees in the U.S.)  The program will begin at 7 pm; it is free and open to the public.  

Christian, Terry, and Sydney will do a 45-minute reading from Christian’s ambitious collection The Most Beautiful Cemetery in Chile, moving back and forth between English and Spanish.  Then they will open it up for discussion about the art and challenges of translation, as well as any other questions the audience might have.  

The Most Beautiful Cemetery in Chile is set in Christian’s hometown of Punta Arenas, which lies along the Strait of Magellan in Chile’s southernmost Patagonia region.  The actual Cemetery of Punta Arenas, a public cemetery, is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, and is a National Monument of Chile.

The book is primarily a series of reflections and dramatic monologues which give voice to different people buried in the cemetery.  Collectively, they add up to a dramatized version of 500 years of Chilean history.  You might think of it as an ambitious Chilean counterpart to Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, crossed with Robert Browning’s dramatic monologues such as “Fra Lippo Lippi” and “My Last Duchess.”  Copies of the book will be available for sale after the program.  

I’m hoping you will be able to attend, and can encourage your friends, colleagues, neighbors, and students to come hear and meet Christian as well.  Please contact me if you have any questions--or any suggestions for more ways to get the word out about this event. 

Tony Russell


Christian Formoso in the Cemetery of Punta Arenas
Photo by Janina Alveal