Allen Ginsberg |
At gauzy dusk, thin haze like cigarette smoke
ribbons past Chrysler Building's silver fins
tapering delicately needletopped, Empire State's
taller antenna filmed milky lit amid blocks
black and white apartmenting veil'd sky over Manhattan,
offices new built dark glassed in blueish heaven--The East
50's & 60's covered with castles & watertowers, seven storied
tar-topped house-banks over York Avenue, late may-green trees
surrounding Rockefellers' blue domed medical arbor--
Geodesic science at the waters edge--Cars running up
East River Drive, & parked at N.
Hospital's oval door
where perfect tulips flower the health of a thousand sick souls
trembling inside hospital rooms.
Triboro bridge steel-spiked
penthouse orange roofs, sunset tinges the river and in a few
Bronx windows, some magnesium vapor brilliances're
spotted five floors above E 59th St under grey painted bridge
Way downstream along the river, as Monet saw Thames
100 years ago, Con Edison smokestacks 14th street,
& Brooklyn Bridge's skeined dim in modern mists--
Pipes sticking up to sky nine smokestacks huge visible--
Building hangs under an orange crane, & red lights on
vertical avenues below the trees turn green at the nod
of a skull with a mild nerve ache.
Dim dharma, I return
to this spectacle after weeks of poisoned lassitude, my thighs
belly chest & arms covered with poxied welts,
head pains fading back of the neck, right eyebrow cheek
mouth paralyzed--from taking the wrong medicine, sweated
too much in the forehead helpless, covered my rage from
gorge to prostate with grinding jaw and tightening anus
not released the weeping scream of horror at robot Mayaguez
World self ton billions metal grief unloaded
Pnom Penh to Nakon Thanom, Santiago & Tehran.
Fresh warm breeze in the window, day's release
>from pain, cars float downside the bridge trestle
and uncounted building-wall windows multiplied a mile
deep into ash-delicate sky beguile
my empty mind.
A seagull passes alone wings
spread silent over roofs.
- May 20, 1975 Mayaguez Crisis
Annie Finch |
HLF, August 8, 1918—August 22, 1997
“Bequeath us to no earthly shore until
Is answered in the vortex of our grave
The seal’s wide spindrift gaze towards paradise.
—Hart Crane, “Voyages”
“If a lion could talk, we couldn’t understand it”
Under the ocean that stretches out wordlessly
past the long edge of the last human shore,
there are deep windows the waves haven't opened,
where night is reflected through decades of glass.
There is the nursery, there is the nanny,
there are my father’s unreachable eyes
turned towards the window.
Is the child uneasy?
His is the death that is circling the stars.
In the deep room where candles burn soundlessly
and peace pours at last through the cells of our bodies,
three of us are watching, one of us is staring
with the wide gaze of a wild, wave-fed seal.
Incense and sage speak in smoke loud as waves,
and crickets sing sand towards the edge of the hourglass.
We wait outside time, while night collects courage
The vigil is wordless.
watch the longest, move the farthest, besieged by your breath,
pulling into your body.
You stare towards your death,
head arched on the pillow, your left fingers curled.
Your mouth sucking gently, unmoved by these hours
and their vigil of salt spray, you show us how far
you are going, and how long the long minutes are,
while spiralling night watches over the room
and takes you, until you watch us in turn.
Lions speak their own language.
You are still breathing.
Here is release.
Here is your pillow,
cool like a handkerchief pressed in a pocket.
Here is your white tousled long growing hair.
Here is a kiss on your temple to hold you
safe through your solitude’s long steady war;
here, you can go.
We will stay with you,
keeping the silence we all came here for.
Night, take his left hand, turning the pages.
Spin with the windows and doors that he mended.
Spin with his answers, patient, impatient.
Spin with his dry independence, his arms
warmed by the needs of his family, his hands
flying under the wide, carved gold ring, and the pages
flying so his thought could fly.
His breath slows,
lending its edges out to the night.
Here is his open mouth.
Silence is here
like one more new question that he will not answer.
A leaf is his temple.
The dark is the prayer.
He has given his body; his hand lies above
the sheets in a symbol of wholeness, a curve
of thumb and forefinger, ringed with wide gold,
and the instant that empties his breath is a flame
faced with a sudden cathedral's new stone.
William Shakespeare |
Tall as a crane,
The morning light creaks down again;
Comb your cockscomb-ragged hair,
Jane, Jane, come down the stair.
Each dull blunt wooden stalactite
Of rain creaks, hardened by the light,
Sounding like an overtone
From some lonely world unknown.
But the creaking empty light
Will never harden into sight,
Will never penetrate your brain
With overtones like the blunt rain.
The light would show (if it could harden)
Eternities of kitchen garden,
Cockscomb flowers that none will pluck,
And wooden flowers that 'gin to cluck.
In the kitchen you must light
Flames as staring, red and white,
As carrots or as turnips shining
Where the cold dawn light lies whining.
Cockscomb hair on the cold wind
Hangs limp, turns the milk's weak mind .
Tall as a crane,
The morning light creaks down again!
Annie Dillard |
New York: You take a train that rips through versts.
It feels as if the trains were running over your ears.
For many hours the train flies along the banks
of the Hudson about two feet from the water.
At the stops,
passengers run out, buy up bunches of celery,
and run back in, chewing the stalks as they go.
Bridges leap over the train with increasing frequency.
At each stop an additional story grows
onto the roofs.
Finally houses with squares
and dots of windows rise up.
No matter how far
you throw back your head, there are no tops.
Time and again, the telegraph poles are made
Maybe it only seems that way.
In the narrow canyons between the buildings, a sort
of adventurer-wind howls and runs away
along the versts of the ten avenues.
flows a solid human mass.
Only their yellow
waterproof slickers hiss like samovars and blaze.
The construction rises and with it the crane, as if
the building were being lifted up off the ground
by its pigtail.
It is hard to take it seriously.
The buildings are glowing with electricity; their evenly
cut-out windows are like a stencil.
the papers lie in heaps, delivered by trucks.
It is impossible to tear oneself away from this spectacle.
At midnight those leaving the theaters drink a last soda.
Puddles of rain stand cooling.
Poor people scavenge
In all directions is a labyrinth of trains
suffocated by vaults.
There is no hope, your eyes
are not accustomed to seeing such things.
They are starting to evolve an American gait out
of the cautious steps of the Indians on the paths of empty
Maybe it only seems that way.
Stephen Dunn |
It was no place for the faithless,
so I felt a little odd
walking the marshland with my daughters,
Canada geese all around and the blue
herons just standing there;
safe, and the abundance of swans.
The girls liked saying the words,
egret, whooping crane, and they liked
when I agreed.
The casinos were a few miles
to the east.
I liked saying craps and croupier
and sometimes I wanted to be lost
in those bright
It was April,
the gnats and black flies
weren't out yet.
The mosquitoes hadn't risen
from their stagnant pools to trouble
paradise and to give us
the great right to complain.
I loved these girls.
awaited their beauty and beauty
is what others want to own.
I'd keep that
was so sufficient just then.
"Yes," I said.
But already we were near the end.
Praise whatever you can.
Andrew Marvell |
Holland, that scarce deserves the name of Land,
As but th'Off-scouring of the Brittish Sand;
And so much Earth as was contributed
By English Pilots when they heav'd the Lead;
Or what by th' Oceans slow alluvion fell,
Of shipwrackt Cockle and the Muscle-shell;
This indigested vomit of the Sea
Fell to the Dutch by just Propriety.
Glad then, as Miners that have found the Oar,
They with mad labour fish'd the Land to Shoar;
And div'd as desperately for each piece
Of Earth, as if't had been of Ambergreece;
Collecting anxiously small Loads of Clay,
Less then what building Swallows bear away;
Transfursing into them their Dunghil Soul.
How did they rivet, with Gigantick Piles,
Thorough the Center their new-catched Miles;
And to the stake a strugling Country bound,
Where barking Waves still bait the forced Ground;
Building their watry Babel far more high
To reach the Sea, then those to scale the Sky.
Yet still his claim the Injur'd Ocean laid,
And oft at Leap-frog ore their Steeples plaid:
As if on purpose it on Land had come
To shew them what's their Mare Liberum.
A daily deluge over them does boyl;
The Earth and Water play at Level-coyl;
The Fish oft-times the Burger dispossest,
And sat not as a Meat but as a Guest;
And oft the Tritons and the Sea-Nymphs saw
Whole sholes of Dutch serv'd up for Cabillan;
Or as they over the new Level rang'd
For pickled Herring, pickled Heeren chang'd.
Nature, it seem'd, asham'd of her mistake,
Would throw their land away at Duck and Drake.
Therefore Necessity, that first made Kings,
Something like Government among them brings.
For as with Pygmees who best kills the Crane,
Among the hungry he that treasures Grain,
Among the blind the one-ey'd blinkard reigns,
So rules among the drowned he that draines.
Not who first see the rising Sun commands,
But who could first discern the rising Lands.
Who best could know to pump an Earth so leak
Him they their Lord and Country's Father speak.
To make a Bank was a great Plot of State;
Invent a Shov'l and be a Magistrate.
Hence some small Dyke-grave unperceiv'd invades
The Pow'r, and grows as 'twere a King of Spades.
But for less envy some Joynt States endures,
Who look like a Commission of the Sewers.
For these Half-anders, half wet, and half dry,
Nor bear strict service, nor pure Liberty.
'Tis probable Religion after this
Came next in order; which they could not miss.
How could the Dutch but be converted, when
Th' Apostles were so many Fishermen?
Besides the Waters of themselves did rise,
And, as their Land, so them did re-baptise.
Though Herring for their God few voices mist,
And Poor-John to have been th' Evangelist.
Faith, that could never Twins conceive before,
Never so fertile, spawn'd upon this shore:
More pregnant then their Marg'ret, that laid down
For Hans-in-Kelder of a whole Hans-Town.
Sure when Religion did it self imbark,
And from the east would Westward steer its Ark,
It struck, and splitting on this unknown ground,
Each one thence pillag'd the first piece he found:
Hence Amsterdam, Turk-Christian-Pagan-Jew,
Staple of Sects and Mint of Schisme grew;
That Bank of Conscience, where not one so strange
Opinion but finds Credit, and Exchange.
In vain for Catholicks our selves we bear;
The Universal Church is onely there.
Nor can Civility there want for Tillage,
Where wisely for their Court they chose a Village.
How fit a Title clothes their Governours,
Themselves the Hogs as all their Subjects Bores
Let it suffice to give their Country Fame
That it had one Civilis call'd by Name,
Some Fifteen hundred and more years ago,
But surely never any that was so.
See but their Mairmaids with their Tails of Fish,
Reeking at Church over the Chafing-Dish.
A vestal Turf enshrin'd in Earthen Ware
Fumes through the loop-holes of wooden Square.
Each to the Temple with these Altars tend,
But still does place it at her Western End:
While the fat steam of Female Sacrifice
Fills the Priests Nostrils and puts out his Eyes.
Or what a Spectacle the Skipper gross,
A Water-Hercules Butter-Coloss,
Tunn'd up with all their sev'ral Towns of Beer;
When Stagg'ring upon some Land, Snick and Sneer,
They try, like Statuaries, if they can,
Cut out each others Athos to a Man:
And carve in their large Bodies, where they please,
The Armes of the United Provinces.
But when such Amity at home is show'd;
What then are their confederacies abroad?
Let this one court'sie witness all the rest;
When their hole Navy they together prest,
Not Christian Captives to redeem from Bands:
Or intercept the Western golden Sands:
No, but all ancient Rights and Leagues must vail,
Rather then to the English strike their sail;
to whom their weather-beaten Province ows
It self, when as some greater Vessal tows
A Cock-boat tost with the same wind and fate;
We buoy'd so often up their Sinking State.
Was this Jus Belli & Pacis; could this be
Cause why their Burgomaster of the Sea
Ram'd with Gun-powder, flaming with Brand wine,
Should raging hold his Linstock to the Mine?
While, with feign'd Treaties, they invade by stealth
Our sore new circumcised Common wealth.
Yet of his vain Attempt no more he sees
Then of Case-Butter shot and Bullet-Cheese.
And the torn Navy stagger'd with him home,
While the Sea laught it self into a foam,
'Tis true since that (as fortune kindly sports,)
A wholesome Danger drove us to our ports.
While half their banish'd keels the Tempest tost,
Half bound at home in Prison to the frost:
That ours mean time at leisure might careen,
In a calm Winter, under Skies Serene.
As the obsequious Air and waters rest,
Till the dear Halcyon hatch out all its nest.
The Common wealth doth by its losses grow;
And, like its own Seas, only Ebbs to flow.
Besides that very Agitation laves,
And purges out the corruptible waves.
And now again our armed Bucentore
Doth yearly their Sea-Nuptials restore.
And how the Hydra of seaven Provinces
Is strangled by our Infant Hercules.
Their Tortoise wants its vainly stretched neck;
Their Navy all our Conquest or our Wreck:
Or, what is left, their Carthage overcome
Would render fain unto our better Rome.
Unless our Senate, lest their Youth disuse,
The War, (but who would) Peace if begg'd refuse.
For now of nothing may our State despair,
Darling of Heaven, and of Men the Care;
Provided that they be what they have been,
Watchful abroad, and honest still within.
For while our Neptune doth a Trident shake, Blake,
Steel'd with those piercing Heads, Dean, Monck and
And while Jove governs in the highest Sphere,
Vainly in Hell let Pluto domineer.
Elizabeth Bishop |
for Louise crane
In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays and after the plays
what other pleasures you're pursuing:
taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road gose round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,
and the trees look so ***** and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you're in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,
and most of the jokes you just can't catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so teribly late,
and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.
--Wheat, not oats, dear.
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing,
nevertheless I'd like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.
Philip Levine |
Of course Crane's
been drinking and has no idea who
this curious Andalusian is, unable
even to speak the language of poetry.
The young man who brought them
together knows both Spanish and English,
but he has a headache from jumping
back and forth from one language
For a moment's relief
he goes to the window to look
down on the East River, darkening
below as the early light comes on.
Something flashes across his sight,
a double vision of such horror
he has to slap both his hands across
his mouth to keep from screaming.
Let's not be frivolous, let's
not pretend the two poets gave
each other wisdom or love or
even a good time, let's not
invent a dialogue of such eloquence
that even the ants in your own
house won't forget it.
greatest poetic geniuses alive
meet, and what happens? A vision
comes to an ordinary man staring
at a filthy river.
Have you ever
had a vision? Have you ever shaken
your head to pieces and jerked back
at the image of your young son
falling through open space, not
from the stern of a ship bound
from Vera Cruz to New York but from
the roof of the building he works on?
Have you risen from bed to pace
until dawn to beg a merciless God
to take these pictures away? Oh, yes,
let's bless the imagination.
us the myths we live by.
the visionary power of the human—
the only animal that's got it—,
bless the exact image of your father
dead and mine dead, bless the images
that stalk the corners of our sight
and will not let go.
The young man
was my cousin, Arthur Lieberman,
then a language student at Columbia,
who told me all this before he died
quietly in his sleep in 1983
in a hotel in Perugia.
A good man,
Arthur, he survived graduate school,
later came home to Detroit and sold
pianos right through the Depression.
He loaned my brother a used one
to compose his hideous songs on,
which Arthur thought were genius.
What an imagination Arthur had!
Li Po |
I came here a wanderer
thinking of home,
remembering my far away Ch'ang-an.
And then, from deep in Yellow Crane Pavillion,
I heard a beautiful bamboo flute
play "Falling Plum Blossoms.
It was late spring in a city by the river.
Jorie Graham |
is by admitting
or opening away.
This is the simplest form
of current: Blue
moving through blue;
blue through purple;
the objects of desire
opening upon themselves
without us; the objects of faith.
The way things work
is by solution,
resistance lessened or
increased and taken
The way things work
is that we finally believe
they are there,
common and able
o illustrate themselves.
Wheel, kinetic flow,
rising and falling water,
ingots, levers and keys,
I believe in you,
cylinder lock, pully,
lifting tackle and
crane lift your small head--
I believe in you--
your head is the horizon to
forever in the hooks.
The way things work
is that eventually