the Enemy

The skies held angry clouds when I was young,
Shot through from time to time with sudden sun;
My garden has raked by rain so long
It’s barren of the fruit it might have borne.

Now autumn’s come, and harvest time again.
I must reclaim my solitary grove.
All that I should have reaped and gleaned is gone;
Tidewaters washed it all into the grave.

In such sick soil, eroded by the brine,
What mystic aliment for seeds like mine?
Can flowers from dream burst into bloom?

And how much human life can Time consume?
The Enemy within keeps growing fat
On lifeblood that it leeches from the heart!

- Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

the Grand Canyon

Flash after flash across the horizon:
tourists trying to take the canyon
by night. They don't know
every last shot will turn out black.

It takes sixty years for Rothko
to make his way to the rim.
He goes there only after dark.
As he stands at the railing, his pupils open
like a camera shutter at the slowest speed.

He has to be patient. He has to lean
far over the railing to see
the colors of darkness:
purple, numb brown, mud-red, mauve.
At first he can see only black-on-black.
"Something you don't want to look at," he says.

As he waits,
the waves of color vibrate in the canyon
like voices.
Pilgrim, bring back something
from the brink
of nothing
to make us see.

- Chana Bloch

Your Feet

When I can not look at your face
I look at your feet.

Your feet of arched bone,
your hard little feet.

I know that they support you,
and that your gentle weight
rises upon them.

Your waist and your breast,
the doubled purple
of your nipples,
the sockets of your eyes
that have just flown away,
your wide fruit mouth,
your red tresses,
my little tower.

But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.

- Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

To the Reader

Sin, stinting, senseless acts and sophistries
Pester the flesh and prey upon the mind;
We keep our stainless consciences maintained
Like indigents who fatten up their fleas.

Headstrong in sin, half-hearted in remorse,
We want to make damn sure confession pays,
That easy tears will rinse away disgrace-
The better to resume our intercourse.

Great Satan lullabies our spellbound hearts
And rocks us in his cunning cradle, till
The pliant precious metal of our will
Is vaporized by his hermetic arts.

The Devil jerks the strings that make us dance!
We learn to love the smell of excrement;
Each day brings one more step in our descent
Through stinking shades that would have gagged us once.

Lechers with nothing left, whose pleasure is
To squeeze some aged whore's exhausted breast,
We grab for every passing thrill with zest
And suck them hard, like dried-up oranges.

Like serried knots of seething parasites,
Demonic forces riot in our brains;
With every rasping breath, Death's river drains
Down to our flooded lungs and out of sight.

Were petty criminals, with petty fates,
And if we haven't broken all the laws
Of God and man and nature, it's because
We haven't got the stomach for it, yet.

In our grotesque menagerie of vice,
Amid the hisses, grunts and snarls and shrieks
Of restless jackals, vultures, apes and snakes,
There's one thing even wilder, even worse.

Nastier, far more vicious than the rest!
Although the beast lies silent and withdrawn,
He'd swallow all creation with a yawn
And willingly reduce the earth to dust:

Ennui! daydreaming of the guillotine,
Grows misty-eyed, a hookah in his fist.
Reader, you know this armchair terrorist-
Yes, you - you hypocrite - my next of kin!

- Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

The Quiet Place Inside

The tangles roots of addiction
begin in my mind
when I believe that the world is
a land of trinkets promising happiness.

In this world I feel trapped,
surrounded by a moat of deep and shadowy
waters of loneliness and despair.
The knurled, spiny roots of addiction encase and
squeeze my heart, forcing the
memory of love to fade into darkness.

Let me today come to realize
that there is a quiet place inside of me,
a place kept safe for me,
where love lies protected and unharmed.

Today my awareness of love shines light
through the darkness of addiction.
The light of love is who I am.
Today I will take time to be still
and listen to the truth about who I am.

- Lee Jampolsky (1952-)

the Albatross

Sometimes for cruel sport a crew will take
The sky's leviathan, an albatross,
That easygoing escort in the wake
Of vessels drifting on the salt abyss

Out of his element. A king of kings -
But once the men have wrestled him aboard,
Pathetically, he drags those futile things
Behind him like a pair of great white oars.

This noble traveler, so graceful then,
So awkward now, and comical, and meek -
One sailor apes the sea-sick alien,
Another sticks a pipestem in his beak!

Cloud-sovereign himself, the Poet seems
To rule the storm and taunt the crossbow’ strings,
But exiled on the earth in scornful times,
Can never walk for such outlandish wings.

- Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

Cleaning the Mermaid

What to say of it, the fish part,
that does not sound like
any fish: rough to the fingers,
difficult to scale, knife catching on hide,
platelets glancing off my glasses?

For it is hard enough anyway
to hold it steady in the sink
without the soft voice in the ear,
the plaintive singing, the water in its lungs
echoing the faucet's laughter.

I suppose it was that, and the easy
reception of my thumb upon
it throat, that made me wonder
if there might be something, this time,
to feel sad about.

- William L. Ramsey

To Whom It May Concern

After so many decades of . . . of what?
I have a permanent sabbatical.
I pass my time on actuarial time,
Listen to music, and, going to bed
Leave something in the bottom of the glass,
A little wastefulness to end the day.

- J.V. Cunningham (1911-1985)

Dead Weight

The combat vet who works the lawn has
a hole in his neck I can’t stop glancing at, dark
thumb pushed into cracked clay. Ain’t pretty,
he says and winks, and the hole in his neck

winks as he twists to pick up a rake. He
was lucky, he says, ‘cause his brother got
one too, but his, well his was in the middle
of his forehead, life-years ago

in a place where it felt not even the stones
liked them, and sand grew like nobody’s business.
Not theirs anyway. Never saw so much sun,
he can still see it when he shuts his eyes,

it’s like he can’t quite close them all the way.
He pulls up a bag of grass seed and drapes
the dead weight on his shoulder. Ain’t heavy,
he says, if you can balance it right.

- Mark Smith-Soto


Just as a year might end
the world tonight may die
around the darkside moon
with one wipe of the eye.
The world makes something to see
if we go out and look
at fields of snow and stars:
the ogle eye of Mars
throbbing toc and tic
burns red in the dark.
See how it all ends,
this time that was never ready,
this future that never worked
fallen into our hands
and our hands deadly
and the dead, friends.

- Louis Coxe (1918-1993)

To My Mother

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you-
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.
My mother--my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I know
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.

- Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)

Hometown Funeral

I want warriors at my funeral,
each red necked, milked-chested fellow
in his one tie, a suit that used to fit.
They make great pallbearers,
are okay at the grave, in any role
where silence is required, but it’s hard
to get them inside afterward,
church basement, at the house. They clump
in the parking lot, out in the yard,
near the comfort of pickup trucks. While the women
chat and fuss, put out sandwiches, potato salad,
despair-black coffee, the men
talk in short words, call the dead man
by his last name, his clan. In the second hour
the laughter starts. They’re stepping back,
as they used to from the pyre they’d pile
with axes, spears, gold rings,
away from that heat changing flesh to story.

- Susan Blackwell Ramsey (1958-)


After our damp skins slid apart
I nearly starved, pulling
on my mother’s drained tit.
She used all her strength
to shove me out of her body,
the last link stretched, slashed,
tied in a knot I wear on the beach,
flaunting the twisted emblem
of first rejection, the eye of flesh
that saw love couldn’t last.

- Lauren Shakely (1948-)

the Visitor

In Spanish he whispers there is no time left.
It is the sound of scythes arcing in wheat,
the ache of some field song in Salvador.
The wind along the prison, cautious
as Francisco’s hands on the inside, touching
the walls as he walks, it is his wife’s breath
slipping into his cell each night while he
imagines his hand to be hers. It is a small country.

There is nothing one man will not do to another.

- Carolyn Forche (1950-)


By fate, not option, frugal Nature gave
One scent to hyson and to wall-flower,
One sound to pine-groves and to waterfalls,
One aspect to the desert and the lake.
It was her stern necessity: all things
Are of one pattern made; bird, beast, and flower,
Song, picture, form, space, thought and character
Deceive us, seeming to be many things,
And are but one. Beheld far off, they part
As God and devil; bring them to the mind,
They dull its edge with their monotony.
To know one element, explore another,
And in the second reappears the first.
The specious panorama of a year
But multiplies the image of day,--
A belt of mirrors round taper's flame;
And universal Nature, through her vast
And crowded whole, an infinite paroquet,
Repeats one note.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)


What it must be like to be an angel
or a squirrel, we can imagine sooner.

The last time we go to bed good,
they are there, lying about darkness.

They dandle us once too often,
these friends who become our enemies.

Suddenly one day, their juniors
are as old as we yearn to be.

They get wrinkles where it is better
smooth, odd coughs, and smells.

It is grotesque how they go on
loving us, we go on loving them.

The effrontery, barely imaginable,
of having caused us. And of how.

Their lives: surely
we can do better than that.

This goes on for a long time. Everything
they do is wrong, and the worst thing,

they all do it, is to die,
taking with them the last explanation,

how we came out of the wet sea
or wherever they got us from,
taking the last link
of that chain with them.

Father, mother, we cry, wrinkling,
to our uncomprehending children and grandchildren.

- William Morris Meredith Jr. (1919-2007)

Couplets, XX

Don’t be afraid of dying. The glass of water
Is quickly poured into the waiting goblet.

Your face that will be of no further use to mirrors
Grows more and more transparent, nothing is hidden.

It’s night in the remotest provinces of the brain,
Seeing falls back into the great sea of light.

How strange to see that glittering green fly
Walk onto the eyeball, rubbing its hands and praying.

Don’t be afraid, you’re going to where you were
Before birth pushed you into this cold light.

Lie down here, next to Empedocles;
Be joined to the small grains of the brotherhood.

- Robert Mezey (1935-)


Decades before
the diagnosis
when we all
felt eternal,
by passion,
a lover coiled
around me in bed
running a hand
over a hip,
Who do you think
is going to die first?
I said,
to scrutinize
his face.
It won't matter
because we
won't be together.

- Dion Farquhar (1947-present)

77 Dream Song

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

- John Berryman (1914-1972)


Trees, tired
Of the same old thing,
Try yellow.

The fields,
not to be outdone,
Blanch each morning.
But lose their nerve
Around noon.

The sky, discouraged
By the amount
Of work involved,
Stays the same.

- Jeremy Clarke (1962-)


Far star that tickles for me my sensitive plate
And fries a couple of ebon atoms white,
I don't believe I believe a thing you state.
I put no faith in the seeming facts of light.

I don't believe I believe you're the last in space,
I don't believe you're anywhere near the last,
I don't believe what makes you red in the face
Is after explosion going away so fast.

The universe may or may not be very immense.
As a matter of fact there are times when I am apt
To feel it close in tight against my sense
Like a caul in which I was born and still am wrapped.

- Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Squares and Angles

Houses in a row, houses in a row,
houses in a row.
Square, square, square
houses in a row.
People now have square souls,
ideas in a row
and angles on their backs.
I myself shed a tear yesterday,
my god, it was square.

- Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938)

All Good Things

Cold gaze reminding me
Paradise will be lost
Walking away as if…
I can't think about it
Just kiss me
Don't mind me

no matter the reasons
Emotions are what matter
Reason carries foresight
all else rolls dice outta sight

Never mind this or that
Just grow from now to then
Wondering when we'll walk past
as if we never happened.