Sunday, February 28, 2010

2020 Beachwood Drive

By Mark Dixon

Santa Ana wind
comes off desolate stretches of Route 66
whips down arroyos and mountain passes
soars to the sea.

Santa Ana wind
whines through Assyrian parapets
of City Hall
down Cesar Chavez
up the dawn-red canyons of glass
around well-kept Jewish towers
of Fairfax, Park La Brea

Santa Ana wind
makes nights oppressive, sleep elusive
speaks of steamy nights alone with a friend
Otis Redding on the radio
cigarettes in the car

Secret messages from your guitar
played at midnight for your ears only
rise like the scent of sinsemilla
to my loft upstairs
where I still lie awake as well

No soft westerlies in the twilight
fanning palm fronds as you play
no ocean breezes
no trade winds whispering aloha
through your half-open balcony doors

Only sweat, oppressive heat
and Santa Ana wind
searing the soul of the city
in one long hot breath
the Mojave exhaled.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

At the Poetry Reading

By John Brehm

I can’t keep my eyes off the poet’s
wife’s legs—they’re so much more
beautiful than anything he might
be saying, though I’m no longer
in a position really to judge,
having stopped listening some time ago.
He’s from the Iowa Writers Workshop
and can therefore get along fine
without my attention. He started in
reading poems about his childhood—
barns, cornsnakes, gradeschool, flowers,
that sort of stuff—the loss of
innocence he keeps talking about
between poems, which I can relate to,
especially under these circumstances.
Now he’s on to science, a poem
about hydrogen, I think, he’s trying
to imagine himself turning into hydrogen.
Maybe he’ll succeed. I’m imagining
myself sliding up his wife’s fluid,
rhythmic, lusciously curved, black-
stockinged legs, imagining them arched
around my shoulders, wrapped around my back.
My God, why doesn’t he write poems about her!
He will, no doubt, once she leaves him,
leaves him for another poet, perhaps,
the observant, uninnocent one, who knows
a poem when it sits down in a room with him.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Duclinea Tries to Comfort Don Quijote

By Bonnie Lyons

Back then,
with my full breasts
lean hips and full belly,
you loved my body
because it was beautiful.

Now when the downward
pull of gravity and the grave
have taken a little here
added a lot there,
you can love my body only

because it is my body.
Absurdly unexpected as all
these predictable losses,
we enter the real
age of romantic love.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Children of Our Era

By Wislawa Szymborska

We are children of our era;
our era is political.

All affairs, day and night,
yours, ours, theirs,
are political affairs.

Like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin a political cast,
your eyes a political aspect.

What you say has a resonance;
what you are silent about is telling.
Either way, it's political.

Even when you head for the hills
you're taking political steps
on political ground.

Even apolitical poems are political,
and above us shines the moon,
by now no longer lunar.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
Question? What question? Dear, here's a suggestion:
a political question.

You don't even have to be a human being
to gain political significance.
Crude oil will do,
or concentrated feed, or any raw material.

Or even a conference table whose shape
was disputed for months:
should we negotiate life and death
at a round table or a square one?

Meanwhile people were dying,
animals perishing,
houses burning,
and fields growing wild,
just as in times most remote
and less political.

Translated by Joanna Trzeciak

Thursday, February 18, 2010

One Heart

By Li-Young Lee

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, friend, open

at either end of day.
The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


By Margaret Atwood

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ein Yahav

By Yehuda Amichai

A night drive to Ein Yahav in the Arava Desert,
a drive in the rain. Yes, in the rain.
There I met people who grow date palms,
there I saw tamarisk trees and risk trees,
there I saw hope barbed as barbed wire.
And I said to myself: That's true, hope needs to be
like barbed wire to keep out despair,
hope must be a mine field.

Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

Monday, February 15, 2010


By Lucille Clifton

who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be

beautiful who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals

that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin

sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls clicking their bony fingers

envying our crackling hair
our spice filled flesh

they have heard me beseeching
as I whispered into my own

cupped hands enough not me again
enough but who can distinguish

one human voice
amid such choruses of desire

Friday, February 12, 2010


By Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
wolf under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse
that feels a flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against "business documents and

school-books"; all these phenomena are important. One must make
a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
"literalists of
the imagination"--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them,"
shall we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

La Magia de la Crítica

By José Emilio Pacheco

Para mí para muchos es lo mejor del mundo.
No cesaremos nunca de alabarlo.
Jamás terminará la gratitud
por su música incomparable.

En cambio para Strindberg todo Mozart
es una cacofonía de gorjeos cursis.

La variedad del gusto,
la magia de la crítica.

The Magic of Criticism
By José Emilio Pacheco

For me and many others he is the best in the world.
We will never tire of singing his praises.
Our gratitude
for his incomparable music is infinite.

For Strindberg, on the other hand, all of Mozart
is a cacophany of pretentious warbling.

The variety of taste,
the magic of criticism.

Translated by Cynthia Steele

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


By Mary Oliver

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.
I mean this

In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
It is my favorite story--
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give

but their willingness
to be attentive--
but for this alone
the gods loved them

and blessed them--
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water

from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down--
but still they asked for nothing

but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning--
whatever it was I said

I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field--
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors--
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

Monday, February 8, 2010


By Naomi Shihab Nye

If you place a fern
under stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
as if the stone has
swallowed it.

If you tuck the name of a loved one
under your tongue too long
without speaking it
it becomes blood
the little sucked-in breath of air
hiding everywhere
beneath your words.

No one sees
the fuel that feeds you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Discovering Stephen Dunn

By Eve Lyons

Finding a new poet is like finding
a new route to work: Faster, less traffic,
perhaps more scenic.
Something new to quiet the din
and slow you down.
You feel so pleased with yourself,
you can feel a small lump softening happily
in the pit of your stomach.
You can’t wait to mail off a letter,
telling your friend who lovingly excerpted
this brave new voice,
which was always there
waiting for you to find,
how you sat crammed between books and
the aisles of people breathing life into them,
Thumbing through pages,
looking for that one poem that wooed you,
but being seduced by others along the way.
Feeling them inside you for hours after.
The best part is the new creation that comes from this,
the awkward birth of language.
You have to pull over
in the hot sun with a cup of coffee
and your new friend
just to write it down.

Published in Barbaric Yawp, June 2002

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bon Voyage

This morning the aquamarine clouds
look like they've been dipped
in the Aegean. Soon that sea
will take you in its arms.
You'll look through air so clear
the world will seem perfectly
in focus. Rosemary breezes
will stroke you, roses and bougainvillea
foam off thick white walls.
Gnarled olive trees will teach you
how to age, and the sea will tell you
how not to.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Woman Martyr

By Agi Mishol

"The evening goes blind, and you are only twenty."
--Nathan Alterman, “Late Afternoon in the Market”

You are only twenty
and your first pregnancy is a bomb.
Under your broad skirt you are pregnant with dynamite
and metal shavings. This is how you walk in the market,
ticking among the people, you, Andaleeb Takatka.

Someone loosened the screws in your head
and launched you toward the city;
even though you come from Bethlehem,
the Home of Bread, you chose a bakery.
And there you pulled the trigger out of yourself,
and together with the Sabbath loaves,
sesame and poppy seed,
you flung yourself into the sky.

Together with Rebecca Fink you flew up
with Yelena Konre’ev from the Caucasus
and Nissim Cohen from Afghanistan
and Suhila Houshy from Iran
and two Chinese you swept along
to death.

Since then, other matters
have obscured your story,
about which I speak all the time
without having anything to say.

Translated by Lisa Katz

Thursday, February 4, 2010

the young man on the bus stop bench

By Charles Bukowski

he sits all day at the bus stop
at Sunset and Western
his sleeping bag beside him.
he’s dirty.
nobody bothers him.
people leave him alone.
the police leave him alone.
he could be the 2nd coming of Christ
but I doubt it.
the soles of his shoes are completely
he just laces the tops up
and sits and watches traffic.

I remember my own youthful days
(although I traveled lighter)
they were similar:
park benches
street corners
tarpaper shacks in Georgia for
$1.25 a week
not wanting the skid row church
too crazy to apply for relief
daytimes spent laying in public parks
bugs in the grass biting
looking into the sky
little insects whirling above my head
the breathing of white air
just breathing and waiting.

life becomes difficult:
being ignored
and ignoring.
everything turns into white air
the head fills with white air
and as invisible women sit in rooms
with successful bright-eyed young men
conversing brilliantly about everything
your sex drive
vanishes and it really
doesn’t matter.
you don’t want food
you don’t want shelter
you don’t want anything.
sometimes you die
sometimes you don’t.

as I drive past
the young man on the bus stop bench
I am comfortable in my automobile
I have money in two different banks
I own my own home
but he reminds me of my young self
and I want to help him
but I don’t know what to do.

today when I drove past again
he was gone
I suppose finally the world wasn’t
pleased with him being there.

the bench still sits there on the corner
advertising something.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Be Drunk

By Charles Baudelaire

You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: "It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish."

Translated by Louis Simpson

Monday, February 1, 2010


By Denise Duhamel

They decide to exchange heads.
Barbie squeezes the small opening under her chin
over Ken's bulging neck socket. His wide jaw line jostles
atop his girlfriend's body, loosely,
like one of those novelty dogs
destined to gaze from the back windows of cars.
The two dolls chase each other around the orange Country Camper
unsure what they'll do when they're within touching distance.
Ken wants to feel Barbie's toes between his lips,
take off one of her legs and force his whole arm inside her.
With only the vaguest suggestion of genitals,
all the alluring qualities they possess as fashion dolls,
up until now, have done neither of them much good.
But suddenly Barbie is excited looking at her own body
under the weight of Ken's face. He is part circus freak,
part thwarted hermaphrodite. And she is imagining
she is somebody else-- maybe somebody middle class and ordinary,
maybe another teenage model being caught in a scandal.

The night had begun with Barbie getting angry
at finding Ken's blow up doll, folded and stuffed
under the couch. He was defensive and ashamed, especially about
not having the breath to inflate her. But after a round
of pretend-tears, Barbie and Ken vowed to try
to make their relationship work. With their good memories
as sustaining as good food, they listened to late-night radio
talk shows, one featuring Doctor Ruth. When all else fails,
just hold each other, the small sex therapist crooned.
Barbie and Ken, on cue, groped in the dark,
their interchangeable skin glowing, the color of Band-Aids.
Then, they let themselves go-- Soon Barbie was begging Ken
to try on her spandex miniskirt. She showed him how
to pivot as though he was on a runway. Ken begged
to tie Barbie onto his yellow surfboard and spin her
on the kitcen table until she grew dizzy. Anything,
anything, they both said to the other's requests,
their mirrored desires bubbling from the most unlikely places.