Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year

By Bei Dao

Translated by David Hinton, Yanbing Chen

a child carrying flowers walks toward the new year
a conductor tattooing darkness
listens to the shortest pause

hurry a lion into the cage of music
hurry stone to masquerade as a recluse
moving in parallel nights

who's the visitor? when the days all
tip from nests and fly down roads
the book of failure grows boundless and deep

each and every moment's a shortcut
I follow it through the meaning of the East
returning home, closing death's door

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Woman Dances

By Osvaldo Sauma

hidden in the night
a woman dances
like saying wings
she spreads her arms
from the air’s core
to the air’s rim
tilting between walls of shadow
to the voids of light

a woman whirls
like a star
     turns
on herself
     graphs
the paths of chance
and its declensions dances
     turns
like lifting a bird
from the earth’s grasp
raises a magnetic time
draws with a blazing coal
the red speech of the caves

spins
     shakes
the childish fears
that call to us
from our innerness

a woman dances
by herself
against adversity
at the wood’s heart
to quicken
the blind beat of life
dances on my wounds
to goad me
on the route of remorse

a woman dances
alone against adversity
on the tumbling planet
against a snag in memory
flees on that flight of music
turns on herself
and bares to us a desire
that was driven from Paradise

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Bohemian Roadrunner

By Jason E. Hodges


Drifting along the highways and backroads of America
are the Bohemian Roadrunners
Wandering without worry or a care in the world
Modern-day Aborigines
Dancing while dreaming
To a drum beat and the warm felt fire light of the night
The impatience and greed that fills the cities they fled from
Seems to be growing well without their attendance
That life was happily traded without hesitation
For a life of music
of arts
of crafts made from the land
made from discarded trash
that last week was so wanted by the hippest of hipster
For the Bohemian Roadrunner is unconscious to the outside
but awake on the inside
More than most they encounter on the road
They are workers of flint
connecting with the spirits of the past
while disconnecting from the material world
A people of purpose:
To have no purpose of all
But to live free
Far from the rules of the rule-makers
The hands of the takers
The fingers of pointing
Far from the judging of the judges
The Bohemian Roadrunner lives and drifts on the land.


Jason Hodges began writing in 1989. Shortly after he began, he saw the movie Drugstore Cowboy with William S. Burroughs. He would go on to discover Charles Bukowski, Harry Crews, Anais Nin, and Anne Sexton. His work can be found at The Fringe, The Camel Saloon, Indigo Rising, The Dirt Worker's Journal, Daily Love, The Rainbow Rose, Dead Snakes, Books on Blog, The Second Hump, and Cross TIME Science Fiction Anthonlogies Volumes 8, 9, and 10. He also interviewed Harry Crews for Our Town Gainesville Edition, Spring 2011.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Feast of Lights

By Emma Lazarus

Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn;
Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born.

Remember how from wintry dawn till night,
Such songs were sung in Zion, when again
On the high altar flamed the sacred light,
And, purified from every Syrian stain,
The foam-white walls with golden shields were hung,
With crowns and silken spoils, and at the shrine,
Stood, midst their conqueror-tribe, five chieftains sprung
From one heroic stock, one seed divine.

Five branches grown from Mattathias' stem,
The Blessed John, the Keen-Eyed Jonathan,
Simon the fair, the Burst-of Spring, the Gem,
Eleazar, Help of-God; o'er all his clan
Judas the Lion-Prince, the Avenging Rod,
Towered in warrior-beauty, uncrowned king,
Armed with the breastplate and the sword of God,
Whose praise is: "He received the perishing."

They who had camped within the mountain-pass,
Couched on the rock, and tented neath the sky,
Who saw from Mizpah's heights the tangled grass
Choke the wide Temple-courts, the altar lie
Disfigured and polluted--who had flung
Their faces on the stones, and mourned aloud
And rent their garments, wailing with one tongue,
Crushed as a wind-swept bed of reeds is bowed,

Even they by one voice fired, one heart of flame,
Though broken reeds, had risen, and were men,
They rushed upon the spoiler and o'ercame,
Each arm for freedom had the strength of ten.
Now is their mourning into dancing turned,
Their sackcloth doffed for garments of delight,
Week-long the festive torches shall be burned,
Music and revelry wed day with night.

Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm,
The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word.
Where is our Judas? Where our five-branched palm?
Where are the lion-warriors of the Lord?
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Sound the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn,
Chant hymns of victory till the heart take fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Psalm of Mattathias

From the Book of Maccabees, Book 2

There is no need for fear
of men dressed in threats of power
all their successes are masks

that will fade like words in a gust of wind
and though one walks as if he wears a crown
in a show of pride — the whole performance collapses

in an instant: one last breath
and his body crowns the dunghill
and his words have turned to worms

today he shines on everyone's tongue
tomorrow no one has heard of him
he's vanished quickly as a winter sunset
gone — turned back into dust
all his schemes turned back
into nothing.

but you, my children, take hold of your lives
by a stronger hand,
by the deep strength in Torah

your hearts unsinkable vessels
bearing its words: sustenance
for a day beyond mere dreams of success

it will bring you into the future
it will bring you courage
worn as surely as a crown.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"How beautiful are thy tents, Jacob"

By Yehuda Amichai

"How beautiful are thy tents, Jacob."
Even now, when there are neither tents nor Jacob’s
tribes, I say, how beautiful.

Oh, may there come something of redemption,
an old song, a white letter,
a face in the crowd, a door opening
for the eye, multicolored
ice cream for the throat,
oil for the guts, a warm
memory for the breast.

Then my mouth will open wide
in everlasting praise,
open like the belly of a
wide—open calf hung on a hook
in a butcher’s shop of the Old City market.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

miss rosie

By Lucille Clifton

when I watch you
wrapped up like garbage
sitting, surrounded by the smell
of too old potato peels
or
when I watch you
in your old man's shoes
with the little toe cut out
sitting, waiting for your mind
like next week's grocery
I say
when I watch you
you wet brown bag of a woman
who used to be the best looking gal in Georgia
used to be called the Georgia Rose
I stand up
through your destruction
I stand up

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Trees

By Robert Frost

A Christmas Circular Letter

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn't thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I'd hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I'd hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, "There aren't enough to be worth while."

"I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over."

"You could look.
But don't expect I'm going to let you have them."
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded "Yes" to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer's moderation, "That would do."
I thought so too, but wasn't there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.

He said, "A thousand."

"A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?"

He felt some need of softening that to me:
"A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars."

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn't know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn't lay one in a letter.
I can't help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Transformation

By Martin Rosner

I am old, but the marsh
Is so much older,
Yet we have bonded through
The years that I have aged,
And it remains serenely changeless,
Retaining the cosmic elixir
That endows it as a womb.
The spicy, musky odor it emits
Is that of life transforming
From decay encoded inexplicably
By some supremely mystic force.
I hope it operates for man
As well as the other creatures
Generated in the marsh and on this earth
That we vainly strive to understand.
At last I must accept
That like the marsh,
Earth demands decay
In order to create new life.


Martin Rosner, M.D. has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers including 17 poems in "The New York Times" and is currently part of the course in modern poetry at American International College. He lives in New Jersey.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Love

By Czeslaw Milosz

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Atheism

By Richard Coughlan

Atheism offers nothing to me
It never has and it never will
It doesn’t make me feel good or comforts me
Its not there for me when I’m sick or ill
It can’t intervene in my times of need
It wont protect me from hate and lies
It doesn’t care if I fail or succeed
And it won’t wipe the tears from my eyes
It does nothing when I’ve got nowhere to run
It won’t give me wise words or advise
It has no teachings for me to learn
It can’t show me what’s bad or nice
It has never inspired or incited anyone
It won’t help me fulfill all my goals
It won’t tell me to stop when I’m having fun
It has never saved one single soul
It doesn’t take credit for everything I achieved
It won’t make me get down on bended knees
It doesn’t demand that I have to believe
It won’t torture me for eternity
It won’t teach me to hate or despise others
It can’t tell me what’s right or wrong
It won’t tell anybody that they can’t be lovers
It has told nobody that they don’t belong
It won’t make you think that life is worth living
It has nothing to offer me, that’s true

But the reason that atheism offers me nothing is because I’ve never asked it to.

Atheism offers nothing because it doesn’t need to
Religion promises everything because you want it to

You don’t need a religion or to have faith
You just want it because you need to feel safe

I want to feel reality and nothing more
So atheism offers me everything
That religion has stolen from me before

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The tao of touch

By Marge Piercy

What magic does touch create
that we crave it so. That babies
do not thrive without it. That
the nurse who cuts tough nails
and sands calluses on the elderly
tells me sometimes men weep
as she rubs lotion on their feet.

Yet the touch of a stranger
the bumping or predatory thrust
in the subway is like a slap.
We long for the familiar, the open
palm of love, its tender fingers.
It is our hands that tamed cats
into pets, not our food.

The widow looks in the mirror
thinking, no one will ever touch
me again, never. Not hold me.
Not caress the softness of my
breasts, my inner thighs, the swell
of my belly. Do I still live
if no one knows my body?

We touch each other so many
ways, in curiosity, in anger,
to command attention, to soothe,
to quiet, to rouse, to cure.
Touch is our first language
and often, our last as the breath
ebbs and a hand closes our eyes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Solar

By Robin Becker

The desert is butch, she dismisses your illusions
about what might do to make your life
work better, she stares you down and doesn’t say
a word about your past. She brings you a thousand days,
a thousand suns effortlessly each morning rising.
She lets you think what you want all afternoon.
Rain walks across her mesa, red-tailed hawks
writhe in fields of air, she lets you look at her.
She laughs at your study habits, your orderly house,
your need to name her “vainest woman you’ve ever met.”
Then she turns you toward the voluptuous valleys,
she gives you dreams of green forests,
she doesn’t care who else you love.
She sings in the grass, the sagebrush, the small trees
struggling and the tiny lizards scrambling
up the walls. You find her when you’re ready
in the barbed wire and fence posts, on the scrub where you walk
with your parched story, where she walks, spendthrift,
tossing up sunflowers, throwing her indifferent
shadow across the mountain. Haven’t you guessed?
She’s the loneliest woman alive but that’s her gift;
she makes you love your own loneliness,
the gates to darkness and memory. She is your best, indifferent
teacher, she knows you don’t mean what you say.
She flings aside your technical equipment,
she requires you to survive in her high country
like the patient sheep and cattle who graze and take her
into their bodies. She says lightning, and
get used to it. Her storms are great moments
in the history of American weather, her rain remakes the world,
while your emotional life is run-off from a tin roof.
Like the painted clown at Picuris Pueblo
who started up the pole and then dropped into the crowd,
anonymous, she paws the ground, she gallops past.
What can you trust? This opening, this returning,
this arroyo, this struck gong inside your chest?
She wants you to stay open like the hibiscus
that opens its orange petals for a single day.
At night, a fool, you stand on the chilly mesa,
split open like the great cleft of the Rio Grande Gorge,
trying to catch a glimpse of her, your new, long-term companion.
She gives you a sliver of moon, howl of a distant dog,
windy premonition of winter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Practical Mom

can go to Bible study every Sunday
and swear she’s still not convinced,
but she likes to be around people who are.
We have the same conversation
every few years—I’ll ask her if she stops
to admire the perfect leaves
of the Japanese maple
she waters in her backyard,
or tell her how I can gaze for hours
at a desert sky and know this
as divine. Nature, she says,
doesn’t hold her interest. Not nearly
as much as the greens, pinks, and grays
of a Diebenkorn abstract, or the antique
Tiffany lamp she finds in San Francisco.
She spends hours with her vegetables,
tasting the tomatoes she’s picked that morning
or checking to see which radishes are big enough to pull.
Lately everything she touches bears fruit,
from new-green string beans to winning
golf strokes, glamorous hats she designs and sews,
soaring stocks with their multiplying shares.
These are the things she can count in her hands,
the tangibles to feed and pass on to daughters
and grandchildren who can’t keep up with all
the risky numbers she depends on, the blood-sugar counts
and daily insulin injections, the monthly tests
of precancerous cells in her liver and lungs.
She’s a mathematical wonder with so many calculations
kept alive in her head, adding and subtracting
when everyone else is asleep.

By Amy Uyematsu

Monday, December 12, 2011

Afterimage

By Phil Lane

Here is a photograph,
a composite of youth:
boys race down a flagstone path,
bicycles rush over macadam streets,
the world is black and white,
uncomplicated.

In paper-thin portraits,
in auburn tomes,
the dead live on,
their monochrome faces,
their frozen smiles
filed and dated
like evidence,
pressed under glass
like fossils.

Here is a photograph,
an abstract of youth
that paints the past distort,
lithographs the lines
worth saving,
turns bitter experience
into something
you can frame—

Phil Lane's poems have been lost in cyberspace for the past decade. A very, very precise google search can uncover many of them. Mr. Lane lives in New Jersey and teaches English for a private tutoring company.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Shabbat

By Maya Pindyck

Dig the ditch for the dirt
and not for the hole, as does the man
who wishes to skirt the holy laws,
and whose sons, in the same spirit,
butcher open bags of potato chips
so that no bag remains, so that no one
can accuse them of reusing that bag
for some utilitarian purpose.

Cutting off the head of a chicken
is another story. You think you can
cut off a chicken’s head for its beak
and the chicken won’t die? The rabbis
have decided that no such intention
can be true, unless the Jew in question
is really stupid. Such are the laws
hanging by a thread from the mountain.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Fight or Flight Response

By Sherman Alexie 

Years ago, in Spokane, a woman saved
A family of orphaned baby geese.
An amateur ornithologist, she raised
Those birds into adulthood, and then released
Them into the pond at Manito Park,
Where a dozen swans, elegant and white,
Tore the tame geese open and ate their hearts.
Of course, all of this was broadcast live
On the local news. Eyewitnesses wept.
My mother and I shrugged, not at death,
But at those innocent folks who believe
That birds don't murder, rape, and steal.
Like us, swans can be jealous and dangerous,
And, oh, so lovely, sure and monogamous.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Beauty of Things

By Robinson Jeffers


To feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things - earth, stone and water,
Beast, man and woman, sun, moon and stars—
The blood-shot beauty of human nature, its thoughts, frenzies and passions,
And unhuman nature its towering reality—
For man’s half dream; man, you might say, is nature dreaming, but rock
And water and sky are constant—to feel
Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural
Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.
The rest’s diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas,
The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Approach of Winter

By William Carlos Williams

The half-stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine,—
like no leaf that ever was—
edge the bare garden.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Enemies

By Dante Micheaux

for Ishion Hutchinson

The thing about entertaining them,
about keeping their company,
about fraternizing,
is you must remember
they are bloodless
and have many faces,
though it’s easy enough
to walk in sunlight,
where either you or they
become invisible,
never together seen;
easy to get in bed with them,
to bed them,
to be seduced by them—
listing in their own dominance.
Remember what makes one human,
animal, is not the high road
but the baseness in the heart,
the knowledge that they could,
at any moment, betray you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Serenity Prayer

By Reinhold Niebuhr

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

Search this blog