Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Man Who Never Heard of Frank Sinatra

By Aaron Fogel

The man who had never heard of Frank Sinatra: he lived
A perfectly ordinary life in America. Born in 1915,
He followed all the fads, read the newspapers, listened

To Television, knew who Dean Martin and Sammy whathisname
Were (Sinatra's friends), but somehow, by a one in a
Zillion fluke, whenever Sinatra came up, he was out of the room.

Or his attention was diverted by something else, and
(You will say this is impossible, that it cannot be), never
Heard him sing, like a man in my generation who somehow

Missed the Beatles though he had heard everything else.
Once, just as he was about to hear the name Frank Sinatra
A plane flew overhead--he was fifty-five years old--his hearing

A little more impaired. He had heard of Humphrey Bogart,
Of Elizabeth Taylor, of Walter Cronkite, and of perhaps a hundred
Forty thousand other celebrities names by the time he died,

And yet he had never heard of Frank Sinatra. The Greeks had
That famous saying, "The luckiest man is he who was never born."
Which is kind of gloomy, but I think they were wrong.

The luckiest man is he who never heard of Frank Sinatra

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

June 4th Elegies

By Liu Xiaobo

Remember those black-haired dead souls
who hold up the white-haired mothers
If my feet are chained, I'll use my ten fingers to climb to you
If my hands are tied, I'll use my knees and chin to climb to you
If my legs are smashed, I'll use my broken bones to support you
If my throat's strangled, I'll use my stifled breath to call you
If my mouth's muzzled, I'll use the tip of my nose to kiss you
If my teeth are knocked out, I'll use my toothless mouth to nip you
If my hair's torn out, I'll use my bald head to nudge you
If my eyes are plucked out, I'll use my eye sockets to stare at you
If my body's eaten away, I'll use my scent to embrace you
If my heart's crushed, I'll use my nerves to remember you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Pear

By Jane Kenyon

There is a moment in middle age
when you grow bored, angered
by your middling mind, afraid.
That day the sun
burns hot and bright,
making you more desolate.
It happens subtly, as when a pear
spoils from the inside out,
and you may not be aware
until things have gone too far.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Family Stories

By Dorianne Laux

I had a boyfriend who told me stories about his family,
how an argument once ended when his father
seized a lit birthday cake in both hands
and hurled it out a second-story window. That,
I thought, was what a normal family was like: anger
sent out across the sill, landing like a gift
to decorate the sidewalk below. In mine
it was fists and direct hits to the solar plexus,
and nobody ever forgave anyone. But I believed
the people in his stories really loved one another,
even when they yelled and shoved their feet
through cabinet doors, or held a chair like a bottle
of cheap champagne, christening the wall,
rungs exploding from their holes.
I said it sounded harmless, the pomp and fury
of the passionate. He said it was a curse
being born Italian and Catholic and when he
looked from that window what he saw was the moment
rudely crushed. But all I could see was a gorgeous
three-layer cake gliding like a battered ship
down the sidewalk, the smoking candles broken, sunk
deep in the icing, a few still burning.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Thanksgivings

Translated by Harriet Maxwell Converse from a traditional Iroquois prayer

We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be  
          living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us  
         light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged  
         to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this occasion.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Advice to Myself

By Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adelaide Crapsey

By Carl Sandburg

Among the bumble-bees in red-top hay, a freckled field of brown-eyed Susans dripping
yellow leaves in July,
I read your heart in a book. 

And your mouth of blue pansy—I know somewhere I have seen it rain-shattered.

And I have seen a woman with her head flung between her naked knees, and her head held
there listening to the sea, the great naked sea shouldering a load of salt.

And the blue pansy mouth sang to the sea:
Mother of God, I’m so little a thing,
Let me sing longer,
Only a little longer.

And the sea shouldered its salt in long gray combers hauling new shapes on the beach sand.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Amaze

By Adelaide Crapsey

I know
Not these my hands
And yet I think there was
A woman like me once had hands
Like these.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Winter Again

By Ce Rosenow

Grey clouds & snowfall
frozen streams
sun setting over Elliot Bay -
traveling together
warm breath
percussion music
holidays
hotels -
our final hand-clasp
& kiss farewell
so close to you
when the ice gave way

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Failing and Flying

By Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New York Notes

By Harvey Shapiro

1. Caught on a side street in heavy traffic, I said to the cabbie, I should have walked. He replied, I should have been a doctor. 2. When can I get on the 11:33 I ask the guy in the information booth at the Atlantic Avenue Station. When they open the doors, he says. I am home among my people.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Selecting Precedents

By Guy Kettelhack

Maybe there are small and intimate
and subtle aspects to electing presidents,
but finding them would be like searching
in the sea for a pellucid jellyfish in midst
of a tsunami: all conspires to crush
the singular: nothing, now, conduces to

the sole and vulnerable breath. However,
little in what’s happening today, tomorrow
or the next day has much chance
of changing what I see: a graceful brace
of branches with an army of attendant
yellow leaves beyond the sashes, frames

and shutters of my outer sight – which
seamlessly connects to secret windows
that afford my mind its inner light. Each
fractal surface of each fragile leaf portends
a geometric destiny: symmetrical
exactitudes of reaching out and falling in

which leave me vulnerably breathless
and as full of rich unknowing as we all
are now, and as we will be when we
know what we will know tonight.
I wonder if selecting precedents has any
lasting power to give joy or sorrow flight.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Exquisite Candidate

By Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton

I can promise you this: food in the White House
will change! No more granola, only fried eggs
flipped the way we like them. And ham ham ham!
Americans need ham! Nothing airy like debate for me!
Pigs will become the new symbol of glee,
displacing smiley faces and "Have A Nice Day."
Car bumpers are my billboards, billboards my movie screens.
Nothing I can say can be used against me.
My life flashes in front of my face daily.
Here's a snapshot of me as a baby. Then
marrying. My kids drink all their milk which helps the dairy industry.
A vote for me is not only a pat on the back for America!
A vote for me, my fellow Americans, is a vote for everyone like me!
If I were the type who made promises
I'd probably begin by saying: America,
relax! Buy big cars and tease your hair
as high as the Empire State Building.
Inch by inch, we're buying the world's sorrow.
Yeah, the world's sorrow, that's it!
The other side will have a lot to say about pork
but don't believe it! Their graphs are sloppy coloring books.
We're just fine—look at the way
everyone wants to speak English and live here!
Whatever you think of borders,
I am the only candidate to canoe over Niagara Falls
and live to photograph the Canadian side.
I'm the only Julliard graduate—
I will exhale beauty all across this great land
of pork rinds and gas stations and scientists working for cures,
of satellite dishes over Sparky's Bar & Grill, the ease
of breakfast in the mornings, quiet peace of sleep at night.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Veronika Prepares to Move to Nebraska

By Mitch Grabois

Veronika, a Soviet poster girl, enters
a beatnik bar
Out in the San Francisco street
car tires in traffic cut cd’s of
chanting Benedictine monks

The bartender reaches under the counter and hands Veronika
false documents
You don’t need these, you know, he says

Though there are no other customers in the bar to witness
she slaps him across the face
I can still beat you up, she says, in a Russian accent
just like when we were kids


Mitch Grabois’ poetry and short fiction has appeared in over seventy literary magazines, most recently The Examined Life, Memoir Journal, and Haggard and Halloo. His novel, Two-Headed Dog was published in April by Dirt e-books, founded by NY agent Gary Heidt. He was born in the Bronx and now lives in Denver.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reasons to Survive November

By Tony Hoagland

November like a train wreck –
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze –
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

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