The Desk

February 19, 2019

Fair enough: you people have eaten me,
I – wrote you down.
They’ll lay you out on a dinner table,
me – on this desk.

I’ve been happy with little.
There are dishes I’ve never tried.
But you, you people eat slowly, and often;
You eat and eat.

Everything was decided for us
back in the ocean:
Our places of action,
our places of gratitude.

You – with belches, I – with books,
with truffles, you. With pencil, I,
you and your olives, me and my rhyme,
with pickles, you. I, with poems.

At your head – funeral candles
like thick-legged asparagus:
your road out of this world
a dessert table’s striped cloth.

They will smoke Havana cigars
on your left side and your right;
your body will be dressed
in the best Dutch linen.

And – not to waste such expensive cloth,
they will shake you out,
along with the crumbs and bits of food,
into the hole, the grave.

You – stuffed capon, I – pigeon.
Gunpowder, your soul, at the autopsy.
And I will be laid out bare
with only two wings to cover me.

Marina Tsvetaeva
Trans. Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

almost a nonlanguage art

February 19, 2019

Poetry is not just an outpouring of feelings into words; diaries are good places for that. Nor is it use of words merely to convey information, as newspapers are purported to do. OK, so we all know that poetry’s medium is words — but don’t be fooled by that “fact” into thinking that poetry is made of words. “Pure poetry,” poet Russell Edson says, “is almost a nonlanguage art.” I think of poetry as a right-brain activity, using image, sensory gatherings, spatial impressions, free associations, music, and creative perception, and only casting its line into the language lake on the left to fish out the words to articulate it. If you read it only for the words (information, feelings, experience) it will not awaken and inform your full feelings and experience but will frustrate you in its seemingly mad illogic and leaps.

Alice B Fogel
Strange Terrain

Light is life

February 19, 2019

Goethe’s final words: “More light.” Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that’s been our unifying cry: “More light.” Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Neon. Incandescent. Lights that banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier’s field. Little tiny flashlight for those books we read under the covers when we’re supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom – Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home – Lead Thou me on! Arise, shine, for thy light has come. Light is knowledge. Light is life. Light is light.

Chris Stevens
Northern Exposure

a place filled with secrets

February 19, 2019

My poetic life started before I was even born, I believe, but really I’ve been a working poet for about a decade. As a child, I’d notice things the other children didn’t; I saw the world as a place filled with secrets, in-between colours, textures, whispers, and hidden spaces. I could make a world out of the smallest moment. I still do. Being a poet feels like having two bodies — one in this world, and one in some other. Does this sound like you?

Lisa Marie Basile
If You Want To Become a poet

wine tiptoed into the glasses

February 19, 2019

The noise of drinking was exhilarating. Champagne corks popped and the pale, chrysanthemum-coloured liquid, whispering gleefully with bubbles, hissed into the glasses; heavy red wine glupped into the goblets, thick and crimson as the blood of some mythical monster, and a swirling wreath of pink bubbles formed on the surface; the frosty white wine tiptoed into the glasses, shrilling, gleaming, now like diamonds, now like topaz; the ouzo lay transparent and innocent as the edge of a mountain pool until the water splashed in and the whole glass curdled like a conjuring trick, coiling and blurring into a summer cloud of moonstone white.

Gerald Durrell
The Garden of the Gods