Your dog is not a dog of grace;
He does not wag the tail or beg;
He bit Miss Dickson in the face;
He bit a Bailie in the leg.

What tragic choices such a dog
Presents to visitor or friend!
Outside there is the Glasgow fog;
Within, a hydrophobic end.

Yet some relief even terror brings,
For when our life is cold and gray
We waste our strength on little things,
And fret our puny souls away.

A snarl! A scruffle round the room!
A sense that Death is drawing near!
And human creatures reassume
The elemental robe of fear.

So when my colleague makes his moan
Of careless cooks, and warts, and debt,
– Enlarge his views, restore his tone,
And introduce him to your Pet!

Sir Walter Raleigh

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

The Naked and the Nude

February 17, 2019

For me, the naked and the nude
(By lexicographers construed
As synonyms that should express
The same deficiency of dress
Or shelter) stand as wide apart
As love from lies, or truth from art.

Lovers without reproach will gaze
On bodies naked and ablaze;
The Hippocratic eye will see
In nakedness, anatomy;
And naked shines the Goddess when
She mounts her lion among men.

The nude are bold, the nude are sly
To hold each treasonable eye.
While draping by a showman’s trick
Their dishabille in rhetoric,
They grin a mock-religious grin
Of scorn at those of naked skin.

The naked, therefore, who compete
Against the nude may know defeat;
Yet when they both together tread
The briary pastures of the dead,
By Gorgons with long whips pursued,
How naked go the sometimes nude!

Robert Graves

The loneliness of men bathing

February 16, 2019

No one bothers to imagine men in baths.
None of us sitting home alone
On a dull, rainy evening
Thinks of the nude male body
Half-floating, eyes closed, in scented water
Littered with petals, loosening himself
Into the liquid grace of muscular abandon,
One arm perhaps draped over the bath’s edge
Beckoning unconsciously, the left hand
Drawing a long, slow line along
The silkened, opened, underwater skin
Of an upper thigh until it reaches
Tactile complications at the loins
And just gets lost.

The lovely self-involvement of this wet
Body, slightly stirring, aromatic
Weightless, gorgeous, given up to pleasure
Is no secret, but still the event
Goes unattended, night after night
Year after year.
People imagine something else; men rise
From dirty, unimagined water
Put on an old bathrobe
Make tea and clip their nails
Without so much applause
As a single caught breath
Or pair of widened eyes.

O fragrant, oiled Odysseus, O Marat
Interrupted, O Bloom in your indolent tub
O Christ in heaven and your feet
In Mary Magdalene’s hair, forgive me!
Think of me, from now on, thinking of you —
Vigilant, breathless, crazy with desire.

Mary Campbell

Caliban at sunset

February 16, 2019

I stood with a man
Watching the sun go down.
The air was full of murmurous summer scents
And a brave breeze sang like a bugle
From a sky that smouldered in the west,
A sky of crimson, amethyst, gold and sepia
And blue as blue were the eyes of Helen
When she sat
Gazing from some high tower in Ilium
Upon the Grecian tents darkling below.
And he,
This man who stood beside me,
Gaped like some dull, half-witted animal
And said,
“I say,
Doesn’t that sunset remind you
Of a slice
Of underdone roast beef?”

P.G. Wodehouse

Broken Piano String

February 16, 2019

She was an old jazz song played on a broken piano string tied to the moon and the scars of his heart

Akira Chinen
Broken Piano String

Writing in the Dark

February 12, 2019

Fear’s chandelier shakes the secluded house, tv sputters with its laugh track.
Our heroine must run from the house, its smoke-filled mirrors.
It is the formula as are her lovely yellow curls.
Why must she run out on the cliffs in pounding rain into the arms of the hero?
Hey, Goldie, don’t flee to the sea, go into the woods.
Watch how the hills glisten before they darken to silhouette.
Now wait for the appearance of the wolf.
You should be prepared for his bony face.
There’s a mask in your pocket, there always is.
Now you be the wolf.

Judith Taylor

Original Sin

February 10, 2019

That was one idea my mother
always disliked. She preferred her god
to be reasonable, like Emerson or Thoreau
without their stranger moments.
Even the Old Testament God’s
sudden angers and twisted ways
of getting what he wanted she’d accept
as metaphor. But original sin
was different. Plus no one agreed
if it was personal, meaning
all Adam’s fault, or else some kind
of temporary absence of the holy,
which was Adam’s fault as well.
In any case, it made no sense
that we’d need to be saved before
we’d even had the chance
to be wrong. Yes, eventually everyone
falls into error, but when my sister and I
were babies she could see we were perfect,
as we opened our eyes and gazed up at her
with what she took for granted as love,
long before either of us knew the word
and what damage it could cause.

Lawrence Raab

Morning in the Burned House

February 9, 2019

In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.

The spoon which was melted scrapes against
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.

Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,

their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,

every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,

the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud
rises up silently like dark bread.

I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.

I can’t see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything

in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,

including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,

bare child’s feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts

and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent.

Margaret Atwood

‘listen girl,’ Medea says, ‘you are
not the first person in the world to
suffer from a broken heart.
but i will treat you like you are.
listen girl. he is not calling out your name.
your name to him is nothing.
it might have been before.
once, your name might have been
the only word he knew when he
was blind sad or bursting with sun.
those days are over.
your name can only exist in your own mouth now.
say it over and over. say it until it doesn’t sound
like a name, but just a sound.
the promises he made you are just sounds now too.
remember that.
your hands are what will hold you together now.
and you want to be mad? be mad.
here is a plate. throw it through his window,
listen to the crack. the shatter. laugh into the night.
call yourself the sun. see, you will rise.
and are you less of a woman for this? no
what is woman?
woman is this – enduring.
listen girl, you will get over this – you will.
but what fool said you had to do it silently?
here is a tip – scream.’

Salma Deera