Archive for May, 2007

Rain Upon the Gossip Tree

The window frames the Gossip tree tonight
Dark brick below
A clean gray blue above
It rained for over an hour
The air cooled
I thought of you
The birds sung
My room felt like a rain forest

I think of what I would say to you
I scratch my arm
There are many songs I could sing
Lullabyes and ballads
Sung a thousand times
They are so deep, like ruts
So easy to flow into
They tell a story you would like to be a part of

But I cannot imagine how I have come here
And that is what interests me
The question of being
How I came to be in this body
In this city

What of my past?
-the room I lived in during grad school
Pacific Ocean
in its particular composition
of molecules
and vectors
in February 2000.

Where are the hours I thought
I would be in so much trouble
If I didn’t finish a paper, or read
Another chapter, or get to class on time

In what way have I escaped?
I look around me.
I am 29 years old, I live in
Philadelphia. I work.

You are 42. You are getting divorced. There is
A house involved. I live in an apartment. You
Have a studio. We sketch on Thursday nights.

I am me. The me who slipped, who wanted to die.
I am me, whose skin burned with self-consciousness,
Who saw pathos in bracelets and ponytails, who
Couldn’t befriend people she wanted to be.

I am her, but I am not her anymore. I am easy,
I make many words, and have a sure voice. I don’t

But I don’t write my poems
Like I used to.
The need to confirm
That I have an interior.

My eyes had not adjusted to dreams or light,
Now, they suffuse all, and involve themselves in all.
I spare no personal expense
In entering.
But I spend nothing I do not wish to spend.

And yet, and yet,
Who is this
With arms that wave
With fingers that fly
Who I will not be
In a moment
Or day

Who is in this body
Who will remain in this body
But who will be left behind
In this Sunday evening, May 2007.

-Nina Alvarez 

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The Ninth Elegy

Why, if it’s possible to spend this span
of existence as laurel, a little darker than all
other greens, with little waves on every
leaf-edge (like the smile of a breeze), why, then,
must we be human and, shunning destiny,
long for it?…

Oh, not because happiness,

that over-hasty profit of loss impending, exists.
Not from curiosity, or to practise the heart,
that would also be in the laurel…
but because to be here is much, and the transient Here
seems to need and concern us strangely. Us, the most transient.
Everyone once, once only. Just once and no
And we also once, Never again. But this having been
once, although only once, to have been of the
seems irrevocable.

And so we drive ourselves and want to achieve it,
want to hold it in our simple hands,
in the surfeited gaze and in the speechless heart.
want to become it. give it to whom? Rather
keep all forever…but to the other realm,
alas, what can be taken? Not the power of seeing,
learned here so slowly, and nothing that’s happened here.
Nothing. Maybe the suffering? Before all, the heaviness
and long experience of love–unutterable things.
But later, under the stars, what then? They are better
untold of.
The wanderer does not bring a handful of earth,
the unutterable, from the mountain slope to the valley,
but a pure word he has learned, the blue
and yellow gentian. Are we here perhaps just to say:
house, bridge, well, gate, jug, fruit tree, window–
at most, column, tower… but to say, understand this, to say
as the Things themselves never fervently thought to be.
Is it not the hidden cunning of secretive earth
when it urges on the lovers, that everything seems transfigured
in their feelings? Threshold, what is it for two lovers
that they wear away a little of their own older doorstill,
they also, after the many before,
and before those yet coming…lightly?
Here is the time for the unutterable, here,
its country.
Speak and acknowledge it. More than ever
the things that we can live by are falling away,
supplanted by an action without symbol.
An action beneath crusts that easily crack, as soon as
the inner working outgrows and otherwise limits itself.
Our heart exists between hammers,
like the tongue between the teeth,
but notwithstanding, the tongue
always remains the praiser.
Praise the world to the angel, not the unutterable world;
you cannot astonish him with your glorious feelings;
in the universe, where he feels more sensitively,
you’re just a beginner. Therefore, show him the simple
thing that is shaped in passing from father to son,
that lives near our hands and eyes as our very own.
Tell him about the Things. He’ll stand amazed, as you stood
beside the rope-maker in Rome, or the potter on the Nile.
Show him how happy a thing can be, how blameless and ours;
how even the lamentation of sorrow purely decides
to take form, serves as a thing, or dies
in a thing, and blissfully in the beyond
escapes the violin. And these things that live,
slipping away, understand that you praise them;
transitory themselves, they trust us for rescue,
us, the most transient of all. They wish us to transmute them
in our invisible heart–oh, infinitely into us! Whoever we are.
Earth, isn’t this what you want: invisibly
to arise in us? Is it not your dream
to be some day invisible? Earth! Invisible!
What, if not transformation, is your insistent commission?
Earth, dear one, I will! Oh, believe it needs
not one more of your springtimes to win me over.
One, just one, is already too much for my blood.
From afar I’m utterly determined to be yours.
You were always right and your sacred revelation is the intimate
Behold, I’m alive. On what? Neither childhood nor future
grows less…surplus of existence
is welling up in my heart.

-Ranier Maria Rilke

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In Every Direction

As if you actually died in that dream
and woke up dead. Shadows of untangling vines
tumble toward the ceiling. A delicate
lizard sits on your shoulder, its eyes
blinking in every direction.

And when you lean forward and present your
hands to the basin of water, and glimpse the glass face
that is reflected there, it seems perfectly at home
beneath the surface, about as unnatural
as nature forcing everyone to face the music
with so much left to do, with everything
that could be done better tomorrow, to dance
the slow shuffle of decay.

Only one season becoming another,
continents traveling the skyway, the grass
breathing. And townspeople, victims, murderers,
the gold-colored straw and barbed-wire hair of the world
wafting over the furrows, the slashed roads
to the door of your office or into the living room.

The towel is warm and cool, soft to the touch,
but in another dream altogether
a screen door creaks open, slams shut,
and across the valley a car’s headlights swing up
and over. And maybe you are the driver
with both hands on the wheel, humming a tune
nobody’s ever heard before,

or maybe the woman on the edge of the porch,
grown quiet from fleeing,
tough as nails.

-Ralph Angel

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Danse Russe

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

-William Carlos Williams

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Giving Up

It is good to be
Not good enough

To not know where the line breaks should go
To get angry at a fussy computer
To spill hot chocolate on it
To dislike Sunday evenings as the sun is going down
And you have to work all week
But don’t have money
For coffee

It is okay
To look through the hall of the century
Through your shoddy lens
And feel wistful for the Parisian twenties
To imagine that Gertrude Stein
Knew something you don’t

In all my words I kept planting a song
A hopeful victory song
Of a metal-chested knight,
His fist to his heart
I kept saying
I have something to say

But sometimes
It is just what it is
Here, in this moment
Not knowing what to say
Or where to put the line breaks
Just sliding down on someone
Else’s convention
Rushing through a poem
Without hope
Of answering
The vibration
That knaws
To know

-Nina Alvarez

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Brothers in Arms (lyrics)

These mist-covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Some day you’ll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you’ll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

There’s so many different worlds
So many differents suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

Now the sun’s gone to hell
And the moon’s riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it’s written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We’re fools to make war
On our brothers in arms

-Dire Straights

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Caged Bird

Some believe there’s somewhere in the brain
that senses minor fluctuations in the Earth’s
magnetic field and uses a sort of memory
of that to travel the same route year after year
over thousands of miles, over open ocean
on moonless, clouded nights, and a built-in clock
that, save for weather’s influence, tells
when it’s time to go. But they utter nothing
of thwarted dreams in birds’ brains, how
a few cubic feet near the ground, however
well-kept and lighted, however large it seems
around a small bright bird, is like a fist
closed tight on feather and bone, how, certain times
of year, the bird’s heart races as if to power flight.

-Matthew J. Spireng

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