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Archive for July, 2007

A Few Moments

The dwarf pine on marsh grounds holds its head up: a dark rag.
But what you see is nothing compared to the roots,
the widening, secretly groping, deathless or half-
deathless root system…

Tomas Tranströmer (translated by Robert Bly)

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At Thirty

Whole years I knew only nights: automats
& damp streets, the Lower East Side steep…

-Lynda Hull

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The Joy Of Writing

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence – this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”
Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.

Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

-Symborska

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PRINT
i.

bloodred plate

ii

woodblock cut and inked
brazen with thick color

pressed to a blanket of paper
so the fine calligraphy of scars

marks a textured
sheet

iii

swapped left to right
not the line but the line the line leaves
otherhanded

iv

i leaned close over the page
tracing light as dark shape
to transfer to the block
how would it look
without its shadings?

v

twenty interesting failures kept
in a folder by the bench
and this one?

vi

inked bloodshadows and empty space

vii

i drink coffee at the bench
inks and wet rollers pushed
back a stack of proofs pulled

a progression the woodcut
carved corrected in stages
tested black on white until

i’m moved to color and
richer paper

viii

brightflash stamps a redburn
afterimage on the eye that slowly
fades yes paper lays
atop the woodblock

her back to you while you
burnish her back thoroughly
press her to the ink slowly peel
a corner back

ix

spread to dry

x

of many one
astonishes how the
toolmarks printed how
the farcorner too lightly
inked looks overexposed
i stare for hours

xi

proof

jil hanifan

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HERE

Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that’s who I wanted to be

at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sitting
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration

that’s my old man across the yard
he’s talking to the meter reader
he’s telling him the world’s sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips

-Grace Paley

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The Baite

Come live with mee, and bee my love,
And wee will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and christall brookes,
With silken lines, and silver hookes.

There will the river whispering runne
Warm’d by thy eyes, more than the Sunne.
And there the’inamor’d fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray.

When thou wilt swimme in that live bath,
Each fish, which every channell hath,
Will amorously to thee swimme,
Gladder to catch thee, than thou him.

If thou, to be so seene, beest loath,
By Sunne, or Moone, thou darknest both,
And if my selfe have leave to see,
I need not their light, having thee.

Let others freeze with angling reeds,
And cut their legges, with shells and weeds,
Or treacherously poore fish beset,
With strangling snare, or windowie net:

Let coarse bold hands, from slimy nest
The bedded fish in banks out-wrest,
Or curious traitors, sleavesilke flies
Bewitch poore fishes wandring eyes.

For thee, thou needst no such deceit,
For thou thy selfe art thine owne bait;
That fish, that is not catch’d thereby,
Alas, is wiser farre than I.

-John Donne

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The Long Line, Breton

We write because
We write because

It is expected of us
(as is love)

Listen, you conspirators
Armed with sheets
I’ve taken it all too literally
Wrapped in dummy blanket

Goethe never had a request
Like yours
He told himself what was enough

We write because
We write because
The sound within us so deep
Anchors and moors a big moon to it.
Gorgeous quest
That can never be completed
Take your stockings off
Let love be your animal.

-Nina Alvarez

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Pythagorean Silence (an excerpt)

1.

age of earth and us all chattering

a sentence or character
suddenly

steps out to seek for truth fails
falls

into a stream of ink Sequence
trails off

must go on

waving fables and faces War
doings of the war

manoeuvering between points
between

any two points which is
what we want (issues at stake)

bearings and so

holes in a cloud are minutes passing
which is

which
view odds of images swept rag-tag

silver and grey
epitomes

seconds forgeries engender
(are blue) or blacker

flocks of words flying together tense
as an order

cast off to crows

-Susan Howe

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If—

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master;

If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run–

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling

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The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

-W. H. Auden

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