Plain American Language

I cut a sliver/of WC William's finger
and placed it inside/my philosophy...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I promise I have things poems for this 80 days thing, I've just not been bringing my notebook with me to the internet cafes...estoy atrasado as they say. It's coming!!!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Summer in Late December, Valdivia (80 poems in 80 days #1)

I think I keep my mind Octobered:
I smile seeing an orange,
a burnt red, that deepening flood.

It's an early September I want now:
the beginnings of darkness;
the chattering of birds, not teeth just yet.

They say here in Valdvia,
the earthquake and resulting tsunami
sunk homes into the river.
And there they stay, still intact
because of the alerce they're made of.
Heat here is never bad -- the wind
sinks you into an autumn mind.

And what's an autumn without sinking?
What's a summer without underwater dreams?

Isla Huapi

José and I went up a sandy hill filled
with different plants, though
the one that was most distinct
to me was yellow. We climbed
the hill, him grabbing bits of yellow
all the way, slowly letting them drop
like bell-shaped sand, and
at the top, all below was yellow.
José's brother is sick, threw up just now,
actually. Earlier José lit a cigarette
and blew smoke into his brother's hair
crowwing him several times --
to chase out the bad spirit, his mom said.
He was telling me about a Swiss girl
that came by and started to fall for him,
but was conflicted as to her travelling
plans: "The answer's clear," he said,
"you either go & chao, or stay
where your heart is."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On The Anniversary of Pinochet's Death (i dunno if i like this...opinions?)


The anniversary date was on Monday.
I didn't see or hear a thing.
Oh this capital city loves to cry
murder sometimes, blood of the laborer,
blood of my brother, but not a thing.
Though I could be mistaken.

A huge group of police water cannons
were stationed on the Alameda
but it was as if no one wanted
to make a move. Or maybe I saw all that
before the planned chaos. That
might've been what happened:
I saw the tension but at its peak.

I won't fully understand why
the missing will remain missing.
It's a barrier I've not yet the experience to break.
Stuck, maybe, between what I see
and can't see after I passed it, or before.

Las hojas que faltan (Now Knowing More) (revised a bit)

Knowing full well my own story
before I knew a thing
he laid
in me a want
that sunk my arm
like a smallpox vaccine scar.
It bloomed.
There's a universe of ache
and desire in me
that I cannot itch out.

Later he dropped me.
Hung glass
under my feet.

Now, I'm terribly careful as a glassblower,
afraid of breaking
any piece of anything
and releasing the torrential heat inside it.

Copa Simple

Happiness is a guilt wrapped package.
I say this as a joke
but the things are going right now
with this empty glass of what used to be
an ice cream coffee float...
well, happiness is a
stomach expanding cup of pleasure-guilt.

And yet the afternoon's not-so-hot wind
is wonderful enough against my face
and this ice cream parlor sits in the most perfect shade
wrapped by passing noisiness
so that maybe happiness isn't guilt-ridden
but simply wrapped like a layer cake
or an ice cream pop or maybe
I've just eaten too many sweets lately
and in my happiness I've begun to day-dream --
and is that so bad?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Patterned Trees/Unpatterned Winds

Some day, I think, a tree'll collapse and fossilize in my backyard in Massachusetts.
I'll call it your nakedness:

Not 'cause of the falling but the wind created by it.

I see needlework in the way you walk, it's different from mine. Is there a pattern of nakedness?
Would you use a different stitch?

Petrified. Like the snap of a rubberband. That's me.
And your nakedness? I don't know if I'm with it like I always wanted.
The falling of that tree, reverberating off crumbling leaves:

And your nakedness?

A rushing, full stitch and it's a wind.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Las Hojas que Faltan (The Leaves that are Missing) (revised just a bit)

"He's the one I want because he is the one I have hung all my desires upon"
-- Yarima Goode

When I first met him
I hung arms around his neck.
Though he had two already
I let them hang.
I set eyes underneath his
and planted wheat and araucano seeds
in between his toes.

My desires outweigh his weight.
He is heavy with things.
Those new eyes can see and when
those eyes are mad
the branches shudder
like night.
He walks with love
planted in him like acorns.

I hung my doubt on his belly
so his mouth grows
down when he’s naked.
But when we're up and
awake, we have six arms
that twine together like autumn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hommage a Picasso (after a series of paintings by the same name)

You six eyed mustachio,
darkened & lightened
wrapped and in public
gliding like strings (red)
aiming like a hawk (red)
over a black & blue

pieces of bulls everywhere
threatening the pink
of your women or the shattered
green of your women

a simple box with a floating canvas
is what you are:
sixteen sides
ready for color
slanting into the next frame.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Massachusetts, October, 2007 (PS...)

"Red sox just sweeped the world series
4-0 against the Rockies!!!
Also, Pats are undefeated!

Its starting to get cold in Boston,
but the fall smells beautiful
and the leaf change was heart stealing.

My cider went hard yesterday."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

After Hearing About the California Forest Fires, 2007 (slightly revised)

"Who set the House of Beauty burning?"
-- " The House of Beauty" Mark Doty

I heard it passed through Malibu
and burned to the ground the homes
of some famous people -- at least
I think I heard right, since the news
was in Spanish and I was only half-
paying attention. The wind
is the enemy, said Schwartzenneger
underneath the Spanish dubbing.
Who fights with wind? We do:
to save what's beautiful.
What a strange harbinger of fall:
the wind our enemy, fire our enemy,
Malibu burnt, all those trees...
I saw it again on the afternoon news,
again in Spanish, again only half-sure
of factual details. That was a few
days ago. Since then its disappeared,
no smoky after-thought, no comment.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

(Personal) Essay on What I Think About Most, after Anne Carson

And it's emotions.
The wind is cool
today, spring, under a green tree
of who-knows-what species.

Can I tell you I still fall in love
with full lips
impenetrable hair.
Let's look at this:

Walking around is a practice
in error:
making mistakes wherever you go: tripping
everywhere your old love....

but walking isn't always that.
It's sometimes when you notice
a small puddle
pushing a thicket of pollen
down the cracks of the sidewalk,

and as it moves you figure out
you still love
things that push,
or push out with the wind.
Am I

committing an error
puzzling this?
and puzzling over the trees?
I'll tell you I've never been
thrilled about pines:

they stick to your fingers
like the past
or fresh dough
with too much yeast.
What are trees, anyway?

A branch is more strung-out
than a wrong note
on a beginner's clarinet,
but it turns and twines
and falls sometimes,

like love sometimes,
that eternal error. Do I love
oak leaves
as much as I think?
Do they wrap me

like a maple leaf would
given the right season & chance?
You know I can prove to you
water is an error:
it disappears in the sun.

But when it
into a crack on the sidewalk,
an error is something
to hold on to.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Haz un parentesis a tu vida" (revised)

The slow closing of
(a breath in: warm
two arms are lovely
simple, browned a bit

by hair and sun, they
collect everything: spring weather
the gathering of clouds
my elbows & hands that shudder
like oak leaves,
close and warm as

the horizontal lines of a forehead)
my tired eyes at night.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Taking Steps

Taking a step is breathing in
every bus and passerby.
Every shove against the shoulder
is a wheeze inside my nose;
and the quick terror
of closing your eyes
for a brief splitting of
carbon and oxygen --
how much time is that?
-- is what gives you doubts
makes the step grow long
like the insides of a salt
and you reach quickly for your map.

A Strange Attempt at a Form Poem, and it will need lots of work

A love poem is a poem of pursuit.
Each word catches your
earlobe, tries to pull
you down
into a body
a biology to pick apart.

A mouse roams your eyes in pursuit
of the cream of your
pupils. What pull
the morning has on the down
of your body.
Already I'm falling apart.

All this searching, pursuit
of your hair, your eyes, your
hands that are gravity's pull.
Look down:
a painting of your body:
no lines, just thickness, which is a part

of weight & measures, of pursuit.
Listen to me when I tell you your
suns are hands. Don't they pull
space together, up, down?
And the body?
Isn't it space too? Expanding apart?

I suppose I can't know the science of your movements. Yet my pursuit
is wholly good. Your
weight lies in what pull,
like water, distributes down
into every nook in the body.
There are days I'd like to spend inside one, if only a small part.

A Dilemma of Sorts

I have two versions of the same poem, and need some advice:

Version #1

“Poetry is the death-wrestler” – Dave Smith

With a mouthful of questions,
I reach into the pocket
of my brain to find death, but
there are no answers to speak of.
The most hateful point of
death is the grey dawning
of absence, that small mouse
you hear only just: gnawing, crumbling
old, stale crackers in the back
of the cupboard. Reaching for
death isn’t impossible, though it
looks almost foolish, as if you were
rummaging through a chest of clothing
and wrestling for the spaces
between clothes.

Version #2


“Poetry is the death-wrestler” – Dave Smith

The most hateful point of
death is the grey dawning
of absence, that small mouse
you hear only just: gnawing, crumbling
old, stale crackers in the back
of the cupboard. With a mouthful
of questions, I reach into the pocket
of my brain to find death. But there
are no answers to speak of. Reaching for
death isn't impossible, though it
looks almost foolish, as if you were
rummaging through a chest of clothing
and wrestling for the spaces
between clothes.

What I like about the first version is visually it's pleasing, and it seems to me to have a progression that to me make sense, as in, it develops. What I like of the second version is beginning with the biggest image in the poem. The second version would need fine tuning in terms of spacing, but...I just don't know. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Poem by Gillian Conoley (not by Andrew Ratner)


A fragment
of a fair copy would undo our slant meeting,

an in–flight movie
where we chatted

how life was choosing not choosing.

Joy and gravitation,
the day turned


my book's cover and spine.

The sky blued
vagrant scribblings into print culture,

what shall be clad,
the day’s whole cloth.

A scribal hand,
a something.

A kiss away, a kiss away, a reader's

a reader's little addict
in black pants who would like to

sit in the dust as Heav’n’s other spangles do.

I lowered
I wrote the answers on her hand
I approached
as an alias, trachea

without sound, my signature, bright felon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Folds (revised a tiny bit)

It's the folds in your lips
that have me staring --
out of curiosity, though,
not in an ugly way --
they collapse & spread
as you smile and speak:
like how petals crease inward
toward their center

or socks
on the way to the hamper:
going limp, curving

inward and warm
letting the washer know
of the day's travels
finishing up dry
& new & ready.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Peppers, after "Onions" by William Matthews (revised a bit)

How easily happiness begins by
picking peppers. At the grocery store
browsing the apples (Fujis, Pink-
Ladies, Granny Smith's), the cukes
dreaming of pickles. Then peppers.

Hands could spend an eon
tracing these creases
with the simple care of a lover
or a professional cook,
diving, then, into a cave of
inward depths and removable

then the sweetness
of an orange one;
the tender crunch of a red
that stains the mouth
when eaten whole;

then splitting it
open, how it howls
& stops suddenly as if it sunk
back into the soil;
and dipping it in sauces

and watching it wither & brown
in the frying pan --
too long but still good
in a stir fry; and the taste
of oil on your hands

as you lick your fingers clean
and set the table for dinner.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thought at the Parting of These Waters by John Rybicki (not Andrew Ratner...haha, oops)

Morning and evening
like two sides of one hand.

All the prickly stars
with their beard set

upon us. Who sees through
these molecular clothes

to where the skeleton paws
at the air as if

climbing a ladder,
or swimming feebly upward?

The river hounds us
wet and white and swift,

conspires with the colt
kicking in our chest

and even our toes
point towards death.

How precious to hunger for
morning and the tilt

of all things -- lampshades
by windows, cups

of warm milk, fire hydrants
all lilting towards her

when I rise and pour
across the earth to where

her heart stands like some factory
with sun in every window

slanting its legs
to press upon the ash.

The way her loveliness summons
me like some trumpet

made of blood jutting up
amidst the last dandelions

and dying grass to sing to her.

My Day in Stones (Sept 11, 2007 Santiago Chile)

My weight in stones depends
upon how many topple
onto my head.
I pick one up, throw it.

Today encapuchados are throwing stones
at the police, who throw
stones that make you
shut your eyes tight
pray for a lemon to suck on
and stones to throw.
They glint like an empty space.

Someone picks up a stone,
throws it. There's nothing left.
Nothing there,
even to fill, but stones.

Note: encapuchados are kids who put on ski masks or scarves and throw stones and shit at the police when riots break out during protests. Sept 11th is the commemoration of the overthrowing of the socialist gov't in Chile, and there are LOTS of protests.

Rosh Hashannah/Yom Kippur 5768 (lots to work on....but here goes)


I can feel my davening travel
all the way to the bottom of my tie.


A green apple in honey
is a soured scrape
licked clean by a cat named Doti.


My paradox is I must hear
the cantor wail and beat his chest.
The rabbi too; though they
must always be in tune
like two mourning doves.


There is not a quieter sound
than a page turning
slowly; and a finger
tracing the rims of each word
as if to find meaning.


A small stab of pain --
today is a day of memory
so I tried to remember again
during Yizkor service.
Death is a cake of scented soap
unlike memory
which washes into you.


Returning home from dinner,
people chat as if it were a normal day.
But only half the double doors
on this bus will close.
Everyone notices, no one moves.
If I fall, I fall, says the girl standing closest.


Home, and Sunday's tomorrow,
as inevitable as honey and apples.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'm Published!!!

check me out:
(does a happy dance)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Deer (revised Nature Poem)

A pause, breath,
cold and now colder.
A tiny droplet of fear.
They lift their heads
ears perk up. If
its not much
go back to eating.
But what if another snap
sets their eyes
glinting? What if
turning your head
was a mistake?
The world grows
with funghi-like precision
in the meantime--
a blink, another,
and spores land
into the palm
of the earth.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Sometimes a thought is more like a bad translation" is Probably the Over-Presiding Theme of This Poem

Sometimes a thought is more
like a bad translation
a line of Marilyn Hacker's,
a quick look at the bottom of a magazine's website,
cruising through her poetry
while friends of mine practice

a duet of Brazilian music
(guitar and clarinet, quickly
drowned out by my own
slowing down, quickly
crashing into sleep. It's

a rare occurrence, such
in-between wakefulness,
such false sleepiness. But
how familiar this drive
toward closing my eyes,
what music would play under
my eyelids, I wonder...).

What's with Brazilian music
and beauty? What's with
clarinets and stringent sounds?
What's with a pretty voice that
calls the cat's attention,

slinking around like a stray thought
that trips and sputters
into that part of the brain
where we ask ourselves,
What was I thinking about just then?

In the Bathroom, Looking into the Mirror (another revision)

Without a thought in my head
my penis grows and shrinks
at inches (not always for vanity's sake
but out of sheer surprise
we love to watch our bodies
& are proud of at least one feature),
and when I wipe my ass
it tucks itself inward, embarrassed,
wanting so badly to rejoin the body,
though it makes sense!

Every day, all it does is expel,
protrude, interrupt. We're allowed
to be shy about ourselves, a bit
ashamed of our purpose. But when
touch is involved, we shrink
into the warmth:

I'm tired of my day,
touch me and let me creep inside
the heat you so lovingly give.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More on Teaching English (revision)

I want to eat them
spit them out and yell, implore them

Ask me questions
don't bat your eyelashes shut

we are not caskets
we get buried in our things

but rise out, asking why.

Don't we?

Oh, I want to break out
of my teacher's body,
sit in the back of the room,

a forest of heads,
and dive

inside their black-brown hair
to remove the bark

& pick out the beetles
and grubs that block the way.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Shit Water (ending? also, lacking structure?)

After years of knowing the sounds
& studying the music
I can read a sheet of music
with a piano in my head,
a shiny black baby-grand Baldwin,
tinking without a sound
rather the impression of sound
in the sandy beach of my ear...

then I turn and think of
my dead great uncle and aunt.
I'm at dinner conversing,
though watching myself
from above, half in, half out
of the conversation. Another turn,
and I'm in bed, where death is
a shiny black baby grand
and I am playing it with no music
on the stand and love
or lust or whatever sex may be
comes into the picture & in one
burst I fall asleep.
I turn
& look into the toilet bowl.
Whatever floats mixes with
whatever sinks.

Friday, August 31, 2007

interesting essay...

"Indeed, what Gizzi's juxtapositions of U.S. and foreign portfolios suggest is that the attention to the materiality of language, to syntactic disjunction and visual constellation, so central to the language poetries in Messerli and Hoover's anthologies, and especially the attention to the reconfiguration of lyric as speaking, once again, not only for the "sensitive" and "authentic" individual ("Here's what I, Mary Smith, realized yesterday, as I was weeding the garden") but for the larger cultural and philosophical moment--that all these are now characteristic of poetries produced around the globe."

check this out

Nature Poem

A crunch sets the world
on fire, that is,
a pause, breath,
breath, cold and now colder
a tiny droplet of fear.
Deer lift their head
measure how far
their ears perk up
and if its not much
go back to eating
and warming
the earth with compost. But
what if another snap
snaps? What if
turning your head was
a mistake? The
world grows
with funghi-like precision
in the meantime--
a blink, another,
and spores land
into the palm
of the earth.

Two poems of same idea...don't know if either are particularly good...on teaching english

I stiffen up when I teach,
the honest truth.

The kids are alright sometimes
but some

just look at me like a mushroom
plastered to an old stump.

Oh I want to eat them
spit them out and yell, implore them

Ask me questions
don't bat your eyelashes shut

we are not caskets
we get buried in our things

but rise out, asking why.
Don't we? I want to break out

of my body, sit
in the back of the room,

a forest of heads,
and dive

inside their black-brown hair--
just have to remove the bark

& pick out the beetles
and grubs.


I wanted to step out of my body
and walk to the back
of the room and shake them,
tears running down
all hundred some-odd smile muscles
and tell them to speak English,

or, instead, do the same
and simply dive into their black-
brown hair, jungles like themselves
and pick out grubs
of understanding and feed them
enough, enough

to walk into my drooping
skin again. That's what I want for them:
a handsome diet
and delicious new skin.

In the Bathroom, Looking into the Mirror

Without a thought in my head
my penis grows and shrinks
at inches.

(Not always for vanity's sake
but out of sheer surprise at what it does
we all love to watch our bodies
& are proud of at least one feature)

And when I wipe my ass
it tucks itself inward, embarrassed,
wanting so badly to rejoin the body.
Which is curious and makes sense.
Every day, all it does is expel,
protrude, interrupt. We are allowed
to be shy about ourselves, a bit ashamed
of our purpose, but when touch
is involved, we shrink easily
into the

I'm tired of my day,

touch me and let me creep inside
the heat you so lovingly give.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Yiddish

This isn't particularly poetry related, though it's incredibly tied into language, which I love. Especially language of my own pipples, the yidden, the Jews. This is about Yiddish from an author's perspective.

Friday, August 24, 2007

This is Hilarious

From the The

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I don't know what to call this one....

I have a sprained ankle
and for some odd reason
old-timey jazz/swing is playing
on a loudspeaker nearby.
It's the end of winter in Santiago;
the sun feels nice; I'm waiting
for the taxi service to take me to school.

It's awful:
I hop around like a backwards kangaroo,
as if I were trick-biking
with no bike: one, two, hop.
Where am I going with this?
I'm as directionless as I am
with this sprained ankle.

The pressure of the cast
makes a strange combination
with the tinny music, old horns
scratched by record needles
and time in tandem with the throbbing,
a tango now:
one, two, hop-hop-hop.

New Poet Laureate

We got a new poet laureate, ladies and gents. Charles Simic. Check him out, here. Some of his poetry is in that same site. Check him out.

Something to consider: he's from Yugoslavia, born there, then came here when he was 15. Moved outta here during WWII. Is he American? Does he deserve to be the Poet Laureate? personally, i say yes and yes.

This is what the man has to say bout American poetry, which I find interesting and very true and fun: "At least since Emerson and Whitman, there's a cult of experience in American poetry. Our poets, when one comes right down to it, are always saying: This is what happened to me. This is what I saw and felt. Truth, they never get tired of reiterating, is not something that already exists in the world, but something that needs to be rediscovered almost daily."

Relearning Spanish (revised)

Familiar noise like the crackling of a soup
you haven’t tasted in months.

Everyone speaks so fast
and so did you, so you try
but cough up wool instead.

What has stuck with you
are the ups & downs
of sadness, excitement,
that mixture of both.

Your head explodes
with the slow curves of language.

But it's the actual words you can't remember.
Words for the quiet pleasure of friendship,
for example, or a kiss hello on the cheek.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I will die (thanks to Olga for this stolen title)

I trip over a small crack
on the Alameda
and there it is, that
sock-in-the-eye of a realization
that at some point,
sooner or later,
I will hit the ground.

What We Talk About When we Talk About Love

Small fingers that cup the air
and my chin—

Loneliness that drags
like a melancholy skirt.

We rub our noses,
snort & laugh about holding
hands, or the
inevitability of touch.

thick as blueberries;
much thicker.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Now, in India or Indonesia
(I didn't catch which, I confess,
which is wrong in its own right)
there's rain and flooding.
Every season has its rain
& flood, but this, they say,
is the worst flooding in memory.

We always record things:
fastest pitch since 1974
longest phone call since yesterday
harshest coup since the
mid nineties. In each, time
is stationary, as if we knew
time and we came to agree,

time & us, that it would stay put,
as stated in its contract.
In Santiago, Chile I see buildings
constructed, and have heard
of the falling apart of memory:
a city conscious of its forgetfulness
to produce a new future.

Should it be that we stop
time to hold things in place
or to make room for more.
Even this is a building constructed:
some bit of time caught
and held hostage
to prove a wreckless point.


In the poetry of my friends,
an unraveling:

a hole
punched to be filled with
questioning words.

And what is emptiness
for, after all? To
fill, fill.

In each block of white and black
I eat words
and words eat me like cake

wrap around my throat
sweetly pick at my pallete
so my mouth will open.

What excitement it is to read.
How restless we've become
to breathe thicker air.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Untitled (for now)

There's a wisdom tooth crowning
in an odd place
in my mouth. Tonguing it,
it's the sting of smog
picking at my throat
and the heaviness of language
beginning to root,
new branches splitting
my mouth open.
I'm not ready. It's winter,

and the middle at that,
so my English clamors
to make sentences,
thoughts, anything to battle
the on-coming spring.

I pluck a leaf from my eye:
both green and brown,
somewhere in-between seasons.
There should be no such thing
as an elegy for a language.

Relearning Spanish

The initial shock is immense:
noise, familiar noise,
like the crackling of a soup
you haven't tasted in months.

Everyone speaks so fast,
and so did you. So you so try
but cough up wool instead.
What you remember

are the ups & downs
of language, the slow curves
of sadness, excitement, that
mixture of both. Your head explodes

with them, and generally explodes.
It is the exactness of words you can't remember:
words for the quiet pleasure of friendship,
for instance, or a kiss hello on the cheek.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Untitled, In Bed, August

I try and think of the last time
I held on to love. I roll over.
My back cracks.
It is suburban night and
a small inkling of skunk
is seeping through the window.
I drove in the snow
in mid-February and almost
died on the icy highway.
A truck skidded; so did I.
This was on my way to New Hampshire
and I clung to her like
the steering wheel when
I finally got there. The air
conditioning feels good now,
though it's certainly no lullaby.
Under my thick blanket
I must think of thick blankets.
That's the only way to sleep:
in the down of thoughts
lying under the comforter.

Moving Away (probably the most TMI poem I've written)

Moving's begun to upset my stomach.
So I find myself in the bathroom

trying to shit out my fears.
I spend too much time in there,

dawdling, trying to muster up
the strength to get rid of this rumbling pain.
When I finish, it's no different:
wiping and wiping, I find
a bit of blood, as if my body
need remind me
that moving hurts.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Double Fugue

Today, in an oversized, white shaggy coat
she sits and reads her Shakespeare,
and slowly her sleeve drops.
Oh, all day it’s winter, but still, a shoulder

smooth as anything. Very suddenly,
I think of death. This is later,
after Shakespeare, after her.
Still, I think of death
and death is a body. A shoulder,

bare and oblivious to the world,
it brags & gleams, smooth.
Death’s sleeve slowly drops.
She sits and reads inside
an oversized, shaggy coat.

It is mid-January; the old and new deaths
of family loom over me still.
In an oversized coat, I sit
inside. I think how beauty is a body,
and death a winter like today.

Note: after a long, hard battle, I think this is finally done.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Gravitate to me.
Gravitate to me, universe.
Gravitate to me universe, and circle my eyes.
Gravitate to me, universe, and circle my eyes, clear the rumors of beetles, moss.
Gravitate. To me, universe. And circle, my eyes, clear the rumors of beetles' moss holed up inside to
Gravitate to. Me: universe and circle. My eyes clear the rumors of beetles, moss. Holed up inside to gather wind & brittle ice that
Gravitate, to me. Universe and circle: my eyes. Clear the rumors of beetles, moss, holed up inside to gather wind & brittle ice that sing of old love.
Sing of old love.
Gravitate to me.

Growth (updated)

A child’s eye is so large in his head.
In it is such weather
and excitement.
How great it’d be to see
with those eyes again.

Though I suppose I still do:
eyes never change; it’s
the rest of the body:
it grows older,
and young weather
roots like an oak,
suddenly becoming occasional
in its blooming.

If only that oak would burst
out the skull at some ecstatic point
and shade the body eternally.
This is my oak tree, we’d say,
and giant leaves would circle
behind our brightly colored eyes,
large in our head.


"Poetry is the death-wrestler" -- Dave Smith

With a mouthful of questions
I reach into the pocket
of my brain to find death. But
there are no answers to speak of.
The most hateful point of
death is the gray dawning
of absence, that small mouse
you hear only just: gnawing, crumbling
old, stale crackers in the back
of the cupboard. Reaching for
death isn't impossible, though it
looks almost foolish, as if you were
rummaging through a chest of clothing
and wrestling for the spaces
between clothes.

Monday, June 25, 2007


The oldest Ratners are dead.
I'm dumbstruck.

They were the Older Generation,
the precessions
of me, the generation
of those facts
that compose me:

a nose, an eye,
Springfield, Massachusetts.
But what else?

Puttering behind the hearse,
three, maybe four times
a pallbearer, remembering

the cool, practiced voices of
the funeral-home men--
your body is suddenly not your own--
always moving by their instruction.

Now question marks putter
behind me: they drip
with the rock salt smell of a vaguely
unknowable past.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I need ideas & prompts, please

Everything that I've been writing lately is really not good. I've been reading, and nothing. I've been looking, and nothing. Any help? Please?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The most important question I can think of...

Not a poem, as much as it is a question: how insistent on the "I" experience should I be, in the end of all these poems? My teacher told me to think of "I" as a character -- it's very T.S. Eliot when I think about it; very depersonalized. Why can't I end a poem with what I experience, insisting upon "this happened to me." My teacher says I have trouble letting the reader decide for him/herself about things that happen in the poem -- that I give too much information. Here's a new poem that's centralized on wonderings of my own. And so, my question is, then, am I too focused on what happens to me, and is that bad?

Summer Humidity

It is the coolest night of summer
so far, and walking is finally a pleasure.
Once, two summers ago,
I walked outside, bathing in

Air only came
out, practically none came in.

What panic that must incite
to those caught off guard:

So this is death, they think
in that frantic choking
we sometimes get.
I walk home tonight

through a clearer darkness than
I can only wonder
what weather will envelop me
in tomorrow’s afternoon heat.

Admittedly, this is rough, and could be separated from its stanzaic form, but still -- is that ending sour, focusing so much on myself, in the end?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dream Song 149, I've been looking for this for-ever! elegy or simply a rumination?

This world is gradually becoming a place
where I do not care to be any more. Can Delmore die?
I don’t suppose
in all them years a day went ever by
without a loving thought for him. Welladay.
In the brightness of his promise,

unstained, I saw him thro’ the mist of the actual
blazing with insight, warm with gossip
thro’ all our Harvard years
when both of us were just becoming known
I got him out of a police-station once, in Washington, the world is tref
and grief too astray for tears.

I imagine you have heard the terrible news,
that Delmore Schwartz is dead, miserably & alone,
in New York: he sang me a song
‘I am the Brooklyn poet Delmore Schwartz
Harms & the child I sing, two parents’ torts’
when he was young & gift-strong.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Have you ever experienced days that
are a constant
ringing in the head, fire trucks
of I want and I need:

I want love. I need love. On your walk,
passing others who look straight ahead
or down or simply never towards you,
you are in the North:

each of us has our own ringing to deal
with, thank you. I want to love.
I need to love.
Taking a breath, they
sound almost the same. But

is needing love more desperation than
needing to love. Each has its own turn,
I suppose. There is a moment when you
are looking straight ahead, but your

eyes meet someone else’s and she looks
away almost gracefully, but practiced.
You’re in the North, people only stop sometimes,
though you think, and she might too, briefly,

the oddness of catching someone
by the eye and being startled enough
to look away, like a pop up you have
your eye on forever, then suddenly drop

as if you never expected it.


Death like a sudden cat
whimpering in your sock drawer a towel

wet & discarded on the rug
a one pound weight hanging
from the small of your back
a suitcase of bees left in the mall
like neglected vegetables

like running upstream

like a gorilla, shaking the earth
with each methodical bite of wild
endangered flora.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Tragedy

The tragedy of leaving an open
blank notebook beside you
(on the bed, close to your dreams)
is that, even after a few nights,
the pages are filled with nothing.
Even as you sleep
& sweat off the day's small intensities,
that small blank garden.

[it's indented here...] But what
do you expect, after all? Dream-
flowers are all words in the
comfortable mouth of sleep:
they plant and grow and
you eat their petals & leaves. But
in the sawdusty yawn of morning
nothing is resurrected
except a vague remembrance,
a taste of sunflower
or mulberry. Getting up to brush
your teeth, smacking your lips,
words you once knew
disappear into the haze of morning-breath.

Untitled Poem

I am jealous of those unafraid
of the dark. Like photographers,
in the darkroom, laboring like vampires
to keep out the light,
able to manipulate it, covering
& uncovering it
like passing rain
over an empty front porch.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another Attempt at Writing A Poem

I’m thinking too hard again,
& already revising without
the poem a quarter done.
It worries me when I can’t complete
a thought on paper, not follow
through with appealing ideas.
My head is bare new thoughts,
Even the crowds of the
metro or Dupont Circle can’t incite
a spark or flint or whatever
writers have. I worry, even,
about ending: closing with
some insight or brief statement
that’ll swing this poem shut.
It’s the consequences of thoughtlessness
that I worry about, I suppose:
blank page after blank page,
despite the world going around
creating all those right electrical forces.
It’s the consequence of
thoughtlessness I suppose.
Blank page after blank page
suddenly becomes a neurotic guilt
that itches under my nose
lights up perpetually
and never quite goes away.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Language by Robert Creeley

Locate I
love you
where in

teeth and
eyes, bite
it but

take care not
to hurt, you
want so

much so
little. Words
say everything.

love you


then what
is emptiness
for. To

fill, fill.
I heard words
and words full
of holes
aching. Speech
is a mouth.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Woolly Earth, after Olga T.'s "Field Dressing" ver. 2

Does it mean that here we are,
forever walking on concrete.
And then we die and grow
into the shag carpet of soil & grass
that the forests seem to be.
Or does it mean earthen,
grounded, lonely, a poem.
My wrist hurts as I write.

That is woolly earth to me.
And music, and the smell of
cheap wine in my kitchen.
And watching my friend
of only a few days
read outside the Hirshhorn.
I laid on the grass and
thought about sneezing:
how all those droplets return
or disappear somewhere:
into the sky or concrete, or
the woolly earth.

Night Music -- "Are you a cello" or "Are you a cellist"?

At the tip of the night
your index finger
circles around the
Dupont Circle fountain.

You play it like
an adagio for strings.

Or is it the wind
bowing tenor notes
against the empty

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Water, Ice (after R. Creeley, after George Oppen)

I melt in
the sun's light

I'm a ghost
gurgling water

you've not

I gleam

love, like


At the time, I stared at the tv
screens, not thinking about
the murders, the utter terror
and panic those students must
be feeling. I was looking
at the photographer, aiming
his camera at the tv, trying
to catch, at the side of the shot,
a few stray watchers, but not me.
What a meta-moment, I said to myself.
That's all I could think of for hours.
Running the faucet in my bathroom sink
I splash water on my face.
It runs down my cheeks, rivults
of gun-metal and loose, failing skin.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Water (I'm working on poems with water, and repeating phrases...)

In water eyes, watery green eyes,
eyes of green water. In touch
like fish jumping out of water,
like deer lapping up cool, cool water,
like bears catching salmon. In
breezes of whispered water.
You are spring rain.

Water, Machu Picchu

The bus, because I didn’t climb it,
took us up the mountain, snaking
around it & around it.
The view like
water, grew.
That must be the famous
mountain from the pictures
, I thought.

I’ve never seen green like this. It’s

so green. I never knew green.

All I could think were those thoughts,
little leaky faucet-thoughts dripping
into my head's bathroom sink.

The place was so green.
As green as
water on tree-tops; as water sometimes is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Death (repetitions? bad?)

This is not funny. Not
like that time Scott laughed
which made Janet laugh--
I mistook "Oh my ribs!"
for "Oh my ass!" doubled over,
out of breath, a laughing fish.
Doug practically turned blue
in all that silliness.

It's not like when Tina threw candy
at the cheerleaders. Or how my dogs
bowl me over sometimes,
lick me as if bits of food are
all over my face. My parenst laugh,
and I am busy getting them off,
trying to recover. This isn't funny.

This isn't funny at all.

Elegy for Cousin Steve (waaay revised)

After I hung up the phone,
the fact that you died
didn't register. Only
the way my brother said it.
Suddenly it sank in
that all of my family,
all of yours, watched you go.
And I was in Chile.
Now that I'm back,
I'm furious that all I have left
are vague, but warm impressions:
your large, friendly body;
your compass-like smile;
laugh like a big, brass instrument.
All these ghosts and
not even a wink of you.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring Longing

April 19th: it is finally spring
-- we are sitting at the border
of the tree-branch shadow's longing
to move in time with the wind.


At the old gravesite of my mother's grandfather
in Brookline, Massachusetts,
the thump of dirt
dropping on the lowered casket
shudders in my ear,
the burials of my great uncle and aunt,
my hand gripping the shovel.
I'll never know what I've lost.

Untitled (needs a new title & some work on line breaks, sugestions?)

Love, when I think of you,
a taste of bad rhubarb molts in my mouth
and moves
upward into my eye,
an almond of loneliness

It's when I look for lost thing
that I always find you
[tabbed here]There you are,
in the cupboard
in my pocket
under the vase...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A History of Pain (scrap the last line?)

Late in the afternoon, I played through the pain.
A molto allegro Mozart aria, the accompaniment.
Suddenly, I felt a break. My grandpa
called mom a bitch. I always thought
it was my fault, though; me and my stupid Nautica
bathing suit. Physical therapy, neurologists;
all this frustration pent up so long,
it hurt so bad. I’ve always eaten apples
meticulously, and chomp off the stem and flower,
like my grandpa. I feel guilty. There’s
no reason why I shouldn’t be frustrated,
mad at the world, and myself. He hated it,
the bathing suit, so I thought the fight
started because of me.

I hear more stories of my grandparents now:
how awful they were. Sometimes I wake up hurting:
a new variation of repeated pain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

After Stanzas, Sexes, Seductions by Anne Carson

It is good to be neuter.
What's between your legs
is of no consequence.
Absolute void.
Like death.

Although I do want you,
don't get me wrong;
to hold fast to you,
even in vain; like
tide waves reaching up cliffs.

I write poems about myself
too often. I'd rather be Not.
It all goes away, afterwards.
I wanted to be touchable,
like a lover.

Isn't it time we see ourselves
as essentially silly
objects? Silly as sex,
which is enjoyable, and death,
which is not.

I love your arms--
so smooth & strong.
Will you pick me up,
carry me away
in the face of death?

Oh how like a dancer
you are! Rocking slow
to my eyes, because
everything is going--"little
spin, little drunk, little do, little oh, alas."

Monday, April 9, 2007

Evening Questions

The swath of light climbs up the skyscraper
Around the corners of white prisms and spikes.
The inside torso stands up in a plug of gun-metal.
The shadow struggles to get loose from the light.
Shall I say I'm through and it's no use?
Or have I got another good fight in me?

-- Carl Sandburg

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Open Air

On days like today, I
Open up like a vulnerable fist.

In Dupont, just across the way,
The dandelion weeds
Drive upward into the air.
Little yellow things, so easily
Stepped on. The wind is cool,
And a pigeon flies over my head.

On days like today, I
Close myself, all five fingers,
Every petal, and return to the earth.

Vacancy (need some help on this one)

I have a barrel in me.
I have a barrel
in me & it's
so goddamn

it's an empty
unseasonably quiet
space to be filled.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Morning, you've woken me
too early! And what is this
pigeon on my balcony,
so inquisitive, abandoning
its flock for better things,
like my acute contempt
an old, rusted wheel barrow
and the coming daylight.

*Aubade: A song or poem greeting the dawn; also, a composition suggestive of morning.
The aubade is usually spoken to a lover at the start of morning.

Untitled Poem

There is a big, black hole in my eye.
It reminds me
Of the spaces between tree branches,

Between the oaks and maples
On Longmeadow Street in fall:

How they dwell in the wind
Cry in the cold
And the trees wait to grow.

Monday, March 19, 2007

In Memoriam Charles Reznikoff

who wrote
in the great world

small for this is a way

to enter
the light on the kitchen

tables wide-

spread as the mountains;
light this is

heroic this is
the poem

to write

in the great
world small

--George Oppen

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Elegy for My Great Aunt Riv

Yesterday, my grandparents and I
went to the Landmark Diner in Buckhead
in Atlanta. I sat, we sat, and ordered;
we talked and ate. It was raining
outside, lightly, though the weather
most of the day was pretty mild.
Well, I guess the point is that
they told me to look at the deserts
out front, and there it was,
lemon merengue pie. And it hit me
that Passover is soon and I'll no longer
taste your rolls, though mom still has the recipe.
And a quick, biting pit stuck in me
as I sat down to finish my ravioli.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Found Poem

Real isn't how you are made, said the Skin Horse.
It's a thing that happens to you.
When a child loves you
for a long, long time, not just to play with,
but really loves you,
then you become Real.

Does it hurt? asked the rabbit.

Sometimes, said the Skin Horse,
for he was always truthful.
When you are Real
you don't mind being hurt.

Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,
he asked, or bit by bit?

It doesn't happen all at once,
said the Skin Horse. You become.
It takes a long time.
That's why it doesn't happen often
to people who break easily,
or have sharp edges,
or who have to be carefully kept.

Generally, by the time you are Real,
most of your hair has been loved off,
and your eyes drop out and you get
loose in your joints and very shabby.
But these things don't matter at all,
because once you are Real
you can't be ugly, except to people
who don't understand.

Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Elegy After the Death of a Cousin

It wasn't the fact that you died that I recognized
after hanging up the phoneit was the way my brother said it.
Nothing registered except quick annoyance and anger.

Then it sank in:
that your father, wife, & fourteen year-old watched you die
at the hospital in Connecticut; that I was away in Chile, miles
from the tired faces of parents, relatives--from any reminder
that you had died at all. And now, back again, I’m furious

at the vague but warm memories I have left:
your large, friendly body; your compass-like smile;
your laugh, like a big brass instrument—

ghosts left behind, and not even a wink of you.

for Steve

Saturday, March 10, 2007

5 AM, Restless Leg Syndrome

It’s been three days now
that I’ve woken up at five AM,
and every day just like that:
awake, unable to grip
the meaning of the dream,
restless & too aware
of the oncoming dawn.

I was in a warehouse—
no light, but I knew where I was.
Drew showed up,
suited in his coat, helmet,
bike. What’re you doing here, I asked.
Not much, he said, and peered
over my shoulder. He looked as if
seeing a Kandinsky for the first time,
boring a hole behind me.
This is not a pipe, he said. I woke up.

I close myself up in my blanket—
the beginning of the day’s starting,
wrapped in a few oranges and blues.
I’ll wait a little while longer,
a last attempt at sleep,
before getting up to shower and shave off
the night and early morning.

A Quote from Stephen Crane

Apart from the pulling and hauling
stands what I am,

Stands amused, complacent,
compassionating, idle, unitary...
Both in and out of the game
and watching and wondering at it.