Plain American Language

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

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.