Plain American Language

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

and this is the last of my Chilean poems, it seems...


Afternoon, it's raining in Valdivia:
crooked lampshade; small bottles & vases;
a cold, humid, fresh air; gusts
dusting more rain on the roof
like loose tin pellets; a field;
messy, scattered backyard:
wet coal, droplets rippling the tidepool
inside the grill; a laundry basket
with three bowls: soil, plants (herbs?)
taking in a fair share of drink
(later, when spring comes, a lunch
of sun); chattering birds. Two guitars;
silent wooden seagulls; stained glass
and more wind; the open door
trying like rain to close itself
and making the house shudder;
stone leaf pedestal; dozens
of paintings; cabinet with sun and moon.

this was written inside Claudia Retamal's house..


Fire has a certain lull
when stared at---
the wooden stove with bronze pipe
that heats this house.
By this time in Coyhaique
wood smoke fills the valley
as if it were fog (rolling,
immense thicknesses
that surround a mountain's
side like glacial ice).
but there's a smell
of barbecue, or
Spartan funeral pyre
all around the valley.
But we aren't outside.
We're inside
avoiding winter
like small critters human presence.
To spite the outside,
we clench together & enjoy
the soft stories the stove tells us:
of the fire that forged it
fires it's known and the lives
of trees. We finish
in bed, faces flushed
a burnt thumb
from when we fed the night
a little more wood.

the last travel poems of chile, from valdivia, june 2008, this one's a little journal-y

On a Plane from Santiago to Valdivia

Past Rancagua, Chillan, Pucon
a stop-over in Osorno,
where are you Carl?
I'm thinking again of where
I was born but never lived.
Where is your eye
your steel man your encouragement
for the vitality of a stinking city?

I grew up in suburban green,
wore it, wear it like a college graduate's robe,
and dream of it, too
as a divorcee might of marriage:
afraid of its slow pains yet clinging to its blankets.

There is this city
next to my dream
so where are you to tell me
what to look for in the people
in the eyes of my neighbor
who I don't yet know.
When we land,
what will be the first thing I touch
besides ground?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Seasonal Ghazal (will this be the final cut?)

What defines a ghazal is a constant longing.
Summer soon becomes quiet, slow, like longing.

In autumn the pine needles fall in droves.
Mid-fall is a fire; it consumes like longing.

The crunch of winter, the acid smell of February.
Early March. Leaves freeze, trees know longing.

What’s the usual sound a leaf makes when
It hits the ground: a quick spring of longing.

Wind twines leaves and twirls them
Like an arabesque. Then rain. Growth is our new longing.

Dogwood flowers drop pieces
Unintentionally. Wanting them back is longing.

We wrap scarves around us to keep out the cold;
Shorts to keep away heat. We enjoy our opposites, revel in longing,

Like a chipmunk dreaming in hibernation.
This is the year, crisp like autumn or longing.

If what defines a ghazal is a constant,
Then seasons shape our wavering wants and longing.

Winter grabs us like an entire year. May lets us forget.
Our constants, our longing.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Etude, Metro (an etude is an exercise...)

To read a book forever would be ideal;
to sleep, more so.
We, like sadness, sit still
and mind our own business;
we just look. Like now:
a coughing child,
reaching like sadness for more popcorn,
hugging his dad, squiggling,
squirming, balancing his arm on my shoe
like sadness, looking at me
smiling as I glance his way pausedly.
The air through the windows,
as one pushes a piano,
as sadness; plastic seats
with felt covers; trains always
opening, closing, moving forward like sadness:
the beards we grow and wear
like sadness.

Moving Again by William Matthews

everyone can learn something from this dude, be it his absolutely ridiculous mastery of the simile, or the ease of his language or those perfect beginnings and endings...

Moving Again

At night the mountains look like huge
dim hens. In a few geological eras
new mountains may
shatter the earth's shell
and poke up like stone wings.
Each part must serve for a whole.
I bring my sons to the base
of the foothills and we go up.
From a scruff of ponderosa
pines we startle gaudy swerves
of magpies that settle in our rising
wake. Then there's a blooming
prickly pear. "Jesus, Dad, what's that?"
Willy asks. It's like a yellow tulip
grafted to a cactus: it's a beautiful
wound the cactus puts out
to bear fruit and be healed.
If I lived with my sons
all year I'd be less sentimental
about them. We go up
to the mesa top and look down
at our new hometown. The thin air
warps in the melting light
like the aura before a migraine.
The boys are tired. A tiny magpie
fluffs into a pine far below
and farther down in the valley
of child support and lights
people are opening drawers.
One of them finds a yellowing
patch of newsprint with a phone
number penciled on it
from Illinois, from before they moved, before
Nicky was born. Memory
is our root system.
"Verna," he says to himself
because his wife's in another room,
"whose number do you suppose this is?"