Monday, September 01, 2014

"The Story" by Joe Bolton

After the life is lived
And the world is what it is,
There is only the story:

At Stevensport, the Sinking, River
Empties into the Ohio,
And the Ohio widens.

Or does the story perhaps precede
The living of it, as the new day
Seems to depend on the cock’s cry?

And do the dead and the unborn occupy
The same dimensionless dimension,
Or are they simply where they seem to be?

It would be easy enough to say
What happened, could you only
Bring yourself to:
______________A girl—
No, a young woman—who has lived her life
With old-time parents on a farm
On what the Indians once called the Dark
And Bloody Ground, and who
Has a perhaps somewhat imprudent appetite
For things sensual, falls in love.
His speech and dress and manner
Are slightly strange to her at first, but she

Is taken with the simultaneous
Inward frailty and successful outward gesture
With which he lives in the world, of which
He seems already to have seen much.

In the summer of your first and one great love,
Stars flared nightly in the architecture of sky,
And the world opened up beneath that sky.
The scenes flash and fade now like summer starfall:
Parked in his white car down some dark road;
Driving to Owensboro and Bowling Green; dancing
In a little dive in Tell City, Indiana...
You see yourself—that self—like the portraits
Of those who, no longer living, live
In the flash and fade of a moment torn from time.


Once, the city lured her.
Once, watching the lights
Of Louisville come slowly on in summer dusk,
She thought ... what?
That this would last forever? —Or even
Outlast forever?
Going there to undo
What the two of you had done,
You saw how dirty-gray the city was,
As morning began and the poorer people rose
To the day’s indecencies,
And you saw you were suddenly one of them . . .
When it was over, you had to have him
Stop the car so you could throw up,
Then hugged yourself all the way home.

And she never caught sight of him again.

And so are left to remember the summer nights
When, half-drunk in your daddy’s truck or his white car,
You’d take the hills and turns on Rough River Road
At seventy, just to feel your insides rise.
And laugh for surviving it, and look for shooting stars.

The white car was all that was left of him.
No body, or note, was ever discovered.
—Only the white car, shining in September dawn,
Beside the Sinking River at Stevensport . . .
And which circumstances have, of course,
Led to speculation:
______________that he got you
Into trouble and couldn’t stand himself for it;
That you, never good, drove him. to it;
That he only wanted to make it look
As if he were dead, and is living it up
In Chicago or Indianapolis or some such place.

The rumors, unverified, multiply,
While the people you grew up with
Marry, buy farms, go bankrupt, get divorced,
And move off to the city, looking for work.

The night is starless, utterly still.

You are careful not to let these pieces
Of a narrative cohere
Into anything that might explain too much.

For you, who live in the world,
Must let the world
Remain ambiguous.

And it just wouldn’t be right
To blame a drowned boy
For not floating up bloated,

Or not leaving a note,
Or perhaps not even
Drowning himself at all.

-from "Breckinridge County Suite"

Monday, August 11, 2014


I shall pack my bags and leave.
I don’t know where.
I don’t know why.
But I know that I shall not be here any longer.
I pile new absences atop my old ones;
I shall sniff them one more time, and disappear.
The terrazzo shall feel cold beneath my feet,
and the stale smell of the peeling blue walls shall
part ahead of my sadness. The flaps of the doorway
shall embrace me one last time.
And you, you shall not be there.

I tear myself out of my life,
and seek myself anew.
I shall renounce myself.
I shall hone my solitude.

(originally posted on October 11, 2003)

Sunday, August 10, 2014


There was honking outside,
rare, but reminiscent
of other more vocal towns.

There was an image inside
of what you could see
in such a place.

There were footsteps and barking,
the sounds of my silence;
there was me nodding and moving,
if only for the sake of motion.

There is this never-ending floor
and you somewhere dying -
- are you breathing still?

There is this scar, refusing to heal,
itching like an absence...
If I hold my breath, would you feel it?
If I hold still, would anybody notice?

Somewhere else, something else,
If I leave this unfinished,
would -

(Originally posted on November 21, 2011)

Friday, August 08, 2014


No compromise.

When the final curtain falls,
I will come down in flames.
No half exits,
No hesitant escapes.

When the call comes around,
I’ll stay rooted in my place.
No hasty excuses,
No clinging to the earth.

I will take it as I find it,
I will gulp it as it is.
No syrup for me, thanks;
No god with a sweet face.

Tomorrow when I falter,
I will shatter with despair.
I will tell you where I have been,
I will leave without a face.

Tomorrow in the gallows,
When the sirens lose their voices,
When they tell you it will linger,
I will—enough!

Someday there will be none,
When tomorrow doesn’t come.

(Originally posted on January 24, 2006)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

I’m still not ready to leave

I’m still not ready to leave, but dare not say it to anyone. There are words behind my eyes still maturing, still not ripe for utterance. I have made a habit of keeping things to myself, but every now and again they weigh on me. Sadness is like that, it begs to be shared, to be spread like a cold. But I am resisting the decadent temptation, this once.

My throat is ready to leave; it is charred with exhaust. But something in me lingers, not wanting to pack just yet. More things to fold within: these congested streets, my backache, unwrapped endings, and the hesitation of what’s to come—I’ll have to pack them all. But I’ll have to unpack them first: lay them on the bed, fold them one by one—I don’t have much room.

But what to tell the dust coating everything and our lungs? What to tell the tired dust?

I shall return. Every now and then I breathe from a different nostril, and always gasp for air.

(Originally posted on April 14, 2007)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


It’s time for us to exit
The stage and leave
The animals to shred
Their shadows

It’s time for us to exit
Without looking back
Turn off the light
Set the set on fire
And leave

It’s time for them
To cry our tears
To taste the salt
And the soles of our feet
And lick our spit
Off the floor

We shall burn in their retinas
Like the afterimage of a nightmare
We shall linger
Like the caustic aftertaste
Of regret

It shall burn
And we shall smile
They shall writhe
And we shall smirk
Through their moans

Spill me
Onto their gaping flesh
Like lemon juice
Bitter and bright
Scrape me
Off of their green skins
Like a dead dream

For we shall fester
Wherever they dare to smile
We shall bite
Like a ravenous hunger
They never knew

And we shall recur
Like a hallucination
Like loss
Like life

(Originally posted Aug. 6, 2004)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

"Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath

"I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it-----

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?-------

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The Peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot ------
The big strip tease.
Gentleman , ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.

It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
It's the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

'A miracle!'
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart---
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair on my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash---
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there----

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air."

Monday, August 04, 2014

"Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words" "أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة"

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
محمود درويش

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
احملوا أسماءكم، و انصرفوا
و اسرقوا ما شئتم من زرقة البحر و رمل الذاكرة
و خذوا ما شئتم من صور، كي تعرفوا
إنكم لن تعرفوا
كيف يبني حجر من أرضنا سقف السماء

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
منكم السيف ـ و منا دمنا
منكم الفولاذ والنار ـ و منا لحمنا
منكم دبابة أخرى ـ و منا حجر
منكم قنبلة الغاز ـ و منا المطر
و علينا ما عليكم من سماء و هواء
فخذوا حصتكم من دمنا و انصرفوا
و ادخلوا حفل عشاء راقص.. و انصرفوا
..و علينا، نحن، أن نحرس ورد الشهداء
!و علينا، نحن، أن نحيا كما نحن نشاء

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
كالغبار المر، مروا أينما شئتم و لكن
لا تمروا بيننا كالحشرات الطائرة
فلنا في أرضنا ما نعمل
و لنا قمح نربيه ونسقيه ندى أجسادنا
:و لنا ما ليس يرضيكم هنا
حجر.. أو خجل
فخذوا الماضي، إذا شئتم، إلى سوق التحف
،و أعيدوا الهيكل العظمى للهدهد، إن شئتم
.على صحن خزف
فلنا ما ليس يرضيكم: لنا المستقبل
و لنا في أرضنا ما نعمل

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
كدسوا أوهامكم في حفرة مهجورة، و انصرفوا
و أعيدوا عقرب الوقت إلى شرعية العجل المقدس
!أو إلى توقيت موسيقى مسدس
فلنا ما ليس يرضيكم هنا، فانصرفوا
و لنا ما ليس فيكم، وطن ينزف شعبا ينزف
..وطنا يصلح للنسيان أو للذاكرة

،أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
آن أن تنصرفوا
و تقيموا أينما شئتم، و لكن لا تموتوا بيننا
فلنا في أرضنا ما نعمل
و لنا الماضي هنا
و لنا صوت الحياة الأول
و لنا الحاضر، والحاضر، والمستقبل
و لنا الدنيا هنا... والآخرة
فاخرجوا من أرضنا
من برنا.. من بحرنا
من قمحنا.. من ملحنا.. من جرحنا
من كل شيء، و اخرجوا
من ذكريات الذاكرة
!أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة..

Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words
by Mahmoud Darwish

O those who pass between fleeting words
Carry your names, and be gone
Rid our time of your hours, and be gone
Steal what you will from the blueness of the sea and the sand of memory
Take what pictures you will, so that you understand
That which you never will:
How a stone from our land builds the ceiling of our sky.

O those who pass between fleeting words
From you the sword—from us the blood
From you steel and fire—from us our flesh
From you yet another tank—from us stones
From you tear gas—from us rain
Above us, as above you, are sky and air
So take your share of our blood—and be gone
Go to a dancing party—and be gone
As for us, we have to water the martyrs’ flowers
As for us, we have to live as we see fit.

O those who pass between fleeting words
As bitter dust, go where you wish, but
Do not pass between us like flying insects
For we have work to do in our land:
We have wheat to grow which we water with our bodies’ dew
We have that which does not please you here:
Stones or partridges
So take the past, if you wish, to the antiquities market
And return the skeleton to the hoopoe, if you wish,
On a clay platter
We have that which does not please you: we have the future
And we have things to do in our land.

O those who pass between fleeting words
Pile your illusions in a deserted pit, and be gone
Return the hand of time to the law of the golden calf
Or to the time of the revolver’s music!
For we have that which does not please you here, so be gone
And we have what you lack: a bleeding homeland of a bleeding people
A homeland fit for oblivion or memory

O those who pass between fleeting words
It is time for you to be gone
Live wherever you like, but do not live among us
It is time for you to be gone
Die wherever you like, but do not die among us
For we have work to do in our land
We have the past here
We have the first cry of life
We have the present, the present and the future
We have this world here, and the hereafter
So leave our country
Our land, our sea
Our wheat, our salt, our wounds
Everything, and leave
The memories of memory
O those who pass between fleeting words!

(—Translation from the Jerusalem Post, April 2, 1988)

Saturday, August 02, 2014

"War" by Naomi Shihab Nye

"If this is what we studied for, 
heads bent over books in wooden desks 
engraved with the names of the dead, 
then I have a new feeling for subtraction.   

Olive trees, three acres slashed 
equals zero zero zero. 
That’s my address. The grade on my page.   

If this is the spectrum of pronouns— 
you kill, he or she kills, anyone might kill— 
then I speak a new language without them. 
Words rinse into one another recklessly— 
morning, wishes, windows, paste 
of kisses on a child’s warm scalp.   

If this is why we bow our heads to pray 
in the corner, by the iron stove 
so many years, forgive me. 
Forget words, posture, time of day. 
Blood aches inside my veins. 
Where did we bury Sitti? 
I will wait beside her stone, 
telling the same story she told 
of the river of waiting, how some of us 
fall into it and are not seen again. 
How some end up in another paradox 
with a changed name, Mahmoud to Mo, 
lost in small shops making change 
for gasoline. If this is persistence, 
who knows? I’m stuck in the corner of war 
that’s not even called war, pressed like a pigeon 
into a twig cage, my dry eyes flaming."

-from Transfer (American Poets Continuum):

Thursday, July 31, 2014

“The Only Democracy in the Middle East”

Please leave your house immediately. 
Do not call it a home. 
This is our home not yours. 
Security demands it. 
Always, always, security. 
Our security. 
Take nothing, ask nothing. 
Stand over there, against the rubble, where 
you belong. All young men, come with us. 
You may not see your families again. 
No saying goodbye or hugging. 
We have suffered too much 
thanks to everyone 
but you are the only ones we can touch. 
Don’t give us any trouble.

-from Transfer (American Poets Continuum) by Naomi Shihab Nye: