Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quotilla #5

This poem riffs off the first few lines of Louise Gluck's 'The Wild Iris'


At the dark core of the cry, an 'I'. In
the center of the 'I', an Iris. At the
end of its stem, a slash. In the mouth
of the slash, a bead of
my blood. In the blood of the
suffering, a saltiness. From the salt
there rose a sound. The sound
was a hinge, and from
a swinging of the hinge, a
door. Around its edges . . . light.

Quotilla #4

Here the initial riff is from Dylan Thomas' famous villanelle. I wanted to write a piece that worked against its riff.


Do you
not trust the dark? Why else
go raging against
gentle twilight? Ranting
into tantrums
that grow full as a
good beard, wild as untamed
night. As the sun of
rage seethes, feel how
rage siphons, drains
against the body's batteries.
The day may be
dying, and the hum
of peace might need
the melody of moon-

Do you still
not trust the dusk? Refuse to
go in search of a
gentle massage, a dip
into the darkening
that caresses like a
good breeze, forecasting
night? Won't peace, not
rage last, since
rage exhausts, flames
against the serene?
The discord of day is
dying, and the sighs
of solace appear to thrive in
the languor of lowered

For Sodade's Sake

Sodade is the Kriolu word for the Portuguese term 'saudade.' It has no direct English equivalent and is a mix of homesickness and nostalgia.


Her voice is a breeze,
her song washes
like eternal waves,
although sea water
and the salt of sorrow
may be married.
Medleyed with a moving sun,
her tone tracks the heart's arc.
Since all that rises fears
what falling might follow,
she is careful,
sings of descent first,
is cautious with what hope
she allows to be
heard in the harmony.
And I wonder
what price of translation
she pays, as she sings
in a voice that is naked
and slowly utters
every word
by barefoot

Her voice is more searchlight
than song, splashes the dunes
with waves of something
wilder than water.
Her lyrics are an island's sighs
medleyed with moonlight,
a sound like whales exhaling.
Since tears also shine,
what saline struggle
she's tasted illuminates her,
perhaps reflecting
what traces of grace
she may have seen
in the foam swirling
across what beach she walks.
She knows the sea and sorrow
sing in the same key,
but still chooses to lift me
with what the tide
utters in the interim,
word by rising word.

(For Cesaria Evora)

Don't piss me off

I'm having a lot of fun with the 'Red Wheelbarrow' and Conceptual Art. Here's another take. With apologies to William Carlos Williams and Marcel Duchamp


so much depends

a white porcelain

signed by the

beside the pale

Put this in your Museum

Part of an ongoing series of poems celebrating artists from Pittsburgh. The blog posts don't do columns and I don't know enough HTML to make it display correctly, but this poem is meant to be read in columns, not straight across the lines. 

[from Andy's lost manuscript]

so much depends        so much depends      so much depends
upon                upon                upon

a fuschia wheel          an orange wheel    a golden wheel
barrow                       barrow                     barrow

glazed with rain         glazed with rain     glazed with rain
water                   water                water

beside the indigo          beside the aqua        beside the green
chickens.                chickens.             chickens.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Blue in Green

On May 15th, 2007 my cousin LaSon White passed at the age of 46. Although 46 is terribly young, at 45 she had actually lived longer than her mother and grandmother, a fact that was not lost on her.
Of all my cousins, she and I were probably closest, on every trip back to Pittsburgh I called or stopped past her store. Smart, stylish, caring, her smile was often antidote for whatever ailed me. Because I got the first call in April, I set the poem there and took a little poetic license at the end. This piece has a hint of Whitman and a twist of Eliot.

A Solo for LaSon

April sprouts around us,
is the sky as sullen there?
The hour after we talked was
cruelest, most raw. In less than a
month, your doctor says
breeding cells will overwhelm you.
Lilacs bloom here as there, just
out the door. Purple hints
of all the Prince songs we've shared.
The plentiful petals are
dead certain to flutter around,
land and decorate your walkway.

April's sibilant drizzle
is like a cymbal, mocking
the insistence of memories,
cruelest at dusk. What other
month would dream of
breeding, then watering these
lilacs purple as bruises?
Out of the incessant rhythm
of the rain's thin fingers,
the melody of a woman's voice
dead on key, singing 'Adore',
lands on my quivering ears.

April winds wane,
is that the phone ringing amid
the backscatter of the evening news?
Cruelest is the quiet after the call.
Month after month will sprout,
breeding a peace soothing as those
lilacs you loved so much. But right now,
out on the horizon, the purple song
of the setting sun is
the last hope I have, of being
dead silent and hearing your voice in the
land of the living.

(For LaSon C. White, 1961-2007)

For Hope (A Little Star)

B-Bop Solo #1, Ars Poetica

The code eludes all but tillers of
text, a secret not simple
for deciphering. Because
today, an undertone
Is dismissed too
early, too easily. Although
miles separate the source of
the river from the sea, hasn't the
Columbia called for
years in undercurrents? And doesn't
that same submerged
tone still guide salmon
pared almost
down to skeleton and skin
to home, with the sparest of
essentials, subtext?

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Nothing brightens up the day like a bit of despair.



A wisp of white against an eternal blue.


A tiny town
in Alaska.


Along twenty occupied bar stools,
the only moving thing
was the hum of the Blues.


Maybe cuts on the wrists,
or a cup of cyanide,
or a fork in the toaster,
or fumes filling the car,
or pills in the hand,
or a bullet in the chamber,
or a rope dangling from a ceiling,
but definitely the dive from a bridge to the river.


An empty set of parentheses.


Always an invitation, never an RSVP.


In a mirror while everyone else is sleeping.


As seed of the unplucked peach.