James Wright, “Beginning” …

•February 13, 2017 • 1 Comment

Moon, November 2016

Supermoon, November 2016

James Wright

The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
There they are, the moon’s young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.
Note: “The November full moon … is at its closest position to Earth since Jan. 26, 1948, about 30,000 miles nearer than it typically is.” – Real-Time News


Ono no Komachi, [Hana no iro wa] … “The flowers withered” …

•January 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Painting by Totoya Hokkei

Ono no Komachi and Cherry Blossoms by Totoya Hokkei

Ono no Komachi

[Hana no iro wa]

The flowers withered
Their color faded away
While meaninglessly
I spent my days in the world
And the long rains were falling

       [Trans. Donald Keene]

Paul Celan, “A Leaf” … a poem of our times…

•January 20, 2017 • 2 Comments

paul-celan-2Paul Celan

– a poem from Schneepart

A Leaf, treeless
For Bertolt Brecht:

What times are these
when a conversation
is almost a crime
because it includes
so much made explicit?

       [Trans. Michael Hamburger]

Mark Johnston, “War Movie in Reverse” …

•January 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

aerial-view-of-the-aftermath-of-first-trinity-testA powerful poem from Writing in a Nuclear Age, an anthology, edited by Jim Schley (New England Review / Bread Loaf Quarterly, 1983) [Photo: aerial view of the aftermath of first Trinity test, New Mexico]

Mark Johnston

“War Movie in Reverse”

Holes close to smooth skin
when the shrapnel flashes out.
The shores of burns recede,
and flames leap with their hot metal
back into the bomb that rises,
whole and air-borne again,
with its gathered blast.
Leading the plane perfectly,
the bomb arc back slowly
through the open gates
and disappears into the waiting belly.
The bombardier lifts
his peering eye from the sight.
Swallowing its wake,
the plane returns to base
with its countermanded mission.
The pilot, irresolute now, faces
his commandant, who marches,
brisk and backward
to the general’s lair.
The general takes back the orders.
But into what deep and good and hidden
recess of the will
go his thoughts of not bombing?

William Stafford, “Thinking for Berky” … drafts & recording

•December 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

stafford-writingI’ve never concealed the fact that William Stafford is one my favorite writers – a go-to poet for me if there ever were one. One of his strongest poems – in his subtle ease with complexity – is “Thinking for Berky”.

Here’s a link to the William Stafford Archives, which presents drafts and reading copies of Stafford’s poem. An audio file of Stafford reading the piece is included.

“Thinking for Berky”

In the late night listening from bed
I have joined the ambulance or the patrol
screaming toward some drama, the kind of end
that Berky must have some day, if she isn’t dead.

The wildest of all, her father and mother cruel,
farming out there beyond the old stone quarry
where high school lovers parked their lurching cars,
Berky learned to love in that dark school.

Early her face was turned away from home
toward any hardworking place; but still her soul,
with terrible things to do, was alive, looking out
for the rescue that–surely, some day–would have to come.

Windiest nights, Berky, I have thought for you,
and no matter how lucky I’ve been I’ve touched wood.
There are things not solved in our town though tomorrow came:
there are things time passing can never make come true.

We live in an occupied country, misunderstood;
justice will take us millions of intricate moves.
Sirens will hunt down Berky, you survivors in your beds
listening through the night, so far and good.

“Could Have” by Wisława Szymborska …

•November 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Wisława Szymborska

“Could Have”

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.
You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. The left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.

You were in luck — there was a forest.
You were in luck — there were no trees.
You were in luck — a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . . .

So you’re here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn’t be more shocked or
how your heart pounds inside me.
         [Trans. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh]

“Words” by Sylvia Plath – one of her final poems…

•September 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

sylvia-plath-largeSylvia Plath wrote “Words” – a remarkable piece – ten days before her death. The poem appeared in the first edition of Ariel, although Plath never included it in any of the collection’s drafted versions. This wasn’t because she believed the poem to be weak or dissimilar to the other works in terms of theme or tone. She hadn’t revised her working ms in the three months prior to her death. Had she not taken her own life when she did, Plath may have included most of those final poems in the finished version of Ariel, but that’s something we’ll never know. Another possible view – “Words” and a few of her other final works would have been the start of another volume.

The poem is not part of Ariel, The Restored Edition (Harper, 2005), which includes a facsimile of her manuscript, reinstating Plath’s original selections and order.


After whose stroke the wood rings,
And the echoes!
Echoes traveling
Off from the center like horses.

The sap
Wells like tears, like the
Water striving
To re-establish its mirror
Over the rock

That drops and turns,
A white skull,
Eaten by weedy greens.
Years later I
Encounter them on the road —–

Words dry and riderless,
The indefatigable hoof-taps.
From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars
Govern a life.