Resurrection (Cento)

rocks and fog


Resurrection (Cento) 

Everything we love
returns to the ground.

Each syllable is the work of sabotage,
a breeze seeping from the heart of the rocks.

They are my last words
or what I intend my last words to be.

I think just how my shape will rise,
a miracle, anywhere light moves.

*****

A cento is composed of lines borrowed from other poets. “Resurrection” first appeared here in January 2016, and owes its existence to the poetry of Tishani Doshi, Paul Auster, Antonella Anedda, Sean Hill, Emily Dickinson, and Ruth Ellen Kocher. I urge you to seek out their work. It astounds!

ladybug

Ocean Vuong’s “Self-Portrait as Exit Wounds”


Today’s offering on the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day site is Ocean Vuong’s “Self-Portrait as Exit Wounds,” a superb end to a week of immigrant poems by Juan Felipe Herrera, Chen Chen, Solmaz Sharif, and Mai Der Vang.

Track (after Tranströmer)

file000826525674(1)

Track (after Tranströmer)

2 p.m.: Sunlight. The subway flows
beneath us. Flecks of darkness
shimmer madly on the wall.

As when a man cracks a window into a dream,
remembering everything, even
what never occurred.

Or after skimming the surface of good health,
all his nights become ash, billowing clouds,
strong and warm, suffocating him.

The subway never stops.
2 o’clock. Filtered sunlight, smoke.

* * *

I’ve been dipping into Friends, You Drank Some Darkness, Robert Bly’s 1975 translations of Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf and Tomas Tranströmer, and I couldn’t resist playing with one of my favorite poems. A different darkness, a separate space, another landscape…

This first appeared here in April 2015.

Senate (Tritina)

 

Senate (Tritina)

Not imposition, but welcome.  The way
cooperation welcomes coercion, turning the
tenor of the intended phrase, opening

the statement to interpretation, opening
a point without dissension, in the way
of politics, agreeing which fact will shape the

morning, which truth will determine the
next word and the subsequent, as if opening
the issue, claiming to have found the way,

one way, the only, but never actually opening.

* * *

A Tritina might best be described as the lazy poet’s Sestina, consisting of ten rather than 39 lines, with the end words of the first stanza repeating in a specific pattern in the subsequent two stanzas. The last line includes all three end words.

The patterns:
abc
cab
bca
The last line uses the end words in sequence following the pattern of the first stanza.

 

 

At Sunrise We Celebrate the Night’s Passage

sunrise

At Sunrise We Celebrate the Night’s Passage

And discuss not the darkness of crows, but the structure of phonemes
embedded in our names, the gratitude of old fences, of broken

circles and extinguished flame.

Two weeks ago he poured wine and declared himself Dog.

There are roosters, too, who cannot crow,
other speechless men, and lonely burros guarding brush piles.

What letters form silence? From what shapes do we draw this day?

Light filters through the cedars and minutes retract,

as the bull’s horns point first this way, then that, lowering themselves
through the millennia, becoming, finally, A as we know it.

With my tongue, I probe the space emptied of tooth.

Barbed wire was designed to repel, but when cut sometimes curls

and grabs, relinquishing its hold only by force or careful negotiation.
Symbols represent these distinct units of sound.

My name is two houses surrounding an eye.

Yours consists of teeth, the bull, an arm, the ox goad.

barb

Originally published in Prime Number Magazine, one of my favorite online literary journals, in 2013, and posted here in September 2015. Cantinflas the donkey makes a cameo appearance in this poem…

Which is an Eye or a Bowl, a Dream

eyes3


Which is an Eye or a Bowl, a Dream

Or well-placed mirror in a sunburnt room, shivering through shifted
images: that hand, blackened and stout, opened like a dark peony;
the tattooed chin; shovel and torch; hook and owl. You say no one
chooses one fist over another, that bread’s rise completes its cycle
and begins anew, pressed flat and rounded. Take this heart and seal
its chambers. Note the anterior descent. Compression, lesion. Plaque.
Consequence. And your friend, who slept, never to awaken. Lying
in that strange bed, you taste salt, acknowledge change, whisper
to no one: audible house…audible tree, knowing that time’s limit
remains unclear. The air swirls and you accept this new light.

 

Note: “Audible house…audible tree” is from Jane Hirshfield’s “Not Moving Even One Step,” from The Lives of the Heart.

bowlnhashi

Thinking of Language

words

Yesterday, while avoiding the big rig frenzy on the wet highway, I heard a fascinating talk on NPR’s TED Radio Hour, Phuc Tran’s “Does the Subjunctive Have a Dark Side.” The idea of how one’s language, one’s grammar, can shape or affect a culture, has never been made so apparent to me as in this well articulated piece.