Full text, “Sredni Vashtar.”
Reading a short story a day, starting today. And beginning with this one. Full text here for “Cathedral.”
Essay on Adam
There are five possibilities. One: Adam fell.
Two: he was pushed. Three: he jumped. Four:
he only looked over the edge, and one look silenced him.
Five: nothing worth mentioning happened to Adam.
The first, that he fell, is too simple. The fourth,
fear, we have tried and found useless. The fifth,
nothing happened, is dull. The choice is between:
he jumped or was pushed. And the difference between these
is only an issue of whether the demons
work from the inside out or from the outside
in: the one
Young Love (IX)
What about all this writing?
O miss margaret jarvis
clean: yes..New York
Wrigley’s, appendicitis, John Marin:
Either that or a bullet!
anything might have happened
You lay relaxed on my knees—
the starry night
spread out warm and blind
above the hospital—
It is unclean
which is not straight to the mark—
In my life the furniture eats me
the chairs, the floor
which heard your sobs
drank up my emotion—
they which alone know everything
and snitched on us in the morning—
What to want?
Drunk we go forward surely
beds, beds, beds
elevators, fruit, night tables
breasts to see, white and blue—
to hold in the hand, to nozzle
It is not onion soup
Your sobs soaked through the walls
breaking the hospital to pieces
obscenely drunk, spinning—
white, blue, orange
—hot with our passion
wild tears, desperate rejoinders
my legs, turning slowly
end over end in the air!
But what would you have?
All I said was:
there, you see, it is broken
stockings, shoes, hairpins
your bed, I wrapped myself round you—
You sobbed, you beat your pillow
you tore your hair
you dug your nails into your sides
I was your nightgown
Clean is he alone
after whom stream
the broken pieces of the city—
flying apart at his approaches
but I merely
caress you curiously
fifteen years ago
and you still
go about the city, they say
patching up sick school children.
And doesn’t raw chicken breast always look like South America—or Africa, depending what side you slice from? When I was little, I thought I saw my dead father smoking a pipe in the wood-grain paneling
of our living room, his black eyes
Should I have thought it a sign—
an old man trying to connect with me?
Is it much different than sensing
despair in the avocados as “Feliz
Navidad” played in the produce section
or finding hope in the outline of a woman’s
I don’t see what I want to see.
I see what I have to see—faith
in a salt stain under a bridge. I laugh
at wakes because there is nothing
to crying. I began to see myself
in third person, the hardened pride of
putting out of mind my compulsion
to see you in an airport, hear you say
let me buy you a drink, son.
Tomorrow I will visit your grave
for the first time in nine years, the place
where at five, I traced the letters of your name.
I have tried so hard to imagine the concrete
again after seeing the abstract beneath.
The chicken breast is tasty.
Avocados are avocados. I say there is no hope
in a woman’s dress, but believe me,
it is there.
thanks to jus. f. r.
Send in the Clouds
Send in the clouds. Bring down the rain.
Shut all the blinds, turn out the lights:
I feel insane when you get in my bed.
I am the trick my mother played on the world
Seventeen doctors couldn’t decide
whether I should be allowed in the game.
Why can’t monsters get along with other monsters?
Soi disantra, soi disantra…
I know a puppy who walked form Kentucky.
Made to East Virginia by dawn.
He had seventeen ideas in his head.
Windex tears flow down the robot’s face. He never felt a mother’s embrace.
He’s never felt a lover’s embrace.
My momma named me after a king.
I’m gonna bury my name in you.
Why can’t monsters get along with other monsters?
Soi disantra, soi disantra, they don’t want ta…
Saying the word sonar is satisfying.
During the Cuban Crisis, we smoked sugarcane and
they dropped depth charges by our family home.
I watched one soldier walk into the river and float away.
I barely had time to speak. Little paths above the wheat
pennies strewn there filled with water. Eddies. The industrialist
got on his hands and knees. Short-sighted, he gathered change in.
There was nothing on his mind. Ripples moving through.
A dream so violent I awake actually afraid of myself.
A way of decoding trees. A way to hear the night air.
Somewhere, a low beeping. A sleep-start.
Bring me back to the glory I felt that day when
we only knew the beaches as a liminal space.
Alone at last with my feelings,
the King an unlikely sentry
the king a peculiar
the king a makeshift
Thinking is dry, and frivolous
I often have a hidden agenda
And why the King should choose
to starve his son to death,
and torture him with
water running pitiless on his nakedness,
I’ll never know.
I woke up, changed.
You’ve got to spend money
to make money.
In the kingdom
you will live together forever
because she is a fag
hag and you are a fag
hag hag. Family
I wanted to make my son
look like a king
but I could not bring myself
to bind his forehead
to flatten the back of his head
on a flattening board
Generally I am opposed to mutilation
When a Woman Loves a Man
When she says margarita she means daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, “I’ll never speak to you again,”
she means, “Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window.”
He’s supposed to know that.
When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.
When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.
When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, “We’re talking about me now,”
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
“Did somebody die?”
When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water rushing over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.
Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?
When he says, “Ours is a transitional era,”
“that’s very original of you,” she replies,
dry as the martini he is sipping.
They fight all the time
What do I owe you?
Let’s start with an apology
Ok, I’m sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying “Laughter.”
It’s a silent picture.
“I’ve been fucked without a kiss,” she says,
“and you can quote me on that,”
which sounds great in an English accent.
One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
another nine times.
When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he’s there. He doesn’t complain that
she’s two hours late
and there’s nothing in the refrigerator.
When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She’s like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn’t want the day to end.
When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.
He Would Not Stay For Me, And Who Can Wonder
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?
He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder,
And went with half my life about my ways.
How much do you love me, a million bushels?
Oh, a lot more than that, Oh, a lot more.
And to-morrow maybe only half a bushel?
To-morrow maybe not even a half a bushel.
And is this your heart arithmetic?
This is the way the wind measures the weather.
I Am Asking You To Look At Me, Touch Me, Talk To Me
I have this to say, Something was going to happen
and then it did. Our gestures exceeded
the speed of light. They were practical
efforts. Practical efforts, such as raising chickens.
Such as, someone buying many hotels!
Such as, standing and standing. Processing
information in your sleep. When you build
a fire in the snow it’s a speculative treatment
of certain problems. I feel better when I feel
better. Let me explain the agreement. Or else
you explain impossible colors. Impossible
colors are a catastrophic visual failure
and not impossible. Not a ship sinking. A shore
out of shape. Some things will get lost. A neck.
The circle running. A true yellow blue.
There are always competing signals from one
system to another. There are options regarding
the ice. We can lick it or cross it. Further information
when you want it. Information always blinking.
A chime that rang. I fluctuate by night. I fluctuate
by night. In my head is a station where you
Under a Certain Little Star
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity in case I’m mistaken.
Don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you for my own.
May the dead forgive me that their memory’s but a flicker.
My apologies to time for the quantity of world overlooked per second.
My apologies to an old love for treating a new one as the first.
Forgive me, far-off wars, for carrying my flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
My apologies for the minuet record, to those calling out from the abyss.
My apologies to those in train stations for sleeping soundly at five in the morning.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing sometimes.
Pardon me, deserts, for not rushing in with a spoonful of water.
And you, O hawk, the same bird for years in the same cage,
staring, motionless, always at the same spot,
absolve me even if you happen to be stuffed.
My apologies to the tree felled for four table legs.
My apologies to large questions for small answers.
Truth, do not pay me too much attention.
Solemnity, be magnanimous toward me.
Bear with me, O mystery of being, for pulling threads from your veil.
Soul, don’t blame me that I’ve got you so seldom.
My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere.
My apologies to all for not knowing how to be every man and woman.
I know that as long as I live nothing can excuse me,
since I am my own obstacle.
Do not hold it against me, O speech, that I borrow weighty words,
and then labor to make them light.
The Lucky One
People have a gift for mouth and eye
and ear, and houses have doors, corridors,
windows, and in the alleys, in the halls there
was always a lucky one, who carried with him
the mistakes of others, what a burden
it must have been that pushed him down,
but he was pleased by all this pushing.
Once, by the way, he went to search
for something in a grand garden.
Someone had given him a difficult task
he couldn’t possibly hope to complete.
Dignified men and women stood
on the Altan, the terrace, that is,
and scrutinized him, a splendid
gathering, from which, like rockets,
emerged laughter, and on this substantial day
the stupid boy that he was broke a hand
painted cup, whereupon at once the scenery
was shifted. There was always something
important that remained strange to him,
he remained foolish, but of this something
one was perhaps rightly envious. He always
hauled the mistakes of many others
through life, and he was being pulled down
and up, he saw himself useful and useless,
lauded, blamed, and in pieces and whole.
translated from the German by Daniele Pantano
worthy poetry collected in rogue fashion