Gaia, Dreaming by Philip Metres

From the amazing contemporary poet Philip Metres, whom I first heard at Split This Rock. Philip’s own poetry blog is:Behind The Lines. This poem is from the chapbook Ode to Oil, which you can buy from Kattywompus Press here

Gaia, Dreaming
Philip Metres

She dreams she is body again.
In the open field, sound of sky and wind
through grasses.

And the water is a burnished mirror, mind for the wander.

The body beneath the klieg lights is ethered
but breathing. Her breast is rising and falling
not seen by human eyes.

And the wander is drilling under.

In the dream of the body, men
in white masks. The gleaming
instruments upon a table.

And the drilling is a kneading, a rising of what is under.

The sound of them like mandibles of ants,
a clicking like watches thousands of times
magnified, the machinery of mind.

And what is under once was over, flowing like rain.

The body is restless but tethered.
In the dream she sees herself as nothing
but table and harvest.

And the water is a river, coursing beneath our feet.

The men—now feathered—have lost their arms
to black wings. They lower their naked faces,
beak out the viscera of her dream

and the blood. She sees it all now
as if through a hole in the sky, beyond the blue ether—

And the blood is a burning river, mined from the vein

The world is always burning

yeah, this is how poetry is written…

The Law
Gerald Stern in Everything is Burning, 2005

The world is always burning, you should fly
from the burning if you can, and you should hold
your head oh either above or below the dust
and you should be careful in the blocks of Bowery
below or above the Broome that always is changing
from one kind of drunkenness to another
for that is the law of suffering, and you know it.

Thinking about the Mississippi these days

Trying to write some about it. Some. Then I found this, by Lucille Clifton in The Terrible Stories. Umm umm ummm.

the mississippi river empties into the gulf

and the gulf enters the sea and so forth,
none of them emptying anything,
all of them carrying yesterday
forever on their white tipped backs,
all of them dragging forward tomorrow.
it is the great circulation
of the earth’s body, like the blood
of the gods, this river in which the past
is always flowing. every water
is the same water coming round.
everyday someone is standing on the edge
of this river, staring into time,
whispering mistakenly:
only here. only now.

learning from the best – E. E. Cummings

from the brand-new collection erotic poems, edited by George Firmage, and containing an assortment of Cummings’ erotic drawings. I want to learn to write original, singing, sizzling sex poems, so am reading some of the best.


when i have thought of you somewhat too
much and am become perfectly and
simply Lustful….sense a gradual stir
of beginning muscle,and what it will do
to me before shutting….understand
i love you….feel your suddenly body reach
for me with a speed of white speech

(the simple instant of perfect hunger
how beautifully swims
the fooling world in my huge blood,
cracking brains A swiftlyenormous light
—and furiously puzzling through,prismatic,whims,
the chattering self perceives with hysterical fright

a comic tadpole wriggling in delicious mud

Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz

Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz
by William Notter

She had a truck, red hair,
and freckled knees and took me all the way
to Memphis after work for barbecue.
We moaned and grunted over plates of ribs
and sweet iced tea, even in a room of strangers,
gnawing the hickory char, the slow
smoked meat peeling off the bones,
and finally the bones. We slurped
grease and dry-rub spice from our fingers,
then finished with blackberry cobbler
that stained her lips and tongue.

All the trees were throwing fireworks
of blossom, the air was thick
with pollen and the brand-new smell of leaves.
We drove back roads in the watermelon dusk,
then tangled around each other, delirious
as honeybees working wisteria.
I could blame it all on cinnamon hair,
or the sap rising, the overflow of spring,
but it was those ribs that started everything.

“Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz” by William Notter, from Holding Everything Down. © Crab Orchard Review & Southern Illinois University Press, 2009.

The Language Issue – Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

The Language Issue
Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill
translated by Paul Muldoon

I place my hope on the water
in this little boat
of the language, the way a body might put
an infant

in a basket of intertwined
iris leaves,
its underside proofed
with bitumen and pitch,

then set the whole thing down amidst
the sedge
and bulrushes by the edge
of a river

only to have it borne hither and thither,
not knowing where it might end up;
in the lap, perhaps,
of some Pharaoh’s daughter.

I was a quince-bush growing on a rock

The Song of the Homesick Armenian Girl
no author or translator issued, traditional in Armenian culture

I was a quince-bush growing on a rock.
A rocky cliff that rose above the dell.
They have uprooted and transplanted me
Unto a stranger’s orchard, there to dwell
And in this orchard they have watered me
With sugar water, that full sweetly flows
O brothers, fear me back to my soil.
And water me with water of the snows!

from “On a New Year’s Eve” by June Jordan

from Jordan’s Things I Do in the Dark, 1977

and even the stars and even the snow and even
the rain
do not amount to much
unless these things submit to some disturbance
some derangement such
as when I yield myself/belonging
to your unmistaken

from Not God After All by Gerald Stern

Not God After All [Autumn House, 2004, with pencil illustrations by Sheba Sharrow] is a small book of very small poems. Or aphorisms, or petite narratives, as Stern calls them in his introduction, all written over a period of two weeks in the Spring of 2002. This is a very unusual poetry collection, but also so very Gerald Stern, a written record of little bits of conversations and arguments a sharp, passionate, political, poetic mind was having with itself. I’m copying some of my favorites here, thinking that they’ll become writing prompts or first lines, as Dickinson’s opening lines were for me earlier this spring.

For my immortality
I wear only purple socks

A beaver eating loosestrife,
none of us could believe it.

I’ll never forget Saul Bellow’s
camel-hair coat

A fire I understand,
but how do you make a flood?

The reckless affection of
her unconditional love.

The poem about me is the
best poem you ever wrote

The Shit Out of Luck Blues,
Weary Blues, Potato Skin Blues.

A palm tree has finally
wrapped itself around my heart.

What a life with women, I’m
just now thinking it over.

The happiness of the dogs
running into the waters.

Her T-shirt gets tangled
when she turns over in the grass.

Always the goyische kopf
doesn’t get it—the Joosh joke.

Dream is I went from city
to city speaking Yiddish.

Charity is the right foot of
justice—sometimes the knee.

I had a way of letting the fire
rage under the dross.

The smiling face of
industrial consolidation.

Her height, her passion, her courage,
her humor, her cunning.

To be managed, that is the
most threatening thing of all.

Now obsess on the wet kiss,
now obsess on the red knife.

Bartok at the Bronx zoo
on his way to the polar bears.

Except he lacked love, he was
almost a Jew, Ulysses.

Burning bituminous and
loving the stink of blue gas.

Between her thighs the odor
of magnolia, smell it!

Honor your poet, one of
Moses’ shattered commandments.

Rebecca, if there is an
afterworld, you will have it.

I caught someone loving his
enemy and turned to stone.

Hath not a Jew helicopters,
hath he not bazookas?

I possess the truth—have a
Chinese pear in the meantime.

It burns the eyes and the lungs, the
taste of it in the mouth!

Poverty, ignorance, super-
stition, mice—I miss you!

Melancholy, you
prude, I devoted my life to you.

What is more bloodthirsty and
oppressive, God or Country?