October 12, 2011

"Nobody Can Bear to Watch" | review essay by David Wheatley (on Susan Howe's That This and Rae Armantrout's Money Shot) [link]

Times Literary Supplement review of Susan Howe's That This and Rae Armantrout's Money Shot
click below:

Alberto Girri (Argentina) 1919-1991

Alberto Girri (Argentina)

Alberto Girri was born in Argentina in 1919, and died in the same city in 1991. Although he is generally spoken of in the Argentine context as a poet of the Generation of 40, his personal style did not fit any particular movement. Writing in a highly lyrical and elegiac tradition, Girri sought out anonymity and isolation throughout much of his life.
     He contributed regularly to the magazine Sur and to the literary newspaper supplement La Nación, but his work was generally described as highly ascetic and related to philosophical throught.
   Beginning in 1946 with Playa Sola, Girri published some 30 volumes of poetry, including Coronación de las espera (1947), El Tiempo que destruye (1950), Penitencia y el mérito (1957), Quien habla no esta muerto (1976), El motivo es el poema (1976), Lo propio lo de todos (1980), Lírica de percepciones (1983), and Juegos alégoricos (1993).
     Girri was the Spanish-language translator of T. S. Eliot, Stephen Sepnder, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams. In 1971 Girri, with William Shand, wrote the libretto to Alberto Ginastera's opera Beatrix Cenci, which at its premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.


 Playa nova (Buenos Aires: Editorial Nova, 1946); Coronación de la espera (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Botella al Mar, 1947); Trece poemas (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Botella al Mar, 1950); El tiempo que destruye (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Botella al Mar, 1951); Escáandolo y soledades (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Botella al Mar, 1952); Línea de la vida (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sur, 1955); Examen de nuestra causa (Editorial Sur, 1956); La penitencia y el mérito (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sur, 1957); Propiedades de la magia (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sur, 1959); La condición necesaria (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sur, 1962); Elegías italianas (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sur, 1962); El ojo (Buenos Airies: Editorial Losada, 1963); Poemas elegidos (Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, 1965); Envíos (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1967); Casa de la mente (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1968); Antología temática (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1970); Valores diaríos (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1970); En la letra, abigua selva (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1972); Poesía de observación (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1973); Quien habla no está muerto (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1975); Galería personal (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1975); El motivo es el poema (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1976); Bestiario (Benos Aires: La Garza, 1976); Obra poética, I (Buenos Aires: Editorial Corregidor, 1977); Árbol de la estirpe humana (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1978); Obra poética, II (Buenos Aires: Editorial Corregidor, 1978); Lo propio, lo de todos (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1980); Obra poética, III (Buenos Aires: Editorial Corregidor, 1980); Homenaje a W. C. Williams (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1981); Líraca de percepción (1983)

The Monkeys

In any event,
the provocative strength,
the freedom
we wielded as it pleased us
to screech, to form couples,
and even to let them crucify us
like sacrificial victims,
now lacks an object,
and above all the other species,
above our flattened noses,
the hard claws,
the prehensile feet,
we raise with great honor
to the one who deposes and succeeds us,
understanding master, clever guardian
helping with fire, insults, shackles,
so that our nature as
relatively cruel and savage beasts,
relatively adaptable and sensitive,
gains confidence, perceives
how we improve and prevent
our differences from growing larger,
if in spite of not constructing nests,
not being industrious,
not possessing a vocabulary to name
the heavenly furies
and the earthly varieties,
we grasp
the passionate human vocation
for exchanges and offerings,
and something
of their revealing art of harmonies,
something of what in their myths
signifies affection.

And what more promising
than this cage, this attempt
at imitation and coming together
supplanting the masquerade of the jungle;
we accept it
after having come from so far away
to await the fatal old age of man
and for the generosities and arrogance
to fall from his great dreams,
ah, all our time
so that before dying out
that refined corpse
shall recognize us,
shall gaze at us as in a mirror.

 —Translated from the Spanish by Jason Weiss

 Ars Legendi

Of rapid movement,
plain in words and style,
direct and simple,
noble in ideas,
          our Homer is Homer
because of the overall effect,
not for its isolated details,
          but the professors disagree,
they silence opposition with the principle
that the classics contain too much
for the elemental enthusiasm of laymen
with no other weapons than good faith,
curiosity and innocence,
                                 and they subject the reading
to the rack of exactitude,
questioning epithets, versions,
twisting around ideas,
the manner obscure,
                                an artificial
and urbane Homer,
in service of academic committees,
dressed up, free of fantasy,
         the bloodless corpse
that justifies Voltaire's lament
indicating that human letters
are usually mistreated by stupidity
as tedious, inhuman.

 —Translated from the Spanish by Jason Weiss

English language copyright ©1996 by Jason Weiss

Liliane Giraudon (France) 1946

Liliane Giraudon (France)

 Born on April 13,1946, French poet, dramatist, and fiction writer Liliane Giraudon has lived for most of her life in Marseille, where she teaches in the public schools.
      Giraudon's work might be described as trans-genre, as she moves with and against prose ("prose does not exist") and poetry ("a poem is never alone"). The writer has also worked collaboration with other writers and artists, and has been extremely active in the French literary scene, co-founding, with Jean-Jacques Viton, Banana Split and If and serving as an editor for the noted poetry journal Action poétique. She has also worked in video and other medias.
Her books of poetry include Têtes ravagées: Une Fresque, Je marche ou je m'endors, La Réserve, Quel jour sommes-nous, Divagation des chiens, and, most recently, La Poétesse. She also edited, with Henri Deluy, 29 femmes: Poésie en France depuis 1960 (1994).
     Among her prose-like works are La Nuit (1986), Pallaksch, Pallaksch, winner of the Prix Maupassant (1990, published in English by Sun & Moon Press, 1994), Fur (1992, published in English by Sun & Moon Press, 1995), Les animaux font toujours l'amour de la méme manière (1995), Parking des filles (1998), and La Fiancée de Makhno (2004).
     Giraudon has also produced translations.


Têtes ravagées: Une Fresque (Paris: La Répétition, 1978);  Je marche ou je m'endors (Paris: Hachette/P.O.L, 1982); La Réserve (Paris: P.O.L, 1984); Billy the Kid (in memoriam Jack Spicer (Paris: Manicle [H.C.], 1984;  Quel jour sommes-nous (Paris: Ecbolade, 1985); _V_ (avec 6 vignettes de nanni Balestrini) (La Souterraine: La Main Courante, 1987); Divagation des chiens (Paris: P.O.L, 1988); Anne n'est pas Suzanne (with photographs by Casa Factori Marseille) (La Souterraine: La Main Courante, 1998); La Poétesse (Paris: P.O.L, 2009)

Crustaceans Are What They Eat

Don't tell me you're fed up with writing poetry
that you can't write any other way
that reaching the end of the line is too trying
or tiring or worrisome like a road
climbing a staircase or the top of a tree
that darkening the surface of a page
is like singeing the tips of the fingers the nails
(Edgard Pinaud's nail polish no. 15, Seduction)
which smells of Onions Tulips.

An infinitely unpleasant thing a feeling
of grease on the tongue for example
don't tell me the others all the others
—your poetry colleagues (those false navigators)—
annoy you with their negligent
postures their carbonated drinks
their clothes—sexual intellectual
habitual eternal presumptions they pontificate
postulate perambulate in vain are so old so soon that they greet
bleat eat out of your hand
biting only their shadows

Don't tell me that you've forgotten the day the hour
that sunlight spoils the sight of the sea that the moon
is a pathetic thing when the sky is clear
so clear the night that enfolds it seems an illusion
that you can't sleep that in your dreams it's always
the same woman undressing then refusing
that you've passed the age of pornographic acrobatics
limited to speaking without receivers

Flesh is soft on the back of the shoulder

Don't tell me that the word date so and so
translates it by delicacy somebody else by desert fruit
that you don't give a damn
that the taste of dates is unique in an oasis
that the target language must retain the odor of the original
different after all from a plate of fruit spit up by a child
that that has nothing to do with it
once on the fire with a sprinkling of sugar
producing a scintillating preserve
served in the curve of a china bowl on a white tablecloth
deep in a garden by attentive hands
on a quiet morning promising unspeakable happiness
as rare as a pure heart
for translating is just a snapping jaw
open on a body to be covered by your own
until it disappears
until nothing is left
the inescapable trace of an invisible, persistent chain
left behind to deceive the reader to make him believe
the crossing was accomplished the road traveled
the translation made

Don't tell me like that other guy
that all women are redheads
just put them on the fire
fierce ferocious equal in every way
to the true Paradise the one and only
with no need for philtre or propaganda
the latter secret
invisible rather down below beneath the belt
trampled perhaps by heels you step on it put up with it
Hell a paving stone
a handful of combative starving men
rusty boxes on the rim of the road
they love their poems like the smell of their own farts
it's a stock a pack a swamp
when it's simply quite simply
nothing how much sun is in sunflower
or r in the word carrot

Don't tell me don't tell me to keep quiet
the fax the dead
now that excites me the poem is a mirror
when a pig looks in abstraction increases
in illumination that's the blood they used to fix the gold
in the leaves the sun shines but not for us all
she says she wants monkey tooth implants
a tail would work better
would go better with the color of her eyes the white
sand of the river dazzling

Climbing into holes what an adventure
that's all I've ever done
flinging dirt over my shoulders
that's going the distance—attentive ear—
the feet beneath assembled moving
if I only had hooves
the cloven foot leaves better tracks in the mud
Io! Io! in the humid raw air
Ah my love! drain

drain me like a motor

—Translated from the French by Guy Bennett
English language copyright ©1996 by Guy Bennett

October 8, 2011

Francis Jammes (France) 1868-1938

Francis Jammes (France)

Born on December 2, 1868 in Tournay, in the High Pyrénées, Francis Jammes spent most of his life in Béarn and the Basque Country in which he was born. His parents were from an ancient family, but had no wealth, his father dying young and forcing the young poet to work as a lawyer's clerk to support his mother.
     Although he attended school for a while in Bordeaux, he was evidently a poor student and failed his baccalauréat.
   His poems began to be read in Paris in the late 1890s, appreciated for their symbolist tendencies and their fresh and immediate language. For a while Jammes became close friends with figures such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Henri de Régnier, and André Gide, with whom he traveled to Algeria in 1896. His earliest works, published in 1891 were sonnets, followed by several volumes titled Verse (1892, 1893, and 1894). Perhaps his most well known volume of poems appeared in from Mercure de France in 1897, De l'angélus de l'aube à l'angélus du soir (From morning Angelus to evening Angelus). Indeed much of his early poetry and almost all of his later works were devoted to a praise of God and all things religious.
     Although beloved by many of the poets of Parisian society, Jammes' work belonged to no literary schools, and was characterized by a singular voice. Seen as a provincial author, his poems never truly became fashionable until his death.
     Although Jammes spent most of his days in his native region, he loved to travel and hunt, visiting Northern Africa several times. He was also a strong animal conservationist.
     Besides numerous volumes of poetry, Jammes also wrote numerous works of prose and books on poetry.
     The poet died on November 1, 1938, but editions of his books continued to appear until the mid-1940s.


Six Sonnets (1891); Vers (1892, 1893, and 1894); Un jour (1895); La Naissance du poète (1897); Quatorze prières (1898); De l'Angélus de l'aube à l'Angélus du soir (Paris: Mercure de France, 1898); Le Poète et l'oiseau (1899); La Jeune Fille nue (1899); Le Triomphe de la vie (1900-1901); Le Deuuil des primevères (1901); Clairières dans de Ciel (1902-1906); Tristesses (1905); Clairières dans le Ciel (1906); L'Eglise habillée de feuilles (1906); Le Triomphe de la vie (1906); Poèmes mesurés (1907); Rayons de miel (Paris: Bibliothèque de L'Occident, 1908); Le Géorgiques chrétiennes (3 volumes) (Paris: Mercure de France, 1911-1912); Feuilles dans le vent (1913); Cinq prières pour le temps de la guerre (Paris: Librairie de l'Art catholique, 1916); La Vierge et les sonnes (Paris: Mercure de France, 1919); Épitaphes (Paris: Librairie de l'Art catholique, 1921); Le Tombeau de Jean de la Fontaine (Paris: Mercure de France); Livres des quatrains (1922, 1923, 1924, and 1925); Brindilles pour rallumer la foi (Paris: Éditions Spes, 1925); Ma France poétique (Paris: Mercure de France, 1926); Diane (1928); L'Arc-en-ciel des amours (Paris: Bloud et Gay, 1931); Alouette (1935); De tout temps à jamais (Paris: Gallimard, 1935); Sources (Paris: Le Divan, 1936); Elégies et poésies diverse (1943); La Grâce (1946); Choix de poésies chrétiennes (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1946); Oeuvre poétique complète (Paris: J & D Éditions, 1995)


The Naked Girl: A Poem/Play (Berkeley, California: Workingmans Press, 1977); Selected Poems of Francis Jammes, trans. by Barry Gifford and Bettina Dickie (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1976)

Twelfth Elegy
to Madame M. M. Moreno-Schwob

On high wind that fills the sails of ships
and lifts the anemones at the forest's brink;
wind that swelled the soul of the great René,
as he shouted bitter words at the swollen seas;
wind that made Virginia's hut shake,
and that ravages the autumn courtyards of the Sacré-Coeur;
wind that comes to my humble table to chat:
I have always loved you, that you winnow the sand,
or make the rain drive crossways from right to left.

 Cradle me softly. Be to my poor heart
the soulful thing you were when I was a child.
I remember an attic room where I used to go
to listen to you blow beneath the doors and through the cracks.
Then I would mount a big box. From there,
I would gaze at the blue snow on the mountain.
My heart would leap. I wore a small white apron.
Cry? Dear God... I no longer know how... I was four.
Oh! The land of my birth... How perfect it seemed...

 Oh wind, do you want me, the shepherd,
seated like a poet among the ferns,
to give you kiss to my little flute?
Would you have all the young girls' mouths
lean towards me like roses?
Where are you leading my dream? Where?
In the dawn snow, mules went by
carrying deeply colored winds, tobacco, and young girls.


 Oh wind in which the morning bells fade to nothing,
and the flowering apple tress in the orchard come undone;
that blows the grass in waves and turns it silver;
that makes the pine trees sing and crumples the arbutus;
that swells the cloud and pushes it along. O wind,
when I hear you from the depths of my little room
you make my soul feel even lonelier.
your voice was always with me in laughter and in tears.
Reading Rousseau, it was as though you made
the trees sway in the old engravings.
I let my soul go free. I said to myself: it is meditation
to feel my thoughts die away as I listen to you speak.

 It's you who carried my grandfather over the greenish
ocean on his way to the flowering Antilles.
you blew up a storm as he sailed away from France.
Rain and hailstones bounced off and battered
the porthole. The bulkheads creaked. Everyone was afraid.
But as they came near the blessed Antilles
your muffled voice went still and you burst out laughing
at the sight of both seagulls and our creole cousins
anxiously waiting on the breakwater wall.

 Oh, if only I could recapture that day from another life.
My God, tell me, I beg you, was I really there?
Yes, I can see my grandfather again, followed by his cousins,
walking up the main street of St-Pierre-de-Martinique.
Wind, you ruffled the lively corollas
of the tobacco plants, and raised the soft muslin dresses
which our cousins sported like calyxes.

 For that reason alone, whistling wind, you are my friend.
I know what you know. I love you like a brother.
I salute the pleasure you take in wandering among the elms.
I know that the birds are like a thousand hearts for you.
I know that I understand the meaning of your words.
I know that the kisses of our creole cousins
went along with you to the garden roses,
amidst the pink and blue dew of that morning.

 Translated from the French by Bruce Whiteman

English language translation copyright ©2011 by Bruce Whiteman

Michael Heller (USA) 1937

Michael Heller (USA)

Michael Heller was born in Brooklyn, NY on May 11, 1937.  His father, the son and grandson of rabbis in Bialystok, Poland, and New York, led a colorful if not very successful life.  He ran away from home at fifteen, became a cook’s mate on a freighter, then soldier, reporter, film producer, lawyer, political adviser and finally public relations counselor.  As Heller describes it in Living Root, his memoir cum ars poetica, his father’s life, with its entwined ambiguous mix of Jewish tradition, romantic love, boyish rebellion and escapism, has been an unlikely but exemplary resource for his poetry. 

            Heller’s mother, the daughter of a successful Romanian businesswoman, taught in the New York City public schools, but in 1942, after her heart trouble worsened, the family began a piecemeal move to Miami Beach, Florida. The city’s garish pre-postmodern art-deco architecture and the daily sight of the Atlantic would provide an imagistic backdrop to elements of Heller’s work.
            As a nine-year old elementary school student in Miami Beach, Heller made his first public “literary” experience on a weekly radio show, “Unfinshed Fables, ” as one of four child-panelists who were required to complete a half-written story impromptu over the air waves.  With the help of his school friends, he published, on a hectograph, a bi-weekly journal of news, poems and cartoons.  In high school, his interests were art and science-related, and at sixteen, he was the youngest member of the American Rocket Society (later Astronautics Society), and hoped for a career in science or engineering.  After high school, he went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  Upon graduation in 1959, he moved to New York City to take a technical writing job.  Since then, Manhattan has been his primary residence, except for summers spent in the Sangré de Cristo mountains of southern Colorado and frequent periods of foreign travel.  
            In Living Root, Heller describes “blundering” into poetry in the mid-1960s while working as a tech writer at Sperry Gyroscope, when on the job, he accidentally met a number of former students of Louis Zukofsky who introduced him to Zukofsky’s work, and to the Objectivists and Black Mountain poets, whom he started to read and study intensively.  He began trying to write both poetry and fiction.  The only poetry writing workshop he ever took was with Kenneth Koch at The New School where he won the Coffey Poetry Prize in 1964. 
            Impelled by that miniscule award, Heller went abroad to try to become a poet, at first traveling through the major cities of Europe, then settling for over a year in the small town of Nerja on Spain’s Andalucian coast.  While there, he published his first poems in The Paris Review.  In Nerja, he also met other writers, among them the Irish novelist Aidan Higgins, who introduced him to the writings of major European literary figures such as Walter Benjamin, Robert Musil, Hermann Broch and Samuel Beckett.  In Nerja, he also became acquainted with the Spanish poet, Jorge Guillén and the family of Garcia Lorca who, as Franco’s power was waning, had started to live in Nerja in the summers.
            Heller returned to New York in late 1966, freelanced as a tech writer and joined Angry Arts, the anti-Vietnam War group.  He began to meet the Objectivist poets he had read, George Oppen, Charles Reznikoff and Zukofsky, whose writing and thinking  influenced his work.  In 1967, Heller was hired by New York University where for over thirty years he taught composition, creative writing and lectured on contemporary poetry. 
           His first full-length collection, Accidental Center was published in1972 by Dan Gerber’s and Jim Harrison’s Sumac Press, along with books by Robert Duncan, George Oppen and Carl Thayer.  Since then his poetry, reviews, essays and fiction have been widely published and anthologized. 
      In 1990, while at Yaddo, he met the composer Ellen Fishman Johnson with whom he has collaborated on numerous projects involving text, video, music theater and opera, including the multi-media work, This Art Burning.  His many editorial and advisory positions include associations with such magazines as Origin, Montemora and Pequod, and he has been a consultant for state and university poetry organizations, Poets in the Schools, the National Endowment for the Arts and Poets House.  He has been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including the Di Castagnola Prize of the Poetry Society of America, an National Endowment for the Humanities Poet/Scholar Grant, and grants from the New York Foundation of the Arts and The Fund for Poetry.  Since 1999, he has been an independent writer and critic.  He has been married to the poet and scholar Jane Augustine since 1979, and has one son, Nicholas, from a previous marriage.


Two Poems (Mount Horeb, Wisconsin: Perishable Press Ltd., 1970); Accidental Center (Minneapolis: Sumac, 1972); Figures of Speaking ( Mount Horeb, Wisconsin: Perishable Press Ltd. 1977)  Knowledge  (New York: SUN, 1980); Marginalia in a Desperate Hand  (England: Pig Press, 1986); In The Builded Place ( Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1990); Wordflow: New and Selected Poems (Jersey City, New Jersey: Talisman House Publishers, 1997); Exigent Futures: New and Selected Poems (London: Salt Publishing, 2003); A Look At The Door With The Hinges Off  (Loveland, Ohio: Dos Madres, 2006); Eschaton (Jersey City, New Jersey: Talisman House Publishers, 2009); Beckmann Variations & Other Poems (Exeter, England: Shearsman Books, 2010); This Constellation Is A Name: Collected Poems 1965-2010 (Swathmore, Pennsylvania: Nightboat Books, 2012); Telescope: Selected Poems (New York: New York Review Books, 2019)


It was on that day when the Names were not,
Nor any sign of existence endowed with name.
            Divani Shamsi Tabriz


I was remembering how the city took shape by the offices of light.  How our words were lovely evensong, trilling above the muted rumble of buses, delicate, yielding, a kind of looseness twanging off the metallic forest of rooftops.

We had wormed ourselves down into darkness, descending, self-blinded air-moles, and then sun and memory rose, and our plangent mindfulness was godlike, a backing and filling which laid out the boulevards and crushed the sparrow.

At midday, a precision of shadows illumined the telltale refuse in the streets. 

Love hectored: were we to exist, our being a kind of coruscation across the sallow air?

(So many machines, so much impelled movement.  It was left to verbal mechanisms to draw down the power, to blow fuses, to irrigate the grid with nonsense syllables.)


It hurt to be invaded by our surpluses, to wander in that crowded yet lonely Gehenna, to ask who chose these spendthrifts of architecture, these markings and commerce, the ornate cornices, spandrels, coffee machines and bottled water?

Amidst findings of anguish and lust, there was an immense betokening of intimacies threaded to the wrong objects. 

The flux baffled, engarbled speech.

Yet still, a few stood proudly cut from the mechanics of illumination, their faces written upon by hopes and pains, singular and yet embossed by unplanned beginnings and ends.

They exhibited an uprightness, not of freedom, but rather as though a tree had resisted back against the brutal informing weathers of history, those mournful plenitudes, cares, bents, desires and redeemings.

The objects were now more ghostly, more unaccountable, and thus no longer those things about which banished rhapsodes were entitled to sing.

Meanwhile, the verse’s flatness hinted at a tutelary linguistics, at an awareness of thought's barely inflected swiftness, of substance that left one both free and bereft.


Philosophers proclaimed the mental light as holding this lumina, luxe.  But grime smudged against vision, smeared the sense of beauty with the prolix essences of markers. 

The light, imageless, bathed real objects, fell across her brow and face, onto contours of small breasts, dark furtive sexual hairs...  

Less personal, the light also slatted up the city into longish beam-work, Brownian fonts of godheads, their secondary power a kind of utterance.


These dream-states implied auroras of flooding radiance, offset the textures of the brickwork, traduced them into penetrant nostalgias of barred and indexed windows, dark homiletics of streets, the coarsened kelps of entanglement.

In spite of an overriding sense of packed and sectored proximities, emotion broke from one’s fears, likewise the reverse, etc., occurring as though in the trued rooms of an abiding, momentous dwelling.

Or as fantasy suggested: a child walked down leafy lanes, embracing a storybook dappling, only to turn a corner, to emerge from the glade and come upon the concrete Behemoth itself.

Therefore that other fealty to the premonition that each word was not the dawn but a nailing sun at noon?

No shadow of ambiguity on the paving stones. 


The calculus on the page, the numbers and symbols, the operands and constants, transparencies and theories.  Only these thwart an interminable bruising against reason.

Morning's light had never been particularly confirmatory.


Sun’s faint warmth as yet not fully given over to the day's shape, still enmeshed in night. 

Its light arrived and with it the wheeled traffic in the street. 

Time, the indulgent parent... 

As though the mind were primitive, a forest of deep recurrence in matted leaves and balsams of pine.  Memory futile, grasping at technique again.


And what was writing?  A snail's slime down the walkway!  Nothing more natural to the creature, he wrote bitterly.

O and by the way, little soul, how is a cognizable world possible? 

Is it infarct or comestible? 

Only yesterday, the old Printing House Square, buildings torn down, resembled the site of a molar's extraction. 

And this month, litter thickens to a matted surface catching about the feet, to ankle-turning slipperiness of compacted color supplements, the musical crackling of styrofoam cups. 

But you, you are positively beautiful, done in, or, as the French say, en dishabille. 

Not a word for thought in this enjambed paradise of desires.


Evil more clear than good, wound more certain than caress--the unloved always recognizable when posed against the loved one who remains unknowable. 

Face secreted in mystery, city’s mystery. 

What about one who lies athwart a darkness, stamped by incised verities?

Be wary of judgment, best to withhold closure on another.

Attention and skilled action, even these must suffer hesitancy. 

It was the only way we could talk about streets and neighborhoods, thinking where they blend or die off or transmute to something else. 

 The most opaque thing is the body which you peer down at as from a crown.

 Thought's pinnacle? 

 Easy, however, to float off with the wave of a hand, a dream of oneness--her skin and freshets of eye contact, mouth or curves, the secret places. 

 Thus the ruminations and the trust, estranged valuations, the city coalescing as fragile web, the familiar trickling like an open tap into homelessness.


He is not disinherited,

for he has not found a home

He has found vertiginous life again, the words

on the way to language dangling possibility,

but also, like the sound of a riff on a riff, 

it cannot be resolved.  History has mucked this up.

He has no textbook, and must overcompensate,

digging into the memory bank if not for the tune

then for something vibratory on the lower end of the harmonics.

He's bound to be off by at least a half-note--here comes jargon

baby--something like a diss or hiss.  Being is

incomplete; only the angels know how to fly homeward.

Yet, once the desperate situation is clarified, he feels

a kind of happiness.   


Later, the words were displaced and caught fire, burning syllables

to enunciate the dead mother's name.

(Martha sounding then like "mother")

Wasn't it such echoes that built the city in which he lives,

the cage he paces now like Rilke's panther?

He was not disinherited. 

He was not displaced

He is sentimental, hence he can say a phrase like his heart burst

The worst thing is to feel only irony can save

The worst thing is to feel only irony.


                                                            words for the etchings of Jane Joseph

1.  Doesn’t the picture say

no room in this world for anything more? 

If you desire to add something,

you must begin again

and make your own world,

including what has been missing

from the very beginning

of the world. 

You must make an enormous effort

to leave this world for that one,

something like dying, if not quite. 

Each world is so complete,

terror and emptiness

accompany every effort to leave it.

2.  Black parts of things

keep the eye centered on the dark. 

At least one can see

a bit of upstanding twig

leads to the branch,

leads along the branch

until the branch

foregrounded before flowing water

invites a sojourn past woods and house

along its banks. 

Clouds are always on the move,

and suggest the weather’s alterations. 

Darks do no more than keep the eye

centered on the dark.

3.  When the things of the world

are so carefully depicted

—when we see such things—

surely we surrender a little, giving

ourselves over to the thing seen. 

I have heard others speaking

of the tree's treeness

or an object's being. 

I have looked,

and each time I experience something

--my own disappearance,

my own failed going-out

to meet the tree,

to meet the object. 

Nothing coming back.

4.  I can love a picture

but only if it doesn't love me. 

I insist on boundaries. 

I can hate a picture

without it hating me. 

I don't insist on boundaries.

5.  The branch of the sycamore

forks two ways,

one limb sort of down

and flat across the paper,

the other making an upthrust

so powerful it begins

to curve back on itself

as though the light was the light

of a nourishing self-regard

and the wide-spaced faint scribble

marks that go near the vertical

were the accidental pleas of space itself

warning against hubris.

6.  So many bridges, foot, railway, auto,

each obscured by the surrounding designs,

are mythologies of difficult contact. 

Or child’s stories where ogres

are secreted in dark patches under pathways

by which we connect.

7.  The daffodil hangs its heavy blossomed head. 

Wordsworth has shamed you. 

And Eliot made the hyacinth

the flower of rebirth

into death’s blossoming 

You are lone upon the heath.

You are between realms,

between cliché and astonishment.

8.  And let the picture transform you.

Let this thistle put on its fiery fall color,

and let its bunched tufts

resemble a wrathful deity,

and let the corolla be a necklace

of enlaced skulls, and let homage be paid

by the ground underfoot,

its otherness crushing

ego’s unreasonable hectorings,

and let the mind never rest

in the false nirvana of vegetative happiness,

and let the bumble alight,

thick-dusted with the pollen of awareness.


Weren’t you given a text?  To honor the congregation, the organ dulcet,

the cantor’s hum, hymnal of Europe’s East, steps of sound made fugal

but laden with a weariness (joy for another day), history transmogrified

into plaint upon plaint, to be ushered into manhood, to be brought other’s pain.


Early on, the Shekinah gone into exile. Most of that century you saw

not love but power, cruelty, the face which laughs against the sun.

What could you do if you were not steeped in things like the others

but merely walked to buy milk or bread,  heaven above, earth below,

to visit the old streets, the elm’s grainy seeds lying across paving stones,

tourists milling and the Atlantic past the bridge brilliant as a sword cut.

Saline, solute, salve, this art burning to base metal.  What carries one

who would sing a hymn but eddies of language--never the pure thing--

maelstroms and tidal pools, word-forms, the will hemmed in like an ocean

to its basin,  rhymed to the rack of its tides.  The word’s ring deflected

in the baffles of the city into space, echo bounced from storefront to tower,

fading toward soundlessness--ear cupped to catch emptiness, translation

to Paradise from which speech fled.  Put down this cloth, said the rabbi.

Cover the text and emplace the cap.  Live neither in blacks nor whites. 

Avert from the scroll  rising above the earth, gaze upon limitless blue,

the inventive weaving of clouds.  Live straight ahead.  Appearance

will be your pain and mentor.  Be at the threshold, not at the Ark.

And later,  to go back to plucking a word from the weave,

lamé, silver, deep magenta, designs mazed over the fold, lines and margins,

and underneath, as though one sensed through flesh, the delicate structure

of beths and vavs on parchment, the inner and outer of secrets.

Copyright ©2011 by Michael Heller.