Second Poem For Theodore

by Matthew Rohrer

copyright ©2004 by Verse Press

Just pretend my writing is like somebody else’s
What things are important to you?
I am deeply concerned about your opinion of me.
To you I want to appear pleasant
& then invisible.
I want to be an interesting story
none of you really remembers.
Just a kind of nervous thing you have, really.
& then nothing.
Almost an eternity of nothing.
& then a terrible cataclysm.

from Chapter E

by Christian Bök

copyright ©Christian Bök, 2001


Enfettered, these sentences repress free speech. The
text deletes selected letters. We see the revered exegete
reject metred verse: the sestet, the tercet – even les
scènes élevées en grec
. He rebels. He sets new precedents.
He lets cleverness exceed decent levels. He eschews the
esteemed genres, the expected themes – even les belles
lettres en vers
. He prefers the perverse French esthetes:
Verne, Péret, Genet, Perec – hence, he pens fervent
screeds, then enters the street, where he sells these let-
terpress newsletters, three cents per sheet. He engen-
ders perfect newness wherever we need fresh terms.

Relentless, the rebel peddles these theses, even when
vexed peers deem the new precepts ‘mere dreck.’ The
plebes resent newer verse; nevertheless, the rebel per-
severes, never deterred, never dejected, heedless, even
when hecklers heckle the vehement speeches. We feel
perplexed whenever we see these excerpted sentences.
We sneer when we detect the clever scheme – the emer-
gent repetend: the letter E. We jeer; we jest. We express
resentment. We detest these depthless pretenses – these
present-tense verbs, expressed pell-mell. We prefer
genteel speech, where sense redeems senselessness.

shades of Linda Lee

by Leslie Greentree

copyright ©2003, Leslie Greentree

my phone is haunted by another shadow
her name is Linda Lee
every day there are calls from collection agencies
Linda owes money everywhere and
has skipped town
leaving me with her details
her phone number that doesn’t spell anything

I feel a strange sneaking guilt when they call
as if I might really be Linda Lee
they might somehow prove it
the irrational blush of the good girl
accused of lying
who suddenly doubts her own truth

the second week I say things like
Linda’s a tour guide in the
Dominican Republic now
I don’t think she’s coming back

Linda left to work with Greenpeace
she disappeared last fall
a tragic dinghy accident they were
chained to a Russian whaler

these telephone voices remind me of
my ex-husband parental somehow
slightly disapproving but
too polite to accuse one of anything
to spell it all out

Present From Ted

by Margaret Avison

copyright ©Margaret Avison, 2002

It must have been after a
birthday; at Christmastime
daylight hasn’t the lambency
I remember as part of
the puzzling present somebody
had given me: a scribbler, empty pages, but
not for scribbling in.
Instead of a pencil box there was
a jellyglass set out, with water, and
a brand-new paint brush.

The paper was not pretty.
A pencil-point might in an upstroke
accidentally jab a hole in it.

But, painting it –
as I was told to, with only
clear water, “Behold!”
my whole being sang out, for “see”
would not have been adequate.

The pictures that emerged
were outlines? I remember
only the paper, and the wonder of it,
and how each page was turning out to be
a different picture.

There were no colours, were there?

In the analogy, there are
glorious colours
and, in some way that lacks
deepening colours, patterns that keep
emerging, always
more to anticipate.

For that there is no other process.

Locked in the picture is
missing the quality of the analogy of
morning light
and the delighted holder of the paint-brush
and who gave him the book, and where he found it.

The Inkspots

by Gerald Stern

copyright ©Gerald Stern, 2002

The thing about the dove was how he cried in
my pocket and stuck his nose out just enough to
breathe some air and get some snow in his eye and
he would have snuggled in but I was afraid
and brought him into the house so he could shit on
the New York Times, still I had to kiss him
after a minute, I put my lips to his beak
and he knew what he was doing, he stretched his neck
and touched me with his open mouth, lifting
his wings a little and readjusting his legs,
loving his own prettiness, and I just
sang from one of my stupid songs from one of my
vile decades, the way I do, I have to
admit it was something from trains. I knew he’d like that,
resting in the coal car, slightly dusted with
mountain snow, somewhere near Altoona,
the horseshoe curve he knew so well, his own
moan matching the train’s, a radio
playing the Inkspots, the engineer roaring.

Song for the Song of the White-Throated Sparrow

by Don McKay

copyright ©2000 by Don McKay

Before it can stop itself, the mind
has leapt up inferences, crag to crag,
the obvious arpeggio. Where there is a doorbell
there must be a door – a door
meant to be opened from inside.
Door means house means – wait a second –
but already it is standing on a threshold previously
known to be thin air, gawking. The Black Spruce
point to it: clarity,
melting into ordinary morning, true
north. Where the sky is just a name,
a way to pitch a little tent in space and sleep
for five unnumbered seconds.

Man’s Song / Woman’s Song

by Khaled Mattawa, translating from the Arabic by Adonis

copyright ©2010 by Yale University

Man’s Song

I glimpsed your face drawn on the trunk of a palm
and saw the sun, black in your hands.
I tied my longing to that tree and carried night in a basket
                                                                carried the whole city
and scattered myself before your eyes.
                                                Then I saw your face hungry like a child’s.
I circled it with invocations
and above it I sprinked jasmine buds.

Woman’s Song

I caught sight of his old man’s face
robbed by days and sorrows.
he came to me holding his green jars to his chest
rushing to the last supper.
Each jar was a bay
and a wedding held for a harbor and a boat
where days and shores drown
where seagulls probe their past and sailors divine the future.
He came to me hungry and I stretched my love toward him,
a loaf of bread, a glass cup, and a bed.
I opened the doors to wind and sun
and shared with him the last supper.

No Angels in This Death Poem

by Priscila Uppal

copyright ©2006 by Priscila Uppal

Absolutely no angels in this death poem.
Half-baked poets offer angels for consolation
the way neighbours offer fruitcake at Christmas.

Absolutely no talk of Christmas in this death poem.
Resurrection went out with yesterday’s trash and
holy stars and wise men appear on hockey jerseys.

Absolutely no wise men in this death poem.
Wise men have never made dying understandable.
They’ve drawn no pie charts or graphs for the soul.

Absolutely no mention of souls in this death poem.
THe soul is not a ship, or a bird, or a flag, or a flower.
We have no power of attorney over it, no death connection.

Absolutely no mention of death in this death poem.
Angels are listening and the wise men are sketching.
Look at where all these souls are headed and tell no one.

Interesting People of Newfoundland

by John Ashbery

copyright ©2007 by John Ashbery

Newfoundland is, or was, full of interesting people.
Like Larry, who would make a fool of himself on street corners
for a nickel. There was the Russian who called himself
the Grand Duke, and who was said to be a real duke from somewhere,
and the woman who frequently accompanied him on his rounds.
Doc Hanks, the sawbones, was a real good surgeon
when he wasn’t completely drunk, which was most of the time.
When only half drunk he could perform decent cranial surgery.
There was the blind man who never said anything
but produced spectral sounds on a musical saw.

There was Walsh’s, with its fancy grocery department.
What a treat when Mother or Father
would take us down there, skidding over slippery snow
and ice, to be rewarded with a rare fig from somewhere.
They had teas from every country you could imagine
and hard little cakes from Scotland, rare sherries
and Madeiras to reward the aunts and uncles who came dancing.
On summer evenings in the eternal light it was a joy
just to be there and think. We took long rides
into the countryside, but were always stopped by some bog or other.
Then it was time to return home, which was OK with everybody,
each of them having discovered he or she could use a little shuteye.

In short there was a higher per capita percentage of interesting people
there than almost anywhere on earth, but the population was small,
which meant not too many interesting people. But for all that
we loved each other and had interesting times
picking each other’s brain and drying nets on the wooden docks.
Always some more of us would come along. It is in the place
in the world in complete beauty, as none can gainsay,
I declare, and strong frontiers to collide with.

Worship of the chthonic powers may well happen there
but is seldom in evidence. We loved that too,
as we were a part of all that happened there, the evil and the good
and all the shades in between, happy to pipe up at roll call
or compete in the spelling bees. It was too much of a good thing
but at least it’s over now. They are making a pageant out of it,
one of them told me. It’s coming to a theater near you.


by Roo Borson

copyright ©2004 by Roo Borson

As for you, world –
you’ll have become small, and round, and lavender-coloured: ode
to the ewer, the comb, the water cooler.
And you? You lived in a place which was once a town,
you’ve seen it on maps before, others loaded ships
as in a dream: mood, appetite, memory, learning –
the demands seemed endless, all marsh-lights and loveliness,
the final estimates for the real world
or these propositions, for instance, which are sometimes true.
Indeed such unconscious concentration is possible,
in the neon light of early spring
and later, those evenings no longer fully spring
yet not quite summer either,
when the scent pulls back into the flower
and blackbirds bathe among violets,
half aspect, half unreal, in the slow rain of leaves.
Day after day, some days not returning,
and the boughs painted with light green lichen,
the detailed pink of the flowering apricot –
don’t go there unless to banish yourself,
because you are banished, beech,
oak, birch, and yew, among the hazel woods
of the elder world, where feathers flash
among the branches and hide in the darkening varnish
and history becomes the history of bad ideas,
a gloom of rotten nuts and nut-skins,
bitter paper. And tonight
the half-light in which paper glows –
walls, porticos, arches, places (who lived there?),
the print invisible, and the ocean sounding
all night long, clavicle to vena cava,
clavicle to vena cava,
it’s not a description.