The Strange Hours Travelers Keep

by August Kleinzahler

copyright ©2003 by August Kleinzahler



The markets never rest
Always there are somewhere in agitation
Pork bellies, titanium, winter wheat
Electromagnetic ether peppered with photons
Treasure spewing from Unisys A-15 J mainframes
Across the firmament
Soundlessly among the thunderheads and passenger jets
As they make their nightlong journeys
Across the oceans and steppes

Nebulae, incandescent frog spawn of information
Trembling in the claw of Scorpio
Not an instant, then shooting away
Like an enormous cloud of starlings

Garbage scows move slowly down the estuary
The lights of the airport pulse in morning darkness
Food trucks, propane, tortured hearts
The reticent epistemologist parks
Gets out, checks the curb, reparks
Thunder of jets
Peristalsis of great capitals

How pretty in her tartan scarf
Her ruminative frown
Ambiguity and Reason
Locked in a slow, ferocious tango
Of if not, why not

from Route 110

by Seamus Heaney

copyright ©2010 by Seamus Heaney



iii

Once the driver wound a little handle
The destination names began to roll
Fast-forward in their panel, and everything

Came to life. Passengers
Flocked to the kerb like agitated rooks
Around a rookery, all go

But undecided. At which point the inspector
Who ruled the roost in bus station and bus
Separated and directed everybody

By calling not the names but the route numbers,
And so we scattered as instructed, me
For Route 110, Cookstown via Toome and Magherafelt.

from ossuary II

by Dionne Brand

copyright ©2010 by Dionne Brand



to undo, to undo and undo and undo this infinitive     
of arrears, their fissile mornings,     
their fragile, fragile symmetries of gain and loss     

from Venus Velvet No. 2

by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

copyright ©2010 by Gjertrud Schnackenberg



My pencil, Venus Velvet No. 2,
The vein of graphite ore preoccupied
In microcrystalline eternity.
In graphite’s interlinking lattices,
Symmetrically unfolding through a grid
Of pre-existent crystal hexagons.
Mirror-image planes and parallels.
Axial, infinitesimal bonds.
Self-generated. Self-geometrized.
A sound trapped in the graphite magnitudes.
Atoms, electronics, nuclei, far off.
A break, without apparent consequence.
Near-far, far-near, those microfirmaments.
Far in, the muffled noise of our goodbyes.

The surgeon, seeking only my surrender,
Has summoned me: an evening conference.
We sit together in the Quiet Room.
He cannot ask for what I’m meant to give.
No questions anymore. Just say he’ll live.
A world of light leaks through the double doors,
Fluorescent mazes, frigid corridors,
Polished linoleum, arena sand
Where hope is put to death and life is lost
And elevator doors slide open, closed,
The towers of the teaching hospital.
The field where death his conquering banner shook.

My writing tablet, opened on the table.
I touch it with my hand. The paper thins.
The paper’s interwoven filaments
Are bluish gray and beige. No questions now.
What is the chiefest deed that’s asked of us.
No questions anymore. No questions now.
I turned my back on heaven for good, but saw
A banner shaken out from heaven’s walls
With apparitions from Vesalius:
A woodcut surgeon opening a book
Of workshop woodcuts, skilled, anonymous,
The chisel blade of the engraver felt
Reverberating through the wooden blocks
Among eroded words, ornately carved:
Annihilation, subtly engraved:
All those whom lamentation cannot save
Grown fainter through successive folios.
A seraphy turns a page above: he’ll live;
Then turns a page again: he can’t survive.
I turn the page myself, and write: he’ll live.
Smell of my sweat embedded in my clothes.
The surgeon says: we’ve talked with him; he knows.
A seraph leaning near, Oh say not so.
Not so. Not so. My wonder-wounded hearer,
Facing extinction in a mental mirror.
A brilliant ceiling, someone’s hand on his.
All labor, effort, sacrifice, recede.
And then: I’m sorry. Such a man he is.

from Practising Bach – Gigue

by Jan Zwicky

copyright ©Jan Zwicky, 2011



              There is a sound
that is a whole of many parts,
a sorrowless transparency, like luck,
that opens in the centre of a thing.
An eye, a river, fishheads, death,
gold in your pocket, and a half-wit
son: the substance of the world
is light and blindness and the measure
of our wisdom is our love.
Our diligence: ten fingers and
a healthy set of lungs. Practise
ceaselessly: there is
one art: wind
in the open spaces
grieving, laughing
with us, saying
improvise.

from A Thin Plea

by Phil Hall

copyright ©2011 Phil Hall



When I can’t sleep – when I’m sick – when no one else is home – when I’m lost in transit – I tinker

This is my word for what I do – a slow – un-clever – tactile – cheap – harmless rearranging of odd bits of my nature & gatherings – until they sing – off-key

I tinker at long sequences – & stay close to notebooks – mostly when no one is looking

Am increasingly filled with hopelessness – but sometimes when I’m up to my elbows in a line’s perplexities

Confidence lands its flocks upon me & I feel – inside the poem – unafraid

Autumn News from the Donkey Sanctuary

by Ken Babstock

copyright ©2011 Ken Babstock



Cargo has let down
her hair a little and stopped pushing
Pliny the Elder on

the volunteer labour
During summer it was all Pliny the Elder,
Pliny the Elder, Pliny

the – she’d cease only
for scotch thistle, stale Cheerios, or to reflect
flitty cabbage moths

back at themselves
from the wet river-stone of her good eye. Odin,
as you already know,

was birthed under
the yew tree back in May, and has made
friends with a crow

who perches between
his trumpet-lily ears like bad language he’s not
meant to hear. His mother

Anu, the jennet with
soft hooves of Killaloe, is healthy and never
far from Loki or Odin.

The perimeter fence,
the ID chips like functional cysts slipped
under the skin, the trompe

l’oeil plough and furrowed
field, the UNHCR feed bag and visiting
hours. These things done

for stateless donkeys,
mules, and hinnies – done in love, in lieu of claims
to purpose or rights –

are done with your
generous help. In your names. Enjoy the photo.
Have a safe winter

outside the enclosure

Homework Assignment on the Subject of Angels

by Joanna Trzeciak, translated from the Polish written by Tadeusz Rózewicz

copyright ©2011 by Joanna Trzeciak (English translation copyright)



Fallen
angels

look like
flakes of soot
abacuses
cabbage leaves
stuffed with black rice
hail
painted red
blue flames
with yellow tongues

fallen angels
look like
ants
moons wedged beneath
the green fingernails of the dead

angels in heaven
look like the inner thighs
of an underage girl

like stars
they shine in shameful places
they are pure like triangles and circles
with silence
inside them

fallen angels
are like the open windows of a morgue
like cows’ eyes
like the skeletons of birds
like falling planes
like flies on the lungs of fallen soldiers
like streaks of autumn rain
connecting lips with birds taking flight

over a woman’s palm
wander
a million angels

devoid of belly buttons
they type on sewing machines
long poems in the shape
of a white sail

their bodies can be grafted
onto the trunk of an olive tree

they sleep on ceilings
falling drop by drop

Josie

by Sean O'Brien

copyright ©Sean O'Brien 2011



I remember the girl leaning down from the sunlight
To greet me. I could have been anyone. She could not:
She was Josie, remember, and smiling – she knew me already –
Auburn gate-girl to the garden-world,
To the lilacs and pears, the first summer
Seen perfectly once, then never again. And she left.
The garden – the garden, of course, has gone under the stone
And I cannot complain, a half-century gone
Like the cherry tree weeping its resin,
The dry grass, the slab of white marble
The butcher propped up in the back yard to sit on –
Things of the world that the world has no need of,
No more than of Josie or me or that morning.
Still a child as I see now, she leaned down
To smile as she reached out her brown hands to greet me
As though this were how these matters must be
And would be forever amen. She was saying goodbye.
And I cannot complain. What is under the stone
Must belong there, and no voice returns,
Not mine and not hers, though I’m speaking her name.

Poppies

by Yusef Komunyakaa

copyright ©2011 by Yusef Komunyakaa



These frantic blooms can hold their own
when it comes to metaphor & God.
Take any name or shade of irony, any flowery
indifference or stolen gratitude, & our eyes,
good or bad, still run up to this hue.
Take this woman sitting beside me,

a descendant of Hungarian Gypsies
born to teach horses to dance & eat sugar
from her hand, does she know beauty
couldn’t have protected her, that a poppy
tucked in her hair couldn’t have saved her
from those German storm troopers?

This frightens me. I see eyes peeping
through narrow slats of cattle cars
hurrying toward forever. I see “Jude”
& “Star of David” scribbled across a depot,
but she says, That’s the name of a soccer team,
baby. Red climbs the hills & descends,

hurrying out to the edge of a perfect view,
& then another, between white & violet.
It is a skirt or cape flung to the ground.
It is old denial worked into the soil.
It is a hungry new vanity that rises
& then runs up to our bleating train.

I am a black man, a poet, a bohemian,
& there isn’t a road my mind doesn’t travel.
I also have my cheap, one-way ticket
to Auschwitz & know of no street or footpath
death hasn’t taken. The poppies rush ahead,
up to a cardinal singing on barbed wire.