The poets reflect on their craft

Di Brandt

copyright ©2003 Di Brandt

Some days like pulling teeth, rotten roots.
Staring down the barrel of the gun.
Shooting the town clock.
Forty days in the desert.
Fifty days in the desert, no food and water.
The devil sticking out his tongue.
Electric shock. Thunderbolt.
Heroin. Poison in the veins.
Angels beating their wings on your bared skull.
Who will believe you.
Moon in your hands, transparent, luminous.
Cursed by God.
Cursed by mothers, fathers, brothers, the bloody town hall.
Dogs limping on three paws.
The fourth one sawed off by a car wheel, careening.
The devil making faces.
Long red tongue, goats’ horns, trampling the streets of Ptuj,
announcing spring.
Licking licking. Cunt or wound.
Bad gas leaking from stones, earth fissures.
Nettles. Poison ivy. Bee sting.
Rotgut. Fungus on your toes.
Wild strawberries low to the ground, cheating the lawn mower.
A wall waiting for the wrecker’s ball.
Clear vodka. Ice.

The Scarecrow Wears a Wire

Paul Farley

copyright ©Paul Farley 2006

The scarecrow wears a wire in the top field.
At sundown, the audiophilic farmer
who bugged his pasture unpicks the concealed
mics from his lapels. He’s by the fire

later, listening back to the great day,
though to the untrained ear there’s nothing much
doing: a booming breeze, a wasp or bee
trying its empty button-hole, a stitch

of wrensong now and then. But he listens late
and nods off to the creak of the spinal pole
and the rumble of his tractor pulling beets
in the bottom field, which cuts out. In a while

somebody will approach over ploughed earth
in caked Frankenstein boots. There’ll be a noise
of tearing, and he’ll flap awake by the hearth
grown cold, waking the house with broken cries.

from Snowline

Donato Mancini

copyright ©2017 by Donato Mancini

“Forty days of snow are registered in the Paris archives of 1435, the trees died and the birds …

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan? (1461 François Villon)




But where is the last yeares snow? (1653)




Tell me, if ye know; What is come of last year’s snow? (1835)




Where is fled the south wind’s snow? (1835)




But where are the snows of yester-year? (1869)




But where is the last year’s snow? (1877)




But what is become of last year’s snow? (1899)




But – where are the last year’s snows? (1900)




But where indeed is last year’s snow? (1900)




Where are the snows of yesteryear? (1900)

A Cup of Tea with Issa

David W. McFadden

copyright ©Poems copyright David W. McFadden 2007

I’ve never seen a raindrop fall on a frog’s head but you have. You say the frog wiped away the water with his wrist and that’s good enough for me.
   Ever since I first heard it fifteen years ago your poem on the death of your son has been flitting in and out of my mind. And now I see there are two versions, the first having been revised on the later death of your daughter, in 1819, of smallpox. And now I want you to know that I hope you’ve been reunited with your sons and your daughters and your wives and your father, and that I prefer the first version.
   The sun has dropped behind the mountains and the tiny cars on the long winding road way over on the other side of the lake have their lights on. And a sense of amazement springs up, amazement that we live in a world where the sun continually rises and sets.
   The Marasmius oreades (delicious when fried with bacon) have formed a fairy ring in the shape of a giant number 3 in the courtyard lawn, reminding me of the time I saw three motorcycles parked diagonally at the curb in front of 111 Brucedale Avenue.
   In October you can look at the sides of the mountains and see the patterns made by the deciduous trees which have become bright yellow or orange among the coniferous which have remained dark green. Sometimes it seems like a territorial war up there but the conflict between the two types of trees is probably more in my mind than on the slopes.
   This morning the sky is blue but the tops of the mountains cling to thick giant puffs of pink and grey cloud. A small white cloud rises from the surface of the lake and tries to reach the big ones up above but by the time it gets halfway there it has almost completely disappeared.
   It’s pleasant to be so unhurried that you can see even the slowest-moving clouds moving. A part of me says I should be ashamed of myself but you know the more time you waste the more you get. It’s like money.
   On a rainy windy October moring a grey Volkswagen sits at the side of the road. It’s covered with hundreds of small wet yellow leaves plastered on the trunk, on the hood, on the roof – in a strangely satisfying pattern. Was it the rain and the wind or was it a subtle and patient artist with a pot of glue? Of course it was the wind and the rain and of course it’s a hackneyed idea. But for a moment I wonder. As you would have.
   It’s pleasant to have a cup of tea and think of you, Issa, and to think of others in the twentieth century having a cup of tea and thinking of you, Issa.

Passing and Violence

Natalie Shapero

What pride I feel in America stems from our anthem
being the toughest one to sing. The high segment
with the red burn of the rocket: only a few
can reach. Watching a stranger parallel park, I pray
she abrades her neighbor. Watching football, I need
to see a man die. I need to see the intractable passing

and violence. Of the cruelty ringing the Earth,
I am a portion. I never said he was a bad man, only
a larger portion. He wreaked harm on us for years
and then one day he began to die. I watched as science
shattered his body to wrest the disease out, stopping
just short of his failure. Failure, the word
he favored over death. Me, I favored nothing over
death. I held him like a brother. I knew him as an error
of God, dropped at the doorstep of our age, and what
could we do but save him? I began to suspect so many
of machinations. How my parents had summoned me
into this world, but then when I arrived,

they were not here. My whole being was a set-up.
They called me over to sit alone with the weather
and soot, unfettered. They said I had differences to be
resolved. After attempting the anthem, upwards of fifty
percent remark, I should have started lower or I should
have chosen something else instead
. Uneasy lies the head.

from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Border Dog (Not Collie)

Michael Hofmann, translated from the German written by Durs Grünbein

copyright ©2005 by Durs Grunbein / Translation and preface copyright © 2005 by Michael Hofmann


Being a dog is an empty car park at noon.
“Nothing but trouble …” and seasickness on land.
Being a dog is that and that, taking instruction from garbage heaps,
A knuckle sandwich for dinner, mud orgasms.
Being a dog is whatever happens next, randomness
The mother of boredom and incomprehension.
Being a dog is being up against a bigger opponent
Time, which does you in with endless chain-links.
So much of too-much in a tiny space …
Being a dog is a ride on the ghost train of language,
Which keeps throwing clever obstructions your way.
Being a dog is having to when you don’t want to, wanting to
When you can’t, and always somebody watching.
Being a dog?
It’s the bad smell attaching to your words.

sister from the future

Leslie Greentree

copyright ©2003, Leslie Greentree

she left for Australia a couple of years ago
with five hundred bucks and a backpack
she picked fruit    drove truck    tended bar
did a stint washing paintbrushes for an artist
eventually posing for him while his wife baked gingersnaps
her gift is that the wife didn’t mind
couldn’t blame her husband for wanting to sketch
the beautiful sister    was a bit in love herself

she called us Christmas Day
I held the phone between ear and shoulder
as I peeled potatoes and checked the turkey
it was Boxing Day in Melbourne
how Star Trek I said
I was laughing until my husband rolled his eyes
and then I stopped
chopped the potatoes with short hard strokes

I thought how fitting it was
to speak to the beautiful sister from the future
I asked her for an inside tip    tomorrow’s lottery numbers
thought maybe I would throw these fucking potatoes
in the garbage or better yet just leave them
on the counter to brown and rot
walk out the door jump on a plane
get the hell out of here

All I Did For Him

Gerald Stern

copyright ©Gerald Stern, 2002

When I fought the dog we almost danced
we loved each other that much and he was strong,
not counting even his teeth and claws, and I had
trouble pushing against him even though his
shoulders were weaker in that position nor was he
intended, as Aristotle might say, for fighting
standing up like that the way maybe a
bear was more intended or certainly an
ape with his gross imitation of a
human, or a human of him, if I can
step into that muck a minute, and he was
taller than me, as I remember, which made him
huge for a dog and made me feel small standing
on two legs with my weak left knee impaired
as it was and smelling his breath and shocked by his giant
head and what had to be a look I never
expected in his eyes, though I had to know
it would be like that for who was I anyhow
to bicker as I did or think that love
as I called it, all I did for him, the food
and water I gave him I could barter, I couldn’t
even find my pocket, I couldn’t take out a dollar.

My mother was a white sheet drying on the line

Eve Joseph

copyright ©2018 by Eve Joseph

MY MOTHER WAS A WHITE SHEET DRYING ON THE LINE. Wooden clothespins held her tight as she lifted and snapped and filled like a sail. At night, when she covered me, I inhaled lily of the valley, burning leaves, the starched collar of a nurse’s uniform and the stillness of a recently abandoned room. She taught me how to iron the creases out of a man’s shirt after all the men had disappeared. My mother played piano by ear in the basement. A long line of hungry people gathered outside to hear her play. They wanted news from home. Overhead, handkerchiefs fluttered in the breeze. Little telegrams sent but never delivered.

Is that MY black dog

Jane Mead

copyright ©2016 by Jane Mead

Is that MY black dog-
with telltale compost on his nose?
Blade of grass, squash of persimmon,

some leggy insect on his forehead
next to the growth? Is that MY
red truck speeding up the vineyard’s

central avenue, porta potty
bumping along behind, toilet paper
unfurling behind in celebratory loops?