The Owl You Heard

Frederick Seidel

copyright ©2006 by Frederick Seidel



The owl you heard hooting
In the middle of the night wasn’t me.
It was an owl.
Or maybe you were
So asleep you didn’t even hear it.
The sprinklers on their timer, programmed to come on
At such a strangely late hour in life
For watering a garden,
Refreshed your sleep four thousand miles away by
Hissing sweetly,
Deepening the smell of green in Eden.
You heard the summer chirr of insects.
You heard a sky of stars.
You didn’t know it, fast asleep at dawn in Paris.
You didn’t hear a thing.
You heard me calling.
I am no longer human.

Carpets

Anne Simpson

copyright ©2003 Anne Simpson



Night was woven through with what we said,
a Persian rug, patterned with random stars.
We sat on the windowsill of a ruined
farmhouse, all of us quiet after talking.
Weeds lay tangled below, a great square
of something intricate, unknown,
and I thought how it could be caught
by four corners: a carpet lifted
into the dark, undulating up and up.
I might have been pulled into the blue-black,
too high, too far, but something called me

back. Yesterday, kayaking, I recalled it
near a silver stretch where herons gather
at low tide. Just beyond,
water runs deeper, faster, the eel grass
slowly brushed this way and that, farther
down. We’d paddled back the wrong way,
though I liked the shallows and then
the cool green deeps. There, before us, birds
ascended as if drawing something
with them, the sheen of water, a wavering
transparency. We could see the slant
of fields, scattered houses and barns,
orange buoys comically bobbing,
and currents opening to reveal,
lower down, many liquid stairways.

Margaret Hollingsworth’s Typewriter

David McFadden

copyright ©David W. McFadden 2007



I was eating scrambled egges in the Shamrock Restaurant
and the eggs tasted like Chinese food
so I said to the waitress I’m a person
who likes Chinese food but doesn’t like
my eggs in the morning to taste like chicken fried rice
and she laughed and said it must have been
the green onions and suggested the next time
I come into the Shamrock for breakfast
I specify that I want Canadian green onions
with my scrambled eggs or I’ll get Chinese again

and I said there won’t be another time,
this is it, I’m a widely respected blah blah and blah
and well-regarded in the community too
and shouldn’t have to subject myself
to such bad food. I’m finished, I said.
This used to be my favourite Irish-Chinese restaurant
in the entire West Kootenay
but this is it, I’m never coming back –
and through the kitchen door I could see
the Chinese chef covering his ears with his hands.

And so I went to pay my bill
and this is the really embarrassing part,
this is why I’m writing this poem
by hand, pencil on paper, because Margaret Hollingsworth’s
typewriter has a three-prong plug
and all the outlets in the house are two-prongers
and her adapter is up at the college
and I begged her to let me cut the third prong off
so I could use her typewriter
because I had a simply overwhelming
desire to write this poem and she refused
and I told … oh, never mind all that.

This is the embarrassing part. After complaining
so vociferously about the eggs I went to pay my bill
and discovered I had no money with me
so I had to go home and get my wallet
and bring it back to the restaurant
making myself a liar for having said
this is it, I’m never coming back.
The waitress was very nice about it all.

Is it hard to write poetry?
Yes, I would say it is. For instance
in this poem I didn’t know whether to start
by talking about the scrambled eggs
or the Smith Corona. And I didn’t have
a lot of time to think about it
because I simply had to start the poem,
it was that urgent,
and then you have to torture yourself
wondering if it’s all right to write about
writing in a poem and you keep resolving
never again to write about writing
and you always break your resolve.
It’s as if writing has a will of its own
and wants to be written about
just like Margaret Hollingsworth’s
typewriter.

XXX So I’m a Mystic, and Then?

Erin Moure

copyright ©2001 Erin Mouré



XXX

Se quiserem que eu tenha um misticismo, está bem, tenho-o.
Sou místico, mas só com o corpo.
A minha almo é simples e não pensa.

O meu misticismo é não quere saber.
É viver e não pensar nisso.

Não sei o que é a Natureza: canto-a.
Vivo no cimo dum outeiro
Numa casa caiada e sozinha,
E essa é a minha definição.

XXX So I’m a Mystic, and Then?

If they accuse me of mysticism, alright, I’m guilty.
I’m a mystic. Now do you feel better?
But it’s only an act of the body.
My soul is simple and doesn’t think at all.

My mysticism is in not wanting to know.
It lives without thinking about living.

I don’t know what Nature is; I just go on about it.
I live where Winnett bends almost double, a little valley,
In a brick house, half a duplex in fact,
built by a man who lost his son at Teruel.
The neighbour beside me throws lasagna to the crows.
There. That’s how you can define me.

from Once

John Steffler

copyright ©2010 by John Steffler



***

The neighbour’s lawn mower roars and recedes.
My mother sleeps on the loveseat, my father
on the couch. I shake out mats in the blinding
porch, gather grey tea towels for the laundry.
My father bustles stiffly out to plug in
the kettle, comes up from the cellar with chunks
of maple, measuring, figuring – how to make
wooden nuts and bolts – then is suddenly
sunk in an armchair, open-mouthed asleep,
while June sunlight storms through the house.

***

I ask about the empty mirror frame on the kitchen
wall. My father glances at me and away, looking
reluctant, caught. Then speaks with odd formality,
doggedly, against some current of shyness or disbelief
or sorrow or fear. He says while they were having
lunch there at the table a few weeks ago they heard
a loud bang like a gunshot close by. He looked around
and found the mirror down on the floor, its heavy glass
split up the middle. “You try to get that off of there,”
he points to the empty frame. A slotted hole in its back
locks the frame tight to a round-headed screw set deep
in a wall stud. I lift and slowly work it free, then press it
back into place, centred, anchored. Enclosed blank
wall. “There’s no way that could have come off
by itself,” he says, bare-headed under low dark cloud.

***

Curled on the loveseat under a blanket
much of each day, sleeping or merely
still, her open eyes travelling the room.

She never grieves for herself, never
stands apart disowning or lamenting
the ruin, but sometimes terrors sweep
through her, weightless spinning and inner
sleets, and she sits shaking, calling out that
she’s falling, and my father or I hold her
trying to save her from deep space.

Solitude

Louise Gluck

copyright ©2009 by Louise Gluck



It’s very dark today; through the rain,
the mountain isn’t visible. The only sound
is rain, driving life underground.
And with the rain, cold comes.
There will be no moon tonight, no stars.

The wind rose at night;
all morning it lashed against the wheat –
at noon it ended. But the storm went on,
soaking the dry fields, then flooding them –

The earth has vanished.
There’s nothing to see, only the rain
gleaming against the dark windows.
This is the resting place, where nothing moves –

Now we return to what we were,
animals living in darkness
without language or vision –

Nothing proves I’m alive.
There is only the rain, the rain is endless.

Self Search

Dean Young

copyright ©2008, Dean Young



When we look around for proof
of basic epistemological matters,
that life isn’t only seemings smattered,
a dream brought on by snaggled meat,
often the self blocks the view
of the tree or cat or car race
so all we find are me-leaves, me-meows,
me-machines of speedy impulse-me.
Maybe the point’s to see the self
as a kind of film that tints everything
bluer, more you-er and yet look through.
whatever you have to do, volunteer
at a shelter changing the abandoned
hamster’s litter, put together a coat drive
for the poor, go door to door for your candidate,
be devoted to a lover or lose yourself
cheering in a crowd, Go Hens! Go
higher, go lower, to see perhaps the sky
as a rock might, meditate until you become
a beam of light, be divided as a 3 by 27
and not get overcome by your identity ending
or expect to reappear after the decimal.
Perhaps you should be practicing not having
a self to claim, one day it’s baggage
we’re without, no longer waiting
for it to squirt out onto the conveyor belt
with all the others that look so much alike.
Yet it is sad to imagine no me around
to press his nose into your sleeping hair.
I worry death won’t care, just a bunch of dust
rushing up, some addled flashes, chills
then nil. I like too much that old idea
of heaven, everyone and pet you’ve lost
runs up which could not happen
if there’s no me there to greet.
Self, I’m stuck with you
but the notion of becoming unglued is too much
and brings tears that come, of course,
because you’re such a schmuck. Some days
you crash about raving how ignored you are
then why the hell don’t people let you alone
but I’ve seen you too perform small
nobilities, selfless generosities.
One way or the other, we’ll part I’m sure
and you’ll take me with you?

Little Landscape

Charles Wright

copyright ©2006 by Charles Wright



To lighten the language up, or to dark it back down
Becomes the blade edge we totter on.
To say what is true and clean,
                                                                to say what is secret and underground,
To say the things joy can’t requite, and to say them well …

This is the first conundrum.
The second is like unto it,
                                                     the world is a link and a like:
One falls and all falls.
In this last light from midsummer’s week,
                                                                                      who knows which way to go?

The great blue heron wheels up the meadow
                                                                                          and folds into Basin Creek.
Only the fish know which angle his shadow will make.
And what they know is not what he knows,
Which is neither light nor dark nor joy,
                                                                                 but is just is, just is.

America

Elizabeth Winslow, translated from the Arabic written by Dunya Mikhail

copyright ©1993, 1997, 2000, 2005 by Dunya Mikhail / translation copyright 2005 by Elizabeth Winslow



Please don’t ask me, America.
I don’t remember
on which street,
with whom,
or under which star.
Don’t ask me …
I don’t remember
the colors of the people
or their signatures.
I don’t remember if they had
our faces
and our dreams,
if they were singing
or not,
writing from the left
or the right
or not writing at all,
sleeping in houses
on sidewalks
or in airports,
making love or not making love.
Please don’t ask me, America.
I don’t remember their names
or their birthplaces.
People are grass –
they grow everywhere, America.
Don’t ask me …
I don’t remember
what time it was,
what the weather was like,
which language,
or which flag.
Don’t ask me …
I don’t remember
how long they walked under the sun
or how many died.
I don’t remember
the shapes of the boats
or the number of stops …
How many suitcases they carried
or left behind,
if they came complaining
or without complaint.
Stop your questioning, America,
and offer your hand
to the tired
on the other shore.