Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Side Bets and Side Wishes

Side Bets and Side Wishes

Embrace and groan: your face glows...
your pleasure-crazed
arctic-blue eyes glisten.

Your body wraps itself in silk.

The desert reddens at sunset.


That rockchuck sure got highway-flattened, eh?

Take a deep breath as you look at the landscape.

Swirling dust... black clouds rolling eastward.
Yes, near-like clots of dried mud in a dark stable.


And what does a recurring dream
about a city made of shiny green apples mean?
I think that's why I'm so drawn to you, baby.

We could sit side by side and read more Italo Calvino.

And, baby, drink some water...
no one coughs from autumn maple leaves.
No... I'm no kind of doctor, but does that
curved crystal glass bowl remind you of us?


Sometimes when we touch I feel underfoot.


Do you remember how old people,
people who were old when we were young,
how they used salt and baking soda
to scrub their teeth... real ones and dentures?

That question is such a bailey.

No it's not.  What's a bailey?

The outer wall of a castle.
So what is it you're not saying?


Yes, baby, you still have sturdy inner thighs.

A silver stain appears to spread
on the peach-colored sheet.
Pine bed, thick brownish quilts.
Shabby, cabin-like house.

So it is that we tuck into each other.

It feels so clean to sleep beside you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sergei Yesenin

Happy Birthday, Sergei Yesenin 
(September 21, 1895 - December 27, 1925)

The  yellow-hued rope you hung yourself with
still swings in Moscow, back and forth, back and forth.
When he got the news, Stalin danced in mockery of Isadora.

Five marriages in twelve years can wreck a man:
Anna Izryadbnova was the first song of love,
Zinaida Raikh sprinkled lemon juice on the sheets,
going-fat Isadora gave you a taste of American bourbon,
and you hitched-up with Augusta Miklasheyskaya
before butter could melt on Isadora's rye bread toast.
Before there were movie stars, there were poets.
Perfumed silken girls, girls fresh from ten-chicken villages,
begged you to tease, to suck and love them...
more girls than all the wind-blown fir trees in Russia.
Vodka, vodka, more vodka... and more love:
poet Nadezhda Volpin gave you a poet son.
Near the break-furniture, set-fire-to-hotel-rooms, end,
Sophia --Leo Tolstoy's granddaughter-- dragged you
to a hospital for a no-vodka, screaming month.

Now, on the other side, how do you, and Jim Morrison,
and Georg Trakl, grind-out eternity?  Do you run into Stalin?
Is there a heaven with peace?  Is dinner served promptly at five?
Do the wives, all five, and the girlfriends, hundreds of girlfriends,
offer sunrise kisses as you prepare to sleep all day long?

You might like it here, Sergei.  Toaster waffles for breakfast.
Dark tea.  No smashed-head cadavers... like the ones
Stalin's thugs dragged you past to change your poetry.
Here it's as quiet as the skittering of brittle autumn leaves. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Vladimir Holan

Happy Birthday, Vladimir Holan  (September 16, 1905 - 1980)

Swindled by Marxists, euchred by popes,
you thought an evening with Hamlet could
glisten-up tarnished nights.  Solitary mornings...
afternoons of unbuttered rye bread and tea,
rides on random elevators to nod at impossible
milk-white breasts, impartial crimson lips.
At last, overwhelmed by the stench of piss
racing in their veins, you gave up corresponding
with foul-wind Shakespearean scholars.
How goes it in the abyss, Vladimir?
Little better, I suppose, than month upon year
in your Kampa Island apartment by the tomb-
dark waters of The Devil's Stream... center of Prague.
I am with you tonight... your sober-waltz poems.
Leninists and Papish cunts: it was a harmony of lies,
stone grins, bad wine from pus-crusted shoes...
a horror broken every so often by the beauty
of young lovers passing by with what is human:
fresh hope like summer light off silvery pewter.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, H.D. / Hilda Doolittle

Happy Birthday, H.D. / Hilda Doolittle 
(September 10, 1886 - September 27, 1961)

Loved, thumb-stirred toward sleep,
thighs wet, released to dream crystal lines,
verse on a bed of purple sheets, golden pillows.
Crazy Ezra's voice, his longing, his clinging...
others followed like moons, bodies sharp,
bodies front-porch-blocky, women... a few men.
Sappho's sister!  Hands upon the delicious rose,
only a pearl necklace on pale-dawn skin
to release burning need.  Imagiste!   Freud
was too bland... a boaster with bad breath.
Sweet ruinous delight or nothing at all
to make a poem.  Heart-goddess,
Aphrodite, saint of lust-sorrow,
the poems have broken through to us,
lean-stemmed, luminous apricot-sweet petals. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Dirge for Paul Funge

 Paul Funge
1944 - 2011

A Dirge for Paul Funge

It was an exaltation of pure joy... the painting,
the friendships near and windblown.
Now it's better to laugh, stifle a growl...
better to remember us drunk in San Francisco,
a short walk to the surf, snug and well fed
in a surviving '06 quake Victorian,
bombastic for art and poetry...
four decades ago... how you passed out
on a wide couch in a bottle-clogged
front room, my Irish Wolfhound, Bran,
curled at your feet, proprietary guard
of your sleep, your dreaming of new paintings.

How could we have known, that afternoon
in Gorey, Wexford, us in our twenties,
when James Liddy walked me through 
your new festival, when you talked, joked
a verse-wilted sweet-nippled girl
into my arms, annointing me,
The new crazy-great Yank poet...
how could we have known, in that Gaelic sun,
that the nicotine-yellow fish-scale-fleshed 
Abaddon of the Bottomless Pit
would stalk us, trip us into the icy
trap of lights-out codgerhood?

All these decades... no words between us.
My fault the silence.  Wheeling onward with poems.
Giving sweet Kate babies.  Never gathering wit
long enough to at least send you a postcard.
Tonight it's not nearly enough to grieve-stare
at your paintings, luminous on a techno-screen.
Yet that is what your friends must get by on:
the luminous work, paintings you gave with joy.

 Kilmore Quay
Paul Funge

Landscape with Dark Clouds
Paul Funge

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Cesare Pavese

Happy Birthday, Cesare Pavese  (September 9, 1908 - August 27, 1950)

The sound of grinning traffic on wet stones,
open summer windows, the smell of old boots
tossed against grey shrubbery... a young couple
passing arm in arm toward a love-rippling bed.

And comes a picture of you alone with your pills...
your own voice dead too soon... too-barbituate-soon.
And your red clouds gargled lost love or decay
or both at the sad same time.  You splintered soul.

And comes the sound of you walking past houses
scented with window box roses, bowls of peaches,
a woman's new black slip, dirty leaves in the pockets
of raw-muscled children, ungainly dreamers of new
power lines stretching from weeping hills
to hard-lesson villages... something always moving.

There was no touching any of it... without taking a spear
to the heart, was there?  Every love-glance moment
gone before you could ragged-waltz embrace it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Frank James at Age Seventy, 1913

The Long Riders

Frank James at Age Seventy, 1913

I love my brother, but for years
I've been selling pebbles off Jesse's grave.
Ty Cobb came around one winter with a bottle
to warm  us.  He gave me a baseball, a new Colt,
and leatherbound volumes of Shakespeare.
I gave him a true stone, the others having
come from my nephew's farm.  Teddy Roosevelt
came, too, but I charged him the regular
half-dollar admission and handed him
a gallstone an undertaker removed
from a vagrant, and I charged Teddy
twenty dollars.  He really thought he
was special because of some Cuban hill
a horse managed to get him up.  There he was
with the gallstone, the Yankee kneeling
over Jesse's pebbled grave, half-listening
to how we'd near lost it all in Northfield.
One of his footmen dropped the gallstone
in an envelope: it's in the White House now.
My son finds my small business as irritating
as a chigger bite, thinks there's no dignity in it.
I say it's the spirit of the nation.

This poem first appeared in the last good issue of Prairie Schooner (Summer 1986).

This poem was included in Red Shuttleworth's Spur Award-winning collection of poems, Western Settings  (University of Nevada Press, 2000).