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  1. #191
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    Mar 2008
    A song from -

    The Singing Forest

    A red and ocher forest near Žilina
    was my earliest classroom,

    my first wondrous library
    and lavish sanctuary:

    on autumn hillsides,
    my just-widowed mother and I

    would cull plump woodberries
    and wild mushrooms.

    As a towheaded, willing boy,
    I was taught to venerate

    each forest thing,
    singing in Slovak,

    in the treble clef,
    dobre, dobre

    (good, good)
    as my spellbound eyes passed

    from branch to glistening branch.
    Don't stray too far, son;

    don't step on the wand
    of the Vila,

    the sweet-souled forest witch,
    my mother would tease me—

    So when the schnapps-fueled German soldier
    gestured and said,

    Do you hear that music?
    That's the singing forest,

    I was whisked, rabbit quick,
    to my childhood copse

    to Mother's robust rendition
    of How Does the Czar Drink His Tea?

    to the stone ribs
    of the flying castle of Lietava—

    Amid the crows'
    tattooing caws, I detected

    a strange bellowing,
    then I glimpsed them

    above the Nazi's spittle-bright
    jest and helmet:

    a row of men hooked
    to dispiriting poles.

    And suddenly I grasped:
    my cry, my unchecked agony

    would be subsumed by theirs—
    Dangling, ebbing, I imagined

    Mother's consoling alto:
    Quick, Slavomir, focus

    on the streak of the deer,
    like an August star—

    Then, in a moment's match-burst,
    someone cut me down,

    convinced I was a corpse,
    but I was stubbornly alive—

    And the immense light, the prevailing
    singing that supplants crucifixion,

    parted the forest.

    - Cyrus Cassells.

  2. #192
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    Mar 2008
    Tiananmen a -

    Suffocating City Square

    Written in Beijing - third anniversary offering for 6/4

    This city square the largest in the world
    filled to the brink with crowds and cheers
    in a blink liquid
    mercury flash of fleeing
    Now only fear
    and an empty expanse remain
    Against the ash-white pallor of the martyrs
    dawn light dances on steel helmets
    Those whom God judges
    pass through certain windows
    admire daybreak in a cup
    that overflows with a bruise-colored liquid

    The courage that infuses the man in the city square
    infuses the solar system with each stride
    Embers burn to daybreak
    become the dim warmth of a word
    bitter green fruit
    ripening in death
    A dedication to
    the woman who needs no rose
    her voice lights up the inferno
    facing the vicious roar of a tank
    standing unmoving
    waving a weakened arm as if
    opening a red umbrella on a gray rainy day

    In a blink she collapses
    empty expanse in four directions
    Whose carelessly tossed paper scraps
    fall onto her lifted chest
    rise up again with a gust of wind
    shroud a slender pair of arms
    Even if she's never read the Holy Scriptures
    God shouldn't abandon her to
    the heaps of garbage along the road
    wisps of long hair float into
    a boy's dream, shouldn't
    allow this bloodbath-fastness

    If it was a different spring
    she would walk across this city square
    hand in hand with her boyfriend
    She wouldn't have become
    a random insect crushed underfoot
    at this moment, her bloodless lips
    the stunned moth-grubs underground
    they hesitantly stretch out their pincers
    but only grasp the stench of blood

    This death-hollowed city square
    for the sake of absolute power
    suffocates all life
    This death-cast girl
    has become a line of pure poetry
    that surrenders all ideograms

    - Liu Xiaobo.

  3. #193
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    Mar 2008
    Making -

    The Getaway


    On the bed
    a suitcase empty
    but still open.

    The room key's
    ball and chain.
    Your nightdress.

    His passport
    handed back
    too quickly at the desk.

    Look at him
    and tell me
    do you recognise this man?


    Your heart is beating
    behind bars.
    The blinds are down.

    That hammering
    is neither wind nor rain
    but somebody wants in.

    He waits outside.
    A fine mist
    shrouds his face.

    You call him by a name
    already lost
    so who is it that comes?


    Between the pillow
    and his head
    an understanding.

    Between the mattress
    and your thigh
    a sheet of ice.

    Between his nakedness
    and body heat
    an absence.

    Between your hunger
    and his appetite
    a shadow line.


    The car you planned
    to leave in
    is unregistered.

    Its ignition's tick
    a flint
    that will not catch.

    The road ahead
    has narrowed
    to a vanishing perspective.

    The way you came
    without him
    takes you home.

    - John Mole.

  4. #194
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    Mar 2008
    This is a poem -

    In Which the Earth Splits Under Our Feet

    All day the city readied for the snowstorm;
    plows lined the corners of the parks, salt was thrown.
    They cancelled the postal service, closed the schools—
    kitchens stocked in milk and batteries,

    the city was a closed organism, shut down,
    and we would be caught in its damages.
    All winter I've taught myself languages and music,
    studied opposite words in opposite languages

    collected arias in snow globes. This city is about
    nothing at all—not the tall buildings or soaked corners.
    Along the ocean, even the boardwalk understood the brief
    credos, how one ruin should not hold all the failed

    synchronisms. Across the street he sat at the table
    again, head in hands—not that I would ever know him.
    Across the country, he rented a car and drove himself
    and gun into the woods—not that I would ever know him.

    How long could we remain deliberate rib cages,
    inconsolable at the bitten world that keeps us.
    At this time, the most unrecognizable shadow has become
    my own. I sat at bars. We sat at bars. We followed the weather.

    We took light breaths with hope that the totality of winter
    we carried inside would fade quickly outside.
    I've looked for the right words to say the right things
    to the landscape of split ranches and swing sets, two cars

    buried in snow. A simple apology wasn't enough.
    And then the cities we thought we would own,
    to speak of their winters is to speak of the glove
    that is meant to go missing, thrown salt.

    Suitcases to the door, gun to teeth—
    as a letter from one who loves the other—
    what do we care for, facing fracture
    the very bone-scrap leverage of the earth undone.

    - Florencia Varela.

  5. #195
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    Mar 2008
    The sound of the -


    Every time someone peels an orange
    something tears in me
    as I remember the smell
    of peels lingering in that velvet case,
    their humidity staying
    in the wood long after drying
    into forgotten skins. Then
    the reeds, how the knife would lift
    a thin dust from top and edge
    of cut cane, the thin stick
    of green bamboo pressing
    the warped white edge into roundness,
    how rubbing the back of the reed
    with newsprint sealed the pores,
    made it ring, and how fine,
    when finished, the pleasure
    of rubbing oily thumb against the grain
    in my pocket
    in autumn rain
    until, in the light again, each pulp heart
    glowed and spread with touch
    of tongue to fiber, silky threads
    vanishing in movement, burn of hot wind
    spinning through wood and spring, vein
    and bore, beads of condensation
    curing the ebony's openness.

    I forgot how many times
    it brought me to that burning light,
    that spinning wheel, but tonight
    in the shower, before
    our guests arrived, I pressed my ear
    to your narrow back and heard the rain—
    the singular, metronomic beat,
    the legato hum of your voice breaking
    the cylinder of your body.

    - Joanne Diaz.

  6. #196
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    Mar 2008
    The rape of -

    The Sabine Women

    O Ravishers, O Husbands, you have won:
    We are the country that is tamed by children.
    Light-footed maidens now waddle behind
    Bellies in which two histories quicken the future.
    Tomorrow will dawn with a pang, like breaking waters.
    Oh you have yoked us, yes, but you have yoked
    Us to yourselves—now, see, you too are bounded
    On all sides not by enemies but in-laws.
    A sigh has turned the heart into a hearth:
    Let marriage be a truce—for from now on
    The war between us is a civil war.

    - A. E. Stallings.

  7. #197
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    Mar 2008
    Ah -

    [CHORUS:] Everything is half here

    This false world,—allas!—who may it leve?
    —Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde (II.420)

    Everything is half here,
    like the marble head
    of the Greek warrior
    and the lean torso
    of his favorite.
    The way the funnel cloud
    which doesn't seem
    to touch ground does—
    flips a few cars, a semi—
    we learn to walk miles
    above our bodies.
    The pig farms dissolve,
    then the small hills.
    As in dreams fraught
    with irrevocable gestures,
    the ruined set seemed larger,
    a charred palace
    the gaze tunnels through
    and through. How well
    we remember the stage—
    the actors gliding about
    like petite sails, the balustrade
    cooling our palms.
    Not wings or singing,
    but a darkness fast as blood.
    It ended at our fingertips.
    The fence gave way.
    The world began.

    - Francesca Abbate.

  8. #198
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    Mar 2008
    Welcome to -

    The Swimming Pools of California

    (California light comes waltzing in across the swimming pool)

    I'd like a little something to brighten up my drink

    Maybe an ice cube would you like an ice cube?

    That sounds great

    And maybe a twist of lemon?

    Yes a twist of lemon and a splash more vodka

    A splash more vodka

    You better make it a couple splashes

    A couple three or four splashes and ice and a twist of lemon

    A lemon from our very own lemon tree

    We grow our lemons for just this very thing

  9. #199
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    Mar 2008
    In Bedlam an -

    Alphabet of Scratches

    At St. Mary Bethlehem (which the world calls Bedlam), Jeremy Watt, shut up for insanity, discovered in a maze of scratches scribed by others' lunatic hands an alphabet with which he might invoke things not apparent to the eye. So it was that on a late November afternoon while winter rehearsed in the soot and shadows of the ward, Watt alchemized the asylum into a Moorfields mews where—in a fusty upper-storey room—his wife, who had denounced him to the magistrate, was partnered in adultery with a pie man. Uttering an uncouth scratch of noise (unintelligible to the madhouse staff), Watt slaughtered her remorselessly with an airy dagger—a perfect telepathic murder for which the pie man was condemned and hung.

  10. #200
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    Mar 2008
    The mistress is -

    The President's Companion

    While I was a young woman with my hair long and tied back, I
    walked outside, lost in thought, scuffing my boots. You spoke from
    your post through the speakers and the televisions, and when you
    paused to take a breath, you heard the sounds of a young woman
    walking. Two people unknown to each other.

    Soon I took notice of the armed guards in the subway and looked
    closely at these extensions of you. Called to, I kept walking,
    disappearing into the river of passengers leaving the station.

    And then I stopped walking. I sat in contemplation and the signs
    of your attention poured over me. I had been your counterpoint all
    along and I chose to join you in your gardens and rooms.

    That we found ourselves together in the ritual of the everyday, in the
    ritual of opening the notebook and writing, the ritual of consulting
    the newspaper, the ritual of standing before the questioning crowds,
    does not speak to my ingenuity but to the way of the world forever.

    Your back slumped as you sat at your desk preparing to leave this
    office. I, older now, will meet you on the other side. Everything I
    have learned about consequence, I've learned from you.

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