Volume 05: Summer 2009

Be Drunken

by Charles Baudelaire
Translated from the French by Charles Bernstein

Be always drunk. That’s all: that’s the only question.
So not to feel the horrific heaviness of Time weighing on
your shoulders, crushing you to ground, you must be drunken

But on what? On wine, on poetry or on virtue, in your
fashion. But drunken be.

And if sometime, on palace steps, on the green grass by an
abyss, in mournful solitude in your room, if sometime you
awake, drunkenness dimmed or done, ask of the wind, of the
wave, of the star, of the bird, of the clock, of all that
flees, of all that wails, of all that roils, of all that
sings, of all that speaks, ask what hour it is and the
wind, the wave, the bird, and the clock will answer: “It is
the hour to get drunk! So not to be the slavish martyr of
Time, be drunken; be drunken without stopping! On wine, on
poetry or on virtue, in your fashion.”



by Helen Conkling

The war in Europe is over.
Russians met Americans
on the bridge across the Elbe
and it is over.

I have seen pictures in LIFE
of bodies burned at Gardelegen.

I have read about captured girls my age
that Nazis kept in brothels.

The Mona Lisa will return to the Louvre.

My father in his chair
beside the lamp reads the news.

Now children who asked, “Will bombs fall on us?”
can look at the sky without fear.

Stretched on the floor, I am reading PERSUASION.
Mother has put a cake in the oven, chocolate.
She’ll call us to come taste it.

The globe of the world my father found
in a second-hand store has been installed, a glass globe
with a light inside and only one flaw,
a crack running from the North Pole to Madagascar.

Crickets are singing under the open windows.
A warm evening with dusk slowly falling.
The globe shines in the dark beside the bookcase.


Remembering The Brownstone

by Jo McDougall

I want the ring of its iron steps,
ten or eight of them, under my feet—
the paint banished,
the banister not quite secure,
the city stuttering around me
like a homeless wind.
I want to hurry up those steps again,
through the double oak dark doors
tall and heavy as God,
want to enter the rooms greeting me like strangers—
aloof, always on the verge of leaving,
shrugging into their polite coats.



by Aleš Debeljak
translated from Slovenian by Andrew Zawacki and the author

Like lover’s juice spat
by a woman for hire, they’re driven by
desperate, radiant light, far away
down the deserted plains,
to columns of people traveling, tired,
past the ruins of town hall
and the cathedral, past walls
that barely differ from the stones themselves
covered by moss, past the meadows
where trespass is not allowed.
Crossing the former trenches,
the weakest among them
had seen the towers of smoke rising
from camp fires under the forest line.
Their translucent eyes reflect
only shadows of clouds gliding over
the narrow trails they’re walking
down, they conjure pastures
and fertile valleys, moments of sheer delight,
they dream of large estates, expertly manicured.
Water sources camouflaged by the coarse
facade of rocks, they stand at the edge
of a steep ravine that flats their echo out,
like a blasé god with slack fists,
and dazed. Keep their eyes closed,
on a fragile crag they slough their jackets,
patched together of rough flax, and lie down
on their backs, in comfort, vests slither
over their heads, their trousers over their ankles
drop to a quivering pile. Naked
under familiar gray, in the narrow
funnel of mountains they see it,
for the last time: these drugged women
and children, with faces of stillborn
animals, the big moon above, a small
village below, and me—we all need to know why.


The Sun Stands Still

by Miranda Field

Who what where when why
in the dark dark dark dark dark broken-boiler
night would I suddenly start up
thinking of you, happiness?
Equestrian frost-shapes send your empty-handed mute messengers
riding straight at the glass.
Snow replaces
obvious fake snow, spray-on snow, Styrofoam.
Lacy soft unlatched fish scales and cabbage-white wings nostalgically
settle on gargoyles outside.
Three dimensions, including happiness, glitter under


Loneliest Parakeet

by Miranda Field

One less tenant,
white onion-dome cage, one caught soul flown. Rained on
funeral rituals (humming, nettles brushing shoulders) give gravediggers
crud to shovel.
Residual breast-feathers
drift through room with faint shit-like odor of cigar smoke.
So the widower experiences parthenogenesis:
Blue-green faces/faces/faces in facing mirrors-with-bells: motionless, mute colony.
I replace what the Thief steals every several seasons,
flickers, bubbles, dew.
Children christen newest body-double “Cherry Blossom.”
Cherry Blossom stiffens near
bride/groom. Uncostumed,
everyone adheres to his/her twig, biding time, wondering—
edible, loveable, lethal?
Autumn leaves, these fly-by-night loves.


Haunted House

by Miranda Field

who’s there?—
You Know Who—
You Know Who wh—!

No more fire-opal October light.
twist-tied to neglected dollar store
cobwebs—slow-decomposing leaf hammocks,
cradles of plastic skulls long ago
graves of fairy lights, paper hearts, sparklers, solstice-markers
now unglittery, lately unelectric—
one misfit roof tile acting alone might tear all decorations down
and toneless skeleton-tree operettas hound again.
Even in struck dumb snout and dusty ears cocked
spider handiwork.
Tell me again, how came we to live with candelabra antlers,
glass eyed mortuary beauty spellbinding
our hallway?
We never understood clocks,
so hung a head where the clock belonged.
Mama, did you deaden that deer? Distraction did, dear—
he crashed through the wall and just sleeps there. Till real suns rise

and shine him up come spring.


Blue Afternoon: The Middle Distance

by Anne Haines

I need more light now
than when I was young,

holding books at that middle distance
to let bifocals do their work.

As a result I find myself,
when I look up from the page,

gazing unfocused into something
I can’t quite see the name for.

It takes a moment, now, to make the shift
from close detail, from the word,

to whatever’s out the window.
Summer at the beach, I am rapt

with distance, book on the sand
beside me while I stare and stare

not at the lace of waves or shells
that wash in and drift back out

a few times before depositing themselves
quietly below the tideline,

but at the blue on blue horizon
line, the faint haze

that obscures the farthest ships,
the Boston skyline I saw once

on the clearest afternoon,
or thought I did. I stare

at nothing with a form,
at a whisper, at a fade

from blue to gray to duller
blue then blue again.

I don’t know what it is I think
I see but there is plenty of it,

this light, every light, the long
blue afternoon, my eyes at rest

past the struggle of the middle
distance, past the insect words

that quiver on the page, past
everything but light and light

itself, beyond the blurred horizon
and all the visible names of things.


Jebby Eldon

by Clyde Kessler

I found Jebby Eldon drowning
and fished him out crazy like sand
scuffed into wood. A year later
he plays music at Midkiff’s Bar,
plays jazz that scrambles pale smoke
into some wild, clanky riffs.

Sometimes he helps me load the barge
or takes his old mutt hound hunting
grouse on his daddy’s farm, where birds
fly out like pine needles in a devil breeze,
and blue lizards rustle across a rock bluff
like fossils chiseled from midair.

Jebby shoots nothing, just laughs
along the lake fence where he should be dead.
He tells me a young albino owl has pulled
its wings from a pine knot, has fringed
all its howling into another man’s life.
Jebby says I shoulda left him water-logged.


The Capehill Barge

by Clyde Kessler

I float some cars to the island.
Jebby says they’ll be the last
ridden across Capehill’s
flat crater pig path, moonlight
frizzing into snow and pumice.

The barge stays cold tonight
and its shaky steel has flowered
against Old Moody’s Landing
like a rusty package swapped
for some stars and music.

But Jebby sings his money
and I sing some crablegs and brew,
a sour breezy comfort with our haul,
with all these trembled beach cabins
paled for another night’s Christmas.


The Prize Bull

by Clyde Kessler

Hobey and Jebby raced one night,
caught the slant of a roof, and flew
their dirt bikes past Ruben Coyle’s
prize bull. They yelped like fools
haunted by the deepest, coldest mud
sunk in a thaw. And the bull roughed
at them like a tank, knocked Hobey
against a fence post, bounced Jebby
two flips against a cattle guard.

I laughed three days after I patched them.
Made their eyes look like one slow twitching
burl-knot hating sunlight. They slumped
to Betty’s house, and she laughed, too—said
the air won’t breathe itself without some jokes,
and here’s two fine ones, joined in their bruises.
I hear the boys done raced again on Coyle’s land.
I hear the bull has started goring shadows.



Das Gemach meines Vaters öffnete sich zweimal,
hob dann auf Flügeln ab.
Ich bin die Sirene, Vater&mash;
Du der Schall.
Gegen die Stille—Wundsporen.
Ein Schrei
kann die Grabenwand nicht durchdringen.
Er wird,
er wird benannt,
er wird Stein genannt.

(in translation) by Scott Minar and Thomas Piontek

My father’s room opened twice,
then wing-lifted.
I am the Siren, father—
you, the sound.
Against stillness—wound spores.
A cry
cannot penetrate the rift-wall.
It is,
it is named,
it is named stone.


Herr Antschel

Mit Deinem
eine gekerbte Rippe,
eine gekrümmte Schaufel.

Dein Talmud beinah
ein Augenlid.

Auf der Veranda, das fast Gesagte
mit Schweigen.

Der Wortköder

Du hast mich hierher geführt
als die Hoffnung dahinschwand.
Wohin wurde ich sonst gahin?
Wohin wurde ich sonst gahin?

(in translation) by Scott Minar and Thomas Piontek

With your
translator’s book—
a notched rib,
a kneed shovel.

Your Talmud half
like an eyelid.

On the porch, your almost-mouthed,
with silence.

The wordbait

You led me here
as hope withered.
Where else would I go?
Where else would I go?



Wenn der Schatten den Schnee beschichtet
bedecke ihn
verschleire die Entfurnungen,
schließ die Lücke.

Wenn der Vogel sich im Dezember schüttelt,
Wie stark er ist!
Wie dunkelhell
die Welt.

(in translation) by Scott Minar and Thomas Piontek

When the shadow surfaces the snow
cover it—
cover its distances,
close the gap.

December’s bird-shaking.
How strong it is!
How darkbright
the world.


Six Days of Snow

by Elizabeth Onusko

Push aside the screen door and see
strata upon strata of snow.
Notice the elemental shifts in light,
a palette of backlit whites
lined with blue-gray
where each snowfall stopped
and the next started,
a dutiful record of its own making.

It is the laying on of snow upon sleep,
upon bulbs put there by hands,
upon tunnels through soil
and the breathing fur within them.
Snow laying itself down upon sleeping you,

a sleep not solved by light.
You through whom light fell
onto me. That was how
it happened once.
Light fell through you,
and I came awake.


Jason With Me at the Zoo

by Liz Rosenberg

The summer night is radiantly cool. You’d have liked it.
You’d have loved the chili-pepper of the rose,
white daisies at the zoo, the shell’s roseate innards,
the orangey scarlet ibis picking his lit way along the wood-chip path
and penguins flittering through the pond like bats.
“Flying is a kind of swimming,” someone wrote;
but swimming is a kind of flying, too,
and you were a mighty swimmer, but
now you hold so still where you lie nailed to the ground,
your eyes up against the pine, your beautiful jaw uptilted
like a man who can’t get enough of gazing at the stars
spangled across the summer sky
so that he tightly shuts his lids and will not open them again.


God’s Leash

by Liz Rosenberg

God’s leash is on me.
The last time I touched you it seemed
you were already more than halfway his.
I did not believe
you would outlast the night.
You said goodbye in the hospital corridor,
as if you might still, somehow, shake off the holy collar
like a priest laying down his robe.
You stumbled at the door
as full of running sores as Job.
Perhaps you were on your way somewhere
you wanted to be
when G-d said heel and dragged you to shore.


The Bette Davis Mosh

by Maureen Seaton and Neil de la Flor

In the mosh pit even the unluckiest get a chance to dance akimbo. They bring their hands to each other and loofah.

In the mosh pit it’s a burning of our previous body, the one that taught us how to dance in synchronicity.

Hierarchies bicker with lowerarchies. Everything flies by. Everything feels like a boulder on the cheek.

Alignment and spacing are frivolous.

Look! someone says from the fractal edge of the mosh pit which has undergone thousands of iterations and now resembles Bette Davis. Oh, look!

She throws her body into our midst and is divided among us like a steak.

With vengeance she swings softballs into space.



by Karen Steinmetz

Aimed where the blue cloak folds away,
revealing a white brow set in carmine,
gliding along stippled lines—It arrives.
You can ordain nothing, forbid nothing.
Your hands, folded, complete an oval, red
as the draped bed in the room behind you,
door ajar to one you cannot name.
You do not see God’s ardent bird.
Each time, a blazing angel hushes you.



by Karen Steinmetz
for my son

Winter light pours in
over my inward face, my hand at rest,
enormity of my belly, sprigged with flannel buds.
It is three days past your due date.
Your father snaps the photo. What else to do?
Grown so big, I am disappearing.
Dolphin-slippery, you would wake me.
I placed your father’s hand, astonished,
over moving waters; showing off at somersaults,
you had our attention; we dwelled
on you as on a waxing moon.
Now, you curl nautilus-tight, shining.
A child slips in from a red brick building
over there, takes my colored pencils.
Waking, I don’t mind. I want the sea
he’s drawing, flying fish, monsters,
sea horses rocking through salt-spume,
sun not yet fixed in the right hand corner.
Beside the window, the little painting,
your father’s. I will take it with us—greens,
blues, ochre. Body seizing, I will slip
into its disappearing mountains, carded wool clouds,
imagine taking you there.
The midwife’s kind voice will fall away.
Now, the clock’s pendulum tocks, time stopped.
The elevator’s steel cable complains in the chute.
UPS trucks rumble from the depot down the street,
brown-wrapped packages stacked and ready.
We once made a whole. We are waiting
for you now, as if listening for snowfall.


Reading The Illiad

by Mark Sullivan

The sons of the sons of the sons
go on fighting the sons of the sons of other sons
or even the same sons
and it is forever and it is now
in these lines with their long vowels we will only hear
in echoes in the names we learned as children
for cartoonish gods and tender parts of our own
anatomy—a rubbery tug in back of the ankle—
but still the language surviving
improbably down these thousands of years
to this early spring morning with some of its trees
slipping new leaves through light wind
and the bare locust still black and unmoving
as the Styx, as the river
of absence. And the killing surviving
within that unmoving river of language
we enter at any point
to find the filthy darkness cowling across
an almost anonymous pair of eyes, the bronze armor
leadening to earth as though death
entered us first as speech, as though it were given
to us at birth with these signs
we cluster out of the air or trace so carefully
over ruled lines. So that it lives in us
as a precision or practice, with the clouded
exactness of memory,
and we grow toward it
as if the river should flow to its source,
or as when a tree, some giant fir, falls
on a mountainside after a blizzard has fastened
over its branches—the wind grinds it
until the great roots start to shiver—and the snow
once weighting the branches resurrects in a cloud
that seconds the storm, that bodies the air.


Sleep Disorder

by Mark Sullivan

The edges filling in
like a city that’s sinking,

a city that’s been lost
to its own element
and has found another,

less hospitable but not
out of the question. And when
the doctor shone the spectrum

directly into my eye
I could see

the capillaries forking lightning
about the retina,
shredding up the blood sky.

For days the images
reversing themselves back there

had been puckering away
from the center
like spacetime sinkholing

near a massive planet. Afterwards,
walking through Koreatown,

dodging in the shadows
because all light pained,

up-to-down signs
in a language of keyholes,

places for dumplings and
little bowls of sea-tasting cabbage—

you put it in your mouth
because any wave runs till it breaks.


Otavalo Plaza

by Vincent Spina

Subtract the Panamerican heading North
and South, the cobble stone streets leading
from the highway to the Parque Principal
and the grotto of the Virgin,
and the Cross beyond. The Municipio

and Beto’s tienda who sells good wines and fine cheese;
subtract them too. Quiten la iglesia of sorrows
eternos, the Mormon center and store front
Evangelicos strumming guitar passage to Jesus,

the bust of Rumiñauhui, and the legends
of those last Incas.

Take away the loud speakers in the Plaza de Ponchos,
the almuerzos left so the dead loved ones
may eat in the Campo Santo —the Holy Ground.
Take the tourists back to their busses
and the busses back to Quito. Let old mestizos
halt the ancient handball game, played
each dusk at one end of the plaza
in homage to the setting sun. And

the Runakunata anchuchichik with their lives
of looms and corn and dreams of SUV’s.
The simple streams and stones lying in the streams
defining East and West. The rivers who
find rivers who find bays and oceans.

Urkukunata kuyuchichik,
Let the mountains move,
—erase them.

Let the silence of mountains
be erased

that the voice of a woman

—as she gathers the words and the names
of a new song into her basket—
be heard.



by Chana Bloch

“I don’t want to alarm you, but . . . . ”
strikes the eardrum first. And then
that ellipsis
trailing its wake of silence.
What? what?
Tonight you have been detained
in the holding tank of gel and electrodes
where a stylus monitors your quaking.
Again you are made
to repeat your name.
In the hush and babble of the ER
the whitecoats hover and confer.
Lucky you! Not a single positive
this time.
You may go home
to that other life with its soothing clatter,
you’ve rehearsed
the required emotions.

Once again you have passed the test
for the wrong disaster.


White Heat

by Chana Bloch

Last Friday a man was struck by lightning.
He lives to tell it:
“My friends heard it strike,
saw smoke rising from my body.
My shoes flew off!”
In the front page photo he looks abashed.
Heat gathers drop by drop till the cloud
cannot contain it. Lightning
sizzles across in a burst of ozone
and the whole sky blanches.
I love the wild brilliance that will not last.
My grandma was afraid of lightning:
“If you feel a storm coming, cover your head
and pray.” Her house in the old country
had a roof of straw.
I don’t believe in the god of lightning
anymore. My house is stucco and wood.
I’m afraid of safety.
When the lights go out
I’m awake at the window,
watching that live wire ignite
the fire of water and air
that can turn us to ash.