Archive for the ‘Not a Poet’ Category

An Idea

June 8, 2014

Has anyone done this yet?  I’m willing to bet yes, but if not, who wants a co-authorship?

“Joyce moved out of the house in March 1904 and rented a room close to the Dublin docks.  He declined the university’s offer to teach French (he suspected it was the priests’ way of controlling him) and cast about for other options.  He wanted to start a newspaper called The Goblin with one of his friends––all they needed was 2,000 pounds.  Joyce and Gogarty talked excitedly about compiling an anthology of poetry and witticisms gathered from public toilets.  Joyce thought of turning himself into a joint-stock company and selling shares.  He imagined that the prices woudl go up for his lucky investors as soon as his publications began to change Western civilization, and his lucky 1904 investors could get him at a bargain.”

~The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham

End of Days

June 6, 2014

Book of Revelations:

When when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on earth.

And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.

And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither.  And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted and gave glory to the God of heaven.

The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.


Anne Sexton:

“The Risk

When a daughter tries suicide

and the chimney falls down like a drunk

and the dog chews her tail off

and the kitchen blows up its shiny kettle

and the vacuum cleaner swallows its bag

and the toilet washes itself in tears

and the bathroom scales weigh in the ghost

of the grandmother and the windows,

those sky pieces, ride out like boats

and the grass rolls down the driveway

and the mother lies down on her marriage bed

and eats up her heart like two eggs.

Oldie But Goodie

June 1, 2014

While cleaning out my desk, I found an index card on which I had written a bunch of random phrases, the origins of which I could not remember.  My favorite of the bunch was “I’ve said a hundred prayers to her knees.”  I knew it wasn’t Roethke, but it made me feel like Roethke, which was a good thing, so I went in search of it.  Google came up with nothing until I added in the quotation marks.  Apparently it’s from a poem by Major Jackson (good name, eh?) that was in issue ten of Memorius, a journal of fiction and poetry.  Enjoy!

“Even Strangers Are Not Strangers”

Winter’s early evening, and I pull two duvets like clouds

of moonlight above our shoulders. Our bodies fall into formation.

Even the lamps are spellbound. I’ve said a hundred prayers

to her knees, and now, I’m at work beating drums for our future,

making a ceremony of my dark, firm hands.

Outside, thick skeins of black branches sway woozily.

I’m thinking of the last orange red apple I bit into, thorn bushes,

and wooden scented vineyards in Sardinia, charms beneath

fingernails. What color is that cry trickling from her mouth?

In our sacred grove, we leave melodies singing on each other’s skin.

Kindergarten Poetry

April 16, 2014

Last night at a Seder I sat across the table from a beautiful little girl.  She had enormous bright eyes, a plucky attitude, and curly hair that was highlighted so perfectly there could be no doubt no one had ever put chemicals in her tresses.  She knew she was cute, and beamed at me whenever I directed questions at her.  “How old are you?” for instance.  She said four, but she would be five soon.  “When is your birthday?”  “In the fall,” she said.  “When in the fall?” I asked.  “When the leaves fall.”

True Detective Mania

March 4, 2014

From Gothamist’s montage of visual clues:

Books in Rust Cohle's storage unit.

Books in Rust Cohle’s storage unit.

It would appear that Cohle is interested in the work of one of my favorite poets, Theodore Roethke.  As nothing in this show is not connected, I’ve taken the liberty of listing a few possible reasons why his collection is included (as opposed to, say, Whitman’s.)  None of these feels like THE answer, though, so if you come up with others, please do send along!  I’ll be happy to give you credit in my book-in-progress, The Complete Annotated True Detective.

1. Roethke’s breakthrough book was called The Lost Son.  A reference to Errol Childress?

2. From perhaps his most famous poem, “My Papa’s Waltz”:

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt

Perhaps a reference to the abuse Errol Childress’ father inflicted on him?

3. The similar eeriness of Roethke’s “Elegy for Jane”:

A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing,
And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.

… and the lyrics of The Handsome Family’s “Far From Any Road” (the theme song):

From the dusty May sun
Her looming shadow grows
Hidden in the branches of the poison creosote
She twines her spines up slowly
Towards the boiling sun
And when I touched her skin
My fingers ran with blood

4. Roethke’s major themes: the wildness of nature, and the perils of introspection

5. His obsessive work ethic resembles Cohle’s.  From the Poetry Foundation:

Along with these influences, the source of much of Roethke’s poetry was the notes he dutifully kept throughout his life. A measure of the devotion given to his craft can be found in his statement “I’m always working,” and indeed his pockets were seemingly always filled with jottings of striking thoughts and conversations. His less spontaneous reflections found a place in the workbench of his poetry—his notebooks.

6. Of Christ and crucifixion imagery, Roethke was quite familiar.  During one of his many nervous breakdowns, he “entered the first class of the 1957-58 University of Washington school year by flinging ‘himself against the blackboard in a kind of crucified pose, muttering incoherently.’

7. Uh, this:

Epidermal Macabre

Indelicate is he who loathes
The aspect of his fleshy clothes, —
The flying fabric stitched on bone,
The vesture of the skeleton,
The garment neither fur nor hair,
The cloak of evil and despair,
The veil long violated by
Caresses of the hand and eye.
Yet such is my unseemliness:
I hate my epidermal dress,
The savage blood’s obscenity,
The rags of my anatomy,
And willingly would I dispense
With false accouterments of sense,
To sleep immodestly, a most
Incarnadine and carnal ghost.

8. And finally, everyone’s favorite color (check out that last line––oo, wee!):

From “The Far Field”

The slightly trembling water
Dropping a fine yellow silt where the sun stays;
And the crabs bask near the edge,
The weedy edge, alive with small snakes and bloodsuckers, —
I have come to a still, but not a deep center,
A point outside the glittering current;
My eyes stare at the bottom of a river,
At the irregular stones, iridescent sandgrains,
My mind moves in more than one place,
In a country half-land, half-water.

A Tweet

February 10, 2014

I’m going to open up a quirky chip shop next to A Salt & Battery and call it Fish and Quips.

Frozen Charlotte

January 26, 2014

At a nice store near my house that sells “eclectic curiosities and essential goods,” they have on display a small platter of tiny china dolls, most missing at least one limb.  A small card on the table explains that these are “Frozen Charlottes.”  Wikipedia (ugh) explains that Frozen Charlottes were between one and eighteen inch-standing, naked figures molded in one piece.  They were made between 1850 and 1920, and their name was inspired by the American folk ballad “Fair Charlotte,” about a superficial twat who froze to death because she wouldn’t cover up her pretty, pretty dress with a freaking coat during a polar vortex.



And now, the supremely creepy lumberjack ballad.  Take it away, boys!



Young Charlotte dwelt by the mountain side

In a rude and lonely spot;

There was no house for three miles round

Except her father’s cot.


And yet on many a wintry eve

Young swain would gather there;

For her father kept a social abode,

And she was very fair.


He liked to see his daughter dressed

Just like a city belle;

For she was the only child he had,

And he loved his daughter well,


Her hair was black as raven’s wing,

And her skin like lilies fair,

And her teeth were like the pearls so white:

Few with her could compare.


At the village inn fifteen miles off

There’s a merry ball tonight.

Although the air is freezing cold, Our hearts are warm and light.


How eager was her restless gaze

Till a well known voice she did hear

And driving up to the cottage door

Charles Leslie did appear.


“O daughter dear,” the mother said,

“This blanket around you fold,

For it is a dreadful night abroad,

You’ll catch your death of cold.”


“Oh nay! Oh nay!” young Charlotte said,

And she laughed like a gypsy queen:

“To ride in blankets muffled up

I never would be seen.


“My silken cloak is quite enough,

You know ’tis lined throughout;

Besides I have a silken shawl

My face to tie about,”


Her gloves and bonnet being on,

She jumped into the sleigh,

And away they rode to the mountain-side

And over the hills away.


There is music in the sound of merry bells,

As over the hills they go.

What a reeking wake those runners make,

As they bite the frosty snow!


Then away they rode so silent

Till five cold long miles were past,

When Charles with these few frozen words

The silence broke at last:


“Such a night as this I never knew;

My reins I scarce can hold.”

Young Charlotte exclaimed with a feeble voice,

“I am exceeding cold.”


He cracked his whip and he urged his steed

Much faster than before,

Until at length five more cold miles

In silence was passed o’er.


“Oh! how fast the freezing ice.

Dost gather on my brow.”

Young Charlotte exclaimed with a feeble voice,

“I am growing warmer now.”


Then away they rode through the frosty air

And by the cold starlight,

Until at length the village inn

And ballroom hove in sight.


They reached the inn, and Charles sprang out

And gave his hand to her.

“Why sit you there like a monument

That hath no power to stir?”


He asked her once, he asked her twice;

But she said not a word;

He asked her for her hand again,

But still she never stirred.


He tore the muffler from her face,

And the cold stars on her shone,

And quickly in the lighted hall

Her lifeless form was borne.


They tried every means they could

Her life for to restore;

But Charlotte was a frozen corpse

And never could speak more.


He sat himself down by her side,

And the bitter tears did flow;

He said, “My dear intended bride

I never more shall know.”


He threw his arms around her neck

And kissed her marble brow,

And his thoughts went back to the place

Where she said, “I’m growing warmer now.”


He bore her back into the sleigh

And with her he rode home,

And when he reached her father’s house,

Oh! how her parents mourned!


They mourned the loss of their daughter dear,

And Charles mourned o’er his doom,

Until at length his heart had broke:

Now they slumber in one tomb.

While I Search for What I Really Want to Post…

January 13, 2014

… coincidentally, there’s a segment on the very phenomenon described in The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book About a Vast Memory, on CNN right this second!

This is how S., the mnemonist of the title, sees a “zhuk” [Russian for cockroach.]

“… A zhuk––that’s a dented piece in the potty… It’s a piece of rye bread… And in the evening when you turn on the light, that’s also a zhuk, for the entire room isn’t lit up, just a small area, while everything else remains dark––a zhuk.  Warts are also a zhuk… Now I see them sitting before a mirror.  There’s noise, laughter.  There are my eyes staring at me from the mirror––dark––they’re also a zhuk… Now I’m lying in my crib… I hear a shout, noise, threats.  Then someone’s boiling something in the enamel teakettle.  It’s my grandmother making coffee.  First she drops something red into the kettle, then takes it out––a zhuk.  A piece of coal––that’s also a zhuk… I see them lighting candles on the Sabbath.  A candle is burning in the holder, but some of the tallow hasn’t melted yet.  The wick flickers and goes out.  Then everything turns black.  I’m scared, I cry––this is also a zhuk… And when people are sloppy pouring tea, and the drops miss the pot and land on the plates, that’s also a zhuk.”

The Best Book Ever

December 31, 2013

A few months before I left my full-time job, we received two enormous boxes from our distributor––a larger publishing company––that contained more than 200 copies of a book by Paul Volponi called Riker’s High.  The book is about––you guessed it!––a seventeen-year-old who is sent to the high school ward of Riker’s.  When we called the company, they told us to feel free to “donate or discard” the books.  How could they possibly let go of such precious prose?  Below, our hero Martin Stokes tells us about the hierarchy of his unit, what makes a thug, and how to chew when your face has been slashed down the cheek.

A minute later, that kid with the chiseled muscles bounced into the room like he owned it. 

            He looked us up and down and a couple of the kids even took a step backward.  I was sitting on the floor, leaning up against the wall, so I didn’t move.

            “The name’s Cedric, but everybody calls me Brick,” he said, flexing a forearm.  “That’s ‘cause I fall down hard on people.”

            Brick probably wasn’t any stronger than a lot of kids with a decent build.  He just looked harder, and had his thug act wrapped supertight [sic].

            I kept my eyes on him as he talked.  And once it looked like he had everybody else in that room backed down, he began to bark at me.

            “Don’t listen to what the Cos tell you.  I run this house.  You want to use the phone during prime time?  You need a loan till commissary comes?  That’s all me,” he bragged.

            I’d seen kids like him before.  He was a straight-up gangster in what was looking more and more like a soft house.

            “I heard what you did to Jersey,” said Brick.  “I don’t hold it against you.  I could use a real fighter on my payroll.  We’ll talk later.  Okay?”

            But I played him cold and stiff and didn’t say a word.

            That’s when Brick turned to the other kids and said, “Maybe they cut his tongue out, too.”

            They all laughed with him, except for Ritz.  I guess he’d got used to standing alone on Rikers.

            Most kids understand what a thug like Brick can do.  They don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of him.  So they usually play it safe, going along with whatever he says.

            “I’ll check you chumps later,” Brick said, bouncing back out.

            About an hour after that, the Cos called the house out for lunch.

            The mess hall workers were mostly kids from our Sprung.  Brick and his crew had spots at the front of the mess hall line, while I was almost at the rear.  I could see from the mountain of food on their plates that they carried a lot of weight in the house.  We had franks and beans all mixed together, with white bread on the side.

            It hurt like anything to eat with those stitches.  And though I’d shoveled everything into the left side of my mouth, the right side moved along whenever I chewed.

            I finished what they gave me and was still hungry.  But none of the mess hall workers would serve me seconds when I went back. 

            “Who you?” one of them asked.

            “Nobody,” another one answered.

            And I had to stomach watching Brick and his crew toss their trays in the trash, still half full of food.


Famous Daughter, Famous Mother

December 14, 2013

Someone at Rap Genius (or Poetry Genius, which is… the same thing?) please evaluate the work of Sonja Yelich in light of her daughter’s lyrics, or vice versa:


Time is white

& the baby came in a new season

but you could say that about all of them ~ ours


i looped them over the undoing of our street

all born in a house 2 here 2 there

i worked them into the dawn awake


firstly we slept zero

with the smell of milk

& our babies —

& the rigmarole of wrapping & the unwrapping of them


we signed our roundy names on the Certificate

of Authenticity crossing to the townhall

with its full clock ~ meat pie in each hand


we drove to every beach when they would not sleep

with our atlas of rivers & mountains & rocky roads

in the stony days of long sounds.


twice in one week i smacked the front out of 2 cars


at one beach

the size of latitude was light ~ longitude quiet

i slept myself.  my babies ears to the shore on lull & hush.


today ella says matt

knows what sea means in maths —

back then it was roundabout an hour