Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Nine Monsters by césar vallejo, translated by clayton eshleman

   AND, unfortunately,
pain grows in the world all the time,
grows thirty minutes a second, step by step,
and the nature of the pain, is twice the pain
and the condition of the martyrdom, carnivorous, voracious,
is twice the pain
and the function of the purest grass, twice
the pain
and the good of being, our dolor doubled.

   Never, human men,
was there so much pain in the chest, in the lapel, in the wallet,
in the glass, in the butcher's shop, in arithmetic!
Never so much painful affection,
never did the distance charge so close,
never did the fire ever
play better its role of dead cold!
Never, Mr. Minister of Health, was health
more mortal,
did the migraine extract so much forehead from the forehead!
Did the cabinet have in its drawer, pain,
the heart, in its drawer, pain,
the lizard, in its drawer, pain.

   Misfortune grows, brother men,
faster than the machine, at ten machines, and grows
with Rousseau's livestock, with our breads;
evil grows for reasons we know not
and is a flood with its own liquids,
its own mud and its own solid cloud!
Suffering inverts positions, it acts
in that the aqueous humor is vertical
to the pavement,
the eye is seen and this ear heard,
and this ear sounds nine strokes at the hour
of lightning, and nine guffaws
at the hour of wheat, and nine female sounds
at the hour of weeping, and nine canticles
at the hour of hunger, and nine thunderclaps
and nine lashes, minus a scream.

   The pain grabs us, brother men,
from behind, in profile,
and drives us wild in the movies,
nails us to the gramophones,
unnails us in bed, falls perpendicularly
onto our tickets, our letters,
and it is very serious to suffer, one might pray...
For as a result
of the pain, there are some
who are born, others grow, others die,
and others who are born and do not die, others
who die, without having been born, and others
who neither are born nor die (the majority)
And likewise as a result 
of suffering, I am sad
up to my head, and sadder down to my ankle,
from seeing bread, crucified, the turnip,
the onion, crying.
cereal, in general, flour,
salt, made dust, water, fleeing.
wine, an ecce-homo,
such pallid snow, such an arduent sun!
How, human brothers,
not to tell you that I can no longer stand it and
can no longer stand so much drawer,
so much minute, so much
lizard and so much
inversion, so much distance and so much thirst for thirst!
Mr. Minister of Health: what to do?
Ah! unfortunately, human men,
there is, brothers, much too much to do.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

i wish this small rant meant something more

now more than ever, now, right now, we must change.  we don't have time to figure the poetry out.  we don't have time to unravel the mystery.  our power to inflict damage on one another and the world is too awesome and our intelligence not developed enough to exceed the diligent grooming of our insatiable egos.

can we change?  is it within the human possibility to be good and to remain good, which means to not choose to inflict violence on one another and the world knowingly and with purpose?  is this possible?  (don't fool yourself.  really look at how often you inflict pain on others directly and indirectly.  look at how you interact in your home, your neighbourhood, your community, your country.  consider how you do not interact, as well.  what do you eat?  where does it come from?  what do you purchase?  what is your home, your car?  where does your excess go? and how do you love? and how do you not love?  don't stop asking yourself questions.  don't be easy on yourself.)

if it is possible to change then we must change today. we need to begin in ourselves. we need to not look to our neighbours to change first.  we need to not wait for perfection.  we must do the work to rebuke the ego, to keep it in check.   it must begin here, as here is the place where it all begins in its inverse.

it is an abomination to be a human being.  once a human being forms it is a location of need, too often confused with greed, deluded with ideas of grandeur stemming from self being, even in the lowliest, even in the most self effacing.  it is the human function.  it is the collateral damage to the formation of a living body, but especially for a living body confused by its apparent depths of selfdom.

I wake.  I consume.  and I consume in a variety of ways all day long. and as soon as I consume I am inflicting a negation on the world somewhere else.

be mindful.  be painfully mindful. 

are you in pain?

seek the greater pain.

seek the lesser being.

I know I am failing this.  my knowledge of my failure is more difficult to bear then my plain ignorance but I have to face it and use it in my next day, in my next trial, in my every moment.

we are out of hand.  society is out of hand.  consumerism is out of hand.  war is a losing proposition.  our planet is dying.  our neighbours are dying.  we are dying.  but worse, the possibility is dying for our children and grandchildren to live in a human world that we might recognize and mindfully choose for them, where the opportunity to turn away from our own needs deepens into a reservoir of humanity symphonic with empathy and compassion, steeped in mindfulness.  this is the other side to being human, the other possibility that is collateral to our being, but which necessitates mindfulness and work, and which requires us in each dilemma to turn away from personal greed.

what do you deserve?  ask yourself that.  what does your neighbour deserve?  and who is not your neighbour?

now ask, what do you need?  what do you really need?

and then ask, what are you living for?

we are a pinprick in history.  what is our time?  you and I make this time.  what is it that we are making?

I am greatly distressed by the state the world.  I mean this by looking at the world.  and I mean this by looking at the crowds.  and I mean this by looking at myself.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

sunday august 25th, i slept late hearing the mennonite wagons from my upstairs bedroom through broken sleep travel down the street toward their gathering for church, and then i awoke, and then i ran

i want to know it now but i can't know it any longer.  i mourn this, knowing that this forgetfulness is a part of what allows us to exist.

i ran out of town today, past the convenience store worker smoking on the stoop (hi kathy), past the campers fleeing, past the carnival and the empty cups (and condoms, perhaps not so empty) upon the ground abandoned, toward the storm.  and then into it.  the road itself vibrated as though it were the breastplate of Thunder.  my body was electrical with aftershocks as the storm raged all around and pushed closer, no possibility of ever knowing the center of the storm unless retrospectively.  who can know what is about to happen?

i only strike these letters to the page now so that i might remember the event.  i could not see, the rain was so hard.  in the beginning, under the weight of it i could barely breathe, until i wiped my face several times to no effect and then learned to breathe through it.  i knew with each lightning strike the possibility.  and i did not care.  did not care.  could not care.  what this body is, this body will become well beyond my caring.

feet regular and deep to the immediate standing water.  the river.  the swamps.  the forest.  and then back down the road past the river again, the graveyard, and off and into the park.  being.

my whole face kissing the reinvigorated moss.  my face deep inside the new green of the carpet of moss which is perhaps decades old. and kissing.  knowing i am nothing.  knowing my unimportance.  knowing how much and for how long i have loved this moss.  and knowing it doesn't matter.

at the birch bark girl i bent and knelt and found her parts, now four.  i asked while kissing her first part, do you miss your whole body?  of course she did not answer.  oh, i said.  that is how it is.  ok.  knowing that at a certain point, even for those of us who can think, it is what will become beyond our thinking, a great equanimity of simply being.  i thought of my body hit by lightning, curled for a direct moment in pain and then all pain ceasing.  i would then truly be the birch bark's sister, not the distant cousin turned lover i have been for these last years.

and then the slender girl arched over the other trees fallen and broken.  i ran my mouth along her torso wishing i knew how to make music.  i would like to write a song for her, a symphony, for her and for the birch bark girl and the moss.  how i wish my love for them could become something.

and then feet regular and deep again to the standing water.  on i went into some self possessed calmness, broken only by the breaking of the storm.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

holding deadwood

this pink quilt my grandmother stitched wears paper thin near its top
where my fingers have curled over its edges and strained for decades
but remains solid and thick at its bottom where it has rested on my feet.
she put crocodile toothed edges at the sides and the bottom of it,  
an informative scalloping, to denote up from down.

how many more pulls might it sustain on its assigned hinges to comfort my body?

one day we'll all be lucky enough to lose all that we think we have
and then know the wealth that we hold in our already empty hands.
it's not the quilt that comforts me.  it is my grandmother's corpulent arms,
now turned maggot meal, fat flags once wagging, while she winked at me
and cheated at gin rummy, my body warmed throughout in conspiracy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

between void and being, the ruptured rapture

outside the bract separates to allow the head of the chive, which today is heavy with the pregnancy of rain in the air 
inside i sit looking out the window, the cuff on the leg of my shorts open, my lips narrowly parted further up and inside

something somewhere in the world engorges
something somewhere else readies itself to erupt

Monday, August 19, 2013

on the beach

i hold a tiny shell.  what has more meaning?  what has less?  the children talk nonsense into the sand, remembering brave stories that never happened.  the little boy with us that was little when my children were little and who will always be the smallest, says to my daughter who balks saucily, i was born before you!  balks back, well, i was born after you and so you'll die before me!  we all love each other.  summer yawns and turns into fall in a splinter.
who sunk this engine beneath my belly?
master mechanic, you make gauges of my soul

Friday, August 16, 2013

under the tutelage of teachers

the student wanted to know, why the rose?

if you say:
Katherine's chestnut hair smells like my fresh hands from the river,
is this more than the rose trembling upon daybreak?
if you say:
the boy with the cherry dimples and the dusty jeans dies,
is this more than the rose indifferent at the sun's zenith?
perhaps Katherine, with her lovely hair, has saved you in the slot of your life.
perhaps the boy with the cherry dimples is hit by the horse meant for you.

but the rose, the rose saves us all.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

an incomplete translation, is curved

is answerable only by
is light off of
is light
is black
is four footed, no footed, ephemeral
is variable
is plenitude
is void
is idea
is impossible
yet is

10 facts about grasshoppers

1.  eating pink clover is like eating green beans but with a
   different consistency

2.  wind is difficult to imagine without trees or sand

3.  no matter how hard i try i have too much food  
   (see me lost in the country eating from ditches!)
  b) and i have too much being in this body

4.  longing

5.  winter has me imagining all seasons

6.  the fields are lovely in the way that this body exists yet
   doesn't have to

7.  ecstasy

8.  amongst the family Asteraceae

9.  that sound?
in cases such as with lichens, the debate between a mutualistic relationship and a controlled parasitism (between the mycobiont and the photobiont) is a case of semantics. who enslaves who, if both, because of the relationship, are permitted to exist?

thank you for this flawed body.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


are there always words? 

if you feel it in the shelf beneath your ribs, you know the place, where there's a hollowness that sprouts dark weeds, you know the place that wants to live, if you feel it there, are there always words?

your sweet face, my god, your sweet face. 

once on a dirt poor street, no - road, no - cut through the land, a place where vehicles went, no - barely moving machines with men, long haired and no teeth, maybe carrying the machines with their will, but once on a road, no - place, a woman with skin like black story rent, the underside of leathered time, held my hand.  are there always words?

the ocean is a land, the land an ocean and i am lost in this shape.  this shape is the shape of the ocean is the land is the water is my hand.  and are there always words?

a storm of birds in my gut,  a rage of fire in my mind, 16 thistles in my legs - do you understand?

a stout child with stomping feet, a woman screeching her ecstasy, the willow of the man killing the beast, are there always words?

if there are find me.  if there are save me.  if there are call my name.

but i've no ears.  i've no mind.  i've only this forgotten place, two dozen buildings scourged, half-demolished by the bomb, a maimed cat on the floor, a dead bird two feet away.  are there always words?

if there are find me.  if there are grab my hand.  if there are sing the song that is your sweet face,  my god, your sweet face, my god, your sweet face.

Monday, August 12, 2013

letter to my body after it carries me through a run today, august 12, 2013

dear body:

i promise to feed you apples, stretch, and cut your toe nails.

the how of it

how the mother counts her baby's fingers and toes with her fingers and mind
numbers are irrelevant
but how the mother touches her baby's fingers with her mothering fingers
how the mother touches the baby's toes with her mothering fingers, heart and mind
the mother -
the baby -
the distance between them
how it wounds the mother to not be able to climb inside the baby
and shower the inside of its ribcage and liver with kisses
how the baby cries and cries to not know that the mother will bring her breast to its mouth
as long as the mother has a breast and the baby has a mouth
how the man who made them both who is not a man
sits outside them
in the corner
unable to hold his unface in his unhands

Sunday, August 11, 2013

letter to the lover, 2011

a stone stands
on an empty beach
it has a shadow
to know i will never be held by you
and yet love you
is that bravery?
my heart is not brave
but my heart stands like a stone
and has a shadow

Saturday, August 10, 2013

it still happens this way

We knew it was going to be bad.  We knew it when the storm blew up but we knew it before that too, when Aunt Irene's back got bad and she bent low over the stove but not complaining.  More like a weed in the wind, that woman.  A human barometer.  You can plant by her. 

If you can plant by her body-clock then you can bloody well reap by her, as well.

It was 18 hours into it.  If we normally had washboard red faces you'd have understood what the white paste of our skin was foretelling.  It was then she arrived, two black mannish boots through the blowing field of snow, more inhospitable than white could ever tell you; the black more inhospitable too.  When she was inside our door she stood a moment with her feet planted a foot apart.  You'd never have known what was between her legs, cock, cunt or both, or something entirely different.  She had to stand wide to accommodate whatever it was.

Ok now, she said, unshielding her hands from the clumps of frozen mitten,  Let's get this done with.  There'll be plenty of work to do once this blows over. 

No one knew which storm she referred to but no one was dumb enough to ask.

Over Stacey's limp body she said, Wake up girl and do your work

Stacey only whimpered in reply.  She was fading. 

There's no time for this, the old woman clapped.  You think it was pretty how it got in there? 

Stacey only rolled her once pretty eyes in her head, I'm sure not hearing anything but the wind. 

It was ugly.  It's all ugly.  Now let's get it out so that we can begin.

It was the bulk of another hour before the door blew open, the storm shouldering its way right inside beside us.  No one thought one pretty word, not even when the baby surfaced.
i have become corrupted
the ordinary world is no longer ordinary
it is the stage on which the clowns honk their bright red noses
and swipe their pricks for payment and pleasure
i am distant from it
the fat woman laughs and laughs her blue carcinogenic tongue out
while i wade in the river of fireflies
clearly mad, counting eternity

Friday, August 9, 2013

where did love begin?
where the idea of the stone cast met the sea

certainly long before it had a harbour even in me

i need to touch beautiful things
like fern,
like dead possum feet

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

arriving in the city

I am 30 seconds out of my car in the new city,
An hour away from our go nowhere town,
My blood red Valentini's shined to a deceiving sheen,
(Got 'em for two bucks at a yard sale)
And he's on me, jonsing, cheeks thin, calf's skull,
Bony hips like a hanger holding up his shorts.
You got a pecker in there? I wonder.
You use it?  You love?
His hand reckless in a give and take motion,
Mostly open, mostly taking.
"Air for my tire?" he asks, straddling a bike.
Tire flat - yup.  His?
All apology but barely feigning it.
"Sure," I say, digging deep for the dollar.
"What goes around comes around, right?"
"You said it good, sister," he says,
Anxious over his shoulder into the
otherwise empty Goodwill parking lot.
Some hottie walking by, accelerated,
Eyelids skeetched purple, lips flared,
"Pump up mine at the same time, will ya?"
Some shared dialectic I'm not supposed to be onto.
Does he realize any irony?  Does he care?
I drive an hour to spend my grocery money
on 2 X round clothes for my kids back to school.

His bike works fast enough to get him out of there -
I don't notice his leaving.

Later, back in my car I lock my doors.
everything i say after now
(and that bit before, as in: my whole lifetime
is my death note
written while still alive

alice shops for plums in the reisterdam market

yes, folks, here she is, arriving, clear plastic handkerchief tied around her brittle hair.  mostly greying now, folks, once brown, perhaps we could even say russet and be right, but now grey.  yes.  it appears so.  small beads of water on the surface of the plastic sheathing her head.  protection.  kindly and warmly we think of her.  she is protecting her grey and brittle hair.  from what?  the rain, folks.  she protects herself from the rain.  don't we feel matronly about her even though she is our elder?  see her cuff, her purple house dress exposed beneath her overcoat?  she cinches the waist of her overcoat dramatically.  actually, she cinches it under-dramatically or beyond the scope of dramatics, a necessary extra pulling over her thin bones, but it seems dramatic in that we see through the tightening an underscoring of her withering away, the dramatics belonging to our interpretation only, not to her gesture.  she is merely an old woman handling fruit.  the fruit's skin, the fruit she prefers, is perk, tight, almost ribald as luxury up against the staining and sagging of the spotted skin holding together the bones of her hands.  but this plucks at our hearts again, doesn't it, every juxtaposition?  what does her mind strain at with each plum in her fist?  what is it that she is measuring?  everyone's measurements are made of weights that their own personal stories have created.  we can not know and she barely remembers, certainly not with accuracy.  perhaps the fruit she chooses would not be the fruit you or i would choose.  alice puts four plums into her basket and then hovers for a moment in a learned kind of mathematics, apparently thinking, then putting one back, recognizing that she has too many.  what on earth does one woman need to consume to endure?  alice has more of an idea of this than any other for all of her years of failing, for all of her years of starving or chucking stinking fruit out the backdoor to the earthen patch in the courtyard beyond the fence.  alice, three plums, 68 $ maderas.  alice will eat her plums alone at her kitchen table, the light streaming from her window holy but unholdable, casting past her face but over her working mandible, shadowing her neck, and falling finally against the stuccoed wall.  alice's life?  there is not enough time to retell it, not even to properly tell of the one occurrence of her consumption of one of three common but precious plums.

now, folks, look in the mirror.  be amazed.  be alarmed if you must.  alice is suddenly, always, you.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

there's a clue in the air that life is lesser or more'n

mama bathes the rosy cheeked cherub
father throws him in the air
mama culls the chickens
papa skulks stealthily down the stair
great grandma Marybeth and her clacking teeth
the workhorse Blue and the nettles on his flanks he can't undo
fourteen cousins with their shiny shoes
springtime they come a-calling
great papa Dean dead, dense, a well knit bundle
on the counter the fresh pie's cooling
out the window
a blackbird singing
fingers, eyelids
fine pressed amber light through pink skin

Sunday, August 4, 2013

meeting a kind of japanese aesthetic on my kitchen floor

my children's lips are miracles, pantheistic marvels, cherry blossoms.  they put them to the edge of small glass tumblers and smile over the edge drinking nectar of peach juice, milk or water.  my heart shatters in its sweet way of being within the dynamic resonance of such awesome ordinary gestures.  all of everything i've been or known converges here at their lips.  things slip over the threshold in both directions.

this morning the cat's sinuous body, lengthy black-like letters hump-typed upon a page by an old cantankerous typewriter, jumps between the curiosity of the kitchen window and the utilitarian blessed useful nature of the cold tiled floor, knocking a sacred tumbler covered in red dots of happy cherries and a scroll of green vine along its ridge, to its surface.  the tumbler shatters.  it all shatters.  and everything opens up around it as though its brokenness mates its being.  my breath catches.  i am happy in the shadow of the word happy, not quite happy at all, but pregnant, and present.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

what is it?

for all the guessing in the world
for all the knowing
your name, your height, your eye colour
when and where you were born
even if: when and where you will die
but the taste of your mouth?
what it means behind the thousand tinctures of your face?
your eye that one time and then your eye that other?

there was a sound behind us in the dark
something slight delicately rustling fabric
when we flashed the light
it was unbelievably but real, a bear
i couldn't move
i didn't know yet what i knew

reality is not reality until reality becomes
and even then-