Wednesday, November 16, 2016

when the cities lie at the monster's feet

Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire,
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught – they say – God, when he walked on earth.

Robinson Jeffers

As Donald Trump proceeds with the putrefaction of American life, installing White Nationalist propagandists in the White House, we look for sanctuary. Here it is
--- rock and water, sky and poetry. These things are not eternal. They are not much at all, compared with the stars. But they will easily outlast any vulgar, bigoted con-man.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

thinking of winter

To Wish Not to Move

Mid-winter is no time, unhousing him.
Is it despair he wants in February,
a distance from the floral throb he dreads?
The freezing lake where water at the edge
of ice is colder, more improverished,
than ice. These raw, uneasy clouds, iron-gray,
spit-pale, pearlescent half-shine of burn scars
in the ache of heatless sun that penetrates.
Wind drags a thinning scrim of last night's snow
across the months-old, still unbroken crust,
a sustained sibilance that sharpens or slurs
as the wind rises or slacks, and is meaningless,
not even the terse, shrieked consonants of gulls
to liven it with their bright, famished cruelty.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

chicory begins to fade

The Fifty-Second Summer

The mail is junk, as expected,
and I walk back to the house alone.
Blue chicory begins to fade
at the edge of the road, under dust.
A starved cornfield flows in the wind
like the sound of water, gathering
to rush from a dark sky,
but this sky is faded as the chicory.
In sun the heat is a weight,
the shade as dim as childhood.
I think, July.
Jarflies hammer at the locks.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

this far from the sun now

Note to Erin on Some Details of the World

It is still cool, and the breeze smells like rain.  
The aroma of the wild roses is, in sheltered places, 
as thick and sweet as some pink fluid coating 

my throat, with a faint fraction of decay, at the verge 
between almost too much and more, please.
As I come to the best raspberries, a deer crashes off 

into the shadows. I don't think they eat raspberries; 
it just happened to be there. I sit above the waterfall, 
and light comes down through openings 

in the leaves, reflects off ripples in the pool, 
and back up, onto the leaves' ribbed undersides, 
this far from the sun now, pulsing like pale banked embers. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016


o păpădie pentru andreea

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Death of Dido (some lines of Virgil)

Henry Fuseli
The Death of Dido, 1781

The Death of Dido

Aeneid IV, 692 - 705

…. she searched the sky for light, and moaned to find it.
Then mighty Juno, for pity on long pain
and a hard-dying soul, sent Iris to unbind her
from the struggle in her knotted limbs, insane
with grief, burning with grief before her hour.
And since this was no deserved or fated death,
Proserpina had not yet snipped a lock of yellow hair
nor assigned the queen to her station beneath.
Thus, dewy, saffron-winged Iris, trailing a rush
of colors opposite the sun, across the sky,
alights by Dido's head. “I will sanctify
this token to Dis and loose you from your flesh,”
she speaks, and grips and shears a tress. And here ---
warmth ebbs to nothing, life fades and thins to air.

N.B.: It's a strange little thing. I've made a sonnet where there is no sonnet in the original, nor even rhyme, but the lines seemed to sort themselves into that form naturally. Dido, queen of Carthage, abandoned by her lover, Aeneas, has thrust a dagger into her chest and is dying slowly and in agony. "Before sacrifice, a few hairs were plucked from the forehead of the victim, and as the dying were regarded as sacrifices to the nether gods, a similar custom was observed in their case" [from the Loeb edition of Virgil]. Iris is a personification of the rainbow and a messenger of the gods. Dis is an alternate name for Pluto, or Hades, god of the Underworld, and Proserpina is his queen.

Friday, April 8, 2016

two poems by George Bacovia

(my translations)


A wailing of omens against the panes to say
Winter leaden on the world like a stone ---
“Crows!" I told myself and sighed, alone,
And now on the horizon heavy as lead,
It snows gray.

Like the horizon, my mood is dark as the day …
The wildest, loneliest of all this world.
--- With a feather, I sweep the hearth grown cold …
And on the horizon heavy as lead,
It snows gray.


Plâns de cobe pe la geamuri se opri,
Şi pe lume plumb de iarnă s-a lăsat;
I-auzi corbii! ― mi-am zis singur... şi-am oftat,
Iar în zarea grea de plumb,
Ninge gri.

Ca şi zarea, gândul meu se înnegri...
Şi de lume tot mai singur, mai barbar,
― Trist, cu-o pană mătur vatra, solitar...
Iar în zarea grea de plumb,
Ninge gri.


Deeply asleep the coffins of lead,
And leaden flowers and charnel shroud ---
I stood alone in the vault … The wind was loud,
Screaking in the wreaths of lead.

Upturned, slept my beloved of lead,
On leaden flowers, and I began my grief,
Alone by her corpse, cold without relief,
And the drooping wings wrought in lead.

Dormeau adânc sicriele de plumb,
Şi flori de plumb şi funerar vestmânt
― Stam singur în cavou... şi era vânt...
Şi scârţâiau coroanele de plumb.

Dormea întors amorul meu de plumb
Pe flori de plumb... şi-am început să-l strig
― Stam singur lângă mort... şi era frig...
Şi-i atârnau aripile de plumb.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

alternating snow and sun

Note to Erin on Beeches and Arvo Pärt

Remember that day driving at winter's end,
when flakes of the last snow were starting to fall,
and we stopped the car before a scruffy hill
where sapling beeches line the rutted road?
Those pale-copper, persistent leaves gather light
and hold it, never falling, stubborn,
as if they render brightness from the air.
“Für Alina” was our music that day,
the distinct notes clinging, aching to be notes,
then lasting, fading slowly, radiant.
Today, hundreds of miles from you, I walked
among beeches, when hard, stingy pellets of snow
shushed on the unthawed spring ground,
and despite the clouds' argument for darkness,
wind licked gleams from the edges of beech leaves.
I wondered who Alina was. I thought of you. That's all.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

moving in spring (catullus XLVI)

Loblolly Marsh, Bryant, Indiana.


Now spring brings back thawed breezes,
now the fury of the sky at winter's end
quietens into the zephyr's refreshing airs.
Let Phrygian fields lie behind, Catullus,
and sweltering Nicaea's rich plowland:
let's flee to the sumptuous cities of Asia.
Now my palpitant mind longs to wander;
my feet, joyous with zeal, are itching to run.
--- Fare well, you sweet band of my comrades,
all of us far afield and striking out at once,
whom diverging roads will carry home.

(my translation)

NB: Catullus spent the winter of 56 BCE in Bithynia, on the northern coast of Turkey. He hated it. For one thing, the climate was awful --- frigid in the winter and deadly hot in summer (nothing like northern Italy!). In the spring he was able to leave, he and the friends who had spent the winter there with him, all going by different routes, but all headed back to Rome. Note, too, that when Catullus mentions Asia, he means the west coast of Turkey. From Phrygia, in central Anatolia, he will be heading west toward the "cities of Asia" and Rome.

Monday, February 15, 2016

after the first snowfall

După prima ninsoare

Cine ar putea să citească
o caligrafie atât de străină,

linii de creion încurcate,
noduri de dantelă pe zăpadă?

--- Acolo cioara a dispărut după un copac.
Aici s-a întors.

--Iacob Roşcat

After the first snowfall

Who might learn to read
such foreign caligraphy,

tangled pencil scrawl,
knots of lace on snow?

--- There the crow disappeared behind a tree.
Here it came back.

(my translation)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

what the light taught yesterday

In winter, in the hour
when the sun runs liquid then freezes,
caught in the mantilla of empty trees;
when my heart listens
through the cold sethoscope of fear,
your voice in my head reminds me
what the light teaches.

--Anne Michaels
from What the Light Teaches

Saturday, January 16, 2016

new book

... et mentem mortalia tangunt

Get it here or here.

Salmon Run, Kagawong, Ontario, 2013


We decided not to have a child
and now walk together beside this teeming.
Cold pries flushed leaves from the maples
above water heaving with flesh.
I want my wife's breasts. She undoes a button
and folds my hands into the warmth under her clothes,
and I waver near regret, never knowing if the choice
was wisdom or cowardice, unwilling to risk chaos,
unwilling to pay the time --- our melancholy,
grown-up caution before the violence of desire.
But I touch her and tell myself I know our child,
curled hank of vein and bone swimming through her
that would have knotted
our temporary blood to this falling and surge.


I have never seen this before:
the traveled fish thrash uphill,
stubborn as hammered spikes,

hovering to rest
in the lucid pools, then bursting out,
tails beating the ice-water

over ruffling shoals,
urgent toward reproduction
and death. When one loses

its grip on the water, the current
sweeps it far back, until it catches
somehow and climbs again,

each a thick, single-minded
sleeve of flesh pulsing
like a horse's thigh muscle.

The untiring, convulsive salmon
whip themselves above
the slick, algae-green stones,

against the also stubborn
invisible current, yellow-
black ripples of shimmer and

thrust --- or, each a fist
clenched on roe or milt,
they punch a tunnel through water

to quiet where they will gasp
and drop their milky heat
into the dangerous chill of this world.