Sunday, September 17, 2006

Poetry Month 2

Another weekend, another couple of days spent drowning in poetry. Some selections:

Elegy for Joseph Brodsky

In plain speech, for the sweetness
between the lines is no longer important,
what you call immigration I call suicide.
I am sending, behind the punctuation,
unfurling nights of New York, avenues
slipping into Cyrillic -
winter coils words, throws snow on a wind.
You, in the middle of an unwritten sentence, stop,
exile to a place further than silence.

I left your Russia for good, poems sewn into my pillow
rushing towards my own training
to live with your lines
on a verge of a story set against itself.
To live with your lines, those where sails rise, waves
beat against the city's granite in each vowel, -
pages open by themselves, a quiet voice
speaks of suffering, of water.

We come back to where we have committed a crime,
we don't come back to where we loved, you said;
your poems are wolves nourishing us with their milk.
I tried to imitate you for two years. It feels like burning
and singing about burning. I stand
as if someone spat at me.
You would be ashamed of these wooden lines,
how I don't imagine your death
but it is here, setting my hands on fire.
- Ilya Kaminsky from Dancing in Odessa


For once in her short life, singing

Each time I keep it simple, sort of innocent
if by innocent you mean it never happened -
the club's owner a friend of her father's,
the patrons part-family and part-regulars,
though mostly the latter. At 9:30, waiter
catch meaning in the ruins of ashtrays
and glasses seem to challenge girls
with their clinking, and everyone talks
as if they knew exactly where they were.
Back in her dressing room, I sit with her
while she impatiently goes over the lyrics,
studying this or that page as if trying
to pin down what the taste from her cigarette
reminds her of, and getting no further
than deciding I shouldn't be here,
yet softening her left cheek as I kiss her
and leave. Few have heard her before,
and no one will know if she cuts her set short
or whether she's good enough to be
invited back, though she will never be
invited back. But every table is taken,
and from the rear I always imagine
the moment the lights go, and the way
they take voices with them, even the ones
who say they'll return. And now it's just her,
which means a single light on her face,
and a voice that isn't sure how much she wants this;
doesn't know how long I want it to go on.
- David Petruzelli, from Everyone Coming Towards You


The Weight of the Inside of the Body

It is a good thing to be in the vestibule.
The draft from the front door,
the hall lamp hanging from the ceiling, unlit,
the mind before it enters the house
of tenuous relationship, of starting,
of settling, of keeping still.
- Saskia Hamilton, from Divide These


Swing Time

Ten crazy minutes when it almost worked:
from bedtime crackers, Sam and I segued
to playing, singing terse Cole Porter songs
(Cole smiling cross-legged on the frontispiece,
queer and dapper; married, as I am),
and Ben, who can't bear eighth notes poorly swung -
an amateur musician, nearly pro -
laid off his book and sat down at the keys.
I swept and scooped our son across the floor
while gender-bending lyrics, sotto voiced.
Then Ben stopped playing, taught me how to lead
left foot, right foot, til our feet agreed,
"Night and Day", "I Happen To Like New York."

- Jenny Factor, from Unraveling at the Name


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2 comments:

Space Bar said...

oh wow.

did you find all these in the same place? different collections?

what i like best is that there's no one line you can pick above the rest to like (although there's plenty i can find if i put my mind to it). what is remarkable is the way in which each poem is whole and entire of itself, complete yet spare.

inuit said...

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