I wanted so ably
to reassure you, I wanted
the man you took to be me,
to comfort you, and got
up, and went to the window,
pushed back, as you asked me to,
the curtain, to see
the outline of the trees
in the night outside.
The light, love,
the light we felt then,
greyly, was it, that
came in, on us, not
merely my hands or yours,
or a wetness so comfortable,
but in the dark then
as you slept, the grey
figure came so close
and leaned over,
between us, as you
slept, restless, and
my own face had to
see it, and be seen by it,
the man it was, your
grey lost tired bewildered
brother, unusued, untaken-
hated by love, and dead,
but not dead, for an
instant, saw me, myself
the intruder, as he was not.
I tried to say, it is
all right, she is
happy, you are no longer
needed. I said,
he is dead, and he
went as you shifted
and woke, at first afraid,
then knew by my own knowing
what had happened -
and the light then
of the sun coming
for another morning
in the world.
The Animal Spell
Someone once told me that animals are people under spells, and if you fall in love
with them the spell will be lifted. I recently fell in love with a black trumpeter swan. I
watched her ruffle her neck feathers for hours, watched her peck bugs from her
breast. I was sure she would make a beautiful bride, but she was always a black
trumpeter swan. I once brushed a horse’s hair for 3 straight years until it crumpled
into death. The truth is there is no such thing as spells. The world is always as it is,
and always as it seems. And love is just our own kind voice that we whisper into our
- Zachary Schomburg
84. In a maiden’s words no one should place faith, nor in what a woman says; for on a turning wheel have their hearts been formed, and guile in their breasts been laid;
90. Such is the love of women, who falsehood mediate, as if one drove not roughshod, on slippery ice, a spirited two-years old and unbroken horse; or as in a raging storm a helmless ship is beaten; or as if the halt were set to catch a reindeer in the thawing fell.
- The Poetic Edda
They bade me dwell in a wooded grove,
under an oak-tree, in this earth-cave.
Old this earth-hall; I all longing filled;
dales are dim, hills high,
cities choked with bitter briars,
dwellings joyless. Here I am full oft beset
by my lord’s going. Friends there are on earth,
lovers living, who lie abed,
when I, at daybreak, walk alone,
under oak-trees, through these earth-caves.
There must I sit the summer’s day long,
where my exile-ways I mourn,
my many woes, for I never can
my careworn self compose.
nor all the longing in me that this life begat.
Ever shall that youth be sad of mood,
pained his brooding heart; he shall sustain,
besides a cheerful mien, breast-cares as well,
endure incessant griefs; let him depend upon himself
for all his worldly joy. Let him be cast adrift,
afar in a distant land, that he, my friend, may sit
neath stony slopes, by storms berimed,
my evil-minded comrade, water drenched
in drear dwelling. My comrade will endure
great grief; too often he will think
upon a happier home. Woe is it to him
who out of longing must abide love.
- from “The Wife’s Lament,” Seven Anglo-Saxon Elegies, trans. Louis Rodrigues
"A poem has nothing to recount, nothing to say; what it recounts and says is that from which it wrenches away as a poem. If we speak of ‘poetic emotion’- we must think of its cognate emoi, whose etymology indicates the absence or deprivation of strength.”
- Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe, Poetry as Experience: Two Poems by Paul Celan
Each fall this town empties, leaving me
drained, standing on the dock, waving bye-
bye, the white handkerchief
stuck in my throat. You know the way Jesus
rips open his shirt
to show us his heart, all flaming & thorny,
the way he points to it. I’m afraid
the way I miss you
will be this obvious. I have
a friend who everyone warns me
is dangerous, he hides
bloody images of Jesus around my house
for me to find when I come home - Jesus
behind the cupboard door, Jesus tucked
into the mirror. He wants to save me
but we disagree from what. My version of hell
is someone ripping open his
shirt & saying
look what I did for you.
- Nick Flynn
After the funeral we all took up hobbies. One of us would call
another of us and say My cereal tastes funny does your cereal taste funny?
and then we would all agree or disagree about whether the cereal
was poison from China and some of us had children with whom we were
Don’t even play with me, some of us would say.
Others of us would remain alone, alone, and would stand in our kitchens,
hungry after a long day of being alive and would not be eating,
but would instead be writing poems that had to be written: Oh, Allison…
I was trying to record all of this with my camera.
When Allison left she was attached to a string that now pulled
many of our faces down in new ways, Oh Allison.
One of us was baptized at the YMCA and was given a new name that Allison
would have laughed at. Another of us also inched closer to religion,
lining his bird’s cage with scientology bulletins.
I don’t see spots, I see pulsating stripes,
one of us said on the phone with another. What does it mean
to not hear the alarm clock anymore? I asked her.
It’s 7:30, the one of us who was in bed with me
would sometimes helpfully say.
Those eggs are expired you don’t want to eat those, I would say to the one of us
who could smell nothing but disinfectant these days.
I wrote in a letter that day
that we were not the body of Christ,
but we were some kind of body.
Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station. (via insomnius)
Had you died when we were together
I would have wanted nothing of you.
Now I think of you as dead, it is better.
Often, in the cool early evenings of the spring
when, with the first leaves,
all that is deadly enters the world,
I built a fire for us of pine and apple wood;
the flames flare and diminish
as the night comes on in which
we see one another so clearly -
And in the days we are contented
in the long grass,
in the woods’ green doors and shadows.
And you never say
since the dead do not like being alone.
I don’t know somehow it seems sufficient
to see and hear whatever coming and going is,
losing the self to the victory
of stones and trees,
of bending sandpit lakes, crescent
round groves of dwarf pine:
for it is not so much to know the self
as to know it as it is known
by galaxy and cedar cone,
as if birth had never found it
and death could never end it:
the swamp’s slow water comes
down Gravelly Run fanning the long
hair and narrowing roils between
the shoulders of the highway bridge:
holly grows on the banks in the woods there,
and the cedars’ gothic-clustered
spires could make
green religion in winter bones: so I
look and reflect, but the air’s glass
jail seals each thing in its entity:
no use to make any philosophies here:
I see no
god in the holly, hear no song from
the snowbroken weeds: Hegel is not the winter
yellow in the pines: the sunlight has never
heard of trees: surrendered self among
unwelcoming forms: stranger,
hoist your burdens, get on down the road.
- A. R. Ammons
When human beings found out about death
They sent the dog to Chukwu with a message:
They wanted to be let back to the house of life.
They didn’t want to end up lost forever
Like burnt wood disappearing into smoke
Or ashes that get blown away to nothing.
Instead, they saw their souls in a flock at twilight
Cawing and headed back for the same old roosts
And the same bright airs and wing-stretchings each morning.
Death would be like a night spent in the wood:
At first light they’d be back in the house of life.
(The dog was meant to tell all this to Chukwu.)
But death and human beings took second place
When he trotted off the path and started barking
At another dog in broad daylight just barking
Back at him from the far bank of a river.
And that is how the toad reached Chukwu first,
The toad who’d overheard in the beginning
What the dog was meant to tell. “Human beings,” he said
(And here the toad was trusted absolutely),
"Human beings want death to last forever."
Then Chukwu saw the people’s souls in birds
Coming toward him like black spots off the sunset
To a place where there would be neither roosts nor trees
Nor any way back to the house of life.
And his mind reddened and darkened all at once
And nothing that the dog would tell him later
Could change that vision. Great chiefs and great loves
In obliterated light, the toad in mud,
The dog crying out all night behind the corpse house.
- Seamus Heaney
"Born in a caul, you were promised wealth, health, fool’s luck, and bird’s milk. In truth, you had dragged the caul with you because you knew what misery and need awaited outside."
- Valzhyna Mort