Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Catherine Parman: A Coelacanth Duo

This is a composition by my friend Catherine for voice and indefinite pitch instruments (pot lids on a string, empty water bottles, and kalimba), performed by myself and her man-friend Kirk.

Download A Cœlacanth Duo

Monday, April 20, 2009

mistal crevasse
filled the sky

the barometer is falling
and les mains

c'est tout!

7 feet of dagger piercing the floor
while dad talks

Friday, April 17, 2009

David Berman


Walking through a field with my little brother Seth

I pointed to a place where kids had made angels in the snow.
For some reason, I told him that a troop of angels
had been shot and dissolved when they hit the ground.

He asked who had shot them and I said a farmer.

Then we were on the roof of the lake.
The ice looked like a photograph of water.

Why he asked. Why did he shoot them.

I didn't know where I was going with this.

They were on his property, I said.

When it's snowing, the outdoors seem like a room.

Today I traded hellos with my neighbor.
Our voices hung close in the new acoustics.
A room with the walls blasted to shreds and falling.

We returned to our shoveling, working side by side in silence.

But why were they on his property, he asked.

from Actual Air, Open City Books, New York (1999)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yusef Komunyakaa

Facing It

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

From Dien Cai Dau (1988) Wesleyan University Press

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Charles Reznikoff

Te Deum

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

From The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff

Friday, April 10, 2009

James Tate

Restless Leg Syndrome

After the burial
we returned to our units
and assumed our poses.
Our posture was the new posture
and not the old sick posture.
When we left our stations
it was just to prove we could,
not a serious departure
or a search for yet another beginning.
We were done with all that.
We were settled in, as they say,
though it might have been otherwise.
What a story!
After the burial we returned to our units
and here is where I am experiencing
that lag kicking syndrome thing.
My leg, for no apparent reason,
flies around the room kicking stuff,
well, whatever is in its way,
like a screen or a watering can.
Those are just two examples
and indeed I could give many more.
I could construct a catalogue
of the things it kicks,
perhaps I will do that later.
We'll just have to see if it's really wanted.
Or I could do a little now
and then return to listing later.
It kicked the scrimshaw collection,
yes it did. It kicked the ocelot,
which was rude and uncalled for,
and yes hurtful. It kicked
the guacamole right out of its bowl,
which made for a grubby
and potentially dangerous workplace.
I was out testing the new speed bump
when it kicked the Viscountess,
which she probably deserved,
and I was happy, needless to say,
to not be a witness.
The kicking subsided for a while,
nobody was keeping track of time
at that time so it is impossible
to fill out the forms accurately.
Suffice it to say we remained
at our units on constant alert.
And then it kicked over the little cow town
we had set up for punching and that sort of thing,
a covered wagon filled with cover girls.
But now it was kicked over
and we had a moment of silence,
but it was clear to me
that many of our minions
were getting tetchy
and some of them were getting tetchier.
And then it kicked a particularly treasured snuff box
which, legend has it, once belonged to somebody
named Bob Mackey, so we were understandably
saddened and returned to our units rather weary.
No one seemed to think I was in the least bit culpable.
It was my leg, of course, that was doing the actual kicking,
of that I am almost certain.
At any rate, we decided to bury it.
After the burial we returned to our units
and assumed our poses.
A little bit of time passed, not much,
and then John's leg started acting suspicious.
It looked like it wanted to kick the replica
of the White House we keep on hand
just for situations such as this.
And then, sure enough, it did.
from Shroud of the Gnome (Harper Collins 1997)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

John Ashbery

From China To Peru

I was taunted for wearing a dark woolen suit to the occasion, or "affair," though most of the others were similarly dressed, including my tormentor. True, it was autumn and darkness had fallen quite early, though there was a sultriness like that of summer in the air. I would have been happy to change into something lighter, both as to weight and color-something "natural." But there was no time, or place, in addition to the lack of suitable attire, if that's what it would have been, since the mass of dark clothes had taken on a kind of accusatory mien. Men who looked as though they were about to go off on safari or had just returned from one were downing Jell-O shots. To do this it seemed to be necessary to walk backward to a corner of the room shrouded in potted palms, then lurch ataxically toward the bar where the required drink was presented silently and as silently consumed. Sometimes one could hear the soft, laughing chatter of little girls in the distance (what distance? the room was fairly small), which seemed like applause for an act performed several minutes ago. It was unnerving-like a circus. I understood the meaning of the phrase "three-ring circus"-something where you see only a partial are of several events, segments that are supposed to add up to something much less than the sum of their parts, something purposely deficient in meaning. I was thirsty for the cocktail hour that would undoubtedly follow this strange competition.

Then the unthinkable happened-it all began to break up like the first wave of a retreating tide on a rock in the sea. In less than half a minute the sea had completely withdrawn, leaving a startled landscape of reefs and crowds, fierce and bristling as the water danced away from them. These were my coevals. They were still dressed like me, or rather, I like them. A draught from an opened window crawled through the apartment, rustling papers and the leaves of plants. A sheet of newsprint slid toward me in jerks and feints-two steps forward, one step back-until finally I could read the headline: "Japan Declares War on Austro-Hungary. Siamese Ambassador Recalled."

I would have been happy with a weather report. But though some of the girls tried, there was no way of getting it to me. Full of remorse, I sank down on a footstool and soon forgot all the horror of my situation.

from Where Shall I Wander (2005 Ecco Press)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

John Ashbery

The Template

was always there, its existence seldom
questioned or suspected. The poets of the future
would avoid it, as we had. An imaginary railing
disappeared into the forest. It was here that the old gang
used to gather and swap stories. It
was like the Amazon, but on a much smaller scale.

Afterwards, when some of us swept out into the world
and could make comparisons, the fuss seems justified.
No two poets ever agreed on anything, and that amused us.
It seemed good, the clogged darkness that came every day.

from Where Shall I Wander (2005 Ecco Press)