Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday poem #54 : Rachel Blau DuPlessis : Letter 9: Dear R,

Dear R—

and here's another other alphabet.

Leap into your excess
and compound the crisis. Deepen it.
                        It’s language talking through
itself --
to the void then. In which
this all takes shape.
                        (You the tube from end to end for echoing.)

Language wants language.
It uses us. It might as well.
But agency is ours to tell.
This is an endless process
of turning inside out and reaching back:
                        alimentary, my dear R.

The whole story of creation
is a displacement (a mystification?)
from actual human fabrication. Thus
“Stolen wages built this State.”

The cadence of a slogan
helps make (make do with?)
this cross-hatched system.
For still the objects made
stare back: it is their aura
                        (which is our labor once removed)

that makes us weep
and weep surprised
until all dry of tears
but not of care.

[from Interstices. Subpress, 2014]

Rachel Blau DuPlessis [photo of the author reading at Kelly Writers House in Sept. 2013, taken by Al Filreis] is the author of the long poem Drafts. Her newest book is Surge: Drafts 96-114 (2013) from Salt <saltpublishing.com>. The first  of several "interstitial" works, Interstices is due from Subpress in 2014. Also in 2013, translations of Drafts into Italian and French were published: Dieci Bozze (trans. Morresi) from Vydia editore and Brouillons (twenty works trans. Auxeméry) from José Corti.  She is also the author of the feminist critical trilogy, The Pink Guitar, Blue Studios, and Purple Passages.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tuesday poem #53 : Susan M. Schultz : Rules of the Game:

for Radhika on her 12th birthday
September 14, 2013


Ball In and Out of Play: You were the tiny girl I couldn't see except as a hand held in your didi's hand. There in the room of the enormous wood desk and over-sized leather-bound book. You were the little girl in blue jacket and broken sandals (it was December) whose crib sat near the door of a high ceilinged room. You were the dour girl, the smelly girl, the girl who refused to smile for visa photos. The next morning you kept throwing a long-stemmed fake flower at your new brother. You never missed with either hand.


Offside: When you're young enough, there's no offside rule. A smart, immobile kid can score at will. When you're older, you dare not pull ahead of the crowd. You insisted on operating in English before you could utter more than a few words in it. On the phone with your sister, a year older, neither of you spoke the language you still remembered; the silences were all English. Second silences.


Scoring: The ball came off your left foot and curved, almost against nature, into the side of the net. You watched Bend it Like Beckham dozens of times; at first I thought it was only soccer that drew you in. Your legs and arms were scored with scabies; giardia doubled you over at dinnertime. The first bath I saw you take—Kathmandu's cityscape laid out behind you—you stood in the tub pouring warm water over your head. There was economy in your movements. Now you mark me, tell me how much everything costs.


Throw-in: In and out are metaphors, but first they tell us to stay on one side or the other of a line, then not to lift a foot, or throw to the side. You threw up at the top of a Rocky Mountain into a pink Colorado Rockies cap. It was the altitude. Now it's the attitude, all pointy and jagged, the sun's eye just glinting around rock formations. You who learned sarcasm from me are now my tuition in it.


The duration of the game complicated by stoppage time, or over-time, or penalty kicks, whose purpose is to save time. If you're in the zone, then I'm on the sidelines. If you achieve a meditative state while running the field, then I'm implicated in time's whiplash. If time stops for you, it cannot for me, your spectator, soccer mom, driver, fan. Ask not for whom time stops, it stops for free kicks and yellow cards. 


Fouls and misconduct. “Did I just see her lay that girl out?” asked the dad who could see the left corner from the midfield sideline. It's the second foul that gets caught. They were telling their players to kick us in the shins, you said after one game. I've known your narrations to be reliable and un-, to be angry and joking. I've known you to use your shoulder, but most of all your head. You hit a header in the net.


Red card. Red flag. I fell in love with Zinadine Zidane in Paris; by the time we were installed at the Hotel Ricoletos in Madrid, France was in the finals. I was in love with Zinadine Zidane until we entered the bardo of world cup soccer. Over-time. I was in love with Zinadine Zidane when—in an instant of exhaustion & pique—he head-butted Marco Matterazi in the chest. Your dad was in the crowd at the big-screen in the square. I was in the hotel. Where were you, who know what love and soccer mean?


Referees enforce the 17 laws. Maui refs enforced Maui's laws. You were laid out in the penalty area (area chica), the Makawao wind knocked out of you. No card no foul. A foul against an Oahu player on the other field turned into a penalty kick for the Maui team. To define “justice,” factor in tears of little girls, their coaches' screams. To define “justice,” consider how experience and memory alter us.


Step-over move. At game's end you analyze, say what team is good, which over-rated, what player had a good game, who will never improve. The heat in your voice diminishes. I call you Radish, your grandmother Fruit Bat, your father Jumping Bean; your brother uses a soft “a” where a hard one's needed. Rad, Radish, Radishnikov, Radhika the Destroyer. I do NOT like #46, said an opposing player beside the parking lot. She's my daughter, I say. I hear your name at school, at the mall, the grocery store. You're the one with names, and I am your mom. 


From amazon.com you can buy a Pele-autographed Limited Edition Artist Proof Lithograph (Limited 72 of 120) hand signed both by Pele and artist; Pele is the volcano goddess, the one who makes the land on which your fields are built. Waipio is near Waipahu is near Waianae. In Madrid, where Beckham played, you fell in love with a painting by “Pisaco.” We traveled to the Reina Sofia to see the real thing. Walk, take subway, walk, hike up cold stone stairs. And there she is! “Mom,” you said in a side volley, “I need to go to the bathroom.”


Nutmeg. In Mexico you sold paper towels in the bathroom of the bar where we held our readings. In Mexico you learned to love sopa Azteca or Tortilla Soup. When you were four years old and Dad said he was making tortillas for dinner, you panicked. Tortilla is our cat. The difference between a noun and a name, I thought, between a being and the word we place upon it. You are Radhika, wife of Krishna, and there's a song about you in Nepalese. Incarnation of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, fortune, and the embodiment of beauty. That's from Wikipedia; wiki means “fast” in Hawaiian.


Arsenal.  In north London, 1980, a conductor kept me on the bus, my pound notes unchangeable, because football fans were flooding the streets. My trip was all stoppage time til she had the change and I got off in the City. That was 20 years before we had our first photo of you in a red dress, before our first mother-daughter kiss, awkward as any. Yesterday, your favorite player left Real Madrid to sign with Arsenal. Mesut Özil: Turkish-German, as hyphenated as you, as me, as all of us who live between first and last whistles, before time is finally called.

Susan M. Schultz is author, most recently, of Dementia Blog volumes 1 & 2, as well as Memory Cards: 2010-2011 Series, all from Singing Horse Press. She edits and publishes Tinfish Press out of her home office in Kane`ohe, Hawai`i, and blogs here.. She teaches at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa in Honolulu. As a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, she is looking forward to another post-season of happy anxiety with her family.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Tuesday poem #52 : Paul Vermeersch : WATER

after Georges Rodenbach


Water encloses the warm wind and nothing else,
silvering where it is purified, becomes glass.

Night, brief as the shadows of a tall tree
on the sun, does more damage to the water now.

The game fish fanning their fins, willingly
captive, listen through the glass to the world,

and no wind destroys their fragile universe.
Light plunges no longer for the reeds; birds

are reflected branches; stars are the diluted
face of Ophelia, an identity we hardly suspected.

The water here swarming with monsters at war,
and gravel bearing pink anemone.


Left to sink on the river, his eyes are stigmas,
sadly immense like the mirage of a willow.

His head was taken. Is this a flax field, is this
his hair? The green water, endless, branching,

melts his last tears at the beautiful eyes, dislodged
from flesh like two anemones, hair turned green

in the aquatic weeds. The lunar window is opening.
The sky deepens like a hothouse in silence.

The water, embroidered by the passage of a fish,
becomes charcoal quickly erased. Stillborn,

the fish fades into a mist. Pale and emaciated,
its fins are already stars in the aurora.


All they heard in the mud deposits:
life has grown aquatic. The entire fleet,

lost, faces the bottom. The eyes are little
tattooed fish in the tangle of the willow,

blind fish, capsized sleepwalkers, constantly
striving to keep their abyss from rising

to the surface. Still shivering, we do not know
what we laid eyes on. Something staggers

in this water. Sometimes, it resembles
somnambulists swarmed into silence.

It feels like caves where, without knowing,
some sleeper still wanders, or flowers, or swims.

Paul Vermeersch [photo credit: Patrik Jandak] is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently The Reinvention of the Human Hand, a finalist for the Trillium Book Award.  He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph for which he received the Governor General's Gold Medal. His poetry has appeared widely in international publications. He lives in Toronto, Canada, where he is senior editor of Wolsak & Wynn Publishers Ltd.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday poem #51 : Susan Elmslie : Icarus, in Therapy

“As long as you tried your best,”
he’d say, as though I was fair to middling
and down in the dumps.
But I’d always get the highest grades, and once
a perfect report card: formidable
as Alpine slopes after an avalanche.
A taste of rarefied air.
I tried harder. Gold medals. The important thing,
to try. My best.
I learned to test its heights
and depths. Was prairie sky,
nights before exams, popping Wake Ups,
forty milligrams of caffeine
in a pill smaller than a watch battery.
Laps on an empty stomach. I hungered
for the simplicity
of twenty bucks for each A, the motivation
of venture capitalists, a bottom line.
But I chained myself to trying my best
until the outcome was extraneous,
the effort so pure,
it defined my whole myth.

Susan Elmslie’s first trade collection of poetry, I, Nadja, and Other Poems (Brick) won the Quebec Writers’ Federation A.M. Klein Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the McAuslan First Book Prize, the League of Canadian Poets’ Pat Lowther Award and a ReLit Award.  Her poems have also appeared in several Canadian journals, anthologies, and in a prize-winning chapbook, When Your Body Takes to Trembling.  Her poetry has been supported by Canada Council for the Arts grants for Professional Writers.  She has been a poetry Fellow at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and a winner of Arc’s Poem of the Year contest.  www.susanelmslie.org

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday poem #50 : Elizabeth Willis : WATERTOWN IS NINETY-NINE PERCENT LAND

When I point to the island, I mean a body on a map. Think about the heart: it doesn't have to form a sentence. If the story feels cold it's because the beginning is so far away. One thing leading to another. Every city has its battles. A brother's voice can carry out a mission like a hand. This is where the voice turns pale when I stop to eat my breakfast. Something gathered in a sack outside the kitchen is how I feel. Pray for us singers in the forest of our discontent. All those empty lawns are staring down the partly cloudy stars. The man in the boat is trying to plug a hole made of all he'll never have. Someday even this will disappear into another death, an absence you didn't know was holding up the future. Follow the line till it no longer asks for more. Desire is irreducible, particular, crystalline. Its name is Georgia. Syracuse. Cheyenne.

Elizabeth Willis's most recent book, Address (Wesleyan, 2011), won the PEN New England / L. L. Winship Prize for Poetry. Her other books of poetry are Meteoric Flowers (Wesleyan, 2006), Turneresque (Burning Deck, 2003), The Human Abstract (Penguin, 1995) and Second Law (Avenue B, 1993). She has also edited a volume of essays entitled Radical Vernacular: Lorine Niedecker and the Poetics of Place (University of Iowa Press, 2008). She teaches at Wesleyan University and was a 2012-13 Guggenheim fellow. A recent interview (with Sean Patrick Hill) appears here: http://www.gulfcoastmag.org/index.php?n=2&si=49&s=3051

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday poem #49 : Karen Mac Cormack : Various Turns


in place of

word for word


a comparison

to regular order


a detail with reasons

proportionate share

as far as

the plan of a forthcoming book



state of equality

for all

a memorial

writ commanding

letter for letter

also; an article

extemporaneous composition

in the first place

let it be printed

in the same place


a decree unpremeditated



erase or expunge

mark used in interlineation

an additional premium

in English



Karen Mac Cormack [photo credit: Clare Paniccia] is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, most recently AGAINST WHITE (Veer Books, London, 2013). Her poems have appeared in a number of anthologies including Moving Borders, Out of Everywhere, Another Language, and Prismatic Publics. Her texts have been translated into French, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian. Of dual Canadian/British citizenship she lived in Toronto for many years and in 2004 moved to the USA where she teaches at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan