"Famine:  A Crop of People"
Dzvinia Orlowsky

"Famine: A Crop of People"
Dzvinia Orlowsky

Editor’s Note

Readers:
October: splendor, yes, but in truth, paradoxically, an invisible month in many ways, reduced to its metaphors: “the leaves falling like our years, the flowers fading like our hours, the clouds fleeting like our illusions, the light diminishing like our intelligence, the sun growing colder like our affections, the rivers becoming frozen like our lives…” as Chateaubriand has it in Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe.  Though not merely metaphorical tropes, but the orthodoxy of October’s Hallmark-worthy  presentation conspiring to enforce another version of invisibility: One thinks of those omnipresent troupes of commedia dell’arte performers in Venice with their gaudy threadbare costumes and relentless gaity; their sniveling pedants and strutting generals legible to the least gifted child; “theatrical” gestures encased in amber, the whole cannonade of belly-laughs and spilled bosoms; plots drawn in outline, in the heaviest crayon —  accosting whatever wandering  souls happen upon their “impromptu” assemblages: their triteness  like two hands over the spectator’s eyes, blinding him to the (difficult, challenging)  transfigurative potential of art,  now reduced to (or exchanged for?)  the…oh, let’s say it, the bourgeois comforts of  ceremony, the reassurance of the expected. Yet, both of these — agreed-upon symbology (see Chateaubriand) and sanctioned iconography (see: Vermont lanes,  pumpkin spice lattes) — if we are honest with ourselves, aren’t they also one of the calling cards of delight? The tourists don’t seem to mind! Nor do we. Ask any number of people to identify their favorite month, and October – if not the actual month, its season – will be the answer more times than not.  Why? Perhaps precisely because it seems to demand so little of us: its emotional resonances ready-made, sure, its phenomena (those blazing trees,  smell of wood smoke, sky blue and weightless as an aerogram, etc.), sentimental, stupid, of course, of course –

And still: knowing all of this, we find ourselves – despite ourselves – feeling the old truths, participating in the ritual (if only by proxy, as audience) even if the original thing-itself has been obscured by time and repetition, diminished by interpretation and retreated into fairy tale. After all, who can resist, and feel all the more alive because of it, the erotic shiver of winter in the air, effervescence of iron and raspberry in the limbs, scratch of wool sweaters on our bared napes? (Month, too, when “…the sister’s of our friends appear more beautiful” – Follain. )

So: it is just this mysterious month (from Greek mysterion “secret rite or doctrine,” from mystes “one who has been initiated,” from myein “to close, shut” and, tellingly, the Greek word  used in Septuagint for “secret counsel of God”), whose name itself, however,  serves no god or emperor,  that leads me now to this issue’s  – yes –  “secret poem”, again from Larkin, wherein some of these qualities are registered – far more elegantly, and surely more powerfully, than the above ramblings might suggest, with an empty — though not yet and one imagines never completely useless — church standing in for this month we revere, too, awkwardly:

Church Going

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new -
Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
‘Here endeth’ much more loudly than I’d meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation – marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these – for which was built
This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

from, The Less Deceived, The Marvell press, 1954

 

October, then:  and stop we do…wondering  [but somehow understanding] what to look for; a serious month, always surprising in us a hunger…

But: business:

The fall reading in Los Angeles was by all accounts a  success: many thanks to Mark Irwin, Arthur Vogelsang, Ralph Angel, Mark Svenvold and Marci Vogel at Beyond Baroque, LA, 19 September, 8:00 p.m., expertly emceed by Richard Modianao.

Likewise the Brooklyn Book Festival – where a fair number of copies of the Plume Anthology of Poetry 2013 found buyers. Thanks to Jonathan Penton and Marc Vincenz.

And once again, Paris: Marilyn Hacker Molly Lou Freeman, Emmanuel  Moses, Jeffrey Greene  and – now assured — Claire Malroux. The American University of Paris.  Grand Salon, Oct 30 at 6:30 p.m. I will be speaking with university students at AUP on the 29th, and reading with the group on the 30th.  Again, copies of the Plume Anthology of Poetry 2013 will be available for purchase.

Many thanks to all of these PLUME contributors!

Look for my interview with Mary Mackey regarding the trials and rewards of putting together an anthology at marymackey.com .

The print Plume Anthology of Poetry 2014 is just now taking shape – nearly, oh, 4/5 full. Any poets who would like their work considered for inclusion, please write me at plumepoetry.com Seeking, too, a writer for the Preface…

(Again: on the off chance that you, poets, are interested in reading for PLUME or might want to organize a reading in your own neighborhood, please, again, email me at plumepoetry@gmail.com – we’ll make every effort to accommodate you, I promise.)

Our cover art this month is from Plume contributor Dzvinia Orlowsky. Its title is “Famine:  A Crop of People.” Dzvinia’s fifth poetry collection, Silvertone, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2013.  Her and Jeff Friedman’s co-translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczyslaw Jastrun was published by Dialogos in August, 2014.

Next up, after this issue’s Featured Selection from Glenn Mott, with an introduction by Jonathan Stalling, look for extended work from Nin Andrews ; Daniel Bourne and Tadeusz Dziewanowski in collaboration; Gennady Aygi and the great Russian Tatar painter Igor Vulokh, also in collaboration; Linda Pastan; Chris Kennedy; Tess Gallagher and Lawrence Matsuda; with others just appearing on the horizon. (Here, too, again, let me add as always: those with projects that might be suitable for the Featured Selection please do contact us with your proposal at plumepoetry@gmail.com ).

Finally, New Work Received this month includes pieces from Anatoly Kudryavitsky; Brian Swann; Luigi Fontanella, José Manuel Cardona, translated by Hélène Cardona, who also has a poem forthcoming in Plume – our first father-daughter team ; Daniel Tobin; Keith Althaus; Monica Youn; and Salgado Maranhão, translated by Alexis Levitin; Nin Andrews;  and Tara Skurtu.

 

As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!

 

Daniel Lawless

Editor, PLUME

In the Supermarket of Orgasms

Nin Andrews

after Allen Ginsberg  and Louise Gluck

 

Some nights I feel so alone in my longing for you, love, alone in my supermarket of orgasms as I cruise the aisles of produce, contemplating two pears, asking myself, Do I dare?  Or do I dare eat a peach?   Or these plums, so cold, so sweet? But then I see the store detective watching me in the convex mirror. (He’s such a perv!)  And Louise Gluck in the floral section, pushing a cart filled with fragrant flowers, swearing she hates their scent.  As I watch (she thinks I’m not looking) she presses her face into the blossoms and inhales deeply.  A little cry of pleasure escapes her lips.  And I inhale with her and cry out, too.  For how can I resist?

How can I live without that scent in the air? Or that odor in the world, as Louise calls it?  I ask this as I close my eyes and think of you, love, of your lips sealing my mouth as my cry rises higher and higher, mounting until I rise up with it, leaving Louise far below, discontentedly contemplating her next lie or line as the little wheels of her grocery cart squeak and spin around and around like a question pursuing an answer that has already drifted through the sliding doors and out into the night.

 

 

 

Nin Andrews received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Vermont College. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, she is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Southern Comfort. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her next book, Why God Is a Woman, is forthcoming from BOA Editions in May, 2015.

It Happened All the Time

Teresa Cader

Kazimierz Czeslaw Cader, 1911-1912,  Buczkowice

 

Daylight shatters through the thatches where a bird might fall,

two days since she boiled eggs, baked black bread, scrubbed potatoes,

the orbit of hands and feet circumferential to her mind’s rutted track,

drawn curtain, its window onto wind-ravaged fields where hay withers,

one breath at a time, questions circle like wolves down from the mountains

to haunt the tattered sheep’s pen, barn stalls overflowing with udders

untouched since morning. Not old enough to talk, the child, his snagged

breath in the blankets like wool in the coats his father wove

at the factory up the road by the bend in the river. Or should I say my grand-

father wove—the child, my uncle no one ever mentioned, because It

happened all the time, as people say now. Everyone was used to it.

Who could grieve really over an empty cradle when it would fill soon?

Hopefully with a boy to weave the cloth, patch the roof, ward off the beasts

who might come as wolves or in two years as Austrian soldiers,

in twenty-seven years as German soldiers, next as Russian soldiers, a boy

who didn’t live to say no, might not have lived through it all anyway.

 

 

 

Teresa Cader is the author of three poetry collections (History of Hurricanes, The Paper Wasp, and Guests). Her awards include the Norma Farber First Book Award, The Journal Award, the George Bogin Memorial Award, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as fellowships from The Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the MacDowell Colony. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Memorious, Poetry, Harvard Review, AGNI, Slate, The Atlantic and other journals. Her poems and prose have been translated into Polish and published in Poland. She teaches in the Lesley low-residency MFA program.

God-Box

Mark Doty

They give us a white cube, a paper box,

the kind that might hold a small gift,

and ask us to write or draw on its surface

our image of the divinity, whatever

that might be.

We’re here, we have,

in principal, already agreed.

Daniel’s octopus is a Buddha,

Glenn’s highest self a blazing star,

though no marker’s adequately golden.

In my future blue one hand blooms

from the next in a rush of wind

from another life.

Step two: Write

on an index card what you most want

to be released from, fold it,

place it inside, close the lid. That’s it,

that’s the end of the exercise.

 

Walking home on Sixth,  thinking

Its intention not artifact that matters,

I’m inclined to toss the thing away,

but I wind up walking blocks

holding this coffer only a little bigger

than my hand.  Steam blurs

a bank’s bright windows;

glassy slab of winter twilight

over the stairs to the subway,

then I’m down in the station, restless,

walking the long platform,

and here’s

the unnameable of music too far

to name. Keep walking, a violin,

sonorous,  emotive. Closer: resolute travelers

facing the tracks but the rest of us

turn toward the man whose powers

concentrate on his instrument,

from which pours

– how is it possible? –

an aching distillate so exact

I don’t need to go anywhere.

CD for sale in the velvet cavity

 

beside his shoes, two dollar bills,

gleaming change.

Odd bit of movement

across the tracks, so I can’t help but look

toward the platform:a tall black man

– why does his darkness

seem to matter? — cradling a violin

that isn’t there, invisible chin-rest

beneath his jaw, immaterial body resting

on the shoulder of his coat, and the bow

that isn’t there lifted and lowered

precisely.

Not mimicry; he knows the music.

On my side of the double tracks

the tunnel fills with an embodied grief,

too poised to be an outcry, contained,

larger than any single suffering,

and the man on the other side

makes nothing, no sound at all,

but answers adequately.

What did I write on that card?

One blue hand folding out of another,

one golden octopus,

one embattled star,

this box in these hands,

that have done so much

to harm myself,

this box.

 

 

Mark Doty is the author of several collections of poetry, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which received the 2008 National Book Award.

Four Poems

Katie Ford

I.

The Lord Is a Man of War

The Lord is a man of war

I read by window and wick

and for once I believed

the book of Exodus true

the origin of our points sharpened

with fire our axes bows our pikes

and finally I could see

the cooling lava pits of their eyes

their giant gingko ears

their bellows of desert pain

how elephants became elephantry

how the woman who fevered with pox

became after death a weapon

a contagion to catapault over fortified walls

and finally I knew

why in this theater

the missiles are named

Savage Sinner Scapegoat

Peacekeeper and Goblet

Herren er en stridsmann

my descent is of the Vikings so

man is a Lord of war.

 

 

II. 

Far Desert Region

Comes August, comes December,

then April thinned of its birds.

Again August, ten times.

Fathers forage the bombed chemical plant

for barrels to carry water

from the lime-bright pools to houses

leaning inside hot wind.

To think a war might give a gift:

a pool, a clean bucket.

 

 

III 

The Day-Shift Sleeps,

the night-war wakes:

Torturers button their canvas shirts.

They straighten their cots.

They bite their toast.

They tidy their folders.

They smoke their smokes.

They tidy their blank, blank folders.

All the little chores

before going on a trip,

theirs is the zeal of children.

 

 

IV

[Does the war want

us to unstitch its side and climb in, to become

its good surgeon?

Stupid poet, a war can’t know

what it wants

 

 

 

Katie Ford is the author of Deposition (2002), Colosseum (2008), and the forthcoming Blood Lyrics (2014), all published by Graywolf Press. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of California, Riverside. All of the above poems are forthcoming in Blood Lyrics (Graywolf Press, October, 2014).

Wartime Pantoum

Marilyn Hacker

In memory of Adrienne Rich

 

Were the mountain women sold as slaves

in the city my friend has not written from for two weeks ?

One of the Just has given his medal back.

I wake up four times in the night soaked with sweat.

 

In the city my friend has not written from, for two weeks

there was almost enough electricity.

I wake up four times in the night soaked with sweat

and change my shirt and go to sleep again.

 

There was almost enough electricity

to heat water, make tea, bathe, write e-mails

and change her shirt and go to sleep again.

Her mother has gallstones. Her sister mourns.

 

Heat water, make tea, bathe, write e-mails

to Mosul, New York, London, Beirut.

Her sister mourns a teenaged son who died

in a stupid household accident.

 

To Mosul, Havana, London, Beirut,

I change the greeting, change the alphabet.

War like a stupid household accident

changes the optics of a scene forever.

 

I change the greeting, change the alphabet :

Hola, morning of light, ya compañera.

Change the optics of a scene foreverp

present, and always altogether elsewhere.

 

Morning of roses, kiss you, hasta luego

to all our adolescent revolutions,

present and always altogether elsewhere.

It seemed as if something would change for good tomorrow.

 

All our adolescent revolutions

gone gray, drink exiles’ coffee, if they’re lucky .

It seemed as if something would change for good tomorrow.

She was our conscience and she died too early.

 

The gray exiles drink coffee, if they’re lucky.

Gaza’s survivors sift through weeping rubble.

She was our conscience, but she died too early,

after she spoke of more than one disaster.

 

Cursing, weeping, survivors sift through rubble.

One of the Just has given back his medal

after he spoke of more than one disaster.

How can we sing our songs if we are slaves ?

 

 

Marilyn Hacker is the author of twelve books of poems, including Names and Desesperanto (Norton P), and an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices (Michigan P). Her translations from the French include Marie Etienne’s King of a Hundred Horsemen (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux), which received the 2009 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and Amina Saïd’s The Present Tense of the World (Black Widow P). For her own work, she received the PEN Voelcker Award for poetry in 2010. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Two Poems

Luljeta Lleshanaku trans. by Ani Gjika

FISHERMEN’S VILLAGE

Squinty, salt-dusted windows gaze into the distance.

They all look seaward.

 

Here, every third person carries the same name:

perhaps a godparent’s

who cut his first lock of hair

before the wind thickened it,

or a stranger’s name.

The locals, by the way, treat newcomers well,

because they were told

that once,

one of them, the one who walked barefoot on water

with a hand’s swift motion

loaded boats with sardines.

 

Foreigners are easily made out;

unlike the locals, their clothes are colorful

white, blue, jet black. And sometimes,

they make you a gift of rosaries or cigars.

Once, one of them

left a pair of shoes behind

and the whole village gathered to play a lottery game.

When someone with an already good pair of shoes won,

the young ones, who’d been keenly following the show,

kicked the sand in anger,

“What the hell?! Not fair!”

 

Sand everywhere. All day long, overturned boats on the shore

eat sand. At night, what feasts on sand are the stars

stalled here since the last war

which as people recall

washed ashore Omega watches strapped to soldiers’ wrists

and herpes

that spread from flesh to flesh

faster than wind

and faster than famine.

 

Behind doors, cats purr.

Streets reek of fish and yet there are no fish.

At noon,

a man dozes on a sofa in the yard.

At his feet, with a needle

tightening the trap in the net, sits his wife

cutting thread with her teeth.

 

Eyes half-open, he gazes at her

realizing here is the real cause: the large hole in the net,

a hole first torn two thousand years ago after a prosperous fishing night,

when things were sorted out much like they are today:

some were cursed with luck

and some blessed with mercy.

 

 

VIA POLITICA

I grew up in a big house

where weakness and expressing joys

deserved punishment.

And I was lit via politica

with the grease of yesterday’s glory

a thick grease collected under arctic skies.

My notebooks, my hair, my heart reeked of smoke.

Smoke, whose expiration date pointed in reverse

to the consumption of stored grease. To absolute zero.

 

That’s when we saw each other clearly. Or better yet,

what remained of us

damaged like lottery numbers

scratched off with a blade.

 

How different we were!

 

Those with round faces were the righteous ones.

And those with narrow faces – the cautious.

 

One listened secretly to Puccini,

another to the music’s music – silence.

The oldest one declaimed monologues inside a square meter –

a cell he’d built for himself.

 

And the ones I couldn’t quite read

simply had diabetes.

 

But how similarly we’d choose the edges of things!

Alarmed like flocks of magpies

which the smallest stone suddenly lifts

toward the mouth of the abyss.

 

Then it became obvious there wasn’t enough space for everyone.

We separated. Some went on living via verbum

telling of what they knew, what they witnessed

and so, through the narrative,

creating their own grease.

 

The others crossed over the ocean.

 

And those in particular who went farthest away

never speak of it

(an annoying history of a paltry survival)

burying it in the darkest crevice of their being,

where unfortunately, as with perfume,

scent lingers for much, much longer.

 

 

FSHATI I PESHKATARËVE

 

Dritare të picërruara

nga kripa dhe vështrimi larg;

të gjitha shohin në det.

 

Një në tre vetë, ka të njejtin emër. Emrin e nunit

të atij që i preu cullufen e parë të flokëve

para se të trasheshin nga era. Ose emrin e një të huaji.

Meqë ra fjala, vendasit sillen mirë me të ardhurit

se u është treguar

se njëherë

njëri prej tyre, ai që ecte zbathur mbi ujë

me një lëvizje dore

barkat ua mbushi plot me sardele.

 

Të huajt, dallohen lehtë;

Ndryshe nga vendasit, veshjet e tyre kanë ngjyra

të bardha, blu, apo të zeza sterrë. Dhe nganjëherë,

ndodh të bëjnë dhuratë rruzare apo puro.

Njëri prej tyre,

njëherë harroi një palë këpucë,

të cilat fshati u mblodh për t’i ndarë me short.

Dhe shorti, i ra, të vetmit që kish një tjetër palë këpucë.

E ata më të rinjtë, që po ndiqnin shfaqjen

shkelmuan rërën të nxehur

“Si, mutin?! Kjo nuk është e drejtë!”

 

Rërë gjithandej. Barkat e përmbysura në breg gjatë ditës,

hanë rërë. Në darkë, janë yjet që hanë rërë

të ngecur këtu, që prej luftës së fundit,

e cila me sa mbahet mend,

nxori në breg orë “Omega” me krahë ushtarësh.

dhe herpes,

herpes i përhapur në rrugë verbale

bashkë me zakonin e të thënit “nesër”.

 

Macet mjaullijnë pas dyerve.

Rrugicat kundërmojnë peshk, dhe peshk nuk gjen.

Në mesditë,

një burrë dremit në kanape, në oborr.

Në fund të këmbëve të tij është ulur e shoqja,

e cila, me një gjilpërë, ngushton grackën në rrjetë,

duke këputur perin midis dhëmbëve.

 

Ai hap sytë dhe vështron përgjysëm gruan

dhe kupton se pikërisht ky është shkaku: vrima e madhe në rrjetë,

një vrimë e hapur rreth dymijë vjet më parë

pas një nate të begatë peshkimi, kur gjërat u ndanë kështu siç janë sot:

disa u mallkuan me fat

dhe të tjerët u bekuan me ndjesë.

 

 

VIA POLITICA

Jam rritur në një shtëpi të madhe

ku dobësia dhe e folura në mënyrën dëshirore

meritonin ndëshkim.

Dhe jam ndriçuar via politica,

me dhjamin e qirinjve të lavdisë së djeshme,

i trashë, një dhjamë i akumuluar nën qiej të ftohtë arktiku.

Fletoret e mia, flokët e mi, zemra ime mbanin erë tym,

Tym, afati i të cilit numëronte mbrapsh

drejt fundit të rezervave dhjamore. Drejt zeros absolute.

 

Atëherë pamë qartë njëri-tjetrin. Ose më mirë,

atë që kishte mbetur prej nesh,

e dëmtuar si numrat pas zgjyrës

në një biletë llotarie të gërvishtur me një teh.

 

Sa të ndryshëm ishim!

 

Ata me fytyrë të rrumbullakët ishin të drejtët.

Dhe ata më fytyrë të tërhequr, të arsyeshmit.

 

Njëri dëgjonte fshehurazi Puçinin,

një tjetër, muzikën e muzikës- heshtjen.

Më i madhi, mbante monologje në një metër katror -

një qeli që ia krijonte vetes.

 

Dhe ata që nuk arrita t’i lexoj

kishin thjesht diabet.

 

Por sa të ngjashëm ishim në zgrip!

Të alarmuar si një tufë laraskash

që guri më i vogël i ngre të gjitha vrikthi

drejt grykës së humnerës.

 

Dhe pastaj u pa që hapësira nuk mjaftontë për të gjithë.

U ndamë. Disa do të jetonin via parole

për të treguar atë që provuan, atë që panë

e kështu, përmes rrëfimit

të krijonin dhjamin e tyre prej neoni.

 

Të tjerët, morën rrugën e përtejoqeanit.

 

Dhe pikërisht ata që shkuan më larg

nuk e zënë kurrë me gojë

(një histori e bezdisshme mbijetese më pak),

duke e fshehur në skutat më të errëta të qenies,

atje, ku për dreq, si edhe me parfumin,

aroma reziston shumë herë më gjatë.

 

 

A winner of the Albanian National Silver Pen Prize in 2000 and the International Kristal Vilenica Prize in 2009, Luljeta Lleshanaku is the author of six books of poetry in Albanian. She is also the author of six poetry collections in other languages: Antipastoral, 2006, Italy; Kinder der natur, 2010, Austria; Dzieci natury, 2011, Poland.  Haywire: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011), a finalist for the “2013 Popescu Prize” (formerly the European Poetry Translation Prize) by Poetry Society, UK, is her first British publication, and includes work from two editions published in the US by New Directions, FrescoSelected Poems (2002), which drew on four collections published in Albania from 1992 to 1999, and Child of Nature (2010), a book of translations of later poems which was a finalist for the 2011 BTBA (Best Translated Book Award). Lleshanaku was nominated for the European poetry prize “The European Poet of Freedom, 2012”, in Poland.

Born and raised in Albania, Ani Gjika moved to the U.S. at age 18. She is a 2010 Robert Pinsky Global Fellow and winner of a 2010 Robert Fitzgerald Translation Prize. Her first book, Bread on Running Waters, (Fenway Press, 2013) was a finalist for the 2011 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize and 2011 May Sarton New Hampshire Book Prize. Her poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI Online, World Literature Today, Salamander, Seneca Review, Silk Road Review, Fishousepoems.org  and elsewhere.

 

 

 

Ode to Scars

Thomas Lux

The scars on others’ faces draw me to them.

I wear none significant on my face

though an eight-inch one on my chest

is still a welt where it was opened

and closed four decades ago.

A student in my office once: small white quarter moon

on her lower right cheek.

In the institutional light

it was a pearl in three-quarter eclipse.

Praise her scar: for she earned it.

Praise the man whose forehead fell on his shovel

before he finished digging his own grave.

They shot him, thinking

it was deep enough. It wasn’t. The shovel

led to the murderers, who hanged.

Praise the scar there unrisen.

Praise the lug-nut slingshot scar

my uncle wore on his forehead: it allowed

him many stories and, somehow, lumbago.

Praise the scar like little railroad tracks

up the back of one friend’s head,

and whatever minute scars—on the child,

her mother, and my friend—the surgeons left

when they worked to bring my friends’ child to the world.

Praise all scars, which, by definition, reveal

that something, one thing, one

thing minimum,

is healed.

 

 

 

Thomas Lux was born in Massachusetts in December 1946 and graduated from Emerson College. He has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. He is a three time recipient of NEA grants. In 1994, he was awarded the Kinglsey Tufts Prize for his book, SPLIT HORIZON. The most recent of his 12 full-length poetry collections is CHILD MADE OF SAND (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). He also recently published FROM THE SOUTHLAND (Marick Press, 2012, nonfiction). BloodAxe Books will bring out SELECTED POEMS in the UK in 2014. A book of poems, ZEHNTAUSEND HERRLICHE JAHRE, in German, trs. Klaus Martens, was published in early 2011. Currently, he is Bourne Professor of Poetry and Director of the McEver Visiting Writers program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as Director of Poetry @ Tech.

She Painted Artichokes

Emmanuel Moses trans. by Marilyn Hacker

For my mother

You had nothing to say so you painted some splendid artichokes

You took them from the kitchen and placed them on a black chair

You didn’t think about it

You had no doubts

You went from the kitchen to the studio

Like a priest passing from the sacristy to the altar

The all had turned to nothing

And now this nothing became something once again

The artichokes told the extraordinary story of green

And the chair the humble tale of black

Their stories were like those told by old women

On the village square, near the fountain

At the close of day

Filaments of time, of life

That are no longer anything and once were everything

And become something again in the tender evening light

You had nothing to say, so you took your brushes and spatulas

You pressed the tubes of paint

And you painted metaphysical vegetables

On an existential chair

You told the extraordinary tale of everything turned to nothing

Re-transformed into something by a pair of artichokes

 

 

ELLE A PEINT DES ARTICHAUTS

Tu n’avais rien à dire alors tu as peint des artichauts admirables

Tu les as pris dans la cuisine et tu les as posés sur une chaise noire

Tu n’as pas réfléchi

Tu n’as pas douté

Tu es passée de la cuisine à l’atelier

Comme un prêtre passe de la sacristie à l’autel

Les légumes sont devenus un symbole

Le tout est devenu rien

Et ce rien est redevenu le tout

Tu n’avais rien à dire alors la toile est restée intacte là où tu ne savais pas

Quoi y mettre

Elle est restée nue mais tu n’as pas eu honte de sa nudité

Les artichauts racontent l’histoire extraordinaire du vert

Et la chaise l’histoire humble du noir

Ces histoires sont comme celles des vieilles

Sur la place du village, autour de la fontaine

À la tombée du jour

Des filaments de temps, de vie

Qui ne sont rien, l’un, l’autre, après avoir été tout

Et le redeviennent dans la lumière tendre du soir

Tu n’avais rien à dire alors tu as pris tes pinceaux et tes spatules

Tu as pressé les tubes de couleur

Et tu as peint des légumes métaphysiques

Sur une chaise existentielle

Tu as raconté l’histoire extraordinaire du rien

Transformé par une paire d’artichauts en tout

 

 

 

Emmanuel Moses is a poet, novelist and translator, born in 1959 in Casablanca. He spent his childhood in Paris and Jerusalem. A selection of his poetry in English, entitled Last News of Mr. Nobody was published in 2005 by Otherpress/Handsel Books and contained translations by Marilyn
Hacker, C.K. Williams and Kevin Hart. His prizes include the Prix Max-Jacob, the Prix Jean-Malrieu, and the Prix-Nelly Sachs. Among his many books in French are, most recently, La danse de la poussiere dans les rayons du soleil, a novel (1999) and Le present, poems (1999). He is also known
for translating from Hebrew and German. He lives in Paris and Berlin.

Marilyn Hacker is the author of twelve books of poems, including Names and Desesperanto (Norton P), and an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices (Michigan P). Her translations from the French include Marie Etienne’s King of a Hundred Horsemen (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux), which received the 2009 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and Amina Saïd’s The Present Tense of the World (Black Widow P). For her own work, she received the PEN Voelcker Award for poetry in 2010. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Sounds Like Love

Charlie Smith

A spacial infirmity

what’s closed-up like a child in a closet,

calling

too softly to be heard.  Like

 

the little stream

with the broken back

that behind the barn collects

the bitter run-off.  A scarlet sky

 

foretells the fall

0f humankind.  Clouds like saggy diapers.

The fields flex their big muscles,

getting ready for the stare-down

 

with the stars.  It’s winter,

then summer comes perfumed like a toiletries salesman.

Raspberries bend quadrate

branches like children

 

about to swing into eternity.  I’m limited,

she says, but not alarmed,

and ineffectively violent.  Sometimes

we block love

 

like dump trucks on strike at the kiln.

The closed-off future

taps at the window.  It’s the echo

that’s scary.  Suffering

*

completes its tax return,

listing no dependents.  The papered-over

bits have shifted in the night.

Grim looks grimness

 

in the eye.  You always

taste of salt.  At the site tiny

storms rage

among the balled-up dresses.

 

Someone’s heart’s

been cut out and used

for a footbath.  Sounds like love,

says the mayor, but then to me everything does. 

 

 

 

Charlie Smith’s most recent poetry collection is Selected Poems, out from Norton (Jump Soul: New and Selected Poems); others include Word Comix (W. W. Norton & Co., 2009); Women of America (2004); Heroin and other poems (2000); Before and After (1995); and The Palms (1993). He has also published six novels, the latest of which Men In Miami Hotels (2013, Harper Perennial). He is a frequent contributor to national literary journals and periodicals, including Poetry, the Paris Review, and the New Yorker.

Night Watch

D.M. Thomas

It’s instant art:  transmuted to the net

Voluptuous flesh and rich blonde hair,

Breasts bare, pushed up by a black corselette

That echoes, with a sheen of silk,

Darkness outside the car’s interior.

As with the kitchen maid who’s pouring milk

 

In Vermeer’s painting, we are drawn toward

The face, the psyche; her smile’s confused,

Proud as she knows the evening will afford

None more enticing to men’s eyes,

And narcissistic, willing to be used,

Yet also as if taken by surprise,

 

Although the window’s down.  Her husband’s caught

The moment when, from night, dark sleeves

Intruded and hands close on what they sought,

A breast, a thigh.  A third man can’t

Get close enough, his hands like floating leaves,

The right one palm-out, like a supplicant

 

Pleading for alms.   I’ve seen it in Raphael,

The lame reaching for Christ, say; and

The hands that touch and stroke look worshipful

Likewise.  They’re aching to be healed.

The scene seems Christian:  the ripe, glowing blonde,

A Magdalene; her husband glad to yield

 

Her beauty in this lonely woodland clearing

To men less blessed.  Her hands are vague,

The left one, smudgy, almost disappearing

Into the unstroked breast, a shy

Gesture, as though she wishes to renege

On some domestic pact, or wonders why

 

Their marriage has become a rendezvous

With chaos.  For beyond, more cars

And camper vans we sense, and women who

Couple with strangers, often two

Together, under trees and as the stars

Serenely move above and awed guys queue,

 

And watch with their car-beams.  As with Rembrandt’s

Night Watch, all we’re allowed to see,

A gift, like art, to shock us or entrance,

Is this chiaroscuro, dark

And light, created accidentally,

Six hands, one woman, in a dogging park.

 

 

 

D.M. Thomas is a British novelist and poet. He was awarded the Los Angeles Times Fiction prize for his novel The White Hotel, an international bestseller, translated into 30 languages; a Cholmondeley award for poetry; and the Orwell Prize for his biography of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He lives in his native Cornwall, England. His most recent work is Vintage Ghosts, a verse novel (Francis Boutle, 2012).

The Rosy Tones

Karen Volkman
m4s0n501

“the rosy tones

stroking the ozones”

 

such sights

ocular requitals

space entails

 

and oh but it’s gray

but the gray is neutral, soothing

to the thing that is wrong

 

in my syncope, body

out of song with its boundary

hey sleepy but it isn’t

 

a good wake, a dream sand

a drowning in

fantasms/forms

 

the kiss of space

sweet sequence

but weight

 

in the night

pressing the breath down –

Morpheus

 

in your procession

of darker voicing

voce tenebrae

 

beautiful room

empty

weight stains

 

the song

 

 

 

Karen Volkman is the author of Nomina (BOA Editions, 2008); Spar  (University of Iowa Press, 2002), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Iowa Poetry Prize, and Crash’s Law, which was selected for the National Poetry Series by Heather McHugh.

Value and Reverie

David Young

The dog dreams on the rug

legs twitching slightly

and in his dream, I think,

he trots through a puddle,

breaking up the sky.

 

It’s like a lament that has

been set to music, sung

so beautifully that,

though still a lament,

it lifts the sorrow into joy,

 

while early October sunlight

slides through grass and leaves

and the dog wakes up

rolls on his stomach

nose pushed forward like a boat

wags his tail once, and sighs.

 

 

 

 

David Young is the translator of many poets, among them Basho, Celan and Rilke. His own poems may be found in Field of Light and Shadow (Knopf, 2010).

FEATURED SELECTION

Glenn Mott

By way of introduction to this month’s Featured Selection, an interesting introduction to the work of Glenn Mott, conducted by Jonathan Stalling, followed by the work itself and some biographical material.

 

PHOTO FOR FEATURED SELECTION  GLENN MOTT IMG_6380 fragrant

 

In his first book of poetry, Analects on a Chinese Screen, Glenn Mott claims that the most interesting thing about him is that he is in China. I beg to differ. Mott’s China is not like the China others are “in.” It is not place but the perception of place that offers itself as the real. In other words one can be in China, but what that means, what China “is” will be dependent on who you are, what you can decode, encode, process, “take in,” or attend to. Analects on a Chinese Screen was not a tour book, or the Middle Kingdom of a Sinologist, or the frontier of transnational investment opportunities, and not a monolithic state either, but a complex entanglement of layers filtered through a series of shifting proximities, a convex China, one that has been uprooted and redistributed on the page to reveal multiple angles of Chinese interactions internal and external.

Reading Mott’s work we are not asked to untangle China, that trope of an enigmatic or mysterious “Cathay,” but instead to think through the weave of being in relationship with the “imaginaries” of China, from the complexities and subtleties of historical, aesthetic, and ideological palimpsests. Like a linguistic version of Robert Rauschenberg, Glenn Mott’s poetry redistributes these layers as surfaces in order to locate depthlessness, boundlessness within his lines, so that we may draw new perspectives out of the wreckage of old questions.

In the present series, Mott not only continues the work he began with his first volume, but extends it considerably. For instance, Chinese and English co-emerge throughout with greater frequency and variation—characters and Chinese phrases pepper the text, sometimes with translations, sometimes without, and in many cases, this reader is not sure if the characters are Chinese or Sinophonic English such as in the line: “In Guizhou we are colored men (白人), pronounced Byron,” but he follows this homophonic play with a piercing ambivalence toward what I see as the transpacific Orientalism of the Romantic tradition: “Spiritual junkies. We are the cold / whites around the yolk.” This language play continues in lines like, “Wǒ is me” where Wǒ (我) is not figured as “me” but is—as it means in Mandarin— “me.” It’s the rendering of a China blues. Such sound play also takes place within his English more generally through a forceful and imaginative use of lineation and pervasive enjambments leading to music we did not hear in his earlier work: “no more. Who conforms to loss / is accepted on a cross. Joy imitates / joy, boy. The way, the way. So says Old Tzu. / And so say I, old Jew with no regret.” There is an unflinching confidence to Mott’s prosody in this series, presencing something about the period between this work and his last book, something that has enabled a new resonance to mature. This assured footing may be most palpably felt in his translations of the Tang dynasty poetry included here. The voices in these poems come through as living poetry—not artifacts—as immediate and resonant, and yet coming to us from a distance that is given the space it needs to be so, like the space the temple bell punctuates in Zhang Ji’s “Night Mooring.”

Finally, it is worth mentioning that this series opens the possibility of a confident spiritual ambivalence—or is it an ambivalent spirituality—for we have poems here that open into such scales and measures but do not close them down into directives or teachings. Take for instance his poem dedicated to the poet Che Qianzi (affectionately known to his friends as Lao Che).

FOR LAO CHE

to turn from reason

is to wake

 

from the bottomless

intelligent noise

 

of meaning

to second thoughts

 

in strangeness

and with error

 

within elm

an elm

 

not the shadow

of another season

 

what is found

goes with itself

 

to be rid

of reverence

 

released

on tendril fact

 

which was there

before attention

 

I could not quote from this poem without jamming the door halfway open, so I leave it here in full in the hope that, swung wide as it is, the work can be seen as the gesture it is, a space where words open between us, and remain so, as an invitation to walk through.

Jonathan Stalling, 2014

 

 

DENY THE ROOSTER

A hundred names in every thousand here is

Wu Ming (无名), pronounced nameless.

 

In Guizhou we are colored men (白人),

pronounced Byron, or Bái sè de ren.

 

Spiritual junkies. We are the cold

whites around the yolk.

 

To those who don’t test me as a piàn zi,

a cheat, I happily pay the foreign tax.

 

We are treated well

by those who don’t use us as ATMs.

 

But give what gifts you have.

Sometimes the 白人will be

 

grateful for conversation.

And that will be worth a higher

 

price for simple dishes, of salt

and oil, peanuts and cucumbers.

 

 

WUHAN GIRL

In every marriage there’s room

for a translator.

 

I think about that earnest man

and his earnest jottings

 

who is able to pay for his jawboning

by working on Maggie’s Farm

 

and will leave it unwelcome

and in abundance

 

no more. Who conforms to loss

is accepted on a cross. Joy imitates

 

joy, boy. The way, the way. So says Old Tzu.

And so say I, old Jew with no regret.

 

In every house there is room

for an old chair that says VE RI TAS.

 

Do not sit there, brother,

unless you like the truth.

 

Don’t believe I’ll go back home

I do believe I’ll dust my broom.

 

And after I dust my broom, any one

of you round eyes, Lord may have my room

 

I’m goin’ to call up in Wuhan,

just to see if my baby’s over there

 

Gonna change my name

from Joe to Zhou.

 

I’ll always believe,

my baby’s in the world somewhere.

 

 

DON’T SAY

Still, it all came true

So maybe you’re mad at the truth.

 

The guy in the lobby who asked

Is this the next one? Don’t say.

 

He was a prophet.

If you’ll tire of me yet.

 

The question in that taxi,

If we last that long, I say.

 

Don’t say let me in again

And I’ll never let you go.

 

 

AGENDA

Not long after the end

of the last cultural revolution

 

I was riding my bike down

some translation of a street

 

Autumn just beginning, with cooler

nights and crickets wrapping

 

up their business in the back lots.

I was my own father, then

 

And wanted no parent to tamper

with my creation.

 

No father who I am, no

mother that conceived of me.

 

 

LIU YUXI, “INSCRIPTION ON MY HUMBLE DWELLING”

The mountain doesn’t have to be high as long as it was climbed by an immortal.
The famous mountain doesn’t have to be high as long as an immortal lived on its top.
The enchanted water doesn’t have to be deep. As long as a dragon lives in it,
it will be enchanted.
This is my humble abode.
Only my virtue makes it smell good.
Only my virtue makes a fragrant house.
Only by virtue does it not smell like shit perfumes.
Traces of moss climb up and make the steps green. Green steps, maybe lichen.
The color of grass enters the bamboo curtain,
Famous scholars stop by to chat and laugh with me.
Among us there are no simpletons and we are all free to be jackasses here.
I can play on a simple zither and read the Diamond Sutra.
No lousy music disturbs my ear. No noise that is not noise.
Doing deskwork deforms, fatigues my body shape.
In Nanyiang there was Zhuge Liang’s hut, sage advisor, chief of staff from Warring States Period.
In Xishu there was the pavilion of warrior Ziyun.
Confucius say, Who the fuck says it’s humble? Where the fuck is the humbleness?
A sacred mountain doesn’t have to be high as long as an immortal lived on its top.
An enchanted pond doesn’t have to be deep as long as a catfish hides at the bottom.

 

 

APPRENTICE TO AWARENESS

Thinking was

An early experience

Of gratitude.

 

My traditions

Leave behind nothing.

To explain them, I forget words

 

Altogether. And it seems

We have often asked

The same questions.

 

To live together,

And if necessary,

Use words.

 

Opening the grammar

Of occurrence to each

Who is there.

 

 

TO SEEK A PRONOUN

Working again

in fluency

 

To turn out focus

letting noise in

 

Not to travel

without ceasing

 

And now let’s

look at materials

 

Letter and white

space for thought

 

To keep opaque

the inner distance

 

Where we would

otherwise move.

 

 

FOR LAO CHE

to turn from reason

is to wake

 

from the bottomless

intelligent noise

 

of meaning

to second thoughts

 

in strangeness

and with error

 

within elm

an elm

 

not the shadow

of another season

 

what is found

goes with itself

 

to be rid

of reverence

 

released

on tendril fact

 

which was there

before attention

 

 

LI BAI, “DRINKING ALONE BY MOONLIGHT”

after the source in wild grass script

 

Want a poem fetch a jug

Lift a cup invite the moon

 

Nip strange on sorghum wine

In the air blossom willows

 

Drunken Li Bai and the monk

Upstairs takes a pronoun

 

We are a congress.

Arc light the crescent wires

 

Bring the crock back home

Put truth to truth.

 

Ourselves against I double

Wǒ is me that shadow.

 

Three parables we

And a harsher land

 

Of sex

For a Vuitton bag

 

I read or random

Tells of new Spring daze.

 

Want a moral Confucius say…

Need a poem send your cup

 

No cadre brother no mistress

We three meet again

 

Across the river

To tipplers heaven

 

Mix glad scatter

On starlight row.

 

 

EVERCLEAR

getting meaning

after what’s gone

 

a matter of not

meaning to know

 

it is plain we are

periodic like the day

 

through an open

window or gate

 

and what to have done

having known

 

what to look for

not knowing

 

 

RED WHEELHOUSE

If we are the pure

products

 

of America,

then

 

let us go crazy.

If not,

 

then let us shut

up

 

about it

and

 

each have our

reason.

 

 

GO

Hold all

See but the return

Constant to know

Not to know constantly

Is too

He who.

 

She wanted

Everything she could

And was

She felt

So the world

Wishes.

 

 

ZHANG JI, “NIGHT MOORING”

Moon down

 

Troubling my sleep

This night boat drumming

Against Maple Bridge.

 

First frost then

The quite craven raven

Is a Suzhou crow.

 

My knowledge was never

particularly actionable.

The kind of work I did

 

involved no magician.

Fisherman now moving

Light under bridges.

 

Monk at Cold Mountain

Temple sounds midnight

On the bronze bell.

 

Aboutness.

 

 

 

Glenn Mott is the author of the book Analects on a Chinese Screen (2007), is managing editor of the Hearst newspaper syndicate, and was a Fulbright Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing (2008-09). He has also held teaching posts at universities in Shanghai (1991-93) and Hong Kong (2010). While working in China in 2009 he organized a program at the U.S. Embassy on “Law and Journalism” bringing together two of China’s most high profile human rights lawyers, Mo Shaoping (who represented jailed New York Times researcher Zhao Yan), and the self-taught legal defender Pu Zhiqiang (who is currently under arrest in Beijing for his rights work). The program spurred several more workshops with Chinese journalists and legal scholars in the cities of Guangzhou, Xiamen and elsewhere. Earlier this year he worked with the Academy of American Poets to make Poem-A-Day available in syndication to news publications. He has edited Paul Lawrence Dunbar Selected Poems (1997), and is currently working with Yunte Huang on an anthology of modern Chinese literature for W. W. Norton.

Jonathan Stalling is an Associate Professor of English at OU specializing in Modern to Contemporary American Poetry, Comparative Chinese-English Poetics and Translation Studies.  He is a Contributing Editor to World Literature Today is the co-founder and an editor of Chinese Literature Today magazine and book series. Dr. Stalling is also the founder and Director of the University of Oklahoma’s Mark Allen Everett Poetry Reading Series and is the author of four books including Poetics of Emptiness, Grotto Heaven, Yingelishi, and the forthcoming book Lost Wax. Stalling is also the translator of Winter Sun: The Poetry of Shi Zhi 1966-2007. Dr. Stalling’s work in interlanguage poetry and translation is the topic of his recent TEDx Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7de8ENdf1yU