Foreign Poems


In the small towns along the river
nothing happens day after long day.
Summer weeks stalled forever,
and long marriages always the same.
Lives with only emergencies, births,
and fishing for excitement. Then a ship
comes out of the mist. Or comes around
the bend carefully one morning
in the rain, past the pines and shrubs.
Arrives on a hot fragrant night,
grandly, all lit up. Gone two days
later, leaving fury in its wake.

     by Jack Gilbert

by David Meltzer 

Art's desire to get it all said
to all who thought him dead
in the joint & beside the point

Art's struggle to sing it all
through jazz warfare & tell
everything he knew in brass
speed rap stir crazy utopia
of muscle chops push it in your face
rough unrelenting grace

fierce Art pitbull clamps down
pulls edges out in time to break through
scream knotty beauty
toe to toe w/ any joe
who thinks they know better

Art tattoos blue needles into moonlight skin
junk light makes mirrors perfect

Art's smoke aches out of wounds

L.A. Art burritos & bebop
black guacamole serge zoots
Central Avenue cat copping

Pepper at Club Alabam
in Lee Young's band
all the chicks & the hatcheck chick
have big eyes for Art's horn

*The Republic of Dreams
by Michael Palmer 

She lay so still that
as she spoke

a spider spun a seamless web
upon her body

as we spoke
and then her limbs came loose

one by one
and so my own

*Near misses
by Laura Kasischke 

The truck that swerved to miss the stroller in which I slept. 

My mother turning from the laundry basket just in time to see me open the third-story window to call to the cat. 

In the car, on ice, something spinning and made of history snatched me back from the guardrail and set me down between two gentle trees. And that time I thought to look both ways on the one-way street. 

And when the doorbell rang, and I didn’t answer, and just before I slipped one night into a drunken dream, I remembered to blow out the candle burning on the table beside me.

It's a miracle, I tell you, this middle-aged woman scanning the cans on the grocery store shelf. Hidden in the works of a mysterious clock are her many deaths, and yet the whole world is piled up before her on a banquet table again today. The timer, broken. The sunset smeared across the horizon in the girlish cursive of the ocean, Forever, For You. 

And still she can offer only her body as proof:

The way it moves a little slower every day. And the cells, ticking away. A crow pecking at a sweater. The last hour waiting patiently on a tray for her somewhere in the future. The spoon slipping quietly into the beautiful soup.

*Red and Blue Planets
by Joni Wallace 

What we're drawn to is proof enough:
these pills, other acts of disappearance.
I've written a song about a girl who swallowed the blue planets:
Kevlar, Caroline, O Beautiful Bomb.
So perfectly haplessly cruel the world we've made.
Let's meet back here in 5 minutes, you say, you always say.
I'll bring the Lite-Brite.
I'll bring the hole in my heart, a white star burning.
More and more, the rock show.
Venus rising is a glass wrecking ball,
inside red harbors, red sails.

*The Aerodynamics
by Rick Bursky 

The night she walked to the house
she held a string; on the other end,
fifty-three feet in the air, a kite.
Wind provided the aerodynamics.
Does every collaboration
need to be explained?
She tied the string to the mailbox
left the kite to float until morning.
Every night this happens.
She sleeps, I listen, darkness
slides through us both.

The next morning
the string still curved into the sky
but the kite was gone.
This was the morning
newspapers announced
the Mona Lisa was stolen.
This was the morning
it snowed in Los Angeles,
the morning I wore gloves
to pull from the sky
fifty-three feet of frozen string.

*Get Used To It
by Margaret Young 

Wake up, even Monday the cup's still full,
lettuce rosette-ing up between sandstone scraps
by back steps where ladybugs swarm in
to die or lay eggs, some say, death-march
or birth-march looking about the same.
The rust of barn-sides: different chemical effect
than rust of oak-copse, burning with late fervor
beyond reaped cornfields.

by Cynthia Zarin 

Bone-spur, stirrup of veins—white colt
a tree, sapling bone again, worn to a splinter,
a steeple, the birch aground

in its ravine of leaves. Abide with me, arrive
at its skinned branches, its arms pulled
from the sapling, your wrist taut,

each ganglion a gash in the tree's rent
trunk, a child's hackwork, love plus love,
my palms in your fist, that

trio a trident splitting the birch, its bark
papyrus, its scars calligraphy,
a ghost story written on

winding sheets, the trunk bowing, dead is
my father, the birch reading the news
of the day aloud as if we hadn't

heard it, the root moss lit gas,
like the veins on your ink-stained hand—
the birch all elbows, taking us in.

*Almost Sixty 
by Jim Moore 


    No, I don't know

the way to get there.
    Two empty suitcases sit in the corner,
if that's any kind of clue.


    This spring night,

everyone at the party
    younger than me
except for one man.
    We give each other the secret password.


    Tears? Of course, but also the marsh grass

near the Mississippi:
    your whispers and mine,
and the dog's long contented sighs.

*A Short History of the Apple
by Dorianne Laux 

The crunch is the thing, a certain joy in crashing through
living tissue, a memory of Neanderthal days.
    —Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert, 1929

Teeth at the skin. Anticipation.
Then flesh. Grain on the tongue.
Eve's knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching
gravity happen. The history
of apples in each starry core,
every papery chamber's bright
bitter seed. Woody stem
an infant tree. William Tell
and his lucky arrow. Orchards
of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels.
Fire blight. Scab and powdery mildew.
Cedar apple rust. The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.
Snow White with poison on her lips.
The buried blades of Halloween.
Budding and grafting. John Chapman
in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward
Expansion. Apple pie. American
as. Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives of Britain's honeybees:
white man's flies. O eat. O eat.

*On Anti-Biography
by Will Alexander 

For me, biography is a lantern, burning in the midst of parenthetical opaqueness. In a sense, it is a ruse, a phantasmic meandering, brighter or dimmer, according to the ecletic happenstance of terror.

Me, I've been sired in anomaly, in an imagery of brewing grenadine riddles, a parallel poesis spawned from curious seismographic molten. I say curious, because the original stalking arc has disappeared into the wilderness of an a priori blizzard, which gives birth to a level, like a portal of fire conjoined with the lightning field of mystery. I call it the poetic guardian dove, the hieratic alien wing.

It is the non-local field, the non-particle acid, flowing into my cognitive iodine rays, into the vicious fires of my tarantella marshes. So I dance with vibration, with the solar arc spinning backward around the miraculous force of a double green horizon. Simultaneously, I escape the territorial, while remaining within the burning loops of my own momentary seizures, guarded by ferns, legs plowing land, the face and the mind guided by stars.

So, I am a martyr of drills, of spates of specific lingual flooding, casting at times, a mist or a mirage, like a caravan of yaks, transporting tungsten and water. Conversely, to give a graph of dates, to single out a bevy of personal social lesions, would invert me, would turn me around a diurnal bundle of glass, staggered, with a less than fiery temperature, partially nulling my sensitivity to falling phonemic peppers, to the inclination towards victory which burns in the dawn above heaven. For me, this is the green locale, the pleroma of eternal solar essence, glinting, full of fabulous maelstrom diamonds, an empowered hegira of drift, of claustrophobic rainbow spectrums which empty themselves, and return to themselves, like having an image go out and return to itself, so that it's power transmutes by the very energy of its looping; and I think of myself, the poet sending signals into mystery, and having them return to me with oneiric wings and spirals, so much so, that I forget my prosaic locale with its stultifying anchors, with its familial dotage and image reports, with its dates inscribed in trapezoidal faces. I am only concerned with simultaneity and height, with rays of monomial kindling, guiding the neo-cortex through ravens, into the ecstasy of x-rays and blackness.

*We Build a Barn And Read Reader's Digest
by Tomaž Šalamun 

Quick ostrich. Quick ostrich. Quick sand. Quick sand.
Quick lime. Quick grass. The white juice from celeste Aida,
and forgot-to-take-it dries up. The one

trampled by sheep (down below), Grischa and Beatrice
(up above) converse. They'd recognize each other in
a cover, a box, a jacket, a picture, in moss and trampled

dirt. At this angle of the sky
no pictures are allowed. Corpses are wrapped up like
sheaves. Dismiss the footprint. Wipe your eyes.

Stop pilfering. Grapshot gets tangled up.
I go paying visits with my lives.
Here I just romped and touched the rug

with a yellow shoulder. I don't know what a word is.
To cry out moth! when on your white towel you see 
a scorpion? El Alamein! Where is the difference?

Rommel was kissing heaven's dainty hands, and yet
from his airplane above the Sahara, my uncle
Rafko Perhauc still blew him to bits.

*Ghosts That Need Reminding
by Dana Levin 

Through shattered glass and sheeted furniture, chicken
wire and piled dishes, sheared-off doors stacked five to a
wall, you're walking like cripples. Toward a dirty window,
obstructed by stacks of chairs.

And once you move them, one by one, palm circles through
the grime and cup your hands round your faces, finally able
to see through—

Charged night. Sheet-flashes of green, threaded with sparks,
the pale orange pan of the moon—

Finally, what turns the wheel: the moon ghosting a hole
through a rainbow, the rainbow's rage to efface the moon,
which the moon sails through slow as a ship, in the shape of
cross-legged Buddha...

Lotus-folded, a figurine. The kind you once found in the
Chinatown markets, for a dollar and a dime—

Saying you're dying, you're dead. You can withdraw from this
orbit of mirrors. 

*My Mother Was No White Dove
by Reginald Shepherd 

no dove at all, coo-rooing through the dusk
and foraging for small seeds
My mother was the clouded-over night
a moon swims through, the dark against which stars
switch themselves on, so many already dead
by now (stars switch themselves off
and are my mother, she was never
so celestial, so clearly seen)

My mother was the murderous flight of crows
stilled, black plumage gleaming
among black branches, taken
for nocturnal leaves, the difference
between two darks:

a cacophony of needs
in the bare tree silhouette,
a flight of feathers, scattering
black. She was the night
streetlights oppose (perch
for the crows, their purchase on sight),
obscure bruise across the sky
making up names for rain

My mother always falling
was never snow, no kind
of bird, pigeon or crow