“There are moments that come to me in the shower. Emotions combine in certain alchemical ways and bring upon me a desire to fall to my knees, heart pregnant with celestial fire. I am ready to subjugate myself to the sky sprites, prepared to say, ‘Not my will, but Thine’. But, sadly, I am apostate.”

Paul Ford, Harpers


When the birds talk, I answer.
When they are hungry, I need feed.
They desire to propagate, I do too.
But the story ends here, it goes
nowhere.  It’s just too early
in the morning to think anything through.
A though starts up, it’s like tickling
in my brain.  My motor’s running
but I’m almost out of gas.
I look at my appointment calendar —
spider webs and chicken scratches.
Ah, I see, there’s a ladybug coming tomorrow.
For a block of wood, I am so very busy.
I am waiting for the phone to ring.
Is that you, Tweetie? Not a peep.
I flick on the television: no news
is still no news.  It’s terribly early.
It’s not as though I have a cow to milk,
or do I?  A lovely bovine ruminant
would provide such satisfaction
at this moment.  Or a cowbird–
amazing to think of the cowbird
because it makes no nest, and lays
its eggs in the nests of other birds.
What a concept!  And, usually, the foster parents–
listen to me! I’m talking of birds
as foster parents, this is really fun–
do not seem to notice anything strange
about the young cowbird, which may be
twice the size of their own chicks.
(This thought has completely exhausted me,
I’m seriously considering a return
to the dark–but safe–underbelly of sleep.)
My own humanity has overwhelmed me.
it has nearly defeated me, the me who was
trying to rise up.  It–that is, my own
humanity–seethed up when I least wanted it.
Following the magnetic forces of other worlds,
the birds fly in all directions,
less bird-like than myself.

–James Tate, from his 1994 collection, The Worshipful Company of Fletchers

Black Marigolds

Even now
If I see in my soul the citron-breasted fair one
Still gold-tinted, her face like our night stars,
Drawing unto her; her body beaten about with flame,
Wounded by the flaring spear of love,
My first of all by reason of her fresh years,
Then is my heart buried alive in snow.

Even now
If my girl with lotus eyes came to me again
Weary with the dear weight of young love,
Again I would give her to these starved twins of arms
And from her mouth drink down the heavy wine,
As a reeling pirate bee in fluttered ease
Steals up the honey from the nenuphar.

Even now
If I saw her lying all wide eyes
And with collyrium the indent of her cheek
Lengthened to the bright ear and her pale side
So suffering the fever of my distance,
Then would my love for her be ropes of flowers, and night
A black-haired lover on the breasts of day.

Even now
My eyes that hurry to see no more are painting, painting
Faces of my lost girl. O golden rings,
That tap against cheeks of small magnolia leaves,
O whitest so soft parchment where
My poor divorced lips have written excellent
Stanzas of kisses, and will write no more.

Even now
The pleased intimacy of rough love
Upon the patient glory of her form
Racks me with memory; and her bright dress
As it were yellow flame, which the white hand
Shamefastly gathers in her rising haste,
The slender grace of her departing feet.

Even now
I know my princess was happy. I see her stand
Touching her breasts with all her flower-soft fingers,
Looking askance at me with smiling eyes.
There is a god that arms him with a flower
And she was stricken deep. Her, oh die here.
Kiss me and I shall be purer than quick rivers.

Even now
They chatter her weakness through the two bazaars
Who was so strong to love me. And small men
That buy and sell for silver being slaves
Crinkle the fat about their eyes; and yet
No Prince of the Cities of the Sea has taken her,
Leading to his grim bed. Little lonely one,
You clung to me as a garment clings, my girl.

Even now
I mind the coming and talking of wise men from towers
Where they had thought away their youth. And I, listening,
Found not the salt of the whispers of my girl,
Murmur of confused colours, as we lay near sleep;
Little wise words and little witty words
Wanton as water, honeyed with eagerness.

Even now
I mind that the time of the falling of blossoms started my dream
Into a wild life, into my girl;
Then was the essence of her beauty spilled
Down on my days so that it fades not,
Fails not, subtle and fresh, in perfuming
That day, and the days, and this the latest day.

Even now
I know that I have savoured the hot taste of life
Lifting green cups and gold at the great feast.
Just for a small and a forgotten time
I have had full in my eyes from off my girl
The whitest pouring of eternal light.
The heavy knife. As to a gala day.


a free interpretation by E. Powys Mathers

of an 11th century poem called Chaurapanchasika

Neruda Sonnet LXIV

My life was tinted purple by so much love,
and I veered helter-skelter like a blinded bird
till I reached your window, my friend:
you heard the murmur of a broken heart.

There from the shadows I rose to your breast:
without being or knowing, I flew up the towers of wheat,
I surged to life in your hands,
I rose from the sea to your joy.

No one can reckon what I owe you, Love,
what I owe you is lucid, it is like a root
from Arauco, what I owe you, Love.

Clearly, it is like a star, all that I owe you,
what I owe you is like a well in a wilderness
where time watches over the wandering lightning.

what she said

first the sun rose,

bustin up the cuddle coma.

she rose.  I rose.

heads a-stuffed with snuggle soma.

on a quiet tuesday morning treetops rose,

golden into the sun.

and she told a story

about a rose.

that rose you felt

she said: yesterday,

when you felt that rose,

fingers parting petals gently

probing through luscious

layers of enviable softness

down to the secret center

of the flower.

yea, even unto that stiff

little stamen.

and out again,

dusty with pollen,

messy with the scent of a rose.

I was that flower.

That’s what she said.


Cinderblock Wall

To speak to me is madness

I teach silence: hush your tongue

Quieten down now joys and sadness

Temper stifle, thought make dumb


Spring breezes with the sounds of love on

Pause not here; they do not dare

The summer air that begs for birdsong

I change to stagnant, stifled air


Autumn winds call out fall thoughts

Each tree ten thousand golden ears

Snow-ears listen ere those ears rot

It’s listening things that shift the year


But seasons cease at this partition

I hold a separate world unheard

Inside each day’s a repetition

Each word you say, a wasted word




are those

whose bones inhabit clothes

and muscles feed on flesh

except for mine —

here in concrete and florescent light

between closing walls and slamming locks

where the doors bear names

and all things soft and sensuous

are excluded

and nourishment so circumscribed

it’s turned to medicine

and even sleep is rationed

and even the sun shines just

one hour per day


men here

some with hearts of porphyry

but more with hearts all made of bruises

and men whose hearts beat scherzo time

to mock the waltzing world

men more varied

than all the work-day men

who stumbled into power’s ken

and there must bide

sharing time to kill their numbers

where solo time is hard —


in jail

serving to remind the rest

that freedom’s theirs who use it less