“All we have to lay on the line”

Consider this a prelude to my Wednesday guest post at First Draft tomorrow.

There are few people on earth I admire more than the small woman in this video. A warrior, growing frailer each year though she may be, Adrienne Rich’s poetry has been, and likely will continue to be, a powerful guiding force for generations (and those yet to come) of women, men, activists, risk takers. Rich read this poem of hers, Transparencies, at a ceremony last year where she and others were honored for being risk takers.

Risk, safety, fear, injury, and courage- of, and by, words and bodies.  This is what’s on my mind. Seeya tomorrow.

08 Pride Post #24: Quotable Pride— “it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence”

“I have come to believe over and over again, that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood…. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you…. and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
—— Audre Lorde (The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, Sister Outsider).

Pride 08 Post #9: Frank O’Hara and “the ecstasy of always bursting forth!”

For most of his life, Frank O’Hara thought today’s date, June 27, was his birthday. Turns out he was wrong. He was actually born March 27, 1926. His proper, strict parents had lied to him because they didn’t want him to know he was conceived before they were married.

I became aware of O’Hara’s poetry sometime in college, I think. I read his writing off and on after that but it was years later that I fell in love with it. That happened after I started taking my own poetry more seriously but mostly because I’d moved to New York. Reading O’Hara after living in New York was for me like what others speak of when they say they never really understood Proust until they read him in French, or they didn’t “get” Rilke until reading him in the original German. New York was O’Hara’s original language. The overload, the lights, the music, the beautiful men, and of course, the art world that swirled around him. No other modern poet had their likeness captured by as many famous artists as O’Hara.

My category tag “I do this I do that” is taken from his disarmingly modest description of the poems he wrote during lunch hours from his job at the MOMA.

I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.

Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too,
don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves.

However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of
pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of
perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the
confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes–I can’t
even enjoy a blade of grass unless i know there’s a subway
handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not
totally _regret_ life. It is more important to affirm the
least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and
even they continue to pass. Do they know what they’re missing?
Uh huh.

— from Meditations in an Emergency

The poems can come across as trivial, and enough critics have certainly labeled them as such, no doubt in part because taken one at a time, most don’t lend themselves to rigorous literary analysis. Possibly because they were never intended to lie flat and still on a page, no more than a few musical notes on a paper score were ever meant to convey a live performance of an entire symphony. O’Hara’s best writing is a stream of consciousness, impressionistic but dead-on, the details that can seem tossed off are instead touchstones and landmarks that synch the reader up with the poet, in lockstep with him in the place and time the poems capture. One of the reasons I love O’Hara is because (like the much more stylistically formal Sharon Olds) his detailed scenes cannot be forgotten once the motion, the sights, the smells and tastes, sink into your brain.

It’s telling to consider that word “trivial” — it comes from the Latin trivialis, “that which is in, or belongs to, the crossroads or public streets; hence, that may be found everywhere, common.”


Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!)

I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up


The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Poetry blogging: The Searchers

Yesterday’s Search Terms, a narrative in verse
free blackberry radio
sailor tattoos
blackberry radio free
van cat
she got the money
she’s got the honey
she’s got the money
i got the money and she’s got the honey
blackberry free radio

Poetry blogging: if light had not transformed that day

Effort at Speech between two people
Muriel Rukeyser

: Speak to me. Take my hand. What are you now?
I will tell you all. I will conceal nothing.
When I was three, a little child read a story about a rabbit
who died, in the story, and I crawled under a chair :
a pink rabbit : it was my birthday, and a candle
burnt a sore spot on my finger, and I was told to be happy.

: Oh, grow to know me. I am not happy. I will be open:
Now I am thinking of white sails against a sky like music,
like glad horns blowing, and birds tilting, and an arm about me.
There was one I loved, who wanted to live, sailing.

: Speak to me. Take my hand. What are you now?
When I was nine, I was fruitily sentimental,
fluid : and my widowed aunt played Chopin,
and I bent my head to the painted woodwork, and wept.
I want now to be close to you. I would
link the minutes of my days close, somehow, to your days.

: I am not happy. I will be open.
I have liked lamps in evening corners, and quiet poems.
There has been fear in my life. Sometimes I speculate
on what a tragedy his life was, really.

: Take my hand. Fist my mind in your hand. What are you now?
When I was fourteen, I had dreams of suicide,
I stood at a steep window, at sunset, hoping toward death :
if the light had not melted clouds and plains to beauty,
if light had not transformed that day, I would have leapt.
I am unhappy. I am lonely. Speak to me.

I will be open. I think he never loved me:
he loved the bright beaches, the little lips of foam
that ride small waves, he loved the veer of gulls:
he said with a gay mouth : I love you. Grow to know me.

: What are you now? If we could touch one another,
if these our separate entities could come to grips,
clenched like a Chinese puzzle . . . yesterday
I stood in a crowded street that was live with people,
and no one spoke a word, and the morning shone.
Everyone silent, moving . . . Take my hand. Speak to me.

Poetry blogging: I should make use of water


by Philip Larkin

If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.

Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;

My liturgy would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,

And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly

Poetry blogging: “which is love assuming the consciousness of itself”


In Favor Of One’s Time
Frank O’Hara

an angel flying slowly, curiously singes its wings
and you diminish for a moment out of respect
for beauty then flare up after all that’s the angel
that wrestled with Jacob and loves conflict
as an athlete loves the tape, and we’re off into
an immortal contest of actuality and pride
which is love assuming the consciousness of itself
as sky over all, medium of finding and founding
not just resemblance but the magnetic otherness
that that that stands erect in the the spirit’s glare
and waits for the joining of an opposite force’s breath

Poetry blogging: anywhere I went I could sleep


Stars Inn
B Northcut


of fragile potential

for the word

for the law

for the lawn mower repair

on this afternoon’s carport

they come here to die a little

greasy sacrament

incense of stale exhalations

stare at the pool outside

“a view of the ocean”

he chuckles,



she stirs her coffee

and takes herself

out the narrow window


“us in it for as much as this we are a fucked-up buncha people”

the match book

the taste of coffee

the way you looked at me last night

another glorious excuse for a failure

and a circus story of a life on the move

to boot


at least I wasn’t scared

anywhere I went I could sleep

and sleep good

no matter

it’s all that we have

that’s faith don’t ya know

that instant

before we lay it all down

that’s all

that big minute

Copyright, 1991
Cafe Armageddon Press

Poetry blogging: how well they understood its human position


Musée des Beaux Arts
W H Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

inside my bones the distance


B. Northcut

I know
inside my bones
the distance,
an arm’s length.
You need not
measure it out
for me
with one-sentence

Your glances
at what I once
gave you
also measure,
speak longer.
What before
you tasted,
now only your
eyes know.

© all rights reserved