* Oregon: farewell (for now) with a few friends

The Act of Contrition – Sam Roderick Roxas-Chua

It’s hard to exorcise bees
you must start at a young age
and answer only to quiet things,
a hum from the television,
a wick’s last spark,
a pulse from a yolk,
study the many hues
of yellow and black,
flight pattern
and eyelash,
climb atop a hill
and offer your body
as pollen, it is not
until then, their black
bean eyes appear and
your penance begins
with its sting.

*on the road, yo*
*on the road, yo*

Me and mine are set to hit the road this weekend – so I thought I would send us off with poems by two members of the Eugene writing group, The Red Sofa Poets.

Sam’s poem above moves me in the way that it creates a mood and engages you in images – goes from the small to the epic and back again all in the language of, not religion, but sacredness.  The bees are both outside and inside the soul.

Toni Hanner’s poem below enacts the feel of a carnival ride – picking up images as it careens in its longer lines.  The pull of the line is set against the lists detailed by the speaker, the associations of which charge the poem with an undercurrent of immediacy.  In this way, the poem evokes the passing blur the world becomes in the movement and momentum of a carnival ride.


Carnival Ride – Toni Hanner

A dozen black tickets will cost you your shadow but weren’t you tired

of dragging it around anyway, ice box,

carbon paper, skate keys, chalk.  Hand it to the crone smoking on the corner,

ric-rac, floor wax, linoleum, hair nets, she blows

a smoke ring deftly around your face already you’re inside,

there are the girls in silver masks and here comes the ice cream

man with his jingly bells playing a tune you recognize as one your mother

used to sing, you turn to look and there she is, your mother, in her housecoat

laced with burns.  Typewriters, can of worms, chicken feed, fireflies,

and she is singing, your mother, but not that song.

*ferris is fair*
*ferris is fair*

Both of these poems were published in the first issue of Fault Lines Poetry.  The release party/reading for this issue was the first poetry event I attended upon returning to Oregon a year ago.

It has been a good year for the page and for the Influence.  We’ll be on the road for the next week.  Wish us luck!

Happy Oregoning!


* painting found here.

* prose poem buzz & Max Jacob

Poem of the Moon

There are upon the night three mushrooms that are the moon. As brusquely as the cuckoo sings from a clock, they rearrange themselves at midnight each month. There are in the garden rare flowers that are small sleeping men, one-hundred of them. They are reflections from a mirror. There is in my dark room a luminous censer that swings, then two… phosphorescent aerostats. They are reflections from a mirror. There is in my head a bumblebee speaking.

*whatcha thinkin’?*

And because I like working in threes, here is one more foray into the prose poem – this time with the renown French poet Max Jacob.

In talking about prose poetry, one must always acknowledge the fact that the tradition began in French literature.  Here’s the quote from Charles Baudelaire that, if you haven’t run into it yet, will possibly make you a believer:

Which one of us has not dreamed, on ambitious days, of the miracle of a poetic prose: musical, without rhythm or rhyme; adaptable enough and discordant enough to conform to the lyrical movements of the soul, the waves of revery, the jolts of consciousness?

Since these famous words were given to the world, many have laid open their dreams and given back their versions of poetic prose.

The poem below is one of the first prose poems I read that really had me nodding my head saying: yes, that’s it, that’s what you do in a poem.  I love the way it captures that moment of jolt when you look closer at your surroundings and see something you’ve neglected to notice.


The beggar woman of naples

When I lived in Naples there was always a beggar woman at the gate of my palace, to whom I would toss some coins before climbing into my carriage. One day, surprised at never being thanked, I looked at the beggar woman. Now, as I looked at her, I saw that what I had taken for a beggar woman was a wooden case painted green which contained some red earth and a few half-rotten bananas …


Happy bananas!


* pic found here.

* stepping into the river with Charles Simic

The stone is a mirror which works poorly. Nothing in it but dimness. Your dimness or its dimness, who’s to say? In the hush your heart sounds like a black cricket.

Charles Simic

*who you calling dim?*
*who you calling dim?*

Since I quoted the man last week in regards to the prose poem, I thought I would share some of Charles Simic’s own work in the genre.

In these excerpts from his book The World Doesn’t End you definitely can catch some of that sense of being caught up and driven to rereading a poem in order to continue grasping what the first reading of it had you start to grasp.

This may be an exasperating way of thinking about reading – you not only read but go over what was read to read into it more – but it’s the kind of thing that poetry teaches you to do and the helps the reading of a poem to be at times both illuminating and, well, exasperating.

Simic himself says in one of his notebooks that poetry and philosophy make slow solitary readers.

I know the feeling.  In the same way you can’t step in the same river twice, so you can’t read the same thing the same way twice.  You change each time.

Stepping into the river with Simic, I always leave surprised.  Here’s more:


Things were not as black as somebody painted them. There was a pretty child dressed in black and playing with two black apples. It was either a girl dressed as a boy, or a boy dressed as a girl. Whatever, it had small white teeth. The landscape outside its window had been blackened with a heavy and coarse paint brush. It was all very teleological, except when a child stuck out its red tongue.


We were so poor I had to take the place of the bait in the mousetrap. All alone in the cellar, I could hear them pacing upstairs, tossing and turning in their beds. ‘These are dark and evil days,’ the mouse told me as he nibbled my ear. Years passed. My mother wore a cat-fur collar which she stroked until its sparks lit up the cellar.


Happy sparking!


* what a poem does & Russell Edson

What makes them poems is that they are self-contained, and once you read one you have to go back and start reading it again.  That’s what a poem does.
(Charles Simic)

Charles Simic said the above in regards to his own collection, The World Doesn’t End, which consists of a series of prose poems.  I love how true this idea rings – that a poem – sonnet, lyric, or prose poem – exists as a self-contained experience.

However one may feel about prose poems – and there be much controversy even these days – one cannot deny the poetry of something that fits the above.

I mean, there are things that people have said to me in passing that fit these parameters, those parts of conversation you find yourself quoting later, either to others or to yourself.

Makes me think of that George Harrison line: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there…

In the poem below, Russell Edson goes a few unexpected places.

*the not elephant in the room*
*the not elephant in the room*

The Fall – Russell Edson

There was a man who found two leaves and came indoors holding them out saying to his parents that he was a tree.

To which they said the go into the yard and do not grow in the living-room as your roots may ruin the carpet.

He said I was fooling I am not a tree and he dropped his leaves.

But his parents said look it is fall.


Happy falling!


p.s. Newstand Alert: check out my poem “Reading Hunger” published in the current issue of Gulf Coast!  Info on this issue here.

* photo found here.

* rivers, Jim Harrison & you

In a life properly lived, you’re a river. You touch things lightly or deeply; you move along because life herself moves, and you can’t stop it; you can’t figure out a banal game plan applicable to all situations; you just have to go with the “beingness” of life, as Rilke would have it.

Jim Harrison

*ain't life Rio Grande*
*ain’t life Rio Grande*

Jim Harrison is one of my gurus.  His work opens me up every time I return to it.  There is a directness to his writing, a feeling of having whittled one’s self down to the essential.  Being a poet of rivers myself, his words above are kindred.

He may also be the closest we have to that other great poet of rivers, Li Po, who, legend has it, died embracing the moon – at least the reflection of it he saw one night on the face of a river.

In the following poem, from his book Saving Daylight, Jim takes us a littler further down the river, to where we may have been all along.

Water – Jim Harrison

Before I was born I was water.
I thought of this sitting on a blue
chair surrounded by pink, red, white
hollyhocks in the yard in front
of my green studio.  There are conclusions
to be drawn but I can’t do it anymore.
Born man, child man, singing  man,
dancing man, loving man, old man,
dying man.  This is a round river
and we are her fish who become water.


Happy watering!