erica jong – becoming a nun

(For Jennifer Josephy)

On cold days
it is easy to be reasonable,
to button the mouth against kisses,
dust the breasts
with talcum powder
& forget
the red pulp meat
of the heart.

On those days
it beats
like a digital clock-
not a beat at all
but a steady whirring
chilly as green neon,
luminous as numerals in the dark,
cool as electricity.

& I think:
I can live without it all-
love with its blood pump,
sex with its messy hungers,
men with their peacock strutting,
their silly sexual baggage,
their wet tongues in my ear
& their words like little sugar suckers
with sour centers.

On such days
I am zipped in my body suit,
I am wearing seven league red suede boots,
I am marching over the cobblestones
as if they were the heads of men,

& I am happy
as a seven-year-old virgin
holding Daddy’s hand.

Don’t touch.
Don’t try to tempt me with your ripe persimmons.
Don’t threaten me with your volcano.
The sky is clearer when I’m not in heat,
& the poems
are colder.

john o’donohue – for one who is exhausted (2008)

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
___
from ‘To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings’ (Doubleday, 2008).

Thank you, Michelle, for sending this to me.

living next door to alice (in W-LAN) (2010)

off with her head

i’m never really here
never really not here

this is the in-between
where we un-appear
in the web of day to day
it’s the back alleyway
that sucks us in

mind that gap, gal, you say,
it’s no zero-sum game.

ja-nee
it’s a dirty crack habit
but i’m not paying, pal!

i’m chasing that rabbit
i’m hunting that quark
i’m ripping, unzipping
tumbling through the dark

i’m pulled, i’m polluted
the vertigo’s heady
the jostling vacuum
blaring and unsteady

warrens of voids
streaming past
screaming future
endlessly new
have i seen this already?

uh-huh, it’s not pretty
these blown-up dead pixels
no taste, so not witty
they stink like nothing

on earth

in asunderland
nothing rots

i’m always here, not-here
it’s off with me ’ead
when bored, i bore deeper
through holes yet unread

i need more; drop a fresh tab

hop a window

and i tiptoe
past the daemon
with a keygen
while it snores
unlock the door

to

another tube flickr-ing
twittering, bickering
low resolution
there’s no revelation
there’s no revolution
just revaluation
search optimisation
and too many shares

i spin rumpelstiltskins’
straw dogs into gold
using worm-riddled troll jam
i scavenge ‘twixt threads

i needle this grey gunk
i snip it to shreds
i bump and i juggle
grind bones badly bred

i flip and i giggle
i slough off my shame
i slurp it up, spew it out
flooding the drain

logged in or logged out
i have no real name
if I do it is M.U.D.
and i’m out of my death

and where is my body?

my own flesh and blood
it sleeps with the ‘fiches
not holding its breath

see, it doesn’t do digital
it keeps crashing
so it’s chained to the terminal
wired to the grid
with a stay of execution

logged on or logged off
the haunted dimension
buzzes in my marrow
drowns out my dreams
howls me back
out of bed
out of the car
out of the street
from the supermarket
from the sunset
from supper
in a stupor
on my phone
into my inbox
unto my outbox
onto the blog

*welcome to [UR(hel)L]*

you can’t turn off a never-present stranger.

(2010)

alice1

gaia holmes – hope

Though it seems so dark
and the ceiling of the world’s a wound
and so many hours have been bruised,
and so many lives have been broken,
there are stars up there tonight
and we must name them,
we must love them,
we must whistle them down like dogs
in faith of their shine
and they will be loyal.
They will show us where their bones are.
They will teach us
their soft, bright tricks of devotion.

And even on the blackest nights,
when hope and protest
are knotted in our throats,
when our smiles have been tarred
and buckled with the weight and stain
of shadows,
we have to remember they are there,
those glittering sky-hooked prayers,
prickling and humming,
embedded in that thick and lovely blue,
guarding us from spite,
keeping the moon from slipping,
herding the pale lamb-like dawns
into our sleeping houses
where they flow
through all our rooms
fluent and loving as milk.
_
From here. Check out more poetry by Gaia Holmes on her blog. Thank you to Michelle McGrane (Peony Moon) for the introduction.

richard brautigan – homage to the san francisco ymca (1971)

(With thanks to Lesego Rampolokeng for sharing this on Facebook last night.)

One upon a time in San Francisco there was a man who really liked the finer things in life, especially poetry. He liked good verse.

He could afford to indulge himself in this liking, which meant that he didn’t have to work because he was receiving a generous pension that was the result of a 1920s investment that his grandfather had made in a private insane asylum that was operating quite profitably in Southern California. In the black, as they say and located in the San Fernando Valley, just outside of Tarzana. It was one of those places that do not look like an insane asylum. It looked like something else with flowers all around it, mostly roses.

The checks always arrived on the 1st and 15th of every month, even when there was not a mail delivery on that day. He had a lovely house in Pacific Heights and he would go out and buy more poetry. He of course had never met a poet in person. That would have been a little too much.

One day he decided that his liking for poetry could not be fully expressed in just reading poetry or listening to poets reading on phonograph records. He decided to take the plumbing out of his house and completely replace it with poetry, and so he did.

He turned off the water and took out the pipes and put in John Donne to replace them. The pipes did not look too happy. He took out his bathtub and put in William Shakespeare. The bathtub did not know what was happening.

He took out his kitchen sink and put in Emily Dickinson. The kitchen sink could only stare back in wonder. He took out his bathroom sink and put in Vladimir Mayakovsky. The bathroom sink, even though the water was turned off, broke out into tears.

He took out his hot water heater and put in Michael McClure’s poetry. The hot water heater could barely contain its sanity. Finally he took out his toilet and put in the minor poets. The toilet planned on leaving the country.

And now the time had come to see how it all worked, to enjoy the fruit of his amazing labor. Christopher Columbus’ slight venture sailing West was merely the shadow of a dismal event in the comparison. He turned the water back on again and surveyed the countenance of his vision brought to reality. He was a happy man.

“I think I’ll take a bath,” he said, to celebrate. He tried to heat up some Michael McClure to take a bath in some William Shakespeare and what happened was not actually what he had planned on happening.

“Might as well do the dishes then,” he said. He tried to wash some plates in “I taste a liquor never brewed,” and found there was quite a difference between that liquid and a kitchen sink. Despair was on its way.

He tried to go to the toilet and the minor poets did not do at all. They began gossiping about their careers as he sat there trying to take a shit. One of them had written 197 sonnets about a penguin he had once seen in a travelling circus. He sensed a Pulitzer Prize in this material.
Suddenly the man realized that poetry could not replace plumbing. It’s what they call seeing the light. He decided immediately to take the poetry out and put the pipes back in, along with the sinks, the bathtub, the hot water heater and the toilet.

“This just didn’t work out the way I planned it,” he said. “I’ll have to put the plumbing back. Take the poetry out.” It made sense standing there naked in the total light of failure.

But then he ran into more trouble than there was in the first place. The poetry did not want to go. IT liked very much occupying the positions of the former plumbing.

“I look great as a kitchen sink,” Emily Dickinson’s poetry said.

“We look wonderful as a toilet,” the minor poets said.

“I’m grand as pipes,” John Donne’s poetry said.

“I’m a perfect hot water heater,” Michael McClure’s poetry said.

Vladimir Mayakovsky sang new faucets from the bathroom, there are faucets beyond suffering, and William Shakespeare’s poetry was nothing but smiles.

“That’s well and dandy for you,” the man said. “But I have to have plumbing, REAL plumbing in this house. Did you notice the emphasis I put on REAL? Real! Poetry just can’t handle it. Face up to reality,” the man said to the poetry.

But the poetry refused to go. “We’re staying.” The man offered to call the police. “Go ahead and lock us up, you illiterate,” the poetry said in one voice.

“I’ll call the fire department!”

“Book burner!” the poetry shouted.

The man began to fight the poetry. It was the first time he had ever been in a fight. He kicked the poetry of Emily Dickinson in the nose.

Of course the poetry of Michael McClure and Vladimir Mayakovsky walked over and said in English and Russian, “That won’t do at all,” and threw the man down a flight of stairs. He got the message.

That was two years ago. The man is now living in a YMCA in San Francisco and loves it. He spends more time in the bathroom than everybody else. He goes in there at night and talks to himself with the light out.

a a milne – spring morning (1924)

I miss you Grandpa Bean. Gone 6 years now.

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow-
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.

If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You’d sail on water as blue as air,
And you’d see me here in the fields and say:
“Doesn’t the sky look green today?”

Where am I going? The high rooks call:
“It’s awful fun to be born at all.”
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
“We do have beautiful things to do.”

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You’d say to the wind when it took you away:
“That’s where I wanted to go today!”

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

__
From “When We Were Very Young,” A.A. Milne, 1924.

With thanks to Gareth Jones for sending this to me yesterday (how did you know?)…