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Category: Reading

I have learned over time that reading is just as important as writing to the writing life. Whenever I am reading a book (fiction, poetry, whatever), I often find myself WANTING to tell others about what I’m reading, to encourage them to read, to share a passage. This is where I can do that. In each post that I include a passage, I will also state where it came from so you will have the opportunity to read more of those posts you enjoyed.

Reading New Ohio Review (nor) 8

DEAN YOUNG

Bell Tower

Now that my heart is about ready,
who are all those gracile creatures
moving smooth as air around me
while I rest on my assistant, the stair railing?
I’m thankful not to know a one of them
and interrupt their neon-darting need
for somewhere else to vanish in.
I could almost disappear right here.
The one who I would talk to is ahead,
not because he’s hurrying,
that’s just how things work out
like his cheap, cement Buddha
achieving perfection losing its eyes and nose
in nothing unusual sun and snow.
He’s not moving either.
Me, him, and sleep that’s inside everything
like a tree’s shadow in the tree at night,
happiest night
while the crickets won’t let go.

*

In another life I was always drunker.
Planted bulbs. Liked how my arms felt.
My friend, when he talked about heaven
seemed to have nothing wrong with him.
The gravy came out. Jim would let the water run
the whole time he did the dishes
when it wasn’t his turn to dance the baby
and the stars felt their way through the lilacs
or frost whatever holiday.

I don’t know the eternal.
Don’t even feel kindly toward it.

The champagne I bought was so-so
but it was still champagne and lots of it.

You don’t have to do anything
to deserve sleep.

*

Inside every one of us is a staircase.
I have seen my love turn and look
down to me then continue her climb.
The smoke in her hair will keep finding me
until the world is all smoke.

*

I don’t know, something will carry me forward.
Drift of snow, hummingbird,
a baby’s birthday balloon.
I can’t think of my kitten now
rubbing his face against mine,
not while I’m trying to get out the door.
Every day is spring.
Lilacs, come fetch me.
Lacewings too.
Every day is winter.
We make no sound over pine needles.

MICHAEL CHITWOOD

On a Thursday Afternoon of His Life

my brother-in-law wrote a letter he never mailed.
In it he explained what a dog smells when it smells fear.
He described what he saw when he saw blue.
He mentioned a moment that afternoon:
he was alone in the house,
somewhere not too far off was the rumble of heavy equipment,
then he heard his name pronounced by a familiar voice he’d never heard before.
He gave two options for how things would turn out
and wrote “one or the other.”
He noticed how “or the” was almost “other.”
He mentioned that in the next line of the letter.
Why am I telling you this he wondered next.
He said Friday was his favorite evening, in the fall, the team just taking the field.
He knew he would not mail the letter but wrote it out long-hand with the pen he kept by the phone for taking messages.
The letter will be found years from now in the back a drawer that contains a hinge and a set of brass keys to doors that are long gone or I should say now always open.
The closing was good something, the last word smudged,
good luck? goodbye? good something, good.

ROBIN HEMLEY

Introduction to my Latest Effort

I wrote the next poem I’m going to read this
morning on a plane
I’m not sure it’s very good
but I kind of like it and I thought I’d share
my latest effort with you.
Would you like to hear it?
I think it’s going to be the first in a series
of poems about emergency exits
because I was sitting in the emergency exit row
and the flight attendant came around and asked me
if I was willing to assist in the event of an emergency.
I was tired and didn’t hear him
correctly and I thought he had asked if we were willing to exist
in the event of an emergency.
Which startled me because sometimes
I have suicidal thoughts and I must have looked
alarmed because he asked me if I knew
how to speak English and if I wanted to be moved.
I told him I thought he had asked me if
I was willing to exist and he laughed and said,
Oh sir, we assume the answer to that question is yes.

NICK NORWOOD

At Sea

Last night, I dreamed I was in the North Atlantic,
far from the mainland, standing atop high swells,
the water dark as oilsmoke, laced with foam,
when you came along, at once sublime
and casual as a whale. We stood and talked.

I leaned against a lamppost that wasn’t there.
And you, laughing, suggested we make love
floating on air, a few feet over the chop,
like mythological Greeks, or characters
in Shakespeare, dreamed up sometime late

in his Stratfordian retirement, lost,
never discovered. So what was it then
that kept me there, in bed, alone, listening,
after I was startled awake, to the neighbor’s dog
barking at shadows in his own back yard,

the streetlamp outside, orbited by moths,
obliterating the stars and making the moon
seem pale? Why didn’t I rise and go to you,
sailing the streets between my room and yours
to enter, godlike, riding on a wave?

*

all from New Ohio Review (nor) 8: Fall 2010, Ed. Jill Allyn Rosser

I’m in a sort-of-weird mood today, so the oddness of “assist” vs “exist” in Hemley’s poem and the dream in Norwood’s really caught my attention.

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Just finished reading William Aberg and Maureen Alsop

WILLIAM ABERG

The Blade

(for William Stafford)

As a boy, I made a blade
of my hand and held it
flush with the window
of our speeding car.

Telephone poles, great
windy chestnuts and oaks, tall
buildings, and green, bearing slopes–
I leveled them all exactly with my wake.

One day, I fear
I’ll have to live in that country.

Weddings

Mornings, when the first
gold threads
wrap the trees, I sense
the light those strands withhold–
this is poetry: separating
each thread gently
with both thumbnails
until the light of the visible
blends with the light of the invisible.
Through this bright web
the fly extends its tiny, upturned hands.

*

both from The Listening Chamber: The University of Arkansas Press, 1997.

***

MAUREEN ALSOP

Late Twilight

The hawk’s small-boned gyre
fevers my shadow. I’ve returned
to this place winter first
found me. Back to a sea divorced
from storm; back to the lake
laced in kelp. Here, I swam
from one side of green to another.
Swawp reeds slowly fingered
my sternum. Stroke by stroke, my name froze
deeper into a feathery current. I received love
as well as I was able. But my heart,
my heart kept spinning.

Vernacular of Snow in Summer

Over my dinner plate’s strewn nebulae
of breadcrumbs, wild summer wrens
pick fresh the freshly picked. Then move off–aborted
somewhere between flies and cloud.

Since your death, in parts of my life, light
imitates scraggling boughs of pine. The sound of a chair

pushing back from the table is the unshakeable voicelessness
of snow–this, an almost tenderness. Before the sky
hatches open into a delirious dark, I am lathered

in the smell of village heat, smell of cardamom, brine, amber–
snatched by malingering bells sounding too close, sounding
like the shape of distance. And along the playa, pelicans
smash ribbed beaks into oceanic currents and waves

pulse with a seam of white.

*

both from Apparition Wren: Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2007.

***

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Reading Diane Seuss

Don’t say Paris

No one says Paris anymore.
There’s no such thing as Paris, no
Café de la Paix, no Titian’s Entombment

in t he Louvre or Hotel La Sanguine
with amaranth petals on the sheets. Don’t
say Paris. When you utter the word

I take off my long red gloves. I prepare
my hands to be stroked. I’m an idiot
that way, a Parisian to the bone. Once,

on some Rue or other, I was not alone.
The city, blue. My black coat opened
and gave birth to my body as I walked.

You dare speak of Paris? You unlatch
the door in the cage, that word comes
blooming out, orange feathers ignite

the room. My room the color of sage
in fog. And now, Paris, breaking
the mirrors, exposing the cobbled

alleyways behind them. Who says
Paris? Now I swirl my nipples
with Le Rouge Baiser. Or did you

mean Paris, Kentucky? Or just Paris,
a word tossed off like an exploding peony
dropped from the swaying top of that tall

steel tower? Paris, a bitter word,
a word to be spit into a lace handkerchief
like the pit of some pink-fleshed fruit,

stolen from the garden of the rich, in whose
sweetness a woman like me can drown.
Paris, where I loved and suffered, where

the enemy flag opened and flared, poppy
with a spider inside. Liberation, another
suspicious bit of language, a perfumed

envelope holding no letter. Paris, you say.
I have shut down the Office de Tourisme,
covered the windows with flowering vines,

casting those rooms in purple light.
I have wrapped my lips around that word
until it throbbed like Bouguereau’s

La Madone aux Roses.

Spring’s confessional poem
“yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

i’ve opened
my blouse to you and your heavy
head between my

and i’ve unlatched my
and spread my

here i’ve said here
and there’s that snowdrop you love to touch
(my hair like mink my skin unfurling like a wedding)

an array of sweetness for your pleasure
(pink ones and lilac-flavored ones)
and teased out the spray of seeds

verbs my specialty
stroked and furrowed
until you think i’m one way

but i’m another way

kissed your belly kissed and kissed
(wild roses among the lilacs
eggs among the nests woven from chemotherapy hair)

Wolf Lake, white gown blown open

White sky, a tinge of blue,
birds like silver crucifixes
children wear at their First Communion—

the lake, melted candelabra—

no wind, no dust of summer moths, no weeping.

Lichen sleeps like fur on a dead thing
and the bones of the trees don’t creak
and the woody stems of the cattails hold
the earth steady—

for instance

I once fished here, bass after bass,
shined like the flashlight down their throats
and saw all the way to the gold ovaries,
gill slits like louvered blinds
letting out light—

meat, heart, memory.

The boat was the green of naiveté,
the oars mismatched,

and who was that girl—a bride—

catching everything
and releasing nothing?

*

Jack in the Pulpit breaks through.
Purple veins comb the spathe, then the spadex
furred-over with male and female blooms
and the cone of firm red berries—

and the trillium’s white gown blown open—

and the lapping sound of water,
like a dog compelled to lick itself.

Lake infested with black swans,
beaks breaking the surface tension
of the water

then pulling out, swallowing down
a writhing fish, another,

dissatisfied.

*

There is mist, there is a smudge of moonlight on the water—

lake the color of the groom’s Italian leather shoes.

I grind against him on the muddy edge,
open the gold buttons to get to the skin,
the throbbing lip and tongue and cock—

flesh, right now, the wet smear of him
on my palm and lips and inside me,
inside, where I live, right now bitter with him,
dandelion juice, phosphorous,

muck, milk, food—

and beneath us snail shells burst
like the skulls of the dead in the crematorium.

*

There is body, there is experience, there is narrative,
there is idea, memory, philosophy, love—

and there are gods
and there are the operas of the gods—

there is desire
and desire’s cold blue-eyed twin—

and this place in-between—water,
weeds bound like tangled fishing line,
bones washed clean,

and ghosts, laced and corseted, dragging
their anchors and sinkers and veils.

*

all from Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010

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