Not Monday, but…

I will be rafting next week, so this post is for next Monday.  I saw this lovely lobster poem in Sean the Sharpener’s morning missive–poems about crustaceans. I had previously posted Nemerov’s wonderful lobster poem. Kay had an “s” on flamenco, which I ruthlessly and presumptuously removed. I hope she doesn’t mind. Also in Sean’s post was a link to a Robert Johnson tune,

I enjoy Robert Johnson’s music, but to me every tune of his seems the same, which I mentioned to Larry. “But that’s because when Alan Lomax recorded him, he only wanted him to play the blues,” said Larry. “He played all kinds of music, popular tunes, dance tunes, whatever people wanted, but that’s the only recording of him we have.”

He went on to tell me that when Lomax’s recording came out, in 1961 it had a huge influence on the Rolling Stones and other rock groups in England, which then came back across to influence American rock and roll. Robert Johnson was almost unknown when he died, and for decades after, but when that record came out his influence was huge.

“Too bad he’d already sold his soul at the crossroads and died,” I commented, referring to a legend about Johnson.

“Well, at least he attained an aristocratic place in hell,” was Larry’s quick response.

All this to bring you this little poem:

Crustacean Island

There could be an island paradise
where crustaceans prevail.
Click, click, go the lobsters
with their china mits and
articulated tails.
It would not be sad like whales
with their immense and patient sieving
and the sobering modesty
of their general way of living.
It would be an island blessed
with only cold-blooded residents
and no human angle.
It would echo with a thousand castanets
and no flamenco.

Kay Ryan
from Elephant Rocks


Back from Bemidji

I had a wonderful week in Northern Minnesota, and heard many new poems, I’m sure I will be posting some soon. But this one has been on my mind for awhile, by Louise Glück.


My body, now that we will not be traveling together much longer
I begin to feel a new tenderness toward you, very raw and unfamiliar
Like what I remember of love when I was young—

love that was so often foolish in its objectives
But never in its choices, its intensities.
Too much demanded in advance, too much that could not be promised—

My soul has been so fearful, so violent:
forgive its brutality.
As though it were that soul, my hand moves over you cautiously,

not wishing to give offense
but eager, finally, to achieve expression as substance:

It is not the earth I will miss,
it is you I will miss.

Louise Glück

from A Village Life, 2009

You can hear her read it here.


I discovered by accident that the subscribe feature to this blog had broken, because a  plugin from Google. is no longer supported. Not only could new users not subscribe, but previous subscribers no longer were receiving the blog.  I reinstated several I was aware of, and if you know of others, please tell the to resubscribe. This has been going on for a few months, so you can scroll back and sample what you missed.

Here’s your Monday poem a day early:

The Axe Blade

There she is again, studying her face
in the mirror of an axe blade, which reflects,
as well, the hand-shaped welt
wrapping her jaw. While the baby on her lap
feeds, she dreams about that man
asleep on the couch. How the steel wedge
plunged into the skull might well loose
the lover it once housed, the one who
could run the back of his hand along her neck
such that every bone in her body would exhale.
Who would sit on the tub’s edge singing
to her as he eased the sponge along her tired back,
The axe has her dreaming
how bloodshed begets beauty.
And when she hears the throaty rattle
from the other room, she sits
the infant in his crib,
grips the axe, and goes
to find her man.

Ross Gay
from Bringing the Shovel Down

Charif Shanahan

I met Charif several years ago at the memorial for Linda Gregg–he had been one of her students. I’m so happy to have seen his poems popping up in magazines lately.  I love especially the way this poem leads up to its terrific last stanza. His new collection, Trace Evidence, just came out from Tin House books.

On Exiting Universitätsspital Zürich, New Year’s Eve, 2015

The open air had the predictable sparkle
After two months not only indoors
But flat on my back, waiting, mostly,
For the neck they kept cutting open to heal

So that when they wheeled me out through double
Doors and the tram passed across my field
Of view and the scattered strangers flecked
The white blur my eyes made

Like floaters after a long sleep, I felt,
Sudden in my plexus, the exact angle of loss
I had lived with when I lived here
As though it had waited for me to return so as

To enter me again, as though I had not
Lived four years without it, elsewhere, where
They say life is, regardless of where you are,
So that as the bells of the Fraumünster rang

From inside the steeples, the tail
Of the lake stretching out of view between
The hills on either side, I became,
As an actor becomes, animated, populated by

Someone else’s feelings, someone else’s spirit—
And now, a few years later still, I know
To ask if this complex of feeling, deep-frozen,
Waiting for me, was my actual life—

Not a portion of the life, not
A possible life, but my tangled and patient
Actual implausible resilient fucked-up life?

Charif Shanahan


The Gift

I came across this poem again (written 52 years ago, by a man who had lived through World War II in Europe) just as the dense gray fog was tuning to tepid sun this morning. It was in another of Sean Singer’s composite emails. It’s uncharacteristically short and tender, and the line “To think that I was the same man did not embarrass me,” makes me remember what I love about poetry.

The Gift

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body, I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

Czesław Miłosz, Berkeley 1971
translated by the poet