About Me

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As the resident artist at EcoHealth, my verse these days finds inspiration in the specter of future pandemics; for my dissertation at Amerika-Institut of LMU München, where I edit a weekly circular of U.S. poetry, I'm anatomizing the prosody of E. A. Robinson's sonnets—I also teach English and tutor composition.

20171204

The Passionate Poet to His Love

by James Agee

Come live with me and be my love
Provided you think little of
Such stodge encumbrances as friends
Who keep their means for their own ends;

Granted we mutually agree
That yours was never a mother’s knee,
Or, if the spiteful slime should bud,
Will nip the foetus while it’s mud;

Provided you can smoothly be
Wife, mother or nonentity
As metamorphic moods require;
Provided, also, you admire

Nor ever dare to criticize
Each syllable that I devise,
And shall apprise me (though I know it)
Of my majority as a poet,

And, like four angels each with sword
Will guard the Inception of the Word—
If such persuasions aught can move,
Then live with me and be my love.

Note: A recitation can be heard here.

20171201

Hospital Writing Workshop

by Rafael Campo
Arriving late, my clinic having run
past 6 again, I realize I don’t
have cancer, don’t have HIV, like them,
these students who are patients, who I lead
in writing exercises, reading poems.
For them, this isn’t academic, it’s
reality:  I ask that they describe
an object right in front of them, to make
it come alive, and one writes about death,
her death, as if by just imagining
the softness of its skin, its panting rush
into her lap, that she might tame it; one
observes instead the love he lost, he’s there,
beside him in his gown and wheelchair,
together finally again.  I take
a good, long breath; we’re quiet as newborns.
The little conference room grows warm, and right
before my eyes, I see that what I thought
unspeakable was more than this, was hope.
Note: A recitation can be heard here.

The Force That through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower

by Dylan Thomas
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.
Note: A recitation can be heard here.

20171130

My Hero Bares His Nerves

by Dylan Thomas
My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
That rules from wrist to shoulder,
Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
Leans on my mortal ruler,
The proud spine spurning turn and twist.

And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill.

My hero bares my side and sees his heart
Tread, like a naked Venus,
The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait;
Stripping my loin of promise,
He promises a secret heat.

He holds the wire from the box of nerves
Praising the mortal error
Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves,
And the hunger’s emperor;
He pulls the chain, the cistern moves.
Note: A recitation can be heard here.

20171128

To Autumn

by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,        
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;  
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.
  
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;  
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;  
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
  
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day  
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;  
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

20171127

Pearls

by Cathy Song

The tennis pro is demonstrating to us once again
the serve. The ball spins in its cylinder of space,
a beauty spot poised perfectly this morning,
the end of November, the air and the sea
beyond the fence crisp like the bougainvillea’s
cool servings of sherbert—raspberry and tangerine.
“No adagios!” is his morning’s offering
as I leap around the court.
You, in turn, bat with your racket
and strike out a dozen times.
Still you persist and flail at the ball,
your heart not in any of this,
these expensive lessons we’ve devised
to get you through Christmas.
A year ago, your twins died, infant boys
who succumbed to a virus the doctors
found difficult to explain. I was living far away
at the time and could not be with you,
the first and the second tidal waves
that socked the wind right out of you.
I flew home having never held them,
though I knew they were perfect and beautiful.

“Marooned!” you lamented
(the girl who would hang pearls on a Christmas tree)
as you rehearsed your accents to me,
a closet full of scarves you tried on
and discarded, standing in your nightgown,
solemn, and to a younger sister, heroic
like the young widow in Amy Lowell’s Patterns
who grieves in stately cadences, your voice
propped by whalebone and lace.

The schoolteacher in you found me acceptable,
an obedient receptacle for your vast yearnings,
a longing to be anywhere but here, a tropical
island adrift at sea.
You were the one always holding the plans,
the girl with the flashlight and the map.
You always knew where we were going.
Light thrown upon the ceiling of our tent
(the blanket we propped with our knees)
illuminated the hour
like a piece of tapestry
torn from the Sistine Chapel,
your versions of history,
periods marked by beauty.
I heard you say Michelangelo
and the tent glowed like a shell,
the way the blue-veined walls of igloos
hum under the pressure of cold Arctic stars.
You brought fire to the feast
and I, fiercely loyal, unenlightened,
waited for news of the world.

“Last chance,” the pro says and you hurl
the ball away from you, pitch it
into the clouds. It defies, for a moment,
gravity, a green apple in a blue column of air.
In a girlhood room we met again,
and again as we do this time in sadness—
you who wished us each happiness,
you lifting me up to share the view.

Note: A recitation can be heard here.

20171123

Thanks

by W. S. Merwin

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

Note: A recitation can be heard here.