November 14, 2007

Life in the hive puckered up my night,
the kiss of death, the embrace of life

Allen Ginsberg, Harry Smith Hermetic Philosopher and Alchemist Transforming Milk into Milk, New York, January 12, 1985

-- by Jennifer Boyden

They wrote it all down for me.
In the living room on the walls
they wrote who gave it up and who wanted it
most and a phone number. They told me
where to stick it, how to like it,
what the consistency was. There was a lot
I didn’t get, but they left more under the bridge
and against the back of Red Plank Records.
But I never met them. They came in the smoke
of my absence, during the hum
of appliances that needed to be wrapped
with stuffing and tape.
They made me the queen of their intent,
all the messages like stars
on the undersides of overpasses. I stay informed
about the people—what they do to each other,
how to take it, what number to call
for a piece of your own and what happens
if you’re not there to get it.
I watch for them to come back.
I watch for them from across the street
in my rented room with the walls painted red
and my little bit on and the curtains
more than slightly parted.

Two Menus
-- by Rachel DeWoskin


Outside McDonald’s downtown
in Beijing, I board a bus bound
for mountains with Xiao Dai
who carries equipment, asks why
I have to be so headstrong.
I say nothing. We belong
to a climbing club. Sheer rocks.


It is better to be the head of a chicken
than the tail of an ox. Men mention
wisdom whenever I disagree
with them. I am roped in, belayed. If we
fall, we all fall. My fingers are between
a thin ridge, sideways, gripping. I lean
down to tell Xiao Dai it’s better to be
neither chicken nor ox. He can’t hear me.
The rope swings, flicking sparks off cliffs.


Translation is insurance. With just
enough to cover what we must,
we speak only where there’s overlap, conserve
our syllables, expressions, every move.


The restaurant in Beijing called “Bitterness
and Happiness” has two menus: one of excess,
the second, scarcity. We order grass
from one and from the other, flesh.
The Chinese language has
77,000 characters Xiao Dai regards as
evidence. When I ask of what, he is putting
roots on my plate. Love, he says. My footing
gets rocky around these matters of fact.
A word for each affair? The waiter is back.

The Talk
-- by Franz Wright

Aged a lot during our talk
(you were gone).
Left and wandered the streets for some hours—
melodramatic, I know—
poor, crucified by my teeth.

And yet, how we talked
for a while.
All those things we had wanted to say for so long,
yes—I sat happily nodding
my head in agreement,
but you were gone.
In the end it gets discouraging.

I had let myself in;
I'd sat down in your chair.
I could just see you reading late
in the soft lamp-light—
looking at a page,

listening to its voice,

yellow light shed in circles, in stillness,
all about your hair . . .

The Law

-- by Gerald Stern

The world is always burning, you should fly
from the burning if you can, and you should hold
your head oh either above or below the dust
and you should be careful in the blocks of Bowery
below or above the Broome that always is changing
from one kind of drunkenness to another
for that is the law of suffering, and you know it.


Anonymous sqrl said...

always loved that photo of smith

11:33 AM  

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