Posts tagged ‘1998’

Thursday, 30 June 2022

How It Is by Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno

Say it is a geranium in a black pot
or a warbler on the shoulder
that make the difference in how we do
what we do when we do it.
As if the clouds never existed,
as if rain hadn’t come.

Your fur-lined chemise seems as natural
as an avocado without a pit,
yet you persist in wearing it,
despite the heat.

I peel off the yellow cigar band,
attempt deftness, though it does not
come naturally to my right hand.

These are the basic facts of everydayness:
Nothing will ever be like something.
Pumpkins will never fall from any tree.

And the sun stays aloft, at least for now,
and the moon is far far away.


Date: 1998

By: Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno (1951- )

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Finding a Destiny That Fits by Jan S. Harry

choose to suicide
by leaping into the pit
of the Manchurian tiger

as a young Chinese man
at Shanghai zoo 4/1/85

its jaws
over the young man’s head
his view
of a banished world
the tiger
the offered life

Tiger, I will
be flesh of thy flesh

it was said
the young man
was of unsound mind

No one
doubted the sanity
of the tiger


Date: 1998

By: Jan S. Harry (1939-2015)

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Deep Sorriness Atonement Song by Glyn Maxwell (with notes from “Blueridge Journal”)

(for missed appointment, BBC North, Manchester)

The man who sold Manhattan for a halfway decent bangle,
He had talks with Adolf Hitler and could see it from his angle,
And he could have signed the Quarrymen but didn’t think they’d make it
So he bought a cake on Pudding Lane and thought “Oh well I’ll bake it”

But his chances they were slim
And his brothers they were Grimm,
And he’s sorry, very sorry,
But I’m sorrier than him.
And the drunken plastic surgeon who said “I know, let’s enlarge ’em!”
And the bloke who told the Light Brigade “Oh what the hell, let’s charge ’em”,
The magician with an early evening gig on the Titanic
And the Mayor who told the people of Atlantis not to panic,

And the Dong about his nose
And the Pobble re his toes,
They’re all sorry, very sorry
But I’m sorrier than those.
And don’t forget the Bible, with the Sodomites and Judas,
And Onan who discovered something nothing was as rude as,
And anyone who reckoned it was City’s year for Wembley.
And the kid who called Napoleon a shortarse in assembly,

And the man who always smiles
Cause he knows I have his files,
They’re all sorry, really sorry,
But I’m sorrier by miles.

And Robert Falcon Scott who lost the race to the Norwegian,
And anyone who’s ever split a pint with a Glaswegian,
Or told a Finn a joke or spent an hour with a Swiss-German,
Or got a mermaid in the sack and found it was a merman,

Or him who smelt a rat,
And got curious as a cat,
They’re all sorry, deeply sorry,
But I’m sorrier than that.

All the people who were rubbish when we needed them to do it,
Whose wires crossed, whose spirit failed, who ballsed it up or blew it,
All notches of nul points and all who have a problem Houston,
At least they weren’t in Kensington when they should have been at Euston.

For I didn’t build the Wall
And I didn’t cause the Fall
But I’m sorry, Lord, I’m sorry,
I’m the sorriest of all.

‘The man who sold Manhattan for a halfway decent bangle’: In 1626 Peter Minuit, the first director general of New Netherland province, is said to have purchased the island from the local Indians (the Manhattan, a tribe of the Wappinger Confederacy) with trinkets and cloth valued at 60 guilders, then worth about 1 1/2 pounds (0.7 kg) of silver.

‘He had talks with Adolf Hitler and could see it from his angle’: Probably a reference to Neville Chamberlain, who returned from negotiations with Hitler in Munich and famously declared “I believe it is peace for our time”. It wasn’t.

‘And he could have signed the Quarrymen but didn’t think they’d make it’: ‘The Quarrymen’ was one of the early names of the greatest rock group of all time, the Beatles. Manager Brian Epstein sent demo tapes to literally dozens of recording companies before landing a contract with EMI/Parlophone.

‘So he bought a cake on Pudding Lane and thought “Oh well I’ll bake it”‘: The Great Fire of London, in 1666, started in a bakery on Pudding Lane. (It ended on Pie Lane, but that’s a different matter altogether).

‘And the bloke who told the Light Brigade “Oh what the hell, let’s charge ’em”‘: The ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade, immortalized by Tennyson.

‘The magician with an early evening gig on the Titanic’: One can safely assume that the performance sank without a trace.

‘And the Mayor who told the people of Atlantis not to panic’: Famous last words.

‘And the Dong about his nose / And the Pobble re his toes’: The Dong with the Luminous Nose, and the Pobble who has no Toes are characters from the mysterious, twilit world of Edward Lear’s imagination.

‘And don’t forget the Bible, with the Sodomites and Judas, And Onan who discovered something nothing was as rude as’: Sodomy: copulation with a member of the same sex or with an animal Onanism: masturbation, Judas: one who betrays under the guise of friendship.

‘And anyone who reckoned it was City’s year for Wembley’: Manchester City have never won the F. A. Cup.

‘And the kid who called Napoleon a shortarse in assembly’: The widespread notion of Napoleon’s shortness lies in the inaccurate translation of old French feet (“pieds de roi”) to English. The French measure of five foot two (5′ 2″), recorded at his autopsy, actually translates into five feet six and one half inches (5′ 6.5″) in English measure, which was about the average height of the Frenchman of his day. It’s also probable that the grenadiers of his Imperial Guard, with whom he “hung out,” were very tall men, therefor creating the illusion that Napoleon was very short.

‘And Robert Falcon Scott who lost the race to the Norwegian’: Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole about a month before Scott’s doomed expedition.

‘And anyone who’s ever split a pint with a Glaswegian’: Glaswegians are notorious for their tightfistedness…

‘Or told a Finn a joke’: … Finns for their lack of humour…

‘or spent an hour with a Swiss-German’: … and Germans for their boringness.

‘All notches of nul points’: Probably a reference to the annual Eurovision song contest, where a really bad song could get nul points. (Songs that get booed even on Eurovision – ooh, horrendous thought.

‘and all who have a problem Houston’: Astronaut Jack Swigert, command module pilot of the unsuccessful Apollo 13 mission, reported the first signs of trouble with this marvellous piece of understatement: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here”. A vivid account of the subsequent rescue can bo found here:
‘in Kensington when they should have been at Euston’:

Kensington: the wrong station, and Euston, the right one for trains from London to Manchester.


Date: 1998

By: Glyn Maxwell (1962- )

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Learning to Love America by Shirley Geok-lin Lim

because it has no pure products

because the Pacific Ocean sweeps along the coastline
because the water of the ocean is cold
and because land is better than ocean

because I say we rather than they

because I live in California
I have eaten fresh artichokes
and jacaranda bloom in April and May

because my senses have caught up with my body
my breath with the air it swallows
my hunger with my mouth

because I walk barefoot in my house

because I have nursed my son at my breast
because he is a strong American boy
because I have seen his eyes redden when he is asked who he is
because he answers I don’t know

because to have a son is to have a country
because my son will bury me here
because countries are in our blood and we bleed them

because it is late and too late to change my mind
because it is time.


Date: 1998

By: Shirley Geok-lin Lim (1944- )

Saturday, 12 June 2021

The Beast by William (Bill) Lewis

The Beast sits by the telephone
Beauty doesn’t call anymore.

Outside across the lawn a peacock
cries out like a woman being murdered.

The Beast sits inside, curtains block
the gardens where stone animals crowd.

The Beast wears a black eye patch.
Beauty stabbed him in the eye

with the slim blade of her body.
Her smile is a Stanley knife.

The delicate lines around her mouth
cut deep into his sight. His vision hurts.

She is not cruel but her face is
a loaded gun that he presses against
the temple of his memory.

He is caught in a pincer movement,
his bad body image on one side
Beauty on the other.

He reads Angela Carter novels, fairy tales
and Mother Goose and hopes that wisdom

does not go stale over the centuries.
In those stories she always returns.

To be honest he fears that a little.
He has, after all, only one eye left.

He plays records. It is the nature of
the Beast to own vinyl, not a CD collection.

Julie London cries him a river Frank Sinatra
sings, it can happen to you/ fairy tales can come true

He does not know that sentimentality
is an act of violence.

In the dark bedroom his good eye waters.


Date: 1998

By: William (Bill) Lewis (1953- )

Thursday, 18 March 2021

No Quarrel with the Wind by Ann Zell

Cycling up from the Westlink
each turn of the pedal
qas a private battle
fought against unseen odds
until I came abreast
of an old man in a grey duncher*
upright as an Irish dancer
cycling home in low gear

easy as a summer breeze
or a skater on solid ice
or a hard lesson
suddenly understood.

*A ‘duncher’ is a big flat cap. It is a Belfast word used for the caps worn by workers in the shipbuilding industry.

From: Bourke, Angela; Kilfeather, Siobhán; Luddy, Maria; Mac Curtain, Margaret; Meaney, Gerardine; Ní Dhonnchadha, Máírín; O’Dowd, Mary; and Wills, Clair (eds.), The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Volume 5: Irish Women’s Writing and Traditions, New York University Press: New York, p. 1402

Date: 1998

By: Ann Zell (1933-2016)

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Night in Day by Joseph Stroud

The night never wants to end, to give itself over
to light. So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.
Even on summer solstice, the day of light’s great
triumph, where fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun—
we break open the watermelon and spit out
black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass


Date: 1998

By: Joseph Stroud (1943- )

Thursday, 28 November 2019

América by Richard Blanco

Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half a dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day—pork,
fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips, and yuca con mojito.

These items required a special visit
to Antonio’s Mercado on the corner of Eighth Street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—“Ese hijo de puta!”
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another’s lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn’t.
We didn’t live in a two-story house
with a maid or a wood-panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on the Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke’s family wasn’t like us either—
they didn’t have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn’t have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
“one if by land, two if by sea,”
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the “masses yearning to be free,”
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamá set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolas,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworth’s.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
“DRY,” Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—“esa mierda roja,” he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.


Date: 1998

By: Richard Blanco (1968- )

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Prayer for My Children by Kate Daniels

I regret nothing.
My cruelties, my betrayals
of others I once thought
I loved. All the unlived
years, the unwritten
poems, the wasted nights
spent weeping and drinking.

No, I regret nothing
because what I’ve lived
has led me here, to this room
with its marvelous riches,
its simple wealth—these three heads shining
beneath the Japanese lamp, laboring
over crayons and paper.
These three who love me
exactly as I am, precisely
at the center of my ill-built being.
Who rear up eagerly when I enter,
and fall down weeping when I leave.
Whose eyes are my eyes.
Hair, my hair.
Whose bodies I cover
with kisses and blankets.
Whose first meal was my own body.
Whose last, please God, I will not live
to serve, or share.


Date: 1998

By: Kate Daniels (1953- )

Sunday, 23 September 2018

First Gestures by Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Among the first we learn is good-bye,
your tiny wrist between Dad’s forefinger
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom,
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield.
Then it’s done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, “Bye,
we’re leaving,” and her son stands firm
sobbing, until at last he runs after her,
among shoppers drifting like sharks
who must drag their great hulks
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.

Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map—
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord
that hangs in a guitar’s blond torso.

Think how a particular ridge of hills
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light–
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines
across the wall of a tiny, white room
where a girl makes love for the first time.
Its leaves tremble like small hands
against the screen while she weeps
in the arms of her bewildered lover.
She’s too young to see that as we gather
losses, we may also grow in love;
as in passion, the body shudders
and clutches what it must release.


Date: 1998

By: Julia Spicher Kasdorf (1962- )