Poetry Feature: Jonathan Holden

Featuring the poems:

  • Bank
  • The Parable of the Snow Man
  • The Principle of Duality
  • Late November
  • The Crash

The Mortified Man

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A rural Lawrence man literally found himself in a mess overnight when he got cuaght in the pit of an outdoor privy at Clinton Lake for nearly eight hours. Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson reported that the 26-year-old man entered the restroom shortly before 11 p.m. While he was in the outhouse, more than $200 in cash fell out of his pocket and through the hole in the concrete commode. Anderson said the man took off his shoes and socks and tried to reach the money with his toes, but lost his grip and fell in. Anderson said the man struggled throughout the hot, muggy night to get out of the pit. Dave Rhoades, park manager for the U.S. Corps of Engineers at the lake, said the concrete pit is six to seven feet deep and is designed to hold 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of refuse. Currently, he said, the pit is three-fourths full…

An Interview with Diana O'Hehir

This interview is not currently available online.

“With a novel, you live in that world those people for at least a year, and that is delightful.”

“I had a heavy duty urge to write about northern California–those small hot towns with the bright red earth and the bright blue sky.”

Fatal Half Measures

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Possessions Unbearable to Lose

This story is not currently available online.

Being friends with my father, Dave, was easy. He never scolded me. My mother took care of that by the time he came home from the store. After dinner I got in his lap and he read the pages I pointed to in thin books. He brought me surprise presents and showed me how to shoot a marble hard off the end of my index finger. No other girl I knew could do that. They all did thumbies with the finger crooked around the shooter.

Found Text: A Letter to Tennessee Williams

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Little Berber Girl

This story is not currently available online.

Some couples grow apart instead of together until eventually they separate as naturally as children grow apart and flee their sweet homes. Other couples grow apart together, the rift palpable yet unapparent. So it was with Jonathan and me–except that I saw our ending coming. It seemed our ultimate destiny as surely as Zagora, that arid outpost on the edge of the Sahara, was our immediate one.

Pop! Goes the Weasel

This story is not currently available online.

Mandy’s Mama didn’t like weather. She didn’t like it hot, cold, wet, or dry, but above all she didn’t like it stormy. Mama was very cool and tranquil, and she expected the weather to follow suit. She did not approve of storms. If the truth were known, she was afraid of them.

Poetry Feature: Pattiann Rogers

Featuring the poems:

  • Three’s Charm
  • Get on Board
  • Seeing the God-statement
  • More Recollection
  • Fellfield
  • By Death

Poetry Feature: Larry Levis

Featuring the Poems:

  • To A Wren on Calvary
  • Labyrinth As the Erasure of Cries Heard Within It Or: (Mr. Bones I Succeeded…’Later) [Poem of the Week April 22, 2012]
  • The Clearing of the Land
  • As It Begins with a Brush Stroke on a Snare Drum

 

To A Wren on Calvary

“Prince Jesus, crush those bastards . . .”

—François Villon, Grand Testament

 

It is the unremarkable that will last,

 

As in Brueghel’s camouflage, where the wren’s withheld,

While elsewhere on a hill, small hawks (or are they other

birds?)

Are busily unraveling eyelashes & pupils

From sunburned thieves outstretched on scaffolds,

Their last vision obscured by wings, then broken, entered.

I cannot tell whether their blood spurts, or just spills,

Their faces are wings, & their bodies are uncovered.

 

The twittering they hear is the final trespass.

 

*

 

And all later luxuries—the half-dressed neighbor couple

Shouting insults at each other just beyond

Her bra on a cluttered windowsill, then ceasing it when

A door was slammed to emphasize, like trouble,

 

The quiet flowing into things then, spreading its wake

From the child’s toy left out on a lawn

To the broken treatise of jet-trails drifting above—seem

Keel scrapes on the shores of some enlarging mistake,

 

A wrong so wide no one can speak of it now in the town

That once had seemed, like its supporting factories

That manufactured poems & weaponry,

Like such a good idea. And wasn’t it everyone’s?

 

Wasn’t the sad pleasure of assembly lines a replica

Of the wren’s perfect, camouflaged self-sufficiency,

And of its refusal even to be pretty,

Surviving in a plumage dull enough to blend in with

 

A hemline of smoke, sky, & a serene indifference?

 

*

 

The dead wren I found on a gravel drive

One morning, all beige above and off-white

Underneath, the body lighter, no more than a vacant tent

 

Of oily feathers stretched, blent, & lacquered shut

Against the world—was a world I couldn’t touch.

And in its skull a snow of lice had set up such

An altar, the congregation spreading from the tongue

 

To round, bare sills that had been its eyes, I let

It drop, my hand changed for a moment

By a thing so common it was never once distracted from

The nothing all wrens meant, the one feather on the road.

 

No feeding in the wake of cavalry or kings changed it.

Even in the end it swerved away, & made the abrupt

Riddle all things come to seem . . . irrelevant:

The tucked claws clutched emptiness like a stick.

 

And if Death whispered as always in the language of curling

Leaves, or a later one that makes us stranger,

“Don’t you come near me motherfucker”;

If the tang of metal in slang made the New World fertile,

 

Still . . . as they resumed their quarrel in the quiet air,

I could hear the species cheep in what they said . . .

Until their voices rose. Until the sound of a slap erased

A world, & the woman, in a music stripped of all prayer,

 

Began sobbing, & the man become bystander cried O Jesus.

 

*

 

In the sky, the first stars were already faint

And timeless, but what could they matter to that boy, blent

To no choir, who saw at last the clean wings of indifferent

 

Hunger, & despair? Around him the other petty thieves

 

With arms outstretched, & eyes pecked out by birds, reclined,

Fastened forever to scaffolds which gradually would cover

An Empire’s hills & line its roads as far

As anyone escaping in a cart could see, his swerving mind

 

On the dark brimming up in everything, the reins

Going slack in his hand as the cart slows, & stops,

And the horse sees its own breath go out

Onto the cold air, & gazes after the off-white plume,

 

And seems amazed by it, by its breath, by everything.

But the man slumped behind it, dangling a lost nail

Between his lips, only stares at the swishing tail,

At each white breath going out, thinning, & then vanishing,

 

For he has grown tired of amazing things.

 

Labyrinth As the Erasure of Cries Heard Within It Or: (Mr. Bones I Succeeded…’Later)

—for John Berryrnan

 

—Is dog eat dog out dere’—Big Business, Mr. Bones.

You know what I’m doing now? I’m watching the Complete 

   Poems of Hart Crane as they are slowly fed

Into a pulping machine in East Bayonne.

 

How intime, this foreman shouting in my ear.

I think each page should make a little speech

As it is shredded, but I don’t hear a thing

Except . . . he seems to be implying I don’t work here.

 

I mean . . . so far he’s called me Yid, Spic, Dago,

Commie, & Queer—I’ve never been so . . . honored.

And Mister Crane, the year I left the South,

It was not only out of print, your oeuvre,

 

It had become so many other things:

Kindling, dog food, a kind of diluted cereal

They feed to hogs, to fatten them for slaughter;

And some of the poems went into suburban landfills

 

Out on Long Island. You see, the pulp, if mixed

With all the trash of Manhattan, sometimes makes

A kind of land where there isn’t any land.

People live there. In fact, you’d be amazed

 

At all the different things your poems are used for.

Some were compressed into those artificial

Logs, to burn with other logs. You see? You still

Catch fire. Skiers, lovers, urban dwellers,

 

Cold winter travelers, they read those flames,

Just like they read a poem. It has, always,

A different meaning for every one of them.

Sometimes, around a campfire, Mr. Crane,

 

They grow still, as if remembering

Phrases like “adagios of islands” or

“A burnt match skating in a urinal”:

Really they think of nothing, nothing at all.

 

Even Mr. Yvor Winters, your trusted friend,

Who schooled my sister in unhappiness,

Who grew (of North Beach) paranoid in the end,

—Because he fear hisself, he fear de madness

 

Dere’—like Heisenberg, who wore the braille

Of snowshoes, even on summer days,

Going out, among the milder particles,

Braced for the bright light, to get his mail.

 

The Clearing of the Land

   The trees went up the hill

And over it.

Then the dry grasses of the pasture were

Only a kind of blonde light

Settling everywhere

And framing the randomly strewn

Outcropping of gray stone

That anchored them to soil.

Who were they?

One in the picture, and one not, and both

Scotch-Irish drifters,

With nothing in common but a perfect contempt

For a past;

Ancestors of stumps and fallen trees and . . .

One is sitting on a sorrel mare, idly tossing

Small stones at the rump

Of a steer that goes on grazing

At tough rosettes of pasture grass

And switching its tail

In what is not even irritation.

What I like, what I

Have always liked, is the way he tosses each small

Stone without thinking, without

A thought for anything, not even for aiming it,

The easy, arcing forearm nonchalance

Like someone fly-casting.

For this is what he wanted:

To be among the stones, the grasses,

Savoring a stony self

That reminded him of no one else,

And on land where that poacher, Law,

Had not yet stolen through his fences,

The horse beneath him twitching

Its withers lightly to keep

The summer flies away,

And the woman in the flower print dress hemmed

With stains

A half mile off

Is the authoress of no more than smoke rising,

Her sole diary,

From a distant chimney.

They have perhaps a year or two

Left of this

Before History begins to edit them into

Something without smoke or flies, something

Beyond all recognition.

 

As It Begins with a Brush Stroke on a Snare Drum

The plaza was so still in that moment two years ago that

everything was clear,

As if it had been preserved beneath a kind of lacquered

stillness, &, for a while,

I did not even notice the pigeons lifting above the sad tiles

of churches,

 

Or how they must have sounded like applause that is not

meant for anyone;

 

I must not have noticed that blind woman on the corner who

begged coins

For a living, who had one eye swelled shut entirely while

the other, a thin film

Of glaucoma over it that had taken on the lustreless sheen

of a nickel,

 

Was held wide open to witness spittle on the curb. And soon

the band

In their sun-bleached military uniforms were tuning up beneath

the blossom of rust

Covering the gazebo, its eaves festooned with the off-white

spiderwebs of unlit Christmas lights.

 

And that girl, Socorro, her smile surfacing voluptuously as

an unspoken thought

 

Again, was selling gardenias—their petals already beginning

to appear

Faintly discolored around the edges—from a basket she carried

on her head

In an unwobbling stillness; Martin was selling chicklets but

no one bought

 

Chicklets anymore; no one bought the little squawking birds

or the cheap stone

Animals turned out on a lathe in Veracruz, either; no one

wanted his shoes shined.

By then the band was playing show tunes from My Fair Lady

South Pacific & was

 

Interrupted only once because of a routine demonstration by

the Communists, who,

Mostly, were demonstrating because it was Sunday & because

that is what they did,

On Sundays. After a while I started walking vaguely away

beside some fading stonework,

 

Which in fact is not called Our Lady of Perfect Solitude nor

even Our Sister

Of Perpetual Solitude, but simply Santo Domingo. I do not

know why I walked near it then,

& passed without entering.

 

*

 

Still, in the painting the children kept skating, & the others

are probably

Walking home from school at this moment in their yellow

raincoats, with

The stale smells left on wax paper locked in their lunch pails.

That woman

 

Keeps brushing her hair, & so somewhere it is still 1970 &

the riot police

Are spilling Out of their buses. On the marsh above the

Sound there were egrets,

There were black swans nesting in the rushes; the canal was

warm, & salty.

 

There was a cabin filling with so much moonlight I almost

believed I could

Dissolve in it if I sat very still, & I sat very still. I watched

my son

Skating at the edge of a pond in his sleep. It was summer

by the time

 

I finally saw the painting in Brussels & counted each one of

the children as if

To make sure they were still there, & then gradually

lost count, & in the dream

Of the plowman on the hill there must have been the face

of an English poet

 

Looking as lined as a maple leaf pressed between the pages

of a book. Beneath it

The Danube is gliding, & I am just holding his book now,

not even needing to read it

Anymore as I cross into the frontier—green wheat, alfalfa, a

feeling of distance

 

In it all like sleep or rain reclaiming some lost, rural Missouri

slum town until

It no longer exists—& now the Hungarian checkpoint, where

guards with stars

The shade of American lipstick on their caps will enter &

seem proud of the unchipped,

 

Deep blue enamel on their machine guns. Most of them are

just poor teen-agers

From the surrounding villages & farms . . . & innocent, &

 

The only glamour that is left

On the Orient Express

Is a soiled, torn doily on an armrest.

 

Rhyme then, rhyme & dream, but in the other painting,

which is not a painting,

They are trudging home from school in the rain which is like

a kind of sleep

When one of them thinks the mind is not the mind in the

unbewitched, meticulous,

 

First shaping of numbers on a blackboard; it is only the

shadow of a skater over

A white pond. There is a sea beyond it, roughened by

whitecaps, & the mind

Moves first one way, then another, then both ways at once,

& then one long

 

Glide past the pines that look black from this far away, but

aren’t black.

The boy’s friend is saying he “hates school, but only sort

of.” But the child’s

Not listening, he is thinking that something he painted was

something he dreamt,

 

And then some of the dream got mixed in with the paint,

& then with recess,

The afternoon, this long walk in the rain, & now he will

never get it sorted

Out . . . In the story, the boy, falling, must have thought his

father had wings

 

Unlike his own, & real. That is why the myth is so clear,

& so cruel,

And why we survive it. Yellow rain gear. Black woods. Gray

sky. Home

Is where you can forget some things, the boy is thinking,

because he is

 

Tired from having to walk for so long & because he has left

his galoshes

At school & his shoes are wet as he unthinkingly turns his

back to me now,

Goes up the worn, slick steps of a front porch, & the door

closes. And,

 

Because I am not allowed to see it, there is a glass of milk

on the table,

The stairs behind it are dark, & from a narrow upstairs

window there is

A glimpse of the sea, & later, in his dream, there is sometimes

a father,

 

And then it is more like a story about a father, & then it is

the hush of ice

Over a pond’s surface. In spring, when it begins to thaw,

there is a little

Noise underneath it like steel sighing, if steel could sigh as

it seems to,

 

Sometimes—when you are walking home alone on a trestle

above a river & there

Is a broken pattern of geese above it, a vee decomposing, a

sky mottled with blue

And some clouds. It is like a father dissolving, & setting you

free, & what

 

Has the father ever achieved that will outlast his own

vanishing? And so

The boy spits over the raillng & watches the silvery web

of it falling

And thinning until it is gossamer, a filament untying itself

forever & saying

 

Exactly what forever always meant to say—that this long pull

of spring tide in the river

Needs nothing, nothing except its one momentary witness,

a boy pausing

 

Above it all on a bridge.

 

*

 

In Oaxaca, after the bomb went off, there were nevertheless

a few seconds . . .

A pure stillness in which I could hear the fountain in the

plaza, distant traffic,

The sudden silence of birds. Then everyone was rushing

through the streets

 

Toward a place where sound had been, a place that wasn’t

there. It is funny,

But the sound of a bomb, a few seconds after it has gone

off, is no longer even

Surprising. In a little while it seems only right, & sad. I sat

in the balcony of a restaurant

 

Overlooking it all, & read a poem by Alberto Blanco in the

magazine edited by Paz,

And waited for the place to open, & in the next hour watched

the plaza

Gradually fill with the usual crowds . . . those who love, or

those who think they love,

 

Novelty; & change.