Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sparrows' Song




SPARROWS’ SONG
fragments from Sappho 

sparrows
flow like stones
I don’t know

stones
flow like sparrows
I don’t know

water
sparrows
I don’t know

stones
sparrows
sky

_______________________
I've been going back and reworking old poems...or old attempts at poems. I wrote the original version of this at a homophonic workshop run by Jenny Sampirisi and Hugh Thomas at a Scream (literary festival) event in Toronto. It was based on the Greek fragments of Sappho. I've now gone back and pruned. Making the fragmentary even more fragmentary, but hopefully, like pruning, bits grow back, though in this case, in the mind of the reader. If you feel you have suckers growing in your neural crooks, I apologize. It may be my fault.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What is the opposite of a poem? of poppy? of cloud?





Gregory Betts and I have been exploring translations of canonical texts. He came up with the idea of doing antonymic translations--translating the texts into their opposite. But what exactly is opposite? The opposite of 'faith', or 'up,' or 'sleep', is more-or-less straightforward. But what is the opposite of cloud? Of poppy?

There's an antonymic translation on the left side of our dual translation of Robbie Burns' "Old Lang Syne" published as a broadside entitled New Lang(uage) Sign by BookThug. Both the texts are also homophonic translations, that is, they sound like the original but with different words. (The  broadside is available, by the way, from BookThug. You get it for free if you order our collaborative book, The Obvious Flap. It'd be a bargain with half as much polysemia.)

Today, my daughter had John McCrae's iconic In Flanders Fields open on my computer for a school essay. And so, flu-fuzzy and cold-hazed, I created the following antonymic poem based on that famous poem. I translated antonymically the 'sense' not line by line but more-or-less verse by verse. I'm thinking of it as an antinomian translation, just the act of translating, of engaging with the original poem, of keeping faith with it, is enough.

But, considering the meaning of the original, perhaps my text is a anti-antinomian translation.


WALK AWAY CARTESIAN

high above y axis flowers
clouds scud
the X axis sky

we are the breath of larks’
cowardice
shrapnel-loud

we have lived long
dawn mourns us
twilight gapes

those who love us
were loved
walk away Cartesian

reader: embrace
those we agree with
let the light fail

else darkness gasps you
clouds rush our sleep
and poppy mouths



Sunday, February 24, 2013

THE END ORPHINS





THE END ORPHINS
after Thomas Wyatt

Anger, Wrath, Waste, and Noise
are my children
now in school

Wrath isn’t doing well
in Geography
Anger is home with a rash

soon there will be no pennies
luck will migrate
the body is a fool

what made me
monster of elsewhere
was it space, time

or Mother of them all
Regret
thousands crowd the parking lots

trying to Lego shadows
into something else
Noise plays violin

or rather Noise plays shadows
something sad
and Waste goes crazy

with scissors
cuts snowflakes into thin cold air
a chain of identical children

holding hands
I’m a good father
I’m a good father

each of my eyes covered
by lucky pennies
keeps the orphans in

The writing of a stranger's poem




Another kind of translation.

A writing of a stranger's poem.

A while ago, I read Mark Abley's fantastic Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages and in the chapter on Yiddish, he writes about some very powerful Yiddish songs which were written during WWII. One was a lullaby to a stranger's child, sung because the mother of the child had disappeared.

I wrote a poem -- a 'memory translation' -- an imaginary reconstruction of a text which I've never seen. And today, I've written it again.


LULLABY TO A STRANGER'S CHILD

shh
where
the window

where
mother

the forest
shh 
something broken

song
be born
hidden

like sleep
remember

a voice where

shh
mother

where dark 
the window

where
father
shh hidden

where
sleep

sleeps


Friday, February 15, 2013

Leaf, Shoe, Razor





what would leaf and shoe write
what would worldly paradise look like?

shampoo bottles dew-brindled,
lost earth-visible stars

parking spot, paring knife
cash receipts, shadow

between woe and wealth
disposable razors river

between earnestness and game
leaf and shoe like a train

time sweet like glue
or some perceivèd root

leaf and shoe then
lightning’s tart flute

 ______________________
after Thomas Wyatt's Sonnet: "Avising the bright beams of these fair eyes"



Monday, February 11, 2013

A Tiny Man Balances an Elephant on his Back




A Tiny Man Balances an Elephant on his Back

1

they use a map of the stars
for brain surgery

but don’t worry
the hunter’s belt is only for

salt water, grandmothers
walking

2

the world is lobster flesh
an elephant balanced

on the back of a tiny man
I feel so naked when

I am naked
what is in the man’s pockets?

3

if the brain is sky
then hair is god

or a thousand gods
time a light breeze

ruffling and tousling
the bald world

4

in the man’s pockets
elephants so tiny

they are dust
a kind of perceptual snuff

if the air were skin
there’d be birds

sometimes
when I sat down

my starlings would hurt
with grief


5

pincers in
the brain

twilight: the trunks of two
elephants intertwined

breathing slowly
wrapped in rubber bands

a smear of starlight
ursa minor

pegasus
cancer

______________________________________
After the sculpture (pictured above) of Fabien Mérelle 


Sunday, February 10, 2013

AN INTERNET OF EELS





AN INTERNET OF EELS


today
on the internet

someone said
my hovercraft

is full of eels
in Yiddish

now my entire body is eels
they’re in my socks

and pockets
and stick out my zipper

on the post-pig
dissection wall at

the Sadie Hawkins Dance
I’m flying low

expecting a flood
in my brother’s Grade 7

wide-legs climbing
a stairway to

the interminable
seconds pass

my great-great grandfather
double clicks

the icon for
pogrom

a burst of birds
Hebrew vowels

poppy seeds
vo den? he says

what did you expect?
my great-great-grandma

pulls her arms from the flour
trundles into the garden

it’s all bungalows
here to Vilnius

c’mere she says
birthing

a thousand eels
just above the snow as

my great-great-grandfather explains that
the details of eel reproduction

are as yet unknown
and the discovery of their spawning area

in the Sargasso Sea
is one of the more famous

anecdotes in
the history of Ichthyology






________________________
a poem on my 49th birthday

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

WHAT IS IT?



WHAT IS IT?

hare lip
potato head

sleeping dog face
turned round twice

I saw explicit photographs
from the 1890s

of a forest
it was no forest

but they sure were
sexy trees

imagine your face
was puppies

echidnas
electrons

dwarf stars
ants

I walk
through the city

on postage stamp
legs

the city walks
on its basements

roots
hidden rivers

an electron
48

single
invisible

seeks electron
interested in

small things
hopes this winter

is the last
sad thing

my eyes
are dog–eared

tired
like a book

exhausted with
its own content

from the other side
a lake

is all other lakes
like words or

the face


*


(Turn the image clockwise to see what it is. Thanks, Nadia Halim for sending me the image.)

Saturday, February 02, 2013