And now to three of her poems:by Jill Alexander EssbaumThe shift of sleepwalks and suicides.The occasion of owls and a demi-lune fog.Even God has nodded off
And won't be taking prayers till ten.Ad interim, you put them on.As if your wants could keep you warm.
As if. You say your shibboleths.You thumb your beads. You scry the glass.Night creeps to its precipice
And the broken rim of reason breaksAgain. An obsidian sky betrays you.Every serrate shadow flays you.
Soon enough, the crow will caw.The cock will crow. The door will close.(He isn't coming back, you know.)
And so wee, wet hours of grief relent.In thirty years you might forgetPrecisely how tonight's pain felt.
And in whose black house you dwelt.
by Jill Alexander EssbaumFirstit is one day without you.
Then two.And soon,
our point: moot.And our solution, diluted.
And our class action (if ever was)is no longer suited.
Wherewith I give to looting throughthe war chest of our past
like a wily Anne Bonnywho snatches at plunder or graft.
But the wreck of that ransack,that strongbox, our splintering coffer,
the claptrap bastardof the best we had to offer,
is sog-soaked and clammy,empty but for sand.
Like the knuckle-white cupof my urgent, ghastly hands
in which nothing butthe ghost of love is held.
Damn it to hell.
And last but not least, this lovely poem from January 2011.
by Jill Alexander Essbaum
of a thing.
or a rim,
lip of land,
And now moving on to a poet whose work won the 2010 National Book Award for Poetry last month - Terrance Hayes. About his work, Cornelius Eady has said: "First you'll marvel at his skill, his near-perfect pitch, his disarming humor, his brilliant turns of phrase. Then you'll notice the grace, the tenderness, the unblinking truth-telling just beneath his lines, the open and generous way he takes in our world."
(Photograph: (C) Victoria Smith, via Poetry Foundation website)
Read his poems aloud...
Lighthead's Guide To The Galaxy
by Terrance Hayes
Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state,
I am here because I could never get the hang of Time.
This hour, for example, would be like all the others
were it not for the rain falling through the roof.
I’d better not be too explicit. My night is careless
with itself, troublesome as a woman wearing no bra
in winter. I believe everything is a metaphor for sex.
Lovemaking mimics the act of departure, moonlight
drips from the leaves. You can spend your whole life
doing no more than preparing for life and thinking,
“Is this all there is?” Thus, I am here where poets come
to drink a dark strong poison with tiny shards of ice,
something to loosen my primate tongue and its syllables
of debris. I know all words come from preexisting words
and divide until our pronouncements develop selves.
The small dog barking at the darkness has something to say
about the way we live. I’d rather have what my daddy calls
“skrimp.” He says “discrete” and means the street
just out of sight. Not what you see, but what you perceive:
that’s poetry. Not the noise, but its rhythm; an arrangement
of derangements; I’ll eat you to live: that’s poetry.
I wish I glowed like a brown-skinned pregnant woman.
I wish I could weep the way my teacher did as he read us
Molly Bloom’s soliloquy of yes. When I kiss my wife,
sometimes I taste her caution. But let’s not talk about that.
Maybe Art’s only purpose is to preserve the Self.
Sometimes I play a game in which my primitive craft fires
upon an alien ship whose intention is the destruction
of the earth. Other times I fall in love with a word
like somberness. Or moonlight juicing naked branches.
All species have a notion of emptiness, and yet
the flowers don’t quit opening. I am carrying the whimper
you can hear when the mouth is collapsed, the wisdom
of monkeys. Ask a glass of water why it pities
the rain. Ask the lunatic yard dog why it tolerates the leash.
Brothers and sisters, when you spend your nights
out on a limb, there’s a chance you’ll fall in your sleep.
The Blue Terrance
by Terrance Hayes
If you subtract the minor losses,
you can return to your childhood too:
the blackboard chalked with crosses,
the math teacher's toe ring. You
can be the black boy not even the buck-
toothed girls took a liking to:
the match box, these bones in their funk
machine, this thumb worn smooth
as the belly of a shovel. Thump. Thump.
Thump. Everything I hold takes root.
I remember what the world was like before
I heard the tide humping the shore smooth,
and the lyrics asking: How long has your door
been closed? I remember a garter belt wrung
like a snake around a thigh in the shadows
of a wedding gown before it was flung
out into the bluest part of the night.
Suppose you were nothing but a song
in a busted speaker? Suppose you had to wipe
sweat from the brow of a righteous woman,
but all you owned was a dirty rag? That's why
the blues will never go out of fashion:
their half rotten aroma, their bloodshot octaves of
consequence; that's why when they call, Boy, you're in
trouble. Especially if you love as I love
falling to the earth. Especially if you're a little bit
high strung and a little bit gutted balloon. I love
watching the sky regret nothing but its
self, though only my lover knows it to be so,
and only after watching me sit
and stare off past Heaven. I love the word No
for its prudence, but I love the romantic
who submits finally to sex in a burning row-
house more. That's why nothing's more romantic
than working your teeth through
the muscle. Nothing's more romantic
than the way good love can take leave of you.
That's why I'm so doggone lonesome, Baby,
yes, I'm lonesome and I'm blue.
ClarinetI will leave you with this video (48 minutes!) of Terrance Hayes reading his poetry at Cornell University: http://www.cornell.edu/video/poet-terrance-hayes
by Terrance Hayes
I am sometimes the clarinet
your parents bought
your first year in band,
my whole body alive
in your fingers, my one ear
warmed by the music
you breathe into it.
I hear your shy laugh
among the girls at practice.
I am not your small wrist
rising & falling as you turn
the sheet music,
but I want to be.
Or pinky bone, clavicle.
When you walk home
from school, birds call
to you in a language
only clarinets decipher.
The leaves whistle
and gawk as you pass.
Locked in my skinny box,
I want to be at least
one of the branches
leaning above you.