Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Duino Elegies - First

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.

And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note
of my dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we ever turn to
in our need? Not angels, not humans,
and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in
our interpreted world. Perhaps there remains for us
some tree on a hillside, which every day we can take
into our vision; there remains for us yesterday's street
and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease
when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left.

Oh and night: there is night, when a wind full of infinite
space gnaws at our faces. Whom would it not remain for-that
longed-after, mildly disillusioning presence, which the solitary heart
so painfully meets. Is it any less difficult for lovers?
But they keep on using each other to hide their own fate.
Don't you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms
into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds
will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.

Yes - the springtimes needed you. Often a star
was waiting for you to notice it. A wave rolled toward you
out of the distant past, or as you walked
under an open window, a violin
yielded itself to your hearing. All this was mission.
But could you accomplish it? Weren't you always
distracted by expectation, as if every event
announced a beloved? (Where can you find a place
to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
going and coming and often staying all night.)
But when you feel longing, sing of women in love;
for their famous passion is still not immortal. Sing
of women abandoned and desolate (you envy them, almost)
who could love so much more purely than those who were

Begin again and again the never-attainable praising;
remember: the hero lives on; even his downfall was
merely a pretext for achieving his final birth.
But Nature, spent and exhausted, takes lovers back
into herself, as if there were not enough strength
to create them a second time. Have you imagined
Gaspara Stampa intensely enough so that any girl
deserted by her beloved might be inspired
by that fierce example of soaring, objectless love
and might say to herself, "Perhaps I can be like her"?
Shouldn't this most ancient of sufferings finally grow
more fruitful for us? Isn't it time that we lovingly
freed ourselves from the beloved and, quivering, endured:
as the arrow endures the bowstring's tension, so that
gathered in the snap of release it can be more than
itself. For there is no place where we can remain.

Voices. Voices. Listen, my heart, as only
saints have listened: until the gigantic call lifted them
off the ground; yet they kept on, impossibly,
kneeling and didn't notice at all:
so complete was their listening. Not that you could endure
God's voice -far from it. But listen to the voice of the wind
and the ceaseless message that forms itself out of silence.
It is murmuring toward you now from those who died

Didn't their fate, whenever you stepped into a church
in Naples or Rome, quietly come to address you?
Or high up, some eulogy entrusted you with a mission,
as, last year, on the plaque in Santa Maria Formosa.
What they want of me is that I gently remove the appearance
of injustice about their death - which at times
slightly hinders their souls from proceeding onward.
Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,
to give up customs one barely had time to learn,
not to see roses and other promising Things
in terms of a human future; no longer to be
what one was in infinitely anxious hands; to leave
even one's own first name behind, forgetting it
as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.
Strange to no longer desire one's desires. Strange
to see meanings that clung together once, floating away
in every direction. And being dead is hard work
and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel
a trace of eternity. -Though the living are wrong to believe
in the too-sharp distinctions which they themselves have

Angels (they say) don't know whether it is the living
they are moving among, or the dead. The eternal torrent
whirls all ages along in it, through both realms
forever, and their voices are drowned out in its thunderous roar.
In the end, those who were carried off early no longer need us:
they are weaned from earth's sorrows and joys, as gently as children
outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers. But we, who do need
such great mysteries, we for whom grief is so often
the source of our spirit's growth-: could we exist without them?
Is the legend meaningless that tells how, in the lament for Linus,
the daring first notes of song pierced through the barren numbness;
and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god
had suddenly left forever, the Void felt for the first time
that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.

-- RM Rilke

Friday, February 23, 2007

from A Border Comedy

A cold breeze smelling of seashells and rice
And then of trees arousing me
More than city life as I experience it requires
Is pushing back the curtains by the bed where I’m lying for a little while longer
To dream
That I’m a prisoner.
But I can’t pretend to sleep while writing this.
And if you turn from this to any other didactic poem you will see the contrast
Between adventure in the meditations of a woman and imagination in the speculations of a man,
The one depending on accumulation, the other on loss and gain
Which aren’t the same for everyone, enclosed in different circles
And in different skulls
And most of them guarded
Although things get in or out sometimes—the smell of blankets
Hanging in the dark, for example,
Or the story of the father who punished his daughter for being lazy because he didn’t understand her kind of work—
But those too are ideas.
Ideas contend with stories
And this is more worthy of consideration than the judgements which separate them into “good” and “bad”
I know the poet is vain who writes of paradise.
Experiences run together through transitions
Which are long and short at once
And so I watch the long leaves at the narrow window of my cell
And blink.
Perhaps what is most amazing is that with crimes on my conscience
I can still kiss the wall.
My containment
Consists of a series of connections
Sustaining my conviction of having done something
And every act expresses a necessity
To improve.
In over half my dreams a moral dilemma figures.
There is a grazing horse charred in a grassy corral
And a bluejay named ‘Julie’ directing a flotilla of ships through a canal
Or a convocation of logicians in striped shirts watching a boxing match
In a rural gymnasium owned by my grandfather who is sad
And the dilemma emphasizes the parallels
Whose shadows shift
Through the rationalizing ambitions of the story.
My guilt is much like Descartes’ doubt.
No—those doubts were certainties, though achieved through “pain
And other sensations
Which could not have been foreseen”
And serve as bars
Or gates
Or guards of guides.
Signifier and signified.
They are snapping the distance
In a dream with an outward gaze that’s all about a gain
Of metaphor and change of shape
At this “stopping point”
Under the pressure of the senses
Which draw from ‘nature’ and develop reality.
That’s our reason for acting.
Reason is an aid to stories.
It’s the ghost out of the cell,
Reciting what it remembers, ruling nothing out,
Like Clio or Narrator or Anonymous.
But if the flesh of the ghost is no longer under pressure
Then, like a ghost, it’s gone
From its unusual or even downright alien position,
Of which it is an imitation,
Not knowing where to go,
An aporia,
Which will allow us to go beyond the limits of any one view point
And remain there.
Though it may not seem to follow.
But I’ve gained weight, my own weight
Under my own trusted and selfish senses.
My memory is filled with their impressions
I write when nothing answers
That something appears.
A terrible slaughter occurs.
As Kwame Anthony Appiah says, technology has not yet rendered slashing and hacking obsolete.
A city is a big city or a beautiful city
Or a crowed city
Or a small progressively-governed university city
And so forth.
Intellectual systems, speech in dreams, things that change like grass
Always end in combat
(Definition: action; motivation: lack)
Resulting in expulsion
(Expulsion here assumes the nature of a certain form of justice)
But a lot of things have changed.
An anecdotal story is often a span
Consisting of separate facts
Each tenuously connected to the next.
What we respond to are the attractiveness of the facts
And the view each one provides.
There are even such things as philosophical anecdotes
Going around,
Beautifully feathered and perfectly circling
So as not to diverge even an inch from the truths
Thrown among things
And lost in the woods.
Then along comes a woodcutter wearing blue boots
And carrying a bird in a sack over his shoulder
To justify his claims
To the accuracy of the metaphors of branching and perching
He uses
To describe both story and storyteller
When asked.
Where else can one find
The young soldier knocks on the ground and an onion shakes.
The story is never universal
Though it may repeat
And even symbolize, like rocks for good or parts for wobble
And music.
With what does a story begin?
The marvelous is a cold vehicle for ink and paper.
The power of Rosa Luxemburg could not be imposed.
But here’s an ambitious undertaking;
An attempt to account for the Twentieth Century!
Goya’s small unfinished sketch of “Time, Truth, and History”
Was painted two centuries ago at a comparable time,
It shows Time with its hourglass bringing naked Truth into the light
While History writes.

-- Lyn Hejinian

Thursday, February 22, 2007


It's coming on six o'clock
The sun rehearses an elaborate
little speech, strictly
pro forma - no, wait -
it's saying something, like
Be glad it's over.
We waited for you.
I loved you,
and these were the consequences:
bright nights, lit sea,
buttered roofs, dandelion breath.
The dream of seeing it all.

Next year let's live in harm's way,
under the big top. Incongruous,
blue will find us, and the sun.

Like the growl of a friendly dog
it backs up, shivers itself
out of here...

"Never heard...anymore."

-- John Ashbery

Saturday, February 17, 2007

More Than Stars in the Heavens Are You to Me

I'm trying to remember what it is
that I can't tell you

I don't know it just comes over me.

I can't tell
I can't tell you
I can't know for a fact
I can't believe
I can't be sure
I can't wait
I can't involve myself
I can't win
I can't know
I can't even decide about making decisions
I can't believe you meant no harm

I had the picture of you suitably framed
When you left you left me with a handful of vanity
and self satisfaction

Modesty prevents me from getting in your way
You forgave me I pardoned you
I think a lot about you but it's mostly ghostly

If you didn't have a name I'd give you a name
something Hebraic, masculine, trembling with meaning.

I don't know you when you pass by
some day I won't be doing this
some day I'll be with you

what is lacking
what is given

my crimson shyness has beautiful eyes

-- Jeff Wietor

Friday, February 16, 2007

Amethystine Valentines


make haste slowly sacred fire // ethics of the voice
it's early afternoon // get on with it quickly
how is it possible // to be only one short


not eternal: impure pain // happiness: knowledge
what power in consciousness // power to see that
an important question arises here // your own dead body


one could say "his swan song" // voice was just one part
language as an echo // form of experience
but I cannot describe // cover over one eye


a story about Indra // and Virochana
coccyx hammer scapula // ilium stirrup
les animaux de la ferme // make a sounding


you are bright and witty // anxious groaning blaring
the sound of shofar // who could only echo
called upon to speak // fear of death clinging to life


What does thinking actually involve //utterance
Where does the voice come from // a response to that
thinking is a response // to that mute voice


say yes to great skin // you thought nature said no
change in the winter air // your thoughts your seduction
I don't want to be eclipsed // I must admit that


how do you picture // a mire of oblivion
I ask him about // spelling out the solution
lines of poetic meter // voice the call the cry


don't object so much // not coming into contact
Pythagoras became the object // of a cult
no matter what he's thinking // voice behind the screen


he wore apple blossoms // at the end of the day
February rain storms // everything feels unreal
the other of the Other // nothing going on


they wait they'll have to wait // the crucial question is
see the transformation // verified by women
anti-aging complex // acts deep in skin's surface


the correct and interesting thing // to say is
fire destroys things completely // follow it inside
thinking means speaking // in one's imagination

-- Jeff Wietor

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Boys of Pleasure Island

An actor's life for me
A high silk hat and a silver cane
A watch of gold with a diamond chain
An actor's life is gay
It's great to be a celebrity
An actor's life for me
An actor's life is fun
An actor's life for me
A wax mustache and a beaver coat
A pony cart and a billy goat
An actor's life is fun
You wear your hair in a pompadour
You ride around in a coach and four
You stop and buy out a candy store
An actor's life for me!

Hi diddle dee dee
An actor's life for me
A high silk hat and a silver cane
A watch of gold and a diamond chain
Hi diddle dee dee
You sleep till after two
You promenade a big cigar
You tour the world in a private car
You dine on chicken and caviar
An actor's life for me!

-- Walter Catlett

Friday, February 09, 2007

Litany of the Saints

Just when
gets easier
gets harder.

Holy Trinity One God

It's not so much
about what you imagine
as about what

fevered flashbacks when he finally wakes

Lord have mercy on us

conflicted backroads.
backstreet. fannie
hurst. william randolph

Christ hear us

the san francisco
george and phoebe

Lord have mercy on us

show me the way
shoveling sidewalks
bareback riders
white ponies

All you Holy Angels and Archangels

soapsud snow
snow in Warhol's hair
white peonies

Pray for us

cactus in the snow
peacock in the snow
snow white
seven dwarves
little big man
man of la mancha
the munchies
the munchkins
the monkeys
Marcel Duchamp
breakfast of champions
champ the wonder dog
wonder woman
two women
all about eve
adam levasseur
billy the kid
billie burke
hoagy carmichael

Pray for us


Lord have mercy on us

private objects of your vision

Christ hear us

one unknown amongst so many public memories

just around the corner
time passes you by

Lord have mercy on us


Lord save your people

Joan Crawford

Lord save your people

broderick crawford

Lord save your people

roderick hudson
rodney mallet
my dog rags

Pray for us


Pray for us

this vertical city:
town without pity
gene pitney
pitney bowes
major bowes

clara bow

Christ have mercy on us

song of life:
Life magazine
look at that face

Lord have mercy on us

suddenly now I'm rin tin tin

Christ have mercy on us

oscar wilde: a double exposure

Lord have mercy on us

the case of the missing movies

Christ have mercy on us

Taylor Meade

Pray for us

made for each other
be my valentine

show no emotion or personality
it seems to me
it rains when it rains

Lord have mercy on us

God the son

the young physique
star light start bright
the first star I see tonight
all boy
golden boys
in touch

God the Holy Ghost

march 1972
the ballad of billie blue
the bitter tears of petra von kant
taking you back
imagine that the other person sees
but does not feel pain

Christ have mercy on us

be true to me I'll love you forever
I said to him he didn't say the same
he didn't mean to be obstinate

God the Father of heaven

end of the road
pages and pages and pages
boarding a train
pages and pages and pages and pages
he said: "the word "I" does not designate a person"
I could neither agree nor disagree
aguirre, the wrath of god

Lord have mercy on us

partly because I loved him
zeffirelli's butt-naked francis
partly because he was wild

Christ hear us

cabaret singing in the shower
mostly because he had nice legs long hair torn too short shorts
chole in the afternoon
soaped up hair slick shiney face ready to go

Lord have mercy on us

the boy with glasses

Pray for us

you and me
a mattress in the living room sunshine

Lord have mercy on us

joyous sound
that certain summer

Christ have mercy on us

leonard cohen singing live
naked and longhaired into the wilderness
the inner eye

Pray for us

made for each other
allegro nights acid days
illustrations of howard pyle
you -- whisked away to places beyond time
recanted tears recounted moods

Lord have mercy on us

newly ejected oyster-spawn

joe dallesandro's flotsom hair

Pray for us

misgivings: you
forgivings: me

Pray for us

I'll start with a description of
what 'I see'
but in impersonal form

ziggy stardust

Pray for us

the difference between my being angry and he being angry

Lord hear our prayer

leon russell

Pray for us

le sex shop

Lord have mercy

an ego inhabiting a body to be abolished

Christ have mercy

last tango in paris

Christ have mercy

when are you coming from nowhere

the person who paints his memories

Lord hear our prayer

I am the action of an unspecified subject

-- Jeff Wietor

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Cherry Trees in Winter

how do I know
I have spoken
to myself in pain:

it's winter yet I can see
cherry trees along
McAllister blossom

is he the person who will paint memory

in bed by dawn
sweat soaked aubade
Vertigo. falling. raining.

because the man in Hollywood who
says he's a Circuit Boy
misspells himself

he's flailing

a circus boy

rain all day

he's ink on canvas: a cityscape
of rain and bottled water
bleeding lines

to make the day longer
he convinces himself
he's blue

a child remembers
it says that it does

one glimpse of
what he brings to words
passes by pink

he's falling
he's flailing
he's blossomed

rain wet emptiness
rain soaked weary
frightened cries

the man in Hollywood
who believes he's a Circut Boy
misspelling himself:

a circus boy
a plan in rain
he's fragile

loud rain
grow closer looser

I claim you
wake make love
a circus toy

"he neglects that
which goes
without saying"

-- Jeff Wietor

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Friday, February 02, 2007


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