Thursday, April 22, 2010

HAPPY EARTH DAY: Robin Beth Schaer reads her poem, day 93

Endangerment Finding

Admit our sun is common, a Milky Way twin
to a hundred million more. Even its end
ordinary, no stellar explosion, it will snap
hydrogen to helium then cool to a dense core.

You squint skyward, still wanting the corona
of a bright god, the unconquered sun that chose us
to spin around. But there is no need for tributes
of maize and falcon wings while we burn

the oil of light left epochs ago. You may ratify
the droughts and downpours, assign blame
for melting ice and rising seas, but I can count
more kinds of hammers than turtles;

we need instinct, not law. The dogs of Pompeii
howled for days, even snakes slithered
from Helice. In the Gallatin Range, the bears
left the forest. At night, a slice of mountain shook

down, sleepers drowned in their beds, soaked
in waves off the lake. When the ground stilled
the bears returned, covered with mud. Hush.
Listen to our internal combustion rumble.

There is more elegance in turning photon
to electron to motion. Let us trade the old sun
for the new one, sustain ourselves, wet and green,
within this delicate spindle of axis and orbit.

Robin Beth Schaer is the recipient of fellowships from the Saltonstall Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Barrow Street, and Washington Square, among others, and recordings of her poems are featured on From the Fishouse. She lives in New York City and works at the Academy of American Poets.

Originally posted on April 22, 2009

Friday, March 12, 2010

Catherine Wagner reads her poem, day 52


In the little painting of love
Is a man repairing a fence.

A little crap love-object
And a too-big church in the background
   near the sea
  by a strip of valley
Lit up like surgical tape.

Metaphors can incline one
Toward healing thoughts.
I will have your experience.

The ocean uptaken in the wind
Rolls inland.
Heal, heal, fungus on toe,
Heal, toe.

If I lose this job
[I have other skills?/There are other workers].

If we all lose our jobs
We go to Ocean City
  and photograph ourselves
   as human pyramids.
My grandfather spent the thirties
Thus on the beach.

Abundant poverty to live in. Many years.

Between you and me is chestbone.
No meshing.
So eat my face for hours.

If a poem is active
Its action aborts in you
As colored light flies into black.

Keeps flying
The light from long ago
Until the night-blockade.

So shut the book.

The man who mends the fence

Leaves a space for the caissons to roll
    down valley from sea.

Let me eat your face, neighbor
   who owns the Bagel and Deli on High
and has two children,
Lily and Garrison.

Catherine Wagner's latest book, My New Job, is forthcoming from Fence. Her other books are Macular Hole and Miss America (both Fence). Recent chapbooks include Articulate How (Big Game Books/Dusie, 2008), Hole in the Ground (Slack Buddha, 2008) and the forthcoming Bornt (Dusie). She teaches at Miami University in Ohio.

Originally Posted March 12, 2009

Click Here for the MP3 of this Reading.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jeff Encke reads his poem from day 49

The Water in Which One Drowns Is Always an Ocean

           “If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must
           keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.”
              –Barack Obama

It is the calm and silence that drown us.

Some people can disturb words
with a mere movement of the teeth.

The pouch of the mouth strewn with roses
                                   roofed with lost causes.

Pumpkins and habits have a smell
and breath is its beginning.

The womb carries on its shoulders
a beggar wrapped in earth.

                                            Absence washes
away love, taking the tint of all colors.

                              From the well of envy
the child teaches us to weep.

                Every sickness has its herb.

Heaven is dark, yet quiet and limpid.
Shovels of earth cannot quench a mountain.

Scum rises to the top of the heart.

                                        A bubble on the ocean
a taste the teetotaler will never know.

Do not pour on the strength of a mirage.
Do not torture thirst with shallow water.

A merchant in the rain saves only himself.
A shadow that always follows the body.

When your cheeks beg for fever
                         you are halfway there.

Habit is the shirt we wear for a midday nap.
Gray hairs its blossoms.

Hope a pearl worthless in its shell.

Death answers: I have a lot to say
                             but my mouth is full.

Those destined to drown
                 will drown in a spoonful.

The tears of strangers are only water.

Jeff Encke has poems forthcoming this spring from American Poetry Review and Kenyon Review Online. In 2004, he published Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse (Last Tangos), a deck of playing cards featuring excerpts of love poems written to Saddam Hussein and other war criminals. He currently teaches literature at Richard Hugo House in Seattle.

Originally posted March 9, 2009

Click here for an MP3 of this poem.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Erika Meitner reads her poem from day 45

Slinky Dirt With Development Hat

O Mama. Juice. Pile of dirt.
Sand pit where the workers stopped
working. Home is a backhoe

with no keys, silent, yellow. Passing
cars buzz the lots for sale that still
have trees, have liens. Our development

is mid-cul-de-sac. There are half-moons
carved into hills, and when we walk
down the unpaved, unnamed road,

past the upright pipes marking gas
or sewer, there’s often a father and son
joyriding on one four-wheeler, sans helmets.

They wave hello and we wave back.
There’s bankruptcy court. A promised
swimming pool. There’s hope that bounces

down the stairs, slinks away, and hides
under a chair. My son pitches a fit
when we pass a digger and I won’t stop

for the excavation; when the other children
sing the alphabet he doesn’t join in.
After two servings of milk, there’s

water. Farther, further, father.
Mama. Juice. Pile of dirt, he calls
from the car window to the bleached

frames, empty and bowed as a set
of whale ribs, their cupped hands
spilling sand and clay. He presses

his red mitten to the glass and waves
hello to our master-planned community,
the houses that are just like ours, but for

the countertop finish, or optional bonus room
above the garage, or guns in the cupboards
beneath commemorative plates, tucked

next to receipts for winter and re-wear
that coat one more year. In the dusk,
the mountaintops flatten themselves

to escape the calcified bulldozers
that won’t come after them anymore.
It is March and there’s snow crusted

over with ice. Our jackets are too small,
but the snaps still snap. The zippers still
zip. We shiver and turn the heat up.

Erika Meitner’s first book, Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore, was published by Anhinga Press in 2003. She lives in Blacksburg, VA, and teaches in the MFA program at Virginia Tech. Her son Oz (age 2) regularly refers to Obama as “Omama.”

Originally posted on March 5, 2009

Click here for the MP3 of this reading.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ann Fisher-Wirth reads her poem

In Oxford, Mississippi

Despite last week’s snow, the daffodils bloom
in the dead winter grass of gardens and curbsides
all over town; even two-days’ jackets of ice

couldn’t kill them. The Bradford pears and plum trees,
the quince like drops of blood on thorny branches—
I love them, I hang on to the thought of them

when I despair of humans, when one of my students,
for instance, says welfare is for crackheads, and another,
that the fix for capital punishment is public stonings and hangings—

Thou shalt not kill, a third replies, what do you answer to that?

I answer: the chainlink fence on that icy hill six years ago,
the guards that ringed the American embassy
when thousands marched in Stockholm, and I wanted to shout

to those uniformed boys, Put down your guns and join us.
My shame that year in Sweden at being American.
Watching Powell on TV, as he tried to make the UN believe

those little dark blips of trucks carried weapons
of mass destruction. That day in glistening springtime
when we learned the tanks had invaded Iraq.

Grief has been our mother. Exhaustion and lies, our daily bread.

Yet the daffodils, daffodils, reiterating sunlight.
When I woke at five this morning, the birds
and wind chimes were singing. The raccoon that lives

in our crawl space scuttered around on the porch,
thumping and shaking the cat food bowl. I dreamed
I’d forgotten to come back from Sweden, no longer knew

where home was, if I still had a job. But now I know
home is Mississippi—where William Caughy, age 75,
said Thank the Lord when I signed him up to vote

in the parking lot at Big Star last October.

And Thadeus Jefferson, age 82: Ain’t never voted.
Ain’t never registered neither. Can’t register,
ain’t permitted to. Long time gone did time for drug...

Then, when I read him the voter rules: What’s that
you say? Time for drug not on the list? That’s good,
but still can’t vote. Never did manage to learn how to read.

—What’s that you say? You asking if I recognize ‘OBAMA’?
Yes ma’am, I surely recognize ‘OBAMA’.
Let’s sign me up,
he chuckled, so I can vote Obama.

Ann Fisher-Wirth’s third book of poems, Carta Marina, has just been published by Wings Press. Her chapbook Slide Shows will appear from Finishing Line Press next winter. With Laura-Gray Street, she is coediting an international ecopoetry anthology, Earth’s Body, which will be published in 2011 by Trinity University Press. Ann teaches poetry and environmental studies at the University of Mississippi. She and her husband have five grown children.

Originally posted on February 8, 2009
Click here for the MP3 of this reading.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lisa Samuels reads her poem, day 28

At the Save the World breakfast

the White House forward allies begged to ordinary
foundered face objections got and tightly fraught
with legislative Sunday morning
when the breakfast passed with future skies
in policy blue after the rollout tenderness
the eager incapacity of the real to disoblige
one’s prescient forbears of concern
of loving’s yesterday a lack of sleep, forbearance
to reform green element darling first year
elocution modes rely on closure to prevent
one’s aides from tripping after one unsteady kiss
on light perfume of daylight tired throat performance
held the market as it fell across his chair, the country
off entirely eating weakened expectations on the broken
backs of sofas with the Someone’s Out There rescue plan,
a householder whose water income severance
waits for no man’s one hand finds in close halls court
intensive of the lot, the congress smiling with its apples,
tactic engineers at breakfast loving to resurrect the flowers
ides of confidence in his oath reform adjusting keys
for doors whose open state relies on that neat knife
closing on the loaf writ from the future edge
of buttery admonition, after all a plan took more than hours
or days with eyes across our backs blind total
to ensure the stimulus fluffs its hair like a memorial
to history, wherein tomorrow he’ll breathe out
soft again and try his hand at Monday, facing spin
return on protectionist America that wears a fashionable
new cloak stitched from blue umbrellas when the sun
shone cold comparing one man at breakfast with the lonely
trade winds on approach, one’s whole body as earthquake
to affairs, a rapt comparison when ties are put on necks
to prove the throat’s constricted life beliefs,
short thinking’s bread plate put up unilateral to a risk without
provision for a febrile wish, a solution without question
he has to fetch himself from his admirers
with body noises while the game set rules go down in dozens
orthodox, wherein we frame the months with tremor
portents all the way from Valentine’s lost cabinet
to the beds and tables whereon tender bodies fetch
as gain and aperture the House whose own first choices
train the face whose mirror has a thousand keeps
and civil animals unrest for urging selfhood to cut down,
realizing all the guys have you tied up with paper threads
whose works will cusp in balance on that still
he is getting up in the morning sigh re-shape the world (again)

Lisa Samuels is an American in New Zealand, teaching at the University of Auckland. Her new & forthcoming poetry books are The Invention of Culture (Shearsman 2008), Throe (Oystercatcher 2009), and Tomorrowland (Shearsman 2009), and her current projects include Metropolis, a fantasy of urbanization. She wrote this poem imagining a moment of President Obama’s mind at breakfast on Sunday morning.

Originally posted on February 16, 2009

Click here for the MP3 of this poem.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Joshua Marie Wilkinson reads his poem from day 41

Poem for Barack Obama

Ten envelopes & forty-thousand a
day to go—so here’s mine. Funny
to think we thought you’d read

our blog. Forfeiting, tanked
villains on the twitter, & your
coin face on some 1-800
supplies while they last. It’s not that

everything got weirder,
it’s weird that we’re already
used by it.

So, let’s see: Have you put
the wars to bed? Did you do
all of our homework?

I know it sounds stupid here, but
I’m sorry your friends aren’t to
call you up anymore. There’s no way

to talk to you directly, I guess,
so I’ll evince that.

It’s a poem. (Actually, see Hughson’s
if you want to break all the way down
for an evening.)

Since you left town, some
good things have happened:

Rae Armantrout got famous. Noah
got a job. Johannes’s comments on
Harriet are still better than tv. Tuned
dropped, and it’s haunted.

Even Spicer’s Collected went platinum,
so the ocean’s not so tough after all.

Maybe your assistants can help you with
the references. It’s just a poem. That’s
part of its work to point to other shit. Of

course we want to hear about your kids’ dog.

Joshua Marie Wilkinson (Chicago, IL) was born and raised in Seattle. He is the author of four collections of poems, most recently The Book of Whispering in the Projection Booth. A new anthology of poetry, conversations, and poetics, called 12 x 12 and co-edited with Christina Mengert, is just out. He was in Grant Park on election night.

Originally posted on March 1, 2009.

Click here for an MP3 of this reading.