Archive for October, 2006

A Marriage Must Be Worked At

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Newlyweds on the honeymoon trip,
they are trying to get
from one set of ruins to the next.
There were no double berths.
He took the top.
Now they are three feet apart.
Neither sleeping.

They are perfectly still,
hurtling over the landscape.

Michael Chitwood
Number 68
Fall 2005
A lot of times, a poem is ambiguous because it lacks narrative.  Here, we see an ambiguity from a narrative out of context.  We are told everything the couple does and where they are, but their feeling are opaque to us.  The title because extremely important, offering us a hint as to what this forced distance might mean.  Do they feel awkward, because they were having troubles anyway, and are forced to do what angry couples often do by choice (sleep apart)?

Their lack of motion against a moving landscape highlights a sense of wrongness, to me.  A poem can have a haiku-like efficiency and mystery without using the Japanese form.

Reccomendation – The Cobweb by Raymond Carver

Monday, October 30th, 2006

The Cobweb

A few minutes ago, I stepped onto the deck
of the house. From there I could see and hear the water,
and everything that’s happened to me all these years.
It was hot and still. The tide was out.
No birds sang. As I leaned against the railing
a cobweb touched my forehead.
It caught in my hair. No one can blame me that I turned
and went inside. There was no wind. The sea
was dead calm. I hung the cobweb from the lampshade.
Where I watch it shudder now and then when my breath
touches it. A fine thread. Intricate.
Before long, before anyone realizes,
I’ll be gone from here.

This has been one of the most rewarding poems to read again and again. I notice more connotations and implications of small details every time I go through it. There really is not a lot of bulk there, but for such a short poem he is able to bring quite a lot across. The terse four and five word sentences are distant almost to the point of abstraction or complete dissasociation – it really paints a bleak picture. Hope you enjoy it…

At Home by Hugo Claus

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

At Home

Father was eating partridge and Mother was out
and I and Joris were talking about murders
and getaways and on what trains
when the sun rolled into our attic
and lay there gleaming in the hay.
Father swore and said: God sees me.
Joris made his getaway
and I went on playing with the trains
which ran on electricity across the floor
between posts.

 I like how this poem tells a narrative without giving too much away.

 The speaker is probably younger since he is continues to play with the toy trains even after his father curses outloud: the older brother must have an idea of what the father is cursing about, and either wants to run away from that, or is anticipating what usually follows after his father curses.

I think the repetition of trains and getaways is good because I think that it implies that the speaker is now older and can see the difference between the getaways that characters in stories versus the real ones that people make.

 I thought at first when I read this poem that it should end right after “went on playing with the trains” but I think now that it should continue in like it does. I think this because the speaker, at that moment in time, is like the train and the tracks he speaks of: he’s caught between his parents because the only track he sees in his life at that time is the one running between them. The posts, like parents, frame a home for children.

Living with Ballads: Sidna Allen

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

He mounted to the bar
with a pistol in his hand
and he sent Judge Massie
to the Promised Land:

the only mountain ballad
my mother ever sang
the years that she was raising me
on Pop Rocks and Tang,

and Grandmother thought secular
music miles beneath
her notice, so my mind is not
one Stith Thompson motif

after another, not a green
wood thick with noble felons,
no Gypsy Davies to seduce,
no Barbara Allens,

just local Sidna, late
in the murder song tradition,
coming at you straight
out of my mother’s kitchen.

i liked this poem mainly because of the rhyme. it’s kind of untraditional in that, as far as i can tell, only 2 out of the 4 lines of each stanza (with the exception of the last) rhyme with eachother. also, the rhyme scheme of the poem matched that of the italicized song lyrics that opened the poem, giving it the feel of a song which is very appropriate considering the subject matter and construction of the poem.

Virginia M. Heatter

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006


This is the sky where it meets
the water’s surface.

This is the wet ridge of it,
the line between life and drowning.

This is the glow of embers rising
against the rigors of evergreen.

This is a ring of large stones,
and in the nostrils, cedar burning.

This is the sound, still throbbing
in the ear canal, of translucence

passing through narrow tubes.
This is the salt of confluence,

and the sweet of imperfection.
This is melody, harmony, silence.

And this —

is the dead space, the rift
behind the gums, that hollow.

I like this.

Couplets are neat.

The “this is” thing is kind of overdone (i’ve done it myself), but it works I think.

“the rift behind the gums” is a great line. Also, the whole thing has nice sound.


Saturday, October 14th, 2006

This poem bases itself on an odd premise from Euripides that I was unfamilar with until now; Helen never went to Troy at all, but instead the goddess Aphrodite replaced her with an illusion (an eidolon, or phantom).

 What is painfully absent from this poem is how Helen feels about this.  She is the speaker, but she recounts dryly things she did not do and feel.  I think we are to understand that she feels some regret that these dramatic and world-changing things never happened to her, but it is ambiguous.  I admire this poem a lot; the lack of emotional contact compels me to fill in blanks and ask questions, as well as giving the poem a certain air of austerity that seems appropriate to classical antiquity (though it was of course written much later).

A Poem about Frat Girls

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

This is a poem I wrote about frat girls, the ones who you always see at the frat parties on other campuses and this campus. I wanted it to be funny, but somehow it just ended up making me sad and almost pitying them, but here goes:

Nights on Stupid                        by Richard Vasquez




As they go hand in hand,

giddy and carefree with their purses engorged with

loose cash,

flavored, ribbed, glow-in-the-dark condoms,

credit cards, fake IDs that say they are 25 and from East Lansing,

makeup from Sephora,

birth control pills, and sparkly lip-gloss.

This is an old mission, the same as every

other weekend.  Perhaps play some Beirut, get some numbers,

generally forget about any sort of manners or

moral upbringing.

An elitism that

gets written about too little

these days

is imbedded in the psyche of

every made-up trollop.  It doesn’t matter

whether each is rich or destitute,

pretty or putrid,

a vestal or a vacancy.

In the recesses of each mind

is a goddess persona, put on this earth

for the sheer purpose of being a bimbo who

thinks she is something sacred to behold


Which one carries the camera tonight?

How many

will she take of herself holding the camera away from her

face?  How many will be of her

friend chugging cheap sweaty beer with one of the frat guys?

Will their eyes be able to decipher the visions

between the agglutination of caked-on make-up?  Will the drunken

swaying of their young bodies somehow

make them feel they are the womanly wonders

of the world?


Will they ever get a clue

or will they continue being cliché?


The Dissident Student

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

For years he listens to me
Like the trees listen to the seasons.
With me he crossed the current
To the fountain . . . He never lets me rest, even during my siesta,
Dictating into my tired mouth the most confusing gibberish.
Yet always mindful, as if he was holding back.

One day in my old age, he, blue like a diamond, bursts onto me
Strips off my turban,
Throws my ink and my tattered papers into my face,
And takes off as if for a rendezvous with fate.

For years people never stopped visiting
To console me. I used to indulge them
Without any conviction.
For even now, ever since he destroyed my isolated perch
And left,
I see in his footprints
A path for wisdom beyond my inkpot and my paper.

I don’t know what this poem is supposed to symbolize.  The best I could guess was a storm or some sort of natural occurence.  The most interesting part is the title, dissident student.  The footprints indicate that an actual person existed but its still difficult to tell.  Him being “blue like a diamond” confuses me, because I do not usually see diamonds as blue.

revision of dog poem

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

so I’m not sure if we’re supposed to post revisions, but here’s one of my dog poem. hope its a little more cheery now:


Perhaps it was a bad idea, taking her

to my house for the week. I insisted;

“She’ll love it.” Dad frowned

and left the address of the beach house prefaced

with emergency vet numbers

and 24-hour kennels.

I envisioned wagging tails and long walks

but I couldn’t avoid the warning signs. Fur ruffled

along her shoulder blades as we passed under the

foreign door frame together. She searched the house

as if there had been some mistake; there was no doggy door,

there wasn’t even a fireplace. Perhaps I should not have ignored

the quiet cries as I helped four tired legs

up the unusually uncarpeted stairs.

But I could have sworn

I saw her black beagle lips form a soundless smile,

thanking me every time I reappeared in view.

The first to come under attack were the bedposts,

carefully whittled to jagged edges. She had autographed

my chair legs by the second day, scrawling her name

with hundreds of tiny teeth marks along the dresser

and desk posts. I let her take over

the room, but it was not until she found

the purse from New York that became supper

and the shoes from Paris for desert

followed by presents scattered to every corner

that I surrendered and packed up the car for home. She watched

knowing where we were going, her tail

beating against the passenger seat like a pulse

as we pulled onto the highway.

“She’s just old,” my mother said. “you know

she can’t be away from the house.”

I should have known

she couldn’t be away from the house, and yet

somewhere between Fredericksburg and DC

between the reassuring pets and promises of her bed

I thanked her for her inability to change.

The car went into park as her nose left its last smudge on the window

and we both smiled as we unlocked the front door

and went from room to room, turning on all the familiar lights.

Mmmmmm, words.

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

My Name Is Donald

Like a fish on a hedge, the horsefly
Lands on my wife’s lipstick.
That is sobriety.
That is the end of my hayride with oblivion.
I wonder: How long will it be until no one
Knows what a hayride is,
Or was? I’ve never been,
But the happiness I’ve seen in movies —
All the kids piled up in hay & a fiddler driving —
Is very real. It was real for a while.
Only a child can watch a movie sober.
He is younger than the mule pulling the wagon.
He is unshamed by the fiddler’s expertise.
His birth trumps all, which is to say he’s flying.

–Donald Revell

OK, I love it. But do I get it? I’m not sure.

It kind of reminds me of Faulkner-meets-JohnAshbery-meets-billycollins or something. (I know, enough Billy Collins already)

The hayride stream-of-consciousness is great. The words transient, nostalgic, youthful, rural, and tradition[al] all come to mind. Maybe I only think of Faulkner because of the thing about the fish… like My Mother is a fish… or whatever.
“Only a child can watch a movie sober,” what an interesting line. I wonder how much sobriety refers to alcohol and how much it refers to coming to terms with mortality. Oblivion suggests mortality. What is sobriety? The realization of something dangerously unexpected. A horsefly on lipstick, for example. Then how is a child sober? Perhaps, a child is able to make realizations with more clarity, with more acceptance. There are less preconcieved certanties with children.

The ending is so positive. Life trumps all. Surprisingly positive in light of the rest of the poem: a hayride with oblivion and whatnot. “He is flying,” though, suggests a connection with the horsefly–the cause of sobriety.

I suppose that children bring about a sort of sobriety as well as experience it.

There’s a lot more that could be said about this one. I like it.