Archive for the ‘Liz’ Category

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.

Mary Karr on Poetry Daily

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Delinquent Missive

Before David Ricardo stabbed his daddy
           sixteen times with a fork — Once
for every year of my fuckwad life
— he’d long
           showed signs of being bent.
In school, he got no valentine nor birthday
           cake embellished with his name.
On Halloween, a towel tied around his neck
           was all he had to be a hero with.
He spat in the punchbowl and smelled like a foot.
           His forehead was a ledge
he leered beneath. When I was sent to tutor him
           in geometry, so he might leave
(at last) ninth grade, he sat running pencil lead
           beneath his nails.
If radiance shone from those mudhole eyes,
           I missed it. Thanks, David
for your fine slang. You called my postulates
           post holes; your mom endured
ferocious of the liver. Plus you ignored —
           when I saw you wave at lunch —
my flinch. Maybe by now you’re ectoplasm,
           or the zillionth winner of the Texas
death penalty sweepstakes. Or you occupy
           a locked room with a small
round window held fast by rivets, through which
           you are watched. But I hope
some organism drew your care — orchid
           or cockroach even, some inmate
in a wheelchair whose steak you had to cut
           since he lacked hands.
In this way, the unbudgeable stone
           that plugged the tomb hole
in your chest could roll back, and in your sad
           slit eyes could blaze
that star adored by its maker.


This past Saturday, Leah and I got to listen to some of the readings at DC’s Bookfest, and we heard Mary Karr read some poetry from her book, Sinners Welcome. Two of her poems were featured on poetry daily a while ago, neither of which she read outloud, but what was featured in both venues showcases Karr’s narrative technique.

I really like Karr’s sense of humor and sarcastic quips (I would hate to land a spot on her bad side). There are some great sounds in this poem, like “the unbudgeable stone / that plugged the tomb hole,” and I think reading this poem outloud, to another person, is the only way of summing up the story of David Ricardo. This poem reminds me of how you can only recall a person from high school, one that you didn’t know too well, by way of saying “the kid who….”  and then when you’re done remembering, you make your predictions as to how they’re faring these days. For the line “you are watched. I hope” makes me think that since she only worked with him, but didn’t know him personally (and didn’t want to know him personally, as she ignored his waves) she feels she owes him at least a little concern on his whereabouts, but not necessarily a phone call. She at least gives him the benefit of the doubt, it seems.

I’d like to hear what anyone else thinks about the title “Delinquent Missive.” I’m interpreting it as a failing to send a message, that maybe she did indeed have some thoughts (and feelings?) for this person, at the time that she knew him, but was too young to express them.

Poetry Daily: Haircut

Monday, September 25th, 2006


I sit on the dock for a haircut and watch

as summer spreads out, relieving the general,

indiscriminate gray, like a mouthful of gin

spreading out through the capillaries

of my brain, etherizing everything

it is too painful to think or say,

as I dangle my feet in the water,

like bits of a man. On the goldenrod,

Japanese beetles are holding an orgy.

The green snake throws off its enameled skin.

And somewhere — invisible as the avenues

of the dead — a little door is left open for love,

pushing and pulling at each of us, as the water

pushes and pulls at my young gray hairs.



I think there are alot of mingling life and death images in here that somehow carry this poem afloat. The poem seems to twist at leaving the “little door” open for love, as the poem doesn’t even need to state that, and it could have sunk, and maybe it did for you, but I think that the image of the summer sun over the water takes care of it for me. The poem sort of starts out as a reminder that we’re all alone and as tiny and broken as this man on the dock, but then life continues on, and your hair keeps growing, and this man has let some love reach him through the act of handing over the scissors to a friend. I like how the poem both ends and starts on the dock, yet has narrowed down from just a man on the dock, to “young gray hairs.”

Poetry Daily: Miss Brevity

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Miss Brevity

I made the gown myself from minutes
held together with safety pins, and

wore it as I wafted through the nursery
pouring light all over the crowns
of their heads. All

those ghostly babies in their rows. Oh,

you swear you’ll remember us forever,
but you won’t.

Laura Kasischke

There are so many images I enjoy in this poem. The act of pouring light, for one, and the ambiguity of the first line (either they are the minutes held together by safety pins, or the newborn’s gown itself). Delivery room nurses must have a wonderful job. My mom used to hold that position, and it never seemed like work, she said. Caring for newborns is knowing how to give unconditional love, immediately, to something that can’t return it.

The images of the ghostly faces lined in rows also speaks of nurses of another kind, using that same unconditional love to save endangered lives.

The title speaks volumes, for nurses are rarely addressed by their first name, even though their lives are so personally connected to the patient, even if only for a brief time. Calling her “Miss” rather that “Mrs.” emphasizes the singularity of her position towards the many she cares for. It also coincides with how children address their first pre-school teachers or caretakers, Miss so and so, rather than the plain name.

The Yellow Curtain

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

The Yellow Curtain

                                                                     Edouard Vuillard, c. 1893
I woke into a sheet of gold unspooled
and still unspent, a wealth you know.

For once, though it was everywhere—
the bedclothes were stitched with tumbling waves of it

all shifting westward in imperfect perpendiculars
through windows to where a buoy bobbed and tugged,

like an anchor dredging deeper hues, the sun.
And I was bobbing too, hand dangling from a dream

in which I’d stopped at the pollenous heart of every thing,
had bloomed like a single drop of water from the tap

that gathers light and works light’s little knives
until it seemed no one could look at it too closely and survive.

Maybe that’s why my eyes stayed shut,
though I could feel gold brushing them with whirring wings,

and why the practical boats didn’t make for harbor
though the city hung before them clear as a postcard,

and why the room’s wallpaper rioted with verbenum
everywhere but in the brilliant mirror, which, on most days,

pretends it’s a porthole looking out
on nothing more spendthrift than the sea.


This poem is written by Terri Witek.

I read this poem both before and after googling the title and the artist, which then gave me a link to the painting it is based off of.

I think I liked the poem better before I saw the painting, especially because of lines like “the bedclothes were stitched with tumbling waves of it” and “I could feel glod brushing them with whirring wings”  — these lines jumped out in my mind as things that can only be expressed in words, not through paint. I was disappointed at first, with the painting and then with the poem, because the images in my mind didn’t match the painting (that yellow looks more like mustard than gold!) but then I think I realized that the poem spoke louder than the painting, giving the subject a voice (“I”) and providing a setting outside the room. 

Maybe the poem has to do with the overwhelming task the poet feels in translating a story from a mysterious figure with her back turned to us: that it is the immense possibility that is “why my eyes stayed shut.”


Triggering Town quote

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

“I would never try to locate a serious poem in a place where physical evidence suggests that the people there find it relatively easy to accept themselves…” (6)

I think this is a rather bold statement, which can also be interpreted as a metaphor for the process of writing poetry. Both poems and towns undergo many alterations to try to reach a higher level of perfection. But there will always be a critic, after the fact, that suggests a better way of doing it. If there weren’t any critics, who would care?