"Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?
Why do trees conceal
the splendor of their roots?
Who hears the regrets
of the thieving automobile?
Is there anything in the world sadder
than a train standing in the rain?"
"Book of Questions, III" by Pablo Neruda, translated by William
Image: "Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway" by
"Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men conceal'd
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame
I knew they lived and moved
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves—and yet
The same heart beats in every human
From "The Buried Life" by Matthew Arnold
Image: "The Lovers" by René Magritte
"Across the floor flits the mechanical toy,
fit for a king of several centuries back.
A little circus horse with real white hair.
His eyes are glossy black.
He bears a little dancer on his back.
She stands upon her toes and turns and turns.
A slanting spray of artificial roses
is stitched across her skirt and tinsel bodice.
Above her head she poses
another spray of artificial roses.
His mane and tail are straight from Chirico.
He has a formal, melancholy soul.
He feels her pink toes dangle toward his back
along the little pole
that pierces both her body and her soul
and goes through his, and reappears below,
under his belly, as a big tin key.
He canters three steps, then he makes a
canters again, bows on one knee,
canters, then clicks and stops, and looks at
The dancer, by this time, has turned her
He is the more intelligent by far.
Facing each other rather desperately—
his eye is like a star—
we stare and say, 'Well, we have come this
"Cirque D'Hiver" by Elizabeth Bishop
"Even sound writers talk mostly in a drawling
And dreaming way about it. He,
Who hath given the best definition
Of most things, hath given but an imperfect one,
Here, informing us that a happy life
Is one without impediment to virtue ....
In fact, hardly anything which we receive
For truth is really and entirely so,
Let it appear plain as it may, and let
Its appeal be not only to the understanding,
But to the senses; for our words do not follow
The senses exactly; and it is by words
We receive truth and express it.”
So says Walter Savage Landor in his Imaginary
Conversation between Sir Philip Sidney
And Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, all three,
In a sense, my own psychiatrists, shrinking
The sense of contingency and confusion
Itself to a few terms I can quote, ponder
Or type: the idea of wisdom, itself, shrinks."
From "Essay on Psychiatrists" by Robert Pinsky
Image: "The Happy Writers" by David Salle
"Sheets entangle him
Naked on his bed
Like a toppled mast
Slack sails bedeck
At sea, no ballast
For that even keel
He cannot keep—
No steering wheel
As he falls asleep"
"Heat Wave" by Samuel Menashe
Image: "Eyes in the Heat" by Jackson Pollock
"going on everywhere
in summer’s cold wind
winging through hollies.
Banana plants flap
like canvas sails
above a dugout cellar
where Latino boys shoulder
cans of dirt, rocks.
Three doors down
more or less . . .
things feel approximate
like my window draft haunted
by Un’aura amorosa
I’ve listened and whistled to
too much this morning
that renews me bitterly
sweet like the mug
on the pit bull
neighborhood kids adore,
recovering from surgery
while his owner Mike or Fred
three doors down
lays Italian tiles
on his rebuilt stoop.
There’s a small tremble
in the familiar orders
that keep us, that we keep,
the ocean’s big breath
through high treetops,
then lower down
a housepainter’s billowing
black nets suck and mash
above those Michoacáns
digging a duplex foundation
for New World gold:
all those respirations
in the pushy nonstop wind
thrown like a threshold
between us and the trench,
us and whatever’s there
underworld or overworld
where certain friends say
they will, at the end
of the things of this world,
be laid to rest,
but (I say) what rest?"
"Renovations" by W. S. Di Piero
Image: "Ad Parnassum" by Paul Klee
"In fighting the sea, pinging
Neptune hidden deep with his heavy
trident, the emperor Caligula had his men
use whatever means necessary, tearing
up the waves, rending still water
with swords. The emperor knew
Neptune wouldn't give up easily:
take no prisoners, he said. Turn
back the Nereids and their offspring,
they'll share no food at our
table. In his human form Caligula
was the iron man, chief worshipper
of his own cult, his priests
of industry heaping wealth
at his feet. He grew giddy
with success. Turn them back!
Turn them back! And the empire
jumped, caught up in his fury.
Alone with his thoughts, his immensity,
Caligula said to himself: the sea
can throw up such nasty surprises,
there’s room for only one god
on the high seas. I will guarantee
safe passage for those who take
the test, who kiss the bootstraps
of my troops, who worship me.
When Neptune sent his boats
Caligula scrambled his forces,
put the empire on war footing,
bunkered down in Canberra,
said he was doing it for love
of humanity, love of his people."
"Turning" by John Kinsella
Image: "Raft of the Medusa" by Théodore
"Back from vacation", the barber announces,
or the postman, or the girl at the drugstore, now tan.
They are amazed to find the workaday world
still in place, their absence having slipped no cogs,
their customers having hardly missed them, and
there being so sparse an audience to tell of the
the pyramids they have seen, the silken warm seas,
the nighttimes of marimbas, the purchases achieved
in foreign languages, the beggars, the flies,
the hotel luxury, the grandeur of marble cities.
But at Customs the humdrum pressed its claims.
Gray days clicked shut around them; the yoke still fit,
warm as if never shucked. The world is still so small,
the evidence says, though their hearts cry, "Not so!"
"Back From Vacation" by John Updike
Image: "Paris Through My Window" by Marc Chagall
"Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon."
From "Frost at Midnight" by Samuel Taylor
Image: "Winter Landscape I, Kochel, Bavaria,
1909" by Wassily Kandinsky
"Once in a while
you may come across a place
seems as close to perfection
as you will ever need.
And striving to be faultless
the air on its knees
holds the trees apart,
yet nothing is categorically
thus, or that, and before the dusk
mellows and fails
the light is like honey
on the stems of tussock grass,
and the shadows are mauve birthmarks
on the hills."
"Place" by Brian Turner
Image: "6 Days in Nelson and Canterbury" by
"The man we surround, the man no one
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor
sob very loudly—yet the dignity of his weeping
holds us back from his space, the hollow he
makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their
longing for tears as children for a rainbow."
From "An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow" by Les
Image: "Merzbilde med regnbue (Merzpicture with
Rainbow)" by Kurt Schwitters
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium."
From "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" by TS Eliot
Image: "Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper
"We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth."
From "Ode" by Arthur O'Shaughnessy
Image: "The Tower of Babel" by Pieter Bruegel
"3. Autumn Testament
It is not the farther to go, but the father to be.
It is not the longing, but the belonging.
It is not the clasp on the purse, but the purse on the lips.
It is not above suspicion, but under the pump.
It is not the unsettled stomach, but the unsettled mind.
It is not the need for god, but the desire for god.
It is not evidence of a divine creator, but evidence against a divine
It is not the Gaza Strip, but Gazza whipping his shirt off.
It is not talking with your feet, but footing it with your mouth.
It is not the parting shot, but the passing shot.
It is not the power, but the spin.
It is not the slant, but the enchantment.
It is not the whale in the room, but the pea in the pod.
It is not under the mattress, but staring you in the face."
From "Demarcations" by James Brown
Image: From The Separation Wall, Israel/Palestine by Banksy
"you want to
serve & to be left alone
to serve & be served,
materials, marl & old timber,
the rich claggy rind
of the world where
were kings : well they’re gone now though
they survived longer
than we have
yet, but then we know, don’t we,
citizen, that there’s nowhere
to defect to, & that
living in the
any place to chuck
From "Pathway to the Sea" by Ian Wedde
Image: "Pathway to the Sea" by Ralph Hotere