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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Not Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Not Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Jennifer Michael Hecht


Promises to keep was a lie, he had nothing. Through 
the woods. Over the river and into the pain. It is an addict's
talk of quitting as she's smacking at a vein. He was always
going into the woods. It was he who wrote, The best way

out is always through. You'd think a shrink, but no, a poet.
He saw the woods and knew. The forest is the one that holds
promises. The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, they fill 
with a quiet snow. Miles are traveled as we sleep. He steers

his horse off the road. Among the trees now, the blizzard 
is a dusting. Holes in the canopy make columns of snowstorm, 
lit from above. His little horse thinks it is queer. They go
deeper, sky gets darker. It's the darkest night of the year.


He had no promises to keep, nothing pending. Had no bed
to head to, measurably away in miles. He was a freak like me,
monster of the dawn. Whose woods these are I think I know,
his house is in the village though. In the middle of life

he found himself lost in a dark woods. I discovered myself
in a somber forest. In between my breasts and breaths I got
lost. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I've got promises
to keep, smiles to go before I leap. I'm going into the woods.

They're lovely dark, and deep, which is what I want, deep lovely 
darkness. No one has asked, let alone taken, a promise of me,
no one will notice if I choose bed or rug, couch or forest deep. 
It doesn't matter where I sleep. It doesn't matter where I sleep.
Jennifer  Michael Hecht, "Not Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" from Who Said, 2013.

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still

Leda and the Swan  

By William Butler Yeats
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                                  Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
W. B. Yeats, “Leda and the Swan” from The Poems of W. B. Yeats: A New Edition, edited by Richard J. Finneran, 1933.

Monday, November 23, 2015



By Mark Doty
The jellyfish
float in the bay shallows
like schools of clouds,

a dozen identical — is it right
to call them creatures,
these elaborate sacks

of nothing? All they seem
is shape, and shifting,
and though a whole troop

of undulant cousins
go about their business
within a single wave's span,

every one does something unlike:
this one a balloon
open on both ends

but swollen to its full expanse,
this one a breathing heart,
this a pulsing flower.

This one a rolled condom,
or a plastic purse swallowing itself,
that one a Tiffany shade,

this a troubled parasol.
This submarine opera's
all subterfuge and disguise,

its plot a fabulous tangle
of hiding and recognition:
nothing but trope,

nothing but something
forming itself into figures
then refiguring,

sheer ectoplasm
recognizable only as the stuff
of metaphor. What can words do

but link what we know
to what we don't,
and so form a shape?

Which shrinks or swells,
configures or collapses, blooms
even as it is described

into some unlikely
marine chiffon:
a gown for Isadora?

Nothing but style.
What binds
one shape to another

also sets them apart
— but what's lovelier
than the shapeshifting

transparence of like and as:
clear, undulant words?
We look at alien grace,

by any determined form,
and we say: balloon, flower,

heart, condom, opera,
lampshade, parasol, ballet.
Hear how the mouth,

so full
of longing for the world,
changes its shape?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Expiration

The Expiration

By John Donne

So, so breake off this last lamenting kisse,
    Which sucks two soules, and vapours Both away,
Turne thou ghost that way, and let mee turne this,
    And let our selves benight our happiest day,
We ask’d none leave to love; nor will we owe
    Any, so cheape a death, as saying, Goe;

Goe; and if that word have not quite kil’d thee,   
    Ease mee with death, by bidding mee goe too.
Oh, if it have, let my word worke on mee,
    And a just office on a murderer doe.
Except it be too late, to kill me so,
    Being double dead, going, and bidding, goe.  

Monday, November 16, 2015



Come to my heart, cruel, insensible one,
Adored tiger, monster with the indolent air;
I would for a long time plunge my trembling fingers
Into the heavy tresses of your hair;
And in your garments that exhale your perfume
I would bury my aching head,
And breathe, like a withered flower,
The sweet, stale reek of my love that is dead.
I want to sleep! sleep rather than live!
And in a slumber, dubious as the tomb's,
I would lavish my kisses without remorse
Upon the burnished copper of your limbs.
To swallow my abated sobs
Nothing equals your bed's abyss;
Forgetfulness dwells in your mouth,
And Lethe flows from your kiss.
My destiny, henceforth my pleasure,
I shall obey, predestined instrument,
Docile martyr, condemned innocent,
Whose fervour but augments his torment.
I shall suck, to drown my rancour,
Nepenthe, hemlock, an opiate,
At the charming tips of this pointed breast
That has never imprisoned a heart.

~ Charles Baudelaire

"Evil is done without effort, naturally, it is the working of fate; good is always the product of an art."

"The growth of the spirit is a tragic growth, which implies ever-increasing pain and destruction, but it nevertheless is a movement of becoming which marks a kind of progression. The failures are not just an alignment of identical absurdities, each one is enriched by the knowledge of the one that precedes it and the spirit grows by reflecting upon its successive aberrations."

~ Paul De Man, “The Double Aspect of Symbolism” in which he meditates upon the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé as a poetry of becoming versus Charles Baudelaire’s poetry of being and in this “contrast is summarized the double aspect of Symbolism.”

For you. All of it, always for you, my love.

Le Cygne

La vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd'hui
Va-t-il nous dechirer avec un coup d'aile ivre
Ce lac dur oublie que hante sous le givre
La transparente glacier des vols qui n'ont pas fui!
Un cygne d'autrefois se souvient que c'est lui
Magnifique mais qui sans espoir se delivre
Pour n'avoir pas chante la region ou vivre
Quand du sterile hiver a resplendi l'ennui.
Tout son col secouera cette blanche agonie
Par l'espace infligee a l'oiseau qui nie,
Mais non l'horreur du sol ou le plumage est pris.
Fantome qu'a ce lieu son pur eclat assigne,
Il s'immobilise au songe froid de mepris
Que vet parmi l'exil inutile le Cygne.

Stéphane Mallarmé, 1885, published in La Revue Independante

The Swan

Will the virginal, strong and handsome today
Tear for us with a drunken flap of his wing
This hard forgotten lake which the transparent glacier
Of flights unknown haunts under the frost!
A swan of former times remembers that it is he
Magnificent but who without hope gives himself up
For not having sung of the region where he should have been
When the boredom of sterile winter was resplendent.
All his neck will shake off this white death-agony
Inflicted by space on the bird which denies space
But not the horror of the earth where his wings are caught.
Phantom whom his pure brilliance assigns to this place,
He becomes immobile in the cold dream of scorn
Which the Swan puts on his useless exile.

translation by Wallace Fowlie, 1953