cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
  "We are hard on each other" 

Margaret Atwood

i)

We are hard on each other
and call it honesty,
choosing our jagged truths
with care and aiming them across
the neutral table.

The things we say are 
true; it is our crooked 
aims, our choices
turn them criminal.

ii)

Of course your lies
are more amusing:
you make them new each time.

Your truths, painful and boring
repeat themselves over & over 
perhaps because you own
so few of them

iii)

A truth should exist,
it should not be used
like this. If I love you

is that a fact or a weapon?

iv)

Does the body lie
moving like this, are these 
touches, hairs, wet 
soft marble my tongue runs over
lies you are telling me?

Your body is not a word,
it does not lie or 
speak truth either.

It is only
here or not here.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
"Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal" by Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well — one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew — however poorly used -
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.

She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her — Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
Questions.

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — out of her bag —
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers —
Non-alcoholic — and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American — ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands —
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate — once the crying of confusion stopped
— has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
  "The City"
Constantine P. Cavafy

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried like something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

Translated By Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
"The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart"

Jack Gilbert

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,

and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind's labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not laguage but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
"Insomnia" by Dana Gioia

Now you hear what the house has to say.
Pipes clanking, water running in the dark,
the mortgaged walls shifting in discomfort,
and voices mounting in an endless drone
of small complaints like the sounds of a family
that year by year you've learned how to ignore.

But now you must listen to the things you own,
all that you've worked for these past years,
the murmur of property, of things in disrepair,
the moving parts about to come undone,
and twisting in the sheets remember all
the faces you could not bring yourself to love.

How many voices have escaped you until now,
the venting furnace, the floorboards underfoot,
the steady accusations of the clock
numbering the minutes no one will mark.
The terrible clarity this moment brings,
the useless insight, the unbroken dark.

cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
"Immigrant Blues"

Li-Young Lee

 People have been trying to kill me since I was born,
a man tells his son, trying to explain
the wisdom of learning a second tongue.

It’s an old story from the previous century
about my father and me.

The same old story from yesterday morning
about me and my son.

It’s called “Survival Strategies
and the Melancholy of Racial Assimilation.”

It’s called “Psychological Paradigms of Displaced Persons,”

called “The Child Who’d Rather Play than Study.”

Practice until you feel
the language inside you, says the man.

But what does he know about inside and outside,
my father who was spared nothing
in spite of the languages he used?

And me, confused about the flesh and the soul,
who asked once into a telephone,
Am I inside you?

You’re always inside me, a woman answered,
at peace with the body’s finitude,
at peace with the soul’s disregard
of space and time.

Am I inside you? I asked once
lying between her legs, confused
about the body and the heart.

If you don’t believe you’re inside me, you’re not,
she answered, at peace with the body’s greed,
at peace with the heart’s bewilderment.

It’s an ancient story from yesterday evening

called “Patterns of Love in Peoples of Diaspora,”

called “Loss of the Homeplace
and the Defilement of the Beloved,”

called “I want to Sing but I Don’t Know Any Songs.”

cinaed: I can whistle through my fingers, bulldog a steer, light a fire with two sticks, shoot a pistol with fair accuracy (Ann Sheridan)
Guess what month it is? National Poetry month! Which means if I have time, I'll be posting a poem each day this month.

**
**
**

"Photograph"

Andrea Gibson

I wish I was a photograph
tucked into the corners of your wallet
I wish I was a photograph
you carried like a future in your back pocket
I wish I was that face you show to strangers
when they ask you where you come from
I wish I was that someone that you come from
every time you get there
and when you get there
I wish I was that someone who got phone calls
and postcards saying
wish you were here
I wish you were here
autumn is the hardest season
the leaves are all falling
and they're falling like they're falling in love with the ground
and the trees are naked and lonely
I keep trying to tell them
new leaves will come around in the spring
but you can't tell trees those things
they're like me they just stand there
and don't listen
I wish you were here
I've been missing you like crazy
I've been hazy eyed
staring at the bottom of my glass again
thinking of that time when it was so full
it was like we were tapping the moon for moonshine
or sticking straws into the center of the sun
and sipping like icarus would forever kiss
the bullets from our guns
I never meant to fire you know
I know you never meant to fire lover
I know we never meant to hurt each other
now the sky clicks from black to blue
and dusk looks like a bruise
I've been wrapping one night stands
around my body like wedding bands
but none of them fit in the morning
they just slip off my fingers and slip out the door
and all that lingers is the scent of you
I once swore if I threw that scent into a wishing well
all the wishes in the world would come true
do you remember
do you remember the night I told you
I've never seen anything more perfect than
than snow falling in the glow of a street light
electricity bowing to nature
mind bowing to heartbeat
this is gonna hurt bowing to I love you
I still love you like moons love the planets they circle around
like children love recess bells
I still hear the sound of you
and think of playgrounds
where outcasts who stutter
beneath braces and bruises and acne
are finally learning that their rich handsome bullies
are never gonna grow up to be happy
I think of happy when I think of you
so wherever you are I hope you're happy
I really do
I hope the stars are kissing your cheeks tonight
I hope you finally found a way to quit smoking
I hope your lungs are open and breathing your life
I hope there's a kite in your hand
that's flying all the way up to orion
and you still got a thousand yards of string to let out
I hope you're smiling
like god is pulling at the corners of your mouth
cause I might be naked and lonely
shaking branches for bones
but I'm still time zones away
from who I was the day before we met
you were the first mile
where my heart broke a sweat
and I wish you were here
I wish you'd never left
but mostly I wish you well
I wish you my very very best
cinaed:  Superstitions are habits rather than beliefs. (Marlene Dietrich)
LETTER FROM THE LAND OF SINNERS

I write you this out of another province
That you may never see:
Country of rivers, its topography
Mutable in detail, yet always one,
Blasted in certain places, here by glaciers,
There by the work of man.

The fishers by the water have no boast
Save of their freedom; here
A man may cast a dozen kinds of lure
And think his days rewarded if he sight
Now and again the prize, unfettered, flicking
Its prism-gleams of light.

The old lord lived secluded in his park
Until the hall was burned
Years ago, by his tenants; both have learned
Better since then, and now our children run
To greet him. Council and hunter have forgotten
The echo of the gun.

I said there are blasted places: we have kept
Their nakedness intact--
No marble to commemorate an act
Superhuman or merely rash; we know
Why they are there and why the seed that falls there
Is certain not to grow.

We keep these places as we keep the time
Scarred on our recollection
When some we love broke from us in defection,
Or we ourselves harried to death too soon
What we could least forgo. Our memories
Recur like the old moon.

But we have made another kind of peace,
And walk where boughs are green,
Forgiven by the selves that we have been,
And learning to forgive. Our apples taste
Sweeter this year; our gates are falling down,
And need not be replaced.
cinaed: I can whistle through my fingers, bulldog a steer, light a fire with two sticks, shoot a pistol with fair accuracy (Ann Sheridan)
FOR THE SAKE OF STRANGERS

No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waiting patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another—a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a retarded child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them—
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.
cinaed: I can whistle through my fingers, bulldog a steer, light a fire with two sticks, shoot a pistol with fair accuracy (Ann Sheridan)
FAIRY TALES

for Gu Cheng

You believed in your own story,
then climbed inside it—
a turquoise flower.
You gazed past ailing trees,
past crumbling walls and rusty railings.
Your least gesture beckoned a constellation
of wild vetch, grasshoppers, and stars
to sweep you into immaculate distances.

The heart may be tiny
but the world's enormous.

And the people in turn believe—
in pine trees after rain,
ten thousand tiny suns, a mulberry branch
bent over water like a fishing-rod,
a cloud tangled in the tail of a kite.
Shaking off dust, in silver voices
ten thousand memories sing from your dream.

The world may be tiny
but the heart's enormous.
cinaed: Tough times don't last, tough people do, remember? (Gregory Peck)
THE SCIENCES SING A LULLABY

Physics says: go to sleep. Of course
you’re tired. Every atom in you
has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes
nonstop from mitosis to now.
Quit tapping your feet. They’ll dance
inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.

Geology says: it will be all right. Slow inch
by inch America is giving itself
to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness
lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
You aren’t alone. All of the continents used to be
one body. You aren’t alone. Go to sleep.

Astronomy says: the sun will rise tomorrow,
Zoology says: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle,
Psychology says: but first it has to be night, so
Biology says: the body-clocks are stopped all over town
and
History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.
cinaed: I can whistle through my fingers, bulldog a steer, light a fire with two sticks, shoot a pistol with fair accuracy (Ann Sheridan)
OF FASHION

If you don't believe life
is rythmic, listen
late at night: all over
the world neckties
are widening and narrowing.

Lapels are widening
and narrowing. Collars
are buttoning up
and flying loose. Trouser
cuffs are folding
and unfolding. Skirts are
rising and falling, hair
is lengthening and shortening.

Somewhere, in the lamplight
of an apartment or hotel
room we once had, your
clothes are slipping down
again, my hands are going
crazy in your hair, our hearts
are beating against each other.

Somewhere surf is hissing.

Somewhere, Dover Beach
maybe, something fragile
and afraid is trying to last
forever.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
THIS HOUR AND WHAT IS DEAD

Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly need there in heaven?
Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches?
His love for me feels like spilled water
running back to its vessel.

At this hour, what is dead is restless
and what is living is burning.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

My father keeps a light on by our bed
and readies for our journey.
He mends ten holes in the knees
of five pairs of boy’s pants.
His love for me is like his sewing:
various colors and too much thread,
he stitching uneven. But the needle pierces
clean through with each stroke of his hand.

At this hour, what is dead is worried
and what is living is fugitive.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

God, that old furnace, keeps talking
with his mouth of teeth,
a beard stained at feasts, and his breath
of gasoline, airplane, human ash.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water.

At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind
and helpless. While the Lord lives.

Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone.
I’ve had enough of his love
that feels like burning and flight and running away.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
FALLING STARS

Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes--do you recall? And we
did make so many! For there were countless numbers
of stars: each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
PICK-UP LINES FOR FEMINISTS

making the move
at the bar
the club
the pro-choice rally
or the conference
on women's rights
in the 21st century
is no easy task
for feminists
young and old.

how do you
subtly ask for digits
while still making it
perfectly clear
that you are fine
being alone
and are certainly
not buying into the idea
that women are worthless
without a significant other?

just remember to smile.
or not.
(depending on if you
feel like it)
and try some
of these lines
on for size:

if i could rearrange
the alphabet
i would put u and i
together
and then we could
work on trying
to think outside
of this male dominated
language.

your paradigm or mine?

you're so sweet
you put hersheys
out of business.
so sweet
you can bring down
all those
bastard big businesses.

somebody better call
god/allah/buddah/
assorted goddesses/etc.
because he/she/gender neutral being
are missing an
angel/messiah/messenger.
*if atheist this line may not work

did it hurt?
when you fell
from the top
of the hierarchy
when society
identified you
as a woman?

pinch me.
with consent of course.
you are so
third wave
i must be dreaming.

where have you been
all my life?
hopefully fighting
against oppressive
patriarchal systems.

your feet must be tired.
because you have been
running through my
mind and struggling
against the repressive
gender roles
that we have been
socialized into
all day.

if the personal is political
then our getting together
has the potential
to subvert the patriarchy.

what's your sign?
radical? liberal?
socialist? cultural?
eco?

if these lines fail
don't worry.
it's probably just
because our
fascist media
has embedded
said pick-up line
receiver
with the idea
that you are a
crazy
scary
man-hating
castrating
bitch.

just keep telling yourself.
if they haven't
started questioning
what society
tells them yet.

then maybe
they are not
the one
for you.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
ANTILAMENTATION

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don't bother remembering
any of it. Let's stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
It's National Poetry month! (Oh god, how is it already April?)

CATCH A BODY

Salinger, I’m sorry, but “Don’t ever tell
anybody anything” is a string of words
I would like to wrap up in canvas and sink
to the bottom of the Hudson, or extract
by laser from the ribcage of all of us
who ever believed it, who felt afraid
to miss someone, to be the last one
standing. “Tell everyone everything” is
not exactly right, but I do believe that if
your mother looks radiant in violet
you should tell her, or when a juvenile
sparrow thrashes its wings in dustpiles
and reminds you of a lover’s eyelashes,
you should say so. We are islands all of us,
but we are also boats, our secrets flares,
pyrotechnic devices by which we signal
there’s someone in here we’re still alive!
So maybe it’s, “don’t be afraid.” We can
rewrite Icarus, flame-resistant feathers,
wax that won’t melt, I mean it, I’ll draw up
a prototype right now, that burning ball
of orange won’t stop us, it’ll be everything
we dream the morning after, even if we fall
into the sea—we are boats, remember?
We are pirates. We move in nautical miles.
Each other’s anchors, each other’s buoys,
the rocket’s red, already the world entire.
cinaed: I improve on misquotation (Default)
"If I Were Fire" by Cecco Angiolieri, translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

If I were fire, I'd burn the world away;
If I were wind, I'd turn my storms thereon;
If I were water, I'd soon let it drown;
If I were God, I'd sink it from the day;
If I were Pope, I'd never feel quite gay
Until there was no peace beneath the sun;
If I were Emperor, what would I have done? -
I'd lop men's heads all round in my own way.
If I were Death, I'd look my father up;
If I were Life, I'd run away from him;
And treat my mother to like calls and runs.
If I were Cecco, (and that's all my hope,)
I'd pick the nicest girls to suit my whim,
And other folk should get the ugly ones.

Italian

S'i fosse fuoco, arderei 'l mondo;
s'i fosse vento, lo tempestarei;
s'i fosse acqua, i' l'annegherei;
s'i fosse Dio, mandereil' en profondo;
s'i fosse papa, allor serei giocondo,
ché tutti cristiani imbrigarei;
s'i fosse 'mperator, ben lo farei;
a tutti tagliarei lo capo a tondo.
S'i fosse morte, andarei a mi' padre;
s'i fosse vita, non starei con lui;
similemente faria da mi' madre.
Si fosse Cecco com'i' sono e fui,
torrei le donne giovani e leggiadre:
le zoppe e vecchie lasserei altrui.
cinaed:  Superstitions are habits rather than beliefs. (Marlene Dietrich)
"Sonata and Destructions"

by Pablo Neruda

After a good deal, after vague leagues,
confused about domains, uncertain about territories,
accompanied by faint hopes
and faithless companies and uneasy dreams,
I love the tenacity that still survives in my eyes,
I hear in my heart my horseman steps,
I bite the dormant fire and the ruined salt,
and at night, dark in atmosphere and fugitive mourning,
he who keeps vigil at the edge of camps,
the armed traveler of sterile resistances,
prisoner amid growing shadows and trembling wings,
I feel that I am he, and my arm of stone defends me.

There is among the sciences of weeping a confused altar,
and in my session of perfumeless twilights,
in my abandoned bedrooms where the moon dwells,
and inherited chandeliers, and destructions that are dear to me,
I adore my own lost being, my imperfect substance,
my silver set and my eternal loss.
The moist grape burned, and its funereal water
still wavers, still resides,
and the sterile patrimony, and the treacherous domicile.

Who made a ceremony of ashes?
Who loved the lost, who protected the last?
the bone of the father, the wood of the dead ship,
and its own ending, its very flight,
its sad force, its miserable god?

I spy, then, on the inanimate and the doleful,
and the strange testimony that I affirm,
with cruel efficiency and written in ashes,
is the form oblivion that I prefer,
the name that I give to the earth, the value of my dreams,
the interminable quantity that I divide
with my winter eyes, during each day of this world.
cinaed: I can whistle through my fingers, bulldog a steer, light a fire with two sticks, shoot a pistol with fair accuracy (Ann Sheridan)
 Excerpt from "Snow and Dirty Rain"
Richard Siken

Close your eyes. A lover is standing too close
to focus on. Leave me blurry and fall toward me
with your entire body. Lie under the covers, pretending
to sleep, while I'm in the other room. Imagine
my legs crossed, my hair combed, the shine of my boots
in the slatted light. I'm thinking My plants, his chair,
the ashtray that we bought together.
 I'm thinking This is where
we live.
 When we were little we made houses out of
cardboard boxes. We can do anything. It's not because
our hearts are large, they're not, it's what we
struggle with. The attempt to say Come over. Bring
your friends. It's a potluck, I'm making pork chops, I'm making
those long noodles you love so much.
 My dragonfly,
my black-eyed fire, the knives in the kitchen are singing
for blood, but we are the crossroads, my little outlaw,
and this is the map of my heart, the landscape
after cruelty, which is, of course, a garden, which is
a tenderness, which is a room, a love saying Hold me
tight, it's getting cold.
 We have not touched the starts,
nor are we forgiven, which brings us back
to the hero's shoulders and a gentleness that comes,
not from the absence of violence, but despite
the abundance of it. The lawn drowned, the sky on fire,
the gold light falling backward through the glass
of every room. I'll give you my heart to make a place
for it to happen, evidence of a love that transcends hunger.
Is that too much to expect? That I would name the stars
for you? That I would take you there? The splash
of my tongue melting you like a sugar cube? We've read
the back of the book, we know what's going to happen.
The fields burned, the land destroyed, the lovers left
broken in the brown dirt. Then it's gone.

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