I’ve been away so long I forgot my
password.Well, I guess the time has
come to come back.In the meanwhile, I
was the assistant coach for my daughter’s U-11 soccer team!It was great, their first year as a club
team, and it’ll start back up in March.
I’m now seven months into my attempt
at a year of not writing poetry.It’s
rough going, but I might be up to the task.
And also, I’ve completed the first
draft of Time Is a Toy: The Selected Poems of Michael Benedikt, and am sending
it off to Laura Boss (who is still without power in New Jersey).
To welcome myself back, here are
sixteen poems I like:
When you’d like to remember the
notion of days,
turn to the barn
asleep on its hill,
a red shoulder holding the weight
You could stand still for so many
So little is over and over
letting the wind brush your crown.
The lathes of tobacco swing into
Swallows already discuss the
I know you are tired of
All that clumsily grasping the
Aren’t you tired of bodies too?
Whenever it rains, they fall from
and darken your window.
Clutching each other they call out
while you sit in the circle thrown
by a lamp
and pretend they are leaves.
The potatoes cringe and bury their
Do you see them?
They know where to return when
Like you they were not born with
they were born with skins made of
Their eyes are black, and they sing
out of tune,
quietly, under the snow.
To Help the Monkey Cross the River,
which he must
cross, by swimming, for fruits and
nuts, to help him I sit with my rifle on a platform high in a tree, same side of the
river as the hungry monkey. How does this
assist him? When he swims for it I look first upriver: predators
move faster with the current than against it. If a crocodile is aimed from
upriver to eat the monkey and an anaconda from downriver
burns with the same ambition, I do the math, algebra, angles,
rate-of-monkey, croc- and snake-speed, and if, if it looks as though the anaconda or
the croc will reach the monkey before he attains
the river's far bank, I raise my rifle and fire one, two, three, even four times
into the river just behind the monkey to hurry him up a little. Shoot the snake, the crocodile? They're just doing their jobs, but the monkey, the monkey has little hands like a child's, and the smart ones, in a cage, can
be taught to smile.
I guess what I’m saying is
don’t be more passive aggressive or purposefully vague than you have
to to clinch the argument.Once that happens you can forget the context and try some new bathos, some
severity not seen in you till now.Did they send the news of you?Were you forthcoming in your replies?It’s so long ago now, yet some of it makes sense,
like why were we screwing around in the
first place? Cannily you looked on from the
wings, finger raised to lips, as the old
actor slogged through the lines he’s
reeled off so many times, not even thinking if they are tangential to the way
we slouch now.So many were so wrong about practically everything, it
scarcely seems to matter, yet something does, otherwise everything would be
Up in the clouds they were singing
Promise Me to the birches, who replied in kind. Rivers kind of poured over where we had been sitting, and the breeze
made as though not to notice any unkindness, the
light too pretended nothing was wrong, or
that it was all going
to be OK some day. And yes, we were drunk on
love. That sure was some summer.
A Letter from an Insomniac
The bed you
have made for me is a very difficult one.When I pull on its reins it rears up protesting the road.And it seems to fear heights, for when I ask
it each night to jump from the window, it hesitates.It is impossible to sleep in a bed that is
afraid of heights . . . I dream so often of the mountains.I believe this bed is a valley creature.
There is a moment after you move
your eye away
when you forget where you are because you’ve been living, it
seems, somewhere else, in the silence of
the night sky.
You’ve stopped being here in the
You’re in a different place, a place where human life has no
You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist, participating in their stillness,
Then you’re in the world again.
At night, on a cold hill, taking the telescope apart.
You realize afterward
not that the image is false but the relation is false.
You see how far away
each thing is from every other
The Red Dog
You know that he is going to die
as soon as I tell you he is standing beside me his hair in spikes and dripping from his body. He turns his head. Canadian geese all of them floating along the shore. The red dog is swimming for them only his head shows now they flap into a curve and move farther along the bay. You know that he is going to die this is the time for it while there is a way to vanish while the geese are moving off to be their hard sounds as their bodies leave the water.
Have you ever
been on a steam train ride? I love trains! That is why today
is a special day for me. The railroad yard
is huge! The first thing I
do is meet the engineer. Steam makes the
steam train go! Shoveling coal is
hard work! WHOOOSH! “W” stands for
WOOOOOOOO, WOO, WOOOOOOOO! The train is
coming! The man in the
blue uniform is conductor Bill. HOORAY! CHUGGA, CHUGGA,
CHUGGA, CHUGGA . . . I can see sheep! DING, DING, DING,
DING, DING, DING. WHAT A GREAT DAY!
Scraping sounds, metal straining, and the baby—gainly,
smooth-skinned—enters the world with its canyonlike spaces and big things going
wrong. And quick big things too: shadows from hopping toads on streets dry as
pancakes. Even the raspberries hang heavy-lobed; even the grasshoppers make
sturdy sounds of lovers pulling up to long tables. Three balloons on rough
waxen cord float upward. Welcome! Take big steps. (The baby brings its feet
down with aplomb.) No one is inside my head whispering; people speak clearly
into loudspeakers on utility poles. Welcome also to the large-and-quiet world:
simple shape of mountain, fat emeralds, carven alphabet block, rhinos moving
smoothly on dolleys. In the light and air the shadows of the clouds move bigly
over the baby’s arms. I speak to it in complete sentences. The baby gains a
natural understanding of civics, geologic time, and Canada. Emphasis shifts:
the baby will come to accept hormonal changes. Meanwhile it helps itself to
large portions and moves about with whales, having learnt to swim in wide
shallows. I think up terms of endearment that are not diminutive: my bus, my
tarmac. What a relief to crush tininess underfoot into an expanse of sand on
which you can find pounds and pounds of whelk. To raise up a house of timbers
and catch in it bucketfuls of clear soup! To cart the empties to the dump and
listen with equal pleasure to Wagner and Dalrymple. To prefer autumn’s bigger
name, fall, and its battering changes. The baby makes big noises, signifying to
me its loud big love.
of Little Sticks, 1945
Where the wife is scouring the
and the husband is leaning up
against the barn. Where the boychild is pumping water
into a bucket and the girl is chasing a spotted
dog. And the sky churns on the horizon. A town by the name of Pleasantville
has disappeared. And now the horses begin to shift
and whinny, and the chickens roost, keep
looking this way and that. At this moment something is not
quite right. The boy trundles through the
kitchen, spilling water. His mother removes several pies
from the oven, shouts at him. The girlchild sits down by the
fence to stare at the horses. And the man is just as he was, eyes
closed, forehead against his forearm,
leaning up against the barn.
Kitty in the Snow
I fuck this sculpture In
my mind until it melts, then stop. Mmm,
the party I talk to everyone’s honey And
sip poison and then go home, Get
shitfaced, and get it on with myself. I’m
so good, I give it to myself every bad way I know. I
whisper in my ear as I come: Sarah
Manguso, you’re a damn fine lover. Maybe
someday we can be together, too.
What of the wolfhound at full
What of the woman in technical
dress and the amber eye that serves as
to the snowy hive? What of the singer robed in red
and frozen at mid-song
and the stone, its brokenness, or the voice off-scene that says,
Note the dragonfly by its iris
but ask no questions of flight, no questions of iridescence?
All of this
and the faint promise of a sleeve, the shuttle’s course, the weave.
What of these?
What of the century, did you see it
pass? What of the wolfhound at your back?
The older we get, the deeper we dig
into our childhoods,
Hoping to find the radiant cell That washed us, and caused our
lives to glow in the dark like clock hands Endlessly turning toward the
future, Tomorrow, day after tomorrow, the
day after that, all golden, all in good time
Hiwassee Dam, North Carolina. Still 1942, Still campfire smoke in both our
eyes, my brother and I Gaze far out at the lake in
sunflame, Expecting our father at any moment,
like Charon, to appear Back out of the light from the
other side, low-gunwaled
and loaded down with our slippery dreams.
Other incidents flicker like
foxfire in the black
Isolate distance of memory, cross-eyed, horizon-haired. Which one, is it one, is it anyone
that cleans us, clears us, That relimbs our lives to a shining
One month without rain, two months,
third month of the new year, Afternoon breeze-rustle dry in the
dry needles of hemlock and pine. I can't get down deep enough. Sunlight flaps its enormous wings
and lifts off from the backyard, The wind rattles its raw throat, but I still can't go deep enough.
Mary Ann Samyn
Who Are the New Saints &
What Are Their Miracles
In the middle of the extremely on-time experience, I kept feeling late.
Did someone say “paradox”? Did someone mean “wallowing”?Did anyone hear me chirp in the museum?One guard looked over; one looked sad.Situation
in Yellow: my cheek coveting your hand.At the miniature village, this sign: “Be prepared to see more than you
expect.”Is that possible?, I whispered, cupping your fingers to my
mouth.Or, just imagining that as the
freight elevator shook us up.
The First Evening
Listen to that drumming, so light
it skims along the surface
like the birds at
dusk dipping down to the water, or a nonsense rhyme going on below
Then the evening was over, even
it was soft and if we were to go on
we would reach the sea.
I wore red beneath my shirt.
What was to come?
There was a plank between my
leaning against the wall inside of
me, waiting to be put to use by the workmen who come at six and work until
Sleep while you can for tomorrow it
will be morning.
hunger and territory
we choose to call it song.
Scary, No Scary
when you return to your childhood home after
a lifetime away,
you'll find it abandoned. Its
paint will be
It will have
a significant westward lean.
There will be
a hole in its roof that bats fly out of.
The old man
hunched over at the front door will be prepared to give you a tour, but first he'll ask Scary, or no scary?