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Sunday 28 February 2010

Thomas Hardy: I Look Into My Glass


Snow by raworth.

I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, "Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk so thin!"

For then I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
With equanimity.

But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.

Boxing Day Dawn by raworth.

I Look Into My Glass
: Thomas Hardy, from Wessex Poems (1898)

Snow (18.12.09): photo by Tom Raworth, 2009
Boxing Day Dawn (26.12.09): photo by Tom Raworth, 2009

Stevie Smith: Tenuous and Precarious


On The Pier by raworth.

Tenuous and Precarious
Were my guardians,
Precarious and Tenuous,
Two Romans.

My father was Hazardous,
Dear old man,
Three Romans.

There was my brother Spurious,
Spurious Posthumous,
Spurious was Spurious,
Was four Romans.

My husband was Perfidious,
He was Perfidious,
Five Romans.

Surreptitious, our son,
Was Surreptitious,
Six Romans.

Our cat Tedious
Still lives,
Count not Tedious

My name is Finis,
Finis, Finis,
I am Finis,
Six, five, four, three, two,
One Roman,

On The Pier by raworth.

Tenuous and Precarious: Stevie Smith, from Poems (1971)

On the Pier (31.10.09): photos by Tom Raworth, 2009

Tom Raworth: Three from Here


Santa Maria del Tule by raworth.



a lot

of explaining


all the same nothing

is the same



make light

of matter

Our Driver by raworth.

Three Poems from Here: Tom Raworth, 1973

Santa Maria del Tule (22.11.09)
: photo by Tom Raworth, 2009
Our Driver (31.8.09): photo by Tom Raworth, 2009

Saturday 27 February 2010

William Empson: Let It Go


Morning by raworth.

It is this deep blankness is the real thing strange.
The more things happen to you the more you can't
Tell or remember even what they were.

The contradictions cover such a range.
The talk would talk and go so far aslant.
You don't want madhouse and the whole thing there.

Morning by raworth.

Let It Go: William Empson, from Collected Poems (1949)

Morning (7.1.10): photos by Tom Raworth, 2010

William Blake: To the Evening Star


Moon and Seagull by raworth.

Thou fair-hair'd angel of the evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares thro' the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flocks are cover'd with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence.

Hove Lawns, East and West by raworth.

To the Evening Star
: William Blake
, 1789

Moon and seagull (7.1.10): photo by Tom Raworth, 2010
Hove Lanes, East and West (24.2.10): photo by Tom Raworth, 2010

Philip Larkin: Days


Mitla by raworth.

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

File:Eriophorum scheuchzeri.jpg

Days: Philip Larkin, 1953 (from The Whitsun Weddings, 1964)
Mitla: the stone (22.11.09): photo by Tom Raworth, 2009
Common cottongrass (Eriophorum scheuchzeri): photo by Franz Xaver, 1991

Friday 26 February 2010

Edward Dorn: In My Youth I Was a Tireless Dancer

File:Phenakistoscope 3g07690b.gif

But now I pass
graveyards in a car.
The dead lie,
with their feet toward me --
please forgive me for
saying the tombstones would not
fancy their faces turned from the highway.

Oh perish the thought
I was thinking in that moment
Newman Illinois
the Saturday night dance --
what a life? Would I like it again?
No. Once I returned late summer
from California thin from journeying
and the girls were not the same.
You'll say that's natural
they had been dancing all the time.


In My Youth I Was a Tireless Dancer: Edward Dorn, from Hands Up! (1964)

(The poet's friend Lucia Berlin recalled Ed's account of returning home to Villa Grove from an early trip to Southern California and attempting to make a minor splash at one of those summertime Newman, Illinois Saturday night dances: "He was about sixteen. That was when the pachuco kids out in L.A. were wearing zoot-suit pants. Ed, with his great sense of style, had brought back home the most beautiful pair of pants. He loved to talk about those pants, they were brown-and-white-striped gabardine, they had those big wide pleats, he went on and on describing the weave and the fabric of those pants. They were so fine. Well, he brought them back to Illinois, wore them to the dance -- and nobody had ever seen such a thing!")

Phenakistoscope: A Couple Waltzing: Eadweard Muybridge, c. 1893 (Library of Congress)
Soldier inspecting men wearing Zoot Suits at Woody Herman concert, Washington, D.C.: photo by John Ferrell, 1942 (Library of Congress)

Thursday 25 February 2010



File:Deer blind.jpg

1 Sportsmen's Magazines

She sometimes thought of him as locked inside himself yet watchful, as if peering out from a sportively camouflaged pre-fabricated waterproof hutch through a darkened, pine bough-draped portal, careful at whatever cost not to be seen. For all she knew the discreetly-folded exploratory messages she continued to poke in through the opening and let flutter earthward were accumulating there amid the leaf mulch, untouched, slowly returning to the soil.

Had she never learned anything beyond the original lesson inculcated in a benighted and abiding home, To hug a bad bargain closer?

She leafed sometimes through the yellowed mildewing pages of the stacks of collectible sportsmen's magazines he kept in a sturdy maple rack. What was that stale smell, sharp, but from outside the recognizable and familiar olfactory penumbra of mould, more mysterious, which emanated from beneath the lovely illustrated covers of vintage ancient issues of these periodicals of hunting and fishing, with their pungent tales of life and death in field and stream?

First it's whistling lips, and then truck, fish, hunt, the eternal verities. The original capitulation recapitulated and compounded.

2 The Headless Woman

Today she was away in town on her businesses.
He was in his room cleaning his guns.

The rough crushing of tires upon gravel bestirred him, abruptly he awoke from reverie and staggered to the doorway, to the landing, down the stairs and was waiting as she emerged from the auto with packages in her arms, Oh stop right there, and he moved across the red gravel, his steps crunching it.

I'm afraid I may have sideswiped a parked car in town. When he said nothing but merely stood agape, she regathered. Well, I did, I suppose I hit it, she said. She nodded vaguely toward her fender. You see? The paint is scraped. There.

3 Now Some Time Passes

The years had been diffuse, were barely remembered, yet apparently passable, as they both remained alive. Rank acres of goldenrod now gone to seed along the edge of an unflowered forest, isolated at the end of a winding road, a mire in winter, muddy in spring, rutted in summer, never at any time easy, but in summer at least one could almost forget winter. Vines filtering patient fingers through outcroppings of rusted car parts. The soggy pastures, the acrid wind, the bitter wilderness, now in summer bloated with a sort of heavy density, a thickness of air that disgusted and at times sickened her.

4 In the Tunnel of Trees

She turned away. The light crunching of her footsteps. He kept his head down, looking droopy-eyed as he walked behind her into the house. She pushed open the screen door, which wheezed from within its spring mechanism, and as she strode through the doorway, out of the hard light in which he still toiled to follow, into the cooler shaded area area beyond, she kicked out at an umbrella stand, but missed it, and behind her the screen door slammed.


Deer hunting blind: photo by MJCdetroit, 2006
Tunnel of Trees: photo by Bobak Ha'Eri, 2009

John Donne: The good-morrow


Hove Lawns, East and West by raworth.

I wonder by my troth, what thou, and I

Did, till we lov'd? Were we not wean'd till then?

But suck'd on countrey pleasures, childishly?

Or snorted we in the seaven sleepers den?

T'was so; But this, all pleasures fancies bee.

If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desir'd, and got, 'twas but a dreame of thee.

And now good morrow to our waking soules,

Which watch not one another out of feare;

For love, all love of other sights controules,

And makes one little roome, an every where.

Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,

Let Maps to other, worlds on worlds have showne,

Let us possesse one world; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appeares,

And true plaine hearts doe in the faces rest,

Where can we finde two better hemispheares

Without sharpe North, without declining West?

What ever dyes, was not mixed equally;

If our two loves be one, or, thou and I

Love so alike, that none doe slacken, none can die.

Hove Lawns, East and West by raworth.

The good-morrow: John Donne, from Poems, by J.D., with Elegies, on the Authors Death, 1633
Hove Lanes, East and West (24.2.10): photos by Tom Raworth, 2010

Tuesday 23 February 2010

After the Taking of the Ship


fifty chemises
scattered on the beach

an 8 powder horn
worn by an inferior chief
in a woman's stocking

a victory
feast ----------- but

the second temple was not like the first
the chief uttered in a nightmare


divide, inclose, oppose, rent

to show the hunters the way

the otter sprang ahead of them
its own

swimming presentness

This evening (I & II) (22.12.09): photos by Tom Raworth, 2009

By the Sound


Scarlatti on the quarterdeck
the Sevillano

pungent oranges
bright green wings

Spanish brandy

but the wave wash

rushing of wind among red cedars

and continuous soft sound of

Indian polishing
otter canoe

glassy hull

for silent running

up beach
like foghorn

Some small bird calling from sleep

Tonight (14.2.10): photo by Tom Raworth, 2010
Sky (1.1.10): photo by Tom Raworth, 2010

The Ya'ai


File:Cupressus nootkatensis Mount Seymour.jpg

The ya'ai look like men
except for the tufts of feathers

that grow out their ears
they come paddling right up to you

in a supernatural canoe
their bodies are white and hairy

I am killing whales
because I got made strong

by the ten ya'ai
who stand outside my door

File:Petroglyphs at Sproat Lake Provincial Park.JPG

Nootka cypress (Cupressus nootkaensis) foliage, Mount Seymour Provincial Park, Vancouver: photo by Michael Scheltgen, 2006
Petroglyphs believed to have been made by the Hupacasath people, Sproat Lake Provincial Park, near Port Alberni, B.C.: photo by Kevstan, 2008

The Whaler's Wife


File:Sombrero de jefe de balleneros Nutka (M. América Inv.13570) 01.jpg

The whaler's wife represents the whale
she has to cover her bed
with brand new mats
and lie quiet while
the hunt's going on
to keep the whale from
getting too restless

A slug placed on top of the mats
will go in the direction
in which the whale
will turn

Whales are attracted
to whaler's wives
whale towing chants
address the whale
as 'Chief's wife'
or 'Queen'

Whales aren't easy to tow
you can try offering the whale
a drink of fresh water
one Ahousat towing
song goes

'Take it easy, Queen'

File:Nuu-chah-nulth mats (UBC-2010).jpg

Hat of a chief whaler, cedar fibre, made by Nootka indigenous people, Northwest Coast, 18th century (Museum of the Americas, Madrid): photo by Luis Garcia, 2008
Set of traditional Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootkan) mats (UBC Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver): photo by Leoboudv, 2010

Ritual Business


File:Makah Indian Whalers 1910.jpg

At his bathing place
he prepares his twig bundles
a sentry box with spook paintings
his shrine contains
masks and skulls maybe
empty eyesockets
desiccated corpse

Once at Ahousat
a wolf walked into
somebody's whaling shrine

Wolves are pretty strong but
that wolf dropped dead
on the spot

File:Indian Whalers Stripping Their Prey at Neah Bay - 1910.jpg

File:The King of the Seas in the Hands of the Makahs - 1910.jpg

Makah Indian whalers, from Artwork of Seattle and Western Washington, W.D. Harney Photogravure Publisher, 1910: photo by Asahel Curtis, 2008
Makah Indian whalers stripping their prey at Neah Bay, from Artwork of Seattle and Western Washington, W.D. Harney Photogravure Publisher, 1910: photo by Asahel Curtis, 2008
The King of the Seas in the Hands of the Makahs,
from Artwork of Seattle and Western Washington, W.D. Harney Photogravure Publisher, 1910: photo by Asahel Curtis, 2008

Monday 22 February 2010

Night Sun: Black Jaguar



At the edge of the ruined ballcourt, in the rainforest shadows, beneath a great bending hardwood, a black jaguar, ceremonial guardian of the temple structure, a great god in an animal's body, or perhaps a divine animal in the heavy recumbent body of a dead god, lies sprawled inert and slumbering, as the centuries go by. The ballcourt games are over, the scores long forgotten, the nameless adversaries translated now into eternity; the jaguar has slept through the millennia of this sacrificial combat, here in the shadows, off to one side, away from the central pyramid, unconcerned and unnoticing.

The jaguar god will prowl the empty acropolis by night, and when day comes, take shelter from the blistering sun beneath the sloping thatched roofs that have been constructed for his worship, among the broken monuments and palaces of stone. His Mayan name is Ocelotl, the Night Sun, protector, most powerful deity of the Night Sky.

The jungle around the site will continue to sleep, its dreams uninterrupted by the soft liquid movements of lizards and snakes, the intermittent sharp cries of forest birds and of small animals suddenly seized upon by larger ones and so translated into eternity.


And time will continue to move inside its implacable silence, eroding these temporary constructions men have made in honour of their gods.

File:Tikal St05.jpg

For like the revolutions of the earth, and of the sky bodies above it, time is built into the universe.

File:5284 aquaimages.jpg

The sun drops swiftly down as evening again approaches, and the new moon floats up still unseen through the gauzy cloud saturated atmosphere over the wet green tree canopy.


The eyes of the jaguar god grow large as he sniffs at the air curiously, his blood rising, and begins to move through the deep undergrowth beneath the great temples that have always been his home.

File:Tikal temples 1 2 3 5 2009.JPG

Melanistic jaguar (Panthera onca): photo by Cburnett, 2006
Toucan (Pteroglossus torquatus), Tikal, Guatemala: photo by John, 2006
Stela 5, Tikal, Guatemala: photo by HJPD, 2010
Trees and ruins, Tikal, Guatemala: photo by Clark Anderson/Aqaaimages, 2006
From the Mayan site, Tikal: photo by Peter Andersen, 2005
Mayan temple ruins, Tikal; far left, Temple I (Temple of the Great Jaguar): photo by chensiyuan, 2010

Sunday 21 February 2010



File:The PVR.jpg

Don't hurt the radio for
Against all
Solid testimony machines
Have feelings

Brush past it lightly
With a fine regard
For allowing its molecules
To remain 100% intact

Machines can think like Wittgenstein
And the radio's a machine
Thinking softly to itself
Of the Midnight Flower
As her tawny parts unfold

In slow motion the boat
Rocks on the ocean
As her tawny parts unfold

The radio does something mental
To itself singingly
As her tawny parts unfold
Inside its wires
And steal away its heart

Two minutes after eleven
The color dream communicates itself
The ink falls on the paper as if magically
The scalp falls away
A pain is felt
Deep in the radio

I take out my larynx and put it on the blue chair
And do my dance for the radio
It's my dance in which I kneel in front of the radio
And while remaining motionless elsewise
Force my eyeballs to come as close together as possible
While uttering a horrible and foreign word
Which I cannot repeat to you without now removing my larynx
And placing it on the blue chair

The blue chair isn't here
So I can't do that trick at the present time

The radio is thinking a few licks of its own
Pianistic thoughts attuned to tomorrow's grammar
Beautiful spas of seltzery coition
Plucked notes like sandpaper attacked by Woody Woodpecker

The radio says Edwardian farmers form Minnesota march on the Mafia
Armed with millions of radioactive poker chips

The radio fears foul play
It turns impersonal
A piggy bank was smashed
A victim was found naked
Radio how can you tell me this
In such a chipper tone

Your structure of voices is a friend
The best kind
The kind one can turn on or off
Whenever one wants to
But that is wrong I know
For you will intensely to continue
And in a deeper way
You do

Hours go by
And I watch you
As you diligently apply
A series of audible frequencies
To tiny receptors
Located inside my cranium
Resulting in much pleasure for someone
Who looks like me
Although he is seated about two inches to my left
And the both of us
Are listening to your every word
With a weird misapprehension
It's the last of the tenth
And Harmon Killebrew is up
With a man aboard

He blasts a game winning home run
The 559th of his career
But no one cares
Because the broadcast is studio-monitored for taping
To be replayed in 212 years

Heaven must be like this, radio
To not care about anything
Because it's all being taped for replay much later

Heaven must be like this
For as her tawny parts unfold
The small lights swim roseate
As if of sepals were the tarp made
As it is invisibly unrolled
And sundown gasps its old Ray Charles 45 of "Georgia"
Only through your voice


from At Malibu, 1975

Old radio
: photo by Duncan Rawlinson, 2004

Radio Capelinha da Semp: photo by Amatnecks, 2009

The Rodent Who Came to Dinner


File:Santa Monica Palm Trees.jpg

for Mishari Al-Adwani

They say this part of California
Is paradise on earth for the roof rat,
Who loves the palms & vines of the middle classes,
The ubiquitous fruits, the delectable nuts & ivy.

Just another genus struggling to become indigenous,
When it arrives they switch the menus. But it won't leave.

Palm trees (Washingtonia robusta), Santa Monica, Ca.: photo by Infratec, 2006

Saturday 20 February 2010

Blue Evening on Poetry Street



There is a certain urban block in the commercial district of town which I think of as Poetry Street because some years ago the downtown business association subsidized the installation there of three tons of poetry on panels laid into the concrete sidewalk. Neither this project nor other similar gentrification-through-the-arts efforts on the same block have done much to alter its bleak and seedy character, however.

Poetry Street

On Poverty Street, the disinterested
click of Dixie Cups on bakelite trays
reminds me that prose exists.

The winter has been long and hard. It has taken its toll on the transient citizenry. Still there remains a tiny spring of hope in the internal biological clock of everything that lives. One reaches out gratefully to grasp at the slightest of encouraging signs, even when they are illusory.

After a few days of gentler weather early in the week, this evening a cold drizzle returns. Into the wet blue fog the street lighting of the avenue casts an eerie orange-red glow. The ghostly figures of street drifters shuffling and huddling, loitering with and without intent, populate the night much as dark vessels afloat in a polluted river. Small puffs of breath emanating seem to tug the body bundles along. These random shifting configurations, representing what passes for social organization. In such stunned and affectless times, who can know what lies beyond the opaque physical representation.

It was once thought that souls bereft in the underworld could not return across the river Styx.

A bearded white man of indeterminate age approaches the avenue from a side street, howling as he comes. Pedestrians and idlers step aside before him, as in a parting of the waters. Two young blind men, slender, Asian, tapping the sidewalk uncertainly with long white sticks, clinging to one another for support, stop motionless in fear at the corner, their heads swiveling as might those of frightened forest creatures, sniffing at the air. The howling man is on a collision course with them. Standing frozen at the corner where the avenue meets the side street, the blind men are without knowing it directly in his path, blocking the sidewalk. Beneath their feet a cast iron and porcelain enamel plaque sunk into the pavement displays a poem in praise of the California Poppy, designated flower of the Golden State.

Just as he is about to make contact with the blind men, I reach out and gently touch the howling man's arm. He stops howling, his head whips toward me, his eyes appearing to roll back down to earth from some remote planet where life has long since been extinguished. Yo, I say. They can't see you. He looks at me, then at the two terrified and cowering blind men, a split second goes by. Heaven has opened for a moment to bless and protect its own. The bearded man steers around the blind men, crosses the avenue against the flow of traffic, ignoring a red light. When he reaches the other shore, he begins once again to howl. It is an unearthly outcry, reaching up into the night, gradually growing fainter as he moves away from the avenue.

Evening/Sail: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 1970, copyright Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay (Tate Gallery)
noise absorbed: Larry Eigner, poetry panel from the Addison Street Project

Thursday 18 February 2010

Ocean (Lucy in the Sky)


Window to what nobody knows

opening on byways

to what is beyond



not to be measured,


arrow through


into the infinite


of indigo from blue,


for the immensity

of dreaming,




to geography,


without age,






without beginning,


to those who sail


toward no



of peace

upon the restless

eye that's seen

too much,


to the open


that would wish

to see.

Text: Beyond the Horizon, by Lucy in the Sky (trans. TC), from Locos por naufragar, 2010

Photos: Lucy in the Sky, from Locos por naufragar, 2010