Thursday, June 04, 2009
by Dean Young
When Dean Young Talks About Wine
The worm thrashes when it enters the tequila.
The grape cries out in the wine vat crusher.
But when Dean Young talks about wine, his voice is strangely calm.
Yet it seems that wine is rarely mentioned.
He says, Great first chapter but no plot.
He says, Long runway, short flight.
He says, This one never had a secret.
He says, You can't wear stripes with that.
He squints as if recalling his childhood in France.
He purses his lips and shakes his head at the glass.
Eight-four was a naughty year, he says,
and for a second I worry that California has turned him
into a sushi-eater in a cravat.
Then he says,
This one makes clear the difference
between a thoughtless remark
and an unwarranted intrusion.
Then he says, In this one the pacific last light of afternoon
stains the wings of the seagull pink
at the very edge of the postcard.
But where is the Cabernet of rent checks and asthma medication?
Where is the Burgundy of orthopedic shoes?
Where is the Chablis of skinned knees and jelly sandwiches?
with the aftertaste of cruel Little League coaches?
and the undertone of rusty stationwagon?
His mouth is purple as if from his own ventricle
he had drunk.
He sways like a fishing rod.
When a beast is hurt it roars in incomprehension.
When a bird is hurt it huddles in its nest.
But when a man is hurt,
he makes himself an expert.
Then he stands there with a glass in his hand
staring into nothing
as if he were forming an opinion.
—Tony Hoagland, 2003
by Gary Short
From behind the screen door I watch the cat
in the bunchgrass stalking at dusk.
With the pure attention of religion,
he waits for the skitter of a field mouse,
a shiver in an owl's dream.
The cat delivers his limp prey
to the chipped gray paint of the porch.
I step outside, not knowing
if I will punish the cat
or accept the mouse.
At the edge of the porch I kneel and see
the map of red capillaries
in the delicate mouse ear.
I lift it by the tail to toss,
but in the blink of a smug cat's eye
I feel a tug—an escape
back into life.
In the African journals, Livingston tells
of the charging lion that knocked him down.
When he was held in the lion's mouth,
the human body's trance-like response
was to go limp in an ecstatic giving up
that saved. To assume death
to stay alive.
A Confederate soldier at Antietam
played dead when his battalion was overrun.
for a moment he thought he was safe,
but to make sure, the Union infantryman
drove a bayonet into each body on the ground.
When I pick up the mouse
and it jerks from terror-induced sleep,
I feel all that fear
in a small heartbeat.
My panicked fingers let go
and the mouse slips into the brush where it may be
safe for awhile. Though the cat
is all tension now and ready
to pounce again. I shut him in the house,
stand on the porch and watch the first stars
burn holes in the sky.
Dark enlarging around me,
the pupil in a cat's eye.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
This entity I call my mind, this hive of restlessness,
this wedge of want my mind calls self,
this self which doubts so much and which keeps reaching,
keeps referring, keeps aspiring, longing, towards some state
from which ambiguity would be banished, uncertainty expunged;
this implement my mind and self imagine they might make together,
which would have everything accessible to it,
all our doings and undoings all at once before it,
so it would have at last the right to bless, or blame,
for without everything before you, all at once, how bless, how blame?
this capacity imagination, self and mind conceive might be the "soul,"
which would be able to regard such matters as creation and
origin and extinction, of species, peoples, even families, even mine,
of equal consequence, and might finally solve the quandary
of this thing of being, and this other thing of not;
these layers, these divisions, these meanings or the lack thereof,
these fissures and abysses beside which I stumble, over which I reel:
is the place, the space, they constitute,
which I never satisfactorily experience but from which the fear
I might be torn away appalls me, me, or what might most be me?
Even mine, I say, as if I might ever believe such a thing;
bless and blame, I say, as though I could ever not.
This ramshackle, this unwieldy, this jerry-built assemblage,
this unfelt always felt disarray: is this the sum of me,
is this where I'm meant to end, exactly where I started out?
"The Clause" by C.K. Williams from The Singing. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)