Saturday, June 15, 2019

Czesław Miłosz, 1911 - 2004

Czesław Miłosz
"The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason. The passionless cannot change history."

-Czesław Miłosz

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.
-- Czeslaw Milosz

Thursday, June 13, 2019

a poem by Jim Harrison

-Jim Harrison

Back in the blue chair in front of the green studio
another year has passed, or so they say, but calendars lie.
They’re a kind of cosmic business machine like
their cousin clocks but break down at inoppormne times.
Fifty years ago I learned to jump off the calendar
but I kept getting drawn back on for reasons
of greed and my imperishable stupidity.
Of late I’ve escaped those fatal squares
with their razor-sharp numbers for longer and longer.
I had to become the moving water I already am,
falling back into the human shape in order
not to frighten my children, grandchildren, dogs and friends.
Our old cat doesn’t care. He laps the water where my face used to be.

[from IN SEARCH OF SMALL GODS, Copper Canyon Press, 2010, $16, pb.]

Two Poems by Yu Xiuhua

Two Poems by Yu Xiuhua
translated by Ming Di

Crossing Half of China to Sleep with You 

To sleep with you or to be slept, what’s the difference if there’s any?
Two bodies collide – the force, the flower pushed open by
   the force,
the virtual spring in the flowering – nothing more than this
and this we mistake as life restarting. In half of China
things are happening: volcanoes
erupting, rivers running dry,
political prisoners and displaced workers abandoned,
elk deer and red-crowned cranes shot.
I cross the hail of bullets to sleep with you.
I press many nights into one morning to sleep with you.
I run across many of me and many of me run into one to sleep
    with you.
Yet I can be misled by butterflies of course
and mistake praise as spring,
a village like Hengdian as home. But all these,
all of these are absolutely indispensable
reasons that I sleep with you.

On the Threshing Floor, I Chase Chickens Away

And I see sparrows fly over. They look around
as if it’s inappropriate to stop for just any grain of rice.
They have clear eyes, with light from inside.
Starlings also fly over, in flocks, bewildered.
They flutter and make a sound that seems to flash.
When they’re gone, the sky gets lower, in dark blue.
In this village deep in the central plain
the sky is always low, forcing us to look at its blue,
the way our ancestors make us look inside ourselves,
narrow and empty, so we look out again
at the full September –
we’re comforted by its insignificance but hurt by its smallness.
Living our life this way, we feel secure.
So much rice. Where does it come from?
So much gold color. Where does it come from?
Year after year I’ve been blessed, and then deserted.
When happiness and sadness come in the same color code,
    I’m happy
to be forgotten. But who am I separated from?
I don’t know. I stay close to my own hours.

Translations from the Chinese

Yu Xiuhua became well known in 2014 with her online poem “Crossing Half of China to Sleep with You.” In 2015 her debut book sold fifteen thousand copies in one day. The New York Times named her one of the eleven most courageous women around the world in 2017.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

4 poems by Robert Ramming


The undersides of the kite's wings flash white
in the low morning sun, hovering, hovering

It slides 50 yards to another spot over our field, hovering, hovering

Suddenly, wings fold,
the kite plummets to the earth
as though shot out of the sky.

It takes to the air again,
a small creature writhes in its grasp,
pierced through by talons.

I sit before my computer screen,
sifting through news, searching for clues,
connecting the dots

The chill running down my spine
informs me of a menacing shadow
high overhead, hovering, hovering

Robert Ramming - 04/18/19

The Heron

I stopped beside the pond today
to rest a while, and contemplate

From out the reeds a heron flew,
it split the sky with darker blue

Then egrets rose, bright flags of white,
over the trees and out of sight

But Heron flew not far away,
perched on a mound, with one leg raised

We eyed each other, he and I,
one poised to sit, t'other, to fly

And so I settled in the grass,
to watch covertly, as time passed

Alert, wary, he stood his ground
I sat watchful without a sound

As shadows moved, the sun fell low
encounter old, 'twas time to go

And so we both then moved along,
I to my home, he to his pond

Robert Ramming - 11/08/17

When Our Ragnarok Comes

When our Ragnarok comes
we will know that it is of our own making
but we will curse the gods anyway

For allowing Pandora's Box to open
For giving us fire
For dangling the apple of Knowledge before us
For creating us

When our Ragnarok comes
the gods will not emerge to shake the world
with their final, divine combat

They have been silenced by iphones, gagged by 
one hundred forty characters of hexadecimal runes,
bound by the entangled photon beams
of quantum communication satellites

We sit, unaware, above the imprisoned gods,
casting our zeroes and ones into more perfect patterns,
self-righteously enraptured by the spells of our Priuses
and air travel carbon-offset purchases

While dolphins die, 
polar bears drown,
coral reefs bleach to bone, 
oceans choke on our plastic,
insects disappear

The world heaves and burns in agony
as Alexa plays our music

When our Ragnarok comes
there will be no horrific creatures of Saint John's Apocalypse,
no thundering of Thor's hammer, Mjolnir.
But, there may be the whine and roar of Tomahawk cruise missiles
blindly guided to their destiny of destruction

The goddess Kali will be smiling in her fitful slumber.
But she is lost to the world, encased in our disbelief,
a chrysalis, awaiting the call of vanished worshippers
to bring her forth in proper, terrible glory.

Robert Ramming  8/8/18

"Write what you know," they say.
      So, I'll tell you what I know.

I know if something is advertised on TV,
     I probably don't need it.

I know blackberries are sweeter 
      for their thorns.

I know everybody is strange,
      some just hide it better than others.

I know if you're not going to let sleeping dogs lie, 
      it's best to wake them from a distance.

I know happiness is over-rated,
      but I still enjoy it.

I know there is beauty to be found within ineffability,
      but I'll never find the words.

There was a time I knew so much more
      than I know now.
Like the song says, "Seems like everywhere I go,
      the more I see, the less I know."

I once met a man in a magazine. 
      He said, "No one gets out alive."
I met another man on a movie screen,
      and he said, "We all got it coming, kid."

I know that, as much as I like comfort,
      I prefer truth -- most people don't.

I know that the lessons will be repeated
      until learned.

I know the stars are far away,
      but there are times I can feel them in my blood & bones.

I know life is short, love is sweet,
      and nobody knows whether that matters at all, in the end.

I know I'm alive for a reason,
      but I won't be allowed to know what it is.

- Robert Ramming 7/17/18

Thursday, May 2, 2019

FOUR POEMS by Robert Ramming


Something's wrong tonight
the moon is full
but the light's not right
Dust swirls where it shouldn't be,
branches move where there is no breeze

Something's wrong tonight
daytime birds
startle into flight
Headlights on the road, tilted and askew,
shadows move, just out of view

Something's wrong tonight
it chills the spine
avoids the light
Led on by promise of sorrow, loss and pain,
has that rough beast, at last, slouched into Bethlehem

Robert Ramming - 10/18/17 

Mother Ship

She stretched up my chest,
claws hooking through shirt,
slightly into skin - 
a threatening sign of feline affection.

Vertically-slitted eyes stared unblinking into mine -
so I blew a puff of air onto her face.
She did not blink,
but claws did dig in a little deeper.

I could sense observations being transmitted
to the mother ship, orbiting invisibly
somewhere above our planet.
Into my mind she said, 
"Not your planet for much longer, bub."

And there was more, so much more,
but she erased it from my brain
with her alien eyes.

Robert Ramming - 12/3/17

My Muse

My muse comes by rarely
But when she does, she will not be denied.

Bending over my shoulder, her lips close by my ear
One eyebrow arched in question
“Go ahead,” I whisper, “I dare you.”

She pulls her nails across my heart
And words bleed onto paper.

- Robert Ramming 2012

For Debbie

Do you remember the night
   we walked beyond the trees

And laid our jackets down
   on the coarse dry grass
      and then each other
laughing and eager
   as though twenty years
      had never passed

Remember how we wrapped ourselves
   in the scent of the earth
      and then each other
How we found the night’s stars
   in each other’s eyes

Do you remember the night
   the earth and sky melted together?

Robert Ramming  2/4/10

Monday, April 22, 2019

Four poems by Robert Ramming

Bonus Points

We used to have coyotes on our farm who would
keep the varmints down
But, a few years ago, somebody killed them

Until new coyotes move in,
I have to do their job
So I trap the ground squirrels

The traps are designed with squirrel psychology in mind
So they find it easy to get in,
but confusing and difficult to find a way out

For a few days, I leave the doors clipped open,
depositing grain first in front of the doors,
Then moving it further and further each day deeper into the trap

When I finally let down the doors,
the squirrels figure the daily grain is their rightful due,
and willfully push through in a one-way trip to their doom

I received a piece of mail from a bank recently,
notifying me of an (unrequested) increase in my line of credit

They suggested I should use the "extra" money to buy lots of stuff to enjoy life more
And, for a limited time, with every new purchase
I would get bonus points

- Robert Ramming  9/3/18


Compton 1968

Obliviously out of place, mother driving, father navigating,
two not-quite-teenaged boys in back,
we rolled over Compton’s asphalt avenues
on an August pilgrimage to the
orange skies of Los Angeles,

From our perch, my brother and I
gawked gape-jawed at the big city kaleidoscope
of posters & graffiti,
glitter & litter,
hippies & hookers.

We were tourists in an
ambivalent ambiguous otherworld.

Vague vanguards of vagrants
trudged carts up & down the boulevard,
circuit riders for uncertain times.

An angry black man stood astride a street corner,
shouting his prophecies into the smog.
We could not hear what he was saying
through our tightly rolled-up windows.

- Robert Ramming  3/20/11


A Farmer’s Poem, Dedicated to John Jungerman

Form coalescing from the dusk,
Coyote approached, eyes shimmering
somewhere between green and gold.

“Tell me a truth,” I asked.

And Coyote said, “All is spun from stardust:
future possibilities collapsing into present reality;
chaos into order, all stories frozen
in the amber construct of the past.”

Coyote padded off into the darkness,
leaving a final comment over one shoulder:
“You are not the only ones bearing witness to the universe.”

- Robert Ramming  12/13/15



Fifteen years on now,
    Since the day the sky fell in,
Since that harsh reality came to our house

Did I do this?  Did you?
   Where in that tangled chain of cause and effect
Lies our culpability?

Silent voices still somehow speak,
    Still somehow call for, if not healing,
At least an accounting

But the water under our crumbled bridge sweeps
   Away the remnants of opportunities lost

And the gulf widens, even as the world shrinks,
    Shrinks to one undeniable demarcation
Drawn forever in that white September sky.

Robert Ramming – 9/11/16


Out Of The Box

I’m a pandora made of all the deep questions
you stuffed in a box, forced the lid down,
and secured the latch.

I’m that agitation you can never quite shake,
that high anxiety you feel in your belly
when you slow down enough to feel
death digging its claws into you. 

Look inside and you’ll see me
circling, pacing back and forth.

I may be trapped, now, like a wild cougar,
but I can curl my tail around the stars
and you can see that nightmare light
in my eyes on a desolate night fall.

And it’s only a matter of time.

The wild inside can’t be locked in a cage
no matter how much of the wild outside
you try to tame. So, if I’m not here
when the sun comes up, you better
lock your doors. You better post a watch.
You better call animal control.

And if you’re out on the streets
or walking a path, I’m circling around you,
just outside of your peripheral vision.
I’m already closing in. And I am hungry.

One day, you'll stumble. You'll fall
into a jungle of muffled grief and stifled regret
and that’s when I’ll pounce, bringing you
face-to-face with your own unanswered darkness.

But don’t say you were blindsided.
You put the blinders on the moment
you suppressed me.

You made me lean and hungry and all
I ever really wanted was the freedom you fear
because you know, once I am out of the box,
you’ll have to fight for your life and there is
no more holding back, no excuses for your
fragile ego, which may not survive the mauling.



Boxed In

You start to feel the walls closing in
When you take a tumble the second time,
Let’s say on a sidewalk when you trip on a crack,
Or worse when you forget to step up on a curb.

You start to feel the walls closing in
When you suddenly find your mind is a blank
Each time you stumble on a word or a phrase,
Or worse, when you forget somebody else’s name.

You start to feel the walls closing in
When your mind starts to wander
At the crucial time as your car does the same,
Instead of staying on your side of the line.

You start to feel the walls closing in
When you neglect to zip up your fly,
Or even worse when you don’t zip it down,
The crucial time when everyone knows
You’ve finally crossed over the line.

Yet perhaps there’s a real solution,
Just let your wife take the wheel,
Give up your freedom, finally accede
To her implorations to move to the retirement
Home, as dismal and dreary as it may seem.

Once you’ve settled in and your life’s no
Longer your own, regulated by long
Dark corridors of impending doom,
You know you’ve come full circle when
Once again you begin to drool.

Charles Halsted

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


A Hobson’s Choice at Guadalcanal

We’re trapped inside a grim perimeter,
hemmed in by jungle, sea and enemy.
Our succor has been brought almost to nil,
and men are dying from starvation here,
despite the efforts of the IJN
to help by casting drums into the sea ―
pushed off destroyer decks in dead of night
(the enemy controls in daylight hours)
in runs from Bougainville down through the Slot.
The Navy trusts we get the food it brings:
alas! we get a fraction of the drop,
and twice the whole of it will not suffice
to feed our several thousand starving men.
To die in battle for the Emperor
would be a worthy end for all of us,
but we’re too weak for such an expiry.
Our choice is stark: to die in infamy,
or quit with tails between our shrunken legs.

–James Moose


If Wishes Were Horses

She lives in the box she was born in,
stamped USA with walls of laws erected
by people who don’t know her, nor
her husband born outside the box. How
can he ever get in? She paces the length
and breadth of bounds as she delivers
their children to school, then works two
jobs to feed them. Setting the table,
she holds a peach in her hand, smoothing
its sweet roundness before placing it
on a saucer blue as hope. If she can ride
the horse of her wishes in ever widening
circles, will the border-walls fall down
and earth rush below flying hooves
free as the dreaming of a daylight mind?

~Taylor Graham

Sunday, February 17, 2019

-- by Carol Greene


An 8 oz jar of Golden Open

acrylic paint

has leaked,

its outside label streaked with
light ultramarine blue, 

garnering a sweet second jar - free!

My taste buds explode with the
anticipated fresh flavor

like mown grass or rained sidewalk;

chunks of sweet, cool mango

or smoothly intense berry cream.

The dusky periwinkle has a pure, clean taste,

Essential to a healthy color wheel.

My precious #10 Escoda brush

eagerly laps it up.

-Carol Greene

Czesław Miłosz, 1911 - 2004

Czesław Miłosz "The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason. The passionless cannot change history." - Czesław M...