Monday, May 20, 2013

Retard Spoilage, by August Kleinzahler

Hello Poets,
Possibly the best poem about what's in the back of your refrigerator.
Kleinzahler's love sonnet to what we fear, fail to understand and try to kill -- the little things that run the world and make us who we are.
Please don't read at meal time.

Retard Spoilage

Animalcules heave their tackling,
ladders of polysaccharides,
onto the meatmilkshrimp&creamy emulsions,

sticking like putrefactive Velcro.
The refrigerator switches on in the darkness,
a murmuring, perfervid sadhu close at hand.

Turbidity, gases, a silky clouding over—
gray slime spreads across hot dog casings,
a sour reechiness transpires below.

However much by day we shore up our defenses,
darling, over time they find their way back
to slowly assail our dwindling larder.

Liquefaction, spoilage and rot—
mephitic flora spread apace,
leaving behind them a ropiness, butyric off-odors.

Ludamilla's prize-winning kraut goes pink.
Fetor of broken proteins—
the drumstick fluoresces, alight with Pseudomonads.

There has to be a music to it all,
I'm certain, if only one could hear it:
a Lilliputian string ensemble's low humming,

an almost inaudible cicada surge,
earwax hissing in peroxide solution,
sausage frying in a distant room.

Good, patient Leeuwenhoek of Delft,
having "partook of hot smoked beef, that was a bit fat,
or ham," of which he was most fond,

suffered a grave ruction below
and so put to work his celebrated lens
that he might better examine his troubled stool

and found there an animalcule, nay many,
but one especially, in the figure of an eel
that "bent its body serpent-wise,"

"a-moving prettily," he made thorough note
in a letter to his estimable coequal, Robert Hooke,
and "as quick as a pike through water."

Sleep, my angel, sleep,
though everywhere out there they are among us,
within, as well, wriggling deep,

they prosper into our dark complement, and by us dwell
in perfect equipoise: your inviolate sweetness
amidst that which is vile&writhing&smells.

by August Kleinzahler, Sleeping It Off In Rapid City: Poems, New and Selected, 2008

Monday, May 6, 2013

Planting A Sequoia, by Dana Gioia

Planting A Sequoia

All afternoon my brothers and I have worked in the

Digging this hole, laying you into it, carefully packing
            the soil.

Rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it
            over the Pacific,
And the sky above us stayed the dull gray
Of an old year coming to an end.

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first
            son’s birth –
An olive or a fig tree – a sign that the earth has once
            more life to bear.
I would have done the same, proudly laying new
            stock into my father’s orchard.
A green sapling rising among the twisted apple
A promise of new fruit in other autumns.

But today we kneel in the cold planting you, our
            native giant,
Defying the practical custom of our fathers,
Wrapping in your roots a lock of hair, a piece of an
            infant’s birth cord,
All that remains above earth of a first-born son,
A few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

We will give you what we can – our labour and our
Water drawn from the earth when the skies fail,
Nights scented with the ocean fog, days softened by
            the circuit of bees.
We plant you in the corner of the grove, bathed in
            western light,
A slender shoot against the sunset.

And when our family is no more, all of his unborn
            brothers dead,
Every niece and nephew scattered, the house torn
His mother’s beauty ashes in the air,
I want you to stand among strangers, all young and
            ephemeral to you,
Silently keeping the secret of your birth.

            by Dana Gioia, from The Gods of Winter, 1991