New Poetry with Audio!
Stephen Burt is Assistant Professor of English at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. His book Randall Jarrell and His Age was recently released by Columbia University Press. His criticism and essays have appeared in The Boston Review, The Yale Review, The TLS and elsewhere.
The melody always ahead of the words, or else
the plot that leaves the words
behind: lives waver and rise, and never become
what anyone meant to make.
Drum kit and amps set up on a “magic” carpet—
tassels, crimson- and earth-tones,
from which the kick drum threatens to take flight;
melismatics, letdowns, imperfections,
and bending over a microphone to check:
Save me save me the slower the better,
the sentence stretched
to cover spaces left for repartee
and baffled by the bloom and buzz of tones,
the proud expansion of a tune
called craft, called also consolation,
making us, too, lean over the rail and feel, like
willows, we are
here and are right to be here, and we see our own
equipment for living: pedal, capo, flange,
a set list for a crowd of cheering
grownups, eager to know,
and not to lose, what we have ceased to be.
Chris Wilcox: Frog Babies
‘alone I saw while whistling my third eye’
a sort of a summons
my own waterproof right hand
plunged into the surf to meet
inchoate and salt
O foam erase and soothe
comprise for us some prokaryotic self
umbilical a new life
the old laid bare
split lost compelled dissolve a sort of a
song of a
emerge and breathe
emerge and lose yourselves
the arc retreating waves leave
cold in sand
webbed breathing of visible touch
round shoulders and a ribcage open up
some face some separate newness some
this salted freezing air
Mom and Dad must have believed they had found a safe place:
The ten- and twelve-year-olds they could place
In the neighborhood schools, the teens who would take their place
In a few years, and the young adults who would replace
Themselves if all went well could each find a place
In this frivolous landscape, which nonetheless offered no place
Without its form of scrutiny. Sneakers displaced
The gravel and kicked open a secret place
Under the storm drain, its covers yanked back into place
Above the echoing concrete; a tourney took place
Around the one basketball hoop. Over at the Przewalskis' place,
Each child might gobble her dinner, then clear her place,
Fold up the steel-and-calico place-
Mats and towels, then sprint off to that dank place
By Kate's below the street sign from BLOEME PLACE,
A sign the fretful township would replace
Each spring till they renamed it. It was no place
To write home about, but it wasn't your place
To complain: imagining, in your place,
Some Jenny and Jake who, seeing you leave, took your place,
You might feel safe, or nearly lose your place
In the slow novel of your own life (date and place
Of publication unknown) in which you place
As a supporting character. You mark your place
With a match, shut the book, and attend: "I've been running in place,"
Said Ellen, meaning only that her displays
Of mental acuity seemed to have taken place
Not as stunts, nor as ends in themselves, but just as place-
Holders for later goals she could never quite place
In a field of view, but ran towards, hoping to place
In the annals of distance, as if to plac-
Ate the team on which the whole town plays,
You yourself, on the other hand, have kept your place
In the bleachers complac-
Ently all along…. As they sprint towards Kate's place,
The sunlight keeps them, in its sewn-up lace,
Content with a kiss, a trophy for second place,
And everything else you hoped to run away with, in your own time, and in the first place.
and uncontrolled, false
starts, a lover's down-
town coming into view—
like a game of charades
played with, or by, the sun—
the taller boy
with freckles is your past—
the ovals on the paving stones, your
technical and profitable future—
You make a phone call
or no phone call, this ordinary
day like one dictated in a dream—
faces and thighs, municipal
fountains, belt buckles, and fallen, half-winged
gingko leaves and leavings, stay
and cannot give you leave
Variations on a Theme from Saint Paul
Giving up is not the adult decision.
We fell in a well. We know we will not return.
Each of us sees the other as our mission.
We kick at each other as if we had nowhere to turn.
We come apart when we come together: fission.
It is not important what we learn.
We have got used to living with derision.
We cannot quite survive on what we earn.
We give up well. We starve well, and we burn.
What should the body do with indecision?
What should we have done—what long division,
What narrowing furrow, ragged track, return—
Given one more crack at the same decision?
It is better to marry than to burn.