Friday, May 29, 2009
Stenciling (Or: Congratulations!)
Sometime last week--Friday?--I got word from On-Line University Reviews that this site was chosen as one of their Top 100 Poetry Blogs. Though I'm honored and happy to have made the list, I've also been aware that this site has been concerned with another matter of late. (When was the last time I even posted a poem? The beginning of the month? Ah, May 17th. Anne Carson's "Appendix to Ordinary Time.") Well, this blog has been many things since I started it last September; it's a place where, I hope, poetry can sit beside prose--not to mention music and sometimes film, architecture, and painting. And animals. The end of detente. Or no boundaries--though it sometimes seems as if my poet friends are better read in fiction than vice-versa. In any case, good cause to return to poetry today: congratulations to Mark and to James Allen Hall for winning the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Men's Poetry last night! It couldn't be better that they're joint winners of the prize. Teacher and student: how often does something like that happen? (Though it seems silly to apply the term student to James, or to his brilliant, accomplished work.) I only wish I'd made it into the city for the ceremony; I'm still settling down, burrowing in, after the events of the last two weeks. So here's my congratulations page instead: a poem from Mark, a poem from James. I like the way these two pieces talk to each other.
[If the above two photos look familiar, it's because I've posted them before; they come from a reading that Mark, James, and Austin LaGrone did at Teachers and Writers Collaborative in New York City in November 08. Mark, James, and fellow Poetry Finalist Jericho Brown appear in the first photo. Mark, Austin, and James appear in the second. (And who's that turkey in the green sweater?)]
To the Engraver of My Skin
from Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems
originally from Source
I understand the pact is mortal,
agree to bear this permanence,
I contract with limitation, I say
no and no then yes to you, and sign
--here, on the dotted line--
for whatever comes, I do: our time,
our outline, the filling-in of our details
(it's density that hurts, always,
not the original scheme). I'm here
for revision, discoloration, here to fade
and last, ineradicable, blue. Write me!
This ink lasts longer than I do.
Naming the End
James Allen Hall
from Now You're the Enemy
I love you either begins the lecture on ancient torture
or reveals the way back to Eve, who spends her last night
naming the flora, stenciling their anatomies
on her husband's somnolent skin. The husband is a god.
At daybreak, they abandon the garden. He carries into the world
the only diagram we'll ever have for devotion. In the dark
interrupted by sirens, I plant words you'll never know
you carry on your back. At dawn, you open your eyes
to the light in which you'll leave me. You rinse that other world
of steam and whisper from your skin. Son, you're filling
your dented black car with all your clothes, all your records
and books and love. When you leave, you skin repeats: I love you.
Gods never sleep and terrible fates await us.
You get to choose. Once.