Homemade Wine

The best thing about homemade wine,
Drinking it at the right time,
When the grape is in Madre Vino
And the moon in its libration;
When the chimes are bleeding
And barrels breathe into ullage,
The finish in the beginning—
The beginning in its prime,
The sunset of your labor
Steeped in field grape red–
Nights of happiest dreams,
Warmest tones, touch and taste;
When the body of the wine
Fills spirit to the rim, it is ageless;
When wine spirits the air
Like spring mornings, it is ageless;
When drinking from the barrel
Inspirits time with roundness, it is ageless.
The best thing about homemade wine,
Drinking it at the right time.

Temple of Concord (What Immigrants Bring to a Country)

I dreamt I saw the Temple of Concord
Outside a rural Canadian town.
Farmers stood round the temple
Wondering what to make of this…

Naturally the farmer was compensated
For the foreign structure on his land.
The temple, enclosed in clapboard,
A country church and farmers’ market.

But when I drive near that alien corn
I see the Temple of Concord glowing
Against the green, beautiful in snow,
Though no one else can seem to see it.

Snowglobe

The poems of the old century hold their magic. “Cemetery in Snow” by Xavier Villaurrutia is such a poem. You can think about the poem several ways but because the subject is so singular it is trapped in the glass of its making. Shake it and the letters will settle back in some insensible way, burying the cemetery just so. The poem was probably not so much a matter of writing as of polishing glass, clarifying silence, making each different letter fall the same way.

Pictures at an Excavation

Bright figures swim in a Roman bath
Sunk in shadows of an underworld

Neptune and seahorses mid ocean
A boy on a dolphin leaps into light

Mosaic land of impossible stone
Beings trapped in dimensionality

Beings detached from stone
Gods on the surface of a dream

Supine and recumbent statues
Extruded from swampland

Buried like mystery religion
And backward flowing skies

Tessellated spiral lines
Like nets between stars

Multitudinous motionlessness
Oceans of unweighted time

Clearing the silt of words
From the mirror of mind

Eroding the same earth
A mosaic of merchant civilization

Fish and sails wine and grain
Amphorae amphora repair

Open to the mouth of the Tiber
Fishhead man gulping the sea

Salvatore Ala’s fervent grace

Spectral Lyre

Poet and translator George Szirtes said this:

“It is not the catharsis but the grace. The grace of the writing is the triumph of the imagination….”

So much poetry these days is lacking in gracefulness. I like to think of a poem as a sort of language ballet, a lithe duration of supple and subtle written gestures. Overture, theme, digression, return, apotheosis. But wouldn’t an insistence on gracefulness limit a poet’s compositional repertoire, her expressive discretion? Yes, and the sooner the better! Poetry is an aesthetic medium. It’s high time it got back to the Orphic mysteries, to a contemplative wrestling with the dark angel of hope and beauty (that elusive symbol of meaning).

Stravinsky wrote music for a graceful ballet – The Firebird.

The story of The Firebird is about Prince Ivan and his complex struggle with Kashchei the Immortal. Inside Kashchei’s magical kingdom, the prince falls in…

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The Poet as a Tacit Being

Spectral Lyre

As a reader, my imagination is stirred when a poem is written toward the Out There. When a poem is unburdened by the poet’s ego, trauma, diary, and blather, I’m granted possible entry to a peculiar mode of appreciation, of aesthetic impression. If the egoless poem happens to be written by a poet of subtle artistic consciousness, something special occurs: a conjuring of images both equivocal and ecstatic from the half-dreaming world. The world Out There — the stuff of worldly phenomena — takes on an unusual, quivering quality. What had been until the poem merely usual appearance and regular happening is now conjured into a sudden and glowing written thereness.

As a reader, my imagination is further stirred when a poem is written in such a manner that I’m allowed to make deep guesses about the poet. The poet in such poems is almost not there. His or…

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