from Be Recorder

they work their fingersCarmen Giménnez Smithto the soul their bones 
to their marrow 
they toil in blankness 
inside the dead yellow 
rectangle of warehouse 
windows work fingers 
to knots of fires  
the young the ancients
the boneless the broken
the warehouse does too 
to the bone of the good 
bones of the building
every splinter spoken for
she works to the centrifuge 
of time the calendar a thorn 
into the sole dollar of working 
without pause work their mortal 
coils into frayed threads until 
just tatter they worked their bones 
to the soul until there was no 
soul left to send worked until 
they were dead gone
to heaven or back home 
for the dream to have USA 
without USA to export
USA to the parts under 
the leather sole of the boss 
they work in dreams of working 
under less than ideal conditions 
instead of just not ideal 
conditions work for the 
shrinking pension and never 
dental for the illusion 
of the doctor medicating them 
for work-related disease 
until they die leaving no empire
only more dreams that their babies
should work less who instead
work more for less 
so they continue to work 
for them and their kin 
they workballoon payment 
in the form of a heart attack 
if only that’ll be me someday
the hopeless worker said on 
the thirteenth of never 
hollering into the canyon 
of perpetual time 
four bankruptcies later
three-fifths into a life 
that she had planned 
on expecting happiness 
in any form it took 
excluding the knock-off
cubed life she lived in debt
working to the millionth
of the cent her body cost
the machine’s owner
Yolanda Berta Zoila 
Chavela Lucia Esperanza
Naya Carmela Celia Rocio
once worked here
their work disappearing
into dream-emptied pockets
into the landfill of work
the work to make their bodies
into love for our own

 

What an Indian Thought When He Saw the Comet

Flaming wonderer! that dost leave vaunting, proud
Ambition boasting its lightning fringed
Immensity—cleaving wings, gaudy dipp’d
In sunset’s blossoming splendors bright and
Tinsel fire, with puny flight fluttering
Far behind! Thou that art cloth’d in mistery
More startling and more glorious than thine own
Encircling fires—profound as the oceans
Of shoreless space through which now thou flyest!
Art thou some erring world now deep engulph’d
In hellish, Judgement fires, with phrenzied ire
And fury hot, like some dread sky rocket
Of Eternity, flaming, vast, plunging
Thro’ immensity, scatt’ring in thy track
The wrathful fires of thine own damnation
Or wingest thou with direful speed, the ear
Of some flaming god of far off systems
Within these skies unheard of and unknown?
Ye Gods! How proud the thought to mount this orb
Of fire—boom thro’ the breathless oceans vast
Of big immensity—quickly leaving
Far behind all that for long ages gone
Dull, gray headed dames have prated of—
Travel far off mystic eternities—
Then proudly, on this little twisting ball
Returning once more set foot, glowing with
The splendors of a vast intelligence—
Frizzling little, puny humanity
Into icy horrors—bursting the big
Wide-spread eyeball of dismay—to recount
Direful regions travers’d and wonders seen!
Why I’d be as great a man as Fremont
Who cross’d the Rocky Mountains, didn’t freeze
And’s got a gold mine!

–Tso-le-oh-woh

Little is known of Cherokee poet Tso-Le-Oh-Woh. “What an Indian Thought When He Saw the Comet” was published in The Cherokee Advocate on September 28, 1853 shortly after the Klinkerfues comet passed through the skies in that year. The poem can be found in this volume, along with the author’s only other published work, A Red Man’s Thoughts: Suggested by the eagerness of the applicants for Indian Superintendencies and Agencies.

Borges on Life and Art

A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end. This is even stronger in the case of the artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all has been given like clay, like material for one’s art. One must accept it. For this reason I speak in a poem of the ancient food of heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.

–Jorge Luis Borges, “Blindness” in Everything and Nothing, pgs 128-129

Borges on going blind at the same time he was made Director of the National Library of the Argentine Republic

There were the books, but I had to ask my friends the names of them. I remembered a sentence from Rudolf Steiner, in his books on anthroposophy, which was the name he gave to his theosophy. He said that when something ends, we must think that something begins. His advice is salutary, but the execution is difficult, for we only know what we have lost, not what we will gain. We have a very precise image—an image at times shameless—of what we have lost, but we are ignorant of what may follow or replace it.

–Jorge Luis Borges, “Blindness” in Everything and Nothing, pg 118

 

Father’s Song

Yesterday, against admonishment,
my daughter balanced on the couch back,
fell and cut her mouth.

Because I saw it happen I knew
she was not hurt, and yet
a child’s blood so red
it stops a father’s heart.

My daughter cried her tears;
I held some ice
against her lip.
That was the end of it.

Round and round: bow and kiss.
I try to teach her caution;
she tries to teach me risk.

—Gregory Orr

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

—Robert Hayden