Tuesday, September 27, 2016

MUSIC: Leonard Cohen, "You Want It Darker" (2016)

You Want It Darker

If you are the dealer
I'm out of the game
If you are the healer
Means I'm broken and lame
If thine is the glory
Then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Magnified sanctified
Be Thy Holy Name
Vilified crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the help that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord

There's a lover in the story
But the story's still the same
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

They’re lining up the prisoners and
The guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle-class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission
To murder and to maim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I'm ready, my Lord

Magnified sanctified
Be Thy Holy Name
Vilified crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

If you are the dealer
Let me out of the game
If you are the healer
I'm broken and lame
If thine is the glory
Mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I'm ready, my Lord

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Pablo Neruda Poem

The Poet

That time when I moved among happenings
in the midst of my mournful devotions; that time
when I cherished a leaflet of quartz,
at gaze in a lifetime's vocation.
I ranged in the markets of avarice
where goodness is bought for a price, breathed
the insensate miasmas of envy, the inhuman
contention of masks and existences.
I endured in the bog-dweller's element; the lily
that breaks on the water in a sudden
disturbance of bubbles and blossoms, devoured me.
Whatever the foot sought, the spirit deflected,
or sheered toward the fang of the pit.
So my poems took being, in travail
retrieved from the thorn, like a penance,
wrenched by a seizure of hands, out of solitude;
or they parted for burial
their secretest flower in immodesty's garden.
Estranged to myself, like shadow on water,
that moves through a corridor's fathoms,
I sped through the exile of each man's existence,
this way and that, and so, to habitual loathing;
for I saw that their being was this: to stifle
one half of existence's fullness like fish
in an alien limit of ocean. And there,
in immensity's mire, I encountered their death;
Death grazing the barriers,
Death opening roadways and doorways.


(Trans. Ben Belitt)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

POEM: "Five Pieces, Not Easy"

Five Pieces, Not Easy

1. Rondelet Aux Apaches

Get this thing on
maybe he struggles to keep up
get this thing on
she’s leaning over the table
he feels his future wed to breasts
her mind reaches for big monkey
get this thing on.

2. The Afternoon

Why you were an hour late
planning to shuck your husband
to meet me later in the room
I felt strangely neutral like I was
your husband wanting to know
why it takes 2 hours to buy rice
afterwards when I was a bag of rice
and we were just a pair of stomachs

we looked out of the window
there was a man painting
his balcony red the sky
mostly grey rain was coming
not much chance of getting up.

3. Rehearsal

Alright I’ve said it the ass
depends upon the legs like
a clock on a minute’s notice
the banjax awaits the band
there’s nothing new under
the sun except the sunlight
we’re roaring like monsters
dammit you didn’t know it
now I say it that form waits on
an invisible quiet thing.

4. Aside

You read about a fellow who wrote
a novel of 80 thousand pages
who couldn’t work out the ending
even so he managed to say it
and ​he even mentioned this too
the deficiencies you’re feeling
in the rose garden the doubt
the arc and mise-en-scène
a dog’s old toy in the yard.

5. Overcast

Of the moments
that restored my
faith in humanity
I think I'll remember
one or two of them
and this second one just
left me wondering whether
she was really better off
(she didn't listen to me
now she lives in Germany)
first one's hidden
sorry it's the terms
of my dumb faith
just starting to rain
take it with a lick of salt
take it with a grain of blood.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

POEM: "Ghosts Read The Papers"

Ghosts Read The Papers

As smart a comment as I've heard all week 
The hand that points the bone points each way
(A breathtaking shard of common sense)

Archimedes says "Don't disturb my circles"
Which only means if you had a place to stand
You'd watch the screws take you up and up

Advantage moved, circles grew higher
Look here, far from the centre, and now

The wrong powers are too close for comfort

It may be that not all progress is forward
And dead men say let go the bloody switch
And make our day, ghosts say, tell us when to stop.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, September 19, 2016

POEM: "I saw cruelty"

“I saw cruelty” 

What's a border to the poor? 
Late night, I guess no moon
silent as the little wind
a wire, a noise, gunfire

Carry your wife
carry your husband
a dead child is heavier
the stragglers stretch behind

I saw cruelty
applied without effort
kindness to the power of ten
and every step away from truth

Every step away from truth?

The line makes no sense
objects move from their places
maybe the search party’s missing

Now I'm in an F1 bar
fan force and silly cars
tyres are big pearls first lap
might as well be Godzilla.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, September 17, 2016

POEM: "A, B, C for China"

A, B, C for China
              (after Jack Picone & Kit Kelen)

The ascent to heaven
midnight, lunar eclipse
occluded by typhoon cloud
suddenly in the southern sky
(between the tail of Cetus
and the water jar of Aquarius)
it appears behind our longing
a dress rehearsal (there’s no end)
for the famed knife-throwing act
before the common folk tomorrow
as these soft targets take their turns
to know the distance of lament, to see
in Mid-Autumn Festival, Li Bai, you, me.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Friday, September 16, 2016

POEM: "Calling"


Across the oceans
in my country
morning dawns bright.

The sunlight
fractures the leaves.
Our eyes gleam.

Has love given me
this thick fog
reaching for your hand?

Fort da, fort da
fall so we will rise.
I am close.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

POEM: "After Sarah Rice's "Hardangerfjord"

After Sarah Rice's "Hardangerfjord Waterfall"

What I have isn’t what I’ve got
the planet lacks a ring, anything
wasn’t here before it was there
I make up an atmosphere

Far beneath this surface
lies town from waterfall
the cracks off the mountains

under things I cannot see

After six days of the shivers
and the seven nights of horror
(it's a rather ghostly town)
everything is going over

Imagination is a working thing
like a root or the benthic algae
and the mountain is falling
like a kitchen and a meal

Always a pleasure walking out
afterwards to look inwards
often the places we are in
are the places we're not.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, September 12, 2016

POEM: "Night Walk"

Night Walk

Down these mean streets
some real monks must go

they are not mean men
although they are hard men

ancient lanes divide
a lonely presence

the great circle plots
a whisky course

walking out with smoke
soaked by the storm

we too prowl the streets
reflexes sometimes slow

writer, reasonable crab
it depends on the season.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Merv Lilley Poem

Brumby Jones

Over the sticks and over the stones,
Where will they lay your illiterate bones?
With the brumbies, Brumby Jones.
Where do you come from, Brumby Jones?
Out where the lonely wild wind moans,
Lived in the backblocks, Brumby Jones.

Where is the woman who shared your bread?
Never a woman was in your bed,
Never a breast to cradle your head,
Man of the spirit was always dead.
Out in the sticks and out in the stones
Lived like a warrigal Brumby Jones.

Knew the sound of the warrior cry
When the grass was dead and the creeks run dry;
Only a man can learn to sigh:
Where will they bury you when you die?
Under the sticks and under the stones
There they will lay your illiterate bones,
And a bloody good feller was Brumby Jones!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

POEM: "Assumptions We Carried"

Assumptions We Carried

                           for Lesley Boland

The carelessness of others
treasure is buried everywhere
school educates
learning can help
this love will last
and this love won’t
I am smarter than you think
things are not as bad as they look
I could have been a great sax player
in a smoke-filled room
I will never lose my mind
sunlight is not important
I can do without sleep forever

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Robert Pinsky Poem (2)


The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes—

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers—

Like Hart Crane’s Bedlamite, “shrill shirt ballooning.”
Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord. Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
To wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
Both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.


Monday, September 5, 2016

POEM: "A Poem for Nada"

A Poem for Nada

I too wish that certain moments
be removed cleanly from my life
a layer here and a layer there
scraped clean with a sharp knife
so fresh depictions might appear
like blues to classical or hip hop to jazz
although I suspect that the garland
around my spine would say otherwise

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, September 4, 2016

POEM: "A Hundred Feet"

A Hundred Feet

Nothing there that wasn’t before
a horse head in a drum of fire
smoke floating on bone and fat

A hundred feet above the grotto
a hundred chances to get higher
I walk to the summit to be thrilled

(It wants me killed a hundred times)
I spy a piece of honeyed glass
I take it and dive into the green

Below love clear deep water
those old white walls so shining
a hundred people sit in the theatron

The chorus wears a mask
and they all look up to the surface
waiting to be thrilled

Beauty says it isn’t love
the sun sets in another sky
love says splash doesn’t matter

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Ron Slate Poem (4)

Night Crossing

Back and forth is a way to move
when the visible is spacious.

But what’s the state of the last boat,
lightly loaded and unprofitable?

Tied up at the mainland dock,
the ferry shudders in its berth,

its captain consults a tide chart
and grunts. A new, possessive moon.

Late departure, a rigid beam of light
probes the sea lane for what violates or drifts.

The other shore, not far off, can leap
and hurt the hand pointing at it.

In the dark alongside—wings seen, instantly gone,
a half-thought interrupted by a heave.

Then the ferry turns hard a-port to the channel,
the parting waters make the sound of a god

murmuring for both the first and last time.
At mid-crossing, something is lacking twice over—

in this location, in the mechanism or vision of the crossing?
Two ports, both accommodating, but unmoved

by what goes on between. How many departures
does a person need, how many starts can be tolerated?

A necessary collision at the pilings
tells everyone it’s over.


(First appeared on the ‘Poem-A-Day’ feature of the Academy of American Poets)

Vincent van Gogh, "Starry Night over the Rhone", September 1888 at Arles, France

Monday, August 29, 2016

POEM: "Picasso Having a Bad Day"

Picasso Having a Bad Day

Why just the other night
listening to wine and sipping music
nursing the shadows and the light
I said to a beautiful woman:

Your face looks like half of the world's most perfect ass...

After which she slaps me
throws wine at me and walks away
some people have no imagination
some people are angry all the time

Today needing some small fingers
to crack a few dozen quail eggs for paint
I go down to the local playground
to look for some experienced children:

Let's see your hands. I'll show you how to crack my eggs...

Suddenly all the mothers are howling
they throw sand at me and chase me away
later back in my car pants down getting the sand out
a police car pulls up and starts asking questions.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, August 28, 2016

POEM: "First blues"

"First blues"

First blues
is the sorrow
of the pain
night I was born
of the second one
the spinning
the no-traction
the repeating
of all the shit
of the third one
the moon fire red
I can barely speak it.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, August 27, 2016

POEM: "Diary"


Today diary says meet
public confession in park
we repair to a sweet bench
only a few clouds above

Lawn mowers return
before my seed is spent
a bird lands 5 feet away
pollens insist we listen

All is come upon
the mistake of frenzy
the way we clean up after
the redoubt of small things

See the birds see the tree
I see dogs sniffing me
flowers wait two weeks
before they smell glorious

Damn near everything
I feel is gathering now
the weather will worsen

I know less than this.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Thursday, August 25, 2016

POEM: "Found On The Old Gray Lady"

Found On The Old Gray Lady

Well-hydrated romance
defined by a legacy
he couldn’t outrun
trailing my heart
pushpin by pushpin
in patterns of coincidence
slice of life in a cave
when a dog disappears
the man seems lost
chimps eat, scratch, groom
hopscotching from one
block of ice to the next
a sketch artist animates
a fraternity of bumblers.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

POEM: "A Found Poem"

A Found Poem
How a philosopher
turned a writer into a poet
forward to a friend
by bardic Wiggenstein
on digital Veterans Day
to poetry off the shelf

on sound over sense
a yard beyond the moon
an intoxicated aesthetic

getting plants to write poems
in what new book sense I am I
barbershop rhetoric and notary

cut it clean off I’m through courting
and hair only gets in the way

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© 2014 Rob Schackne

POEM: "borne before the wind"

"borne before the wind"

borne before the wind
we walk out of the domestic
past tonight, clouds tomorrow
turn right through a time flap
into a wider world than this
of dreams and undone work
backdrop trees, foreground birds
where we teach classes in kindness
and somehow it's all redeemed

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, August 22, 2016

POEM: "Drop the egg"

"Drop the egg"

Drop the egg.
It was burning me.

Have the monks
stopped meditating?

Trouble with

you are a Buddha
you've got to act like one

They all seem to be tweeting.
Some say this, some say that.

Say anything you want.
I eat more fish than meat.

Are strong walls made by
people who have cracked?

Say the universe is sweet.
I'll know more tomorrow.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Miriam Bird Greenberg Poem

Brazilian Telephone

In the peach orchard in an old bathtub
the children are standing someone
in a bath of salt water, and one
gently attaches electrodes
to the nipples of the one
in the bath. Out of the weeds runs one
with a rescued battery from the old
motor home, which they had gotten
to rev its engine like the sad bleating
of a goat. If, later, anyone asks
how they learned to do this, in a striped shirt one
will say, Oh, I was looking for science
experiments in those old textbooks someone
got from the library book sale last year.
I have been baking all day,
and in a few minutes will start to wonder
what happened to that box of coarse kosher salt
I got just last week.
The children are all singing
some ditty from a musical
we saw at the community theater
a few days ago, and, in the tub the one
with electrodes affixed so gently
to his chest is calling
out little mews of uncertainty,
is calling and calling into the sundown
past the knotted trees with their hairy
fruits, green and hard. Hush,
hush, don’t worry, another one
is saying, fingernail following a line of text
in a complicated book. I think this one
is called the Brazilian Telephone, one
says, connecting finally,
after all this build-up, the ends of two
wires to the battery terminals
which, with steel wool stolen from the kitchen,
they had cleaned so carefully
earlier in the day.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

POEM" "A Poem for the Hungry Ghosts"

A Poem for the Hungry Ghosts

I won't wear red to draw attention,
sing or whistle my favourite melody.
I won't linger near the shadowed walls
to stir or fret the hungry ghosts,
unrested souls trying to recall a life
without fear or violence or tragic luck.
Their whispers are all sighs and envy
as I walk home in open lamplight.

                                          Zhongyuanjie 2016

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

POEM: "A good strong boat"

"A good strong boat"

                          for Li Tianjing

A good strong boat
and a good crew
is needed

for we are poets
and we will be
eaten by the fishes

the dock is faraway
if people fear
the other side

but never mind
there is a beautiful mist
upon the lake

and there are mountains
by the water
and birds play in the clouds

no boat
swim if we can

no swim
eat till we sink

when full
we will float ashore

                               Duanwujie 2016

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, August 13, 2016

POEM: "Many Times Did I Slip Through"

"Many times did I slip through"

Many times did I slip through
cave slot a just-delivered thought
back bearings in the old dryness
and I even once believed I'd stay
in the thousand years of pain
in animal bones & faint paintings
ten thousand years fast in the rock
a new shadow on old shadows

living a little show of fire
as I watched me dying.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Friday, August 12, 2016

An Ouyang Yu Poem

Listening to the Chinese audience

After I finished reading
At don bank museum
In napier street, north Sydney
That cost me 18 bucks to taxi to
From soho galleries
In cathedral street
That had cost me 20-odd minutes in my search
This Chinese woman stood up in the audience
And spoke:

Your poetry is so dark, depressive
So pessimistic
Poetry is meant to be enlightening, uplifting
It should be beautiful, about beautiful things
Life already misery enough
You should give us some light, more light
With your poetry
You should, in a word
Write something to make us feel better
About ourselves, about the world around us
You should avoid using abusive language

She kept talking without giving me a chance to
Defend, offend, myself
So I stood there, in front of the listening audience
Watching the light burning
With smoke on a standing lamp
Which drew everyone’s attention
But hers
Finally, I said
To myself
Looking around the well-lit poetry reading room
And well-lit faces
“there is enough light
outside my book”


Thursday, August 11, 2016

POEM: "I read today"

"I read today"

I read today that 17 people
are confirmed born in Antarctica.
Frigid air is forever a fond mother
in a place we think unknown to original language
where there's no word for the midnight sun.
Three wise penguins each carry an egg
to slip in with the infant. They wave
to the plane that takes them away.
The little girl raises the birds as her own
and every morning before school she opens
the fridge and waits while they stand there.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

POEM: "Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream"

Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream

                                      They're fishing in the kitchen
                                     but they haven't caught up to me
                                     King Crimson (1995)

So long a portion of our lives
one turmoil over in a few seconds
a seed of an idea that keeps you up
till it's half-grown-over with bark
though nothing is forgotten faster
we still look forward to the smell
sure once I thought I'd had my fill
then I only wanted more of the same
sure Martha damn thing is just a dream
but it's the only one we can afford.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

POEM: "In Berlin Before I Noticed"

In Berlin Before I Noticed

Because I would as soon
be in Berlin as be here now
don’t talk to me from afar
about wingtip vortices

or the science of your life
that fractures the sky
or that birds fly like that
to reduce the drag force

that each bird compares
to when it flew alone
because so now you know
because so now I know

but how they know
when a storm is coming
has to do with little changes
to the magnetic memory

it shears the speed right back
and informs your plummet
takes your motorized brain
and turns it into stall

one feeling lost wandering
suddenly in a forest of ghosts
lately full of fallen birds
waiting for collection.

© 2012 Rob Schackne

Thursday, August 4, 2016

POEM: "The hand-held device"

"The hand-held device"

                               for Susan Hawthorne

The hand-held device
I hold is the mind itself
mine by accident, whose

signals cross all the time
like a crocodile or the wind
it could well be holding me

and sometimes I'll know
who or what it's calling
(I will answer for them both)

for somewhere in the mind
near the thick edge
there is a little music

and a flower
(always a flower)
in the rain.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Thursday, July 28, 2016

POEM: "Burr-blind"


With only
an old mattock
to cut burrs
in my youth
missed a million
horses watched me
in the top
now must find
them all again
socks of burrs
clothes of seed

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, July 18, 2016

POEM: "Back To Back"

Back To Back
                        for David Oliver

The terms of being together
narratives of circumference
brings greatest heartache
how (before very long)
the centre is a lost cause
two lovers at opposite ends
of an ever growing circle
stopped like a coin put on edge
a plate washed and shelved
or an egg unset spinning
a yarn without an ending
then stilled, finally the heart.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, July 2, 2016

POEM: "Australian Election"

Australian Election

I know how eternal hope springs
now 25 years without recession
a promise of a job or a decent wage
of no redundancies or cutbacks
then that premise of power
in the heart with no electricity
how a cat comes to you for warmth
a small suspension of reason
and how we shout and cheer
that hope will spring eternal
and a few asses in Parliament
and 12 submarines make a difference
in the election of fools no comment

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, June 27, 2016

POEM: "Simply Trouble"

Simply Trouble

                             With your stomach pump
                             And your hook-and-ladder dreams

                             Neil Young, “Ambulance Blues”

I rocked up to the frame
I thought it was the fence

Give me a break next time
a little butter with the bread

Are there a million troops
shit, maybe, I don't think so

The barrier reef is a bed
the sandwich is my sleep

My arm is the baseball
that was caught in China

The mountain is sheep hides
on the cheap and elegant side

My horse is tomorrow
and the fences are imaginary

And the river is new mountains
and the old hill has run away

You can rock up anywhere you like
but you might want to avoid the street

The rooftop pigeons

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, June 25, 2016

POEM: "Event Horizon"

Event Horizon

Ebb and flow, nothing before
the event horizon fell on me
featherlight of a hot life with ice
the collected years, misunderstood

I chose her for the hair she wore
she laughed at the things I said

an alarming way of wearing pain
and sure an odd way with words

This isn't the story of the world
told by the fire, told in the wind
but of traffic, relapse, and delusion
old habits and misremembered love

At the table sits the air I breathe
the light is provided mostly free
once gifted in a silent transit
a most urgent universe of events.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Painting: Mark Rothko, "Blue Mark"

Thursday, June 23, 2016

POEM: "The Dream of the Snake"

The Dream of the Snake 

A horse shied from the track
I don’t remember any of that 
though a ghost once tried
to climb on top of me
I sent her back to mother
and my dreams thereafter
were merciful except for
when I was chased by the gods
it seems I had figured out
they had so fooled with time
that we could not be gods

I gathered all my poisons up
and going deep underground
I remember biting the earth
to remove all time forever
from the hinges of the world

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

POEM: "Gloop.Soup.Sand"


Sometimes a ditch
makes a body stop
gloop or soup or sand
one itch from staying there

one reason for altering a mind
anyway, this is my declaration
my didactic, my fierce invitation
it's the Sunday I'm in this bar

trying to write you this poem
it's a perfect autumn evening
I'm making notes to perfection
on the subject of making love

I wonder why more women don't
just make their menfolk laugh.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Painting: Edward Hopper, "People In The Sun"

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

POEM: "I would enter"

“I would enter” 

                                for Yuhan

I would enter the gate
under the electric wires
and like Han Shan leave
the dust in the road
walk into the mountains
leaving no trace behind
except that I would take
my turtle and my cat
and at night by the fire
we would tell our stories
of reincarnation 

these desperate bids 
to live again
and how maybe
the Buddha got it wrong

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, June 20, 2016

MUSIC: Stuart Rawlinson, "Eight Elegies" (2016)

...because you'll be happy you did.

POEM: "The Bicycle In A Tree"

The Bicycle In A Tree

The interpretive work
Of being human the dirt
Under those table legs the
Dirt under the speakers yes
The pretty dirt in our minds
The skirting boards the dust
That follows for ten months
The years that we just let go
There’s no point to it no 

All those bicycles in a tree
Being dumb seeking truth
A vacuum cleaning nothing
A loud monkey shedding hair.

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Li Tianjing Poem

The Pain You See

See there’s a dark bone
our hero at the tip of a knife
in an old black and white movie

It shows an awful persistence–
the results are definitely positive.
The disease is in the bone.

The doctor’s report is written in cuneiform.
Birds come and turn over the leaves
before they leave a couple more.

Guess at the thing growing in the bone
some places more and some places less.
We wait for the numbers to be less.

In fear also dwells the pain.
My wife’s doctor holds it

a bloody stone in his hand.

What was taken out?
One pain that cannot be treated.
Such is the problem with ideology.


Version by Rob Schackne (2016)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Chi Lingyun Poem

A Kind of Poetry

To discover a tree's memories is impossible.

To seek a pebble's experience
 is also impossible.
We spy on water's motion

but in the end we still can't touch its core.

The cloud has always been there, we exhaust our energy
to understand its will, yet there's no hope
it will reveal the sky's mysteries.

Poetry also has the will of clouds

with words like rain, to avoid madness

it creates more madness. Just as when love

is written down, it loses half of its sincerity.
When explained, there is only a layer of sticky
mist left. No one is quick or deft enough

to capture poetry for long. Everything perfect
contains a dark cave.

I can't explain the attraction of this cave.

A kind of tranquility, which carries a greater sacrifice
undissolved by light. A kind of dizziness

from this shore to the farther shore, crossing freely.

It has enslaved every golden finger.

A wild cave, harboring minerals, ice and feathers

a few symbols, and I still don't know what it is.


(Trans. Eleanor Goodman and Shengqing Wu)




Friday, June 17, 2016

POEM: "It Looks Like It Hurts"

It Looks Like It Hurts 


I watch a friend 
killing mosquitoes
in a Shanghai restaurant
tonight with an
electric tennis racket
and yes me too
the slowing time
a minute watching
fifty years to remember
an owl came out at night
and I remember
the cat racing out
and still I wonder
what we would give to
go on living if we would
give up love and joy and art
and good food and learning
if most of us 
(say this very quietly)
would even give up
our minds


It looks like it would hurt
but of course Coke is the real thing
and the consumer is always the sucker
Coca-Cola & Disney the perfect marriage

What do they need us for?
Do I really want Minnie’s phone number?
When she finally takes off her costume
she spends the next four hours naked 

Mickey comes home at 3am 
with a dozen stolen Cokes 
he mixes with Bacardi and passes out
she poses like Barbie for a minute
and then cries for an hour 

it looks like it hurts

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Thursday, June 16, 2016

POEM: "Before Heaven"

Before Heaven

This time
I really thought
I would go to heaven
praise God
exhausted in victory
the sword slipping
from my grasp
O eternity
God is great
while the beams
of angels sing
my hand reaching
for her smile
and all the horrors
receding into morning
in a garden
full of flowers
there is only one God
I go for a walk
my sargeant calls

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A James McMichael Poem

The Cabin North Of It All

You build it where you will be heard only by chance
And at a great distance. The hammer is moss

And the saw moves like the wolf’s shoulder,
Smoothly, and with no sound. It is a good start.

The seasons themselves come singly, and you are still
North of it all, north of brooding on that later time

When it will be quieter, when the door will not hold,
When the raccoons, on their first night inside,

Will not trouble to be afraid, their heads
Bent in the squares of moonlight, dreaming of the north.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Linda Pastan Poem

After an Absence

After an absence that was no one’s fault
we are shy with each other,
and our words seem younger than we are,
as if we must return to the time we met
and work ourselves back to the present,
the way you never read a story
from the place you stopped
but always start each book all over again.
Perhaps we should have stayed
tied like mountain climbers
by the safe cord of the phone,
its dial our own small prayer wheel,
our voices less ghostly across the miles,
less awkward than they are now.
I had forgotten the grey in your curls,
that splash of winter over your face,
remembering the younger man
you used to be.

And I feel myself turn old and ordinary,
having to think again of food for supper,
the animals to be tended, the whole riptide
of daily life hidden but perilous
pulling both of us under so fast.
I have dreamed of our bed
as if it were a shore where we would be washed up,
not this striped mattress
we must cover with sheets. I had forgotten
all the old business between us,
like mail unanswered so long that silence
becomes eloquent, a message of its own.
I had even forgotten how married love
is a territory more mysterious
the more it is explored, like one of those terrains
you read about, a garden in the desert
where you stoop to drink, never knowing
if your mouth will fill with water or sand.


Monday, June 13, 2016

A Yuhan Poem

No Windmill Is Real

The red wine and coffee
the Alfred Hrdlicka stone carvings
the vineyard, the medieval castles
they all display a different light
painted in a pool of country green

When the thunder comes
half the sky is dark, the other half is bright
with the blue and red of space

Then I see a rough red hue along
a window that doesn’t belong to me
liverworts growing in concrete windmills
not Oedipus fleeing his divine predictions

The mysterious mood is stolen
order confronts the mess
a little old, a little depressed
the sun visits Le Corbusier’s chapel
and removes my breath and stomach

The Just reside on Easter Island
where metal towers and gypsum mines
will gladly crush the Spirit

I’ll give you both of them
I’ll give you the madness
of kindergarten children

This morning a boy didn’t eat his breakfast
he smiled at me in the Garden
he said he didn’t know the name 

of the sweet fragrance from Heaven.


Version by Rob Schackne (2016)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

An Osip Mandelstam Poem


Not One Word

Not one word.
Purge the mind of what the eye has seen:
Woman, prison, bird.

Otherwise some wrong dawn
Your mouth moves
And a sudden pine
Needles through your nerves,

A trapped wasp crazes
In your brain,
And in the old desk's ink stain
A forest mazes

Inward and inward
To the unpicked
And sun-perfected

Where you now and now always
Must stand,
An infinite inch
Between that sweetness

And your hand.