Tuesday, January 17, 2017

POEM: "Translate"


                  for Romaine Scott

How a poet turns
another poet's translation
into another poem
sinking a shaft
no weakness or cracks
no reference to the original
or the translation of it
imagine that
there are parts to assemble
flecks of gold here and there
so language will get off
the late Sunday train
in a little country town
there's no one there to meet it
except (I think) a patient horse
waiting for its rider
who seems to have disappeared
it has just started to rain
the words are getting soaked
there’s no shelter anywhere
a man emerges from the night
asks where they’re going
and the damn things don't know.

© 2017 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

POEM: "They came from the middle part"

"They came from the middle part"

They came from the middle part
they'd been mostly hollowed out
the rebels, killers, the survivors
scavengers who when I took
them into the bush would taste
every plant and remember it
the other biggest bunch came
from the Horn of Africa, and
they were not so hollowed out
also killers, rebels, the survivors
of course, but with their joy
which was naturally delightful
to teach, and then to learn from
miming how to hold the pen
and how to draw the alphabet
those unschooled Somali women
head-scarves and multicoloured robes
smiling, laughing, very relieved
at what and who and where they were
still prohibited from natural touching
in the end I taught most of them to read
most of them to write, who wrote me
a letter of sorts when they left
which I know now was a kiss.

© 2017 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

POEM: "A restaurant proposition"

"A restaurant proposition"

A restaurant proposition
has all the tables in a row
the eaters are nonchalant
ordering from a slim volume
of old poems they recite
from their fans or panels
a curvaceous Chinese girl
treats the room to her display
around me they're looking
at what's generally happening
but stranger things than food
stranger than a lifetime later
a bicycle barely carried us
a car narrowly missed us
it seemed to last for hours
never mother's old recipe

© 2017 Rob Schackne

Sunday, January 8, 2017

POEM: "In Moonlight"

In Moonlight

Bumping along
this horse before a cart
this thought this song
the head before the heart
a strange feeling in the air
exoplanets and atmosphere
sleepy roos and sand
telescope delivered late
at the ditch where it stops
pencil paper calculations
the next heaven is immense
the name of one true love
hanging on the stars
tea and damper hunger
the homestead lights

© 2017 Rob Schackne

Saturday, January 7, 2017

An Anne Porter Poem


When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother's piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I've never understood
Why this is so

Bur there's an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.


Friday, January 6, 2017

POEM: "String Haiku in Five Parts, for John Cage R.I.P."

String Haiku in Five Parts, for John Cage R.I.P.

A piece of my mind
a billion bits and pieces
after the hoodwink
they were scattered everywhere
trucks thundering past
the music schools and factories
that irresponsible bomb
invited today to feel
someone's space cotton
my grandmother's cheek
the sound of wings
the last notes of a city
how dramatical
once the music fades away
I don't really care
to be healed again

© 2017 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

POEM: "She taught me gentle"

"She taught me gentle"

She taught me gentle
I'm forever grateful
for how she laughed
when I said I love you
and how I remember
whenever I am brutal
her big blonde body
riding high above me
her dear nordic face
smiling while I came.

© 2017 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

POEM: "Anyway You Want It"

Anyway You Want It

Slam it
judder it
hard against
the tunnel
upside down it
spinning scythes
sleep well child
a foreign mist
zooms like Alice
there is a hole
avoids the blades
anyway you want it
there is a dream
of chainmail
strange songs
why do you ask
and who would you ask
the everlasting tongue
slides down the throat

the private thing
goes to work

© 2017 Rob Schackne

Monday, January 2, 2017

POEM: "Is consent"

"Is consent"

Is consent

a form

of contract

the flower

and the bee

the norms

of power

the sunset

this small poem

and me?

© 2017 Rob Schackne

Sunday, January 1, 2017

POEM: "O Cantador"

To paraphrase JG Ballard, the best time to re-write history is when it's fresh. So, yeah.

O Cantador
              for Elis Regina

Like a lover
I turn my pockets out
then I find you
you were always there
so let it be me
the sunset for an hour
butterflies everywhere
like a lover
I walk for hours
vaguely in the direction
of your heart
mine is beating wildly
let it be me
like a lover
who sings of perfection
how the world fades away
when you're in my arms again
please let it be me
let it be me

© 2017 Rob Schackne

Saturday, December 31, 2016

POEM: "You remember the last year"

"You remember the last year"

You remember the last year
and the year before that
and I guess the really bad ones

if you listen, really listen hard
to all that really happened

how the eyes filled with tears
clouds washed in dirty water
love given and love rejected
the dizzy vomitus of air
now the year’s end is coming
forgotten last car on a train
bending fast by the next hill

I mean listen hard enough
one more fading set of lights
seeing the last sun set again

leaves pouring out like bubbles
how these lips were pursed
against this much damaged year

during too much love & regret
and how these eyes will hope
a new 
year stands still, waiting

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Seamus Heaney Poem (3)

The Peninsula

When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all round the peninsula.
The sky is tall as over a runway,
The land without marks so you will not arrive

But pass through, though always skirting landfall.
At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill,
The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable
And you’re in the dark again. Now recall

The glazed foreshore and silhouetted log,
That rock where breakers shredded into rags,
Leggy birds stilted on their own legs,
Islands riding themselves out into the fog

And drive back home, still with nothing to say,
Except now, you will uncode all landscapes
By this: things founded clean on their own shapes,
Water and ground in their extremity.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

POEM: "Off The High Way"

Off The High Way
                                      for Stew

Do we ever see the microadjustments
being made as we move past people
their glances tilting to one side
in time with invisible particles
disguised as raucous indifference
every atom scrambling to be noticed
because maybe it’s a cellular thing?

At the indoor gym in Seaford
children are climbing with their parents
who, older and heavier, have belay duty
microadjusting their weekend charges
small bags of white flowers, sugar memories
wee boys and girls winging up through space
on ropes tight enough to be always safe.

Sure it’s cellular – I’m climbing with my son
fifteen years after buying a tiny body-harness
remembering how carefully I adjusted it for him
before he launched himself at improbable odds
and now, now he is belaying me for the first time
and damned if he doesn’t have me on a tight rope too
I climb faster and when I top out, he lets me down gently.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Friday, December 23, 2016

POEM: "Like a Wind-up Toy"

Like a Wind-up Toy 

Cold in winter
hot in summer
time mostly moves ahead
we are astounded
men are like this
women are like that
we are born
we live
we die
maybe we live again
like a wind-up toy
on a regular basis
we eat
we eat again
we look for love
we stay out of the rain
the wind is sharp
the blankets are warm
we sleep for many years
we buy new clothes
we wear the old clothes
our shoes walk on and off
the lights go off and on
like a wind-up toy

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

POEM: "Dawn Ropes Down The Summit"

Dawn Ropes Down The Summit

The longest night
   shortest day
its extra breath
   wake up curious

the shortest night
   longest day
overtime working
   a restless night

the shouts of pain
   fearsome things
sit here writing
   it's a brave time

solstice wednesday
   please hold on
and help me make
   the extra step

the longest night
   longest dreams
the longest day
   a long climb down

it’s waking twice
   try and sleep
the dreams will play
   let all be strong

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, December 19, 2016

POEM: "Digs"


               for David Oliver

Sparks are not for keeping
air & fire equally apportioned
too light to redisturb the mind
hands now raindrops breeze
cells stretched into wilderness
winds reaching into a world
the clocks tire of themselves
ticking, ticking without time
now the band is packing up
wait, but everything pauses
language will be no help
the earth & water are parting
wait, we will dance alone.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, December 18, 2016

POEM: "A Horsehair Whisk"

A Horsehair Whisk

Just a game of worlds
the span of universe
ready to get closer

watching a sleepy future
count time before our eyes
stop the crystal flow

it takes away our rage
maybe eighty years
turning water into ice

when the whisk is offered
carry it in plain view
the game watches or not

before this one’s over
when hearts stop beating
it’s a dead giveaway

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

POEM: "Untitled"


Famous for a poem written
when he was quite drunk
he doesn’t like it now
its edges curled
trodden wet leaves
he takes his walk with umbrella
in ten minutes sees the marvelous
it reminds him of prayer
a great love, a missed flight
an arrow, a bed, a blister
he wishes he wasn't famous
this film is screened once
twice, three times a week
several people watching
one gentle soul claps
there's a kind of organ music
he gets up and leaves.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, December 12, 2016

POEM: "A Mountain Tale"

A Mountain Tale

                       for Yang Lei

The fan screens a scene
not unusual, not very special
two men just sit drinking
a village smokes below

They sing:

What are cares
when you’re drinking?
What are worries
when you’re laughing?

Below, villagers think of the murder
of work, of hardship and freedom

Above, old poets speak of the clouds
of mist, of dreams and their next lives

They sing:

We walk for years
saluting every sacred peak
knowing the Tao
will never end
now we end up here!

The mountain shudders
a cold wind bites
the two men draw closer
before they get up
and slowly choose their way down.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, December 11, 2016

POEM: "Fretting a severe climb"

"Fretting a severe climb"

Fretting a severe climb
on bad conglomerate
one hot bush day shirtless
after I walk back down
some joker watching me
you’ve got muscles in your shirt
yeah I say I’m a migrant too

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, December 10, 2016

POEM: "Ropes (Without Necks)"

Ropes (Without Necks)

One more reminder. Mountains
always give up their dead. Time
however, will stick differently.
The unexpected men & women
a glacier releases, slowly, like air
or sound. A tree gets the green world.
A family gets their two sons back, also
crampons and a rope that didn’t hold.
I get my heart back. I get art. I get you.
Now here’s my rope waiting for rescue.
Meditate while sitting in a crevasse.
I look into the dark. The shelf moves.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Friday, December 9, 2016

POEM: "Elbows off the table"

"Elbows off the table"

Elbows off the table
black hole eating a galaxy
wipe your mouth

no new stars forming
the galaxy is starving
eat your vegetables

the cat’s not hungry
you’re not leaving the table
black hole seeds merging

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Thursday, December 8, 2016

POEM: "On Borges's Book Of Sand"

On Borges's Book Of Sand

In Jorge Luis Borges
we hear the falling cadence
of an obstinate man, largely blind
with maybe only 10 years to live,
fluent enough to remember horrors
and how well the will preserves
pale images of all that, and Love–
whereas we the patient learners
turn over his old stories like a field
sharp into our own stubbornness
till we too are reading by candlelight
the parables of not life, but death
and one last cruel pitiful lesson
about uncountable gruesome worlds
with as many varieties as grains of sand,
for which we thank you, muy estimado.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, December 4, 2016

POEM: "Punchy Penado"

Punchy Penado
                   for Greg Gamage


Don’t enjoy
it much either
women boxing
better to fight
the house-dust
the closed window
the 1000 night jabs
below the belt
a faraway sound
a train is coming
the roundhouse
hard as a rail


running out of
people to eat
and next week
in the flying square
I’m wrestling
an oily swan
we are free
in a world very
much curtailed
and just a little
out of shape


strangles a cat
it comes back
end of the fifth
what was love
within without
a strangeness
stones shape
the will holds
it’s not hatred
for kindness
no reward


gloves get bigger
ring gets smaller
front row seat
in the Amazon
fishes swim
up your orifice
looking for your
last night’s dream
brain injury
still off
still here


The new face is
hanging sausage
& cheese off me
step into the ring
the crowd cheers
authentic food
no more bland
so I bleed a lot
no more dieting
free autographs
a few broken ribs
they love me


Is this body
a little temple
do all the gods
look over the sea
slammed hard by you
a kick to the head
the ref is counting
the steps to the beach
I take off my robe
run into the waves
slammed hard by me
my job I guess


This earth
and its ancestors
the hall is filling
with the years
it took to build
no tanks
to this bout
easy breezy
take ‘em all down
they don’t leave
their corner
you’re the winner


Going out
on a limb for you
a matter of
more dangerous
than upclimbing
mix the colours
make a fist
mix a halo
get it over with
anyway I can


Ever feel like
they squandered
your education
he sees sprayed
on the wall that
he’s pissed on
it’s a still night
two cats emerge
follow him home
he gets them on
his wavelength
and they glide away


Raining hard
rooftop nighttime
he always says
he sleeps better
but actually
bathed in sweat
with a gashed brow
wants to do him harm
in search of meadows
with wild flowers
downpour of noise
this storm is fixed


On again
getting ready
he is gym rat no. 1
horror leaves the skin
music just arrives
silk sheets and a cat
drills & weights
sauna room boom
the day after tomorrow
how goes the will


The last round
is too montonous
need to get happy
how you move
O you can fly
check it out
to another life
does it belong
the ancient injury
the heart is open wide
the people stand and cheer

© 2015 Rob Schackne

Thursday, December 1, 2016

POEM: "Recently a poet friend wrote"

"Recently a poet friend wrote"

Recently a poet friend wrote:

Highjacked by a book of poems, I want
to know more about my captor. What
has given rise to such intentions?

A searing mark under a burning sun
the diesel dope and the irritating mirages

Off the road from an untargeted village
was safe enough for the story and the pics

Overstepped the bounds...they’re very twitchy

And except for the camera I am unrifled
and except for my passport I’m fucked

Now I don’t care what they’re shouting

All I want to know are my options to get free.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, November 28, 2016

MUSIC: The Shins, "Pink Bullets" (2003)

The great song from the great band, The Shins... 




O let's start in deep cover
everyone from a boat of sleep
pleasure a fricative kind of thing
but no consonants no vowels
a wall of sound fast coming
one language doesn't help
move over to higher places
in advance of a cresting will
surf in the shape of the world
& now the high dance is on
many eager to participate
sibilants ah like the wind.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Thursday, November 24, 2016

POEM: "So What"

So What
              for MD, the Prince of Darkness

The so what started slowly
whether new-born or older
after 50 years of listening

to one hope sunk down still
can't describe your entire song
maybe the so whats are bookends

down the alley of a secret library
& between them swings a little
bang of what actually matters

then so what if it matters
high low notes split the night
& the mute stops me in my tracks

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

POEM: "Cheshire Blues"

Cheshire Blues

                 What the modern man wants is the grin
                 without the cat, the sensation without the
                 boredom of its conveyance.  
Paul Valéry

The sea without the shelf
the hat without the head
the music with no instruments
we already have that
the lovers without heartbreak
we already have that
the kiss without lips
her voice without a body

we already have that
the stops before a destination
the journey after reaching it
the white before the page
that's pretty difficult

the hot days without the sun
we already have that
conveyance without satisfaction
the grin without the cat
I'd like to see that
just once.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Les Murray Poem (3)

Self and Dream Self

Routines of decaying time
fade, and your waking life
gets laborious as science.

You huddle in, becoming
the deathless younger self
who will survive your dreams
and vanish in surviving.

Dream brings on its story
at the pace of drift
in twilight, sunless color,

its settings are believed,
a library of wood shingles,
plain mythic furniture

vivid drone of talk,
yet few loves return:
trysts seem unkeepable.

Urgencies from your time
join with the browner suits
walking those arcades with you
but then you are apart,

aghast, beside the numberless
defiling down steep fence
into an imminence —

as in the ancient burrow
you, with an ever-changing cast,
survive deciding episodes
till you are dismissed

and a restart of tense
summons your waking size
out through shreds of story.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

POEM: "Off The Old Coast Road"

Off The Old Coast Road

By the other hand off the old coast road
there’s a bend takes you back to the ocean
with a fence which I don’t think you’ll see
until you stop time enough to look past it.
Full marks if you’ve got the prescience.
But don’t get off this road till you’re ready,
the fever that was all you ever wanted
is two close lanes before and beyond. Two.
Wonder if you’ll ever get past your nerve.
And don’t fool around with the edges of this,
grandstanding like a celestial idiot. Swerve.
Your hands off the wheel for only a second,
your God will change you. Nothing’s kidding.
The car you’re driving belongs to someone else.
Some guy just called his brother about an accident.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

POEM: "Eyes That Pierce"

Eyes That Pierce

A shudder of intent, outside reason
eyes that pierce, you don’t ask why
whether from attraction or hatred
the spell is hurled and you catch it
dark eyes shining are the best
above lips only slightly curled
a toss of the head comes next
several glances later that know
the codes of awareness are stolen
she looked this way merely once
how do you ignore such a spy
when peddling secrets of your own
in the place where people meet
where chance is the girl in a shop
she holds your gaze like a banana
this fascinates for about an hour
like a supermoon in an empty sky
one look is enough to forget all others
when you’re stopped in your tracks
heat, sweet, in the other source of light.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

POEM: "Ways It Could Be"

Ways It Could Be

Old questions crazy pauses no answers back
a few ways it could be roar in ominous winds
cries sound like an invitation to a locked door

the mad shouting their executions of purpose
while the hallowed desire of our knowledge
founders on unseen rocks beneath the surface

to what end is it pursued questions and men
mirrors that merely reflect reflecting tire us
of reflection of the eternal shine of others

to what end is help our last effort these tears
the hands that reached in to save now pulled in
so that now we are suddenly in great danger

curating the fall into big tropical trouble
but I only meant to help goes the old refrain
played loudly to whoever looked most helpless

forget the wreckage now the oil upon the water
the broken life-boat we watch it all slowly go down
and then begin another hard swim in another direction.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Monday, November 14, 2016

POEM: "Everybody Knows, A Long-Stemmed Rose"

Everybody Knows, A Long-Stemmed Rose

Aches pain from bumps and grinds
which age negotiates with experience
the scars you see plain upon a face
the oranges that say it doesn't matter
but we're not speaking yet of love

What will it profit a man to dance
less than his own two feet, a partner
who also ages at a chance of seasons
who won't speak of sitting this one out
who saw the future (maybe it is murder)

Body goes south before going west
before that last foolish indigence
but not speaking of indifference yet
lying once in a bed for months
listening to my book of longing

Even the old will climb mountains
lungs and legs pounding to a point
I heard you a whole hospital away
while we're not talking yet of miracles
I felt you, there's still no cure for love.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, November 13, 2016

POEM: "Dear Lazarus Brought Back From A Dream"

Dear Lazarus Brought Back From A Dream 

Because it didn’t matter
the latent heat walked away
sure you shot the universe
in dark matter I mean of course
this transfer it’s no steady law
there are problems in space & time
my lovers will the music to go on
solid to the liquid of the day to day
the scientists call it entropy
remembering the kabbalah tree the birds
always meant to ask that tree of life
another one and then another one
and the mountain sang of its ocean
and again all the waters sang of the sky

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Saturday, November 12, 2016

POEM: "She Said"

She Said

She said piss is a mild antiseptic
bad weather won’t make you sick
cigarettes probably won’t kill you
like the smoke they smoke in your head

To be high she said is mighty
I will love you as long as we know
that unprovables are consistent
with what we know we know to be true

Put a car in reverse it goes backwards
put a life on the skids it goes down
though nothing that is will be altered
I still love the way that way can

I love the dreams you walk through
the chaos you command to go back
the strength that draws on your muscles
the violence that lets itself go

She said there’s no real difference
where we come from or why we weep
if tonight she can feel me in her arms
if when it’s raining she can watch me sleep

And though time will always intrude
whenever the dawn comes round
my lines wait for tomorrow my love
waking first listening to your stilling heart.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Friday, November 11, 2016

MUSIC: Leonard Cohen, "Never Mind" (2005)

The war was lost
The treaty signed
I was not caught
I crossed the line

I had to leave
My life behind
I had a name
But never mind

Your victory
Was so complete
That some among you
Thought to keep

A record of
Our little lives
The clothes we wore
Our pots our knives

The games of luck
Our soldiers played
The stones we cut
The songs we made

Our law of peace
Which understands
A husband leads
A wife commands

And all of this
Expressions of
The High Indifference
Some call Love

The High Indifference
Some call Fate
But we had Names
More intimate

Names so deep
and Names so true
They're lost to me
And dead to you

There is no need
That this survive
There's truth that lives
And truth that dies

There's truth that lives
And truth that dies
I don't know which
So never mind

I could not kill
The way you kill
I could not hate
I tried I failed

No man can see
The vast design
Or who will be
Last of his kind

The story's told
With facts and lies
You own the world
So never mind


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

POEM: "Writing is against us"

"Writing is against us"

Writing is against us. To be loved
for what we ourselves won't ever love
to read the poems written when I was 21
I laugh. Some poetry was trying to get out
sure I didn’t yet know the truth, so if judged
I could only just be hated for the things I knew
my maximal emotions pinned on a line like socks
a single fragile cassette played over and over again
and if I were loved for the poems that spoke no truth
I could spend a lifetime damned. I'm probably laughing
now that the stuff is pouring out of me. Writing when I’m 63
I hardly care what this means anymore, or what it meant to me.

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Sunday, November 6, 2016

POEM: "that's no way to paint ravens'"

“that’s no way to paint ravens”
                          after Mikaela Castledine

that's no way to paint ravens
at night on the roadside
in the headlights

past the silent graves
that’s no way to end a life
there’s a small hotel

in the balance of the dip
you’re just a bit behind
too late for turning

that’s no way to shoe a horse
with carrot and lump of sugar
the story of your travels

that’s no way to hit a nail
sanding the heavy handle
look at the reflection

that’s no way to hear the wind
headstall and volume
a brain full of fray

with ears with tears
those years those fears
you’re listening too slow

that’s no way to reach the light
maybe it’s thick with heaven
sweet grace with dark

bending left always left
outside in the rain
all colours running

© 2016 Rob Schackne

Painting: "Nighthawks", Edward Hopper (1942)