not a pretty picture. not a good. not a bad. picture. but an argument.

Monday, October 28, 2013

not political

(the lake which is not Birch Lake, September 18, 2013)

Children of the Epoch by Wislawa Szymborska
(translated from the Polish by Austin Flint)

We are the children of the epoch.
The epoch is political.

All my daily and nightly affairs,
all your daily and nightly affairs,
are political affairs.

Whether you want it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin has a political hue,
and your eyes a political aspect.
What you say resounds,
what you don't say is also
politically significant.

Even coming through the rye,
you walk with political steps
on political ground.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and in the sky there's a moon
that's no longer moonlike.

To be or not to be, that is a question.
Oh darling, what a question, give a suggestion.
A political question.

You don't have to be human
to acquire a political meaning.
It's enough to be petroleum,
cattle fodder, raw material,
or just a conference table whose shape
was disputed for months.

In the meantime, people were killed.
Animals died,
houses burned,
fields grew wild,
as in distant
and less political epochs.

(*In Austin Flint's translation the third stanza reads:

Whether you want it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin a political tone,
your eyes a political color.

I have opted to include a partial translation here by Walter Whipple to my own preference, not necessarily reflecting the original.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


the beggar stoops shoddy in the shards of his clothes, his body the hollowed out gourd of hunger much like his bowl, which each (body and bowl) have been sculpted from the whole with one fine sweep of a sharp implement. 

god stands very much like a man with a cast black pot but unlike a man he has no hunger, no yearning, and the pot is not heavy for him.  sadly, he turns out three small stones into the beggar's outstretched bowl. 

the man doesn't want to be unkind but his stomach rumbles.  from his pit of ingratitude (which is really misunderstanding) he says, but god, i'm hungry.  i can't eat these stones. 

to which god says, i know.  i'm sorry.  instead, keep them warm.  this is to be your life's ambition.

but the beggar is stricken with pain and asks over the roil of his rumbling stomach, but god, are we not speaking the same language?  do you not understand me?

to which god answers more quietly but with great love, schizlops.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


in my grandmother's attic there was a jettisoned pile of old tarps, not plastic but leather.  under the tarps was a trunk.  and in the trunk - well, i'll never know.  but my grandmother locked the attic door and folded up the ladder and carried it with great labour (she was bow legged), out across her yard and into her barn to rest inside the last unused stall, bits of hay or dust nudged aloft in the process and biting at the light in the air, each time she retrieved or placed anything from or into the attic.  this is how i know there are secrets.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

boys in autumn

 i stood by the window waiting for what i had already seen to happen again.  the wind had picked up several yellow leaves and tumbled them to the east down the street like squat toddlers doing comical cartwheels.  the wind did not come again.  instead three teenage boys came from the east and passed svelte and silently to the west.