Monday, April 27, 2015

Pre-publication sale on Jonathan Stalling's LOST WAX from Tinfish Press

Poetry in translation is a trust exercise; reader must rely on translator to turn words into other words, while preserving the larger meaning of the original. Jonathan Stalling’s book is for those readers less inclined to trust, and/or for those more fascinated by the playfulness of language(s). In Lost Wax, Stalling presents a sequence of poems about his wife’s work as a sculptor. Those poems are translated into Chinese and back into English by members of a “workshop” of eight fellow translators. Each poem is then presented in a) the original; b) the Chinese; c) the new English version. An additional workshop page illustrates choices made by translators on both sides of the English/Chinese divide. Lost Wax is a marvelous book of poems that also presents an argument for translation as process, as variation. This book, as well as Stalling’s fine introduction, will prove of interest to readers of contemporary American poetry, poetry in Chinese, as well as readers and practitioners of translation.

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Please help us pay our bills by ordering directly from Tinfish Press. List price: $20. Until the books arrive, the price is $16.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


These bloody characters are too dim to let me read it. When in doubt, say settler colonialism. When in doubt, feel guilt. Blood is as much fiction as fiction is. Now that he's knows he's Spanish, he asks what this means. Those late nights dancing salsa in the bathroom, watching your teeth fall out. I am adopted to myself, my scattering impulses gathered like a clutch of birds: Ahuimanu. What would you do with a woman who had no papers, no relatives? How would you run your gas station in the States? Embassy as cage or fortress. The narratives were all myths of abandonment and finding, of ditches and roads and an orphanage that had been a palace. Rooms pulsed with infant cries. Children in school uniforms played soccer. Blood is thicker than blood. It runs in the city of your being found. The news shifts to Bruce Jenner. The body is fiction; soul is not. What we see cannot be defined, but what we are is.

--25 April 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015


O that I could taste it beneath the gall and vinegar! “Deux gaules,” in the secret language of resistance, whispered the fisher of men. He spoke so slowly I understood his French. When Mimi bore her litter of kittens, he drowned them in a bucket. Kittens wrestle at my feet, soft and sharp, like alternating currents. Cardboard on concrete makes a Chinatown bed. Her grandparents dealt in vegetables and porno. What to do with all those reels? Why am I surprised at their white hair? We're told too many penalties will render the laws void, so go easy on those who live in tents by the canal. The homeless are pure cost, lines heavy with gravity. One man sweeps the sidewalk beside his tent; I am leaving a Thai restaurant, where I talked to the author of “The Bodhissatvas of Thrown Away Things.” Mother and aunty carry a pole laden with old clothes and a bunch of bananas. My student asked me what I think “the the” means. A politics of person not idea, of love without absorption, of the simple word. Good night, men; good night, kittens.

--24 April 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015


All transient things are permanent in God. Whether or not this is good news, I cannot say. It gets harder to meditate on the secular value of love when Tom's every sentence includes a higher power. Find and replace. God's farm team eats corn, plays sandlot ball, rides the bus. Was his high slide dirty? Is “dirty” not a strange word in this context? High spikes bite ankles, as kittens do. Their original sin is joy, not harm. His mother called the cops, as he was clutching his Bible and a knife. The cops shot him dead. A row of black men's faces stares at us in the stairwell. We do not see their mothers there. This is the last mistake you're allowed. Turn-about is not fair play, is not play. Dead serious is not a dead metaphor.

--20 April 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Here you learn all patience, love, and contempt of the world. Bryant said Santa comes to houses in Hawai`i through the toilet vents. The meditation box requires pipes; anger is a vortex the equator reverses. Men live in boxes under bridges. The bridge is a structure that connects, is also roof to rooms marked by tents or cardboard. A homeless man under the El noted my Cards cap. El is not God, but offers some measure of mercy. Humans refer to them as the “plague,” but not the steel and stone. Privatize his box, charge him rent, take his papers and his cigarettes. It's illegal to feed him, so slip a burger under his blanket. I take suffering to be counter-miracle, subtraction. Empathy crosses the police tape; the fines add up. Put Jesus in handcuffs, else he might love you.

--19 April 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

60 (take two)

A tree set on fire with invisible flame. The in- before visible is not the in- before flammable. In case of fire, break glass, also invisible in its way. Glass fronts the memory box. One laughed to hear the phrase “glass student.” As a child, I had a see-through plastic woman I opened up. She was like my wooden map of the states when I put each in its place, except they refused my eyes passage. Livermore labs and Heart Mountain were left for later on. He snapped at my “philosophizing,” said he couldn't bear one more minute of it. Meditations, like documents, come in boxes. I have records of emails, attempts at blackmail. You say you have a match, but I have fire retardant. The poem is glass; its edge can frame or it can cut a man.

--18 April 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

59 (second take)

It is the most exalted of all objects. Her name was soul, without the e. She hated it, for it proposed abstraction in lieu of a street address. The philosophical lyric suffers from a lack of smarts embedded in what the little boy calls “road bacon.” Or from an inability to spell, in the sense of spelling a teammate when he cannot breathe. My notes are breaths, the musician says, an interval of air above the line. Upwards of seven teen suicides in Palo Alto, where men in orange vests stand guard. When you lie across parallel train tracks, you make crosses. Crass underbellies of affluence. What we want for them is not to be them. The climates—economic, actual—are in free fall. Where sacred comes out as scared, you can't see beyond the scrim of your adrenaline. Because he couldn't sleep, he read about the shroud of Turin. The coroner knew he'd been on the can just before he died. A beautiful head emerges from the dark pool like a flower. If only his selfie told us where to look for him. The mountains love to death sometimes.

--13 April 2015