Sunday 12 June 2016

Swallows and Waves by Paula Bohince (Sarabande, 2016)

Some favourite passages from this book of lyric poems on "scroll paintings and woodblock prints from Japan's Edo period, which spanned 1603-1868": 

She from the spent cushion
grasps his clothing, not
to keep him but to indicate pleasure-
given loyalty.

from "Lover Taking Leave of a Courtesan"

sweet longing becomes inflected
with song.

from "Hibiscus and Korean Nightingale"

                                             How cool
the light in this region of no awe. Welcome
middle register: sane, calm.

end of "Sparrows and Camelia"

A boatman reclines on the roof
and smokes. In mist, he is invisible,
swept along, an absent-
minded god.

from "Riverboat Party"

Adrenaline mixes with caution, ready
to ride toward what is destined. What molten gold
feels before it's poured into the ring mold.

end of "Young Samurai on Horseback"

Water holds blueness not much longer. Death
will costume it in its color, and the honking of geese
will give voice to its grieving.

end of "Descending Geese at Katana"

As imitation bends toward knowledge, so pleasure
becomes a version of love. 

from "Courtesan with Her Attendant"

A cricket on the pampas grass
outside wants in. Plotting its escape
from what looks like freedom.

end of "Crickets, Cafe, and Flowers"

admissions, the wilderness
of another breached, known.

from "Lovers in the Snow"

against a camouflage of like-minded flowers, the yellows
and green work to keep him hidden,
safe in imagination, before the world gallops in, offering
promises of glory, real swords and real horses.

end of "Boy Dancing with a Hobby-Horse"

Monday 6 June 2016

Jelly Roll by Kevin Young (Knopf, 2003)

Some favourite passages:

If only I'd read

the moss on the tree!
instead of shaking

it for fruit--

from "Cakewalk"

You burn me
at both ends, send

the geese bumping
within my skin.

end of "Jitterbug"

Your bordeaux dress

uncorked, let's
breathe awhile

from "Boogaloo"

...your noisy

O the brass of your body!

sliding, trombone-

from "Break"

O the far-flung
morning, a moon

still among it!

from "Calypso"

Lady, you are my Mobile,
Alabama--lowdown & too hot

for human habitat--

opening of "Ramble"

Drive until sun stares
me down. Radio & the cicadas

with their static wings--
I am singing

to myself again.

opening of "Saxophone Solo"

Tonight even the storm

cannot calm me.

from "Slide Guitar"

Outside azaleas bloom loud
& red like ambulances

rushing to save someone
or at least try.


Lights out--
we navigate

the colding house,
feel for matchbooks

which you save
to bring light, I

to remember where
I been.


Ice turns even
the trees heavy

& helpless, all
morning falling--

a song of breaking--
winter & plunder.

from "Pastorale"

...take down

the tarnished stars, my breath
will shine them up new. 

from "Cotillion"