Monday, April 6, 2009

Poem by John Alter

Pray tell

tell, let little words swim through this net,

let crepuscular crawfish
crawl through, each

with a
tiny sword & the red badge—pray

a measure of peace, not this beating

ploughshares into swords, this rough weather,

not this shit, not this raw
rough cheating, these

of tin—pray for an affirmation

& not this
nitpicking; a firm footing

not these huge cracks in the pavement. Pray.


I search the library shelves
for poems

written about or
during aerial

Badly disorganized as

if Dewey had
lost his temper or his

Intelligence-seeking missiles will

do that
to a bibliotheque. Books burn.

I reach a place where
only the bottom

of a
perpendicular consonant

remains intact. A young
boy wanders through

the rubble, dragging
Thelonius Monk

along in a
red wagon; they whistle

Crepuscule with Nellie
together. The

ensemble assembles.
Some minor keys,

the body of the bass like a

a voiceless saxophone,
Art Blakey drums

on what remains of what may once
haye been.

William Blake
is the bloke who shuffles

the picture, holding in his hands

what little remains of
the important

questions. If
you must know, he says, it is

only partially like a game

scrabble; you must use
your mind like a pitch-

throw out the old verities, then find

somebody to whom
you can give ashes

of what has not
been imported; forget

what I
have said before about thought &

volition. The
ensemble plays Abide

Me as their answer. Smart bombs whistle.


I used to play the drums
after I failed

to master the classical piano.

What remains
is my affection for Art

I have been known to hear drumming

in the cascade of
waterfalling on

rock. To hear Well, You Needn’t

the song of early morning birds today.


It is
attentive today. Trees, water,

the place where
famous writers congregate

when they are
dead. A library of rock.


Allow me to
underscore that point. Pine

growing up out of granite boulder.

John read this poem, from his book, Hanuman's Home, at the gathering tonight in the Reading Room. Join us there for informal readings on Monday the 13th and the 20th, from 6 to 7.

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