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Friday, 4 April 2008
A poem to help commemorate National Poetry Month
Topic: poetry
Campbell’s Ledge

From across the Susquehanna
The striated ledge looks
Like a bundle of taut springs
Capable of lobbing a
Volley of boulders
Smack into the floodplain, crumpling
The rail depot
Like a broken toy.
I come the long way around
To be safe.
There’s the trailhead
At the base of the mountain,
Carpeted with sheet metal scraps
And, naturally, coal and cinders
Arranged like scat.
Then comes something of a gate:
A refrigerator frame
Pierced with red maples about my age.
And then comes the climb with a
Vengeance on clay stairs,
More handholds than footholds,
And gusts that could throw you down
As legend says these heights
Threw a man named Campbell,
The only man who knew
If he really made his escape.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 15:56 EDT
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Tuesday, 18 March 2008
Poetry reading Thurs. March 20
Topic: poetry

Though I've got many thoughts rumbling through my brain about the fifth anniversary of the US war against Iraq, and also about comparative trivia like l'affaire Spitzer, I've been concentrating lately on getting my poems together for a reading this Thursday (3/20), 8 pm, at The Mez (a.k.a. House of Hamez, and formerly Daily Perks), 389 Gregory St., corner of Cayuga - in the same building as the Genesee Coop Federal Credit Union, another destination for you. The reading is part of the Free Speech Zone series and is supported by Rochester Poets, organized by Frank Judge.

As you can see below, some of my poems are posted on this blog. Check them out, and send feedback. (Sorry for the unintended double-spacing: it's some accident of computer code, I think. Please advise!)


Posted by jackbradiganspula at 22:26 EDT
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Friday, 4 May 2007
For a wet spring turning sunnier: reminiscences of Pennsylvania
Topic: poetry

The salamanders

Here in the Alleghenies,
Endless, pointless,
You imagine that lifting
One stone will yield
At least one smooth secret.
But salamander habitat
Does not deliver.

Sure, they are here.
But when found, they wriggle
Into the muck, loose
As centipedes -
Or if in hand, they burst
Into the open air
With a power beyond
Their infinitesimal toes,
Plunging back into
The wet and dark,
Rather anywhere
Than with you.

Do they have tongues?
Up in the foreign light
There is no time
For study.
But you have to ask: what about
Their grandfathers,
The yellow spotted giants
Under the overhang
At creekside?
Why won’t they let themselves
Be seen whole, except when blood

motions them to the pools?
Do they excuse you,
Standing on their roof,
Tearing at the shingles,
Grunting as if
You’d found honest work?

Will they welcome you after
The next storm, the next spring,
The new arrangements
Of water and rock?
You hope.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 09:51 EDT
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Friday, 2 February 2007
Poetry, war, memory
Topic: poetry

Here's a poem of mine about violence, and about the generation before last, whose memory I've been trying to retrieve:


Aunt Mamie

Everything happened longer ago
than we think, back when births
were harder than deaths, and louder,
when nightlong labors squeezed
the cries of two still bound together
from the well of one body
while a midwife, exhausted
as by dreams of a nameless future,
clumped the wet bedclothes
like a basket of warm wash
and called for help.

And has anyone seen the doctor, the priest?
Someone has called them. There they stand
in beneficence, the last ones a woman can stomach,
the men who pronounce the release
blessed, who grip the railing
as they would a shoulder or flailing arm,
slow-marching down the stairs
as they toy with the key to a lost lock,
sinning so we are spared.
Mamie had twelve, then buried five
in a single week.
Diphtheria needs no
secret room, or curtains, or candles -
it dances without making the floorboards
creak, it's too, too kind a visitor.
But we can be every bit as polite:
Thank you, dear stranger, we say,
but don't stay past sundown;
we remember the times you crept
out at dawn, the many times
you woke this woman
to make her blind feeling way
down the hall and crack the door,
rest her head against the cool oak,
and stand listening till all memory
of the diseased work was done,
till the breathing
was choked off,
and the bill again presented.




Posted by jackbradiganspula at 23:42 EST
Updated: Friday, 28 March 2008 12:02 EDT
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Tuesday, 27 December 2005
For Tookie Williams
Topic: poetry
For Tookie Williams
dead at the hands of
the People of the State
of California

Portland, OR.
Leave it to the western sky
to steal a scrap from the absolute,
then make good with a display
of soaked evergreens and moss.
No use. For me, these bladed ridgelines
won’t cut cleanly again
until the warmer months.

Days ago to the south,
a governor performed offstage,
and for this a good man,
not pure, but good enough, finally
so unexceptional, was strapped
down and subjected,
as an unbiased source
put it, to a “medical procedure.”
I thought of Socrates’ “beverage,”
and how sacrifice
comes to the table brewed
so strong it must be
taken at once, and in full.
But one man's sentence
is another's crime.

Historical cycles turn
toward collisions, and turn away.
The apparatus of information harvests
more and more dead weight
till the hungry drag it
to barren ground where
it rusts more with every sunset.
Too soon only questions
skitter around the wreck.

Imagine how it was
when the words gave out,
and the governor’s men
boxed the decent man
and finally discharged him.
That’s when I started
hearing metal against metal
and footsteps growing louder,
and when I found myself
newly afraid of echoes.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 14:54 EST
Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2006 10:32 EST
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