Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Franz Wright


The universe is mostly made of thought,
a few weirdly simple mathematical formulas
known and still unknown.

Sentient beings are numberless
and I promise to save them,
when you are old and I am a story.

It is all contained
in a few words
written and unwritten.

Winter, thank God. I will wander
from room to room, window to window,
a fictional person gazing at fictional skies.

Thirteen Lines

Beware, beware
the booky wood;
beware abrupt attack
by large packs
or ravenous back-scratchers:
I don’t even know what that means.
Moth light, north night;
March skies,
future goodbyes.
Fate and its opposite,
hope. Her
ruined bird’s nest hair.
That’s better.

Franz Wright's Earlier Poems, comprising the complete texts of his first four books, is now available from Knopf.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cynthia Arrieu-King

Prime Numbers

I loved that they were indivisible.
Unlike brothers. Unlike bodies.

The white horizon flat with elements
standing arms akimbo, daring to be split.

But more and more in looking at
their curves, every week I was being divided,

sent to one side of a white fence, re-arranged.
In the end, little accounted for the idea of them.

Why did prime numbers come when they did?
How could one amount of beans, or pins,

be a permanent army, all of them so easily
grouped with one captain, Number One.

Pliers could clip, or a knife split things.
But oh, putative kingship. Was there

any limit to their wide yards, bordered
by stones? I wished we could go there.


Gripped in crevasses, under blue disguises
the mountaineers all shrink like ants.

They sprinkle, black pepper across white.
Back home they argue the person who drew the mountain

ringed by stars, tacked to movies, was drawing out a figment.
An argument went that it came from a mind.

Or that it was Mount Madeup from the Bogus Range.
And one person said, actually it's Artisonraju.

There was a free element of wanting to be
correct, lapsing like time. Another person claimed

it was an image of his mountain in Switzerland, distorted.
Another person claimed it's the east face of Artisonraju,

without proof. An endless line of crampon marks claiming
it was a memory, no it's Mount Ben Lomond, no I

climbed where the sun throws rays down hard, no
the mind's a white negligee frozen over everything.

No pigment ferments. A conglomeration of Utah
and mind enlarging the chance of not needing

actual earth. "A horse" sounds green to the blunt
intention of the actual. Artisonraju. Congruent to what?

Cynthia Arrieu-King is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Cincinnati and an echocardiographer. Her chapbook The Small Anything City won the Dream Horse Press National Chapbook Contest in 2006. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Diagram, Pilot Poetry, Hotel Amerika, Forklift Ohio, etc.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Xiao Kaiyu

Recalling a Dream

The dot of midnight, I've just gone to bed,
when I meet a quick-witted carpenter.
His back pilots me through a copse,
we enter a hill village, its silent darkness.
                                           There's a scented lamp.

The old sort, young but white-haired,
his workshop is still an extraordinary expanse.
His axeblade alters all things, makes all things ideal.
When we change, it's sudden.

I sit on a stone stool,
skirted with silk-like folds –
revolutionaries arresting
heat, the perfumed capitalist.

A man and a crowded floor's obedient stones.
His intricate, finely carved danger
intrudes on our ultimate restricted zone.
Blood, then urine stop; he says sorry and smiles.

Stones with white hair, the craftsman's house...
His mouth sends a whistle up the slope. I turn round
before the dream becomes a problem,
the air whirling with milk.

Coastal Highway

As if one dubious afternoon, a car breaks down,
and the traffic slows to a stop, as if that's what it always does.
A nearby wheat field, some grassy ground, a farmer and a foal,
a white sail far out to sea, as if always, always this remote.
I swallow my surprise, my skewered-together doubts.

Xiao Kaiyu was born in 1960 in Sichuan province, China, has published several volumes of poetry, spent a number of years in Germany and now lives in the central Chinese city of Kaifeng.

Alistair Noon (translator) is poetry editor of Bordercrossing Berlin, coordinates the annual Poetry Hearings festival in Berlin and translates from German, Russian and Chinese.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Jake Adam York


A map of the county involves a crayon and a sunken town, a snakehandler, a boyscout, a television left on in an empty room. A map of the county’s drawn on the bathroom wall of an abandoned gas station two towns over, stained with tobacco and snuff. Or tattooed or ballpoint scrawled on someone’s hand. A map of the county’s torn in pieces gathering moonlight in the pliant grass. It sounds like water in the breeze. A map of the county has a river in its crease, something illegible where the page is scored.

The ramshackle clouds, oblique in its abandoned roadbed beneath the levee, swarmed with what look like children in the moments they still, truant flies authority would grasp. Foredawn, when even the light is poor, tired lights descend from the tar-and-gravel, decrepit comets that dream some mossy ground, and a silhouette unfolds from the meteorite door, a gravity in its arm. And through the cloud, up the soft pine steps, cut nails groaning as for coffee. Within, the scene is entropy, everything is winding down. From the bag, greasy with half-light, a ham in a net, a moon he hangs on a hook. Children gather to drag their scraps of biscuit in eclipse.

A boy stands in a pool of boy, thin pole raised, line disappearing in the early sky. The river’s mother’s hair pulled along his legs, straw and dandelion seed schooling from the net, spiderweb anemone, silt silk in his toes. If he digs harder, roots, flood-smooth rocks, catfish bone. Clouds watermark the plate-metal morning. He pulls heron, he pulls swallow, he pulls starling and redwing blackbird. His willow creel’s a sing.

The grandmother blows his tea till leaves sprawl, backward constellations, in the cup. This one is a fox, she says, something stealing into town. A blind man watches, rifle in his hand. The chicken coop is noise to ignore, the footsteps minor quiets, and he’s distracted by the crash of grackles in the naked canopy. An iceberg boats downriver, a preacher poling it from the shoals. God, he says, is cold to our indifference. His sermon drifts into the hollows and coves and sets up stills in winter gardens where revivals spread. A stonemason stacks a tower on the bluff where converts dive to salvation’s channel. She tells the boy to stay away from cold, and church, then pours him another cup of tea. When she drinks, he sees the future in her teeth.

Jake Adam York is the author of Murder Ballads (Elixir 2005) and A Murmuration of Starlings (Southern Illinois University Press 2008). Now an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, York edits Copper Nickel with his students. For more information, visit his website.