Thursday, January 17, 2013


Claude Monet, “The Bodmer Oak,” 1865

Oak oak! like like
it then
      cold some wild paddle
so sky then;
flea you say
“geese geese” the boy
June of winter
of again
Oak sky

        —Joseph Ceravolo, “Drunken Winter” (The Green Lake Is Awake: Selected Poems, 1994)

                “We have,” said Mencius, “but phenomena.”
monumenta. In nature are signatures
        needing no verbal tradition,
oak leaf never plane leaf. John Heydon.

        —Ezra Pound, out of “Canto LXXXVII” (Section: Rock-Drill, 85–95 de los cantares, 1956)

                                                                            . . . rimmed with suns
apothecary realms sift back and the adjusted vault strikes oak
till told in fires between the seas a green poke comes to root . . .

        —Clark Coolidge, out of “Ex Libris Prospero” (The Book of Stirs, 1998)

                                            . . . Hue
gait a day—by new
sill a rose pause seen—
nape—horse whose tizzied head
O my—lip own anatomy
the oak I. Trivial uttered
hard to stand under . . .

        —Louis Zukofsky, out of “A”-23 (“A”-22 & -23, 1975)

What if the discovery is only that
office tower covered in felt the green inevitably dropped
angling for birds reformed with e.g. valley stiffed by a bell
and skywalks linking the trapeze with the year-round
in situ first pearled, vieux tub of the fort year
produced in quantity as oak trees flush
Wings So. endless nights a kite no a Walloon.

        —Charles North, out of “Elegiacal Study” (Leap Year: Poems 1968-1978, 1978)


Lion’s shin, oak-limb, tomb:
all acquire
a hundred years’

a winter’s pelt—bones

that ‘being
striken one against

break out
like fire

& wax greene’.

        —Ronald Johnson, out of “The Oak of the Maze” (The Book of the Green Man, 1967)

A sheer loops in and berries bead
the oak’s sticky lofts: twittering
blooms a dense stippling, a burn

that eases off with settling, but
just then before dusk's blurs,
a loaded twig snaps and the whole

sheet ripples in report;
the black sheer unfurls and swirls
away to fold into night elsewhere.

        —A. R. Ammons, “December Starlings” (Brink Road, 1996)

            . . . There was no life you could live out to its end
And no attitude which, in the end, would save you.
The monkish and the frivolous alike were to be trapped in death’s capacious claw
But listen while I tell you about the wallpaper—
There was a key to everything in that oak forest
But a sad one . . .

        —John Ashbery, out of “The Ecclesiast” (Rivers and Mountains, 1966)

What an oak! the immense expanses of silver,
and the green river below, trembling in rocks,
each leaf like a Russian farmhouse at night
in the Adirondacks where we fed the fox.

And the melancholy oaks have no disease,
they are simply fragile from being bigger,
their leaves like feet hanging in whitewashed air.
The air is calm as a pencil . . .

        —Frank O’Hara, out of “Sneden’s Landing Variations”
        (The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara, 1971)

An orange and blue box of Poulain chocolate
Is what I think of often
As I sit just outside the late afternoon sunlight—
I see it in another light
Sitting on a brown oak or something table,
Maybe a white kitchen one,
And when I reach out for it
My hand touches it
And I pick it up

        —Ron Padgett, “Poulain” (Great Balls of Fire, 1969)

How about an oak leaf
if you had to be a leaf?
Suppose you had your life to live over
knowing what you know?
Suppose you had plenty of money

“Get away from me you little fool.”

Evening of a day in early March,
you are like the smell of drains
in a restaurant where paté maison
is a slab of cold meat loaf
damp and wooly. You lack charm.

        —James Schuyler, “Poem” (Collected Poems, 1993)

Your lover will be guilty of murder & you will turn her in.
Sometimes I’d like to take off these oak leaves and feel
        like an ordinary man.
You get older the more you remember. And one lives, alone,
        for pure courtship, as
To move is to love, & the scrutiny of things is merely syllogistic.

        —Ted Berrigan, out of “My Tibetan Rose” (The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan, 2011)

WRITER: This is all in defense of our story
READER: And of the room in which we first read it, with faded water stains on
                   the wallpaper, and a daddylonglegs on the curtain at the window
                   beyond which the blue-black oak leaves quietly dripped with fog
                   It is day and night both and we are alive

        —Lyn Hejinian, out of A Border Comedy (2001)

The man of law
        on the uses
                of grief

The poet
        on the law
                of the oak leaf

        —Lorine Niedecker, “The man of law” (Collected Works, 2002)

The Truth—is stirless—
Other force—may be presumed to move—
This—then—is best for confidence—
When oldest Cedars swerve—

And Oaks untwist their fists—
And Mountains—feeble—lean—
How excellent a Body, that
Stands without a Bone—

How vigorous a Force
That holds without a Prop—
Truth stays Herself—and every man
That trusts Her—boldly up—

        —Emily Dickinson, “#780” (The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, 1960)

I’m here in the land of sunbeams and
silk oak.

Very easy. But heavy
on the initials.

        —Barbara Guest, out of “Tessera” (Fair Realism, 1989)

            . . . the kiss
of oak leaves—

He who has kissed
a leaf

need look no further—
I ascend

a canopy of leaves

and at the same time
I descend

for I do nothing

        —William Carlos Williams, out of Spring and All (1923)

Hard to imagine that no one counts,
                                                                      that only things endure.
Unlike the seasons, our shirts don’t shed,
Whatever we see does not see us,
                                                              however hard we look,
The rain in its silver earrings against the oak trunks,
The rain in its second skin.

        —Charles Wright, out of “Scar Tissue II” (Scar Tissue, 2006)

The Imagination is not a State: it is the Human Existence itself
Affection or Love becomes a State, when divided from Imagination
The Memory is a State always, & the Reason is a State
Created to be Annihilated & a new Ratio Created
Whatever can be Created can be Annihilated Forms cannot
The Oak is cut down by the Ax, the Lamb falls by the Knife
But their Forms Eternal Exist, For-ever. Amen Halle[l]ujah

        —William Blake, out of Milton (c. 1811)

Is that an oak leaf or a hawk?

Actually it's Originalism
as practiced by the polka-playing,
potato pancake-shredding
beeristas of Bear Mountain

        —Ange Mlinko, out of “Trolling Dark” (Shoulder Season, 2010)

The audacity of the lower gods—
whatever we name we own.
Diversiloba, we say, unfolding poison oak.
Lovers go untouched as we lean from bay windows
with telescopes trained on a yellow sky.

I'd rather let the flowers
keep doing what they do best.
Unblessing each petal,
letting go a year's worth of white
death notes, busily unnaming themselves.

        —Yusef Komunyakaa, out of “Audacity of the Lower Gods”
        (Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, 1993)

There is a new German 50 pfennig postage stamp (a grapheme
            to be paid for and cancelled)
That shows a chapel and an oak tree
And the oak tree looks like a picture of Hitler.
Graphemes should not be looked at so minutely. The
Forest for the trees. The kisses for the love. The
Oakman grows behind every chapel.
The fine
Print on the contract.
God gives us that. The Bundespost Reichsminister says that the
            issue will continued. “I know what I designed and it’s
            not a countenance of Hitler. It doesn’t speak very well for
            the German people if they see Hitler everywhere.”

        —Jack Spicer, out of “Grahemics”
        (My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, 2008)

                        The poem
is about what,
even it asks.
Anthropomorphized, grinning
like a big oak tree.

        —Ron Silliman, out of “What” (The Alphabet, 2008)