O True Illusion

Telling the truth, one slant piece at a time……


A poem hot off the presses – Greywolf Press, specifically….

August 4, 2014
There was a saint once,
he had but to ring across
water a small bell, all

manner of fish
rose, as answer, he was
that holy, persuasive,

both, or the fish
perhaps merely
hungry, their bodies

a-shimmer with
that hope especially that
hunger brings, Read the rest of this entry »


Best for Prayer

A Selection from John Donne’s “A Hymn to Christ, at the Author’s Last Going Into Germany”

Churches are best for prayer, that have least light ;
To see God only, I go out of sight ;
And to escape stormy days, I choose
An everlasting night.

(full poem beneath the cut) Read the rest of this entry »

What unnameable would throw this….

The Angel of the Annunciation, Fra Angelico

Gate 134

By Peter Cooley

July 15, 2014

What unnameable would throw this on the floor,
noon refracted through blue windows
here, Newark Airport, first day of summer,
my flight cancelled, no new flight in sight—

this slice of cerulean, unwavering, clear blue
more indescribable for never being asked for?
It’s mine, this hue Fra Angelico could pull
out of a virgin’s gown, one of his sacred families.

Everyone passing has somewhere else to go,
I think, since no one else comes to share this.
An hour, two, all afternoon, I stare
but see no Christ, no Mary, just gold leaf

such as the Masters inscribed about their figures,
such as I have encircled in these words,
trying to pretend I hold down the world—
as if words could fixate the blue in place

if I can keep renaming it…azure,
cobalt, robin’s egg, azure—names I still don’t know—
blue which, as I speak, begins to waver,
heaven-bound? or pooling? night’s first shadows.

The Hesitance of April

On this earth what makes life worth living:
the hesitance of April
the scent of bread at dawn
an amulet made by a woman for men
Aeschylus’s works
the beginnings of love
moss on a stone
the mothers standing on the thinness of a flute
and the fear of invaders of memories.

On this earth what makes life worth living:
September’s end
a lady moving beyond her fortieth year without losing any of her grace
a sun clock in a prison
clouds imitating a flock of creatures
chants of a crowd for those meeting their end smiling
and the fear of tyrants of the songs.

Mahmoud Darwisch

Better To Marry Than To Burn

Better to Marry Than to Burn

Home, then, where the past was.
Then, where cold pastorals repeated
their entreaties, where a portrait of Christ
hung in every bedroom. Then was a different
country in a different climate in a time when
souls were won and lost in prairie tents. It was.
It was. Then it was a dream. I had no will there.
Then the new continent and the new wife
and the new language for no, for unsaved,
for communion on credit. Then the daughter
who should’ve been mine, and the hour a shadow
outgrew its body. She was all of my failures,
my sermon on the tender comforts of hatred
in the shape of a girl. Then the knowledge
of God like an apple in the mouth. I faced
my temptation. I touched its breasts with
as much restraint as my need allowed,
and I woke with its left hand traced again
and again on my chest like a cave wall
disfigured by right-handed gods who tried
to escape the stone. It was holy. It was fading.
My ring, then, on my finger like an ambush,
as alive as fire. Then the trees offered me a city
in the shape of a word followed by a word
followed by a blue madonna swinging from
the branches. A choir filed out of the jungle
singing hallelujah like a victory march and it was.

Anne Frank’s High Heels

Anne Frank’s High Heels
Miep managed to snap them up for 27.50 guilders. Burgundy-colored 
suede and leather  …    
 — Anne Frank, Tuesday, August 10, 1943

When Miep took us home with her
She held us up in the air,

Eye-level with those eyes
You may know, eyes spelling

Sorrow-girl, wait-for-me,

One-day, hurry-back, don’t-tell.
Two new hands took us in,

Skin cradling skin.
How empty we had been,

Only a little bit worn —
Not a penny, not a pebble

Dwelling within.
We became an altar,

An offering red as wine,
A wishing well.

She was made to carry us
Near and far,

We were made to bear
The pressure of her feet

In darkness, in light,
Their sweetness, their heat.

We were getting used to her.
Miep calls us a handsome pair.

But, I, too want to be a poet

By Fanny Howe

But I, too, want to be a poet
and live a virtuous life
To erase from my days
confusion & poverty
fiction & a sharp tongue! Read the rest of this entry »

The land of the stranger

Sally Mann, of course

The land of the stranger, the serene land


As with you, there is a land at the border of a land within me,
filled with you, or with your absence.

I do not know the songs you cry as I walk in your mist.
Let the land be what you gesture toward, and what you undertake.

God speaks to each of us

From Rilke’s Book of Hours, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me. Read the rest of this entry »


Eve, Marc Chagall



God unpoured the wine out of Eve

to create delay, the gap between wanting
and the wanted.

Before, with the wine pouring through her,
desire for touch blazed simultaneous with touch, flame to flame.Desire

My desire lags, without speech.
Mute, a weight in my eyes, a whistling cavern in my knees.

Your desire will be to your husband and he will rule over you.

God unpoured the wine out of Eve and the birds began yearning.

A woman desires her husband as the rain wants the earth
to need it, as my transgressions hope I will seek them, as God wants me to pray.

I have been told
that force has no significance. No soul moves by force.

What I want will not come to me just because I desire it.
I have been told that I cannot force.

I don’t know how this will end.

God unpoured the wine out of Eve. I don’t know the end to this story.