Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Her Slow and Downward Line

This one appeared online in Pedestal. Read it here:

Her Slow and Downward Line

August and morning. Growl and mumble of a tractor
where they´re building those new offices, over
where the old ones burned. Here, breezes in the leaves
and the crickets making up this summer´s entry
on the theme of love and death.

Now the pink is gone, the sky comes into its blue,
first blue. The light seems to come from below the clouds,
which are wispy and scarce. It makes their presence
more like that of bodies, things alive and attentive.
The moon´s still out despite the daylight, halted on her
slow and downward line, yesterday´s moon, no wish
to disappear just yet.

The bus pulls up, a man gets off, it puffs a cloud of
black and lumbers off again, he passes with an
inward face, preoccupied. The milky light of a hot
morning, shadows hide beneath the leaves.

In Memory of Caliban

This was a wild and excellent magazine that kindly gave me space and let me run with the gigantic dogs. It passed away after fifteen issues. I just stumbled on the archives and info on back issues here->

Nothing available online or I would post.

Gargoyle #54 is out

The newest issue of Gargoyle is out with a couple of my pieces; if they end up online in the archives, I'll post them here.

Their mission:

Dedicated to printing work by unknown poets and fiction writers, as well as seeking out the overlooked or neglected.

I had pieces in it years and years ago, some of my very first publications (those are always the most important for the writer, even if they don't look as good now as they did then but what does?)

It seems to have gone into hibernation for a while and then it started up again just recently and now it sounds like the future of the magazine is in doubt.

Visit and investigate here->

Sure Thing Blues

This appeared in Branches Quarterly

Sure Thing Blues

Doves come rushing overhead and gone: a mile away,
a load of cloud is coming, moving fast
and a piece of lightning jumps down out of it in green
and diamond with a purple edge, and a heavy breeze
comes rushing up, the young trees bend and flail
beneath the kind of wind that could make you transparent
if you could stay out there inside it long enough (blue
and heavy now myself: this load of trouble feels
too big for me: maybe I took someone else’s
by mistake again?) Darker now so that white toothpaste dog
that’s climbing wooden stairs to get a better look at the lightning
seems very white this minute but he isn’t really,
it’s just a case of those old semi-cerulean Sunday-twilight
Monday-coming blues: all the leaves are stirring now,
the singers are all territorial and clear, the dogs
forget what they were barking for and suddenly shut up,
a robin on a fat branch sits and stares at me as if to ask me
something but so? Black time is a sure thing now, so
come on rain. If you’re coming, come now.

Poetics, what's a poetics?

If I had one this might be it:

From a radio interview with Gertrude Stein in the Fall 1990 issue of The Paris Review. The interview, conducted by NBC reporter William Lundell, was broadcast on November 12, 1934.

Lundell: But how is the reader supposed to know what you are thinking about?

Stein: The reader does know because he enjoys it. If you enjoy you understand and if you understand you enjoy. What you mean by understanding is being able to turn it into other words but that is not necessary.

2 Things from Diagram: Where I Grew Up and Radio

From Diagram, an electronic journal online with beautiful layouts and visuals. "We describe ourselves as: odd but good." As usual, I'm trying to walk through a comment on the source without falling into the greasy mudpuddles and backscratches and log rolls. Not sure how well I'm doing.

Find them here->

I have a kind of epigraph at the bottom of the page...Kay Ryan says in one of her readings that poems exist as a way to preserve epigraphs and here's another bit of evidence for that.

Before the rain the doors are swollen shut,
arrowheads are sharp beneath the driveways.
Early in the day, a tanker pouring milk
into the river, a fiery cloud came like a lion,
a man fell quickly into darkness
watched by an angel with a blue spear. New shadows
in the rose, lascivious and green. According
to the old folks, one red morning left
before the rain in a sleepy city in a
hundred miles of grass. A heavy sky that
holds away the ragged cold,
the sweetness of lights and signs and faded buildings,
narrow streets that curve away to nowhere,
skinny old ghosts in homemade uniforms
stand waiting for news of surrender,
the bees are asleep in their tubes,
the firemen sing in the crumbling warehouse
that smells of rice and burley, of Monday blues
and blessing, of the river
gets a little older, of the distant curve
of the world is slowly lit from far away,
of an empty box in the road where a man full of nails
is sleeping, of hard hearts and pretty days to come.

Birds investigate inverted flowers, a vacuum
sings at the far end of the hallway
Darwin talks about the violence of the rain
the gizzards of birds, dust from Africa
The guard is asleep in a chair beside
his small murmuring radio
He says the moon rose early, scratched by a knife
He sees a foxglove in a sleeping place
The cat's long legs are slightly curved, she
stretches back on her bones and shuts
her eyes, deep in her pleasure
He mentions the luminous powers
a single leaf, a person fresh from the sea

From a radio interview with Gertrude Stein in the Fall 1990 issue of The Paris Review. The interview, conducted by NBC reporter William Lundell, was broadcast on November 12, 1934.

Lundell: But how is the reader supposed to know what you are thinking about?

Stein: The reader does know because he enjoys it. If you enjoy you understand and if you understand you enjoy. What you mean by understanding is being able to turn it into other words but that is not necessary.

With and Without

A piece that appeared in Massachusetts Review

I'm walking in the everyday (like everyday) and looking
around as I go the way I used to when I was a kid, gathering
things (with my eyes now only) to put in my now
metaphorical pockets and take them out later during
Tedium to examine and starlings (about a handful)
are scattered on a big smooth lawn as if tossed there now
by X (like a hand) that does that kind of thing for reasons
of its own and they, not minding it at all (the lack
of a theory or an explanation) begin as always
to go about their business at once: balancing, watching
with amused & fierce attention whatever there is
to be seen, seeing who can make the best high looney
whistle or fat and juicy chuckle or squeaking sound
and creaking sound Hke Count Dracula's door
coming open, meanwhile stabbing down into the tough
hard mesh of roots and grass, the stems crammed in
together by the dirt that's been so dry, stabbing down
so as to pluck a juicy squirming thing and let it drop
inside their black and boiling inner works...and then
all together and suddenly they rise into the air (as if
to some loud but inaudible clap or bang) and curve away
and vanish all together, taking everything with them.
I find myself staring at their absence the same way
I stare at the very last scene of a dream sometimes,
the only one I stiU have with me on waking, with
a sleepy inability to get it straight what all this is exactly
but feeling no distress at that, some kind of rightness
in fact. Then, after a breath, the ordinary grass
is back again, single-minded now (a thought without
starlings), less green, more dry, more uniform,
more silent, and then almost everything else is back also.

from the Willow Springs Archive

A couple of my pieces are available online in the archive of past issues from Willow Springs, a magazine I'm very grateful to: they kept me going on my strange path with steady encouragement and appreciation over almost a decade.

The archives are here->


A thousand years ago
according to the monks who spent three months
tracing the beak of a jackdaw in miniature
until it had the curve of all the letters on the page
all jammed together in an endless word
the bird was looking at but not reading
suspira named that longing
which would still be there
if every wish were granted
they made it out of suspirare
“to draw a deep breath”
they said it’s like a feather some small bird has lost
it wants to float or drift or rise
but always there’s a weight that comes inside
with every breath and breaks inside and grows inside
like weeds along these disregarded roads
that flower purple, rank, and unimpressed
until they fill and close down every single thing
to banish it, they wrote, breathe
until your ribs are granite
and you float inside your body
like a mote inside an empty church in August
when the sun has made the silence grim and vacant
then imagine dryness
then a dew, then rain, then streams with silver bodies
then big smirking devils, then inside the cloister
wolves and orphans sleeping in a pile
and dreaming of the mirror over everything
then see angels with big oversize hands
tall and skinny in a ruined city, wandering
with sacks for gathering and wind attentive at their heels
then see enemies in armor motionless
then rain again and hickory
then bread, blue ink, a wink of chrome
a sleepy cow’s long glance
a pasture, dew again and spiders
the spiders with beautiful bellies
the one-eyed lady spiders just escaped
from some old Latin grammar
the kind they leave behind in smelly thrift stores
near the broken shoes and old relaxed pajamas
ones that hide a blue name
of some old man or lady little scared and ablative
then tall and smiling fading bending disappearing
now long gone
then see weeds, the kind whose weightless
drifting seeds the small birds love and crave
then one, that floats above the fence and rises trembling
over cities wolves and mirrors, toward a roaring sea
where every wish will go at last

Where the Skin Is

The cold makes it clear where the skin is,
the breath is sweeter going in. When it goes
out, it just keeps going. Trees make shadows
for their own sake. Trouble has no home so
it wanders from person to person. Across the
surface of the road, a veil of moonlight.
Hidden in the grass, the singers make their
urgent sound. It swells and fades. A small
white animal hears movement and runs off deeper
into black. On a motionless machine, the name
New Holland, barely visible. Lights shine red
high up across the city. Roaring spaces come
and go, lit up inside, two riders only, one
at either end. A man is running in the street,
but not from anything. Appearing, then dissolving
then appearing again in the rhythm of black and
lit spaces like imaginary future days. The
tapering bones of the leg, the networks behind
the iris are full of secrets. Strange faces
appear in the clouds sometimes, the world is
older this morning, a morning with none of its
own light yet, no complications, nothing to blur
and entangle. Wild mustard sways in the pastures,
birds change places on the wires, the second
hand makes a faint steady music.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Texts for music

Composers have had fun with some of my things and I've had fun cooperating.

Jon Christopher Nelson has set two poems:

They Wash Their Ambassadors...& The Rain has a slap and a curve

You can find the texts, audio downloads and even a score on his website:

Gustavo Matamoros liked the broken sound of my voice (I had what's called a strider for a while) and based some of his pieces on that. His work is here:

Weeds reviewed

From Raven Chronicles

The Beautiful City of Weeds

Reviewed by Elizabeth Myhr

The Beautiful City of Weeds
by Robert Gregory
Hanging Loose Press,
231 Wyckoff St., Brooklyn, NY. 11217
2005, paper, 118 pages, $15.00

Tranquility of morning, the peace of sidewalk and lawn and neighborhood, of gardens, the high school girl out for a run, a kid in his pajamas on a trike, sun on the leaves, the heat of August and its deep shade too. These are just a few of the subjects in Robert Gregory’s gorgeous and moving book of meditations on the beauty of our homes and streets, our cities. This book is meant as a gift to us: “I’d like to send this city out for the friends and strangers….”

His observations are the observations of a man trained in the sciences as an engineer, thus he gives us complex, highly detailed, and, in the best sense, highly scientific poems, but he is also a musician and his poems are musical as well. To capture his own love of the details of our world, of the musicality of the world and its words, Gregory decided on long, winding lines that turn into long, winding sentences. To read them is to relax into his rhythm and into the subject matter, to slow down, notice, be: “coming out the open door of a tiny record shop / whose owner is dreaming and forgets the time. / Outside the dime store, brownskin men in big loose shirts/and elegant thin shoes stand in the shade together,/ talking languages from home...” (“They Show Themselves (Miami, 1995)”) or “But just ahead on the slippery path,/ white belly pressed against the delicious mud/ a beautiful toad, his tint a brown like/cinnamon,” (“Pointed, Like A Star Drawn by a Careful Child (An August Ode)”).

He feels to me like a writer in that great tradition of scientist/poets that culture has always so consistently produced — despite the (really dull) intellectual wars between the two disciplines that got started during the Romantic period — poet/scientists such as Goethe, the Romantics poets Keats, Byron and Shelley, on into America with William Carlos Williams, our late A.R. Aamons, and many, many others from all over the world. In this tradition Gregory continues with marvelous observation and praise.


Ellizabeth Myhr currently serves as poetry editor for The Raven Chronicles. She is a poet and professional editor. Her poetry has apppeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Stringtown, Knock and other journals. She has received an Artists Trust Gap Grant and serves from time to time as a writer-in-residence at Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington. She has an undergraduate degree in literature from The Evergreen State College and lives in Seattle with her son. She is currently enrolled in the MFA program at Seattle Pacific University.

the chapbooks

Two so far....

Clouds & Green Police (Mudlark)

When It's Your Turn to Be the Sky which formed part of an issue of Willow Springs (#53 Spring 2004).

Reading Mary Ruefle

William Keckler's blog Joe Brainard's Pyjamas pointed me toward Mary Ruefle--someone I should have been reading years ago and am glad to have discovered. Thanks William!

Here's the url for a sample poem from her on

Here's William's blog:

alternate lives

Sometimes when I'm traveling something about a neighborhood or a house caught in a brief glimpse will make me wonder "who would I be if I'd grown up here?" The digital variation on that is to Google your alternate selves. In my case, since my name is pretty common, this turns up some interesting results. I catch glimpses of my other self writing books about the Australian economy or shot dead from ambush in Eastern Kentucky a hundred years ago.

Today's version seems like a bit of a stretch for me but given the combined magical power of labels and of my naivete -- if it says "Robert Gregory" it must be me, that's my name(!) -- I do have a moment of confusion when I see things like this:

A COCAINE baron who ran a drugs ring from his £500,000 Billericay home has been jailed for 13 years.

Drug-dealing "Del Boy" Robert Gregory had a network of traffickers helping him distribute the class A drug across Essex and the East Midlands.