The Brooklyn Rail


All Issues
JULY/AUG 2023 Issue



Small ones from the 96th St. crosstown bus

to be boarded if the aggressively cantilevered building

racing to enclose the sky over Broadway the way Enclosure

invaded England as early as the 12th century

is the world view.

Doucement por favor.


for Barbara Friedman

Slept in


"In the pro" tranche

End Around
Tense as an asterisk
risky as a ballpoint pen
pensive as Chopin
(pangs) rare as Cage (missing)
Sing, Muse, of the disconsolate past tense

Scare Quotes
It isn't "brushed"

O Muse of Typographical Errors
(grace notes in her medium-length, wavy, reddish-brown hair)

Do Sycamores Shiver in October
Picked not quite clean
like the carcasses along the twisting Taconic

Hebrides #2 which must be 1954? Thinner than endive.

Silk root

Homage to Morton Feldman
The Selmer A and Bb clarinets in my life

End Around 2
Ode to winter
turning (leave some air!)
mares' tails over the pebbly road

The Noisome (Silver) Bay
Of quality

Two Gargoyles Take a P.M. Walk
Whether quoins are an embrace
or sentries in the thickening air

Mere Alcohol
A one-horse town

The Stale World
Call back


Elegance? Give it a chokehold.
And while you're at it
Sit rhyme down and pour it a double latte.
Otherwise who knows what it will be up to.
—Paul Verlaine

These wraiths, or are they women, how to hold onto them?
—Stéphane Mallarmé

Drink, sleep, die—you need to save yourself from yourself
In any way that's humanly possible.
—Oscar Vladislas de Lubic Milocz

Where are the old sorrows
The ones from last year that I barely remember?
If someone came in right now to ask what is it,
Is anything the matter,
I'd say I'm all right just leave me alone.
—Francis Jammes

The scrawny afterlife, black with its gold trim
—Paul Valéry

What's going on on the pier? In French. Merci.
Bonjour. Adieu.
It must be getting late.
Here comes the robin who sings to me.
Blacksmith's hammers in the distance.
The water laps. A stertorous steamer.
Enter one fly. In and out breath of the sea.
—Victor Hugo

I need to go higher I can still see
The stockbrokers in their granny glasses,
The critics and the spinsters,
The realists with their red faces.
Higher still. Farther. Blue air.
Wings! I need wings!
—Théodore de Banville

The honeysuckle breath of their beds
—Alphonse de Lamartine

O I loved a lizard shedding its skin
Loves the sun that roasts it while it lies sleepily...
Love between us beating its wings...Hey!
You! Get out of my sunlight!
—Tristan Corbière

I'm smoking, spreadeagled, nothing but night sky
On top of the coach,
Jostled at every turn, my soul dancing
Like some Ariel—
My beautiful soul in its dance, no honey or gall,
O roads and little hills, O smoke, O valleys—
My beautiful soul, all we once had!
—Jules Laforgue

Translations by the author


Grief doesn't have all the answers

yes or no.

Nothingness that trio sonata

across the leafy street with the four o'clocks

simmer down.


5/18. (5:10 AM). Not such a strange time to be up when you
think about it. Not littered (not all there, but what is).

5/29. What do window treatments really know? However Edward
Hopperish or even Vermeerish.

6/2. Dizzy Trout, Harry (The Cat) Brecheen, Hippo Vaughan,
Rabbit Maranville, Moose Skowron, Goose Goslin, Ducky
Medwick, Catfish Hunter.

Fenton Mole!

6/3. A messy day not sloppy. Almost no room
anywhere—clouds, hedges, paint, captions, etc.

6/6. The heartfelt peonies and their unavoidable connection
to the inner life. The paint thins out the closer you get.
Paper, some posterboard—unlike thought and its thin bed
(romaine, leaf lettuce, spinach). Restless as a side street
or the thinly quilted afternoon wondering (obsessing?) about
coffee and whether to have an early dinner rather than wait
till after the movie. The mourning dove underneath the A/C
practicing the tune, how hard can it be.

6/9. A Renaissance Progress. Make it a Convoy.

6/10. All the reds including blood oranges to give a hint of
the future which isn't that far away. You have the right to
remain unlike anything nameable or not. Freight elevator
with faux brass paneling, the afternoon of the coleus,
superhero chess piece (knight) with folded cape and
surprisingly heavy boots.

6/21. Stadium lights by 6:00.

6/23. How do you know it hasn't ended already? (How would
you know if it had?) Snoop the cat has a leg up on
dream-time. The orange hawk—more of same—came back along
with its hand-painted background, barely visible through
soot streaking the window pane. Quivers in her sleep. Waltz?
Polonaise? Mazurka??



Charles North

Charles North's recent books include Everything and Other Poems (The Song Cave, 2020), which was named a N.Y. Times New and Noteworthy Book, and En Face (MAB Books, 2021), a collaboration with the artist Trevor Winkfield. News, Poetry & Poplars (poems + selected prose) is due this fall from Black Square Editions.


The Brooklyn Rail


All Issues