Category Archives: Sam Rasnake

Landscape in Graphite on Paper, 3x3x3 by Sam Rasnake

1. Clinch Mountain

He always wanted that long drive up Clinch Mountain
where the thick quilts of trees would bend to
hawk in cloud, the road, a hard gash of

stone and time to the wind, with its slow,
steady rumble of tires on asphalt, and far below,
the soft patchworks of farm, river, town – a twist

of the Norfolk Southern and 58, smaller than dream,
smaller than dust. This is my life, he would
say. The arriving – never as good as the going.
                                                                            – 1974

2. Outer Banks

After a night of winter rain, when the morning’s
deep voice of high tide booms the grey sea –
a relentless Bergman film – to wake the heavy, sunless

sky over stiff tangles of jagged shore with only
the occasional pelican or tern in a cold trough
of long wave to follow – and me, beside an

opened upstairs window, my cup steaming on the table –
one hand to the glass, and with the other
I write, “a view as wide as gifted song”…
                                                                           – 1999

3. Yamada Rōshi Says, “Even the sky must be beaten”

A blue without fracture, blue that is lost – like
the song playing – its rhythm of such blue ache
in her fingers’ rub of steel and wood to

darkness. Blue in this pen as I write, blue
on the cover of James Merrill’s Night and Day.
The poet is dead – still his words breathe when

I tongue them aloud in my truck, driving west –
but my truck is red. Everything falls away. I’d
thought the sky to be empty. I was wrong.
                                                                           – 2007


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Postcards, the Attic Cabinet by Sam Rasnake

To Duchamp

There are no tapestries here,
no weaving, no nights spent
undoing empires worth saving

We are glass & tubes & gears
that grind the wheels that turn
under a metal veil streaming

as if a single life – forgotten or
remembered – could be forged
in a blast of sand and steel

– New York, 1913


Ssshhh – Don’t tell anyone. I’m outside the hotel room
where Chet Baker died. What made him think he could fly?
I bribed the bellboy to let me in to see the window.
My fingers against the cool glass – the city, a cluster
of lights waiting for dawn, and suddenly I feel wings –
I swear – opening from both my shoulders.
See you soon. Maybe –

– 1994

To Buson

One crow walks the roof of a blue Mustang, speaks
to the sky, to nothing, speaks to hear his own voice
when it falls against gravel – Surely this winter,
from its wild and lonely places, will cover the hard
world in a breath, a shadow, in a moving on the wind.
He must know something, then hops down, disappears –

– 2006


– for Edmund Kohler

The dust is everything. All times between
living and the dead blur to nothing, to one
foot in front of the other, to a slice of raw
potato, and water that hints at tea.

You should see this place. Dark hallways
with wrecked doors, empty stairwells where
music is silence. A broken city – Piles of
rubble here and here and here. So many.

– 1947


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Deep Things by Sam Rasnake

I’ve mowed the grass again,
making the cardinal’s life
an easier settlement.

Worms groove the ground
in soft silence,
oblivious to the inevitable.

The astilbe readies itself
for a wet night.
Overhead, motors grind

through orange clouds. A rabbit
practices her own
hard philosophy,

reads the fence line
as prologue to sky.
Crickets deep the bladed green

in a clot of honeysuckle air.
We’re all shadows here.
My love for you is dark.

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Strange Fruit by Sam Rasnake

Strange Fruit by Sam Rasnake

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,          
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck

                                                                           — Billie Holiday

Her voice sounds like
the moon must look
through trees in winter,
and when she sings,

the wind blots over
the burned out nebulae
of her head so no one
can see her fall

until the song is through,
until the song does her in.
She sounds like scars
that bleed over the moon’s face,

leaving their cold reminders
for fanciful pairs of eyes
to pause from love
just long enough to take them in.

            – first published in Pudding Magazine

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I Went Out to the Hazel Wood… by Sam Rasnake

The party was extended. How do you believe? I haven’t a clue. Why are all these voices in my head, and what do they want of me? If we knew that, the price would surely go up. Don’t you agree? And aren’t you clever for saying to yourself that you are stronger than Cheez-Its. How big of you. That, of course, was your first mistake. Not believing that you, the great hero of Scotland, with a weakness for the black arts, would, in fact, forgo sleep for just the thought of greatness – how it feels in your blood, how it gives you a rush, bringing all your fluids to boil. How’s that for theme? You’re confused? So be it. What you do is the future, and there’s no turning back now, regardless of who comes for you. Why – you wouldn’t even hurt a fly – now would you. No, of course not. And that’s their first mistake. You are the conqueror worm, and will outlast us all. You’re beautiful. Magnificent. Your eyes are gold. And did I say genius? Well let me say it then. Gold, yes. Now open your lips. How we move from here to there – in silence – until the moment shows itself, and the next thing you know, you say what we say, do what we do – one thought, one hand on the latch, then click, you’re inside. Or is it we? Who can say.

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