Bluff City, Tennessee, USA, February 2022

A poetry project: three poems, excerpted…. 



I’ll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don’t know
I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you’re home

                        – The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967


  1. Give Me Your Hands

Trident, London, 1972

The life electric in the street
beside K West keeps all its glitter
and flesh intact for a world of
pastels and feathers – “like a
slow voice on a wave of phase,”
Ziggy sang – while the stars,
anchored to their darkness,
tremble and moan with
the music’s dip and surge



  1. Same as It Ever Was

         Talking Heads, Compass Point,

New Providence, July 1980

Unless we cook the moment –
unless the melody attacks itself
and words eat the stories they tell
– knowing we’ve never arrived is
how it must begin – so how can we
know when we get here – or there
if you can tell any difference at all –
wherever they may be, but that’s not
as real as how are we going to stay



  1. Body of Sorrow

Berlin, 1987

In the ruined bar of the Hotel
Esplanade, Potsdamer Platz,
with its angels, its trapeze artists –
this must be how the living
haunt the dead – Nick Cave finds
forever in his voice scratching
against the bodies in the room
and the lives they do not live,
in the silence hidden at the core



  1. Voices

Tie yourself to me

                        – P.J. Harvey, September 1993

The haunts of crossing a desert
of city-time and small talk – all
that necessary obliging for the
expected life – are never prepared
for the slicked-back grit and certainty
of a woman whose time has come,
whose voice is found, whose world
she makes alone, whose only need
is the next word she tongues



  1. Please

            St. Vincent, 2017

From martyrs in leather to
exotic colors of the mouth –
her words are otherworldly,
a guide for the bump & grind
under storms of light to burn
the brain while the fuzz tightens
its rage – and the bend of fingers
on steel strike the hypno closing
for all the stories in our blood




Begin with the Song

the first words hidden along
the irresistible edges of rocks
find their way to the sea then

a bowl of drunken haze leaving
whispers only for the cave with
its promises of greatness but none

can match the woman who has
the world’s story in her fingers
has the will to shape it this way

or that each night for as long as
it takes it will take everything
she is unlike the blundering man

who wouldn’t know the words
if you tongued them into his ear
all he will remember is the tongue




Things to Carry

There is never any end. There are always new sounds

            to imagine; new feelings to get at.”

                                    – John Coltrane

Coltrane makes “A Few of My Favorite Things” his
own – a signature sound – leaving far behind its dog’s
bite, and its bee’s sting. He does carry a grief in every
note that fills his body, then spreads toward all the outer

edges. A translation? the world is dark – play through
the darkness. I can give some of mine – favorite things –
but I have no translation. The cold Yellowstone Prong
rushing over rock to falls in the Graveyard Fields. October

wind through stands of timber along Crawford Notch
in the deep mountains of New Hampshire. The bark
of geese following the river’s cut. Hummingbird wings
over a hanging pot of mandevilla. 3 AM, the other end

of the line from Mary’s voice – delicate, focused, almost
a whisper – when we were young. I still hear that voice.
A child in puzzled conversation with invisible friends.
Music on a Chicago station – the radio under my pillow.

Near Cape Point, the tide crashes into sand with the call
of gulls, fishing lines in surf, red drum on the move. By
an upstairs window, the chair’s steady creak and glide
in early summer – no deadlines looming, no place to be.

Waves lapping at empty boats in the harbor. Playing guitar,
the delay’s warm wow and flutter as it decays – as it decays.
Soup simmering on the stove, the ceiling fan’s steady whir, or
a train’s horn at the crossing, miles away, long after midnight.

Songs from the pear trees – the Towhee, Brown Thrasher, and
Goldfinch. The silence of heavy snow falling, covering my world
in a slow, impossible goodness, while inside, wood crackles on
the irons, telling its stories to the room in perfect tongues of

blue-orange grace – each tale a gift to carry into the darkness.


Poet’s commentary: 

With a musical composition or song, the rhythm and melody move in waves across one another. Likewise, with poetry – particularly recognizable when read aloud – the voice and words move together, creating their own music, complete with motion, rising and falling of pitch, inflection, and so on. Recently, I’ve been working with poems centered on music either relative to image, content, or background. When writing these poems, music was constantly playing as inspiration and was essential while writing “Mirrors” – since I’m attempting to capture the similar though varied styles and personas of different singers. For “Begin with the song,” in addition to Homer’s The Odyssey as source, this photo of mine, taken at Cape Hatteras a few years ago after a winter storm, became the foundation for writing the poem.



Sam Rasnake has published work in WigleafSouthern Poetry Anthology, Poets Artists and Bending Genres Anthology 2018 / 2019. He has served as a judge for the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of Cinéma Vérité (A-Minor Press) and World within the World (Cyberwit).