Monday, November 7, 2016

1960 - Billy Collins

In the old joke, the marriage counselor
tells the couple who never talks anymore
to go to a jazz club because at a jazz club
everyone talks during the bass solo.
But of course, no one starts talking
just because of a bass solo
or any other solo for that matter.
The quieter bass solo just reveals
the people in the club
who have been talking all along,
the same ones you can hear
on some well-known recordings.
Bill Evans, for example,
who is opening a new door into the piano
while some guy chats up his date
at one of the little tables in the back.
I have listened to that album
so many times I can anticipate the moment
of his drunken laugh
as if it were a strange note in the tune.
And so, anonymous man,
you have become part of my listening,
your romance a romance lost in the past
and a reminder somehow
that each member of that trio has died since then
and maybe so have you and, sadly, maybe she.

“1960” by Billy Collins from The Rain in Portugal. © Random House, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

by Mary Oliver © Mary Oliver

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gunga Din

Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling

You may talk o’ gin and beer   
When you’re quartered safe out ’ere,   
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter   
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ’im that’s got it.   
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,   
Where I used to spend my time   
A-servin’ of ’Er Majesty the Queen,   
Of all them blackfaced crew   
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din,   
      He was ‘Din! Din! Din!
   ‘You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
      ‘Hi! Slippy hitherao
      ‘Water, get it! Panee lao,
   ‘You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.’

The uniform ’e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ’arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag   
An’ a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment ’e could find.
When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ’eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted ‘Harry By!’
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ’im ’cause ’e couldn’t serve us all.
      It was ‘Din! Din! Din!
   ‘You ’eathen, where the mischief ’ave you been?   
      ‘You put some juldee in it
      ‘Or I’ll marrow you this minute
   ‘If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!’

’E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ’e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
’E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.   
With ’is mussick on ’is back,
’E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made 'Retire,’   
An’ for all ’is dirty ’ide
’E was white, clear white, inside
When ’e went to tend the wounded under fire!   
      It was ‘Din! Din! Din!’
   With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.   
      When the cartridges ran out,
      You could hear the front-ranks shout,   
   ‘Hi! ammunition-mules an' Gunga Din!’

I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ’a’ been.   
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.   
’E lifted up my ’ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ’e guv me ’arf-a-pint o’ water green.
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
      It was 'Din! Din! Din!
   ‘’Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ’is spleen;   
   ‘’E's chawin’ up the ground,
      ‘An’ ’e’s kickin’ all around:
   ‘For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!’

’E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.   
’E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ’e died,
'I ’ope you liked your drink,’ sez Gunga Din.   
So I’ll meet ’im later on
At the place where ’e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen.   
’E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!   
      Yes, Din! Din! Din!
   You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!   
   Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,   
      By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
   You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Zooey says to Franney:

“‘I don’t care where an actor acts.  It can be in summer stock, it can be over a radio, it can be over television, it can be in a goddam Broadway theatre, complete with the most fashionable, most well-fed, most sunburned-looking audience you can imagine.  But I’ll tell you a terrible secret–Are you listening to me?  There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy.  And all his goddam cousins by the dozens.  There isn’t anyone anywhere that isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady.  Don’t you know that?  Don’t you know that goddam secret yet?  And don’t you know–listen to me, now–don’t you know what that Fat Lady really is?…Ah, buddy.  Ah, buddy.  It’s Christ Himself.  Christ Himself, buddy.’”

J.D Salinger

Walking around the Block with a Three-Year Old

Walking around the Block with a Three-Year Old by David Wagoner

She sees a starling legs-up in the gutter.
She finds an earthworm limp and pale in a puddle.
What’s wrong with them? she says. I tell her they’re dead.
She scowls at me. She stares at her short shadow
And makes it dance in the road. She shakes its head.
Daddy, you don’t look pretty, she says. I agree.
She stomps on a sewer grid where the slow rain
Is vanishing. Do you want to go down there?
I tell her no. Neither do I she says.
She picks up a stone. This is an elephant.
Because it’s heavy, smooth, slate gray, and hers,
I tell her it’s very like an elephant.
We’re back. The starling is gone. Where did it go?
She says. I tell her I don’t know, maybe
A cat took it away. I think it’s lost.
I tell her I think so too. But can’t you find it?
I tell her I don’t think so. Let’s go look.
I show her my empty hands, and she takes one.

“Walking around the Block with a Three-Year Old” by David Wagoner from Traveling Light. © University of Illinois Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission.

Friday, October 14, 2016

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                               i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

“i carry your heart with me” by E.E. Cummings from Complete Poems: 1904-1962. © Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1991.

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10

October 10 by Wendell Berry

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.

Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
bleach whiter.

Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.

The calling of a crow sounds
Loud — landmark — now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.

“October 10” by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems. © Counterpoint, 2012. Reprinted with permission.