Friday, January 23, 2015
When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother’s piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold
And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying
Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country
I’ve never understood
Why this is so
But there’s an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow
For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest
And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country
We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams
And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows
Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.
“Music” by Anne Porter, from Living Things. © Zoland Books, 2006
Saturday, January 17, 2015
If I die before you
which is all but certain
then in the moment
before you will see me
become someone dead
in a transformation
as quick as a shooting star's
I will cross over into you
and ask you to carry
not only your own memories
but mine too until you
too lie down and erase us
both together into oblivion.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death
When I'm 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party
Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides
Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one
Let me die a youngman's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
It was back when we used to listen to stories,
our minds developing
pictures as we were taken into the elsewhere
of our experience or to the forbidden
or under the sea.
Television was wrestling, Milton Berle,
Believe It Or Not. We knelt before it
in front of something sent by parachute,
but when grandfather said “I’ll tell you a story,”
we stopped with pleasure,
sat crosslegged next to the fireplace, waited.
He’d sip gin and hold us, his voice
the extra truth
beyond what we believed without question.
When grandfather died and changed
what an evening meant,
it was 1954. After supper we went
to the television, innocents in a magic land
getting more innocent,
a thousand years away from Oswald and the shock,
the end of our enormous childhood.
We sat still
for anything, laughed when anyone slipped
or lisped or got hit with a pie. We said
to our friends
“What the hey?” and punched them in the arms.
The television had arrived, and was coming.
Throughout the country
all the grandfathers were dying,
giving their reluctant permission, like Indians.
"Stories" by Stephen Dunn from Local Time. © Quill Press, 1986. Reprinted with permission.
Monday, January 5, 2015
November again and the snow comes sudden and heavy.
"November Again" by Louis Jenkins from Just Above Water. © Holy Cow! Press, 1997. Reprinted with permission.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Years ago, driving across the mountains
in West Virginia, both of us are so young
we don’t know anything. We are twenty-eight
years old, our children sleeping in the back seat.
With your fresh Ph.D. in your suitcase, we head out
toward Kansas City. We’ve never been anywhere.
We decide to go the long way around
instead of driving due west.
Years ago, driving across mountains; your
hand resting on my knee, the radio playing the folk
music we love, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, or you
singing songs to keep the children entertained.
How could we know what is to come?
We are young. We think we’ll be healthy
and strong forever. We are certain we are invincible
because we love each other, because our children
are smart and beautiful, because we are heading
to a new place, because the stars
in the coal-black West Virginia sky are so thick,
they could be chunks of ice.
How could we know what is to come?
“Driving into Our New Lives” by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, from All That Lies Between Us. © Guernica Editions, 2007.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.