Friday, December 28, 2007

Natural History

I've always thought this was a great description of the connection of true love.

Natural History
by E. B. White

The spider, dropping down from the twig,
Unwinds a thread of her devising:
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all the journey down through space,
In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,
She builds a ladder to the place
From which she started.

Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mark Doty "Messiah"

In Mark Doty’s "Messiah (Christmas Portions)," a community comes together to sing the traditional song, and it is in the merging of literal, even awkward, voices that the poet attempts to capture a facet of the holiday:
Aren't we enlarged
by the scale of what we're able
to desire? Everything,
the choir insists,

might flame;
inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
quickened, now,

by song: hear how
it cascades, in overlapping,
lapidary waves of praise? Still time.
Still time to change.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Psalm of Life

A Psalm of Life

What the heart of the young man said to the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!-
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us father than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,-act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time,

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

a song with no end

An e-friend of mine got me started reading Bukowski a few years back, I really like this one.

a song with no end

when Walt Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric"

I know what he
meant
I know what he
wanted:

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can't cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take
us

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as
ours.

by Charles Bukowski

Sunday, December 16, 2007

For the holidays - Journey of the Magi

T S Eliot:

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The System

by Stanley Kunitz

That pack of scoundrels
rumbling through the gate
emerges
as the Order of the State.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A couple more poems....

Morning in a New Land
by Mary Oliver

In trees still dripping night some nameless birds
Woke, shook out their arrowy wings, and sang,
Slowly, like finches sifting through a dream.
The pink sun fell, like glass, into the fields.
Two chestnuts, and a dapple gray,
Their shoulders wet with light, their dark hair streaming,
Climbed the hill. The last mist fell away.

And under the trees, beyond time's brittle drift,
I stood like Adam in his lonely garden
On that first morning, shaken out of sleep,
Rubbing his eyes, listening, parting the leaves,
Like tissue on some vast, incredible gift.


And this one is just for fun, from a kid's book of dragon poems by Jack Pretlusky. My older son dearly loved this book and never tired of hearing it read:

The Dragons are Singing Tonight
Jack Pretlusky

Tonight is the night all the dragons
Awake in their lairs underground,
To sing in cacophonous chorus
And fill the whole world with their sound.

They sing of the days of their glory,
They sing of their exploits of old,
Of maidens and knights, and of fiery fights,
And guarding vast caches of gold.

Some of their voices are treble,
And some of their voices are deep,
But all of their voices are thunderous,
And no one can get any sleep.

I lie in my bed and I listen,
Enchanted and filled with delight,
To songs I can hear only one night a year--

The dragons are singing tonight.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Jane Cooper Dies

Poets.org - You can listen to her reading this poem:
If you want my apartment, sleep in it
but let's have a clear understanding:
the books are still free agents.

If the rocking chair's arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.

I don't want your rent, I want
a radiance of attention
like the candle's flame when we eat,

I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us---
Not a roof but a field of stars.

The NY Times obit

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One for the fall......

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

William Butler Yeats
(1865-1939)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My own heart let me have more have pity on; let’

One of Hopkins' dark poems
MY own heart let me have more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst ’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
’s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather—as skies
Betweenpie mountains—lights a lovely mile.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Hopkins at Bartleby

Heaven—Haven

A nun takes the veil

I HAVE desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Favorite sites for book lovers

Added in right column - Some book sites we recommend. Lots of poetry to be found there.

The AbeBooks site offers a free download to organize the books you have.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Donal Og - Anon

It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
*twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.

When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness*,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.

It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday.
And myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.

My mother said to me not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.

My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith's forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you that put that darkness over my life.

You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!

-- Anonymous

*Note: In all probability Radclyffe Hall took the title of her novel from this old anonymous Irish poem.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A gentle one

from With a Green Scarf

With a green scarf I blindfolded
the eyes of the trees
and asked them to catch me.

At once the trees caught me,
their leaves shaking with laughter.

I blindfolded the birds
with a scarf of clouds
and asked them to catch me.

The birds caught me
with a song.

Then with a smile I blindfolded
my sorrow
and the day after it caught me
with a love.

Marin Sorescu (1936 - 1996)
translated by Michael Hamburger

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Practicing

"Practicing," by Linda Pastan from The Last Uncle (W.W. Norton).

Practicing

My son is practicing the piano.
He is a man now, not the boy
whose lessons I once sat through,
whose reluctant practicing
I demanded-part of the obligation
I felt to the growth
and composition of a child.

Upstairs my grandchildren are sleeping,
though they complained earlier of the music
which rises like smoke up through the floorboards,
coloring the fabric of their dreams.
On the porch my husband watches the garden fade
into summer twilight, flower by flower;
it must be a little like listening to the fading

diminuendo notes of Mozart.
But here where the dining room table
has been pushed aside to make room
for this second or third-hand upright,
my son is playing the kind of music
it took him all these years,
and sons of his own,
to want to make.

Rupert Brooke


The Beginning
Some day I shall rise and leave my friends
And seek you again through the world's far ends,
You whom I found so fair
(Touch of your hands and smell of your hair!),
My only god in the days that were.
My eager feet shall find you again,
Though the sullen years and the mark of pain
Have changed you wholly; for I shall know
(How could I forget having loved you so?),
In the sad half-light of evening,
The face that was all my sunrising.
So then at the ends of the earth I'll stand
And hold you fiercely by either hand,
And seeing your age and ashen hair
I'll curse the thing that once you were,
Because it is changed and pale and old
(Lips that were scarlet, hair that was gold!),
And I loved you before you were old and wise,
When the flame of youth was strong in your eyes,
-- And my heart is sick with memories.

Biography

Dover Beach - Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.


Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

To An Athlete Dying Young

A.E. Houseman - Read by Meryl Streep over Robert Redford's grave in "Out of Africa"

THE time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

The "Mary Gloster"

Rudyard Kipling:

The "Mary Gloster" -- 1894 (Very long, but great to read out loud. I have an audio recording of Donald Moffatt reading it.)

I've paid for your sickest fancies; I've humoured your crackedest whim --
Dick, it's your daddy, dying; you've got to listen to him!
Good for a fortnight, am I? The doctor told you? He lied.
I shall go under by morning, and -- Put that nurse outside.
'Never seen death yet, Dickie? Well, now is your time to learn,
And you'll wish you held my record before it comes to your turn....

Rest of poem HERE

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

By Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Or something funny for Friday

Hippie Barbie

Barbie couldn't grasp the concept
of free love. After all, she was born
into the world of capitalism
where nothing is free. And all she had
to choose from was a blond or dark haired Ken
who looked exactly like Midge's boyfriend Alan.
Ken wouldn't even get bell-bottoms
or his first psychedelic pantsuit
until it was way too late, sometime in the mid-seventies.
And then, whenever Barbie tried to kiss him
his peel-off lamb-chop sideburns loosened
and stuck to her cheeks. There were no black male dolls yet
so she guessed a mixed-race love-child
was out of the question. Barbie walked her poodle
past the groovy chicks who showed their bellybuttons
and demonstrated against the war. She couldn't
make a peace sign with her stuck-together fingers.
She felt a little like Sandra Dee at a Janis Joplin concert.

--Denise Duhamel
(from Word of Mouth)

And now for something completely different

The arrow

Wounded, he'd have
been lost in the forest
had he not followed the arrow.

More than half
of it
protruded from his chest
and showed him the way.

The arrow
Had struck him in the back
And pierced his body
Its bloody tip
was a signpost

What a blessing
to have it point
at path
between the trees

Now he knew
he'd never again
go wrong

and he
wasn't far
from the mark.

Mark Sorescu
(translated from Romanian by
John Hartley Williams and Hilde Ottschofski

Thursday, October 4, 2007

If I had to pick a favorite poem

Hope is the Thing with Feathers
Emily Dickenson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

For grins and because it's a good poem:

Crow
by Mary Oliver from
Owls and Other Fantasies

Every morning
crow
steps
along the beach

as though he found the world
brand-new
and wonderful,
and, without a doubt,

made especially for him.
The eiders stare,
the black ducks are busy
with their own affairs

as he marches
along the wrack line
on his sturdy feet
to the bounty of stranded sea worms,

crabs,
abandoned bags of popcorn---
"oh yes," his big black beak seems to say,
"this is good,
here is breakfast and lunch both,

and as for dinner,
I'll be back.
What a good world!"

I wish we could be friends,
but when he sees me
daring to look at him
he opens his strong arms

that are dressed, as always, in the darkest ribbons,
and floats off--
but only a little way
and he's down again on the sandy track---

and who has seen yet anything cleaner,
bolder,
more gleaming, more certain of its philosophy
than the eye he turns back?

One of my favorite poems

THE BRIDGE BUILDER


AN OLD MAN, GOING A LONE HIGHWAY,
CAME AT THE EVENING, COLD AND GRAY,
TO A CHASM, VAST AND DEEP AND WIDE,
THROUGH WHICH WAS FLOWING A SULLEN TIDE.
THE OLD MAN CROSSED IN THE TWLIGHT DIM
THE SULLEN STREAM HAD NO FEARS FOR HIM
BUT HE TURNED WHEN SAFE ON THE OTHER SIDE
AND BUILT A BRIDGE TO SPAN THE TIDE.


“OLD MAN,” SAID A FELLOW PILGRAM NEAR,
“YOU ARE WASTING STRENGTH WITH BUILDING HERE;
YOUR JOURNEY WILL END WITH THE ENDING DAY,
YOU NEVER AGAIN MUST PASS THIS WAY;
YOU HAVE CROSSED THE CHASM, DEEP AND WIDE –
WHY BUILD YOU THE BRIDGE AT THE EVENTIDE?”


THE BUILDER LIFTED HIS OLD GRAY HEAD;
“GOOD FRIEND IN THE PATH I HAVE COME,” HE SAID,
“THERE FOLLOWETH AFTER ME TODAY
A YOUTH WHOSE FEET MUST PASS THIS WAY,
THIS CHASM THAT HAS BEEN NAUGHT TO ME
TO THAT FAIR-HAIRED YOUTH MAY A PITFALL BE
HE, TOO, MUST CROSS IN THE TWILIGHT DIM;
GOOD FRIEND, I AM BUILDING THIS BRIDGE FOR HIM.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice"

And I start wondering how they came to be blind.
If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sisters,
and I think of the poor mother
brooding over her sightless young triplets.

Or was it a common accident, all three caught
in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps?
If not,
if each came to his or her blindness separately,

how did they ever manage to find one another?
Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse
to locate even one fellow mouse with vision
let alone two other blind ones?

And how, in their tiny darkness,
could they possibly have run after a farmer's wife
or anyone else's wife for that matter?
Not to mention why.

Just so she could cut off their tails
with a carving knife, is the cynic's answer,
but the thought of them without eyes
and now without tails to trail through the dewey grass

or slip around the corner of a baseboard
has the cynic who always lounges within me
up off his couch and at the window
trying to hide the rising softness that he feels.

By now I am on to dicing an onion
which might account for the wet stinging
in my own eyes, though Freddie Hubbard's
mournful trumpet on "Blue Moon,"

which happens to be the next cut
cannot be said to be making matters any better.

Billy Collins
(1941 - )

ee cummings

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(i carry it in my heart)