Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Calling him back from layoff

by Bob Hicok

I called a man today. After he said
hello and I said hello came a pause
during which it would have been

confusing to say hello again so I said
how are you doing and guess what, he said
fine and wondered aloud how I was

and it turns out I'm OK. He
was on the couch watching cars
painted with ads for Budweiser follow cars

painted with ads for Tide around an oval
that's a metaphor for life because
most of us run out of gas and settle

for getting drunk in the stands
and shouting at someone in a t-shirt
we want kraut on our dog. I said

he could have his job back and during
the pause that followed his whiskers
scrubbed the mouthpiece clean

and under his breath passed in and out
in the tidal fashion popular
with mammals until he broke through

with the words how soon thank you
ohmyGod which crossed his lips and drove
through the wires on the backs of ions

as one long word as one hard prayer
of relief meant to be heard
by the sky. When he began to cry I tried

with the shape of my silence to say
I understood but each confession
of fear and poverty was more awkward

than what you learn in the shower.
After he hung up I went outside and sat
with one hand in the bower of the other

and thought if I turn my head to the left
it changes the song of the oriole
and if I give a job to one stomach other

forks are naked and if tonight a steak
sizzles in his kitchen do the seven
other people staring at their phones

hear?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Street Corner Christ

Street Corner Christ

I saw Christ to-day
At a street corner stand,
In the rags of a beggar he stood
He held ballads in his hand.

He was crying out: - "Two for a penny
Will anyone buy
The finest ballads ever made
From the stuff of joy?"

But the blind and deaf went past
Knowing only there
An uncouth ballad-seller
With tail-matted hair.

And I whom men call fool
His ballads bought,
Found him whom the pieties
Have vainly sought.

-Patrick Kavanagh
Copyright C Estate of Katherine Kavanagh (Thanks to Vera)

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Night Before Christmas and The Journey of the Magi

Two for Christmas....

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

************************

THE JOURNEY OF THE MAGI - TS Eliot

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the 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.

-- T. S. Eliot

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cardinals

From The Writers Almanac

Cardinals by John L. Stanizzi

for Carol

I had seen them in the tree,
and heard they mate for life,
so I hung a bird feeder
and waited.
By the third day,
sparrows and purple finches
hovered and jockeyed
like a swarm of bees
fighting over one flower.
So I hung another feeder,
but the squabbling continued
and the seed spilled
like a shower
of tiny meteors
onto the ground
where starlings
had congregated,
and blue jays,
annoyed at the world,
disrupted everyone
except the mourning doves,
who ambled around
like plump old women
poking for the firmest
head of lettuce.

Then early one evening
they came,
the only ones—
she stood
on the periphery
of the small galaxy of seed;
he hopped
among the nuggets,
calmly chose
one seed at a time,
carried it to her,
placed it in her beak;
she, head tilted,
accepted it.
Then they fluffed,
hopped together,
did it all over again.

And filled with love,
I phoned to tell you,
over and over,
about each time
he celebrated
being there,
all alone,
with her.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ode to American English

"Ode to American English" by Barbara Hamby, from Babel © University of Pittsburgh Press.

I was missing English one day, American, really,
with its pill-popping Hungarian goulash of everything
from Anglo-Saxon to Zulu, because British English
is not the same, if the paperback dictionary
I bought at Brentano's on the Avenue de l'Opera
is any indication, too cultured by half. Oh, the English
know their dahlias, but what about doowop, donuts,
Dick Tracy, Tricky Dick? With their elegant Oxfordian
accents, how could they understand my yearning for the hotrod,
hotdog, hot flash vocabulary of the U. S. of A.,
the fragmented fandango of Dagwood's everyday flattening
of Mr. Beasley on the sidewalk, fetuses floating
on billboards, drive-by monster hip-hop stereos shaking
the windows of my dining room like a 7.5 earthquake,
Ebonics, Spanglish, "you know" used as comma and period,
the inability of 90% of the population to get the past perfect:
I have went, I have saw, I have tooken Jesus into my heart,
the battle cry of the Bible Belt, but no one uses
the King James anymore, only plain-speak versions,
in which Jesus, raising Lazarus from the dead, says,
"Dude, wake up," and the L-man bolts up like a B-movie
mummy, "Whoa, I was toasted." Yes, ma'am,
I miss the mongrel plentitude of American English, its fall-guy,
rat-terrier, dog-pound neologisms, the bomb of it all,
the rushing River Jordan backwoods mutability of it, the low-rider,
boom-box cruise of it, from New Joisey to Ha-wah-ya
with its sly dog, malasada-scarfing beach blanket lingo
to the ubiquitous Valley Girl's like-like stuttering,
shopaholic rant. I miss its quotidian beauty, its querulous
back-biting righteous indignation, its preening rotgut
flag-waving cowardice. Suffering Succotash, sputters
Sylvester the Cat; sine die, say the pork-bellied legislators
of the swamps and plains. I miss all those guys, their Tweety-bird
resilience, their Doris Day optimism, the candid unguent
of utter unhappiness on every channel, the midnight televangelist
euphoric stew, the junk mail, voice mail vernacular.
On every boulevard and rue I miss the Tarzan cry of Johnny
Weismueller, Johnny Cash, Johnny B. Goode,
and all the smart-talking, gum-snapping hard-girl dialogue,
finger-popping x-rated street talk, sports babble,
Cheetoes, Cheerios, chili dog diatribes. Yeah, I miss them all,
sitting here on my sidewalk throne sipping champagne
verses lined up like hearses, metaphors juking, nouns zipping
in my head like Corvettes on Dexadrine, French verbs
slitting my throat, yearning for James Dean to jump my curb.

The Fall

The Fall by George Bilgere

Although there were no witnesses
In the hallway outside the women's room
Of the Hotel Coronado,
When my aunt stumbled
And fell to her knees on the ancient marble

It must have been like the swordsman
Falling in The Seven Samurai,
A whole dynasty collapsing,
Falling out of its bones

Into the mud. I was reading
The sports section in the lobby
When a boy, probably sixteen or so,
Ran in and called my name.
An old woman has fallen, he said,
Frightened that something
So enormous could happen, that fate
Should cast him as an emissary
Announcing dynastic collapse
Instead of just a high school kid,

And I stood up and ran to her
Although I'm fifty-six now, and breaking
Into a spontaneous run feels like
Trying out a language you'd lost
As a kid who'd swapped countries.

And there she sat, lean and elegant,
Like an athlete who'd collapsed
From sheer exhaustion, her legs
Drawn up to her chin as she fought
To lift the whole city again,

The crumbling Coronado,
Where Miles Davis used to jam,
And the Continental, where the Gershwins
Hung out at the Tack Room,
And the abandoned Fox Theater
Where she saw Olivier's Hamlet

And even the boarded up
Forest Park Boat house, where her father
Used to take her for ice cream
In the sweltering St. Louis summers.

An old woman has fallen.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Forsyte Saga

From The Forsyte Saga - PBS: Old Jolyon's eulogy -- At his father's funeral, young Jolyon recites the following lines from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, Sc. 2, Act 4:

Fear no more the heat of the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and taken thy wages.
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers, come to dust.
Fear no more the frown of the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke.
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak.
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this and come to dust.
Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee and come to dust.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

After Our Daughter's Wedding

After Our Daughter's Wedding - by Ellen Bass

While the remnants of cake
and half-empty champagne glasses
lay on the lawn like sunbathers lingering
in the slanting light, we left the house guests
and drove to Antonelli's pond.
On a log by the bank I sat in my flowered dress and cried.
A lone fisherman drifted by, casting his ribbon of light.
"Do you feel like you've given her away?" you asked.
But no, it was that she made it
to here, that she didn't
drown in a well or die
of pneumonia or take the pills.
She wasn't crushed
under the mammoth wheels of a semi
on highway 17, wasn't found
lying in the alley
that night after rehearsal
when I got the time wrong.
It's animal. The egg
not eaten by a weasel. Turtles
crossing the beach, exposed
in the moonlight. And we
have so few to start with.
And that long gestation—
like carrying your soul out in front of you.
All those years of feeding
and watching. The vulnerable hollow
at the back of the neck. Never knowing
what could pick them off—a seagull
swooping down for a clam.
Our most basic imperative:
for them to survive.
And there's never been a moment
we could count on it.

"After Our Daughter's Wedding" by Ellen Bass from Mules of Love. © BOA Editions, 2002. Reprinted with permission

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Fields - W. S. Merwin

The Fields -- by W. S. Merwin

Saturday on Seventh Street
full-waisted gray-haired women in Sunday sweaters
moving through the tan shades of their booths
bend over cakes they baked at home
they gaze down onto the sleep of stuffed cabbages
they stir with huge spoons sauerkraut and potato dumplings
cooked as those dishes were cooked on deep
misty plains among the sounds of horses
beside fields of black earth on the other side of the globe
that only the oldest think they remember
looking down from their windows into the world
where everybody is now

none of the young has yet wept at the smell
of cabbages
those leaves all face
none of the young after long journeys
weeks in vessels
and staring at strange coasts through fog in first light
has been recognized by the steam of sauerkraut
that is older than anyone living
so on the street they play the music
of what they do not remember
they sing of places they have not known
they dance in new costumes under the windows
in the smell of cabbages from fields
nobody has seen

"The Fields" by W.S. Merwin from Migration: New & Selected Poems.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lessons by Pat Schneider

Lessons by Pat Schneider

I have learned
that life goes on,
or doesn't.
That days are measured out
in tiny increments
as a woman in a kitchen
measures teaspoons
of cinnamon, vanilla,
or half a cup of sugar
into a bowl.

I have learned
that moments are as precious as nutmeg,
and it has occurred to me
that busy interruptions
are like tiny grain moths,
or mice.
They nibble, pee, and poop,
or make their little worms and webs
until you have to throw out the good stuff
with the bad.

It took two deaths
and coming close myself
for me to learn
that there is not an infinite supply
of good things in the pantry.

Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Coat

A Coat
by William Butler Yeats

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they'd wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there's more enterprise
In walking naked.

I'll Be Seeing You

I'll Be Seeing You - by Jo McDougall

World War II is slipping away, I can feel it.
Its officers are gray.
Their wives who danced at the USO
are gray, too.
Veterans forget their stories. Some lands they fought in
have new names, and Linda Venetti
who deserted the husband who raised cows
to run off with an officer
has come home to look after her mother
and work the McDonald's morning shift.
William Holden is dead,
and my mother, who knew all the words
to "When the Lights Go On Again All over the World."

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Patience of Ordinary Things

The Patience of Ordinary Things - by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Favorite Halloween Poems

At the Guardian UK: They ask you to send in your favorite Halloween poems - You can add some of yours here is the comments section to this post. Let's get scary!!

He mentions Walter De La Mare's The Listeners as one of his. It is one of mine too....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fiddler Jones

by Edgar Lee Masters
from Spoon River Anthology

Fiddler Jones

The earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind’s in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to “Toor-a-Loor.”
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill—only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle—
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Medallion

Medallion - by Michael Heffernan

I'm going to go out and walk around a little,
because it's a nice day, in the seventies,
after a night where the temperature dropped just below freezing.
There isn't much here in the anteroom of the self, I don't think,
so why should I go on investigating what last night's dream meant,
or the subtleties of the numerology
of the soul as evidenced in cryptanalytical encodings in the poems
of Bertran de Montségur? I'm out of here,
and off on a little walk in the neighborhood,
but first I'd like to tell you I appreciate
your letting me share. It meant a lot to me.
Quite candidly, I'm not sure what to do
on days like this, or any day, really.
It all runs together, into a place the good
seem to have occupied as their own
and spruced up so nicely others of us who aren't
so good, but not the worst of citizens,
can't help but feel a little out of pocket,
as the saying goes, and I for one would like
to reach into my pocket and pull out
the ruby medallion my mother gave to me,
which fell out of my coat into the grate
by the front tire of the bus I'd waited for
across the street from the Shubert Theatre
in Detroit in 1959. I'd say,
to anyone around inclined to listen,
here is a little something you can have.
I hope you like it. Why don't you just keep it
and give it to another good person some day.
Tell them it used to be Bertran's, who came here once
on a horse all spangled with rubies and golden bells.

"Medallion" by Michael Heffernan from The Night Breeze Off the Ocean. © Eastern Washington University Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mary Oliver - The Poet Goes to Indiana

The Poet Goes to Indiana

I'll tell you a half-dozen things
that happened to me
in Indiana
when I went that far west to teach.
You tell me if it was worth it.

I lived in the country
with my dog—
part of the bargain of coming.
And there was a pond
with fish from, I think, China.
I felt them sometimes against my feet.
Also, they crept out of the pond, along its edges,
to eat the grass.
I'm not lying.
And I saw coyotes,
two of them, at dawn, running over the seemingly
unenclosed fields.
And once a deer, but a buck, thick-necked, leaped
into the road just-oh, I mean just, in front of my car—
and we both made it home safe.
And once the blacksmith came to care for the four horses,
or the three horses that belonged to the owner of the house,
and I bargained with him, if I could catch the fourth,
he, too, would have hooves trimmed
for the Indiana winter,
and apples did it,
and a rope over the neck did it,
so I won something wonderful;
and there was, one morning,
an owl
flying, oh pale angel, into
the hay loft of a barn,
I see it still;
and there was once, oh wonderful,
a new horse in the pasture,
a tall, slim being-a neighbor was keeping her there—
and she put her face against my face,
put her muzzle, her nostrils, soft as violets,
against my mouth and my nose, and breathed me,
to see who I was,
a long quiet minute-minutes—
then she stamped feet and whisked tail
and danced deliciously into the grass away, and came back.
She was saying, so plainly, that I was good, or good enough.
Such a fine time I had teaching in Indiana.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Folk Who Live in Backward Town

The Folk Who Live in Backward Town by Mary Ann Hoberman

The folk who live in Backward Town
Are inside out and upside down.
They wear their hats inside their heads
And go to sleep beneath their beds.
They only eat the apple peeling
And take their walks across the ceiling.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Woman Feeding Gulls

A Woman Feeding Gulls by David Wagoner

They cry out at the sight of her and come flying
Over the tidal flats from miles away,
Sideslipping and wheeling
In sloping gray-and-white interwoven spirals
Whose center is her
And the daily bread she casts downwind on the water
While rising to spread her arms
Like wings for the calling of still more gulls around her,
Their cries intermingling at the end of daylight
With the sudden abundance
Of this bread returning after the hungry night
And the famine of morning
And the endlessly hungry opening and closing
Of wings and arms and shore and the turning sky.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Riding Lesson

by Henry Taylor

I learned two things
from an early riding teacher
He held a nervous filly
in one hand and gestured
with the other, saying "Listen.
Keep on leg on one side,
the other leg on the other side,
and your mind in the middle."

He turned and mounted.
She took two steps, then left
the ground, I thought for good.
But she came down hard, humped
her back, swallowed her neck,
and threw her rider as you'd
throw a rock. He rose, brushed
his pants and caught his breath,
and said, "See that's the way
you do it. When you see
they're gonna throw you, get off."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Melancholy

Goodbye D W F
We felt less alone because
You saw so clearly
--ppw



RIP David Foster Wallace 1962 - 2008
(he didn't write poetry, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a poet)



A commencement speech Wallace gave at Kenyon college:
http://www.marginalia.org/dfw_kenyon_commencement.html

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What is there beyond knowing

What is there beyond knowing

What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can't

turn in any direction
but it's there. I don't mean

the leaves' grip and shine or even the thrush's
silk song, but the far-off

fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven's slowly turning

theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;

or time that's always rushing forward,
or standing still

in the same -- what shall I say --
‘moment’.

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn't have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there's a temple, I haven't found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds.

Mary Oliver

Questions About Angels

Questions About Angels by Billy Collins

Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.

Do they fly through God's body and come out singing?
Do they swim like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and
forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads?
Is there a wall these tall presences can look over and see hell?

If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?

If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?

No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos arc meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.

Last Visit to My Mother

LAST VISIT

Pared to the bone,
The ivory skin is wrinkled,
Cool and soft to the touch.

Spare flesh on the old bones,
The hands plucking,
Plucking the sheets -
Questioning, moving.

She lies on her side,
The blind eyes open.
Still smelling sweet.
She always has.

I bend to kiss her hands.
To tell her I am here.

"Oh, cover me with kisses,"
She cries in that hoarse,
Rusty voice -
And I do.

Silence then as
She drifts away,
Listening to the voices of memory.

"Mother, it's OK to go," I say.

The next morning she dies,
Alone in the room.

I could have stayed,
What urgency called me away?
I wanted so to see her out,
To ease her through the door.

I ache for the chance
To be with her again.

Mary Murphy 8/15/89

Shopping Urban

Shopping Urban by Jane Shore

Flip-flopped, noosed in puka beads, my daughter
breezes through the store from headband to toe ring,
shooing me away from the bongs,
lace thongs, and studded dog collars.
And I don't want to see her in that black muscle tee
with SLUT stamped in gold glitter
shrink-wrapped over her breasts,
or those brown and chartreuse retro-plaid
hip-huggers ripped at the crotch.

There's not a shopper here a day over twenty
except me and another mother
parked in chairs at the dressing room entrance
beyond which we are forbidden to go.
We're human clothes racks.
Our daughters have trained us
to tamp down the least flicker of enthusiasm
for the nice dress with room to grow into,
an item they regard with sullen, nauseated,
eyeball-rolling disdain.

Waiting in the line for a dressing room,
my daughter checks her cleavage.
Her bellybutton's a Cyclops eye
peeking at other girls' armloads of clothes.
What if she's missed something—
that faux leopard hoodie? those coffee-wash flares?
Sinking under her stash of blouses,
she's a Shiva of tangled sleeves.

And where did she dig up that new tie-dyed
tank top I threw away in '69
and the purple wash 'n' wear psychedelic dress
I washed and wore
and lost on my Grand Tour of Europe
and my retired hippie Peace necklace
now recycled, revived, re-hip?

I thought they were gone—
like the tutus and tiaras and wands
when she morphed from ballerina
to fairy princess to mermaid to tomboy,
refusing to wear dresses ever again.
Gone, those pastel party dresses,
the sleeves, puffed water wings buoying her up
as she swam into waters over her head.

Monday, September 1, 2008

September 1, 1939

SEPTEMBER 1, 1939 -- by W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nothing in Heaven Functions as It Ought

XJ Kennedy: Nothing in Heaven Functions as It Ought

Nothing in Heaven functions as it ought:
Peter's bifocals, blindly sat on, crack;
His gates lurch wide with the cackle of a cock,
Not turn with a hush of gold as Milton had thought;
Gangs of the slaughtered innocents keep huffing
The nimbus off the Venerable Bede
Like that of an old dandelion gone to seed;
And the beatific choir keep breaking up, coughing.

But Hell, sleek Hell, hath no freewheeling part:
None takes his own sweet time, none quickens pace.
Ask anyone, "How come you here, poor heart?"—
And he will slot a quarter through his face.
You'll hear an instant click, a tear will start
Imprinted with an abstract of his case.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The door

Go and open the door.

Maybe outside there's
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog's rummaging.
Maybe you'll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.

Go and open the cdoor.
If there's a fog
it will clear.

Go and open the door.
Even if there's only
the darkness ticking,
even if there's only
the hollow wind,
even if
nothing
is there.

At least
there'll be
a draught.

Miroslav Holub
translated from the Czech by Ian Milner

Happiness

by Raymond Carver

So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition,
even love,
doesn't enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Famous Blue Raincoat - Leonard Cohen

Its four in the morning, the end of december
Im writing you now just to see if youre better
New york is cold, but I like where Im living
Theres music on clinton street all through the evening.

I hear that youre building your little house deep in the desert
Youre living for nothing now, I hope youre keeping some kind of record.

Yes, and jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
Youd been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without lili marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobodys wife.

Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well I see janes awake --

She sends her regards.
And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
Im glad you stood in my way.

If you ever come by here, for jane or for me
Your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free.

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.

And jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear

-- sincerely, l. cohen

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dare you see a Soul at the 'White Heat'?

Dare you see a Soul at the 'White Heat'?
Then crouch within the door—
Red — is the Fire's common tint—
But when the vivid Ore
Has vanquished Flame's conditions—
It quivers from the Forge
Without a color, but the Light
of unannointed Blaze—

Least Village, boasts it's Blacksmith—
Whose Anvil's even ring
Stands symbol for the finer Forge
That soundless tugs — within —

Refining these impatient Ores
With Hammer, and with Blaze
Until the designated Light
Repudiate the Forge—

******************

Click to read about the new biography of Dickinson and Wentworth - White Heat

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Crossroads

Crossroads

The second half of my life will be black
to the white rind of the old and fading moon.
The second half of my life will be water
over the cracked floor of these desert years.
I will land on my feet this time,
knowing at least two languages and who
my friends are. I will dress for the
occasion, and my hair shall be
whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old
birthday, counting the years as usual,
but I will count myself new from this
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift,
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder,
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road.
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed,
fingers shifting through fine sands,
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet.
There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always up.

Joyce Sutphen

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Halley's Comet

Halley's Comet by Stanley Kunitz

Miss Murphy in first grade
wrote its name in chalk
across the board and told us
it was roaring down the stormtracks
of the Milky Way at frightful speed
and if it wandered off its course
and smashed into the earth
there'd be no school tomorrow.
A red-bearded preacher from the hills
with a wild look in his eyes
stood in the public square
at the playground's edge
proclaiming he was sent by God
to save every one of us,
even the little children.
"Repent, ye sinners!" he shouted,
waving his hand-lettered sign.
At supper I felt sad to think
that it was probably
the last meal I'd share
with my mother and my sisters;
but I felt excited too
and scarcely touched my plate.
So mother scolded me
and sent me early to my room.
The whole family's asleep
except for me. They never heard me steal
into the stairwell hall and climb
the ladder to the fresh night air.

Look for me, Father, on the roof
of the red brick building
at the foot of Green Street—
that's where we live, you know, on the top floor.
I'm the boy in the white flannel gown
sprawled on this coarse gravel bed
searching the starry sky,
waiting for the world to end

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

e.e.cummings

if there are any heavens, my mother will (all by herself) have
one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor
a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but
it will be a heaven of blackred roses

my father will be (deep like a rose
tall like a rose)

standing near my
swaying over her
(silent)

—from "if there are any heavens..." by E. E. Cummings

Monday, July 28, 2008

Meditations In An Emergency

The focus and title of the first episode of Mad Men for the new 2008 season:

Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O'Hara
Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious
as if I were French?

Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous
(and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable
list!), but one of these days there'll be nothing left with
which to venture forth.

Why should I share you? Why don't you get rid of someone else
for a change?

I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.

Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too,
don't I? I'm just like a pile of leaves.

However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of
pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of
perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the
confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes--I can't
even enjoy a blade of grass unless i know there's a subway
handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not
totally _regret_ life. It is more important to affirm the
least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and
even they continue to pass. Do they know what they're missing?
Uh huh.

My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time;
they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and
disloyal, so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away.
Or again at something after it has given me up. It makes me
restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them
still. If only i had grey, green, black, brown, yellow eyes; I
would stay at home and do something. It's not that I'm
curious. On the contrary, I am bored but it's my duty to be
attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above the
earth. And lately, so great has _their_ anxiety become, I can
spare myself little sleep.

Now there is only one man I like to kiss when he is unshaven.
Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching. (How best
discourage her?)

St. Serapion, I wrap myself in the robes of your whiteness
which is like midnight in Dostoevsky. How I am to become a
legend, my dear? I've tried love, but that holds you in the
bosom of another and I'm always springing forth from it like
the lotus--the ecstasy of always bursting forth! (but one must
not be distracted by it!) or like a hyacinth, "to keep the
filth of life away," yes, even in the heart, where the filth is
pumped in and slanders and pollutes and determines. I will my
will, though I may become famous for a mysterious vacancy in
that department, that greenhouse.

Destroy yourself, if you don't know!

It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I
admire you, beloved, for the trap you've set. It's like a
final chapter no one reads because the plot is over.

"Fanny Brown is run away--scampered off with a Cornet of Horse;
I do love that little Minx, & hope She may be happy, tho' She
has vexed me by this exploit a little too.--Poor silly
Cecchina! or F:B: as we used to call her.--I wish She had a
good Whipping and 10,000 pounds."--Mrs. Thrale

I've got to get out of here. I choose a piece of shawl and my
dirtiest suntans. I'll be back, I'll re-emerge, defeated, from
the valley; you don't want me to go where you go, so I go where
you don't want me to. It's only afternoon, there's a lot
ahead. There won't be any mail downstairs. Turning, I spit in
the lock and the knob turns.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Secret Life

by Stephen Dunn

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don't say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you've just made love
and feel you'd rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering, yes, yes,
you're brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you'd most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it's like a small fire
in a clearing, it's what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It's why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who'll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

After a Movie

by Henry Taylor

The last small credits fade
as house lights rise. Dazed in that radiant instant
of transition, you dwindle through the lobby
and out to curbside, pulling on a glove
with the decisive competence
of the scarred detective

or his quarry. Scanning
the rainlit street for taxicabs, you visualize,
without looking, your image in the window
of the jeweler's shop, where white hands hover
above the string of luminous pearls
on a faceless velvet bust.

Someone across the street
enters a bar, leaving behind a charged vacancy
in which you cut to the dim booth inside,
where you are seated, glancing at the door.
You lift an eyebrow, recognizing
the unnamed colleague

who will conspire with you
against whatever the volatile script provides....
A cab pulls up. You stoop into the dark
and settle toward a version of yourself.
Your profile cruises past the city
on a home-drifting stream

through whose surface, sometimes,
you glimpse the life between the streambed and the ripples,
as, when your gestures are your own again,
your fingers lift a cup beyond whose rim
a room bursts into clarity
and light falls on all things.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Layers -- by Stanley Kunitz

The Layers -- by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Exchange by Ron Rash

Thanks to The Writer's Almanac
The Exchange by Ron Rash

Between Wytheville, Virginia
and the North Carolina line,
he meets a wagon headed
where he's been, seated beside
her parents a dark-eyed girl
who grips the reins in her fist,
no more than sixteen, he'd guess
as they come closer and she
doesn't look away or blush
but allows his eyes to hold
hers that moment their lives pass.
He rides into Boone at dusk,
stops at an inn where he buys
his supper, a sleepless night
thinking of fallow fields still
miles away, the girl he might
not find the like of again.
When dawn breaks he mounts his roan,
then backtracks, searches three days
hamlets and farms, any smoke
rising above the tree line
before he heads south, toward home,
the French Broad's valley where spring
unclinches the dogwood buds
as he plants the bottomland,
come night by candlelight builds
a butter churn and cradle,
cherry headboard for the bed,
forges a dougle-eagle
into a wedding ring and then
back to Virginia and spends
five weeks riding and asking
from Elk Creek to Damascas
before he finds the wagon
tethered to the hitching post
of a crossroads store, inside
the girl who smiles as if she'd
known all along his gray eyes
would search until they found her.
She asks one question, his name,
as her eyes study the gold
smoldering there between them,
the offered palm she lightens,
slips the ring on herself so
he knows right then the woman
she will be, bold enough match
for a man rash as his name.

"The Exchange" by Ron Rash from Among the Believers. © Iris Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Billy Collins - Bugs


Bugs - The Wall Street Journal

There he leans:
cracking wise,
biting his bright orange carrot
bugging the world
speed demon
ventriloquist
and master of disguise
he is everywhere at once
buck-toothed
and spectacularly eared
he is armed with dynamite
he is the only one
who really knows what's up.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Frank O'Hara


Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!)
Frank O'Hara

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sunday Evening - June 1985

Stillness in the leaves,
And fireflies flicker
On the shadowed lawns.

Children call.
The last bird answers
Softly from the oak.

We lie on porch swings
To catch the feeble breeze,
Our bodies resting now, and heavy.

Here, for a time,
Suspended in the golden dusk of summer,
We float in languid peace.

Mary Murphy

As girls they were...

As girls they were awkward and peculiar,
wept in church or refused to go at all.
their mothers saw right away,
no man would marry them.
So they must live at the sufferance of others,
timid and queer, as governesses out of Chekhov,
malnourished on theology,
boiled eggs and tea,
but given to outbursts of cries
that embarrass everyone.

After the final quarrel,
the grand renunciation,
they retire upstairs to the attic,
or to the small room in the cheap off-season hotel,
and write, "Today I burned all your letters," or
"I dreamed the magnolia blazed like an avenging angel,
and when I woke, I knew I was in Hell."

No one is surprised when they die young,
having left their savings to a wastrel nephew,
to be remembered for a handful of minor but perfect lyrics,
a passion for jam or charades,
and a letter still preserved in the family archives:
"I send you here with the papers of your aunt,
who died last Tuesday in the odor of sanctity,
although a little troubled in her mind
by her habit, much disapproved of by the ignorant,
of writing down the secrets of her heart." - Katha Pollitt

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Adlestrop

Adlestrop - Edward Thomas

Yes. I remember Adlestrop
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hiss’d. Some one clear’d his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Baseball as Etiquette by Josephine Jacobsen

Baseball is etiquette made beautiful.
A quality pitch is fact, not rumor;
style is high. Do they say to the dangerous batter
who has walked, "Joe, take first?" Never, never.
The catcher, tall as fate, looms over,
his mammoth hand held high,
and the ball thunks his glove in perfect logic,
before the batter tosses his bat.
And when a batter trots back to triumphant home,
does he get his high-fives only from those
with whom he has a beer?
His worst enemy, if he has one,
is perfect in ritual; even in home glory
the pattern holds until the park
is emptied of the ball.
The famous three-movement, velocity, location—
are sacred and do not bow.
When the dark takes the diamond
and the unforgiving brown circle of loneliness,
a covenant has been confirmed.

Monday, May 19, 2008

a poem

...from Wendell Berry's "Given"

IV

The woods and pastures are joyful
in their abundance now
in a season of warmth and much rain.
We walk amidst foliage, amidst
song. The sheep and cattle graze
like souls in bliss(except for the flies)
and lie down satisfied. Who now
can believe in winter? In winter
who could have hoped for this.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bring Me the Sunflower

by Eugenio Montale
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenio_Montale

Bring me the sunflower for me to transplant
to my own ground burnt by the spray of sea,
and show all day to the imaging blues
of sky that golden-faced anxiety.

Things hid in darkness lean towards the clear,
bodies consume themselves in a flowing
of shades; and they in varied music--showing
the chance of chances is to disappear.

So bring me the plant that takes you right
where the blond hazes shimmering rise
and life fumes to air as spirit does;
bring me the sunflower crazy with the light.

(translated from the Italian by George Kay)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Journey

by Edward Field

When he got up that morning everything was different:
He enjoyed the bright spring day
But he did not realize it exactly, he just enjoyed it.

And walking down the street to the railroad station
Past magnolia trees with dying flowers like old socks
It was a long time since he had breathed so simply.

Tears filled his eyes and it felt good
But he held them back
Because men didn't walk around crying in that town.

Waiting on the platform at the station
The fear came over him of something terrible about to happen:
The train was late and he recited the alphabet to keep hold.

And in its time it came screeching in
And as it went on making its usual stops,
People coming and going, telephone poles passing,

He hid his head behind a newspaper
No longer able to hold back the sobs, and willed his eyes
To follow the rational weavings of the seat fabric.

He didn't do anything violent as he had imagined.
He cried for a long time, but when he finally quieted down
A place in him that had been closed like a fist was open,

And at the end of the ride he stood up and got off that train:
And through the streets and in all the places he lived in later on
He walked, himself at last, a man among men,
With such radiance that everyone looked up and wondered.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Millay and Dickinson

Collages of two of my favorite poets:


TIME does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!


I TASTE a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!

Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.

When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove’s door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!

Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!

The Life of Emily Dickinson

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

Friday, May 9, 2008

Farm Country

by Mary Oliver

I have sharpened my knives, I have
Put on the heavy apron.

Maybe you think life is chicken soup, served
In blue willow-pattern bowls.

I have put on my boots and opened
The kitchen door and stepped out

Into the sunshine. I have crossed the lawn,
I have entered

The hen house.

A couple more

Daybreak
by Galway Kinnell

On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it slowly
as the actual stars cross heaven.
All at once they stopped,
and as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity they sank down
into the mud; they faded down
into it and lay still; and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.




From The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.

Adventures of Isabel

(I've always like this one)

by Ogden Nash

Isabel met an enormous bear,
Isabel, Isabel, didn't care;
The bear was hungry, the bear was ravenous,
The bear's big mouth was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, Isabel, glad to meet you,
How do, Isabel, now I'll eat you!
Isabel, Isabel, didn't worry,
Isabel didn't scream or scurry.
She washed her hands and she straightened her hair up,
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.

Once in a night as black as pitch
Isabel met a wicked old witch.
The witch's old face was cross and wrinkled,
The witch's gums with teeth were sprinkled.
Ho ho, Isabel! the old witch crowed,
I'll turn you into an ugly toad!
Isabel, Isabel, didn't worry,
Isabel didn't scream or scurry,
She showed no rage and she showed no rancor,
But she turned the witch into milk and drank her.

Isabel met a hideous giant,
Isabel continued self reliant.
The giant was hairy, the giant was horrid,
He had one eye in the middle of his forehead.
Good morning Isabel, the giant said,
I'll grind your bones to make my bread.
Isabel, Isabel, didn't worry,
Isabel didn't scream or scurry.
She nibbled the zwieback that she always fed off
And when it was gone, she cut the giant's head off.

Isabel met a troublesome doctor,
He punched and he poked till he really shocked her.
The doctor's talk was of coughs and chills
And the doctor's satchel bulged with pills.
The doctor said unto Isabel,
Swallow this, it will make you well.
Isabel, Isabel, didn't worry,
Isabel didn't scream or scurry.
She took those piills from the pill concocter,
And Isabel calmly cured the doctor.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

John O'Hara - The Day Lady Died

John O'Hara - The Day Lady Died (Billie Holiday)

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don't know the people who will feed me
I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Négres
of Genet, but I don't, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness
and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing
1959

Background on the poem and O'Hara

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Milkweed Editions - River of Words

To buy: River of Words - Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things by Pamela Michael and Robert Haas
In 1995, then-US Poet Laureate Robert Hass and writer Pamela Michael founded River of Words, a non-profit arts and environmental education organization for children.
Featuring children’s poems and works of art that were chosen as award winners in River of Words’ annual contests over the past ten years, this delightful anthology showcases the work of children seeking to explore, appreciate, and protect the watersheds in which they live. In poems with such titles as “I Love My Dog,” “Seasons in Our Watershed,” “History of a Cornfield,” and “Swamp Shack,” River of Words includes diverse voices as well as some bilingual poems. A remarkable confluence of K-12 curriculum, children’s literature, environmentalism, and poetry, this enchanting volume speaks to the creative spirit in all of us.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Thanks to Heron Dance

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

Sunday, April 27, 2008

When Death Comes - Mary Oliver

The BBC: At Anthony Minghella's Memorial service
Law read the poem When Death Comes by Mary Oliver. The order of service said: "This was one of Anthony's favourite poems, read by Jude, one of Anthony's favourite people."

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver

Thursday, April 24, 2008

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
by E. E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bearhug by Michael Ondaatje


Bearhug - by Michael Ondaatje
Griffin calls to come and kiss him goodnight
I yell ok. Finish something I'm doing,
then something else, walk slowly round
the corner to my son's room.
He is standing arms outstretched
waiting for a bearhug. Grinning.
Why do I give my emotion an animal's name,
give it that dark squeeze of death?
This is the hug which collects
all his small bones and his warm neck against me.
The thin tough body under the pyjamas
locks me like a magnet of blood.
How long was he standing there
like that, before I came?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Definition of Love

Recited by Julia Sawalha and Ben Miles in Lark Rise to Candleford

THE DEFINITION OF LOVE
by Andrew Marvell

I.
MY Love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis, for object, strange and high ;
It was begotten by Despair,
Upon Impossibility.

II.
Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing,
Where feeble hope could ne'er have flown,
But vainly flapped its tinsel wing.

III.
And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixed ;
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

IV.
For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect loves, nor lets them close ;
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic power depose.

V.
And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant poles have placed,
(Though Love's whole world on us doth wheel),
Not by themselves to be embraced,

VI.
Unless the giddy heaven fall,
And earth some new convulsion tear.
And, us to join, the world should all
Be cramp'd into a planisphere.

VII.
As lines, so love's oblique, may well
Themselves in every angle greet :
But ours, so truly parallel,
Though infinite, can never meet.

VIII.
Therefore the love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the mind,
And opposition of the stars.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sharon Olds - Looking at Them Asleep

Looking at Them Asleep

When I come home late at night and go in to kiss them,
I see my girl with her arm curled around her head,
her mouth a little puffed, like one sated, but
slightly pouted like one who hasn't had enough,
her eyes so closed you would think they have rolled the
iris around to face the back of her head,
the eyeball marble-naked under that
thick satisfied desiring lid,
she lies on her back in abandon and sealed completion,
and the son in his room, oh the son he is sideways in his bed,
one knee up as if he is climbing
sharp stairs, up into the night,
and under his thin quivering eyelids you
know his eyes are wide open and
staring and glazed, the blue in them so
anxious and crystally in all this darkness, and his
mouth is open, he is breathing hard from the climb
and panting a bit, his brow is crumpled
and pale, his fine fingers curved,
his hand open, and in the center of each hand
the dry dirty boyish palm
resting like a cookie. I look at him in his
quest, the thin muscles of his arms
passionate and tense, I look at her with her
face like the face of a snake who has swallowed a deer,
content, content—and I know if I wake her she'll
smile and turn her face toward me though
half asleep and open her eyes and I
know if I wake him he'll jerk and say Don't and sit
up and stare about him in blue
unrecognition, oh my Lord how I
know these two. When love comes to me and says
What do you know, I say This girl, this boy.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sarah Arvio's "Shadows"

Shadows

I saw some shadows moving on the wall
and heard a shuffle, as of wings or thoughts.
I rolled back the sheets and looked at the day,
a raw, blown day, white papers in the street.
Sheets were flapping in the sky of my mind,
I smelled the wet sheets, I tasted a day
in sheets hanging in the damp of a day.
White pages flapping: my life had been so new
when I didn't yet know how old it was.
I couldn't see the vistas on those sheets,
the dreamscapes sleeping deeply in those sheets;
I hadn't yet seen my shadow vita
or learned which host would trick me or treat me,
which of my hosts would give me something sweet,
some good counsel and a soft place to sleep,
or what was the name of my ghostwriter.
Who ghosted my life, whose dream would I ghost,
who wrote my name and date across these sheets,
and which sheets would be the wings of my thoughts,
and which would hold the words of my angels.
A host, and did I know I’d have a host;
no, a line of sheets is never a bed,
a gaggle of hosts is never a love,
a host is never as good as a home,
a ghost as good as a dog or a god.
But I had my heart, always had my heart
for god and a home as much as it hurt.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Into my heart an air that kills
From you far country blows.
What are those blue remembered hills?
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content.
I see it shining plain.
The happy highways where I went,
And cannot come again.


A.E. Houseman - From A Shropshire Lad

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tell me why this hurry

Tell Me Why This Hurry - Julia Hartwig

The lindens are blossoming the lindens have lost their blossoms
and this flowery procession moves without any restraint
Where are you hurrying lilies of the valley jasmines
petunias lilacs irises roses and peonies
Mondays and Tuesdays Wednesdays and Fridays
nasturtiums and gladioli zinnias and lobelias
yarrow dill goldenrod and grasses
flowery Mays and Junes and Julys and Augusts
lakes of flowers seas of flowers meadows
holy fires of fern one-day grails
Tell me why this hurry where are you rushing
in a cherry blizzard a deluge of greenness
all with the wind racing in one direction only
crowns proud yesterday today fallen into sand
eternal desires passions mistresses of destruction

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Such Singing in Wild Branches

by Mary Oliver

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves----
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness---
and that's when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree--
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
stopped
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing---
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfectly blue sky--all, all of them

were singing.
And of course, yes, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn't last

for more than a few moments.
It's one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you've been there,
you're there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick then--open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 1916

Easter, 1916 - William Butler Yeats

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

A Primer of the Daily Round

A Primer of the Daily Round - by Howard Nemerov

A peels an apple, while B kneels to God,
C telephones to D, who has a hand
On E's knee, F coughs, G turns up the sod
For H's grave, I do not understand
But J is bringing one clay pigeon down
While K brings down a nightstick on L's head,
And M takes mustard, N drives into town,
O goes to bed with P, and Q drops dead,
R lies to S, but happens to be heard
By T, who tells U not to fire V
For having to give W the word
That X is now deceiving Y with Z,
Who happens just now to remember A
Peeling an apple somewhere far away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I have been giving thought, Lord

I have been giving thought, Lord
-- you have a minute? - to getting old.
Natural enough, as the years pass.
DO the years pass more quickly, Lord?
Whatever happened to those longer
years we used to have?
Did you discontinue them? To speed up
the process, sort of? To replace us faster?
Hoping for improvement in the product?
Understandable.

However, getting old. Subject for today
- and I'm not talking about staying young.
Indeed not; I was young once and
wasn't mad on it. But to continue.
Getting old, a fellow said, is all in the mnd.
True. It's also inclined to get into the joints,
the digestion, and the poor old feet.
Spectacles appear, then a second pair.
Certain powers wane. Expected; allowed for.
But the fellow's right, or nearly right.

Now, Lord. To the point.
What if the mind gets stiff in the joints?
Where are you then?

What if the mind goes lame, needs two
pairs of specs?
Then it would seem, a person's got trouble.
I mean, if the mind is in charge, and
starts taking days off; loses grip.
Where are you then?
Seems it's time for a person to shut the office.

So, Lord, please, keep me young in the mind.
Let me enjoy, Lord, let me enjoy.
If creaky I must be, and many-spectacled,
And morning-stiff and food-careful,
If trembly-handed and slow-moving and
breath-short and head-noddy,
I won't complain. Not a word.
If, with your help, dear Friend, there
will dwell in this ancient monument,
A Young Mind. Please, Lord?

Candida Lund

Saturday, March 1, 2008

You Must Believe in Spring

I'm "cheating" a tad too, since these are song lyrics. The music is haunting and beautiful, I've linked a sample below the lyrics.

Music by Michael Legrand,
Lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman

When lonely feelings chill
The meadows of your mind,
Just think if Winter comes,
Can Spring be far behind?

Beneath the deepest snows,
The secret of a rose
Is merely that it knows
You must believe in Spring!

Just as a tree is sure
Its leaves will reappear;
It knows its emptiness
Is just the time of year

The frozen mountain dreams
Of April's melting streams,
How crystal clear it seems,
You must believe in Spring!

You must believe in love
And trust it's on its way,
Just as the sleeping rose
Awaits the kiss of May

So in a world of snow,
Of things that come and go,
Where what you think you know,
You can't be certain of,
You must believe in Spring

and love

http://www.amazon.com/gp/music/wma-pop-up/B00002MZ3D001010/ref=mu_sam_wma_001_010

March: An Ode

"Ere frost-flower and snow-blossom faded and fell,
and the splendor of winter had passed out of sight,
The ways of the woodlands were fairer and stranger
than dreams that fulfill us in sleep with delight;
The breath of the mouths of the winds had hardened on tree-tops
and branches that glittered and swayed
Such wonders and glories of blossom like snow
or of frost that outlightens all flowers till it fade
That the sea was not lovelier than here was the land,
nor the night than the day, nor the day than the night,
Nor the winter sublimer with storm than the spring:
such mirth had the madness and might in thee made,
March, master of winds, bright minstrel and marshal of storms
that enkindle the season they smite."
- Algernon C. Swinburne, March: An Ode

Visual Poetry


Jesus falls a third time


These stations of the cross are so close to poetry, that I had to add a link

Don Merserve's Stations of the Cross at NYC's Trinity Church

Also featured in the NY Times 3/1/08

Monday, February 25, 2008

Poem by Emily Dickinson

"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 keeps so many warm-

I've heard it in the chillest land-
And on the strangest Sea-
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb-of Me.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More poems

Haiku: The season of celebrity
by Gavin Ewart

With summer comes the
bluebottle; with pleasant fame
comes the Journalist.

#12 from Window Poems
by Wendell Berry

The country where he lives
is haunted
by the ghost of an old forest.
In the cleared fields
where he gardens
and pastures his horses
it stood once,
and will return. There will be
a resurrection of the wild.
Already it stands in wait
at the pasture fences.
It is rising up
in the waste places of the cities.
When the fools of the capitals
have devoured each other
in righteousness,
and the machines have eaten
the rest of us, then
there will be the second coming
of the trees. They will come
straggling over the fences
slowly, but soon enough.
The highways will sound
with the feet of the wild herds,
returning. Beaver will ascend
the streams as the trees
close over them.
The wolf and the panther
will find their old ways
through the nights. Water
and air will flow clear.
Certain calamities
will have passed,
and certain pleasures.
The wind will do without
corners. How difficult
to think of it: miles and miles
and no window.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Am A Book I Netierh Wrote Nor Read

Jean Garrigue

I am a book I neither wrote nor read,
A comic, tragic play in which new masquerades
Astonishing as guns crackle like raids
Newly each time, whatever one is prepared
To come upon, suddenly dismayed and afraid,
As in the dreams which make the fear of sleep
The terror of love, the depth one cannot leap.

How the false truths of the years of youth have passed!
Have passed at full speed like trains which never stopped
There where I stood and waited, hardly aware,
How little I knew, or which of them was the one
To mount and ride to hope or where true hope arrives.

I no more wrote than read that book which is
The self I am, half-hidden as it is
From one and all who see within a kiss
The lounging formless blackness of an abyss.

How could I think the brief years were enough
To prove the reality of endless love?