Friday, August 28, 2009

On My 77th Birthday

Forgetfulness

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vegetable Love

Vegetable Love by Barbara Crooker (Thanks to The Writer's Almanac)

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth's tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth's voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

"Vegetable Love" by Barbara Crooker, from Radiance. © Word Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Whirlpool

Whirlpool by George Bilgere

In the morning, after much delay,
I finally go down to the basement
to replace the broken dryer belt.

First I unbolt the panels
and sweep up the dust mice and crumbling spiders.
I listen to the sounds of the furnace
thinking things over
at the beginning of winter.

Then I stretch out on the concrete floor
with a flashlight in my mouth
to contemplate the mystery
of the pulley-tensioner assembly.

And finally, with a small, keen pleasure,
I slip the new belt over the spindle, rise,
and screw everything back together.

Later, we have a birthday dinner
for my wife's grandmother, who is dying
of bone cancer. Maybe,
if they dial up the chemo, fine tune the meds,
we'll do this again next year.

But she's old, and the cancer
seems to know what it's doing.
Everyone loves her broccoli casserole.
as for the cake, it sits on the table,
a small brown mountain we can't see beyond.

That night I empty the washer,
throw the damp clothes in the dryer.
For half an hour my wife's blouses
wrestle with my shirts
in a hot and whirling ecstasy,

because I replaced an ancient belt
and adjusted the pulley-tensioner assembly.

"Whirlpool" by George Bilgere. © George Bilgere. Reprinted with permission.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Photograph of My Mother as a Young Girl

Photograph of My Mother as a Young Girl  by Dana Gioia

She wasn't looking
when they took this picture:
sitting on the grass
in her bare feet
wearing a cotton dress,
she stares off to the side
watching something on the lawn
the camera didn't catch.
What was it?
A ladybug? A flower?
Judging from her expression,
possibly nothing at all,
or else
the lawn was like a mirror,
and she sat watching herself,
wondering who she was
and how she came to be there
sitting in this backyard,
wearing a cheap, white dress,
imagining that tomorrow
would be like all her yesterdays,
while her parents chatted
and watched, as I do
years later,
too distantly to interfere.

"Photograph of My Mother as a Young Girl" by Dana Gioia, from Daily Horoscope. (c) Graywolf Press, 1986.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Trust

This morning I stood in the summer shadows of the big elm
watching a doe lay her fawn down in our pasture field.
She hid him with care in a patch of tall grasses,
still wet and shining with dew.

As I stepped into the sunlight of our lane,
the doe stopped, alert to my movement.
Our eyes met and
we regarded each other for several seconds.
Then the doe, deciding, flicked her ears
and walked away - first with halting steps - then trotting on,
as she knew she must.

I understood

Soon I will take my son to college,
lie him in the grasses of what he has learned of life,
and I, too, will walk away,
trusting that all will be well.

We are optimistic, the doe and I.
We must be.



PPW