Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Susanna

Susanna  by Anne Porter

Nobody in the hospital
Could tell the age
Of the old woman who
Was called Susanna

I knew she spoke some English
And that she was an immigrant
Out of a little country
Trampled by armies

Because she had no visitors
I would stop by to see her
But she was always sleeping

All I could do
Was to get out her comb
And carefully untangle
The tangles in her hair

One day I was beside her
When she woke up
Opening small dark eyes
Of a surprising clearness

She looked at me and said
You want to know the truth?
I answered Yes

She said it's something that
My mother told me

There's not a single inch
Of our whole body
That the Lord does not love

She then went back to sleep.

"Susanna" by Anne Porter, from Living Things: Collected Poems. © Zoland Books, 2006.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven - Yeats





The Writers Almanac:
It's the birthday of the Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, the lifelong muse of poet W.B. Yeats. Born in Aldershot, England 1865. She and Yeats were the same age, born only a few months apart, and they first met when they were 25 years old. He was introduced to her by a friend, the Irish nationalist John O'Leary, and later referred to the day when he met her as "when the troubling of my life began."

She was tall and exquisitely beautiful. In his Memoirs, Yeats wrote: "I had never thought to see in a living woman so great beauty. It belonged to famous pictures, to poetry, to some legendary past. A complexion like the blossom of apples, and yet face and body had the beauty of lineaments which Blake calls the highest beauty because it changes least from youth to age, and a stature so great that she seemed of a divine race."

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Going To Bed

Going to Bed  by George Bilgere

I check the locks on the front door
               and the side door,
make sure the windows are closed
               and the heat dialed down.
I switch off the computer,
               turn off the living room lights.

I let in the cats.

               Reverently, I unplug the Christmas tree,
leaving Christ and the little animals
               in the dark.

The last thing I do
               is step out to the back yard
for a quick look at the Milky Way.

               The stars are halogen-blue.
The constellations, whose names
               I have long since forgotten,
look down anonymously,
               and the whole galaxy
is cartwheeling in silence through the night.

               Everything seems to be ok.

"Going to Bed" by George Bilgere, from Haywire. © Utah State University Press, 2006.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When I First Saw Snow

When I First Saw Snow  by Gregory Djanikian
            
Tarrytown, N.Y.


Bing Crosby was singing "White Christmas"
            on the radio, we were staying at my aunt's house
            waiting for papers, my father was looking for a job.
We had trimmed the tree the night before,
            sap had run on my fingers and for the first time
            I was smelling pine wherever I went.
Anais, my cousin, was upstairs in her room
            listening to Danny and the Juniors.
Haigo was playing Monopoly with Lucy, his sister,
            Buzzy, the boy next door, had eyes for her
            and there was a rattle of dice, a shuffling
            of Boardwalk, Park Place, Marvin Gardens.
There were red bows on the Christmas tree.
It had snowed all night.
My boot buckles were clinking like small bells
            as I thumped to the door and out
            onto the grey planks of the porch dusted with snow.
The world was immaculate, new,
            even the trees had changed color,
            and when I touched the snow on the railing
I didn't know what I had touched, ice or fire.
I heard, ''I'm dreaming ..."
I heard, "At the hop, hop, hop ... oh, baby."
I heard "B & 0" and the train in my imagination
            was whistling through the great plains.
And I was stepping off,
I was falling deeply into America.
"When I First Saw Snow" by Gregory Djanikian, from Falling Deeply into America. © Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1989.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Funeral Blues

Funeral Blues — WH Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Newborn - Cecial Day Lewis

On the occasion of Daniel Day Lewis's birth

The Newborn

This mannikin who just now
Broke prison and stepped free
Into his own identity--
Hand, foot, and brow
A finished work, a breathing miniature--
Was still, one night ago,
A hope, a dread, a mere shape we
Had lived with, only sure
Something would grow
Out of its coiled nine-month nonentity.

This morsel of man I've held--
What potency it has,
Though strengthless still and naked as
A nut unshelled!

We time-worn folk renew
Ourselves at your enchanted spring,
As though mankind's begun
Again in you.
This is your birthday and our thanksgiving.

- From Pegasus and Other Poems by C. Day Lewis

Jerusalem

 By Anne Porter

We're still in Babylon but
We do not weep
Why should we weep?
We have forgotten
How to weep

We've sold our harps
And bought ourselves machines
That do our singing for us
And who remembers now
The songs we sang in Zion?

We have got used to exile
We hardly notice
Our captivity
For some of us
There are such comforts here
Such luxuries

Even a guard
To keep the beggars
From annoying us

Jerusalem
We have forgotten you.

By Anne Porter, from Living Things Collected Poems. © Zoland Books, 2006.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Friday, December 4, 2009

God Bless the Experimental Writers

"One beginning and one ending for a book was a
thing I did not agree with." - Flann O'Brien from At Swim-Two-Birds

God bless the experimental writers.
The ones whose work is a little
difficult, built of tinkertoys
and dada, or portmanteau and
Reich. God help them as they
type away, knowing their readers
are few, only those who love to toil
over an intricate boil of language,
who think books are secret codes.
These writers will never see their names
in Publisher's Weekly. They will
never be on the talk shows. Yet,
every day they disappear into their
rooms atop their mother's houses,
or their guest houses behind some
lawyer's estate. Every day they
tack improbable word onto im-
probable word, out of love, children,
out of a desire to emend the world.

"God Bless the Experimental Writers" by Corey Mesler, from Some Identity Problems. © Foothills Publishing, 2008.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vanishing Point

The moment arrives when you say,
"I don't dislike this man,
but how did I marry him?"
Something about his wintry voice,
the way he can't or won't show his face,
and how small and alone you feel
out here on earth's curve,
driving day and night,
never reaching a destination,
until you realize you're running parallel to him,
and you'll never meet.

"Vanishing Point" by Freya Manfred, from Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2008.