Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Noel

Noël by Anne Porter

When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they're cut down
And brought into our houses

When clustered sparks
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet's message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies

Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

"Noël" by Anne Porter, from Living Things

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Emily!

Emily Dickinson's To-Do List by Andrea Carlisle

Monday
Figure out what to wear—white dress?
Put hair in bun
Bake gingerbread for Sue
Peer out window at passersby
Write poem
Hide poem

Tuesday
White dress? Off-white dress?
Feed cats
Chat with Lavinia
Work in garden
Letter to T.W.H.

Wednesday
White dress or what?
Eavesdrop on visitors from behind door
Write poem
Hide poem

Thursday
Try on new white dress
Gardening—watch out for narrow fellows in grass!
Gingerbread, cakes, treats
Poems: Write and hide them

Friday
Embroider sash for white dress
Write poetry
Water flowers on windowsill
Hide everything

"Emily Dickinson's To-Do List" by Andrea Carlisle. Used with permission of the author.

 *********************************
New Biography -Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds

Thursday, December 2, 2010

“Northumbrian Sequence IV” - By Kathleen Raine

“Northumbrian Sequence IV” - By Kathleen Raine 
Let in the wind,
Let in the rain,
Let in the moors tonight,

The storm beats on my window-pane,
Night stands at my bed-foot,
Let in the fear,
Let in the pain,
Let in the trees that toss and groan,
Let in the north tonight.

Let in the nameless formless power
That beats upon my door,
Let in the ice, let in the snow,
The banshee howling on the moor,
The bracken-bush on the bleak hillside,
Let in the dead tonight.

The whistling ghost behind the dyke,
The dead that rot in the mire,
Let in the thronging ancestors,
The unfilled desire,
Let in the wraith of the dead earl,
Let in the dead tonight.

Let in the cold,
Let in the wet,
Let in the loneliness,
Let in the quick,
Let in the dead,
Let in the unpeopled skies.

Oh how can virgin fingers weave
A covering for the void,
How can my fearful heart conceive
Gigantic solitude?
How can a house so small contain
A company so great?
Let in the dark,
Let in the dead,
Let in your love tonight.

Let in the snow that numbs the grave,
Let in the acorn-tree,
The mountain stream and mountain stone,
Let in the bitter sea.

Fearful is my virgin heart
And frail my virgin form,
And must I then take pity on
The raging of the storm
That rose up from the great abyss
Before the earth was made,
That pours the stars in cataracts
And shakes this violent world?

Let in the fire,
Let in the power,
Let in the invading might.

Gentle must my fingers be
And pitiful my heart
Since I must bind in human form
A living power so great,
A living impulse great and wild
That cries about my house
With all the violence of desire
Desiring this my peace.

Pitiful my heart must hold
The lonely stars at rest,
Have pity on the raven’s cry,
The torrent and the eagle’s wing,
The icy water of the tarn
And on the biting blast.

Let in the wound,
Let in the pain,
Let in your child tonight. *

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

God's Grandeur

God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs-
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Last four lines are among my favorite lines of poetry. One of the most comfortable descriptions of God ever written.

In The Bus

In the Bus by Grace Paley

Somewhere between Greenfield and Holyoke
snow became rain
and a child passed through me
as a person moves through mist
as the moon moves through
a dense cloud at night
as though I were cloud or mist
a child passed through me

On the highway that lies
across miles of stubble
and tobacco barns our bus speeding
speeding disordered the slanty rain
and a girl with no name      naked
wearing the last nakedness of
childhood breathed in me
                   once    no
                   once    two breaths
a sigh    she whispered    Hey you
begin again
                      Again?
again     again    you'll see
it's easy    begin again    long ago

"In the Bus" by Grace Paley, from Begin Again Collected Poems. © Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000. Reprinted with permission.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It’s Sunday Morning in Early November

Thanks to The Writer's Almanac -- It’s Sunday Morning in Early November by
Philip Schultz 
and there are a lot of leaves already.
I could rake and get a head start.
The boy's summer toys need to be put
in the basement. I could clean it out
or fix the broken storm window.
When Eli gets home from Sunday school,
I could take him fishing. I don't fish
but I could learn to. I could show him
how much fun it is. We don't do as much
as we used to do. And my wife, there's
so much I haven't told her lately,
about how quickly my soul is aging,
how it feels like a basement I keep filling
with everything I'm tired of surviving.
I could take a walk with my wife and try
to explain the ghosts I can't stop speaking to.
Or I could read all those books piling up
about the beginning of the end of understanding...
Meanwhile, it's such a beautiful morning,
the changing colors, the hypnotic light.
I could sit by the window watching the leaves,
which seem to know exactly how to fall
from one moment to the next. Or I could lose
everything and have to begin over again.

"It's Sunday Morning in Early November" by Philip Schultz, from The God of Loneliness: Selected and New Poems. © Houghton Mifflin, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

That Evening

That Evening by Ken Hada

that evening

   after the service
   after the casket

was lowered into red dirt
dirt which he had plowed
and planted

   I sat with her
   in the house

a house that would never be
the same, the house of grandkids
and trophies from prize quilts
and blue-ribbon jams from
county fairs

   and she spoke some
   and I spoke some

I was not yet eighteen
He was sixty five

   so my thoughts
   too few memories

the shotgun he bought for me
at auction, catching a big bass
on his cane pole, sitting on his lap
at sunrise, hearing growls about
harvest and calves, hay, tractors
and fences

   now it would all change
   we both knew that

as we sat holding our differing
grief, it would all change

   some for the better
   but not all

sundown and death – too obvious
to construct – that first night
was hard, but she was hard too

   and she teaches me
   to live on

for thirty more years (and counting)
that evening still alive in me –
a lesson in grief

   believe it, bear it
   bury it

"That Evening" by Ken Hada, from Spare Parts. © Mongrel Empire Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ode on Solitude

How happy he, who free from care
The rage of courts, and noise of towns;
Contented breathes his native air,
In his own grounds.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest! who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide swift away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix'd; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unheard, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie. -- Alexander Pope

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Father's Gren Flannel Shirt

My Father's Green Flannel Shirt by Andrea Hollander Budy

He wore it when he mowed the grass, walked the dog,
lounged with the Sunday papers. Whether
it was his favorite, I'm not sure, the way
I'm not sure if he cared for me
more than for my brother. When I was a child,
he would pull me aside sometimes
and tell me a secret – perhaps about his sister
or one of the brothers he wasn't speaking to,
a few times about my mother, whom I knew he loved –
but always something that nagged at him.

Afterwards he would tell me not to tell anyone,
then walk away whistling the way
Alec Guinness, in The Bridge on the River Kwai,
walked away whistling when they let him out
of solitary confinement, as if he knew
something wonderful and important
and no one could scare it out of him.
Sometimes at dinner, my father would whistle
that same tune. And wink at me.

How I loved being in cahoots with him. Loved
feeling chosen, being the one selected to receive.
I took each secret into me and kept it.

"My Father's Green Flannel Shirt" by Andrea Hollander Budy from Woman in the Painting. © Autumn House Press, 2006.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On Punctuation by Elizabeth Austen

On Punctuation by Elizabeth Austen

not for me the dogma of the period
preaching order and a sure conclusion
and no not for me the prissy
formality or tight-lipped fence
of the colon and as for the semi-
colon call it what it is
a period slumming
with the commas
a poser at the bar
feigning liberation with one hand
tightening the leash with the other
oh give me the headlong run-on
fragment dangling its feet
over the edge give me the sly
comma with its come-hither
wave teasing all the characters
on either side give me ellipses
not just a gang of periods
a trail of possibilities
or give me the sweet interrupting dash
the running leaping joining dash all the voices
gleeing out over one another
oh if I must
punctuate
give me the YIPPEE
of the exclamation point
give me give me the curling
cupping curve mounting the period
with voluptuous uncertainty

"On Punctuation" by Elizabeth Austen, from The Girl Who Goes Alone. © Floating Bridge Press, 2010.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

e.e cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

e.e. cummings

He was born Edward Estlin Cummings in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1894), who penned nearly 3,000 poems, a couple of autobiographical novels, and several essays and plays.

He majored in classics at Harvard, gave a controversial graduation speech on modern art, worked for a mail-order bookseller, got bored, and volunteered along with his college writer friend John Dos Passos for an ambulance corps serving in France during World War I. It was in 1917, and partly to entertain himself and see what the censors would do, he wrote provocative letters espousing anti-war views and professing not to hate those enemy Germans. The French censors intercepted the letters and put him in a military detention camp on suspicion of espionage.

He got out of jail because his dad was well-connected, and came home a few months later, just in time for Christmas that year. He was promptly drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to infantry training camp. About five years later, in 1922, he published The Enormous Room, an autobiographical novel in which he made fun of the prison guards and sympathized with his fellow inmates at the camp. One biographer noted: "Cummings' account of his imprisonment was oddly cheerful in tone and freewheeling in style. He depicted his internment camp stay as a period of inner growth." He was only 28 years old when the book was published, and the book made him famous.

He published a few volumes of poetry and took a job as a traveling correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine. In the afternoons he painted and in the evenings he wrote, a routine he kept up for the rest of his life.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Signature Mark of Autumn

The Signature Mark of Autumn by Gary Young

The signature mark of autumn has arrived at last
with the rains: orange of
pumpkin, orange persimmon, orange lichen on rocks
and fallen logs; a copper
moon hung low over the orchard; moist, ruddy limbs
of the madrone, russet
oak leaf, storm-peeled redwood, acorns emptied
by squirrels and jays; and
mushrooms, orange boletes, Witch's Butter sprouting
on rotted oak, the Deadly
Galeria, and of course, chanterelles, which we'll eat
tonight with pasta, goat
cheese, and wine.

"The Signature Mark of Autumn" by Gary Young, from Pleasure. © Heyday Books, 2006.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Epigrams

Faults by Sara Teasdale

They came to tell your faults to me,
They named them over one by one;
I laughed aloud when they were done,
I knew them all so well before, —
Oh, they were blind, too blind to see
Your faults had made me love you more

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

Chapter Heading by Ernest M. Hemingway

For we have thought the longer thoughts
    And gone the shorter way.
And we have danced to devils’ tunes,
    Shivering home to pray;
To serve one master in the night,
    Another in the day.
.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

e e cummings - anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance (sleep wake hope and then)they said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Film Noir

Film Noir by Nicholas Christopher

The girl on the rooftop stares out
over the city and grips a cold revolver.
Laundry flaps around her in the hot night.
Each streetlight haloes a sinister act.
People are trapped in their beds, dreaming of
the A-bomb and hatching get-rich-quick schemes.
Pickpockets and grifters prowl the streets.
Hit-men stalk informers and crooked cops hide in churches.
Are there no more picket fences and tea parties
in America? Does no one have a birthday anymore?
Even the ballgames are fixed, and the quiz shows.
Airplanes full of widows circle the skyline.
Young couples elope in stolen cars.
All the prostitutes were wronged terribly in childhood.
They wear polka dot skirts, black gloves, and trenchcoats.
Men strut around in boxy suits, fedoras, and palm-tree ties.
They jam into nightclubs or brawl in hotel rooms
while saxophone music drowns out their cries.
The girl in the shadows drops the revolver
and pushes through the laundry to the edge of the roof.
Her eyes are glassy, her hair blows wild.
She looks down at her lover sprawled on the sidewalk
and she screams.
A crowd gathers in a pool of neon.
It starts to rain.

"Film Noir" by Nicholas Christopher, from A Short History of the Island of Butterflies. © Penguin, 1986. Reprinted with permission

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Return of Odysseus

The Return of Odysseus by George Bilgere

When Odysseus finally does get home
he is understandably upset about the suitors,
who have been mooching off his wife for twenty years,
drinking his wine, eating his mutton, etc.

In a similar situation today he would seek legal counsel.
But those were different times. With the help
of his son Telemachus he slaughters roughly
one hundred and ten suitors
and quite a number of young ladies,
although in view of their behavior
I use the term loosely. Rivers of blood
course across the palace floor.

I too have come home in a bad mood.
Yesterday, for instance, after the department meeting,
when I ended up losing my choice parking spot
behind the library to the new provost.

I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
in this particular way I have perfected over the years
that lets my wife understand
the contempt I have for my enemies,
which is prodigious. And then with great skill
she built a gin and tonic
that would have pleased the very gods,
and with epic patience she listened
as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
to so-and-so, and also to what's-his-name.

And then there was another gin and tonic
and presently my wrath abated and was forgotten,
and peace came to reign once more
in the great halls and courtyards of my house.


"The Return of Odysseus" by George Bilgere.- Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sweet Summer Days

Sweet Summer Days by Dennis Caraher

The summer sun is nearly done
Frost will follow soon
Asters and chrysanthemums
Light up the afternoon

The dew is on long after dawn
Mornings are a haze
One swallow's song is holding on
In these fading sweet summer days.

We flew across the ocean
Some fell into the sea
God will choose what we will lose
Though we may disagree

We come here to be mended
That we may find our way
We pray that there's redemption
In these fading sweet summer days

Summer months comfort us
The sun comes with sustenance
We live for its lingering light

Days slip away from us
Katydids and crickets hush
We drift into lengthening night.

We were once our children
Too soon they will be us
All they ask, a simple task:
"Remember how it was".

We hold them close, we let them go
We watch them fly away
And if we trust, they'll come to us
In these fading sweet summer days

Stars they are innumerable
We'll never know them all
But nature's not immutable
Every star will fall

And one day, I'll return to thee
And all that will remain
Is the beauty and the certainty
of these fading sweet summer days

"Sweet Summer Days" by Dennis Caraher. © Dennis Caraher, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

"The Door Was open and the House Was Dark - In memory of David Hammond" by SEAMUS HEANEY

"The Door Was open and the House Was Dark - In memory of David Hammond" by SEAMUS HEANEY (a favorite poet of Russell Crowe)

"The door was open and the house was dark
Wherefore I called his name, although I knew
The answer this time would be silence

That kept me standing listening while it grew
Backwards and down and out into the street
Where as I'd entered (I remember now)

The streetlamps too were out.
I felt, for the first time there and then, a
stranger,
Intruder almost, wanting to take flight

Yet well aware that here there was no danger,
Only withdrawal, a not unwelcoming
Emptiness, as in a midnight hangar

On an overgrown airfield in late summer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

 Hear Sarah Polley recite in The Sweet Hereafter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack




The Pied Piper of Hamelin - Robert Browning

...When, lo, as they reached the mountain's side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
Did I say, all? No! One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,—
"It's dull in our town since my playmates left!
I can't forget that I'm bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me:
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagles' wings:
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped and I stood still,
And found myself outside the Hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dorothy Parker

A few tastes of Dorothy Parker:

Afternoon

When I am old, and comforted,
And done with this desire,
With Memory to share my bed
And Peace to share my fire,

I'll comb my hair in scalloped bands
Beneath my laundered cap,
And watch my cool and fragile hands
Lie light upon my lap.

And I will have a sprigged gown
With lace to kiss my throat;
I'll draw my curtain to the town,
And hum a purring note.

And I'll forget the way of tears,
And rock, and stir my tea.
But oh, I wish those blessed years
Were further than they be!

A Pig's-Eye View Of Literature

The Lives and Times of John Keats,
Percy Bysshe Shelley, and
George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron

Byron and Shelley and Keats
Were a trio of Lyrical treats.
The forehead of Shelley was cluttered with curls,
And Keats never was a descendant of earls,
And Byron walked out with a number of girls,
But it didn't impair the poetical feats
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley and Keats.

Oscar Wilde

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

The Lady's Reward

Lady, lady, never start
Conversation toward your heart;
Keep your pretty words serene;
Never murmur what you mean.
Show yourself, by word and look,
Swift and shallow as a brook.
Be as cool and quick to go
As a drop of April snow;
Be as delicate and gay
As a cherry flower in May.
Lady, lady, never speak
Of the tears that burn your cheek-
She will never win him, whose
Words had shown she feared to lose.
Be you wise and never sad,
You will get your lovely lad.
Never serious be, nor true,
And your wish will come to you-
And if that makes you happy, kid,
You'll be the first it ever did.

http://www.poemhunter.com/

 Poetry Speaks Expanded: Hear Poets Read Their Own Work From Tennyson to Plath (Book w/ Audio CD)

William Carlos Williams


Nantucket

Flowers through the window
lavender and yellow

changed by white curtains—
Smell of cleanliness—

Sunshine of late afternoon—
On the glass tray

a glass pitcher, the tumbler
turned down, by which

a key is lying— And the
immaculate white bed

Friday, September 10, 2010

What People Give You

What People Give You -  Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno
 
Long-faced irises. Mums.
Pink roses and white roses
and giant sunflowers,
and hundreds of daisies.

Fruit baskets with muscular pears,
and water crackers and tiny jams
and the steady march of casseroles.
And money,
people give money these days.

Cards, of course:
the Madonna, wise
and sad just for you,
Chinese cherry blossoms,
sunsets and moonscapes,
and dragonflies for transcendence.

People stand by your sink
and offer up their pain:
Did you know I lost a baby once,
or My eldest son was killed,
or My mother died two months ago.

People are good.

They file into your cartoon house until it bows at the seams;
they give you every
blessed
thing,
everything,
except your daughter back.

"What People Give You" by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, from Slamming Open the Door. © Alice James Books, 2009.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Anthem - Leonard Cohen

Used on cancer patient Kristian Anderson's web site. Please watch the video he made for his wife. It will move you, as it did me and many others. Cameos from the prime minister of NZ and Hugh Jackman ---Retweeted by Russell Crowe and many others - A bit of background on the video at AOL Health

Anthem

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Edna St Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

The House With Nobody In It

THE HOUSE WITH NOBODY IN IT

by: Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

HENEVER I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.

I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.

This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.

If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.

Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.

But a house that has done what a house should do, a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Writer's Almanac - September 1

The Writer's Almanac: W.H. Auden wrote a famous poem about this day, called "September 1, 1939."

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.

"September 1, 1939" became one of Auden's most famous poems.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Highwayman

The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
Riding--riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.

He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, and a bunch of lace at his chin;
He'd a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of fine doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to his thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle--
His rapier hilt a-twinkle--
His pistol butts a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred,
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter--
Bess, the landlord's daughter--
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim, the ostler listened--his face was white and peaked--
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter--
The landlord's black-eyed daughter;
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say:

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart; I'm after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light.
Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He stood upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the sweet black waves of perfume came tumbling o'er his breast,
Then he kissed its waves in the moonlight
(O sweet black waves in the moonlight!),
And he tugged at his reins in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon.
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon over the purple moor,
The redcoat troops came marching--
Marching--marching--
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord; they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets by their side;
There was Death at every window,
And Hell at one dark window,
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had bound her up at attention, with many a sniggering jest!
They had tied a rifle beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the dead man say,
"Look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though Hell should bar the way."

She twisted her hands behind her, but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it, she strove no more for the rest;
Up, she stood up at attention, with the barrel beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing, she would not strive again,
For the road lay bare in the moonlight,
Blank and bare in the moonlight,
And the blood in her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hooves, ringing clear;
Tlot tlot, tlot tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding--
Riding--riding--
The redcoats looked to their priming! She stood up straight and still.

Tlot tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment, she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight--
Her musket shattered the moonlight--
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him--with her death.

He turned, he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the casement, drenched in her own red blood!
Not till the dawn did he hear it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon, wine-red was his velvet coat
When they shot him down in the highway,
Down like a dog in the highway,
And he lay in his blood in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still on a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a gypsy's ribbon looping the purple moor,
The highwayman comes riding--
Riding--riding--
The highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.


Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred,
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter--
Bess, the landlord's daughter--
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


Alfred Noyes

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pretty Words - Elinor Wylie

Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:
I love smooth words, like gold-enamelled fish
Which circle slowly with a silken swish,
And tender ones, like downy-feathered birds:
Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds,
Come to my hand, and playful if I wish,
Or purring softly at a silver dish,
Blue Persian kittens fed on cream and curds.

I love bright words, words up and singing early;
Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing;
Warm lazy words, white cattle under trees;
I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly,
Like midsummer moths, and honied words like bees,
Gilded and sticky, with a little sting.

Elinor Wylie (1885-1929)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Midsummer, Georgia Avenue

Midsummer, Georgia Avenue by Mary Jo Salter

Happiness: a high, wide porch, white columns
crowned by the crepe-paper party hats
of hibiscus; a rocking chair; iced tea; a book;
an afternoon in late July to read it,
or read the middle of it, having leisure
to mark that place and enter it tomorrow
just as you left it (knock-knock of woodpecker
keeping yesterday's time, cicada's buzz,
the turning of another page, and somewhere
a question raised and dropped, the pendulum-
swing of a wind chime). Back and forth, the rocker
and the reading eye, and isn't half

your jittery, odd joy the looking out
now and again across the road to where,
under the lush allées of long-lived trees
conferring shade and breeze on those who feel
none of it, a hundred stories stand confined,
each to their single page of stone? Not far,
the distance between you and them: a breath,
a heartbeat dropped, a word in your two-faced
book that invites you to its party only
to sadden you when it's over. And so you stay
on your teetering perch, you move and go nowhere,
gazing past the heat-struck street that's split

down the middle—not to put too fine
a point on it—by a double yellow line.


"Midsummer, Georgia Avenue" by Mary Jo Salter, from Open Shutters. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2003

Monday, August 16, 2010

From a Railway Carriage - Robert Louis Stevenson

From A Railway Carriage

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Elisabeth Reads Poetry by Kathleen Flenniken

Elisabeth Reads Poetry by Kathleen Flenniken

Elisabeth is two and reads
a book of poetry off my shelf,
opens with Yah yah sumpin to eat.
I try to read my own book
but she sings Dibbah dah ze Rosie.
She's changed her clothes
six times today
from blue dress to swimsuit
to Tom's size 7 green jeans.
That was all before 10:00.
She's been naked ever since,
now reciting A B D Bs,
while I read over her shoulder
to check for genius,
like my friend who found
her two-year-old breaking
the alphabet code,
reading real words
as if he'd climbed
into the high cupboards,
eating sugar and poison
willy nilly—a horrifying miracle.
But no. Atsa batta sorry,
Elisabeth intones
and tosses the book in favor
of a red crayon, then
on to her dolly's baby blanket,
folding it like soft origami.
I thumb her dropped book of poems.
I can't help it, she's a genius
of prolonged babyhood,
of its light, its wild uncoded rhythms,
playing late into the open afternoon.

Printed in the Fall/Winter 2000 issue of CLR

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Scary Movies

Scary Movies by Kim Addonizio

Today the cloud shapes are terrifying,
and I keep expecting some enormous
black-and-white B-movie Cyclops
to appear at the edge of the horizon,

to come striding over the ocean
and drag me from my kitchen
to the deep cave that flickered
into my young brain one Saturday

at the Baronet Theater where I sat helpless
between my older brothers, pumped up
on candy and horror—that cave,
the litter of human bones

gnawed on and flung toward the entrance,
I can smell their stench as clearly
as the bacon fat from breakfast. This
is how it feels to lose it—

not sanity, I mean, but whatever it is
that helps you get up in the morning
and actually leave the house
on those days when it seems like death

in his brown uniform
is cruising his panel truck
of packages through your neighborhood.
I think of a friend's voice

on her answering machine—
Hi, I'm not here—
the morning of her funeral,
the calls filling up the tape

and the mail still arriving,
and I feel as afraid as I was
after all those vampire movies
when I'd come home and lie awake

all night, rigid in my bed,
unable to get up
even to pee because the undead
were waiting underneath it;

if I so much as struck a bare
foot out there in the unprotected air
they'd grab me by the ankle and pull me
under. And my parents said there was

nothing there, when I was older
I would know better, and now
they're dead, and I'm older,
and I know better.

"Scary Movies" by Kim Addonizio, from What is This Thing Called Love. © W.W. Norton & Company, 2004

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Writer's Almanac: It's the birthday of one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, Gerard Manley Hopkins, born at Stratford, England (1844). He's known for being a technical master of poetic devices like alliteration, assonance, and sprung rhythm.

Poetry.org - Hopkins page
When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I'll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?

O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Forms of Love

Forms of Love by Kim Addonizio

I love you but I'm married.
I love you but I wish you had more hair.
I love you more.
I love you more like a friend.
I love your friends more than you.
I love how when we go into a mall and classical muzak is playing,
you can always name the composer.
I love you, but one or both of us is/are fictional.
I love you but "I" am an unstable signifier.
I love you saying, "I understand the semiotics of that" when I said, "I
had a little personal business to take care of."
I love you as long as you love me back.
I love you in spite of the restraining order.
I love you from the coma you put me in.
I love you more than I've ever loved anyone, except for this one
guy.
I love you when you're not getting drunk and stupid.
I love how you get me.
I love your pain, it's so competitive.
I love how emotionally unavailable you are.
I love you like I'm a strange backyard and you're running from the
cops, looking for a place to stash your gun.
I love your hair.
I love you but I'm just not that into you.
I love you secretly.
I love how you make me feel like I'm a monastery in the desert.
I love how you defined grace as the little turn the blood in the
syringe takes when you're shooting heroin, after you pull back
the plunger slightly to make sure you hit the vein.
I love your mother, she's the opposite of mine.
I love you and feel a powerful spiritual connection to you, even
though we've never met.
I love your tacos! I love your stick deodorant!
I love it when you tie me up with ropes using the knots you
learned in Boy Scouts, and when you do the stoned Dennis
Hopper rap from Apocalypse Now!
I love your extravagant double takes!
I love your mother, even though I'm nearly her age!
I love everything about you except your hair.
If it weren't for that I know I could really, really love you.  

"Forms of Love" by Kim Addonizio, from Lucifer at the Starlite. © W.W. Norton & Company, 2009.