Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Small Coin of that Moment

This Much I Do Remember

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

Alll of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of you shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way that stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all of the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all of the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.

- Billy Collins

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Penguin and Polar Bear

Penguin & Polar Bear by William Jay Smith

I think it must be very nice
To stroll about upon the ice,
Night and day, day and night,
Wearing only black and white,
Always in your Sunday best—
Black tailcoat and pearl-white vest.
To stroll about so pleasantly
Beside the cold and silent sea
Would really suit me to a T!
I think it must be very nice
To stroll with Penguins on the ice.

For those who like the Arctic air,
There also is the Polar Bear.

Polar Bear

The Polar Bear never makes his bed;
He sleeps on a cake of ice instead.
He has no blanket, no quilt, no sheet
Except the rain and snow and sleet.
He drifts about on a white ice floe
While cold wings howl and blizzards blow
And the temperature drops to forty below.
The Polar Bear never makes his bed;
The blanket he pulls up over his head
Is lined with soft and feathery snow.
If ever he rose and turned on the light,
He would find a world of bathtub white,
And icebergs floating through the night.

"Penguin" and "Polar Bear" by William Jay Smith

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bill's pretty good

William Shakespeare - Sonnet #29

When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Owls by W.D. Snodgrass - for Camille













Wait; the great horned owls
Calling from the wood's edge; listen.
           There: the dark male, low
And booming, tremoring the whole valley.
           There: the female, resolving, answering
High and clear, restoring silence.
           The chilly woods draw in
Their breath, slow, waiting, and now both
           Sound out together, close to harmony.

           These are the year's worst nights.
Ice glazed on the top boughs,
           Old snow deep on the ground,
Snow in the red-tailed hawks'
           Nests they take for their own.
Nothing crosses the crusted ground.
           No squirrels, no rabbits, the mice gone,
No crow has young yet they can steal.
           These nights the iron air clangs
Like the gates of a cell block, blank
           And black as the inside of your chest.

           Now, the great owls take
The air, the male's calls take
           Depth on and resonance, they take
A rough nest, take their mate
           And, opening out long wings, take
Flight, unguided and apart, to caliper
           The blind synapse their voices cross
Over the dead white fields,
           The dead black woods, where they take
Soundings on nothing fast, take
           Soundings on each other, each alone.
"Owls" by W.D. Snodgrass, from Selected Poems: 1957-1987. © Soho Press, 1987.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Imagining It

Imagining It by Kate Barnes

At eighteen, in Paris,
I just woke up out of a dream
just before dawn, and stepped through the long window
from my cold room with its red silk walls.
Shivering a little in my dressing gown,
I leaned on the balustrade
and, look, overnight a light snow had fallen;
no car had driven over it yet, it lay in the street
as white, as innocent, as snow on the open fields.
Then something approached with a calm rhythm
of hoof-beats made softer by the snow, the sound
of a quiet heart. It was a heaped-up wood cart
pulled by a gray horse who walked along slowly,
head down, while the driver
sat at the back of one shaft and hunched over
to light his cigarette.
                                  From above, I saw clearly
the lit match in the old man's cupped hands, its glow
on his long jaw, the small well of flame
between his living palms like the flare
of the soul in his body. He went on
down the street, and the sky went on
growing lighter, and I saw how he left
his dark tracks behind him on the whiteness
of the snow, just the lines of the two wheels,
slightly wavering, and the dints of the horse's hooves
between them, a writing in an undiscovered
language, something whose meaning
we feel sure we know, and still can't quite
translate.
                       When I stepped inside again,
I stopped thinking about love for a minute — I thought about it
almost all the time then — and thought instead
about being alive for a while in a world
with cobblestones, new snow, and the unconscious
poem printed by hooves on the maiden street.

Of course I was not yet ready to be grateful.

"Imagining It" by Kate Barnes, from Where the Deer Were. © David R. Goldine, Publisher, Inc., 1994.