Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happiness

Happiness

A state you dare not enter
    with hopes of staying,
quicksand in the marshes, and all

the roads leading to a castle
    that doesn’t exist.
But there it is, as promised,

with its perfect bridge above
    the crocodiles,
and its doors forever open.

Stephen Dunn

Death is nothing at all

Death is Nothing at All
by Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
   that we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
   which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.


Laugh as we always laughed
   at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
   that it always was.
Let it be spoken without affect,
   without the trace of a shadow on it.


Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
   because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you,
  for an interval,
     somewhere very near,
       just around the corner.

All is well.

Ground Waters

Ground Waters  by Alison Apotheker

Yesterday, in snow's rare visit to this city,
my son and I raised his first snowman.
As we rolled the white boulders of its body
my pregnant belly nudged up against them like kin.

By evening, its body leaned to the left so impossibly
I kept checking the window for its collapse.
In the morning, even more so, the body straining
groundward as if to grasp the carrot nose
that had fallen and lay now half-covered in slush.

My son, who hasn't yet been around the block
with gravity, suspects nothing. I remember
last summer when he skinned his shin on the sidewalk.
I watched his eyes register the body's betrayal.
Yet he seems not to notice the snowman's state,
the degree of recline, how little it would take
to return it to an idea of itself.

All over the neighborhood,
snowmen assume such inspired angles,
splayed skywards as if in appeal to their place of origin,
kneeling for their own beheadings,
canted in prayer, tipsy
with the song of their own slow-going.

The relief obvious in their frozen hulking masses
to rejoin the fluid grace of ground waters.
The truth is: before I became a mother,
I knew the body's longing to be lost.
An untrustworthy lover bound
to forsake us, I'd rather do the leaving
than be left.

But now, as we walk home in the dusk,
my two-year old riding my hip,
patting my cheeks with his mittened hands,
I never want to leave this earth.
Inside the baby tumbles and reels,
already knowing where the body will take us,
that we have no choice but to follow its lead.

"Ground Waters" by Alison Apotheker, from Slim Margin. © Word Press, 2008. -- Thanks to The Writer's Almanac

Monday, February 22, 2010

Edna St Vincent Millay

It's the birthday of the woman who wrote "My candle burns at both ends;
/ It will not last the night; / But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends — / It gives a lovely light!"
Edna St. Vincent Millay the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, was born on this day in 1892 in Rockland, Maine. After being educated at Vassar, she moved to Greenwich Village and lived a Jazz Age Bohemian life, which revolved around poetry and love affairs. She was beautiful and alluring and many men and women fell in love with her. Critic Edmund Wilson asked her to marry him. She said no. He later reflected that falling in love with her "was so common an experience, so almost inevitable a consequence of knowing her in those days."She wrote: "Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: / Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!"
Ashes of Life

Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
  Eat I must, and sleep I will, -- and would that night were here!
But ah! -- to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
  Would that it were day again! -- with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do;
  This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through, --
  There's little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me, -- and the neighbors knock and borrow,
  And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse, --
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
  There's this little street and this little house.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

This Paper Boat - by Ted Kooser

Carefully placed upon the future,
it tips from the breeze and skims away,
frail thing of words, this valentine,
so far to sail. And if you find it
caught in the reeds, its message blurred,
the thought that you are holding it
a moment is enough for me.

"This Paper Boat" by Ted Kooser, from Valentines. © University of Nebraska Press, 2008.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lucky by Tony Hoagland

Lucky by Tony Hoagland
If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to help your enemy
the way I got to help my mother
when she was weakened past the point of saying no.

Into the big enamel tub
half-filled with water
which I had made just right,
I lowered the childish skeleton
she had become.

Her eyelids fluttered as I soaped and rinsed
her belly and her chest,
the sorry ruin of her flanks
and the frayed gray cloud
between her legs.

Some nights, sitting by her bed
book open in my lap
while I listened to the air
move thickly in and out of her dark lungs,
my mind filled up with praise
as lush as music,

amazed at the symmetry and luck
that would offer me the chance to pay
my heavy debt of punishment and love
with love and punishment.

And once I held her dripping wet
in the uncomfortable air
between the wheelchair and the tub,
until she begged me like a child

to stop,
an act of cruelty which we both understood
was the ancient irresistible rejoicing
of power over weakness.

If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to raise the spoon
of pristine, frosty ice cream
to the trusting creature mouth
of your old enemy

because the tastebuds at least are not broken
because there is a bond between you
and sweet is sweet in any language.