Sunday, March 27, 2011

His Good Felt Hat

His Good Felt Hat by Bruce Taylor

All dogs and children awaiting
his flat ascending steps
up the steepest hill
for miles around,
hunched over, hands deep
into the jingle of his pockets

full of keys and key chain,
change purse, small change,
clean hanky, subway tokens, Tums
and Lifesavers or better yet,

Chicklets, or cough-drops, or gum
he'd give some to any grandchild
who could spell his word for the day
or who had learned another verse
from Proverbs or the Psalms

with his good felt hat in his hand
and his jacket folded neatly
over the other shoulder,
and his always white shirt
and his pin for perfect attendance
in the too wide lapel
of his second best suit

and his braces, belt
with initialed buckle,
vest, vest-chain, fob,
collar-stays, tie-pin,
cuff-links, Parker pen
and pencil set, glasses case,
address book and billfold

and if it was a Sunday
his best blue suit
and his bible, the small one,
and a white boutonniere
for his mother who was dead
and the envelopes for the offering.

"His Good Felt Hat" by Bruce Taylor, from Pity the World. © Plain View Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I may have posted this one sometime earlier, but it is worth repeating:

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

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.

"Forgetfulness" by Billy Collins. Used with permission of the poet. (buy now)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Writers Almanac 3-20-11

From The Writers Almanac:

Her life was plain, her death
a common death—a girl
sewn into the watery shroud
of pneumonia. She was only
another Mary, there
in Illinois, and it was only
another April—the buds
of the honeysuckle folded
in prayer. Forgotten eyes,
forgotten smile, the cowlick
in her hair forgotten;
everything gone. Yet for
seventy years her grave
gave off the scent of roses.

"A Ghost Story" by Ted Kooser, from Weather Central. © The University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Prayer for our daughters

Thanks to the Writers Almanac:

Prayer for Our Daughters by Mark Jarman

May they never be lonely at parties
Or wait for mail from people they haven't written
Or still in middle age ask God for favors
Or forbid their children things they were never forbidden.

May hatred be like a habit they never developed
And can't see the point of, like gambling or heavy drinking.
If they forget themselves, may it be in music
Or the kind of prayer that makes a garden of thinking.

May they enter the coming century
Like swans under a bridge into enchantment
And take with them enough of this century
To assure their grandchildren it really happened.

May they find a place to love, without nostalgia
For some place else that they can never go back to.
And may they find themselves, as we have found them,
Complete at each stage of their lives, each part they add to.

May they be themselves, long after we've stopped watching.
May they return from every kind of suffering
(Except the last, which doesn't bear repeating)
And be themselves again, both blessed and blessing.

"Prayer for Our Daughters" by Mark Jarman, from Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems. © Sarabande Books, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Beatles

The Beatles by Dorianne Laux

I never really understood why The Beatles
broke up, the whole
Yoko Ono thing seemed an excuse
for something deeper.
Sure, she was an irritation
with her helium screech, her skimpy
leatherette skirts, those tinted ovoid glasses
eclipsing half her face.

                                 But come on, Hey Jude
was putting caviar on the table, not to mention
those glittering lines of cocaine. Beatle music
was playing for moats dug out with a fleet
of backhoes circling the stadium-sized perimeters
of four manicured estates. Why Don't We
Do It In the Road
was backing up traffic
around the amphitheaters of the industrial world.
Yoko's avant-garde art projects and op-art
outfits were nothing against the shiploads of lucre
I'm Fixing a Hole and Here Comes the Sun
were bringing in.
                                 So why did they do it?
They had wives, kids, ex-wives, mortgages,
thoroughbreds and waist-coated butlers, lithe
young assistants power-lunching with publicists
in Paris, Rome. And they must have loved
one another almost as much as John
loved Yoko, brothers from the ghetto,
their shaggy heads touching
above the grand piano, their voices
straining toward perfect harmony.

                                 Maybe they arrived
at a place where nothing seemed real. A field
bigger than love or greed or jealousy.
An open space
where nothing is enough.

"The Beatles" by Dorianne Laux, from The Book of Men. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sonnet - I am in need of music

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

Elizabeth Bishop

From Committed To Memory by John Hollander

Remembered today because of a book review on memory, Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer in the NY Times

Saturday, March 5, 2011

If The Owl Calls Again

If the owl calls again:

at dusk
from the island in the river,
and it's not too cold,

I'll wait for the moon
to rise,
then take wing and glide
to meet him.

We will not speak,
but hooded against the frost
soar above
the alder flats, searching
with tawny eyes.

And then we'll sit
in the shadowy spruce
and pick the bones
of careless mice,

while the long moon drifts
toward Asia
and the river mutters
in its icy bed.

And when the morning climbs
the limbs
we'll part without a sound,

fulfilled, floating
homeward as
the cold world awakens.

John Haines