Sunday, February 27, 2011

Perfection, Perfection

Perfection, Perfection by Kilian McDonnell

("I will walk the way of perfection." Psalm 101:2)

I have had it with perfection.
I have packed my bags,
I am out of here.
Gone.

As certain as rain
will make you wet,
perfection will do you
in.

It droppeth not as dew
upon the summer grass
to give liberty and green
joy.

Perfection straineth out
the quality of mercy,
withers rapture at its
birth.

Before the battle is half begun,
cold probity thinks
it can't be won, concedes the
war.

I've handed in my notice,
given back my keys,
signed my severance check, I
quit.

Hints I could have taken:
Even the perfect chiseled form of
Michelangelo's radiant David
squints,

the Venus de Milo
has no arms,
the Liberty Bell is
cracked.

"Perfection, Perfection" by Kilian McDonnell, from Swift, Lord, You Are Not. © Saint John's University Press, 2003.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

why some people be
mad at me sometimes

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering
mine.

Lucille Clifton

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Blind Old Man

Thanks to The Writers Almanac: The Blind Old Man by Robert Bly

I don't know why so much sweetness hovers around us.
Nor why the wind blows the curtains in the afternoons,
Nor why the earth mutters so much about its children.

We'll never know why the snow falls through the night,
Nor how the heron stretches her long legs,
Nor why we feel so abandoned in the morning.

We have never understood how birds manage to fly,
Nor who the genius is who makes up dreams,
Nor how heaven and earth can appear in a poem.

We don't know why the rain falls so long.
The ditchdigger turns up one shovel after another.
The herons go on stitching the heavens together.

We've never heard about the day we were conceived
Nor the doctor who helped us to be born,
Nor that blind old man who decides when we will die.

It's hard to understand why the sun rises,
And why our children are mostly fond of us,
And why the wind blows the curtains in the afternoon.

"The Blind Old Man" by Robert Bly, from Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey. © W.W. Norton & Co., 2010.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Best Thing I Did

Thanks to the Writers Almanac: The Best Thing I Did by Ron Padgett

The best thing I did
for my mother
was to outlive her

for which I deserve
no credit

though it makes me glad
that she didn't have
to see me die

Like most people
(I suppose)
I feel I should
have done more
for her

Like what?
I wasn't such a bad son

I would have wanted
to have loved her as much
as she loved me
but I couldn't
I had a life a son of my own
a wife and my youth that kept going on
maybe too long

And now I love her more
and more

so that perhaps
when I die
our love will be the same

though I seriously doubt
my heart can ever be
as big as hers

"The Best Thing I Did" by Ron Padgett, from How Long. © Coffee House Press, 2011.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Death Deal

Thanks to The Writers Almanac -- The Death Deal by Ron Padgett

Ever since that moment
when it first occurred
to me that I would die
(like everyone on earth!)
I struggled against
this eventuality, but
never thought of
how I'd die, exactly,
until around thirty
I made a mental list:
hit by car, shot
in head by random ricochet,
crushed beneath boulder,
victim of gas explosion,
head banged hard
in fall from ladder,
vaporized in plane crash,
dwindling away with cancer,
and so on. I tried to think
of which I'd take
if given the choice,
and came up time
and again with He died
in his sleep.
Now that I'm officially old,
though deep inside not
old officially or otherwise,
I'm oddly almost cheered
by the thought
that I might find out
in the not too distant future.
Now for lunch.

"The Death Deal" by Ron Padgett, from How Long. © Coffee House Press, 2011.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Northwest Passage

Northwest Passage

That faint line in the dark
might be the shore
of some heretofore unknown
small hour.
 
This fir-scent on the wind
must be the forests
of the unheard of month
between July and August.

-- James Richardson

For Valentine's Day


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Wm Shakespeare

In Praise of a Teacher

In Praise of a Teacher by Nikki Giovanni

The reason Miss Delaney was my favorite teacher, not just my
favorite English teacher, is that she would let me read any book I
wanted and would allow me to report on it. I had the pleasure of
reading The Scapegoat as well as We the Living as well as Silver Spoon (which was about a whole bunch of rich folk who were
unhappy), and Defender of the Damned, which was about
Clarence Darrow, which led me into Native Son because the real
case was defended by Darrow though in Native Son he got the
chair despite the fact that Darrow never lost a client to the chair
including Leopold and Loeb who killed Bobby Frank. Native Son
led me to Eight Men and all the rest of Richard Wright but I
preferred Langston Hughes at that time and Gwendolyn Brooks
and I did reports on both of them. I always loved English because
whatever human beings are, we are storytellers. It is our stories
that give a light to the future. When I went to college I became a
history major because history is such a wonderful story of who we
think we are; English is much more a story of who we really are.
It was, after all, Miss Delaney who introduced the class to 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.
And I thought
YES. Poetry is the main line. English is the train.

"In Praise of a Teacher" by Nikki Giovanni, from Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea. © Harper Perennial, 2002.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

First Night Floor Is Deck

For Chris: First Night Floor is Deck by Victor W. Pearn

Nomenclature
in the Marine Corps:
hat is a cover,
bathroom is a head,
Drill Instructor is a DI,
and we have become ladies.

Thoughts swirling
in your brain,
you have lived through
a worse nightmare
than you ever
dreamed possible.

You asked for it.
You enlisted.
This is temporary.
This will pass.
What is the best way to survive?
Go through with it. You will make it.

If you can call two hours sleep
a night. That first night
calm, silent, peaceful,
your eyes close, mind slows,
then you hear Gabriel
sounding his trumpet.

"First Night Floor is Deck" by Victor W. Pearn, from Devil Dogs and Jarheads. © Busca, Inc, 2003

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom

Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom
by  Dorothy Parker

Daily dawns another day;
I must up, to make my way.
Though I dress and drink and eat,
Move my fingers and my feet,
Learn a little, here and there,
Weep and laugh and sweat and swear,
Hear a song, or watch a stage,
Leave some words upon a page,
Claim a foe, or hail a friend—
Bed awaits me at the end.

Though I go in pride and strength,
I'll come back to bed at length.
Though I walk in blinded woe,
Back to bed I'm bound to go.
High my heart, or bowed my head,
All my days but lead to bed.
Up, and out, and on; and then
Ever back to bed again,
Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall—
I'm a fool to rise at all!

"Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom" by Dorothy Parker, from The Poetry & Short Stories of Dorothy Parker. © The Modern Library, 1994. Reprinted with permission