Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hear My Prayer, O Lord...

Hear My Prayer, O Lord... by Barbara Hamby

Hear my prayer, O Lord, though all I do all day is watch
old black-and-white movies on TV. Speak to me
through William Powell or Myrna Loy, solve the mystery
of my sloth. Show me the way to take a walk or catch
a cold, anything but read another exposé
of the Kennedys. Teach me to sing or at least play
the piano. For ten years I took lessons, and all
I learned was to hate Bach. Shake me up or down. Call
me names. Break my ears with AC/DC—I deserve far
worse. Rebuke me in front of my ersatz friends. Who cares?
They don't like me much anyway. Make me fat in lieu
of thin. Give me a break or don't. I'm a hundred million
molecules in search of an author. If that's you, thank you
for my skin. Without it I'd be in worse shape than I'm in.

"Hear My Prayer, O Lord..." by Barbara Hamby, from All-Night Lingo Tango. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission - Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Thursday, November 24, 2011

RIP - Ruth Stone


Good Advice

Here is not exactly here
because it passed by there
two seconds ago;
where it will not come back.
Although you adjust to this-
it's nothing, you say,
just the way it is.
How poor we are,
with all this running
through our fingers.
"Here," says the Devil,
"Eat. It's Paradise." 

********************************
Relatives

Grandma lives in this town;
in fact all over this town.
Granpa's dead.
Uncle Heery's brain-dead,
and them aunts! Well!
It's grandma you have to contend with.
She's here - she's there!
She works in the fast food hangout.
She's doing school lunches.
She's the crossing guard at the school corner.
She's the librarian's assistant.
She's part-time in the real estate office.
She's stuffing envelopes.
She gets up at three A.M.
to go to the screw factory;
and at night she's at the business school
taking a course in computer science.
Now you take this next town.
Grandpa's laid out in the cemetery
and grandma's gone wild and bought a bus ticket
to Disneyland.
Uncle Bimbo's been laid up for ten years
and them aunts
are all cashiers in ladies' clothing
and grandma couldn't stand the sight of them
washing their hands and their hair
and their panty hose.
"It's Marine World for me" grandma says.

Copyright © 1997 by Ruth Stone. First published in Prairie Schooner 71:1 (Spring 1997)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkeys by Mary Mackey

One November
a week before Thanksgiving
the Ohio river froze
and my great uncles
put on their coats
and drove the turkeys
across the ice
to Rosiclare
where they sold them
for enough to buy
my grandmother
a Christmas doll
with blue china eyes

I like to think
of the sound of
two hundred turkey feet
running across to Illinois
on their way
to the platter
the scrape of their nails
and my great uncles
in their homespun leggings
calling out gee and haw and git
to them as if they
were mules

I like to think of the Ohio
at that moment
the clear cold sky
the green river sleeping
under the ice
before the land got stripped
and the farm got sold
and the water turned the color
of whiskey
and all the uncles
lay down
and never got up again

I like to think of the world
before some genius invented
turkeys with pop-up plastic
thermometers
in their breasts
idiot birds
with no wildness left in them
turkeys that couldn't run the river
to save their souls

"Turkeys" by Mary Mackey, from Breaking the Fever. © Marsh Hawk Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission.

Friday, November 18, 2011

In The Secular Night

In the Secular Night by Margaret Atwood

In the secular night you wander around
alone in your house. It's two-thirty.
Everyone has deserted you,
or this is your story;
you remember it from being sixteen,
when the others were out somewhere, having a good time,
or so you suspected,
and you had to baby-sit.
You took a large scoop of vanilla ice-cream
and filled up the glass with grapejuice
and ginger ale, and put on Glenn Miller
with his big-band sound,
and lit a cigarette and blew the smoke up the chimney,
and cried for a while because you were not dancing,
and then danced, by yourself, your mouth circled with purple.

Now, forty years later, things have changed,
and it's baby lima beans.
It's necessary to reserve a secret vice.
This is what comes from forgetting to eat
at the stated mealtimes. You simmer them carefully,
drain, add cream and pepper,
and amble up and down the stairs,
scooping them up with your fingers right out of the bowl,
talking to yourself out loud.
You'd be surprised if you got an answer,
but that part will come later.

There is so much silence between the words,
you say. You say, The sensed absence
of God and the sensed presence
amount to much the same thing,
only in reverse.
You say, I have too much white clothing.
You start to hum.
Several hundred years ago
this could have been mysticism
or heresy. It isn't now.
Outside there are sirens.
Someone's been run over.
The century grinds on.

"In the Secular Night" by Margaret Atwood, from Morning in the Burned House. © Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.- Thanks to NPR

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Falling Leaves and Early Snow

Falling Leaves and Early Snow by Kenneth Rexroth

In the years to come they will say,
"They fell like the leaves
In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine
November has come to the forest,
To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen.
The year fades with the white frost
On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows,
Where the deer tracks were black in the morning.
Ice forms in the shadows;
Disheveled maples hang over the water;
Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream.
Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold.
The yellow maple leaves eddy above them,
The glittering leaves of the cottonwood,
The olive, velvety alder leaves,
The scarlet dogwood leaves,
Most poignant of all.

In the afternoon thin blades of cloud
Move over the mountains;
The storm clouds follow them;
Fine rain falls without wind.
The forest is filled with wet resonant silence.
When the rain pauses the clouds
Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls.
In the evening the wind changes;
Snow falls in the sunset.
We stand in the snowy twilight
And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud.
Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight,
Glimmering with floating snow.
An owl cries in the sifting darkness.
The moon has a sheen like a glacier.
"Falling Leaves and Early Snow" by Kenneth Rexroth, from The Collected Shorter Poems. © New Directions Publishing Corporations, 2003

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Return of the Subjunctive by Tamara Madison

Oh, the Subjunctive, May it make its bold return!
May it ride back proud
In liveried coach,
May its two fine horses snort
And paw the ground,
And, escorted by its staunch
Attendants If and Whether,
May it descend in velvet cloak
And black-gloved hand
The lacquered steps of hope
And happenstance.
May it fix upon us its deep
Uncertain gaze!
I shall be there to greet it
Though my company
Be small and moody.
I shall beg it stay
And may its presence give
Some respite from the steely glare
Of Indicative, a mantle to shield us
From Passive's clammy chill.
May it light again the land
Between the world that was
And is, and that which still might be,
And may we tread again desire's
Leaf-dappled path
Of possibility.

"The Return of the Subjunctive" by Tamara Madison, from Wild Domestic. © Pearl Editions, 2011. Reprinted with permission