Monday, December 24, 2012

The Oxen

The Oxen by Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
    "Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
    By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
    They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
    To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
    In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
    "Come; see the oxen kneel,

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
    Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
    Hoping it might be so.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
'There is no peace on earth,' I said;
'For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!'

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!'

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Second Coming

THE SECOND COMING - William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Truly Great

The Truly Great BY STEPHEN SPENDER

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious, is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.

 Stephen Spender, “The Truly Great” from Collected Poems 1928-1953.

Monday, December 10, 2012

This World Is Not Conclusion by Emily Dickinson

this world is not conclusion
a species stands beyond -
invisible, as music -
but positive as sound -

it beckons, and it baffles
philosophy - don't know -
and through a riddle, at the last -
sagacity must go -

to guess it, puzzles scholars -
to gain it, men have borne
contempt of generations
and crucifixion, shown -

faith slips - and laughs, and rallies -
blushes, if any see -
plucks at a twig of evidence -
and asks a vane, the way -

much gesture, from the pulpit -
strong hallelujahs roll -
narcotics cannot still the tooth
that nibbles at the soul -

"This World Is Not Conclusion" by Emily Dickinson. Public domain.

Today is the birthday of "the Belle of Amherst":Emily Dickinson, born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on this date (1830). She spent most of her adult life in her corner bedroom in her father's house. The room contained a writing table, a dresser, a Franklin stove, a clock, a ruby decanter, and pictures on the wall of three writers: George Eliot, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Thomas Carlyle. Her favorite author was Shakespeare. She eventually wrote more than 1,700 poems. In the year 1862 alone, she wrote 366 poems — about one per day.
Most people think of Emily Dickinson as a slightly odd recluse, but she was in fact very outgoing in her younger years. As she became more passionate about writing poetry, she went out less and devoted her life to her verses. Over the years, scholars have come up with a lot of theories for her growing reclusiveness. Some believe it was because she was nursing a mysteriously broken heart, others think she was a closeted lesbian, and still others think she suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder. One biographer speculates that she may have suffered from epilepsy.
Emily Dickinson said: "If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry."

Thanks to The Writers Almanac 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Will you be my friend?


Will you be my friend?
There are so many reasons why you never should:
I'm sometimes sullen, often shy, acutely sensitive,
My fear erupts as anger, I find it hard to give,
I talk about myself when I'm afraid
And often spend a day without anything to say.
    But I will make you laugh
    And love you quite a bit
    And hold you when you're sad.
I cry a little almost every day
Because I'm more caring than the strangers ever know,
And, if at times, I show my tender side
(The soft and warmer part I hide)
I wonder,
    Will you be my friend?
A friend
Who far beyond the feebleness of any vow or tie
Will touch the secret place where I am really I,
To know the pain of lips that plead and eyes that weep,
Who will not run away when you find me in the street
Alone and lying mangled by my quota of defeats
But will stop and stay - to tell me of another day
    When I was beautiful.
Will you be my friend?
There are so many reasons why you never should:
Often I'm too serious, seldom predictably the same,
Sometimes cold and distant, probably I'll always change.
I bluster and brag, seek attention like a child.
I brood and pout, my anger can be wild,
    But I will make you laugh
    And love you quite a bit
    And be near when you're afraid.
I shake a little almost every day
Because I'm more frightened than the strangers ever know
And if at times I show my trembling side
(The anxious, fearful part I hide)
I wonder,
    Will you be my friend?
A friend
Who, when I fear your closeness, feels me push away
And stubbornly will stay to share what's left on such a day,
Who, when no one knows my name or calls me on the phone,
When there's no concern for me - what I have or haven't done -
And those I've helped and counted on have, oh so deftly, run,
Who, when there's nothing left but me, stripped of charm and subtlety,
Will nonetheless remain.
Will you be my friend?
For no reason that I know
Except I want you so.

---James Kavanaugh

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Poem of the One World

Poem of the One World by Mary Oliver 

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water
and then into the sky of this
the one world we all belong to
where everything sooner or later
is a part of everything else
which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

"Poem of the One world" by Mary Oliver, from A Thousand Mornings. © The Penguin Press, 2012.

A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim

A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first
just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray'd hair,
and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?
Then to the second I step--and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?
Then to the third--a face nor child nor old, very calm, as of
beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you--I think this face is the face of
the Christ himself,
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.

Friday, November 23, 2012

God's Letters

God's Letters

When God thought up the world,
the alphabet letters
whistled in his crown,
where they were engraved
with a pen of fire,
each wanting to begin
the story of Creation.

S said, I am Soul.
I can Shine out
from within your creatures.
God replied, I know that,
but you are Sin, too.

L said, I am Love,
and I brush away malice.
God rejoined, Yes,
but you are Lie,
and falsehood is not
what I had in mind.

P said, I am Praise,
and where there's a celebration,
I Perform
in my Purple coat.
Yes, roared God,
but at the same time,
you are Pessimism—
the other side of Praise.
And so forth.

All the letters
had two sides or more.
None was pure.
There was a clamor
in paradise, words,
syllables, shouting
to be seen and heard
for the glory
of the new heavens and earth.

God fell silent,
wondering,
How can song
rise from that commotion?

Rather than speculate,
God chose B,
who had intoned,
Bashfully, Boldly,
Blessed is his name.

And he made A
first in the Alphabet
for admitting, I am All—
a limitation
and a possibility.

"God's Letters" by Grace Schulman, from Days of Wonder © Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

This Is Just To Say

William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The House With Nobody in It - Joyce Kilmer

Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for
a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in
it.
I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there
are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.
This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen
panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed
and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.
If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.
Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window
and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the
store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.
But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling
feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes
could meet.
So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen
apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken
heart.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Late Stravinsky Listening to Late Beethoven

Late Stravinsky Listening to Late Beethoven - by Stephen Spender

“At the end, he listened only to
Beethoven’s Posthumous Quartets.
Some we played so often
You could only hear the needle in the groove.”

(She said, and smiled through her locked tears,
Lightly touching her cheek.)

Yes, lying on your bed under the ceiling,
Weightless as a feather, you became
Free of every self but the transparent
Intelligence through which the music showed
Its furious machine. Delectable to you
Beethoven’s harsh growlings, hammerings,
Crashings on plucked strings, his mockery at
The noises in his head, imprisoning him
In shouting deafness.
What was sound outside
His socketed skull, he only knew
Through seeing things make sounds. For example,
Walking through fields one clear March day
He saw a shepherd playing on his pipe
And knew there was the tune because he saw it
Jigging white against the green
Hillside. Then, stumping down into the valley,
Saw colliding blocks of thawing floes,
Clash cymbals unheard between banks,
Saw too the wind high up pluck the dumb strings
Of willow harps.
Music became
The eye-hole of his skull through which he looked
Beyond the barred and shutting discords on
A landscape all of sound. It drew above
A bass of mountain crags, a bird, a violin,
In a vast sky, its flight the line
A diamond cuts on glass, parabola
Held in the hearing eye. Flew on flew on
Until the curving line at last dissolved
Into that space where the perceiver
Becomes one with the object of perception,
The hearer is reborn in what he hears,
The seer in the vision: Beethoven
Released from deafness into music,
Stravinsky from the prison of his dying.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Robert Lewis Stevenson - Requiem

On 3 December 1894, aged 44, Stevenson collapsed while talking to his wife Fanny, and died within a few hours, most probably of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried with great local ceremony on Mount Vaea, overlooking the sea. His gravestone was inscribed with his own poem, "Requiem":

"Requiem":

 Under the wide and starry sky,
 Dig the grave and let me lie.
 Glad did I live and gladly die,
 And I laid me down with a will.
 This be the verse you grave for me:
 Here he lies where he longed to be;
 Home is the sailor, home from sea,
 And the hunter home from the hill.

Sadness

Sadness by Michael Blumenthal

Sooner or later it comes to everyone:
the beautiful prom queen who has lost a breast,
the Don Juan of the tenth grade who has
turned up impotent, the fleet chiropodist
who has developed a limp. Sooner or later it comes,
and you are never prepared for it quite yet,
you who had hoped to be spared through another epoch
of your rightful happiness, you who had always
given to charity. Like a gargantuan tackle
lumbering toward you, it comes and comes,
and—though you may double lateral all you wish,
though you may throw a perfect spiral
up the middle to some ecstatic receiver
and be blessed blue-green some night
by the ministrations of strangers—it will not
spare you. It comes and comes, inevitable
as sunrise, palpable as longing,
and we must go on
laughing it right in the face
until it learns to sing again.

"Sadness" by Michael Blumenthal, from No Hurry: Poems 2000-2012. © Etruscan Press, 2012.

A Singing Voice

by Kenneth Rexroth

Once, camping on a high bluff
Above the Fox River, when
I was about fourteen years
Old, on a full moonlit night
Crowded with whippoorwills and
Frogs, I lay awake long past
Midnight watching the moon move
Through the half drowned stars.  Suddenly
I heard, far away on the warm
Air a high clear soprano,
Purer than the purest boy's
Voice, singing, "Tuck me to sleep
In my old 'Tucky home."
She was in an open car
Speeding along the winding
Dipping highway beneath me.
A few seconds later
An old touring car full of
Boys and girls rushed by under
Me, the soprano rising
Full and clear and now close by
I could hear the others singing
Softly behind her voice.  Then
Rising and falling with the
Twisting road the song closed, soft
In the night.  Over thirty
Years have gone by but I have
Never forgotten.  Again
And again, driving on a
Lonely moonlit road, or waking
In a warm murmurous night,
I hear that voice singing that
Common song like an
Angelic memory.

High Water Mark

by David Shumate

It's hard to believe, but at one point the water rose to this
level.  No one had seen anything like it.  People on rooftops.
Cows and coffins floating through the streets.  Prisoners
carrying invalids from their rooms.  The barkeeper consoling
the preacher.  A coon hound who showed up a month later
forty miles downstream.  And all that mud it left behind.  You
never forget times like those.  They become part of who you
are.  You describe them to your grandchildren.  But they think
it's just another tale in which animals talk and people live
forever.  I know it's not the kind of thing you ought to say...
But I wouldn't mind seeing another good flood before I die.
It's been dry for decades.  Next time I think I'll just let go and
drift downstream and see where I end up.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Laurence Binyon's "For the Fallen"

Laurence Binyon - For The Fallen

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Long and Gracious Fall

A Long and Gracious Fall by David Budbill 

A long and gracious fall this year.
The leaves are down. Gardens: emptied,
manured, tilled, smooth, and waiting.
Mower and tiller serviced and put away.

Smoker put away, as is the summer table.
Prayer flags, windsocks and their poles: down.
Twenty-foot homemade badminton poles,
peace flag at the top of one, store-bought net—
all down and put away for another year. No more
outdoor summer chores.

Fall planting — peonies and tiger lilies — done.
Summer flower stalks removed, beds mulched,
a blanket for the cold.

Fall pruning done.
Woodshed roof hammered down and sealed again.
Cellar closed. Drive staked and flagged so the
snowplow knows where to go.

What else is there to do?
Finally, for once, we are ready for the snow.
Ready now to come inside. Time now for
words and music, poems and shakuhachi. Time now
to light some incense, sit and stare at candlelight.

"A Long and Gracious Fall" by David Budbill, from Happy Life. © Copper Canyon Press, 2011.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Dulce Et Decorum Est - for Veterans Day

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was born on March 18, 1893. He was on the Continent teaching until he visited a hospital for the wounded and then decided, in September, 1915, to return to England and enlist. "I came out in order to help these boys-- directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can. I have done the first" (October, 1918). Owen was injured in March 1917 and sent home; he was fit for duty in August, 1918, and returned to the front. November 4, just seven days before the Armistice, he was caught in a German machine gun attack and killed. He was twenty-five when he died. The bells were ringing on November 11, 1918, in Shrewsbury to celebrate the Armistice when the doorbell rang at his parent's home, bringing them the telegram telling them their son was dead.
_______________________________________


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

As I Walked Out One Evening

As I Walked Out One Evening by W. H. Auden

As I walked out one evening,
   Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
   Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
   I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
   'Love has no ending.

'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
   Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
   And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
   Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
   Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
   For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
   And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
   Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
   You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
   Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
   And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
   Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
   To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
   Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
   And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
   Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
   And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
   The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
   A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
   And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
   And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
   O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
   Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
   As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
   With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
   The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
   And the deep river ran on.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I [Round about the cauldron go]

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I [Round about the cauldron go]

The three witches, casting a spell

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights hast thirty one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

        Double, double toil and trouble;
        Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

         Double, double toil and trouble;
         Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

          Double, double toil and trouble
          Fire burn and cauldron bubble.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Poems

Poets.org: Halloween poems (See right of page)

Sample: Theme in Yellow by Carl Sandburg

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know I am fooling

Monday, October 29, 2012

"Autumn" and "I Am" by John Clare

Autumn by John Clare

      1
I love the fitfull gusts that shakes
 The casement all the day
And from the mossy elm tree takes
 The faded leaf away
Twirling it by the window-pane
With thousand others down the lane.

      2
I love to see the shaking twig
 Dance till the shut of eve
The sparrow on the cottage rig
 Whose chirp would make believe

That spring was just now flirting by
In summers lap with flowers to lie.

      3
I love to see the cottage smoke
 Curl upwards through the naked trees
The pigeons nestled round the coat
 On dull November days like these
The cock upon the dung-hill crowing
The mill sails on the heath agoing.

      4
The feather from the ravens breast
 Falls on the stubble lea
The acorns near the old crows nest
 Fall pattering down the tree
The grunting pigs that wait for all
Scramble and hurry where they fall.

I Am

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows
     My friends forsake me like a memory lost,
I am the self-consumer of my woes--
     They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love's frenzied, stifled throes--
And yet I am, and live--like vapors tossed
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
     Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
     But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
Even the dearest, that I love the best,
Are strange--nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes, where man hath never trod,
     A place where woman never smiled or wept--
There to abide with my Creator, God,
     And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below--above the vaulted sky

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Truth

The Truth by Ronald Wallace

for Amy

Her breast cancer, she said,
had metastasized to her liver;
she was going to die, and
soon. She said it made her
sad. I didn't know her well.
We were co-workers and
I liked her, but
what do you say when someone
actually answers the question
how are you?
with the unvarnished truth:
Not well, she said. I haven't
long to live. And should I
have said Oh you will! Should I
have smoothed it over
with the syrup of nervousness,
or done what I did
which was to
talk about terror and anger,
the unfairness and the lie,
to take the truth at face value?
No, she was just sad, she said.
She had her faith, she said,
and started to cry. And only then
did I see what she needed from me
was miracle, a simple belief
in miracle, and if that was varnish,
well, it would bring the grain
of the truth out, would save it
from wear and weather.
It would make the truth
almost shine.

"The Truth" by Ronald Wallace © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Channel Firing Thomas Hardy

Channel Firing by Thomas Hardy -(1840-1928)

That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay,
And broke the chancel window-squares,
We thought it was the Judgement-day

And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
The worms drew back into their mounds,

The glebe-cow drooled. Till God called, `No;
It's gunnery practice out at sea
Just as before you went below;
The world is as it used to be:

'All nations striving strong to make
Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
They do no more for Christés sake
Than you that are helpless in such matters.

'That this is not the judgement-hour
For some of them's a blessed thing,
For if it were they'd have to scour
Hell's floor for so much threatening...

'Ha, ha. It will be warmer when
I blow the trumpet (if indeed
I ever do; for you are men,
And rest eternal sorely need).'

So down we lay again. 'I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,'
Said one, 'than when He sent us under
In our indifferent century!'

And many a skeleton shook his head.
'Instead of preaching forty year,'
My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
'I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer.'

Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton Tower,
And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Autumnal - Stanley Plumly

Autumnal by Stanley Plumly 

Not long before she died my mother told me
that her one regret was never to have traveled
and that since she had just read about it
or somewhere that reminded her from sometime
Venice was the place she would have gone to
and might still in her haunting of the afterlife.
She had already questioned God in heaven
and the heavy Bible verses she was taught
and now saw death as her last chance to live,
her last chance to spend the green-gold leaf
pressed into books each October on her birthday.
She wept, she understood the innocence of dying.
And here she was propped up against her pillow
the way she finally would be in her coffin
with her eyeglasses held between the light
and open page. She wanted me to hear the article
that said that Venice would be filled like all
Italy that season and that Venice in particular
was vulnerable and small, weighted with the souls
of travelers, and that in the Grand Canal
rivers of dark waters moved.—Would
there be space?—It said, salotto citta,
that Venice was a city the size of drawing rooms,
lit with the flowers of funerals and weddings.

"Autumnal" by Stanley Plumly, from Old Heart: Poems. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mary Oliver - A Thousand Mornings

A THOUSAND MORNINGS

All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing.

From A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver

Saturday, October 13, 2012

God's World

God's World by Edna St. Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart. Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is all but out of me, let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

From Poem A Day

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I'm nobody - Emily Dickinson - Sung by Efrat Ben Zur



I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town - by E. E. Cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Escaped Gorilla

The Escaped Gorilla by David Wagoner 

When he walked out in the park that early evening
just before closing time, he didn't take
the nearest blonde in one arm and climb a tree
to wait for the camera crews. He didn't savage
anyone in uniform, upend cars
or beat his chest or scream, and nobody screamed
when they found him hiding behind the holly hedge
by the zoo office where he waited for someone

to take him by the hand and walk with him
around two corners and along a pathway
through the one door that wasn't supposed to be open
and back to the oblong place with the hard sky
where all of his unbreakable toys were waiting
to be broken, with the wall he could see through,
but not as far as the place he almost remembered,
which was too far away to be anywhere.

"The Escaped Gorilla" by David Wagoner, from A Map of the Night. © University of Illinois Press, 2008

Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What is Divinity by Wallace Stevens

What is Divinity by Wallace Stevens

What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch,
These are the measures destined for her soul.

"What is Divinity" by Wallace Stevens, from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. © Alfred A. Knopf, 1990. Thanks to the Writers Almanac

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sean Connery Reads C.P. Cavafy’s Epic Poem “Ithaca"

Sean Connery Reads C.P. Cavafy’s Epic Poem “Ithaca,” Set to the Music of Vangelis


...Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Genes by Sharon Dunn

Genes by Sharon Dunn

My eleven year son wants to fish,
he owns two rods, one saltwater,
one freshwater. He loves knives,
Bowie knives, Swiss Army
knives, "Knives like this one?"
my brother says, opening his desk
drawer and taking out a small
jackknife with antler handle.
My boy camps outdoors, begs to sleep
outside, is always shooting
arrows, rubber band guns,
he is lashing together a fort
in the backyard. He sails,
swims, kayaks and wants
to know the stars.
The outdoor hunting genes
are in the dark men in my family.
Yet I believe he is a son of light.
His joy in reading, cooking
and piano are fanned
from the tinderbox
of his father's heart.
He will save rainforest,
he will grow vegetables,
keep horses, fly his own plane.
He will make his own brave life,
he will not remake our lives
nor redeem us, nor pity us.

"Genes" by Sharon Dunn, from Refugees in the Garden: A Memoir in Poems. © The Rose Press, 2009.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

When I Buy Pictures

When I Buy Pictures by Marianne Moore

or what is closer to the truth,
when I look at that of which I may regard myself as the  
   imaginary possessor,
I fix upon what would give me pleasure in my average  
   moments:
the satire upon curiousity in which no more is discernible

   than the intensity of the mood;
or quite the opposite--the old thing, the medieval
   decorated hat-box,
in which there are hounds with waists diminishing like the
   waist of the hour-glass,
and deer and birds and seated people;
it may be no more than a square of parquetry; the literal
   biography perhaps,
in letters standing well apart upon a parchment-like
   expanse;
an artichoke in six varieties of blue; the snipe-legged
   hieroglyphic in three parts;
the silver fence protecting Adam's grave, or Michael taking
   Adam by the wrist.
Too stern an intellectual emphasis upon this quality or
   that detracts from one's enjoyment.
It must not wish to disarm anything; nor may the
   approved triumph easily be honored--
that which is great because something else is small.
It comes to this: of whatever sort it is,
it must be "lit with piercing glances into the life of things";
it must acknowledge the spiritual forces which have
   made it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thomas Lynch

Refusing at Fifty-two to Write Sonnets

It came to him that he could nearly count
How many late Aprils he had left to him
In increments of ten or, say, eleven
Thus:sixty-three, seventy-four, eighty-five.
He couldn’t see himself at ninety-six –
Humanity’s advances notwithstanding
In health-care, self-help, or new-age regimens –
What with his habits and family history,
The end he thought is nearer than you think.
The future, thereby bound to its contingencies,
The present moment opens like a gift:
The greening month, the golden week, the blue morning,
The hour’s routine, the minute’s passing glance –
All seem like godsends now. And what to make of this?
At the end the word that comes to him is Thanks.

A Pot of Red Lentils

simmers on the kitchen stove.
All afternoon dense kernels
surrender to the fertile
juices, their tender bellies
swelling with delight.

In the yard we plant
rhubarb, cauliflower, and artichokes,
cupping wet earth over tubers,
our labor the germ
of later sustenance and renewal.

Across the field the sound of a baby crying
as we carry in the last carrots,
whorls of butter lettuce,
a basket of red potatoes.

I want to remember us this way—
late September sun streaming through
the window, bread loaves and golden
bunches of grapes on the table,
spoonfuls of hot soup rising
to our lips, filling us
with what endures.

"A Pot of Red Lentils" by Peter Pereira, from Saying the World. © Copper Canyon Press, 2003.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Autumn

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

Emily Dickinson Nature XXVII, Autumn.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hoses by George Bilgere

Hoses

I love the hoses of summer
hanging in their green coils
from the sides of houses,
or slithering through lawns
on their way to the cool
meditations of sprinklers.

I think of my father, scotch
in one hand, the dripping hose
in the other, probing the dusk
with water, the world
around him falling apart,
marriage crumbling, booze
running the show.

Still, he liked to walk out
after dinner and water the lawn,
fiddling with the nozzle,
misting this, showering that.

Sometimes, in the hot twilight,
my sisters and I would run
in our swimsuits through the yard
while he followed us
with a cold beam of water.

And once, when my mother
came out to watch, he turned
the hose on her, the two of them
laughing in a way we'd never heard,
a laughter that must have brought them
back to the beginning.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Destruction Of Sennacherib by George Gordon Byron

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal


Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The firefly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Swan - Mary Oliver

The Swan by Mary Oliver

Across the wide waters
something comes
floating—a slim
and delicate

ship, filled
with white flowers—
and it moves
on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn't exist,
as though bringing such gifts
to the dry shore
was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
And now it turns its dark eyes,
it rearranges
the clouds of its wings,

it trails
an elaborate webbed foot,
the color of charcoal.
Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
when that poppy-colored beak
rests in my hand?
Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband's company—
he is so often
in paradise.
Of course! the path to heaven

doesn't lie down in flat miles.
It's in the imagination
with which you perceive
this world,

and the gestures
with which you honor it.
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those
white wings
touch the shore?

"The Swan" by Mary Oliver, from Winter Hours. © Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

Death Be Not Proud

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne

The poem (and that first line) has been the inspiration for several inspirational works in more recent literary history. John Gunther wrote a memoir entitled Death Be Not Proud, which centers around the life and death of his son. Margaret Edson also used the poem to great dramatic effect in her play Wit.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September 1, 1939

From The Writers Almanac: On this date in 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and WWII began. W.H. Auden wrote a famous poem about this day, called "September 1, 1939."

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade;
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
Find what huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I
  will 
  be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Memorable Film Eulogies

Out of Africa - A. E. Houseman

 4 Weddings and a Funeral - W. H. Auden

Yeats - September 1913

September 1913 - by William Butler Yeats
(1865-1939)

What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;
For men were born to pray and save;
Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
It's with O'Leary in the grave.

Yet they were of a different kind,
The names that stilled your childish play,
They have gone about the world like wind,
But little time had they to pray
For whom the hangman's rope was spun,
And what, God help us, could they save?
Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
It's with O'Leary in the grave.

Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
It's with O'Leary in the grave.

Yet could we turn the years again,
And call those exiles as they were
In all their loneliness and pain,
You'd cry `Some woman's yellow hair
Has maddened every mother's son':
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they're dead and gone,
They're with O'Leary in the grave.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Youth and Age


When I see the young men play,
Young methinks I am as they;
And my aged thoughts laid by,
To the dance with joy I fly:
Come, a flowery chaplet lend me;
Youth and mirthful thoughts attend me;
Age be gone, we'll dance among
Those that young are, and be young:
Bring some wine, boy, fill about;
You shall see the old man's stout;
Who can laugh and tipple too,
And be mad as well as you.

--Anacreon (570 - 488 BC)
Translated by Thomas Stanley

Friday, August 24, 2012

Debtors by Jim Harrison

[ed note: Thinking about time passing on the eve of my 80th birthday]

They used to say we're living on borrowed
time but even when young I wondered
who loaned it to us? In 1948 one grandpa
died stretched tight in a misty oxygen tent,
his four sons gathered, his papery hand
grasping mine. Only a week before, we were fishing.
Now the four sons have all run out of borrowed time
while I'm alive wondering whom I owe
for this indisputable gift of existence.
Of course time is running out. It always
has been a creek heading east, the freight
of water with its surprising heaviness
following the slant of the land, its destiny.
What is lovelier than a creek or riverine thicket?
Say it is an unknown benefactor who gave us
birds and Mozart, the mystery of trees and water
and all living things borrowing time.
Would I still love the creek if I lasted forever?

Jim Harrison -  Songs of Unreason. © Copper Canyon Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bill Murray reads Billy Collins' Forgetfulness

Patterns - By Amy Lowell


(1874-1925)

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.
My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.
And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.
I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles
on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon --
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.
Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
"Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se'nnight."
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
"Any answer, Madam," said my footman.
"No," I told him.
"See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer."
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.
In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.
In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Old Houses

Old Houses by Robert Cording

Year after year after year
I have come to love slowly

how old houses hold themselves—

before November's drizzled rain
or the refreshing light of June—

as if they have all come to agree
that, in time, the days are no longer
a matter of suffering or rejoicing.

I have come to love
how they take on the color of rain or sun
as they go on keeping their vigil

without need of a sign, awaiting nothing

more than the birds that sing from the eaves,
the seizing cold that sounds the rafters.

Thanks to the Writers Almanac

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Over Hill, Over Dale

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, Scene I [Over hill, over dale] by William Shakespeare

A wood near Athens. A Fairy speaks.

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits: I'll be gone;
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.

Let The Day Go

Let The Day Go - by Grace Paley

     who needs it
I had another day in mind
something like this one
     sunny green the earth
just right having suffered
the assault of what is called
torrential rain the pepper
the basil sitting upright
in their little boxes waiting
I suppose for me also the
cosmos the zinnias nearly
blooming a year too late
forget it let the day go
the sweet green day let it
take care of itself

Thanks to The Writers Almanac

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Boat Beneath A Sunny Sky

By Lewis Carroll

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Man Lost by a River



There is a voice inside the body.

There is a voice and a music,
a throbbing, four-chambered pear
that wants to be heard, that sits
alone by the river with its mandolin
and its torn coat, and sings
for whomever will listen
a song that no one wants to hear.

But sometimes, lost,
on his way to somewhere significant,
a man in a long coat, carrying
a briefcase, wanders into the forest.

He hears the voice and the mandolin,
he sees the thrush and the dandelion,
and he feels the mist rise over the river.

And his life is never the same,
for this having been lost---
for having strayed from the path of his routine,
for no good reason.

Michael Blumenthal

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gravity

Kim Addonizio

Carrying my daughter to bed
I remember how light she once was,
no more than a husk in my arms.
There was a time I could not put her down,
so frantic was her crying if I tried
to pry her from me, so I held her
for hours at night, walking up and down the hall,
willing her to fall asleep. She'd grow quiet,
pressed against me, her small being alert
to each sound, the tension in my arms, she'd take
my nipple and gaze up at me,
blinking back fatigue she'd fight whatever terror
waited beyond my body in her dark crib. Now
that she's so heavy I stagger beneath her,
she slips easily from me, down
into her own dreaming. I stand over her bed,
fixed there like a second, dimmer star,
though the stars are not fixed: someone
once carried the weight of my life.

Times two for the words in this poem - For my granddaughters on their 5th birthday

Monday, July 9, 2012

Departed

Departed by Grahame Davies

They touch our lives much less than we suppose,
the dead. The ones who swore they'd never leave,
but did so. Those who slipped away and those
we said we'd miss, but didn't really grieve.

The ones who, with their patience or their pain,
left us resolved we'd live a different way;
to never lie, or slander, or complain;
although we did so, almost the next day.

The great ones, even, known or by report,
whose spirits wrote in stars across the sky;
they count for little, or the truths they taught;
they bring us no new wisdom when they die.

We don't admit it, even when it's clear,
the way the least beloved human face
is more to us than those no longer here,
the ones we said no others could replace.

It's not the tragic, but the trivial things
that bury sadness deeper every day;
not how creation sighs, but how it sings
though that itself is tragic, in a way.

The daily sunlight staring through the glass.
The portrait fading in the painted frame.
The wind that goes, ungrieving, through the grass.
The loved one's lonely, lichen-covered name.

Thanks to The Guardian Poem Of The Week

Pre-Order his book Lightning Beneath the Sea from Amazon

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking,

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

John Masefield

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Emily Dickinson



A SERVICE OF SONG.

Some keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome.
 Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;
I just wear my wings,
And instead of tolling the bell for church,
Our little sexton sings.
 God preaches, -- a noted clergyman, --
And the sermon is never long;
So instead of getting to heaven at last,
I'm going all along!

Emily Dickinson

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Griffin at Two

Watching The Ducks


MY GRANDSON GRIFFIN AT TWO

Thanks, little boy, For your unconditional love,
For hugging me hard when we meet,
For your small hand leading,
For your sense of humor,
For your intelligence,
For your solitary focused play,
For your love of giraffes and elephants,
For your big blue eyes
Your expressive mouth,
Your prominent ears
The back of your delicate neck,
For your confident walk,
For seeing possibilities in everything,

For taking a piece of my heart,
And holding it safe in yours.

For all these things, my darling boy,
Thanks!!

By Grandma

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Flowering

The Flowering by Glenn Shea

I love to imagine London fallen quiet,
silent really, just past the toll of twelve;
walking past the white bulk of St. Paul's
or by the steps of Paternoster Square;
not in the panicked silences of nights
of the Blitz but merely unpeopled streets,
London asleep, lit bright by the moon,
quiet as the pond and woods behind our house.
I stroll down Fleet Street in my dreaming
to peer in the dark alleys and entries
that lead to the Inns of Court; a stray dog
may stroll by but of even the police
I hear no more than their echoing talk.
Up the curl of Goodge Street I lay my
hand flat in affection on the stout black
door of Johnson's house, and as in my
night the church is lit, I enter
the sadness of St. Dunstan's, its
silences like the streets outside. In
the short night of a poem I reach
Trafalgar Square, still lit, like an
etching, by the moon, unpeopled yet
even by lovers; then pale dawn edges up
and people appear, morning-eyed, stepping
from their dreams to speech, and like
them I take coffee in the crypt below
St. Martin's. I watch them, the creatures
of a city I have dreamed, the flowering
of an ache to be at home and there,
and they vanish up the bustle of
Charing Cross or past the fruit market
at Villiers Street, they vanish as I start
awake to other thoughts, or fall past
them in the peace of dreaming.

"The Flowering" by Glenn Shea, from Find a Place That Could Pass for Home. © Salmon Poetry, 2010.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Glenn Gould


Gould and Leonard Bernstein 1960

Glenn Gould by  Stanley Plumly 

I heard him that one night in Cincinnati.
The concert hall, 1960, the same day
Kennedy flew into town in perfect sunlight
and rode the route that took him
through the crowds of voters and nonvoters
who alike seemed to want to climb
into the armored convertible.
Gould did not so much play as address
the piano from a height of inches,
as if he were trying to slow the music
by holding each note separately.
Later he would say he was tired
of making public appearances,
the repetition of performing the Variations
was killing him. But that night
Bach felt like a discovery, whose repetitions
Gould had practiced in such privacy
as to bring them into being for the first time.
This was the fall, October, when Ohio,
like almost every other part of the country,
is beginning to be mortally beautiful,
the great old hardwoods letting go
their various scarlet, yellow,
and leopard-spotted leaves one by one.

"Glenn Gould" by Stanley Plumly

[ed note: Cincinnati - The city of my youth]

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How Baseball Saved My Marriage

How Baseball Saved My Marriage By Kristen Lindquist

One happy hour drink in Orono and now I'm driving
up the Penobscot just for kicks, past the bridge to Indian Island,
past the just-closed Georgia Pacific plant, tidy yards
of Milford, "Place of a Million Parts" junkyard,
the drink still warm in my belly, the strong, true edge of things

glowing with rich clarity in the late summer, late afternoon light.
Dylan's tangled up in blue on the radio, dozens of migrating
nighthawks flit over fields along the river, crickets shrill
in tall grass, window draft tickles my tan shoulders.
Later tonight, the Red Sox will win with another Big Papi

walk-off homer that will make me whoop to myself in the car.
But for now, I'm moving through Olamon, Passadumkeag,
away from the river, into the woods. It's the end of a long day,
but there still seems to be plenty of time and road ahead.
Something about the light, the beauty of the sky, makes me think
I should keep going right on to northern Maine, all the way
to Canada. I could just keep driving all night, potato fields
north of Houlton balancing the dark outside my car windows,
lights across the St. John beckoning me over the border.
I've got a full tank of gas, credit cards in my wallet. I could

drive all the way to Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island,
stay in some quaint inn on a craggy coast, walk low beaches
in search of sandpipers heading south from the Arctic.
How far north do roads go? But it grows late, shadows deepen,
and so far from home, I realize I don't know the station

broadcasting tonight's game. So it's finally baseball
that curbs my sudden wanderlust. It's the simple pleasure
of a good game coming up that makes me turn around
to re-enter the bubble of radio reception, to start
the long drive back to everything familiar and well-loved.

"How Baseball Saved My Marriage" by Kristen Lindquist, from Transportation. © Megunti Cook Press, 2011

Monday, June 11, 2012

Reading Hemingway

Reading Hemingway by James Cummins 

Reading Hemingway makes me so hungry,
jambon, cheeses, and a dry white wine.
Cold, of course, very cold. And very dry.

Reading Hemingway makes some folks angry:
the hip drinking, the bitter pantomime.
But reading Hemingway makes me hungry

for the good life, the sun, the fish, the sky:
blue air, white water, dinner on the line . . .
Had it down cold, he did. And dry. Real dry.

But Papa had it all, the brio, the Brie:
clear-eyed, tight-lipped, advancing on a  . . .
Reading Hemingway makes me so hungry,

I'd knock down Monsieur Stevens, too, if I
drank too much  before we dined.
(Too old, that man, and way too cold. And dry

enough to rub one's famished nerves awry,
kept talking past the kitchen's closing time!)
Reading Hemingway makes me so hungry . . .
And cold, of course. So cold. And very dry.

"Reading Hemingway" by James Cummins, from Portrait in a Spoon. © University of South Carolina Press, 1997. Reprinted with permission.