Friday, January 30, 2015
It is 1959. It is the cusp of the coming revolution.
We still like Ike. We are still afraid of Sputnik.
We read Life magazine and Sports Illustrated
where the athletes grow up shooting hoops
in the driveway, playing catch in the backyard.
We sit on our sectional sofa. My mother loves
Danish modern. Our pants have cuffs. Our hair
is short. We are smiling and we mean it. I am
a guard. My father is my coach. I am sitting
next to him on the bench. I am ready to go in.
My sister will cheer. My mother will make
the pre-game meal from The Joy of Cooking.
Buster is a good dog. We are all at an angle.
We are a family at an angle. Our clothes are
pressed. We look into the eye of the camera.
“Look ‘em in the eye,” my father teaches us.
All we see ahead are wins, good grades,
Christmas. We believe in being happy. We
believe in mowing the lawn, a two-car garage,
a freezer, and what the teacher says. There is
nothing on the wall. We are facing away
from the wall. The jungle is far from home.
Hoses are for cleaning the car, watering
the gardens. My sister walks to school. My
father and I lean into the camera. My mother
and sister sit up straight. Ike has kept us
safe. In the spring, we will have a new car,
a Plymouth Fury with whitewalls and a vinyl top.
“From Our House to Your House” by Jack Ridl, from Practicing to Walk Like a Heron. © Wayne State University Press, 2013.
Friday, January 23, 2015
When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother’s piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold
And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying
Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country
I’ve never understood
Why this is so
But there’s an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow
For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest
And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country
We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams
And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows
Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.
“Music” by Anne Porter, from Living Things. © Zoland Books, 2006
Saturday, January 17, 2015
If I die before you
which is all but certain
then in the moment
before you will see me
become someone dead
in a transformation
as quick as a shooting star's
I will cross over into you
and ask you to carry
not only your own memories
but mine too until you
too lie down and erase us
both together into oblivion.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death
When I'm 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party
Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides
Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one
Let me die a youngman's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
It was back when we used to listen to stories,
our minds developing
pictures as we were taken into the elsewhere
of our experience or to the forbidden
or under the sea.
Television was wrestling, Milton Berle,
Believe It Or Not. We knelt before it
in front of something sent by parachute,
but when grandfather said “I’ll tell you a story,”
we stopped with pleasure,
sat crosslegged next to the fireplace, waited.
He’d sip gin and hold us, his voice
the extra truth
beyond what we believed without question.
When grandfather died and changed
what an evening meant,
it was 1954. After supper we went
to the television, innocents in a magic land
getting more innocent,
a thousand years away from Oswald and the shock,
the end of our enormous childhood.
We sat still
for anything, laughed when anyone slipped
or lisped or got hit with a pie. We said
to our friends
“What the hey?” and punched them in the arms.
The television had arrived, and was coming.
Throughout the country
all the grandfathers were dying,
giving their reluctant permission, like Indians.
"Stories" by Stephen Dunn from Local Time. © Quill Press, 1986. Reprinted with permission.
Monday, January 5, 2015
November again and the snow comes sudden and heavy.
"November Again" by Louis Jenkins from Just Above Water. © Holy Cow! Press, 1997. Reprinted with permission.