Monday, November 7, 2016

1960 - Billy Collins

In the old joke, the marriage counselor
tells the couple who never talks anymore
to go to a jazz club because at a jazz club
everyone talks during the bass solo.
But of course, no one starts talking
just because of a bass solo
or any other solo for that matter.
The quieter bass solo just reveals
the people in the club
who have been talking all along,
the same ones you can hear
on some well-known recordings.
Bill Evans, for example,
who is opening a new door into the piano
while some guy chats up his date
at one of the little tables in the back.
I have listened to that album
so many times I can anticipate the moment
of his drunken laugh
as if it were a strange note in the tune.
And so, anonymous man,
you have become part of my listening,
your romance a romance lost in the past
and a reminder somehow
that each member of that trio has died since then
and maybe so have you and, sadly, maybe she.

“1960” by Billy Collins from The Rain in Portugal. © Random House, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

by Mary Oliver © Mary Oliver

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gunga Din

Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling

You may talk o’ gin and beer   
When you’re quartered safe out ’ere,   
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter   
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ’im that’s got it.   
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,   
Where I used to spend my time   
A-servin’ of ’Er Majesty the Queen,   
Of all them blackfaced crew   
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din,   
      He was ‘Din! Din! Din!
   ‘You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
      ‘Hi! Slippy hitherao
      ‘Water, get it! Panee lao,
   ‘You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.’

The uniform ’e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ’arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag   
An’ a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment ’e could find.
When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ’eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted ‘Harry By!’
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ’im ’cause ’e couldn’t serve us all.
      It was ‘Din! Din! Din!
   ‘You ’eathen, where the mischief ’ave you been?   
      ‘You put some juldee in it
      ‘Or I’ll marrow you this minute
   ‘If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!’

’E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ’e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
’E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.   
With ’is mussick on ’is back,
’E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made 'Retire,’   
An’ for all ’is dirty ’ide
’E was white, clear white, inside
When ’e went to tend the wounded under fire!   
      It was ‘Din! Din! Din!’
   With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.   
      When the cartridges ran out,
      You could hear the front-ranks shout,   
   ‘Hi! ammunition-mules an' Gunga Din!’

I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ’a’ been.   
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.   
’E lifted up my ’ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ’e guv me ’arf-a-pint o’ water green.
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
      It was 'Din! Din! Din!
   ‘’Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ’is spleen;   
   ‘’E's chawin’ up the ground,
      ‘An’ ’e’s kickin’ all around:
   ‘For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!’

’E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.   
’E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ’e died,
'I ’ope you liked your drink,’ sez Gunga Din.   
So I’ll meet ’im later on
At the place where ’e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen.   
’E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!   
      Yes, Din! Din! Din!
   You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!   
   Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,   
      By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
   You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Zooey says to Franney:

“‘I don’t care where an actor acts.  It can be in summer stock, it can be over a radio, it can be over television, it can be in a goddam Broadway theatre, complete with the most fashionable, most well-fed, most sunburned-looking audience you can imagine.  But I’ll tell you a terrible secret–Are you listening to me?  There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy.  And all his goddam cousins by the dozens.  There isn’t anyone anywhere that isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady.  Don’t you know that?  Don’t you know that goddam secret yet?  And don’t you know–listen to me, now–don’t you know what that Fat Lady really is?…Ah, buddy.  Ah, buddy.  It’s Christ Himself.  Christ Himself, buddy.’”

J.D Salinger

Walking around the Block with a Three-Year Old

Walking around the Block with a Three-Year Old by David Wagoner

She sees a starling legs-up in the gutter.
She finds an earthworm limp and pale in a puddle.
What’s wrong with them? she says. I tell her they’re dead.
She scowls at me. She stares at her short shadow
And makes it dance in the road. She shakes its head.
Daddy, you don’t look pretty, she says. I agree.
She stomps on a sewer grid where the slow rain
Is vanishing. Do you want to go down there?
I tell her no. Neither do I she says.
She picks up a stone. This is an elephant.
Because it’s heavy, smooth, slate gray, and hers,
I tell her it’s very like an elephant.
We’re back. The starling is gone. Where did it go?
She says. I tell her I don’t know, maybe
A cat took it away. I think it’s lost.
I tell her I think so too. But can’t you find it?
I tell her I don’t think so. Let’s go look.
I show her my empty hands, and she takes one.

“Walking around the Block with a Three-Year Old” by David Wagoner from Traveling Light. © University of Illinois Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission.

Friday, October 14, 2016

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                               i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

“i carry your heart with me” by E.E. Cummings from Complete Poems: 1904-1962. © Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1991.

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10

October 10 by Wendell Berry

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.

Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
bleach whiter.

Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.

The calling of a crow sounds
Loud — landmark — now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.

“October 10” by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems. © Counterpoint, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Patterns

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?

The Wild Swans at Coole

The Wild Swans at Coole by William Butler Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

“The Wild Swans at Coole” by William Butler Yeats. Public Domain

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Bee Is Not Afraid of Me

The bee is not afraid of me by Emily Dickinson 

The bee is not afraid of me,
I know the butterfly;
The pretty people in the woods
Receive me cordially.
The brooks laugh louder when I come,
The breezes madder play.
Wherefore, mine eyes, thy silver mists?
Wherefore, O summer’s day?

“The bee is not afraid of me” by Emily Dickinson. Public Domain

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cinderella's Diary

Cinderella’s Diary by Ron Koertge 

 I miss my stepmother. What a thing to say,
but it’s true. The prince is so boring: four
hours to dress and then the cheering throngs.
Again. The page who holds the door is cute
enough to eat. Where is he once Mr. Charming
kisses my forehead goodnight?
Every morning I gaze out a casement window
at the hunters, dark men with blood on their
boots who joke and mount, their black trousers
straining, rough beards, calloused hands, selfish,
abrupt…
Oh, dear diary—I am lost in ever after:
those insufferable birds, someone in every
room with a lute, the queen calling me to look
at another painting of her son, this time
holding the transparent slipper I wish
I’d never seen.

“Cinderella’s Diary” by Ron Koertge from Vampire Planet. © Red Hen Press, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Talking About The Day

Each night after reading three books to my two children—
we each picked one—to unwind them into dreamland,
I’d turn off the light and sit between their beds
in the wide junk shop rocker I’d reupholstered blue,
still feeling the close-reading warmth of their bodies beside me,
and ask them to talk about the day—we did this,
we did that, sometimes leading somewhere, sometimes
not, but always ending up at the happy ending of now.
Now, in still darkness, listening to their breath slow and ease
into sleep’s regular rhythm.
                                                    They are grown, you might've guessed.
The past tense solid, unyielding, against the dropped bombs
of recent years. But how it calmed us then, rewinding
the gentle loop, and in the trusting darkness, pressing play.

"Talking About the Day" by Jim Daniels from Apology to the Moon. © Bat Cat Press, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

She Gives Me the Watch off Her Arm

She Gives Me the Watch off Her Arm by Marjorie Saiser

my mother wants me to
go to college
the closest she has ever been
is this
the dorm
her father had needed her
to dig the potatoes
and load them into burlap bags
but here she is
leaving her daughter
on the campus in the city time to go
we are at the desk
the clerk is wide-
eyed when my mother
asks her if she will
take an out-of-town check
if the need arises
if something comes up
so my girl will have money
even I know
this isn’t going to happen
this check-cashing
a clerk helping me with money
but miracle of miracles
the clerk says nothing
and I say nothing
and my mother feels better
we go to the parking lot
old glasses thick graying hair
she is wearing a man’s shirt
has to get back to the job
we stand beside her Ford and it is
here she undoes the buckle of the watch
and holds it out to me
my father’s watch
keeping good time for him
and then for her
she says she knows I will
need a watch to get to class
we hug and she gets in
starts the car
eases into traffic
no wave
the metal of the back of the watch
is smooth to my thumb
and it keeps for a moment
a warmth from her skin.

“She Gives Me the Watch off Her Arm” by Marjorie Saiser from I Have Nothing To Say About Fire.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid

For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid - by William Stafford

There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot—air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hug

Hug by Ron Padgett 

The older I get, the more I like hugging. When I was little the
people hugging me were much larger. In their grasp I was a rag
doll. In adolescence, my body was too tense to relax for a hug.
Later, after the loss of virginity—which was anything but a
loss—the extreme proximity of the other person, the smell of
hair, the warmth of the skin, the sound of breathing in the
dark—these were mysterious and delectable. This hug had
two primary components: the anticipation of sex and the plea-
sure of intimacy, which itself is a combination of trust and
affection. It was this latter combination that came to character-
ize the hugging I have experienced only in recent years, a hug-
ging that knows no distinctions of gender or age. When this
kind of hug is mutual, for a moment the world is perfect the
way it is, and the tears we shed for it are perfect too. I guess it
is an embrace.

“Hug” by Ron Padgett from Collected Poems. © Coffee House Press, 2013.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins
 
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
       As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
       Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
       Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
       Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
       Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
       Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
       To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

“As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Public Domain.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sea Fever

Sea Fever By John Masefield

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 go 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 go 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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Robert Frost

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work –
                I am the grass; I cover all. 

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
                What place is this?
                Where are we now? 

                I am the grass.
                Let me work.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Tongue Says Loneliness

Today begins National poetry Month:

The tongue says loneliness, anger, grief,
but does not feel them.

As Monday cannot feel Tuesday,
nor Thursday
reach back to Wednesday
as a mother reaches out for her found child.

As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.

Not a bell,
but the sound of the bell in the bell-shape,
lashing full strength with the first blow from inside the iron.

Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The visible and the in- by Marge Piercy

The visible and the in- by Marge Piercy 

Some people move through your life
like the perfume of peonies, heavy
and sensual and lingering.

Some people move through your life
like the sweet musky scent of cosmos
so delicate if you sniff twice, it’s gone.

Some people occupy your life
like moving men who cart off
couches, pianos and break dishes.

Some people touch you so lightly you
are not sure it happened. Others leave
you flat with footprints on your chest.

Some are like those fall warblers
you can’t tell from each other even
though you search Petersen’s.

Some come down hard on you like
a striking falcon and the scars remain
and you are forever wary of the sky.

We all are waiting rooms at bus
stations where hundreds have passed
through unnoticed and others

have almost burned us down
and others have left us clean and new
and others have just moved in.

"The visible and the in-" by Marge Piercy from Made in Detroit. © Knopf, 2015.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Don't Look Now

Don’t Look Now by William Trowbridge 

It never dies:
the old gag where
Wile E. Coyote,
in hot pursuit
of his rocketing foe,
sprints off a cliff
and keeps running
on thin air till he
happens to look down,
nailing us every time
with that why-me look
in the drawn-out
second after fortune’s
yanked the rug;
and then we follow
the poor chump’s image
growing smaller and
smaller till the quiet
puff of dust
on the canyon floor.

“Don’t Look Now” by William Trowbridge from Put This On, Please. © Red Hen Press, 2014.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dirge Without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the
love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not
approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the
world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

For a Friend Lying in Intensive Care Waiting for Her White Blood Cells to Rejuvenate After a Bone Marrow Transplant

by Barbara Crooker

The jonquils. They come back. They split the earth with
      their green swords, bearing cups of light.
The forsythia comes back, spraying its thin whips with
      blossom, one loud yellow shout.
The robins. They come back. They pull the sun on the
      silver thread of their song.
The irises come back. They dance in the soft air in silken
      gowns of midnight blue.
The lilacs come back. They trail their perfume like a scarf
      of violet chiffon.
And the leaves come back, on every tree and bush, millions
      and millions of small green hands applauding your return.

“For a Friend Lying in Intensive Care Waiting for Her White Blood Cells to Rejuvenate After a Bone Marrow Transplant” by Barbara Crooker from Selected Poems. © Future Cycle Press, 2015.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Adlestrop

Adlestrop BY EDWARD THOMAS

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Share this text ...?

Source: Poems (1917)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

POETEdward Thomas 1878–1917

POET’S REGIONEngland

SUBJECTSNatureSummerLandscapes & Pastorals

POETIC TERMSRhymed Stanza


With Their Wings

With Their Wings by Jean Nordhaus  
for Delia

On the evening you were born,
after the tremendous churning
that brought you forth, an owl
flew onto the rail of the balcony
where we sat, as darkness bled
from backlit hills into the sky.
In twilight, she perched on the ledge
measured us with wide, light-
gleaning eyes, then sailed off
on soft wings. Shades of my mother,
I thought, half-believing—the wide-
set eyes and level gaze.
For those who say the dead
have no more truck with us
are wrong. The dead are all around us
feathering the air with their wings.
They see in the fertile darkness
that surrounds this sac of light.
And in these hours we call them back
to steady us, who live in time.

“With Their Wings” by Jean Nordhaus from Memos from the Broken World. © Mayapple Press, 2016.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Love a Life

The Love a Life can show Below
Is but a filament, I know,
Of that diviner thing
That faints upon the face of Noon—
And smites the Tinder in the Sun—
And hinders Gabriel’s Wing—

‘Tis this—in Musi—hints and sways—
And far abroad on Summer days—
Distils uncertain pain—
‘Tis this enamors in the East—
And tints the Transit in the West
With harrowing Iodine—

‘Tis this—invites—appalls—endows—
Flits—glimmer—proves—dissolves—
Returns—suggests—convicts—enchants—
Then—flings in Paradise—

Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Boy at the Window

Boy at the Window by Richard Wilbur

Seeing the snowman standing all alone
In dusk and cold is more than he can bear.
The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare
A night of gnashings and enormous moan.
His tearful sight can hardly reach to where
The pale-faced figure with bitumen eyes
Returns him such a god-forsaken stare
As outcast Adam gave to Paradise.
The man of snow is, nonetheless, content,
Having no wish to go inside and die.
Still, he is moved to see the youngster cry.
Though frozen water is his element,
He melts enough to drop from one soft eye
A trickle of the purest rain, a tear
For the child at the bright pane surrounded by
Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.

"Boy at the Window" by Richard Wilbur, from Collected Poems. © Harcourt, 2004. Reprinted with permission.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

In Your Next Letter

In your next letter, by Carrie Shipers 

please describe
the weather in great detail. If possible,
enclose a fist of snow or mud,
everything you know about the soil,
how tomato leaves rub green against
your skin and make you itch, how slow
the corn is growing on the hill.
Thank you for the photographs
of where the chicken coop once stood,
clouds that did not become tornadoes.
When I try to explain where I’m from,
people imagine corn bread, cast-iron,
cows drifting across grass. I interrupt
with barbed wire, wind, harvest air
that reeks of wheat and diesel.
I hope your sleep comes easy now
that you’ve surrendered the upstairs,
hope the sun still lets you drink
one bitter cup before its rise. I don’t miss
flannel shirts, radios with only
AM stations, but there’s a certain kind
of star I can’t see from where I am—
bright, clear, unconcerned. I need
your recipes for gravy, pie crust,
canned green beans. I’m sending you
the buttons I can’t sew back on.
Please put them in the jar beside your bed.
In your next letter, please send seeds
and feathers, a piece of bone or china
you plowed up last spring. Please
promise I’m missing the right things.

“In your next letter,” by Carrie Shipers from Cause for Concern. © Able Muse Press, 2015.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Coming

Coming by Philip Larkin

On longer evenings,
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
Laurel-surrounded
In the deep bare garden,
Its fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon,
It will be spring soon —
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling,
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.

“Coming” by Philip Larkin from Collected Poems. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Poe's Anvil

Poe's Anvil by David Ray 

 At the drive-in theater where they sell junk
on Sundays we saw a man and his wife standing
by a pick-up truck trying to sell his anvil.
It sat up in the truck’s bed— it was black,
heavy, and elegant like a mammoth’s tusk.
And his name was written on it like a signature,
in iron that once ran like ink. His name was Poe.
I talked with him and he recalled briefly
days when his anvil stood outside a shed,
a workshop like a harbor set in a sea
of green tomato fields, and inside
he had a coal fire and a bellows and he watched
the tractor replace mules and the car
replace wagons. He tired of horse-shoes,
wagon wheels and plows, of hitches, harrows,
and lugs, of axles, crankcases and flywheels,
and he sat somewhat amused (and dying, his wife
told us), presiding over the sale of his own
monument, which he wanted someone to go on
hammering on, and in the midday city sun
the theater’s white screen was blank
like a faded quilt or Moby Dick’s stretched skin.

“Poe’s Anvil” by David Ray from Music of Time: Selected and New Poems. © The Backwater Press, 2006.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Mercy

The Mercy by Philip Levine 

The ship that took my mother to Ellis Island
eighty-three years ago was named “The Mercy.”
She remembers trying to eat a banana
without first peeling it and seeing her first orange
in the hands of a young Scot, a seaman
who gave her a bite and wiped her mouth for her
with a red bandana and taught her the word,
“orange,” saying it patiently over and over.
A long autumn voyage, the days darkening
with the black waters calming as night came on,
then nothing as far as her eyes could see and space
without limit rushing off to the corners
of creation. She prayed in Russian and Yiddish
to find her family in New York, prayers
unheard or misunderstood or perhaps ignored
by all the powers that swept the waves of darkness
before she woke, that kept “The Mercy” afloat
while smallpox raged among the passengers
and crew until the dead were buried at sea
with strange prayers in a tongue she could not fathom.
“The Mercy,” I read on the yellowing pages of a book
I located in a windowless room of the library
on 42nd Street, sat thirty-one days
offshore in quarantine before the passengers
disembarked. There a story ends. Other ships
arrived, “Tancred” out of Glasgow, “The Neptune”
registered as Danish, “Umberto IV,”
the list goes on for pages, November gives
way to winter, the sea pounds this alien shore.
Italian miners from Piemonte dig
under towns in western Pennsylvania
only to rediscover the same nightmare
they left at home. A nine-year-old girl travels
all night by train with one suitcase and an orange.
She learns that mercy is something you can eat
again and again while the juice spills over
your chin, you can wipe it away with the back
of your hands and you can never get enough.

"The Mercy” by Philip Levine from The Mercy. © Knopf, 2000.