Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hippos on Holiday - Billy Collins

is not really the title of a movie
but if it was I would be sure to see it.
I love their short legs and big heads,
the whole hippo look.
Hundreds of them would frolic
in the mud of a wide, slow-moving river,
and I would eat my popcorn
in the dark of a neighborhood theater.
When they opened their enormous mouths
lined with big stubby teeth
I would drink my enormous Coke.

I would be both in my seat
and in the water playing with the hippos,
which is the way it is
with a truly great movie.
Only a mean-spirited reviewer
would ask on holiday from what?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Voyage - Tony Hoagland
I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
and found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on

in a novel without a moral but one in which
all the characters who died in the middle chapters
make the sunsets near the book's end more beautiful.

— And someone is spreading a map upon a table,
and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
and someone else says, "I'm only sorry
that I forgot my blue parka; It's turning cold."

Sunset like a burning wagon train
Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
Icebergs and tropical storms,
That's the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage —

And in one of the chapters I was blinded by love
And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
& I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,

I forgot about the ocean,
Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.

And the sides of the ship were green as money,
and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.

Then it was summer. Under the constellation of the swan,
under the constellation of the horse.

At night we consoled ourselves
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
by pushing into it —

The sea was no longer a metaphor.
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bring In the Gods - Jack Gilbert

Bring in the gods I say, and he goes out. When he comes
back and I know they are with him, I say, Put tables in front
of them so they be may be seated, and food upon the tables
so they may eat. When they have eaten, I ask which of them
will question me. Let him hold up his hand, I say.
The one on the left raises his hand and I tell him to ask.
Where are you now, he says. I stand on top of myself, I hear
myself answer. I stand on myself like a hilltop and my life
is spread before me. Does it surprise you, he asks. I explain
that in our youth and for a long time after our youth we cannot
see our lives. Because we are inside of that. Because we can
see no shape to it since we have nothing to compare it to.
We have not seen it grow and change because we are too close.
We don't know the names of things that would bind them to us,
so we cannot feed on them. One near the middle asks why not.
Because we don't have the knack for eating what we are living.
Why is that? she asks. Because we are too much in a hurry.
Where are you now? the one on the left says. With the ghosts.
I am with Gianna those two years in Perugia. Meeting secretly
in the thirteenth-century alleys of stone. Walking in the fields
through the spring light, she well dressed and walking in heels
over the plowed land. We are just outside the city walls
hidden under the thorny blackberry bushes and her breasts naked.
I am with her those many twilights in the olive orchards,
holding the heart of her as she whimpers. Now where are you?
he says. I am with Linda those years and years. In American
cities, in København, on Greek islands season after season.
Lindos and Monolithos and the other places. I am with Michiko
for eleven years, East and West, holding her clear in my mind
the way a native can hold all of his village at one moment.
Where are you now? he says. I am standing on myself the way
a bird sits in her nest, with the babies half asleep underneath
and the world all leaves and morning air. What do you want?
a blonde one asks. To keep what I already have, I say. You ask
too much, he says sternly. Then you are at peace, she says.
I am not at peace, I tell her. I want to fail. I am hungry
for what I am becoming. What will you do? she asks. I will
continue north, carrying the past in my arms, flying into winter.

Friday, December 05, 2008

In the Book of the Disappearing Book - John Gallaher

It's a spring flowered dress that was her effacement.

On a train, and because of what windows do sometimes.
Her face is floating above the landscape

I used to think that I was reporting my life to someone.
I was a radio.

I used to think things happening was unfolding.

The trees are blooming all through her
and there's no one to tell.

And the discipline of roads.
The icy discipline of to and from.

In the air of nothing, I used to think
I was understanding distance.

Green God, in your language of silences, tell me.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

There Is a Place Beyond Ambition - Mary Oliver

When the flute players
couldn't think of what to say next

they laid down their pipes,
then they lay down themselves
beside the river

and just listened.
Some of them, after awhile,
jumped up
and disappeared back inside the busy town.
But the rest --
so quiet, not even thoughtful --
are still there,

still listening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Poem in October - Dylan Thomas

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In a rainy autumn
And walked abroad in shower of all my days
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
On the hill's shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sunlight
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and the sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singing birds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart's truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year's turning.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Dark Chamber - Louis Untermeyer

The brain forgets but the blood will remember.
There, when the play of sense is over,
The last, low spark in the darkest chamber
Will hold all there is of love and lover.

The war of words, the life-long quarrel
Of self against self will resolve into nothing;
Less than the chain of berry-red coral
Crying against the dead black of her clothing.

What has the brain that it hopes to last longer?
The blood will take from forgotten violence,
The groping, the break of her voice in anger.
There will be left only color and silence.

These will remain, these will go searching
Your veins for life when the flame of life smolders;
The night that you two saw the mountains marching
Up against dawn with the stars on their shoulders;

The jetting poplars’ arrested fountains
As you drew her under them, easing her pain;
The notes, not the words, of a half-finished sentence;
The music, the silence. . . . These will remain.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Precognition - Margaret Atwood

Living backwards means only
I must suffer everything twice.
Those picnics were already loss:
with the dragonflies and the clear streams halfway.

What good did it do me to know
how far along you would come with me
and when you would return?
By yourself, to a life you call daily.

You did not consider me a soul
but a landscape, not even one
I recognize as mine, but foreign
and rich in curios:
an egg of blue marble,
a dried pod,
a clay goddess you picked up at a stall
somewhere among the dun and dust-green
hills and the bronze-hot
sun and the odd shadows,

not knowing what would be protection,
or even the need for it then.

I wake in the early dawn and there is the roadway
shattered, and the glass and blood,
from an intersection that has happened
already, though I can't say when.
Simply that it will happen.

What could I tell you now that would keep you
safe or warn you?
What good would it do?
Live and be happy.

I would rather cut myself loose
from time, shave off my hair
and stand at a crossroads
with a wooden bowl, throwing
myself on the dubious mercy
of the present, which is innocent
and forgetful and hits the eye bare

and without words and without even love
than do this mourning over.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Soleils couchants - Paul Verlaine

Une aube affaiblie
Verse par les champs
La mélancolie
Des soleils couchants.

La mélancolie
Berce de doux chants
Mon coeur qui s'oublie
Aux soleils couchants.

Et d'étranges rêves,
Comme des soleils
Couchants, sur les grèves,
Fantômes vermeils,

Défilent sans trêves,
Défilent, pareils
A de grands soleils
Couchants sur les grèves.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Wild Swans at Coole - W.B. 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?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Famous - Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

To a Fat Lady Seen from the Train - Frances Cornford

O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
When the grass is soft as the breast of doves
And shivering-sweet to the touch?
O why do you walk though the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?

The Fat White Woman Speaks - G. K. Chesterton

Why do you rush through the field in trains,
Guessing so much and so much?
Why do you flash through the flowery meads,
Fat-head poet that nobody reads;
And why do you know such a frightful lot
About people in gloves as such?
And how the devil can you be sure,
Guessing so much and so much,
How do you know but what someone who loves
Always to see me in nice white gloves
At the end of the field you are rushing by,
Is waiting for his Old Dutch?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wild Swans - Edna St. Vincent Millay

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Keeping Things Whole - Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field...

This is always
the case.

Wherever I am
I am what is missing...

We all have reasons
for moving,

I move
to keep things whole.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Teetering Lullaby - Dean Young

Come to rest my darling,
the trees are autumn-twinged
the ocelot of my mind if out
would rest in the long grass.

Comes to rest the bus in hydraulic
exhalation, a puppy-scamper wind
finds itself over water and rests,
rest the future fires rushing,
rest the past ash.

The heart’s
adumbrations of bees may never
cease, not the hopeful hum
or peevish sting but rest I would
my hand upon your breast, sleep I would

above the troposphere. No accounting
for your beauty moving through me
like a branch, a sigh coming from under
the squeaky remnants of the old barn.

Whatever’s buried there that once caused
such alarm has come back to forgive,
to apologize for how it all went wrong.

So rest my darling, the journey’s almost
over even though I’ve gone nowhere
and never meant to stay there.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Poetry - Pablo Neruda

And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating planations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesmal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke free on the open sky.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Changeling - Charlotte Mew

Toll no bell for me, dear father, dear mother,
Waste no sighs.
There is my sister, and there is my little brother
Who plays in the place called paradise.
Your children all, your children forever;
But I , so wild,
Your disgrace with the queer brown face,
Was never,
Never, I know, but half your child!

In the garden all day at play, last summer,
Far and away I heard
The sweet “tweet-tweet” of a strange newcomer,
The dearest, clearest call of a bird.
It lived down there in the deep green hollow,
My own old home, and the fairies say
The word of a bird is a thing to follow,
So I was away a night and a day.

One evening, too, by the nursery fire,
We snuggled close and sat round so still’
When suddenly as the wind blew higher,
Something scratched at the window-sill.
A pinched brown face peered in - I shivered;
No one listened or seemed to see;
The arms of it waved and the wings of it quivered.
Whoo - I knew it had come for me!
Some are as bad as bad can be!

All night long they danced in the rain,
Round and round in a dripping chain,
Threw their caps at the window-pane,
Tried to make me scream and shout
And fling the bedclothes all about;
I meant to stay in bed that night,
And if only you had left a light
They would never have got me out!

Sometimes I wouldn’t speak, you see,
Or listen when you spoke to me,
Because in the long, still dusks of spring
You can hear the whole world whispering;
The shy green grasses making love,
The feathers grow on the dear grey dove,
The tiny heart of the redstart beat,
The patter of the squirrel’s feet,

The pebbles pushing in the silver streams
The rushes talking in their dreams,
The swish-swish of the bat’s black wings’
The wild-wood bluebell’s sweet ting-tings,
Humming and hammering at you ear,
Everything there is to hear
In the heart of hidden things.

But not in the midst of the nursery riot,
That’s why I wanted to be quiet,
Couldn’t do my sums or sing
Or settle down to anything.
And when, for that, I was sent upstairs
I DID kneel down and say my prayers.
But the king who lives in your high church steeple
Has nothing to do with us fairy people!

‘Times I pleased you, dear father, dear mother.
Learned all my lessons and liked to play,
And dearly I loved that little pale brother,
Whom some other bird must have called away.
Why did they bring me here to make me
Not quite bad, and not quite good,
Why, unless they’re wicked, do they want, in spite, to take me
Back to their wet, wild wood?

Now, every night I shall see the windows shining,
The gold lamp’s glow, the fire’s red gleam,
when the best of us are twining twigs and the rest of us are whining
In the hollow by the stream.
Black and chill are the nights on the wold;
And they live so long, and they feel no pain;
I shall grow up, but never grow old,
I shall always, always be very cold,
I shall never come back again!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Classic Water - David Berman.

I remember Kitty saying we shared a deep longing for
the consolation prize, laughing as we rinsed the stagecoach.

I remember the night we camped out
and I heard her whisper
"think of me as a place" from her sleeping bag
with the centaur print.

I remember being in her father's basement workshop
when we picked up an unknown man sobbing over the shortwave radio

and the night we got so high we convinced ourselves
that the road was a hologram projected by the headlight beams.

I remember how she would always get everyone to vote
on what we should do next and the time she said
"all water is classic water" and shyly turned her face away.

At volleyball games her parents sat in the bleachers
like ambassadors from Indiana in all their midwestern schmaltz.

She was destroyed when they were busted for operating
a private judicial system within U.S. borders.

Sometimes I'm awakened in the middle of the night
by the clatter of a room service cart and I think back on Kitty.

Those summer evenings by the government lake,
talking about the paradox of multiple Santas
or how it felt to have your heart broken.

I still get a hollow feeling on Labor Day when the summer ends

and I remember how I would always refer to her boyfriends
as what's-his-face, which was wrong of me and I'd like
to apologize to those guys right now, wherever they are:

No one deserves to be called what's-his-face.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Snow Melting - Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Snow melting when I left you, and I took
This fragile bone we'd found in melting snow
Before I left, exposed beside a brook
Where raccoons washed their hands. And this, I know,

Is that raccoon we'd watched for every day.
Though at the time her wild human hand
Had gestured inexplicably, I say
Her meaning now is more than I can stand.

We've reasons, we have reasons, so we say,
For giving love, and for withholding it.
I who would love must marvel at the way
I know aloneness when I'm holding it,

Know near and far as words for live and die,
Know distance, as I'm trying to draw near,
Growing immense, and know, but don't know why,
Things seen up close enlarge, then disappear.

Tonight this small room seems too huge to cross.
And my life is that looming kind of place.
Here, left with this alone, and at a loss
I hold an alien and vacant face

Which shrinks away, and yet is magnified--
More so than I seem able to explain.
Tonight the giant galaxies outside
Are tiny, tiny on my windowpane.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Asylum - Carey Fries

I still hate myself for what I did, taunting feral
cats in the isolation room, a suede bite

glove. So cold, they hissed at the fog
of my breath, squeezed their bodies to kennel

back corners, yellow eyes flashing. I couldn't leave
the door open for long; some loose, tore

bags of cat food, spilt kibble, bits of shredded paper bag
littering white floor. My fingers thumping wearily

along silver bars, knowing any second one could pounce
down the ten foot stack and maul me.

So I took a hose from the yard, dragged it as if choking
a snake, the long jade body writhing

and sticking to intolerant ice. I climbed
on top of the cages, my head at the drop

ceiling, poking through, running water
over the floor. The cats groaned, maybe afraid.

With my thumb over the flow, I doused every
pair of eyes I could see, the entire room dripping.

Feral cats scrambled up walls, drowned claws
scraping beige paint. I managed to detain

only two with a net, but felt triumphant even so, though
the cats were soaked and later died because of it

and the cold. I believed it was their fault, that I
couldn't get near enough to dry or warm them and anyways

they were going to be destroyed, and I hated them
because they were homeless ungrateful bastards, who had

created other bastards to replace them before they got here.
Because they could look me in the eye with no shame

or request for love and it scared me, made me breathe
a heavy fog, because they couldn't help their stiff

looks, bodies proud as African lions
defending an awkward, encased pride.

And maybe I can say I was thrilled
to torture them, tease them. A leather glove guarding

my fist. They snarled and swung out long
claws, curled around my hand as if

playing. I wanted to break that spirit.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

After a Death - Tomas Tranströmer

Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.

One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.

It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.

Wine Lily - Marianne Boruch

Bees do not care how delicately
the lily's trance
is inlaid, overrunning the garden
easily, like the deepest color
in a bruise. One looks away, for this
is utterly private.
The bees will have their communion.
They come for miles, their wooden hive
stacked up low in the field dropping straight
into woods. Across that road
the town's violinist
teaches children to sound
like crickets. They'll get better
in a lifetime. The bees have
forty-two days. So sunstruck now, they
can barely figure
the scheme of things: how much honey
by dusk, how much sweet depth
for beauty this obvious. They love their rage
and drop it like a dress for heaven. This terrible red
lasts for days, the lily basking in air.
How the bees release themselves
and rise across the human surface
exhausted, as if they were skating,
pulled by moonlight, home.

Late Self-Portrait by Rembrandt - Jane Hirshfield

The dog, dead for years, keeps coming back in the dream.
We look at each other there with the old joy.
It was always her gift to bring me into the present-

Which sleeps, changes, awakens, dresses, leaves.

Happiness and unhappiness
differ as a bucket hammered from gold differs from one of pressed tin,
this painting proposes.

Each carries the same water, it says.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to Love the Dead - Jack Gilbert

She lives, the bird says, and means nothing
silly. She is dead and available,
the fox says, knowing about the spirits.
Not the picture at the funeral,
not the object of grieving. She is dead
and you can have that, he says. If you can
love without politeness or delicacy,
the fox says, love her with your wolf heart.
As the dead are to be desired.
Not the way long marriages are,
nothing happening again and again.
Not in the woods or the fields.
Not in the cities. The painful love of being
permanently unhoused. Not the color, but the stain.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lives of the Mortals - Dean Young

Sad humans. You start out grasping
at something you can't see
and stay that way. It doesn't matter
if you're made of cardboard and glitter
or celestial exhale, you've been out in the rain
too long. You try to protect your sister
and she shacks up with Queequeg. You try
to protect your son and he takes up hang-
gliding but he's no butterfly,
he plummets, he does not hover.
Here's one who's married the daughter
of the Used Car King but he's only
a lesser god, maybe able to knock
off a couple bucks. Poor people,
that's all the godhood they'll ever get.
Maybe they can restart their hearts
but they'll be dead soon anyway,
the next batch crashing into stationary objects,
tattooing forever on their chests,
sitting beside the drained hotel pools
writing letters they'll never send.
My ankle hurts. I can't program my VCR.
Oh, my friend, I have lied to you.
It's only the minor wounds alcohol
can purify. If only they weren't mostly
water like carrots, dirty-tasting.
An arm goes through a neck-hole.
What's that falling from the window?
Some of them think they'll wake recon-
stituted in heaven, their hieratic
perms intact. Some think they'll be re-
cycled so don't step on that bug,
it could be Aunt Mike.
If only they were butterflies,
at least they'd have a flight plan.
If only his father survived.
If only her top rope had been secured.
If only.
And that's all the further that sentence goes,
a dependent clause with nothing to depend on,
a ladder with nothing to prop against
but clouds
which are a form of emptiness
made opaque.

A History of White People - Jerome Sala

white people were paid well
not to witness
the fact that they were white

you know the theory
white isn't a color
but color's unlimited absence

white goes with anything
that's why it seemed fair that white people
conquered the world

they were the real invisible men
cause they could perch on top of a country
and say they weren't there

they could move through its neighborhoods
like mysterious aliens
with this difference:

in ufological lore
aliens often infilitrate a world
without its inhabitants knowing about it

but when white people invaded
everyone could see them
but themselves

Boss of the Food Lois Ann Yamanaka

Before time, everytime my sista like be the boss
of the food. We stay shopping in Mizuno Superette
and my madda pull the Oreos off the shelf
and my sista already saying, Mommy,
can be the boss of the Oreos?

The worse was when she was the boss
of the sunflower seeds.
She give me and my other sistas
one seed at a time.
We no could eat the meat.
Us had to put um in one pile on one Kleenex.
Then, when we wen' take all the meat
out of the shells and our lips stay all cho cho,
she give us the seeds one at a time
cause my sista, she the boss
of the sunflower seeds.

One time she was the boss
of the Raisinettes.
Us was riding in the back
of my granpa's Bronco down Kaunakakai Wharf.
There she was, passing us one Raisinette at a time. My mouth was all watery
' cause I like eat um all one time, eh?
So I wen' tell her, Gimme that bag.
And I wen' grab um.
She said, I'ng tell Mommy.
And I said, Go you f----n' bird killa;
tell Mommy.

She wen' let go the bag.
And I wen' start eating the Raisinetes all one time.
But when I wen' look at her,
I felt kinda bad cause I wen' call her bird killa.
She was boss of the parakeet too, eh,
and she suppose to cover the cage every night.
But one time, she wen' forget.
When us wen' wake up, the bugga was on its back,
legs in the air all stiff.
The bugga was cold.
And I guess the thing that made me feel bad
was I neva think calling her bird killa
would make her feel so bad
that she let go the bag Raisinettes.

But I neva give her back the bag.
I figga what the f--k.
I ain't going suffer eating one Raisinette at a time.
Then beg her for one mo
and I mean one mo
f----n' candy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Brooding Grief - D.H.Lawrence

A yellow leaf from the darkness
Hops like a frog before me.
Why should I start and stand still?

I was watching the woman that bore me
Stretched in the brindled darkness
Of the sick-room, rigid with will
To die: and the quick leaf tore me
Back to this rainy swill
Of leaves and lamps and traffic mingled before me.

Mother Expanding from the Piano, the Light, the Whales - Michael McGriff

Dust and blackberry carried on the wind,
sand moving hand over hand
in the dunes, memory,
like invisible paper, ribbons away
from the dead pulp mill.
We want proximity with how we feel
but it expands and divides.
The neighborhood is cold.
Across the street an old friend lives
her early widowhood,
leaves her houselights blazing
through the night. My mother
finds herself at her piano bench,
shuffling lieder. I listen, pressed
to my bedroom wall,
the hollow pedal-thump,
dust and Chopin moving through the room
on the back of the sun, parasites
on a whale of descending light.
My grandfather is dying, there’s light
around my mother.
Georgia Pacific’s closing its mills
for the last time in the ‘80s.
My father no longer raises
stickered 2x4s into the machined night.
What black keys does he hear
as he waits at the D.M.V.
for an endorsement to drive a cab?
The light around my mother
is the light of magnitude.
If it’s winter in this memory,
then cities of grief expand
in each drop of rainwater
and my mother positions her hands.
Offshore, one whale sings to a distant other
in a way that leaves
whatever’s between stunned,
the presence of song
rising toward its listener.
A light sprinkling of rain
ignites the scent of skunk cabbage
in the ravine behind our house.
The fir trees nudge each other
in the slight wind.
My mother’s left hand is grief,
her right, beauty.
She plays on the upright
with such patience, each note alone
makes its ringing orbit.
Somewhere in the future
I look up from the block-ice
I’ve been stacking
nine-high-a-pallet at the marina.
The wind kicks its low hum up the trees
and fingertips of light
pull along the shore.
Whatever’s moving toward me
has lit the salt fire of my lips.
I crane my neck
for the long look back.
My life is immense.

Those Winter Sundays - Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Monday, August 11, 2008

An Horation Notion - Thomas Lux

The thing gets made, gets built, and you're the slave
who rolls the log beneath the block, then another,
then pushes the block, then pulls a log
from the rear back to the front
again and then again it goes beneath the block,
and so on. It's how a thing gets made -- not
because you're sensitive, or you get genetic-lucky
or God says: here's a nice family,
seven children, let's see: this one in charge
of the village dunghill, these two die of buboes, this
Kierkregaard, this one a drooling

nincompoop, this one clerk, this one cooper.
You need to love the thing you do--birdhouse building,
painting tulips exclusively, whatever, and
then you do it
so consciously driven
by your unconscious
that the thing becomes a wedge
that splits a stone and between the halves
the wedge then grows, i.e. the thing
is solid but with a soul,
a life of its own. Inspiration, the donnee,
the gift, the bolt of fire
down the arm that makes the art?
Grow up! Give me a f***ing break!
You make the thing because you love the thing
and you love the thing because someone else loves it
enough to make you love it.
And with that your heart like a tent peg pounded
toward the earth's core.
And with that your heart on a beam burns
through the ionosphere.
And with that you go to work.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Portage - Gwendolyn MacEwan

We have travelled far with ourselves
and our names have lengthened;
we have carried ourselves
on our backs, like canoes
in a strange portage, over trails,
insinuating leaves
and trees dethroned like kings,
from water-route to
seeking the edge, the end,

On earlier journeys we
were master ocean-goers
going out, and evening always found us
spooning the ocean from our boat,
and gulls, undiplomatic
couriers brought us
cryptic messages from shore
till finally we sealords vowed
we'd sail no more.

Now under a numb sky, sombre
cumuli weigh us down;
the trees are combed for winter
and bears' tongues have melted
all the honey;
there is a loud
suggestion of thunder;
subtle drums under
the candid hands of Indians
are trying to tell us
why we have come.

But now we fear movement
and now we dread stillness;
we suspect it was the land
that always moved, not our ships;
we are in sympathy with the fallen
trees; we cannot relate
the causes of our grief.
We can no more carry
our boats our selves
over these insinuating trails.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Conformity be Damned - Mary T McDonald

I have spent my life trying to cheat conventionality
to escape the accepted sanctioned behaviour,
like the time I was called to the principal's office
for allowing one of my students
to dress at Halloween as a bum with an empty flask in his pocket.

At 80
I decided on a senior's lodge.
It was inhabited by mythical figures
who sat on guard in easy chairs
at the wide entrance
and pushed their walkers in and out.

The surrounding formal gardens
seemed to be picked
from pages of the summer seed catalogue;
circles of nasturtiums
triangles of snapdragons
rows of marigolds
all stood stiffly
hemming the board boundaries of this edifice.

I want wild!
Give me a field of bent grasses
with the sharp odour of leaf and earth
where I could discover purple shooting stars
and buttercups,
maybe wild violets
and a robin that doesn't fly off the fence
until you get right up to it.

One day
I entered with my magnetic card
stood in the lobby
criss-crossed by moving walkers
and felt an uneasy awareness of being adrift,
of being perhaps
a thought.
Was I living a real life here?

I needed proof
that I occupied space
that I bled, I breathed.
I took myself to the stairwell
with its island of light
to find if I had a shadow.

I did
and I am here,
here where nobody else reads -
who tell me they are saving their eyes.

I have made the decision
to take up unorthodox haunting
as a vocation
in the afterlife.
My bag will be packed,
I will not go home at first,
become the holographic swivel of my den chair
or the pale light you think you see in the upstairs landing.

I shall drop
in the shape of a slug
on the lips of the smiling evangelist
who will speak loosely in tongues
and confound the network.

I shall hang easy on wind swept Mount Everest
against a face as clammy white as my own,
halloo to other challengers:
"Look no piton, no oxygen!"

And should my new country
be tragically empty of books
even words
then I must haunt
like tides
the libraries of London and New York,
stream through the 88 miles of shelving
wriggle out each book that beckons
curl in a fan-backed chair in the great foyer
and ghost read.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Phantom Limbs - Anne Michaels

"The face of the city changes more quickly, alas!
than the mortal heart."
- Charles Baudelaire

So much of the city
is our bodies. Places in us
old light still slants to.
Places that no longer exist but are full of feeling,
like phantom limbs.

Even the city carries ruins in its heart.
Longs to be touched in places
only it remembers.

Through the yellow hooves
of the ginkgo, parchment light;
in that apartment where I first
touched your shoulders under your sweater,
that October afternoon you left keys
in the fridge, milk on the table.
The yard - our moonlight hotel -
where we slept summer's hottest nights,
on grass so cold it felt wet.
Behind us, freight trains crossed the city,
a steel banner, a noisy wall.
Now the hollow diad
floats behind glass
in office towers also haunted
by our voices.

Few buildings, few lives
are built so well
even their ruins are beautiful.
But we loved the abandoned distillery:
stone floors cracking under empty vats,
wooden floors half rotted into dirt,
stairs leading nowhere, high rooms
run through with swords of dusty light.
A place the rain still loved, its silver paint
on rusted things that had stopped moving it seemed, for us.
Closed rooms open only to weather,
pungent with soot and molasses,
scent-stung. A place
where everything too big to take apart
has been left behind.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Father Outside - Nick Flynn

A black river flows down the center
of each page

& on either side the banks
are wrapped in snow. My father is ink falling

in tiny blossoms, a bottle
wrapped in a paperbag. I want to believe
that if I get the story right

we will rise, newly formed,

that I will stand over him again
as he sleeps outside under the church halogen
only this time I will know

what to say. It is night &
it's snowing & starlings
fill the trees above us, so many it seems

the leaves sing. I can't see them
until they rise together at some hidden signal

& hold the shape of the tree for a moment
before scattering. I wait for his breath
to lift his blanket

so I know he's alive, letting the story settle

into the shape of this city. Three girls in the park
begin to sing something holy, a song
with a lost room inside it

as their prayerbook comes unglued

& scatters. I'll bend
each finger back, until the bottle

falls, until the bone snaps, save him

by destroying his hands. With the thaw
the river will rise & he will be forced
to higher ground. No one

will have to tell him. From my roof I can see
the East River, it looks blackened with oil

but it's only the light. Even now
my father is asleep somewhere. If I followed

the river north I could still reach him.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Love - Pablo Neruda

Because of you, in gardens of blossoming flowers I ache from the
perfumes of spring.
I have forgotten your face, I no longer remember your hands;
how did your lips feel on mine?
Because of you, I love the white statues drowsing in the parks,
the white statues that have neither voice nor sight.
I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice; I have forgotten
your eyes.
Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to my vague memory of
you. I live with pain that is like a wound; if you touch me, you will
do me irreparable harm.
Your caresses enfold me, like climbing vines on melancholy walls.
I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to glimpse you in every
Because of you, the heady perfumes of summer pain me; because
of you, I again seek out the signs that precipitate desires: shooting
stars, falling objects.

Visible World - Richard Siken

Sunlight pouring across your skin, your shadow
flat on the wall.
The dawn was breaking the bones of your heart like twigs.
You had not expected this,
the bedroom gone white, the astronomical light
pummeling you in a stream of fists.
You raised your hand to your face as if
to hide it, the pink fingers gone gold as the light
streamed straight to the bone,
as if you were the small room closed in glass
with every speck of dust illuminated.
The light is no mystery,
the mystery is that there is something to keep the light
from passing through.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Humpbacks - Mary Oliver

Listen, whatever it is you try
to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you
like the dreams of your body,

its spirit
longing to fly while the dead-weight bones

toss their dark mane and hurry
back into the fields of glittering fire

where everything,
even the great whale,
throbs with song.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

To Marina - Kenneth Koch

So many convolutions and not enough simplicity!
When I had you to write to it
Was different. The quiet, dry Z
Leaped up to the front of the alphabet.
You sit, stilling your spoons
With one hand; you move them with the other.
Radio says, “God is a postmaster.”
You said, Zis is lawflee. And in the heat
Of writing to you I wrote simply. I thought
These are the best things I shall ever write
And have ever written. I thought of nothing but touching you
Thought of seeing you and, in a separate thought, of looking at you.
You were concentrated feeling and thought.
You were like the ocean
In which my poems were the swimming. I brought you
Ear rings. You said, these are lawflee. We went
To some beach, where the sand was dirty. Just going in
To the bathing house with you drove me “out of my mind.”

It is wise to be witty. The shirt collar’s far away.
Men tramp up and down the city on this windy day.
I am feeling a-political as a shell
Brought off some fish. Twenty-one years
Ago I saw you and loved you still.
Still! It wasn’t plenty
Of time. Read Anatole France. Bored, a little. Read
Tolstoy, replaced and overcome. You read Stendhal.
I told you to. Where was replacement
Then? I don’t know. He shushed us back in to ourselves.
I used to understand

The highest excitement. Someone died
And you were distant. I went away
And made you distant. Where are you now? I see the chair
And hang onto it for sustenance. Good God how you kissed me
And I held you. You screamed
And I wasn’t bothered by anything. Was nearest you.

And you were so realistic
Preferring the Soviet Bookstore
To my literary dreams.
“You don’t like war,” you said
After reading a poem
In which I’d simply said I hated war
In a whole list of things. To you
It seemed a position, to me
It was all a flux, especially then.
I was in an
Unexpected situation.
Let’s take a walk
I wrote. And I love you as a sheriff
Searches for a walnut. And And so unless
I’m going to see your face
Bien soon, and you said
You must take me away, and
Oh Kenneth
You like everything
To be pleasant. I was burning
Like an arch
Made out of trees.

I’m not sure we ever actually took a walk
We were so damned nervous. I was heading somewhere. And you had to be
At an appointment, or else be found out! Illicit love!
It’s not a thing to think of. Nor is it when it’s licit!
It is too much! And it wasn’t enough. The achievement
I thought I saw possible when I loved you
Was that really achievement? Were you my
Last chance to feel that I had lost my chance?
I grew faint at your voice on the telephone.
Electricty and all colors were mine, and the tops of hills
And everything that breathes. That was a feeling. Certain
Artistic careers had not even started. And I
Could have surpassed them. I could have I think put the
Whole world under our feet. You were in the restaurant. It
Was Chinese. We have walked three blocks. Or four blocks. It is New York
In nineteen fifty-three. Nothing has as yet happened
That will ever happen and will mean as much to me. You smile, and turn
your head.
What rocketing there was in my face and in my head
And bombing everywhere in my body
I loved you I knew suddenly
That nothing had meant anything like you
I must have hoped (crazily) that something would
As if thinking you were the person I had become.

My sleep is beginning to be begun. And the sheets were on the bed.
A clock rang a bird’s song rattled into my typewriter.
I had been thinking about songs which were very abstract.
It was really a table. Now, the telephone. Hello, what?
What is my life like now? Engaged, studying and looking around
The library, teaching—I took it rather easy
A little too easy—we went to the ballet
Then dark becomes the light (blinding) of the next eighty days
Orchestra cup become As beautiful as an orchestra or a cup, and
Locked climbs becomes If we were locked, well not quite, rather
Oh penniless could I really die, and I understood everything
Which before was running this way and that in my head
I saw titles, volumes, and suns I felt the hot
Pressure of your hands in that restaurant
To which, along with glasses, plates, lamps, lusters,
Tablecloths, napkins, and all the other junk
You added my life for it was entirely in your hands then—
My life Yours, My Sister Life of Pasternak’s beautiful title
My life without a life, my life in a life, my life impure
And my life pure, life seen as an entity
One death and a variety of days
And only on life.

I wasn’t ready
For you.

I understood nothing
Seemingly except my feelings
You were whirling
In your life
I was keeping
Everything in my head
An artist friend’s apartment
Five flights up the
Lower East Side nineteen
Fifty-something I don’t know
What we made love the first time I
Almost died I had never felt
That way it was like being stamped on in Hell
It was roses of Heaven
My friends seemed turned to me to empty shell

On the railroad train’s red velvet back
You put your hand in mine and said
“I told him”
Or was it the time after that?
I said Why did you
Do that you said I thought
It was over. Why Because you were so
Nervous of my being there it was something I thought

I read Tolstoy. You said
I don’t like the way it turns out (Anna
Karenina) I had just liked the strength
Of the feeling you thought
About the end. I wanted
To I don’t know what never leave you
Five flights up the June
Street empties of fans, cups, kites, cops, eats, nights, no
The night was there
And something like air I love you Marina
Eighty-five days
Four thousand three hundred and sixty-
Two minutes all poetry was changed
For me what did I do in exchange
I am selfish, afraid you are
Overwhelmingly parade, back, sunshine, dreams
Later thousands of dreams

You said
You make me feel nawble (noble). I said
Yes. I said
To nothingness, This is all poems. Another one said (later)
That is so American. You were Russian
You thought of your feelings, one said, not of her,
Not of the real situation. But my feelings were a part,
They were the force of the real situation. Truer to say I thought
Not of the whole situation
For your husband was also a part
And your feelings about your child were a part
And all my other feelings were a part. We
Turned this way and that, up-
Stairs then down
Into the streets.
Did I die because I didn’t stay with you?
Or what did I lose of my life? I lose
You. I put you
In everything I wrote.

I used that precious material I put it in forms
Also I wanted to break down the forms
Poetry was a real occupation
To hell with the norms, with what is already written
Twenty-nine in love finds pure expression
Twenty-nine years you my whole life’s digression
Not taken and Oh Kenneth
Everything afterwards seemed nowhere near
What I could do then in several minutes—
I wrote,
“I want to look at you all day long
Because you are mine.”

I am twenty-nine, pocket flap folded
And I am smiling I am looking out at a world that
I significantly re-created from inside
Out of contradictory actions and emotions. I look like a silly child that
Photograph that year—big glasses, unthought-of clothes,
A suit, slight mess in general, cropped hair. And someone liked me,
Loved me a lot, I think. And someone else had, you had too. I was
Undrenched by the tears I’d shed later about this whole thing when
I’d telephone you I’d be all nerves, though in fact
All life was a factor and all my nerves were in my head. I feel
Peculiar. Or I feel nothing. I am thinking about this poem. I am thinking
about your raincoat,
I am worried about the tactfulness,
About the truth of what I say.

I am thinking about my standards for my actions
About what they were
You raised my standards for harmony and for happiness so much
And, too, the sense of a center
Which did amazing things for my taste
But my taste for action? For honesty, for directness in behavior?
I believe I simply never felt that anything could go wrong
This was abject stupidity
I also was careless in how I drove then and in what I ate
And drank it was easier to feel that nothing could go wrong
I had those feelings. I
Did not those things. I was involved in such and such
A situation, artistically and socially. We never spent a night
Together it is the New York of
Aquamarine sunshine and the Loew’s Theater’s blazing swing of light
In the middle of the day

Let’s take a walk
Into the world
Where if our shoes get white
With snow, is it snow, Marina,
Is it snow or light?
Let’s take a walk

Every detail is everything in its place (Aristotle). Literature is a cup
And we are the malted. The time is a glass. A June bug comes
And a carpenter spits on a plane, the flowers ruffle ear rings.
I am so dumb-looking. And you are so beautiful.

Sitting in the Hudson Tube
Walking up the fusky street
Always waiting to see you
You the original creation of all my You, you the you
In every poem the hidden one whom I am talking to
Worked at Bamberger’s once I went with you to Cerutti’s
Bar—on Madison Avenue? I held your hand and you said
Kenneth you are playing with fire. I said
Something witty in reply.
It was the time of the McCarthy trial
Hot sunlight on lunches. You squirted
Red wine into my mouth.
My feelings were like a fire my words became very clear
My psyche or whatever it is that puts together motions and emotions
Was unprepared. There was a good part
And an alarmingly bad part which didn’t correspond—
No letters! No seeming connection! Your slim pale hand
It actually was, your blondness and your turning-around-to-me look
Good-bye Kenneth.

No, Marina, don’t go
And what had been before would come after
Not to be mysterious we’d be together make love again
It was the wildest thing I’ve done
I can hardly remember it
It has gotten by now
So mixed up with losing you
The two almost seemed in some way the same. You
Wore something soft—angora? Cashmere?
I remember that it was black, You turned around
And on such a spring day which went on and on and on
I actually think I felt that I could keep
The strongest of all feelings contained inside me
Producing endless emotional designs.

With the incomparable feeling of rising and of being like a banner
Twenty seconds worth twenty-five years
With feeling noble extremely mobile and very free
With Taking a Walk With You, West Wind, In Love With You, and
Yellow Roses
With pleasure I felt my leg muscles and my brain couldn’t hold
With the Empire State Building the restaurant your wrist bones with
Greenwich Avenue
In nineteen fifty-one with heat humidity a dog pissing with neon
With the feeling that at last
My body had something to do and so did my mind

You sit
At the window. You call
Me, across Paris,
Amsterdam, New
York. Kenneth!
My Soviet
Girlhood. My
Spring, summer
And fall. Do you
Know you have
Missed some of them?
Almost all. I am
Waiting and I
Am fading I
Am fainting I’m
In a degrading state
Of inactivity. A ball
Rolls in the gutter. I have
Two hands to
Stop it. I am
A flower I pick
The vendor his
Clothes getting up
Too early and
What is it makes this rose
Into what is more fragrant than what is not?

I am stunned I am feeling tortured
By “A man of words and not a man of deeds”

I was waiting in a taxicab
It was white letters in white paints it was you
Spring comes, summer, then fall
And winter. We really have missed
All of that, whatever else there was
In those years so sanded by our absence.
I never saw you for as long as half a day

You were crying outside the bus station
And I was crying—
I knew that this really was my life—
I kept thinking of how we were crying
Later, when I was speaking, driving, walking,
Looking at doorways and colors, mysterious entrances
Sometimes I’d be pierced as by a needle
Sometimes be feverish as from a word
Books closed and I’d think
I can’t read this book, I threw away my life
These held on to their lives. I was
Excited by praise from anyone, startled by criticism, always hating it
Traveling around Europe and being excited
It was all in reference to you
And feeling I was not gradually forgetting
What your temples and cheekbones looked like
And always with this secret

Later I thought that what I had done was reasonable
It may have been reasonable
I also thought that I saw what had appealed to me
So much about you, the way you responded
To everything your excitement about
Me, I had never seen that. And the fact
That you were Russian, very mysterious, all that I didn’t know
About you—and you didn’t know
Me, for I was as strange to you as you were to me.
You were like my first trip to France you had
Made no assumptions. I could be
Clearly and Passionately and
Nobly (as you’d said) who I was—at the outer limits of my life
Of my life as my life could be
Ideally. But what about the dark part all this lifted
Me out of? Would my bad moods, my uncertainties, my
Distrust of people I was close to, the
Twisty parts of my ambition, my
Envy, all have gone away? And if
They hadn’t gone, what? For didn’t I need
All the strength you made me feel I had, to deal
With the difficulties of really having you?
Where could we have been? But I saw so many new possibilities
That it made me rather hate reality
Or I think perhaps I already did
I didn’t care about the consequences
Because they weren’t “poetic” weren’t “ideal”

And oh well you said we walk along
Your white dress your blue dress your green
Blouse with sleeves then one without
Sleeves and we are speaking
Of things but not of very much because underneath it
I am raving I am boiling I am afraid
You ask me Kenneth what are you thinking
If I could say
It all then I thought if I could say
Exactly everything and have it still be as beautiful
Billowing over, riding over both our doubts
Some kind of perfection and what did I actually
Say? Marina it’s late. Marina
It’s early. I love you. Or else, What’s this street?
You were the perfection of my life
And I couldn’t have you. That is, I didn’t.
I couldn’t think. I wrote, instead. I would have had
To think hard, to figure everything out
About how I could be with you,
Really, which I couldn’t do
In those moments of permanence we had
As we walked along.

We walk through the park in the sun. It is the end.
You phone me. I send you a telegram. It
Is the end. I keep
Thinking about you, grieving about you. It is the end. I write
Poems about you, to you. They
Are no longer simple. No longer
Are you there to see every day or
Every other or every third or fourth warm day
And now it has been twenty-five years
But those feelings kept orchestrating I mean rehearsing
Rehearsing in my and tuning up
While I was doing a thousand other things, the band
Is ready, I am over fifty years old and there’s no you—
And no me, either, not as I was then,
When it was the Renaissance
Filtered through my nerves and weakness
Of nineteen fifty-four or fifty-three,
When I had you to write to, when I could see you
And it could change.