Monday, December 28, 2009

Sonnet on Mirth - Jennifer Michael Hecht

Of mirth the poets counsel little after
that present it be loved for present laughter.
Also that fool hearts, alone, let themselves belong in
the house of it; the wise, the house of mourning.
Why such divergent answers from such teachers?
Life seemed cruelly short to bard; cruelly long to preacher.
Yet true times as rivers flow or candles burn,
long in the stretches, short on the turns,
and mirth with bitter herbs is better taken
than meals of mirth alone or years of it forsaken.
Does sweet improve when mixed with strain,
or is it that the acrid in that blend begins to fade?
Much endures while youth slips away like a thief;
mirth is a wine well pressed in the house of grief.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Hunt in the Forest - John Burnside

How children think of death is how the shadows
gather between the trees: a hiding place
for everything the grown-ups cannot name-
Nevertheless, they hurry to keep their appointment
far in the woods, at the meeting of parallel lines,
where everything is altered by its own
momentum – altered, though we say transformed -
greyhound to roebuck, laughter to skin and bone;

and no one survives the hunt: though the men return
in threes and fours, their faces blank with cold,
they never quite arrive at what they seem,
leaving a turn of phrase or a song from childhood
and waiting, while their knives slip through the blood
like butter, or silk, until the heart is still.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Selecting a Reader - Ted Kooser

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hunger - Jack Gilbert

Digging into the apple
with my thumbs.
Scraping out the clogged nails
and digging deeper.
Refusing the moon color.
Refusing the smell and memories.
Digging in with the sweet juice
running along my hands unpleasantly.
Refusing the sweetness.
Turning my hands to gouge out chunks.
Feeling the juice sticky
on my wrists. The skin itching.
Getting to the wooden part.
Getting to the seeds.
Going on.
Not taking anyone's word for it.
Getting beyond the seeds.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day - Michael Blumenthal

Things are not as they seem: the innuendo of everything makes
itself felt and trembles towards meanings we never intuited
or dreamed. Take, for example, how the warbler, perched on a

mere branch, can kidnap the day from its tediums and send us
heavenwards, or how, held up by nothing we really see, our
spirits soar and then, in a mysterious series of twists and turns,

come to a safe landing in a field, encircled by greenery. Nothing
I can say to you here can possibly convince you that a man
as unreliable as I have been can smuggle in truths between tercets

and quatrains on scraps of paper, but the world as we know
is full of surprises, and the likelihood that here, in the shape
of this very bird, redemption awaits us should not be dismissed

so easily. Each year, days swivel and diminish along their inscrutable
axes, then lengthen again until we are bathed in light we were not
prepared for. Last night, lying in bed with nothing to hold onto

but myself, I gazed at the emptiness beside me and saw there, in the
shape of absence, something so sweet and deliberate I called it darling.
No one who encrusticates (I made that up!) his silliness in a bowl,

waiting for sanctity, can ever know how lovely playfulness can be,
and, that said, let me wish you a Merry One (or Chanukah if you
prefer), and may whatever holds you up stay forever beneath you,

and may the robin find many a worm, and our cruelties abate,
and may you be well and happy and full of mischief as I am,
and may all your nothings, too, hold something up and sing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

You know, I think more and more often - Tadeusz Borowski

You know, I think more and more often
that I should go back.
Maybe I'll meet you. And happiness?
Happiness is being sad together.

So I look through the moonlit window
and listen.
Nothing. A breeze stirs somewhere.
Alone among the leaves - the moon.

Like a golden wheel it rolls
above the windblown leaves.
Such moons, only paler,
shone over the Wisla.

Even the Big Dipper on its course
stops in a tree at midnight,
just like at home. But why here?
Truly, I don't know.

What's here? Longing and sleepless nights,
unknown streets and somebody's verse.
I live here as a nobody:
a Displaced Person.

I think of you. I know I must leave.
Perhaps we can return to our past,
but I know neither what youth will be like
nor where you are.

But I'm yours or no one's
forever. Listen,
listen, read this poem
if somewhere you are alive.

Time and Materials - Robert Hass


To make layers,
As if they were a steadiness of days:

It snowed; I did errands at a desk:
A white flurry out the window thickening; my tongue
Tasted of the glue on envelopes.

On this day sunlight on red brick, bare trees,
Nothing stirring in the icy air.

On this day a blur of color moving at the gym
Where the heat from bodies
Meets the watery, cold surface of the glass.

Made love, made curry, talked on the phone
To friends, the one whose brother died
Was crying and thinking alternately,
Like someone falling down and getting up
And running and falling and getting up.


The object of this poem is not to annihila

To not annih

The object of this poem is to report a theft,
In progress, of everything

That is not these words
And their disposition on the page.

The object o f this poem is to report a theft,
In progre ss of everything that exists
That is not th ese words
And their d isposition on the page.

The object of his poe is t epor a theft
In rogre f ever hing at xists
Th is no ese w rds
And their disp sit on o the pag


To score, to scar, to smear, to streak,
To smudge, to blur, to gouge, to scrape.

"Action painting," i.e.,
The painter gets to behave like time.


The typo would be "painting."

(To abrade.)


Or to render time and stand outside
The horizontal rush of it, for a moment
To have the sensation of standing outside
The greenish rush of it.


Some vertical gesture then, the way that anger
Or desire can rip a life apart,

Some wound of color.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

From 'Notes on the Sea's Existence' - Agha Shahid Ali

It pulls me to itself,
the reflection, no, not mine:
I know the water's fidelity,

its utter transparence. The sea
becomes me like nothing
else: I wear it like skin.

Who pulls me with such
ease? A dead ancestor,
a lost friend, or

the shell's hollow cry?
The weeds wrap me, like arms.
I'm pulled down, down, to the tip of the sky.

I hold the world as I drown.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Late Spring - W.S. Merwin

Coming into the high room again after years
after oceans and shadows of hills and the sounds of lies
after losses and feet on stairs

after looking and mistakes and forgetting
turning there thinking to find
no one except those I knew
finally I saw you
sitting in white
already waiting

you of whom I had heard
with my own ears since the beginning
for whom more than once
I have opened the door
believing you were not far

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Archipelago Of Kisses - Jeffrey McDaniel

We live in a modern society. Husbands and wives don't
grow on trees, like in the old days. So where
does one find love? When you're sixteen it's easy,
like being unleashed with a credit card
in a department store of kisses. There's the first kiss.
The sloppy kiss. The peck.
The sympathy kiss. The backseat smooch. The we
shouldn't be doing this kiss. The but your lips
taste so good kiss. The bury me in an avalanche of tingles kiss.
The I wish you'd quit smoking kiss.
The I accept your apology, but you make me really mad
sometimes kiss. The I know
your tongue like the back of my hand kiss. As you get
older, kisses become scarce. You'll be driving
home and see a damaged kiss on the side of the road,
with its purple thumb out. If you
were younger, you'd pull over, slide open the mouth's
red door just to see how it fits. Oh where
does one find love? If you rub two glances, you get a smile.
Rub two smiles, you get a warm feeling.
Rub two warm feelings and presto-you have a kiss.
Now what? Don't invite the kiss over
and answer the door in your underwear. It'll get suspicious
and stare at your toes. Don't water the kiss with whiskey.
It'll turn bright pink and explode into a thousand luscious splinters,
but in the morning it'll be ashamed and sneak out of
your body without saying good-bye,
and you'll remember that kiss forever by all the little cuts it left
on the inside of your mouth. You must
nurture the kiss. Turn out the lights. Notice how it
illuminates the room. Hold it to your chest
and wonder if the sand inside hourglasses comes from a
special beach. Place it on the tongue's pillow,
then look up the first recorded kiss in an encyclopedia: beneath
a Babylonian olive tree in 1200 B.C.
But one kiss levitates above all the others. The
intersection of function and desire. The I do kiss.
The I'll love you through a brick wall kiss.
Even when I'm dead, I'll swim through the Earth,
like a mermaid of the soil, just to be next to your bones.