Friday, November 26, 2010

Gravity - Maura O'Connor

Today I am fragile
insane and full of purpose.

I'm thinking of my lover:
my soft hips pressing his coarse belly,
my tongue on a salmon nipple,
his hand buried in my thick orange hair
the telephone ringing.

I'm thinking we tend our illnesses
as if they are our children:
demanding attention and twenty dollar bills,
hours we could have spent making love with the television on.

Faith is a series of calculations
made by an idiot savant.
I'm in love.
I'm alone
in this city of painted boxes
stacked like alphabet blocks
spelling nothing.

There are things I know:
trees don't sing
birds don't sprout leaves
roses bloom because that's what roses do,
whether we write poems for them
or not.

I concentrate on small things:
ivy threaded through chain link,
giveaway kittens huddled in a soggy cardboard box,
a fat man blowing a harmonica
through a beard of rusty wires
brown birds chattering furiously on power lines.

I try not to think about
lung cancer, AIDS,
the chemicals in the rain;
things I can't imagine any more than
a color I've never seen.

My heart is graffiti on the side of a subway train,
a shadow on the wall made by a child.
Nothing has been fair since my first skinned knee

I believe death
must be.

I cling to love as if it were an answer.
I go on buying eggs and bread,
boots and corsets,
knowing I'll burn out before the sun.

I'm thinking of
the days I tried to stay awake
while the billboards and TV ads
for condoms, microwave brownies, and dietetic jello
lulled me to sleep.

A brown-eyed girl once told me a secret
that should have blown this city
into a mass of unconnected atoms
Our sewage is piped to the sea.
Beggars in the street
are hated for having the nerve
to die in public.

Charity requires paperwork,
Relief requires medication

as if we were the afterthoughts of institutions
greater than our rage.

Gravity chains us to the asphalt with such grace
we think it is kind.

We all go on buying lottery tickets
Diet Coke and toothpaste
as if the sky over our heads
were the roof of a gilded cage.

We provide evidence that we were here:

initials cut into cracked vinyl bus seats,
into trees growing from squares
of concrete,
a name left on a stone, an office building,
a flower, a disease, a museum,
a child.
Tonight the stars glitter like rhinestones
on a black suede glove.

In the coffin my room has become,
I talk to God
about the infrequency of rain
about people who can't see the current gentleness
running under the pale crust of my skin.

I tell him under
the jackhammer crack, the diesel truck rumble,
even the clicking sound traffic lights make
switching from yellow to red,
there is a silence
every song,
every whisper made beside graves
or in the twisted white sheets of love.

I tell him I can't fill it
with dark wine, blue pills,
a pink candle lit at the altar
the lover
touching my hair.
God doesn't answer.
God doesn't know our names.

He's only the architect
designing the places we occupy
like high rise offices or ant hills

I know this
the way I know
sunrise and sunset
are caused by the endless turning
of the Earth.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not a Sparrow - Tess Gallagher

Just when I think the Buddhists
are wrong and life is not mostly suffering,
I find a dead finch near the feeder.
How sullen, how free of regret, this death
that sinks worlds. I bury her near
the bicycle shed and return to care for
my aged mother, whose suffering
is such oxygen we do not consider it,
meaning life at any point exceeds
the price. A little more. A little more.

That same afternoon, having restored balance,
I discover a junco fallen on its back, beak
to air, rain pelting the prospect. Does
my feeder tempt flight through windows?
And, despite evidence, do some
accomplish it?

Digging a hole for the second bird, I find
the first gone. If I don’t think “raccoons”
or “dogs,” I can have a quiet, unwitnessed
miracle. Not a feather remains.
In goes the junco. I swipe earth over it,
set a pot on top. Time
to admit the limitations of death as

Still, two dead birds in an afternoon
lets strange sky into the mind: birds flying
through windows, flying through
earth. Suffering must be like that too: equipped
with inexplicable escapes where the mind
watches the hand level dirt over the emptied grave
and, overpowered by the idea of wings,
keeps right on flying

Monday, November 08, 2010

it may not always be so; and i say - ee cummings

it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips,which i have loved, should touch
another's, and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another's face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know, or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be, i say if this should be--
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that i may go unto him, and take his hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

The Pope's Penis - Sharon Olds

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.

It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver seaweed, the hair
swaying in the dark and the heat -- and at night

while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

When I Met My Muse - William Stafford

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off--they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.