Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Sometimes, When the Light
BY LISEL MUELLER
Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood
and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows
or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,
you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows
something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous
that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
By Czeslaw Milosz
I said so little.
Days were short.
I said so little.
I couldn’t keep up.
My heart grew weary
The jaws of Leviathan
Were closing upon me.
Naked, I lay on the shores
Of desert islands.
The white whale of the world
Hauled me down to its pit.
And now I don’t know
What in all that was real.
-Translated by Czeslaw Milosz & Lillian Vallee
Thursday, December 1, 2011
by Stanley Plumly
On the Canadian side, we're standing far enough away
the Falls look like photography, the roar a radio.
In the real rain, so vertical it fuses with the air,
the boat below us is starting for the caves.
Everyone on deck is dressed in black, braced for weather
and crossing against the current of the river.
They seem lost in the gorge dimensions of the place,
then, in fog, in a moment, gone.
In the Chekhov story,
the lovers live in a cloud, above the sheer witness of a valley.
They call it circumstance. They look up at the open wing
of the sky, or they look down into the future.
Death is a power like any other pull of the earth.
The people in the raingear with the cameras want to see it
from the inside, from behind, from the dark looking into the light.
They want to take its picture, give it size—
how much easier to get lost in the gradations of a large
and yellow leaf drifting its good-bye down one side of the gorge.
There is almost nothing that does not signal loneliness,
then loveliness, then something connecting all we will become.
All around us the luminous passage of the air,
the flat, wet gold of the leaves. I will never love you
more than at this moment, here in October,
the new rain rising slowly from the river.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
By Catherine Doty
It's about the blood
banging in the body,
and the brain
lolling in its bed
like a happy baby.
At your touch, the nerve,
that volatile spook tree,
vibrates. The lungs
take up their work
with a giddy vigor.
Tremors in the joints
in the canister of sugar.
The coil of ribs
heats up, begins
to glow. Come
Monday, November 28, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.
Robert Frost, “My November Guest”
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
by Wayne Miller
Tonight all the leaves are paper spoons
in a broth of wind. Last week
they made a darker sky below the sky.
The houses have swallowed their colors,
and each car moves in the blind sack
of its sound like the slipping of water.
Flowing means falling very slowly—
the river passing under the tracks,
the tracks then buried beneath the road.
When a knocking came in the night,
I rose violently toward my reflection
hovering beneath this world. And then
the fluorescent kitchen in the window
like a page I was reading—a face
coming into focus behind it:
my neighbor locked out of his own party,
looking for a phone. I gave him
a beer and the lit pad of numbers
through which he disappeared; I found
I was alone with the voices that bloomed
as he opened the door. It's time
to slip my body beneath the covers,
let it fall down the increments of shale,
let the wind consume every spoon.
My voice unhinging itself from light,
my voice landing in its cradle—.
How terrifying a payphone is
hanging at the end of its cord.
Which is not to be confused with sleep—
sleep gives the body back its mouth.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simple, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way become I don’t know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Grandmother Speaks of the Old Country
By Lola Haskins
That year there were many deaths in the village.
Germs flew like angels from one house to the next
and every family gave up its own. Mothers
died at their mending. Children fell at school.
Of three hundred twenty, there were eleven left.
Then, quietly, the sun set on a day when no one
died. And the angels whispered among themselves.
And that evening, as he sat on the stone steps,
your grandfather felt a small wind on his neck
when all the trees were still. And he would tell us
always, how he had felt that night, on the skin
of his own neck, the angels, passing.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
The Wild Things
by John Kinsella and Dorothy Hewett
There were always magpies
in the early morning
swinging from the clothesline
on the edge of the orchard
where the ordered world
of the farm house ended
and the atavistic world began
the wild world where we roamed at will
stretching the wingspan
of a dead hawk between us
not bunched in our flannel petticoats
in bedrooms thick with night terrors
a sitting room stuffed with horsehair
a kitchen hissing with kettles
nothing to do with the rattle of leaves
the crows in the windy tops
and the foxes dancing.
The horses rear in their stalls
the dogs are howling
the cows roll their eyes at the moon
and the bull in the pasture bellows
this may be the world’s last night
don’t waste it.
Monday, October 24, 2011
I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.
William Butler Yeats
Saturday, October 22, 2011
By Judith Harris
I can hear him,
now, even in darkness,
a trickster under the moon,
bristling his feathers,
sounding as merry
as a man whistling in a straw hat,
or a squeaky gate
to the playground, left ajar
or the jingling of a star,
having wandered too far
from the pasture.
Friday, October 21, 2011
This is so fun. This is a music maker that I could play with for hours. It was my first post on my new Tumblr page called Stalwart Reader. So many people are sharing such great stuff, I realized I was flooding my Facebook page with too much. Now I can collect all the great things people send and the flotsam and jetsom I would like to share and put them on Tumblr:
Thursday, October 20, 2011
How well I know what I mean to do
When the long dark Autumn evenings come,
And where, my soul, is thy pleasant hue?
With the music of all thy voices, dumb
In life’s November too!
I shall be found by the fire, suppose,
O’er a great wise book as beseemeth age,
While the shutters flap as the cross-wind blows,
And I turn the page, and I turn the page,
Not verse now, only prose!
— Robert Browning, from “By the Fireside”
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
By Geoff Page
three or four times
the war moves through
these olive trees
a dry storm
sweeping up the young men
as it passes.
a few seasons on
in the capital
one side looks around
to find the other gone
withdrawn below the ground
with bones and weapons
in unmarked graves.
are busy with street names
having won for a while
from all those miles
of twisted olives
the right to remember
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The Weight of Oranges
My cup’s the same sand colour as bread.
Rain’s the same colour of a building across the street,
its torn red dahlias
and ruined a book propped on the sill.
Rain articulates the skins of everything,
pink of bricks from the fire they baked in,
lizard green leaves,
the wrinkled tongues of pine cones.
It’s accurate the way we never are,
bringing out what’s best
without changing a thing.
Rain that makes beds damp,
our room a cave in the morning,
a tent in late afternoon,
ignites the sound of leaves we miss all winter.
The sound that pulled us to bed…
caught in the undertow of wind in wet leaves.
I’m writing in the sound we woke to,
curtains breathing into a half-dark room.
I’m up early now, walking.
Remember our walks, horizons like lips
barely red at dawn,
how kind the distance seemed?
Letters should be written to send news, to say
send me news, to say
meet me at the train station.
Not these dry tears, to honour us like a tomb.
I’m ashamed of our separation.
I wake in the middle of the night and see “shame”
written in the air like a Bible story.
I dreamed my skin was tattooed,
covered with the words that put me here,
covered in sores, in quarantine—and you know what?
I was afraid to light the lamp and look.
Your husband’s a good builder—I burned
every house we had,
with a few words to start the flames.
Words of wood,
they had no power of their own.
“The important” gave them meaning
and humble with gratitude
they exploded in my face.
Now we’re like planets, holding to each other
from a great distance. When we lay down
oceans flexed their green muscles,
life got busy in the other hemisphere,
the globe tilted, bowing to our power!
Now we’re hundreds of miles apart,
our short arms keep us lonely,
no one hears what’s in my head.
I look old. I’m losing my hair.
Where does lost hair go in this world,
lost eyesight, teeth?
We grow old like rivers, get shrunk and doubled over
until we can’t find the mouth of anything.
It’s March, even the birds
don’t know what to do with themselves.
Sometimes I’m certain those who are happy
know one thing more than us… or one thing less.
The only book I’d write again
is our bodies closing together.
That’s the language that stuns,
scars, breathes into you.
Naked, we had voices!
I want you to promise
we’ll see each other again,
you’ll send a letter.
Promise we’ll be lost together
in our forest, pale birches of our legs.
I hear your voice now—I know,
everyone knows promises come from fear.
People don’t live past each other,
you’re always here with me. Sometimes
I pretend you’re in the other room
until it rains… and then
this is the letter I always write:
The letter I write
when they’re keeping me from home.
I smell your supper steaming in the kitchen.
There are paper bags on the table
with their bottoms melted out
by rain and the weight of oranges.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Another Loss to Stop For
~ by Jill Bialosky
Against such cold and mercurial mornings,
watch the wind whirl one leaf
across the landscape,
then, in a breath, let it go.
The color in the opaque sky
seems almost not to exist.
Put on a wool sweater.
Wander in the leaves,
underneath healthy elms.
Hold your child in your arms.
After the dishes are washed,
a kiss still warm at your neck,
put down your pen. Turn out the light.
I know how difficult it is,
always balancing and weighing,
it takes years and many transformations;
and always another loss to stop for,
to send you backwards.
Why do you worry so,
when none of us is spared?
Sunday, October 9, 2011
The Author of American Ornithology Sketches a Bird, Now Extinct
(Alexander Wilson, Wilmington, N.C., 1809)
By David Wagoner
When he walked through town, the wing-shot bird he'd hidden
Inside his coat began to cry like a baby,
High and plaintive and loud as the calls he'd heard
While hunting it in the woods, and goodwives stared
And scurried indoors to guard their own from harm.
And the inkeeper and the goodmen in the tavern
Asked him whether his child was sick, then laughed.
Slapped knees, and laughed as he unswaddled his prize,
His pride and burden: an ivory-billed woodpecker
As big as a crow, still wailing and squealing.
Upstairs, when he let it go in his workroom,
it fell silent at last. He told at dinner
How devoted masters of birds drawn from the life
Must gather their flocks around them with a rifle
And make them live forever inside books.
Later, he found his bedspread covered with plaster
And the bird clinging beside a hole in the wall
Clear through to already-splintered weatherboards
And the sky beyond. While he tied one of its legs
To a table leg, it started wailing again.
And went on wailing as if toward cypress groves
While the artist dew and tinted on fine vellum
Its red cockade, gray claws, and sepia eyes
From which a white edge flowed to the lame wing
Like light flying and ended there in blackness.
He drew and studied for days, eating and dreaming
Fitfully through the dancing and loud drumming
Of an ivory bill that refused pecans and beetles,
Chestnuts and sweet-sour fruit of magnolias,
Riddling his table, slashing his fingers, wailing.
He watched it die, he said, with great regret.
By Don Thompson
I used to think the land
had something to say to us,
back when wildflowers
would come right up to your hand
as if they were tame.
Sooner or later, I thought,
the wind would begin to make sense
if I listened hard
and took notes religiously.
That was spring.
Now I’m not so sure:
the cloudless sky has a flat affect
and the fields plowed down after harvest
seem so expressionless,
keeping their own counsel.
This afternoon, nut tree leaves
blow across them
as if autumn had written us a long letter,
changed its mind,
and tore it into little scraps.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Bernard and Sarah
By Henry Taylor
"Hang them where they'll do some good," my grandfather
said, as he placed the dusty photograph
in my father's hands. My father and I stared
at two old people posed stiffly side by side-
my great-great-great-grandparents, in the days
when photography was young, and they were not.
My father thought it out as we drove home.
Deciding that they might do the most good
somewhere out of sight, my father drove
a nail into the back wall of his closet;
they have hung there ever since, brought out
only on such occasions as the marriage
of one of his own children. "I think you ought
to know the stock you're joining with," he says.
Then back they go to the closet, where they hang
keeping their counsel until it is called for.
Yet, through walls, over miles of fields and woods
that flourish still around the farm they cleared,
their eyes light up the closet of my brain
to draw me toward the place I started from,
and when I have come home, they take me in.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
They have carried the mahogany chair and the cane rocker
out under the lilac bush,
and my father and mother darkly sit there, in black clothes.
Our clapboard house stands fast on its hill,
my doll lies in her wicker pram
gazing at western Massachusetts.
This was our world.
I could remake each shaft of grass
feeling its rasp on my fingers, draw out the map of every lilac leaf
or the net of vines on my father’s
Out of my head, half-bursting,
still filling, the dream condenses—
shadows, crystals, ceilings, meadows, globe of dew.
Under the dull green of the lilacs, out in the light
carving each spoke of the pram, the turned porch-pillars,
under high early-summer clouds,
I am Effie, visible and invisible,
remembering and remembered.
They will move from the house,
give the toys and pets away.
Mute and rigid with loss my mother
will ride the train to Baptist Corner,
the silk-spool will run bare.
I tell you, the thread that bound us lies
faint as a web in the dew.
Should I make you, world, again,
could I give back the leaf its skeleton, the air
its early-summer cloud, the house
its noonday presence, shadowless,
and leave this out? I am Effie, you were my dream.
Monday, September 26, 2011
By Judith Harris
I can hear him,
now, even in darkness,
a trickster under the moon,
bristling his feathers,
sounding as merry
as a man whistling in a straw hat,
or a squeaky gate
to the playground, left ajar
or the jingling of a star,
having wandered too far
from the pasture.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
From Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved
by Gregory Orr
Resurrection of the body of the beloved,
Which is the world
Which is the poem
Of the world, the poem of the body.
Mortal ourselves and filled with awe,
we gather the scattered limbs
That he should live again.
That death not be oblivion.
When I open the book
I hear the poets whisper and weep,
Laugh and lament.
In a thousand languages
They say the same thing:
“We lived. The secret of life
is love, that casts its wing
over all suffering, that takes
in its arms the hurt child,
that rises green from the fallen seed.”
Sadness is there, too.
All the sadness in the world.
Because the tide ebbs,
Because wild waves
Punish the shore
And the small lives lived there.
Because the body is scattered.
Because death is real
And sometimes death is not
Even the worst of it.
If sadness did not run
Like a river through the Book,
Why would we go there?
What would we drink?
Oh, there’s blood enough, and sap
From the stalks. Tears, too.
A raindrop and the dark water
Of bogs. It’s a rich ink.
(hold up the page to the light,
hold the page near a flame).
The world comes into the poem.
The poem comes into the world.
Reciprocity – it all comes down
As with lovers:
When it’s right you can’t say
Who is kissing whom.
Lighten up, lighten up.
Let go of the heaviness.
Was it a poem from the Book
That so weighed you down?
Impossible. Less than a feather.
Less than the seed a milkweed
Pod releases in the breeze.
Lifted, it drifts out to settle
In a field, with all that’s inside it
Waiting to become
Root and tendril, to come alive.
Now the snow is falling
Even more than an hour ago.
The pine in the backyard
Bows with the weight of it.
Two years ago, my father
Died. What love we had
Hidden under misery,
Weighed down with years
Maybe the poem can free
Us, maybe the poem can express
The love and let the rest
Slide to the earth as the snow
Does now, freeing the tree
Of its burden.
To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That’s crudely put, but …
If we’re not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?
Time to shut up.
Voltaire said the secret
Of being boring
Is to say everything.
And yet I held
Back about love
All those years:
Talking about death
As I was alive;
Talking about loss
As if all was loss,
As if the world
Did not return
As if the beloved
Didn’t long for us.
No wonder I go on
So. I go on so
Because of the wonder.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Top of My Lungs
By Natalie Goldberg
Even though I am unhappy
I come home singing at the top of my lungs
Shovel off the new snow and shove it on the old
Open the useless screened porch door
and take off my big boots
There are fried eggs
yellow as pearls
The old bed I dive into like a warm whale
The phone ringing
that duck on the wall
And even though I am unhappy
I sleep with the peace of flying angels
And even though I am sad
my wallet's empty
I buy the best soap
And even though my heart is hurting
out of sure will
I come home singing with the last night wind
and the first morning star
and the canary
and the summer that was killed below our house
I walk down to the Rainbow Café
call my Catholic friend Mary to come
have a drink and eat a turkey sandwich
The down coat I wear all winter still has the goose feathers
from a hundred flying birds
They let us smoke at our small table
Mary will always meet me here
They fill your glasses with the most sparking water
and the cold moon rises over the marquee
of the Suburban World theater
So even though I am unhappy
I throw back my old goat throat
and sing slowly
"Oh my darlin' Clementine"
by the beautiful lake in Minnesota
as the pressure of the black night cold
moves in on us from all ten directions
I sing to the moon above the lake
"You are lost and gone forever"
calling the pure beast of loneliness down from the sky
with the old American song haunting city lights
"Dreadful sorry Clementine"
and though the very earth has swelled up
like an elephant with pain
I stand on its back singing
in this sad universe
where one lover leaves another for all time
and nothing to say with your feet on the ground.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
By Peter Schmitt
We stood at attention as she moved
with a kind of Groucho shuffle
down our line, her trained music
teacher's ear passing by
our ten- and eleven-year-old mouths
open to some song now forgotten.
And as she held her momentary
pause in front of me, I peered
from the corner of my eye
to hers, and knew the truth
I had suspected.
In the following days,
as certain of our peers
disappeared at appointed hours
for the Chorus, something in me
was already closing shop.
Indeed, to this day
I still clam up
for the national anthem
in crowded stadiums, draw
disapproving alumni stares
as I smile the length of school songs,
and even hum and clap
through "Happy Birthday," creating
a diversion—all lest I send
the collective pitch
careening headlong into dissonance.
It's only in the choice acoustics
of shower and sealed car
that I can finally give voice
to that heart deep within me
that is pure, tonally perfect, music.
But when the water stops running
and the radio's off, I can remember
that day in class,
when I knew for the first time
that mine would be a world of words
without melody, where refrain
means do not join,
where I'm ready to sing
in a key no one has ever heard.
Monday, August 15, 2011
By Robert Penick
The plumbing is undone
at one end of the house
like my childhood train set
and how the trains never came back.
My father's tools are scattered
through these rooms and I wonder
how long it would take him
to sort things out.
To couple the pipes and
make the equation.
I have outshone my father
in one vital respect:
I screwed this job up
in half the time
he would have needed
to actually complete it.
Somewhere he is shaking his head
and giving me that ancient look,
the one shot from
fathers to sons
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Closed Swimming Pool
By Tony Hoagland
There's nothing sadder than an empty swimming pool
with a fence around it,
the deep end no longer deep, the blue paint
knocked off like crust
to show the chalky plaster underneath.
Someone call those experts
at making things completely disappear!
They may have pumped it out but they didn't get
the ghostly vapor trails of shrieking eight year olds
running barefoot on the slick cement-
or the rustling pages of the glamour magazines
in the laps of sunburned mothers.
They drained it dry and then the sky and time
filled it part way up again with rain
that turned into a scuzzy pit
for catching windblown trash and leaves.
It is obscene
to come out on a walk and to find this thing,
to stand there with your fingers poking through chain link
and look into the forsaken pit of it.
I pause there with my friend and we feel
like a couple of animals looking through the fence
at the zoo that we escaped from long ago-
a grey wind ruffling the trash bags in the trees
and a bolted-on black sign disclaiming liability:
meaning childhood is over now;
Even in memory it has been prohibited.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
The Connoisseuse of Slugs
By Sharon Olds
When I was a connoisseuse of slugs
I would part the ivy leaves, and look for the
naked jelly of those gold bodies,
translucent strangers glistening along the
stones, slowly, their gelatinous bodies
at my mercy. Made mostly of water, they would shrivel
to nothing if they were sprinkled with salt,
but I was not interested in that. What I liked
was to draw aside the ivy, breathe the
odor of the wall, and stand there in silence
until the slug forgot I was there
and sent its antennae up out of its
head, the glimmering umber horns
rising like telescopes, until finally the
sensitive knobs would pop out the
ends, delicate and intimate. Years later,
when I first saw a naked man,
I gasped with pleasure to see that quiet
mystery reenacted, the slow
elegant being coming out of hiding and
gleaming in the dark air, eager and so
trusting you could weep.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
For the Chipmunk in My Yard
By Robert Gibb
I think he knows I’m alive, having come down
The three steps of the back porch
And given me a good once over. All afternoon
He’s been moving back and forth,
Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs,
While all about him the great fields tumble
To the blades of the thresher. He’s lucky
To be where he is, wild with all that happens.
He’s lucky he’s not one of the shadows
Living in the blond heart of the wheat.
This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires
Of starlight, he’ll curl among their roots,
Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter
On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
By April Lindner
The burnt church up the street yawns to the sky,
its empty windows edged in soot, its portals
boarded up and slathered with graffiti,
oily layers, urgent but illegible.
All that can be plundered has been, all
but the carapace—the hollow bell tower,
the fieldstone box that once served as a nave.
The tidy row of homes that line this block
have tended lawns and scalloped bathtub shrines.
Each front porch holds a chair where no one sits.
Those who live here triple lock their doors
day and night. Some mornings they step out
to find a smoking car stripped to its skeleton
abandoned at the curb. Most afternoons
the street is still but for a mourning dove
and gangs of pigeons picking through the grass.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help is gray,
a dead incisor in a wary smile.
A crevice in her wall allows a glimpse
into the chancel, where a sodden mattress
and dirty blanket indicate that someone
finds this place a sanctuary still,
takes his rest here, held and held apart
from passers by, their cruelties and their kindnesses,
watched over by the night’s blind congregation,
by the blank eyes of a concrete saint.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Doing Laundry on Sunday
By Brigit Pegeen Kelly
So this is the Sabbath, the stillness
in the garden, magnolia
bells drying damp petticoats
over the porch rail, while bicycle
wheels thrum and the full-breasted tulips
open their pink blouses
for the hands that pressed them first
as bulbs into the earth.
Bread, too, cools on the sill,
and finches scatter bees
by the Shell Station where a boy
in blue denim watches oil
spread in phosphorescent scarves
over the cement. He dips
his brush into a bucket and begins
to scrub, making slow circles
and stopping to splash water on the children
who, hours before it opens,
juggle bean bags outside Gantsy’s
Ice Cream Parlor,
while they wait for color to drench their tongues,
as I wait for water to bloom
behind me—white foam, as of magnolias,
as of green and yellow
birds bathing in leaves—wait,
as always, for the day, like bread, to rise
and, with movement
imperceptible, accomplish everything.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
By Joshua Weiner
What makes for a happier life, Josh, comes to this:
Gifts freely given, that you never earned;
Open affection with your wife and kids;
Clear pipes in winter, in summer screens that fit;
Few days in court, with little consequence;
A quiet mind, a strong body, short hours
In the office; close friends who speak the truth;
Good food, cooked simply; a memory that’s rich
Enough to build the future with; a bed
In which to love, read, dream, and re-imagine love;
A warm, dry field for laying down in sleep,
And sleep to trim the long night coming;
Knowledge of who you are, the wish to be
None other; freedom to forget the time;
To know the soul exceeds where it’s confined
Yet does not seek the terms of its release,
Like a child’s kite catching at the wind
That flies because the hand holds tight the line.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
By Marilyn Kallet
In the dry summer field at nightfall,
fireflies rise like sparks.
Imagine the presence of ghosts
flickering, the ghosts of young friends,
your father nearest in the distance.
This time they carry no sorrow,
no remorse, their presence is so light.
Childhood comes to you,
memories of your street in lamplight,
holding those last moments before bed,
with a blossom of the hand
letting them go. Lightness returns,
an airy motion over the ground
you remember from Ring Around the Rosie.
If you stay, the fireflies become fireflies
again, not part of your stories,
as unaware of you as sleep, being
beautiful and quiet all around you.
Monday, July 4, 2011
By Marc Jampole
And the three-year-old at the picnic
said she wanted to play the violin
and I said, just like Joe Venuti
and she said, you’re a Joe Venuti
and I said, you’re a Joe Venuti
and she pulled a tuft of grass and said,
here's some Joe Venuti
and she pointed to a sparrow scratching in the dust
and said, there’s a Joe Venuti
and from a plastic bag she dumped
a bunch of Joe Venutis
and barbecue flames caressed the grilling Joe Venutis
and men threw the Joe Venuti, popping their gloves,
while women slurped the Joe Venuti and spit the seeds
and the sun played hide and seek in dissipating Joe Venutis
and through poplar branches Joe Venuti shadows danced
across the baby’s sleeping smile.
Later, like Marcus Aurelius
observing models of human behavior,
we watched the ducks glide away
after the bread was gone.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
A Different God for City Girls
By Susan Elbe
When my friend said she had seen God’s face,
I wondered if it was an old man’s,
backlit by a playground’s night-game lights,
wondered if it was a woman’s,
fan of silver pins glittering between her lips
as she knelt on cold linoleum
turning up dress hems for money.
My friend said you can only see God’s face askance.
She said it terrified her
like the sleek and planet-eyed sea lion
whose yawn reveals a cavern of sharp teeth.
I prayed for a glimpse, but only saw
what God wanted me to see, a scarped skyline,
hard angles spangled with small panes of light.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
By Czeslaw Milosz
When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add Up,
What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.
- And if there is no lining to the world?
If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
Make no sense following each other?
And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?
- Even if that is so, there will remain
A word wakened by lips that perish,
A tireless messenger who runs and runs
Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
And calls out, protests, screams.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
One’s Ship Comes In
By Joe Paddock
my way now will be
to continue without
plan or hope, to accept
the drift of things, to shift
from endless effort
to joy in, say,
that robin, plunging
into the mossy shallows
of my bird bath and
splashing madly till
the air shines with spray.
Joy it will be, say,
in Nancy, pretty in pink
and rumpled T-shirt,
rubbing sleep from her eyes, or
joy even in
just this breathing, free
of fright and clutch, knowing
how one’s ship comes in
with each such breath.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
This Was Once a Love Poem
by Jane Hirshfield
This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.
It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.
Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet
in a river side by side with the feet of another.
Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.
IT spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.
The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus.
Yes, it decides:
Many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots.
When it finds itself disquieted
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them—one, then another—
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.
Monday, June 13, 2011
By Rita Dove
Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading
glorious shade. If you don't look back,
the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits -
eggs and sausage on the grill.
The whole sky is yours
to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on,
shake a leg! You'll never know
who's down there, frying those eggs,
if you don't get up and see.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
By Charles Simic
The plastic statue of the Virgin
On top of a bedroom dresser
With a blackened mirror
From a bad-dream grooming salon.
Two pebbles from the grave of a rock star,
A small, grinning windup monkey,
A bronze Egyptian coin
And a red movie-ticket stub.
A splotch of sunlight on the framed
Communion photograph of a boy
With the eyes of someone
Who will drown in a lake real soon.
An altar dignifying the god of chance.
What is beautiful, it cautions,
Is found accidentally and not sought after.
What is beautiful is easily lost.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
By Don Thompson
My leaf blower lifted the blackbird—
wings still spread, weightless,
floating on the loud, electric wind
almost as if it were alive.
Three or four times it flew,
but fell again, sideslipped down
like a kite with no string,
so I gave up. . . I had work to do,
and when the dust I raised
had settled in that other world
under the rose bushes, the ants
came back to finish theirs.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
By Kenneth Rexroth
Once, camping on a high bluff
Above the Fox River, when
I was about fourteen years
Old, on a full moonlit night
Crowded with whippoorwills and
Frogs, I lay awake long past
Midnight watching the moon move
Through the half drowned stars. Suddenly
I heard, far away on the warm
Air a high clear soprano,
Purer than the purest boy's
Voice, singing, "Tuck me to sleep
In my old 'Tucky home."
She was in an open car
Speeding along the winding
Dipping highway beneath me.
A few seconds later
An old touring car full of
Boys and girls rushed by under
Me, the soprano rising
Full and clear and now close by
I could hear the others singing
Softly behind her voice. Then
Rising and falling with the
Twisting road the song closed, soft
In the night. Over thirty
Years have gone by but I have
Never forgotten. Again
And again, driving on a
Lonely moonlit road, or waking
In a warm murmurous night,
I hear that voice singing that
Common song like an