Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tin Ear

Tin Ear

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

The Work

The Work
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

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

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

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.