Monday, April 30, 2012

National Poetry Month, Part 4

Tired - Langston Hughes

i am so tired of waiting.
aren’t you,
for the world to become good
and beautiful and kind?
let us take a knife
and cut the world in two —
and see what worms are eating
at the rind.


On the Necessity of Sadness - Mikael de Lara Co

Let me tell you about longing.
Let me presume that I have something
new to say about it, that this room,
naked, its walls pining for clocks,
has something new to say
about absence. Somewhere
the crunch of an apple, fading
sunflowers on a quilt, a window
looking out to a landscape
with a single tree. And you
sitting under it. Let go,
said you to me in a dream,
but by the time the wind
carried your voice to me,
I was already walking through
the yawning door, towards
the small, necessary sadnesses
of waking. I wish
I could hold you now,
but that is a line that has
no place in a poem, like the swollen
sheen of the moon tonight,
or the word absence, or you,
or longing. Let me tell you about
longing. In a distant country
two lovers are on a bench, and pigeons,
unafraid, are perching beside them.
She places a hand on his knee
and says, say to me
the truest thing you can.
I am closing my eyes now.
You are far away. 

Bright Day - Stanley Moss

I sing this morning: Hello, hello.
I proclaim the bright day of the soul.
The sun is a good fellow,
the devil is a good guy, no deaths today I know.
I live because I live. I do not die because I cannot die.
In Tuscan sunlight Masaccio
painted his belief that St. Peter’s shadow
cured a cripple, gave him back his sight.
I’ve come through eighty-five summers. I walk in sunlight.
In my garden, death questions every root, flowers reply.
I know the dark night of the soul
does not need God’s eye,
as a beggar does not need a hand or a bowl.

For an Album - Adrienne Rich

our story isn’t a file of photographs
faces laughing under green leaves
or snowlit doorways, on the verge of driving
away, our story is not about women
victoriously perched on the one
sunny day of the conference,
nor lovers displaying love:

our story is of moments
when even slow motion moved too fast
for the shutter of the camera:
words blew our lives apart, like so,
eyes that cut & caught each other,
mime of the operating room
where gas & knives quote each other
moments before the telephone
starts ringing: our story is
how still we stood,
how fast.


The End of Science Fiction - Lisel Mueller

This is not fantasy, this is our life.
We are the characters
who have invaded the moon,
who cannot stop their computers.
We are the gods who can unmake
the world in seven days.
Both hands are stopped at noon.
We are beginning to live forever,
in lightweight, aluminum bodies
with numbers stamped on our backs.
We dial our words like Muzak.
We hear each other through water.
The genre is dead. Invent something new.
Invent a man and a woman
naked in a garden,
invent a child that will save the world,
a man who carries his father
out of a burning city.
Invent a spool of thread
that leads a hero to safety,
invent an island on which he abandons
the woman who saved his life
with no loss of sleep over his betrayal.
Invent us as we were
before our bodies glittered
and we stopped bleeding:
invent a shepherd who kills a giant,
a girl who grows into a tree,
a woman who refuses to turn
her back on the past and is changed to salt,
a boy who steals his brother’s birthright
and becomes the head of a nation.
Invent real tears, hard love,
slow-spoken, ancient words,
difficult as a child’s
first steps across a room.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

National Poetry Month, Part 3

House of Belonging - David Whyte

sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.


A Message from the Wanderer - William E. Stafford

Today outside your prison I stand
and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.

Years ago I bent my skill to keep my
cell locked, had chains smuggled to me in pies,
and shouted my plans to jailers;
but always new plans occurred to me,
or the new heavy locks bent hinges off,
or some stupid jailer would forget
and leave the keys.

Inside, I dreamed of constellations—
those feeding creatures outlined by stars,
their skeletons a darkness between jewels,
heroes that exist only where they are not.

Thus freedom always came nibbling my thought,
just as—often, in light, on the open hills—
you can pass an antelope and not know
and look back, and then—even before you see—
there is something wrong about the grass.
And then you see.

That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.

Now—these few more words, and then I’m
gone: Tell everyone just to remember
their names, and remind others, later, when we
find each other. Tell the little ones
to cry and then go to sleep, curled up
where they can. And if any of us get lost,
if any of us cannot come all the way—
remember: there will come a time when
all we have said and all we have hoped
will be all right.

There will be that form in the grass.


A Settlement -  Mary Oliver

look, it’s spring. and last year’s loose dust has turned
into this soft willingness. the wind-flowers have come
up trembling, slowly the brackens are up-lifting their
curvaceous and pale bodies. the thrushes have come
home, none less than filled with mystery, sorrow,
happiness, music, ambition. 
and i am walking out into all of this with nowhere to
go and no task undertaken but to turn the pages of
this beautiful world over and over, in the world of my mind. 
therefore, dark past,
i’m about to do it.
i’m about to forgive you
for everything.


Keys - Nancy Henry

when things got hard 
i used to drive and keep on driving 
once to north carolina 
once to arizona 
i’m through with all that now, i hope. 
the last time was years ago. 
but oh, how i would drive 
and keep on driving! 
the universe around me 
all well in my control; 
anything i wanted on the radio, 
the air blasting hot or cold; 
sobbing as loudly as i cared to sob, 
screaming as loudly as i needed to scream. 
i would live on apples and black coffee, 
shower at truck stops, 
sleep curled up 
in the cozy back seat i loved.
the last time, i left at 3 a.m. 
by new york state, 
i stopped screaming; 
by tulsa 
i stopped sobbing; 
by the time i pulled into flagstaff 
i was thinking 
about the canyon, 
i was so empty. 
thinking about the canyon 
i was. 
i sat on the rim at dawn, 
let all the colors fill me. 
it was cold. i saw my breath 
like steam from a soup pot. 
i saw small fossils in the gravel. 
i saw how much world there was 
how much darkness 
could be swept out 
by the sun.


Flames - Billy Collins

smokey the bear heads
into the autumn woods
with a red can of gasoline
and a box of wooden matches.

his ranger’s hat is cocked
at a disturbing angle.

his brown fur gleams
under the high sun
as his paws, the size
of catcher’s mitts,
crackle into the distance.

he is sick of dispensing
warnings to the careless,
the half-wit camper,
the dumbbell hiker.

he is going to show them
how a professional does it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

National Poetry Month, Part 2

On  Last Lines - Suzanne Buffam 

the last line should strike like a lover’s complaint.
you should never see it coming.
and you should never hear the end of it.


Good Night - J. Bradley

 i wanted to write “stay”
on your sides, surround
your bed with oceans
of salt. i hope he folds you
into a fox, loves you
like a splintered arrow,
brandishes the kill
of your lips. may the bouquet
of your hips wither.
may the wolves
forget your name.


what lot's wife would have said (if she wasn't a pillar of salt) Karen Finneyfrock

do you remember when we met
in gomorrah? when you were still beardless,
and i would oil my hair in the lamp light before seeing
you, when we were young, and blushed with youth
like bruised fruit. did we care then
what our neighbors did
in the dark?

when our first daughter was born
on the river jordan, when our second
cracked her pink head from my body
like a promise, did we worry
what our friends might be
doing with their tongues?

what new crevices they found
to lick love into or strange flesh
to push pleasure from, when we
called them sodomites then,
all we meant by it
was neighbor.

when the angels told us to run
from the city, i went with you,
but even the angels knew
that women always look back.
let me describe for you, lot,
what your city looked like burning
since you never turned around to see it.

sulfur ran its sticky fingers over the skin
of our countrymen. it smelled like burning hair
and rancid eggs. i watched as our friends pulled
chunks of brimstone from their faces. is any form
of loving this indecent?

cover your eyes tight,
husband, until you see stars, convince
yourself you are looking at heaven.

because any man weak enough to hide his eyes while his neighbors
are punished for the way they love deserves a vengeful god.

i would say these things to you now, lot,
but an ocean has dried itself on my tongue.
so instead i will stand here, while my body blows itself
grain by grain back over the land of canaan.
i will stand here
and i will watch you


Everything is Waiting for You - David Whyte

your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. as if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. to feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. you must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
the stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. the kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. all the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. everything is waiting for you.


grief calls us to the things of this world - Sherman Alexie

           The morning air is all awash with angels
            —Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”

the eyes open to a blue telephone
in the bathroom of this five-star hotel.

i wonder whom i should call? a plumber,
proctologist, urologist, or priest?

who is blessed among us and most deserves
the first call? i choose my father because

he’s astounded by bathroom telephones.
i dial home. my mother answers. “hey, ma,”

i say, “can i talk to poppa?” she gasps,
and then i remember that my father

has been dead for nearly a year. “shit, mom,”
I say. “i forgot he’s dead. i’m sorry—

how did i forget?” “it’s okay,” she says.
“i made him a cup of instant coffee

this morning and left it on the table—
like i have for, what, twenty-seven years—

and i didn’t realize my mistake
until this afternoon.” my mother laughs

at the angels who wait for us to pause
during the most ordinary of days

and sing our praise to forgetfulness
before they slap our souls with their cold wings.

those angels burden and unbalance us.
those fucking angels ride us piggyback.

those angels, forever falling, snare us
and haul us, prey and praying, into dust.

The Uses of Sorrow -  Mary Oliver

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness. 

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

National Poetry Month, part one

Guess what month it is, everyone? And if you guessed April, NO, that's boring. It's NATIONAL POETRY MONTH! (I don't know why that deserved all caps except to express to you that I'm really, really excited about this.) If you're a newbie to my blog, what I do for NATIONAL POETRY MONTH (okay, that time I seriously didn't need to capitalize it) is post a bunch of the most gorgeous, heart-wrenchingly beautiful, inspiring poems I can find. Right here. For you.

You're welcome. 

The rules for enjoying my poetry posts to the fullest are this: Slow down. Read the poems. Think about them.Carry them with you throughout your day like a secret love letter. Let them illuminate your life.

That's it. You guys can totally do that. Let's get started! YAY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH! (just pretend I'm yelling this in Gerard Butler's voice from "300").

PS I've been in a Mary Oliver & Charles Bukowski mood lately. So if the posts favor those two poets more than others... take it up with management.

The Word  by Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,
between “green thread”
and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”
Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend
and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,
and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing
that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds
of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder
or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,
but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom
still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,
—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.


On Living by Nazim Hikmet

i mean you must take living so seriously
      that even at seventy, for example, you will plant olives—
      & not so they’ll be left for your children either,
      but because even though you fear death you don’t believe it,
      because living, i mean, weighs heavier.


Don't Hesitate by Mary Oliver

if you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. give in to it. there are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. we are not wise, and not very often
kind. and much can never be redeemed.
still, life has some possibility left. perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. it could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. anyway, that’s often the
case. anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. joy is not made to be a crumb.


God Says Yes to Me by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes


The Thing Is by Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief.
You think,
How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
 I will love you, again.

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