Monday, December 29, 2014

Apologues of Winter Light

Street lamps streaming on, and the grey
suspiration of the cold flossing the invisible
tides of air, full with all our lost breath . . .

Soon the heavens will span out - and though
I've learned everything is falling outward,
the galaxies still come set like pin feathers
spired on the dark's spread wings . . .

This time of year, before a brief twilight
turns away, I think of Tiepolo's cherubim,
all countenance and wing, bodiless among
the clouded wisps, breaking away, floating
off like anything souls might be - I think
of our lives drifting out there too, like slow
light through these blue and trembling trees.

Only a hundred thousand years ago
mastodons grazed in Central Park,
and the constellations spun over them
gently as shining leaves - the dark pools,
the staves of ice singing back the mild
ostinato of the stars . . .
                                       We've tried to figure
our place in the far backwaters and
sequinned outskirts of time, tried to pin down
that one background note reverberating
even in the rocks. But the tumbling
geometry of the sky resolves little more
than those chiseled blocks of light,
those overlays of rust and amber
that were all of an autumn thickening
the air, absolving some distances until we felt
we could take that burning it into us.

                                                           Nonetheless,
I'm watching Venus rise through the diminished
atmosphere of New Jersey, red as a maple leaf
I've taped above the window to keep my hope
in perspective, for still I'm not much beyond
that feeling at age two when my father,
on a fire escape in east Missouri, lifted me
into the cool, blue night of the 50s,
and I pointed saying, moon, moon,
as it basked there large and white
as a beach ball spinning just beyond
my arm's reach . . .
                                 And each year now
we know more, but we know no better -
what we see in the sky is simply
the softened gloss of the past sifting
back to us, and likewise, every atom
down the body's shining length
was inside a star, and will be again.

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by Christopher Buckley, 1989

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Boy Shepherds' Simile

Wind rose cold under our robes, and straw blew loose
from the stable roof.
We loved the cow tied to the oak, her breath rising
in the black air, and the two goats trucked
from the Snelling farm, the gray dog shaking with age
and weather.
                      Over our scene a great star hung
its light, and we could see in the bleached night
a crowd of overcoats peopling the chairs.
A coat of black ice glazed the streets.

This was not a child or a king,
but Mary Sosebee's Christmas doll of a year ago.
We knelt in that knowledge on the wide front lawn
of the First Baptist Church
while flashbulbs went off all around us
and a choir of angels caroled from their risers.
This was not a child wrapped in straw
and the ragged sheet, but since believing was an easy thing
we believed it was like a child,
a king who lived in the stories we were told.
For this, we shivered in adoration. We bore the cold.

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by David Bottoms, 1982

Monday, December 15, 2014

Night Feed

This is dawn.
Believe me
This is your season, little daughter.
The moment daisies open,
The hour mercurial rainwater
Makes a mirror for sparrows.
It's time we drowned our sorrows.

I tiptoe in.
I lift you up
Wriggling
In your rosy, zipped sleeper.
Yes, this is the hour
For the early bird and me
When finder is keeper.

I crook the bottle.
How your suckle!
This is the best I can be,
Housewife
To this nursery
Where you hold on,
Dear life.

A silt of milk.
The last suck.
And now your eyes are open,
Birth-coloured and offended.
Earth wakes.
You go back to sleep.
The feed is ended.

Worms turn.
The stars go in.
Even the moon is losing face.
Poplars stilt for dawn
And we begin
The long fall from grace.
I tuck you in.

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by Eavan Boland, 1982

Monday, December 8, 2014

Poem to Be Read at 3 A.M.

Excepting the diner
On the outskirts
The town of Ladora
At 3 A.M.
Was dark but
For my headlights
And up in
One second-story room
A single light
Where someone
Was sick or
Perhaps reading
As I drove past
At seventy
Not thinking
This poem
Is for whoever
Had the light on

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by Donald Justice, 1995

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Good Life

You stand at the window.
There is a glass cloud in the shape of a heart.
The wind's sighs are like caves in your speech.
You are the ghost in the tree outside.

The street is quiet.
The weather, like tomorrow, like your life,
is partially here, partially up in the air.
There is nothing you can do.

The good life gives no warning.
It weathers the climates of despair
and appears, on foot, unrecognized, offering nothing,
and you are there.

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by Mark Strand, 2009

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dawn Chorus

Every morning since the time changed
I have woken to the dawn chorus
And even before it sounded, I dreamed of it
Loud, unbelievably loud, shameless, raucous

And once I rose and twitched the curtains apart
Expecting the birds to be pressing in fright
Against the pane like passengers
But the garden was empty and it was night

Not a slither of light at the horizon
Still the birds were bawling through the mists
Terrible, invisible
A million small evangelists

How they sing: as if each had pecked up a smoldering coal
Their throats singed and swollen with song
In dissonance as befits the dark world
Where only travelers and the sleepless belong

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by Sasha Dugdale, 2011

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lost Luggage

"Dr. Magherini insists certain men and women are susceptible to
swooning in the presence of great art, especially when far from home."
New York Times International Edition



Today in a palace disguised
as a museum, disguised myself
as a tourist, I entered a crucifixion scene
as part of the crowd and woke with the smell
of ancient sweat in my nostrils,
a bloody membrane over my eyes
as if I were seeing the world through
a crimson handkerchief -
they tell me I fainted.

Although I am in transit from my life,
I packed stray bits of it to take along - a comb
with relics of my graying hair, snapshots
of my own recent dead, books as thumbed
as this Bible chained to the hotel bedpost, whose verses
I read to put myself to sleep. At night
in different beds I dream of home,
but in the morning the dreams
are gone like so much lost luggage.

I know there are landscapes waiting
to be entered: forests shaded in leaf green
where winged children play on pipes;
the blue translucent scales of water in seascapes.
And on every wall are faces, gazing
through an undertow of brush strokes.
Meanwhile, framed in the evening windows
of yet another city, the woman reflected
is merely myself, the halo

of light a streetlamp shining on my head.
But ghosts clothed in tempora
follow me everywhere,
as if art itself were a purpling shadow
whose territory I must step back into,
a place where I can hide myself
over and over again, where what is lost
may be found, though always
in another language and untranslatable.

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by Linda Pastan,1991

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Bend

Around the bend of a phrase
you return, it's dawn in a book, it's
a garden, one can
see everything, the dew, a butterfly
on a leaf and it's you
who rises suddenly amid the pages
and the book grows more lovely
because it's you
and you've not grown old, you walk
slowly to the door.

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by Claude Esteban

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Farmer and the Sea

The sea always arriving,
hissing in pebbles, is breaking
its edge where the landsman
squats on his rock. The dark
of the earth is familiar to him,
close mystery of his source
and end, always flowering
in the light and always
fading. But the dark of the sea
is perfect and strange,
the absence of any place,
immensity on the loose.
Still, he sees it is another
keeper of the land, caretaker,
shaking the earth, breaking it,
clicking the pieces, but somewhere
holding deep fields yet to rise,
shedding its richness on them
silently as snow, keeper and maker
of places wholly dark. And in him
something dark applauds.

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by Wendell Berry, 2011

Monday, October 27, 2014

Atlantis - A Lost Sonnet

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city - arches, pillars, colonnades,
not to mention vehicles and animals - had all
one fine day gone?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city -

white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe
what really happened is

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.

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by Eavan Boland, 2007

Monday, October 20, 2014

Praise Them

The birds don't alter space,
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
astonishment collects
in chill air. Be glad.
They equal their due
moment never begging,
and enter ours
without parting day. See
how three birds in a winter tree
make the tree barer.
Two fly away, and new rooms
open in December.
Give up what you guessed
about a whirring heart, the little
beaks and claws, their constant hunger.
We're the nervous ones.
If even one of our violent number
could be gentle
long enough that one of them
found it safe inside
our finally untroubled and untroubling gaze,
who wouldn't hear
what singing completes us?

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by Li-Young Lee

Monday, October 13, 2014

North Haven

In memoriam: Robert Lowell

I can make out the rigging of a schooner
a mile off; I can count
the new cones on the spruce. It is so still
the pale bay wears a milky skin; the sky
no clouds except for one long, carded horse's tail.



The islands haven't shifted since last summer,
even if I like to pretend they have
drifting, in a dreamy sort of way,
a little north, a little south, or sidewise,
and that they're free within the blue frontiers of bay.

This month our favorite one is full of flowers:
Buttercups, Red Clover, Purple Vetch,
Hackweed still burning, Daisies pied, Eyebright,
the Fragrant Bedstraw's incandescent stars,
and more, returned, to paint the meadows with delight.

The Goldfinches are back, or others like them,
and the White-throated Sparrow's five-note song,
pleading and pleading, brings tears to the eyes.
Nature repeats herself, or almost does:
repeat, repeat, repeat; revise, revise, revise.

Years ago, you told me it was here
(in 1932?) you first "discovered girls"
and learned to sail, and learned to kiss.
You had "such fun," you said, that classic summer.
("Fun" - it always seemed to leave you at a loss...)

You left North Haven, anchored in its rock,
afloat in mystic blue...And now - you've left
for good. You can't derange, or rearrange,
your poems again. (But the Sparrows can their song.)
The words won't change again. Sad friend, you cannot change.

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by Elizabeth Bishop, 1978

Monday, October 6, 2014

The War Against the Trees

The man who sold his lawn to standard oil
Joked with his neighbors come to watch the show
While the bulldozers, drunk with gasoline,
Tested the virtue of the soil
Under the branchy sky
By overthrowing first the privet-row.

Forsythia-forays and hydrangea-raids
Were but preliminaries to a war
Against the great-grandfathers of the town,
So freshly lopped and maimed.
They struck and struck again,
And with each elm a century went down.

All day the hireling engines charged the trees,
Subverting them by hacking underground
In grub-dominions, where dark summer's mole
Rampages through his halls,
Till a northern seizure shook
Those crowns, forcing the giants to their knees.

I saw the ghosts of children at their games
Racing beyond their childhood in the shade,
And while the green world turned its death-foxed page
And a red wagon wheeled,
I watched them disappear
Into the suburbs of their grievous age.

Ripped from the craters much too big for hearts
The club-roots bared their amputated coils,
Raw gorgons matted blind, whose pocks and scars
Cried Moon! on a corner lot
One witness-moment, caught
In the rear-view mirrors of the passing cars.

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by Stanley Kunitz, 1958



Monday, September 29, 2014

On Inhabiting an Orange

All our roads go nowhere.
Maps are curled
To keep the pavement definitely
On the world.

All our footsteps, set to make
Metric advance,
Lapse into arcs in deference
To circumstance.

All our journeys nearing Space
Skirt it with care,
Shying at the distances
Present in the air.

Blithely travel-stained and worn,
Erect and sure,
All our travels go forth,
Making down the roads of Earth
Endless detour.

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by Josephine Miles, 1983

Monday, September 22, 2014

Jet

Sometimes I wish I were still out
on the back porch, drinking jet fuel
with the boys, getting louder and louder
as the empty cans drop out of our paws 
like booster rockets falling back to Earth

and we soar up into the summer stars.
Summer. The big sky river rushes overhead,
bearing asteroids and mist, blind fish
and old space suits with skeletons inside.
On Earth, men celebrate their hairiness,

and it is good, a way of letting life
out of the box, uncapping the bottle
to let the effervescence gush
through the narrow, usually constricted neck.

And now the crickets plug in their appliances
in unison, and then the fireflies flash
dots and dashes in the grass, like punctuation
for the labyrinthine, untrue tales of sex
someone is telling in the dark, though

no one really hears. We gaze into the night
as if remembering the bright unbroken planet
we once came from,
to which we will never
be permitted to return.
We are amazed how hurt we are.
We would give anything for what we have.

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by Tony Hoagland, 1998

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Illustration - A Footnote

Months after the Muse
had come and gone across the lake of vision,
arose out of childhood the long-familiar
briefly-forgotten presaging of her image -

"The Light of Truth" frontispiece
to "Parables of Nature," 1894 - a picture
intending another meaning than that which it gave
(for I never read the story until now)

intending to represent folly
sinking into a black bog, but for me having meant
a mystery, of darkness, of beauty, of serious
dreaming pause and intensity

where not a will o' the wisp but
a star come to earth burned before the
closed all-seeing eyes
of that figure later seen as the Muse.

By which I learn to affirm
Truth's light at strange turns of the mind's road,
wrong turns that lead
over the border into wonder,

mistaken directions, forgotten signs
all bringing the soul's travels to a place
of origin, a well
under the lake where the Muse moves.

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by Denise Levertov, 1961













"The Light of Truth" from Parables from Nature, 1894








Monday, September 8, 2014

Fosterling

That heavy greenness fostered by water.
                                                             - John Montague


At school I loved one picture's heavy greenness -
Horizons rigged with windmills' arms and sails.
The millhouses' still outlines. Their in-placeness
Still more in place when mirrored in canals.
I can't remember not ever having known
The immanent hydraulics of a land
Of glar and glit and floods at dailigone.
My silting hope. My lowlands of the mind.

Heaviness of being. And poetry
Sluggish in the doldrums of what happens.
Me waiting until I was nearly fifty
To credit marvels. Like the tree-clock of tin cans
The tinkers made. So long for air to brighten,
Time to be dazzled and the heart to lighten.

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by Seamus Heaney, 1991

Monday, September 1, 2014

Theories of Time and Space

You can get there from here, though
there's no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you've never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion - dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain.  Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on the mangrove swamp - buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry - tome of memory,
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph - who you were -
will be waiting when you return.

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by Natasha Trethewey, 2007

Monday, August 18, 2014

Letter

For Richard Howard


Men are running across a field,
pens fall from their pockets.
People out walking will pick them up,
It is one of the ways letters are written.

How things fall to others!
The self no longer belonging to me, but asleep
in a stranger's shadow, now clothing
the stranger, now leading him off.

It is noon as I write to you.
Someone's life has come into my hands.
The sun whitens the buildings.
It is all I have. I give it all to you. Yours,

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by Mark Strand, 1970

Monday, August 11, 2014

He Held Radical Light

He held radical light
as music in his skull: music
turned, as
over ridges immanences of evening light
rise, turned
back over the furrows of his brain
into the dark, shuddered,
shot out again,
in long swaying swirls of sound:

reality had little weight in his transcendence
so he
had trouble keeping
his feet on the ground, was
terrified by that
and liked himself, and others, mostly
under roofs:
nevertheless, when the
light churned and changed

his head to music, nothing could keep him
off the mountains, his
head back, mouth working,
wrestling to say, to cut loose
from the high, unimaginable hook:
released, hidden from stars, he ate,
burped, said he was like any one
of us: demanded he
was like any one of us.

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by A. R. Ammons, 1971

Monday, August 4, 2014

Dreamers

Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
   Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
   Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
   Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
   They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
   And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
   And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
   And going to the office in the train.

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by Siegfried Sassoon, 1918

Monday, July 28, 2014

Driving in Oklahoma

    On humming rubber along this white concrete,
    lighthearted between the gravities
    of source and destination like a man
    halfway to the moon
    in this bubble of tuneless whistling
    at seventy miles an hour from the windvents,
    over prairie swells rising
    and falling, over the quick offramp
    that drops to its underpass and the truck
    thundering beneath as I cross
    with the country music twanging out my windows,
    I'm grooving down this highway feeling
    technology is freedom's other name when
    —a meadowlark
    comes sailing across my windshield
    with breast shining yellow
    and five notes pierce
    the windroar like a flash
    of nectar on mind,
    gone as the country music swells up and drops
                                    me wheeling down
                          my notch of cement-bottomed sky
                                 between home and away
    and wanting
    to move again through country that a bird
    has defined wholly with song,
    and maybe next time see how
                             he flies so easy, when he sings.
    
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    by Carter Revard, 2005

Monday, July 21, 2014

Alone with the Goddess

The young men ride their horses fast
on the wet sand of Parangtritis.
Back and forth, with the water sliding
up to them and away.
This is the sea where the goddess lives,
angry, her lover taken away.
Don't wear red, don't wear green here,
the people say. Do not swim in the sea.
Give her an offering.
I give a coconut to protect
the man I love. The water pushes it back.
I wade out and throw it farther.
"The goddess does not accept your gift,"
an old woman says.
I say perhaps she likes me
and we are playing a game.
The old woman is silent,
the horses wear blinders of cloth,
the young men exalt in their bodies,
not seeing right or left, pretending
to be brave. Sliding on and off
their beautiful horses
on the wet beach at Parangtritis.

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by Linda Gregg, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dwelling by a Stream

I had so long been troubled by official hat and robe
That I am glad to be an exile here in this wild southland.
I am a neighbor now of planters and reapers.
I am a guest of the mountains and woods.
I plow in the morning, turning dewy grasses,
And at evening tie my fisher-boat, breaking the quiet stream.
Back and forth I go, scarcely meeting anyone,
And sing a long poem and gaze at the blue sky.

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by Liu Zongyuan, 805AD

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hunger Moon

The last full moon of February
stalks the fields; barbed wire casts a shadow.
Rising slowly, a beam moved toward the west
stealthily changing position

until now, in the small hours, across the snow
it advances on my pillow
to wake me, not rudely like the sun
but with the cocked gun of silence.

I am alone in a vast room
where a vain woman once slept.
The moon, in pale buckskins, crouches
on guard beside her bed.

Slowly the light wanes, the snow will melt
and all the fences thrum in the spring breeze
but not until that sleeper, trapped
in my body, turns and turns.

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by Jane Cooper, 2000

Monday, June 30, 2014

To Norline

This beach will remain empty
for more slate-coloured dawns
of lines the surf continually
erases with its sponge,

and someone else will come
from the still-sleeping house,
a coffee mug warming his palm
as my body once cupped yours,

to memorize this passage
of a salt-sipping tern,
like when some line on a page
is loved, and it's hard to turn.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
by Derek Walcott, 1987

Monday, June 23, 2014

Market Day

We have traveled all this way
to see the real France:
these trays of apricots and grapes spilled out
like semi-precious stones
for us to choose: a milky way
of cheeses whose names like planets
I forget; heraldic sole
displayed on ice, as if the fish
themselves had just escaped,
leaving their scaled armor behind.
There's nothing like this
anywhere, you say. And I see
Burnside Avenue in the Bronx, my mother

sending me for farmer cheese and lox:
the rounds of cheese grainy and white, pocked
like the surface of the moon;
the silken slices of smoked fish
lying in careful pleats; and always,
as here, sawdust under our feet
the color of sand brought in on the cuffs
from Sunday at the beach.
Across the street on benches,
my grandparents lifted their faces
to the sun the way the blind turn
towards a familiar sound, speaking
another language I almost understand.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
by Linda Pastan, 1985

Monday, June 16, 2014

Variation on the Word Sleep

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed

& that necessary.

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by Margaret Atwood, 1986

Monday, June 9, 2014

Of Virtue

Assuming a virtue
if I had it not, I assumed
that virtue would find me,
which it did, and found me lacking,
and lacking it, I had to assume
that my pretense at virtue
was over, that use would never
change the stamp of nature, that
nature would not be changed by
using virtue as a customary thing.

Custom, however, meant
little to me, consisting only
in that I never wanted to make
the same move twice. I was ruined
from the start, born under
the hottest August sky, the
shimmer of summer on the
horizon, the loosened link
between green and ripe,
waters inviting but forbidden,
dog days slipping the leash.

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by Joyce Sutphen, 1996

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Archer

The sudden thuck of landing
The arrow made in the mark
Of the center lifted and

Loosened his skin. And so he
Stood, hearing it like many
Thrusting breaths driven to ground.

He abandoned the long light
Flight of arrows and the slow
Parabolas bows dream of

For the swifter song beyond
Flesh. Song of moments. The earth
Turned its molten balance.

He stood hearing it again:
The precise shudder the arrow
Sought and returned to, flaming.

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by Vicki Hearne, 2007

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hesperus

My four-year old daughter handed me a card.
To Daddy written on the front
and inside a rough field
of five-pointed lights, and the words
You're my favorite Daddy in the stars.

In this western night we all light the sky
like Vega, Deneb, Altair, Albireo,
the Summer Triangle,
Cygnus the Swan, our hair
tangled with wood and gravel,
our eyes like vacant docks
that beckon every boat.

Tell me about the word
stars, I said.

Oh, she said. Sorry.
I didn't know
how to spell world.

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by Shann Ray, 2013

Monday, May 19, 2014

Birdsong

Bustle and caw. Recall the green heat
rising from the new minted earth, granite

and basalt, proto-continents shuffling
and stacking the deck, first shadows flung

from the ultraviolet haze. A fern
uncurls from the swamp, the microscopic furnace

of replication warms the world, one
becoming two, two four; exponential blossom.

Lush with collision, the teacup balance
of x and y, cells like balloons

escaping into the sky - then the dumbstruck
hour, unmoored by a river,

a first fish creeps to the land to marvel
at the monstrous buds of its toes. And stars

grow feet and walk across the years, into these dozing,
ordinary days, climbing the spine's winding

stair, where crickets yawn and history spins.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
by Joanie Mackowski, 2011

Monday, May 12, 2014

Private Beach

It is always the dispossessed -
someone driving a huge rusted Dodge
that's burning oil, and must cost
twenty-five dollars to fill.

Today before seven I saw, through
the morning fog, his car leave the road,
turning into the field. It must be
his day off, I thought, or he's out
of work and drinking, or getting stoned.
Or maybe as much as anything
he wanted to see
where the lane through the hay goes.

It goes to the bluff overlooking
the lake, where we've cleared
brush, swept the slippery oak
leaves from the path, and tried to destroy
the poison ivy that runs
over the scrubby, sandy knolls.

Sometimes in the evening I"ll hear
gunshots or firecrackers. Later a car
needing a new muffler backs out
to the road, headlights withdrawing
from the lowest branches of the pines.

Next day I find beer cans, crushed;
sometimes a few fish too small
to bother cleaning and left
on the moss to die; or the leaking
latex trace of outdoor love...
Once I found the canvas sling chairs
broken up and burned.

Whoever laid the fire gathered stones
to contain it, like a boy pursuing
a merit badge, who has a dream of work,
and proper reward for work.

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by Jane Kenyon, 2005

Monday, May 5, 2014

Bravery

A rung's
come broken in the
ladder to the mow

and so one hesitates
to clamber up there
just to bomb a cow
with dung or bother
swallows from their
rafter cakes. It takes
a new footing some-
where in the ribs'
treads, about heart-
height, to climb it
now. A new gap's in
the smile that smiles
from the limed barn
floor. There seems
to come a break in
the war. But soon, one
of a neighbor's sons,
too young to know
it was otherwise once,
braves it, and soon,
even with a sweater-
swaddled kitten or a
BB gun, all the kids
can do it again, nearly
at a run, like pros, and
so it goes, as before.

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by Todd Boss, 2013

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Weight of Nothing

I

everyone loves
the disappearing
coin. a bird pulled from
an empty hat. the comfort of
trusting a magician's hands.
when we know we'll get some-
thing from what
he takes away.

II

the student's assignment -
concentrate on nothing
for fifteen minutes a day.
she tries to empty her head
but can't figure out how.
after all, she doesn't know what
nothing sounds or looks like,
and the teacher won't give
the slightest clue. yet
she's got a good hunch
the exercise might quiet
all that shriek and clatter
trapped between her ears.
so like a good pupil,
she devotes an entire year
searching for nothing.
some days she's as still
as a stone, but can't
escape the distractions
of river and wind,
footsteps approaching,
birds calling in the trees
overhead. or closing
her eyes, she'll focus
on a cloudless blue sky.
pillows and planes and purple
sunsets keep interrupting.
she silently repeats words
like ocean or why,
chants sounds that dwell
low in her throat
like maah and uhmm.
at year's end her teacher
asks if she's found nothing.
she tells him she's found
everything but nothing.
he smiles, you're closer
than you think. now
try for twenty minutes.

III

we've all seen them -
looking at their empty
outstretched palms,
and we're fooled, thinking
about what isn't there.
sighing, they marvel
at all they've held in those hands,
their history revealed
in the thickened joints,
the full weight of their desire -
even now, incredible
hands still opening
and grasping
when there's nothing to keep.

IV

without my friend Nothing
on the page, I"d never have to write
another poem. but Nothing waits
here, waving me on, inviting me
to rap and rant, pray sing, testify
what is, was, could, and always will be.
I greet all that's coming,
contained as sheer breath
into word, born
to crave and engrave the emptiness
that Nothing can't stop giving.

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by Amy Uyematsu, 2005









Monday, April 21, 2014

Lindenbloom

Before midsummer density
opaques with shade the checker-
tables underneath, in daylight
unleafing lindens burn
green-gold a day or two,
no more, with intimations
of an essence I saw once,
in what had been the pleasure-
garden of the popes
at Avignon, dishevel

into half (or possibly three-
quarters of) a million
hanging, intricately
tactile, blond bell-pulls
of bloom, the in-mid-air
resort of honeybees'
hirsute cotillion
teasing by the milligram
out of those necklaced
nectaries, aromas

so intensely subtle,
strollers passing under
looked up confused,
as though they'd just
heard voices, or
inhaled the ghost
of derelict splendor
and/or of seraphs shaken
into pollen dust
no transubstantiating
pope or antipope could sift
or quite precisely ponder.

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by Amy Clampitt, 1981

Monday, April 14, 2014

Admission

The wind high along the headland,
mosquitoes keep low: it's
good to be out:
schools of occurring whitecaps
come into the bay,
leap, and dive:
gulls stroll
long strides down the shore wind:
every tree shudders utterance:
motions - sun, water, wind, light -
intersect, merge: here possibly
from the crest of the right moment
one might break away from the final room.

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by A.R. Ammons, 1970

Monday, April 7, 2014

from "Window Poems"


                     2

The foliage has dropped
below the window's grave edge,
baring the sky, the distant
hills, the branches,
the year's greenness
gone down from the high
light where it so fairly
defied falling.
The country opens to the sky,
the eye purified among hard facts:
the black grid of the window,
the wood of trees branching
outward and outward
to the nervousness of twigs,
buds asleep in the air.

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by Wendell Berry, 1968

Monday, March 31, 2014

Question and Answer on the Mountain

You ask for what reason I stay on the green mountain,
I smile, but do not answer, my heart is at leisure.
Peach blossom is carried far off by flowing water,
Apart, I have heaven and earth in the human world.

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by Li Bai, 740 AD

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dancers Exercising

Frame within frame, the evolving conversation
is dancelike, as though two could play
at improvising snowflakes'
six-feather-vaned evanescence,
no two ever alike. All process
and no arrival: the happier we are,
the less there is for memory to take hold of,
or - memory being so large a predilection
for the exceptional - come to a halt
in front of. But finding, one evening
on a street not quite familiar,
inside a gated
November-sodden garden, a building
of uncertain provenance,
peering into whose vestibule we were
arrested - a frame within a frame,
a lozenge of impeccable clarity -
by the reflection, no, not
of our two selves, but of
dancers exercising in a mirror,
at the center
of that clarity, what we saw
was not stillness
but movement: the perfection
of memory consisting, it would seem,
in the never-to-be-completed.
We saw them mirroring themselves,
never guessing the vestibule
that defined them, frame within frame,
contained two other mirrors.

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by Amy Clampitt, 1997

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Calling

Over my desk Georgia O'Keefe says
I have no theories to offer and then
takes refuge in the disembodied
third person singular: One works
I suppose because it is the most
interesting thing one knows to do.
O Georgia! Sashaying between
first base and shortstop as it were
drawing up a list of all the things
one imagines one has to do...
You get the garden planted. You
take the dog to the vet. You
certainly have to do the shopping.

Syntax, like sex, is intimate.
One doesn't lightly leap from person
to person. The painting, you said,
is like a thread that runs
through all the reasons for all the other
things that make one's life.
O awkward invisible third person,
come out, stand up, be heard!
Poetry is like farming. It's
a calling, it needs constancy,
the deep woods drumming of the grouse,
and long life, like Georgia's, who
is talking to one, talking to me,
talking to you.

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by Maxine Kumin, 1986

Monday, March 10, 2014

Night Morning

To translate a poem
from thinking
into English
takes all night
night    nights and days

English does
the best it can   while
the mother's tongue    Russian
omits the verb to be
again and again and
is always interfering
with the excited in-
dustrious brain    wisely
the heart's beat asserts
control

also the newest English
argues with its old
singing ancestry
it thinks it knows best

finally    the night's
hard labor peers through
the morning window    observes

snow    birds    the sun caught
in white and black winter
birches   disentangles itself
addresses the ice-cold meadow
for hours on the beauty of
the color green

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by Grace Paley, 2008


Monday, March 3, 2014

Staying at Ed's Place

I like being in your apartment, and not disturbing anything.
As in the woods I wouldn't want to move a tree,
or change the play of sun and shadow on the ground.

The yellow kitchen stool belongs right there
against white plaster. I haven't used your purple towel
because I like the accidental cleft of shade you left in it.

At your small six-sided table, covered with mysterious
dents in the wood like a dartboard, I drink my coffee
from your brown mug. I look into the clearing

of your high front room, where sunlight slopes through bare
window squares. Your Afghanistan hammock,
    a man-sized cocoon
slung from wall to wall, your narrow desk and typewriter

are the only furniture. Each morning your light from the east
douses me where, with folded legs, I sit in your meadow,
a casual spread of brilliant carpets. Like a cat or dog

I take a roll, then, stretched out flat
in the center of color and pattern, I listen
to the remote growl of trucks over cobbles on
    Bethune Street below.

When I open my eyes I discover the peaceful blank
of the ceiling. It's old paint-layered surface is moonwhite
and trackless, like the Sea - of Tranquility.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
by May Swenson, 1975



Monday, February 24, 2014

Planetarium

                  Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)
                   astronomer, sister of William; and others.


A woman in the shape of a monster
a monster in the shape of a woman
the skies are full of them

a woman     'in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments
or measuring the ground with poles'

in her 98 years to discover
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled
like us
levitating into the night sky
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness
ribs chilled
in those spaces     of the mind

An eye,

        'virile, precise and absolutely certain'
        from the mad webs of Uranusborg

                                                          encountering the NOVA

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

        Tycho whispering at last
        'Let me not seem to have lived in vain'

What we see, we see
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse
pouring in from Taurus

        I am bomboarded yet    I stand

I have been standing all my life in the
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep    so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15
years to travel through me       And has
taken     I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images     for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
by Adrienne Rich, 1968






Monday, February 17, 2014

Shepherd

According to the silence, winter has arrived -
a special kind of winter.  I, its inventor,
watch it freeze in calendars and stare
out of clocks. I do not feel its cold.

Across a certain farm evening crows go flying,
intervals of sky that I have seen before,
the bearing of a river: I advance, a wanderer
out of thought country, that serious, quiet place,

Till according to the silence all the light is gone
and according to the dark all the wanderers are home.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
by William Stafford, 1958

Monday, February 10, 2014

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent,
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
by Li-Young Lee, 1986

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Pupil

Picture me, the shy pupil at the door,
One small, tight fist clutching the dreaded Czerny.
Back then time was still harmony, not money,
And I could spend a whole week practicing for
That moment on the threshold.
                                             Then to take courage,
And enter, and pass among mysterious scents,
And sit quite straight, and with a frail confidence
Assault the keyboard with a childish flourish!

Only to lose my place, or forget the key,
And almost doubt the very metronome
(Outside, the traffic, the laborers going home),
And still to bear on across Chopin or Brahms,
Stupid and wild with love equally for the storms
of C# minor and the calms of C.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
by Donald Justice, 1995

Monday, January 27, 2014

After an Absence

After an absence that was no one's fault
we are shy with each other,
and our words seem younger than we are,
as if we must return to the time we met
and work ourselves back to the present,
the way you never read a story
from the place you stopped
but always start the book all over again.
Perhaps we should have stayed
tied like mountain climbers
by the safe cord of the phone,
its dial our prayer wheel,
our voices less ghostly across the miles,
less awkward than they are now.
I had forgotten the grey in your curls,
that splash of winter over your face,
remembering the younger man
you used to be.

And I feel myself turn old and ordinary,
having to think again of food for supper,
the animals to be tended, the whole riptide
of daily life hidden but perilous,
pulling both of us under so fast.
I have dreamed of our bed
as if it were a shore where we would be washed up,
not this striped mattress
we must cover with sheets. I had forgotten
all the old business between us,
like mail unanswered so long the silence
becomes eloquent, a message of its own.
I had even forgotten how married love
is a territory more mysterious
the more it is explored, like one of those terrains
you read about, a garden in the desert
where you stoop to drink, never knowing
if your mouth will fill with water or sand.

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
by Linda Pastan, 1988

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Music of Time

The young woman sewing
by the window hums a song
I don't know; I hear only
a few bars, and when the trucks
barrel down the broken street
the music is lost. Before the darkness
leaks from the shadows of
the great cathedral, I see her
once more at work and later
hear in the sudden silence
of nightfall wordless music rising
from her room. I put aside
my papers, wash, and dress
to eat at one of the seafood
places along the great avenues
near the port where later
the homeless will sleep. Then I
walk for hours in the Barrio
Chino passing the open
doors of tiny bars and caves
from which the voices of old men
bark out the stale anthems
of love's defeat. "This is the world."
I think, "this is what I came
in search of years ago." Now I
can go back to my single room,
I can lie awake in the dark
rehearsing all the trivial events
of the day ahead, a day that begins
when the sun clears the dark spires
of someone's god, and I waken
in a flood of dust rising from
nowhere and from nowhere comes
the actual voice of someone else.

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by Philip Levine, 2009