Merry Summer Solstice!

Merry Summer Solstice!
El Sol

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


In winter
all the singing is in
the tops of the trees
where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
shoves and pushes
among the branches.
Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
but he's restless—
he has an idea,
and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
as long as he stays awake.
But his big, round music, after all,
is too breathy to last.

So, it's over.
In the pine-crown
he makes his nest,
he's done all he can.

I don't know the name of this bird,
I only imagine his glittering beak
tucked in a white wing
while the clouds—

which he has summoned
from the north—
which he has taught
to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
into the world below
like stars, or the feathers
of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
that is asleep now, and silent—
that has turned itself
into snow.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winter Trees

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

William Carlos Williams


White Darkness

Whether this is time or snow, passing
Through the night, earthward,
Who can tell—
Each particle only an illusion; yet massing,
Mounting over all,
Hushing the footfall,
Silencing the bell.
“I am confused,”
Said the traveler, “hearing no sound
Though my feet touch the ground
As they are used.”
Soft as a shadow on fur
The filling places
Where his footsteps were;
Lost without shape or grime
His path through the level spaces.
How can we certainly know
If this is time
Falling, or snow?

Virginia Hamilton Adair

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

At the Office Holiday Party

I can now confirm that I am not just fatter
than everyone I work with, but I’m also fatter
than all their spouses. Even the heavily bearded
bear in accounting has a little otter-like boyfriend.

When my co-workers brightly introduce me
as “the funny one in the office,” their spouses
give them a look which translates to, Well, duh,
then they both wait for me to say something funny.

A gaggle of models comes shrieking into the bar
to further punctuate why I sometimes hate living
in this city. They glitter, a shiny gang of scissors.
I don’t know how to look like I’m not struggling.

Sometimes on the subway back to Queens,
I can tell who’s staying on past the Lexington stop
because I have bought their shoes before at Payless.
They are shoes that fool absolutely no one.

Everyone wore their special holiday party outfits.
It wasn’t until I arrived at the bar that I realized
my special holiday party outfit was exactly the same
as the outfits worn by the restaurant’s busboys.

While I’m standing in line for the bathroom,
another patron asks if I’m there to clean it.

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dragonflies Over Archer Pool

For Micah

Tucson, August 2008
110 degrees

Dressed in our swim shirts and thick with sunscreen,
my son and I pile into our 1987 Toyota station wagon.
We named her “Betsy”, and she has since forgotten
what the letters “AC” stand for.

Windows down, we drive west through saguaros and
curve around Sentinel Peak.

We arrive at the pool drenched in sweat
and seriously grumpy.
Yet, we know we are close to water.

The pool clock reads 5:30pm.

Immediately, we are greeted by
hundreds of dragonflies
skimming over the water
in search of a cool drink…

Just like us

And where else, but at the
public pool, might the natural world
so beautifully intertwine
with human kind?

We meet Miriam from Malta.
She is 80 years old, speaks five languages,
and has met the Queen.

My son splashes water at Miriam,
and she retaliates by splashing back.
She tells us all about her world travels,
but mentions nothing about
what it is like
to live
surrounded by water.

Somehow we know

The dragonflies
flit and sip
flit and sip

Just like us

We are all
ancient water dippers
in late summer.

Elizabeth Salper

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Light Verse

It’s just five, but it’s light like six.
It’s lighter than we think.
Mind and day are out of sync.
The dog is restless.
The dog’s owner is sleeping and dreaming of Elvis.
The treetops should be dark purple,
but they’re pink.

Here and now. Here and now.
The sun shakes off an hour.
The sun assumes its pre-calendrical power.
(It is, though, only what we make it seem.)
Now in the dog-owner’s dream,
the dog replaces Elvis and grows bigger
than that big tower

in Singapore, and keeps on growing until
he arrives at a size
with which only the planets can empathize.
He sprints down the ecliptic’s plane,
chased by his owner Jane
(that’s not really her name), who yells at him
to come back and synchronize.

Vijay Seshadri


Becoming A Redwood

Stand in a field long enough, and the sounds
start up again. The crickets, the invisible
toad who claims that change is possible,

And all the other life too small to name.
First one, then another, until innumerable
they merge into the single voice of a summer hill.

Yes, it’s hard to stand still, hour after hour,
fixed as a fencepost, hearing the steers
snort in the dark pasture, smelling the manure.

And paralyzed by the mystery of how a stone
can bear to be a stone, the pain
the grass endures breaking through the earth’s crust.

Unimaginable the redwoods on the far hill,
rooted for centuries, the living wood grown tall
and thickened with a hundred thousand days of light.

The old windmill creaks in perfect time
to the wind shaking the miles of pasture grass,
and the last farmhouse light goes off.

Something moves nearby. Coyotes hunt
these hills and packs of feral dogs.
But standing here at night accepts all that.

You are your own pale shadow in the quarter moon,
moving more slowly than the crippled stars,
part of the moonlight as the moonlight falls,

Part of the grass that answers the wind,
part of the midnight’s watchfulness that knows
there is no silence but when danger comes.

Dana Gioia

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

exactly right

the strays keep arriving: now we have 5
cats and they are smart, spontaneous, self-
absorbed, naturally poised and awesomely

one of the finest things about cats is
that when you're feeling down, very down,
if you just look at the cat at rest,
at the way they sit or lie and wait,
it's a grand lesson in preserving
if you watch 5 cats at once that's 5
times better.

no matter the extra demands they make
no matter the heavy sacks of food
no matter the dozens of cans of tuna
from the supermarket: it's all just fuel for their
amazing dignity and their
affirmation of a vital
we humans can
only envy and
admire from

Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

Billy Collins

I am writing this on a strip of white birch bark
that I cut from a tree with a penknife.
There is no other way to express adequately
the immensity of the clouds that are passing over the farms
and wooded lakes of Ontario and the endless visibility
that hands you the horizon on a platter.

I am also writing this in a wooden canoe,
a point of balance in the middle of Lake Couchiching,
resting the birch bark against my knees.
I can feel the sun’s hands on my bare back,
but I am thinking of winter,
snow piled up in all the provinces
and the solemnity of the long grain-ships
that pass the cold months moored at Owen Sound.

O Canada, as the anthem goes,
scene of my boyhood summers,
you are the pack of Sweet Caporals on the table,
you are the dove-soft train whistle in the night,
you are the empty chair at the end of an empty dock.
You are the shelves of books in a lakeside cottage:
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh,
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson,
Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery,
So You’re Going to Paris! by Clara E. Laughlin,
and Peril Over the Airport, one
of the Vicky Barr Flight Stewardess series
by Helen Wills whom some will remember
as the author of the Cherry Ames Nurse stories.
What has become of the languorous girls
who would pass the long limp summer evenings reading
Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse,
Cherry Ames, Chief Nurse, and Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse?
Where are they now, the ones who shared her adventures
as a veterans’ nurse, private duty nurse, visiting nurse,
cruise nurse, night supervisor, mountaineer nurse,
dude ranch nurse (there is little she has not done),
rest home nurse, department store nurse,
boarding school nurse, and country doctor's nurse?

O Canada, I have not forgotten you,
and as I kneel in my canoe, beholding this vision
of a bookcase, I pray that I remain in your vast,
polar, North American memory.
You are the paddle, the snowshoe, the cabin in the pines.
You are Jean de Brébeuf with his martyr’s necklace of hatchet heads.
You are the moose in the clearing and the moosehead on the wall.
You are the rapids, the propeller, the kerosene lamp.
You are the dust that coats the roadside berries.
But not only that.
You are the two boys with pails walking along that road,
and one of them, the taller one minus the straw hat, is me.

Billy Collins


Man in Space

All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breasts protected by hard metal disks.

Billy Collins

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All Souls

A few of us—Hillary Clinton, Vlad Dracula,
Oprah Winfrey, and Trotsky—peer through
the kitchen window at a raccoon perched
outside on a picnic table where it picks

over chips, veggies, olives, and a chunk of pâte.
Behind us others crowd the hallway, many more
dance in the living room. Trotsky fusses with the bloody
screwdriver puttied to her forehead.

Hillary Clinton, whose voice is the rumble
of a bowling ball, whose hands are hairy
to the third knuckle, lifts his rubber chin to announce,
“What a perfect mask it has!” While the Count

whistling through his plastic fangs says, “Oh,
and a nose like a chef.” Then one by one
the other masks join in: “Tail of a gambler,”
“a swashbuckler’s hips,” “feet of a cat burglar.”

Trotsky scratches herself beneath her skirt
and Hillary, whose lederhosen are so tight they form a codpiece,
wraps his legs around Trotsky’s leg and humps like a dog.
Dracula and Oprah, the married hosts, hold hands

and then let go. Meanwhile the raccoon squats on
the gherkins, extracts pimentos from olives, and sniffs
abandoned cups of beer. A ghoul in the living room
turns the music up and the house becomes a drum.

The windows buzz. “Who do you love? Who do you love?”
the singer sings. Our feathered arms, our stockinged legs.
The intricate paws, the filleting tongue.
We love what we are; we love what we’ve become.

Michael Collier

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Storm Catechism

The gods are rinsing their just-boiled pasta
in a colander, which is why
it is humid and fitfully raining
down here in the steel sink of mortal life.
Sometimes you can smell the truffle oil
and hear the ambrosia being knocked back,
sometimes you catch a drift
of laughter in that thunder crack: Zeus
knocking over his glass, spilling lightning
into a tree. The tree shears away from itself
and falls on a car, killing a high school girl.
Or maybe it just crashes down
on a few trash cans, and the next day
gets cut up and hauled away by the city.
Either way, hilarity. The gods are infinitely perfect
as is their divine mac and cheese.
Where does macaroni come from? Where does matter?
Why does the cat act autistic when you call her,
then bat a moth around for an hour, watching intently
as it drags its wings over the area rug?
The gods were here first, and they're bigger.
They always were, and always will be
living it up in their father's mansion.
You only crawled from the drain
a few millennia ago,
after inventing legs for yourself
so you could stand, inventing fists
in order to raise them and curse the heavens.
Do the gods see us?
Will the waters be rising soon?
The waters will be rising soon.
Find someone or something to cling to.

Kim Addonizio

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.


If I were crowned emperor this morning,
every child who is playing Marco Polo
in the swimming pool of this motel,
shouting the name Marco Polo back and forth

Marco Polo Marco Polo

would be required to read a biography
of Marco Polo-a long one with fine print-
as well as a history of China and of Venice,
the birthplace of the venerated explorer

Marco Polo Marco Polo

after which each child would be quizzed
by me then executed by drowning
regardless how much they managed
to retain about the glorious life and times of

Marco Polo Marco Polo

Billy Collins

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


We were afraid of everything: earthquakes,
strangers, smoke above the canyon, the fire
that would come running and eat up our house,
the Claymore girls, big-boned, rough, razor blades
tucked in their ratted hair. We were terrified

of polio, tuberculosis, being found out, the tent
full of boys two blocks over, the kick ball, the asphalt,
the pain-filled rocks, the glass-littered canyon, the deep
cave gouged in its side, the wheelbarrow crammed
with dirty magazines, beer cans, spit-laced butts.

We were afraid of hands, screen doors slammed
by angry mothers, abandoned cars, their slumped
back seats, the chain-link fence we couldn't climb
fast enough, electrical storms, blackouts, girlfights
behind the pancake house, Original Sin, sidewalk
cracks and the corner crematorium, loose brakes
on the handlebars of our bikes. It came alive

behind our eyes: ant mounds, wasp nests, the bird
half-eaten on the scratchy grass, chained dogs,
the boggy creekbed, the sewer main that fed it,
the game where you had to hold your breath
until you passed out. We were afraid of being

poor, dumb, yelled at, ignored, invisible
as the nuclear dust we were told to wipe from lids
before we opened them in the kitchen,
the fat roll of meat that slid into the pot, sleep,
dreams, the soundless swing of the father's
ringed fist, the mother's face turned away, the wet
bed, anything red, the slow leak, the stain
on the driveway, oily gears
soaking in a shallow pan, busted chairs stuffed
in the rafters of the neighbor's garage, the Chevy's
twisted undersides jacked up on blocks, wrenches
left scattered in the dirt.

It was what we knew best, understood least,
it whipped through our bodies like fire or sleet.
We were lured by the Dumpster behind the liquor store,
fissures in the baked earth, the smell of singed hair,
the brassy hum of high-tension towers, train tracks,
buzzards over a ditch, black widows, the cat
with one eye, the red spot on the back of the skirt,
the fallout shelter's metal door hinged to the rusty
grass, the back way, the wrong path, the night's
wide back, the coiled bedsprings of the sister's
top bunk, the wheezing, the cousin in the next room
tapping on the wall, anything small.

We were afraid of clothesline, curtain rods, the worn
hairbrush, the good-for-nothings we were about to become,
reform school, the long ride to the ocean on the bus,
the man at the back of the bus, the underpass.

We were afraid of fingers of pickleweed crawling
over the embankment, the French Kiss, the profound
silence of dead fish, burning sand, rotting elastic
in the waistbands of our underpants, jellyfish, riptides,
eucalyptus bark unraveling, the pink flesh beneath,
the stink of seaweed, seagulls landing near our feet,
their hateful eyes, their orange-tipped beaks stabbing
the sand, the crumbling edge of the continent we stood on,
waiting to be saved, the endless, wind-driven waves.

Dorianne Laux


Excerpt from "Tamalpais Walking" by Gary Snyder

"inch by inch, little snail climb Mt Fuji" —Issa

—and this is how you go to the top of any mountain, or around any mountain, or on any
long road—to get to a good camp by dark, and lay this body down for a rest. But
that’s not exactly the destination. We don’t play music to get to the end of it. Or
make love to go to sleep (I hope). Or meditate and study to become enlightened.
Realization or somesuch might come along, but suppose it doesn’t? So what? Basho
said, “The journey is home.” Before venturing off trail, we need to learn to follow
the path.

Back in 1948 off the trail, taking Mount Tamalpais’s lessons in grateful blessed
ignorance, not really looking at the landscape but totally aware of being beside my
(teenage) lady, walking almost in harmony but different, talking, glancing, hoping;
taking the easiest way through the chaparral like a pair of little god and goddess
critters, our souls as big as the sky; did we make up that great space, or did it make
us up?

May we all find the Bay Mountain that gives us a crystal moment of being and a breath of
the sky, and only asks us to hold the whole world dear."

Gary Snyder

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Neighbors in October

All afternoon his tractor pulls a flat wagon
with bales to the barn, then back to the waiting
chopped field. It trails a feather of smoke.
Down the block we bend with the season:
shoes to polish for a big game,
storm windows to batten or patch.
And how like a field is the whole sky now
that the maples have shed their leaves, too.
It makes us believers—stationed in groups,
leaning on rakes, looking into space. We rub blisters
over billows of leaf smoke. Or stand alone,
bagging gold for the cold days to come.

David Baker

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


A 29-year-old stewardess fell ... to her
death tonight when she was swept
through an emergency door that
suddenly sprang open ... The body ...
was found ... three hours after the
—New York Times

The states when they black out and lie there rolling when they turn
To something transcontinental move by drawing moonlight out of the great
One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip some sleeper next to
An engine is groaning for coffee and there is faintly coming in
Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks
Of trays she rummages for a blanket and moves in her slim tailored
Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew

The door down with a silent blast from her lungs frozen she is black
Out finding herself with the plane nowhere and her body taking by the throat
The undying cry of the void falling living beginning to be something
That no one has ever been and lived through screaming without enough air
Still neat lipsticked stockinged girdled by regulation her hat
Still on her arms and legs in no world and yet spaced also strangely
With utter placid rightness on thin air taking her time she holds it
In many places and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems
To slow she develops interest she turns in her maneuverable body

To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her
Self in low body-whistling wrapped intensely in all her dark dance-weight
Coming down from a marvellous leap with the delaying, dumfounding ease
Of a dream of being drawn like endless moonlight to the harvest soil
Of a central state of one’s country with a great gradual warmth coming
Over her floating finding more and more breath in what she has been using
For breath as the levels become more human seeing clouds placed honestly
Below her left and right riding slowly toward them she clasps it all
To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways and
Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide wider and suck
All the heat from the cornfields can go down on her back with a feeling
Of stupendous pillows stacked under her and can turn turn as to someone
In bed smile, understood in darkness can go away slant slide
Off tumbling into the emblem of a bird with its wings half-spread
Or whirl madly on herself in endless gymnastics in the growing warmth
Of wheatfields rising toward the harvest moon. There is time to live
In superhuman health seeing mortal unreachable lights far down seeing
An ultimate highway with one late priceless car probing it arriving
In a square town and off her starboard arm the glitter of water catches
The moon by its one shaken side scaled, roaming silver My God it is good
And evil lying in one after another of all the positions for love
Making dancing sleeping and now cloud wisps at her no
Raincoat no matter all small towns brokenly brighter from inside
Cloud she walks over them like rain bursts out to behold a Greyhound
Bus shooting light through its sides it is the signal to go straight
Down like a glorious diver then feet first her skirt stripped beautifully
Up her face in fear-scented cloths her legs deliriously bare then
Arms out she slow-rolls over steadies out waits for something great
To take control of her trembles near feathers planes head-down
The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head gold eyes the insight-
eyesight of owls blazing into the hencoops a taste for chicken overwhelming
Her the long-range vision of hawks enlarging all human lights of cars
Freight trains looped bridges enlarging the moon racing slowly
Through all the curves of a river all the darks of the midwest blazing
From above. A rabbit in a bush turns white the smothering chickens
Huddle for over them there is still time for something to live
With the streaming half-idea of a long stoop a hurtling a fall
That is controlled that plummets as it wills turns gravity
Into a new condition, showing its other side like a moon shining
New Powers there is still time to live on a breath made of nothing
But the whole night time for her to remember to arrange her skirt
Like a diagram of a bat tightly it guides her she has this flying-skin
Made of garments and there are also those sky-divers on TV sailing
In sunlight smiling under their goggles swapping batons back and forth
And He who jumped without a chute and was handed one by a diving
Buddy. She looks for her grinning companion white teeth nowhere
She is screaming singing hymns her thin human wings spread out
From her neat shoulders the air beast-crooning to her warbling
And she can no longer behold the huge partial form of the world now
She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape watching it lose
And gain get back its houses and peoples watching it bring up
Its local lights single homes lamps on barn roofs if she fell
Into water she might live like a diver cleaving perfect plunge

Into another heavy silver unbreathable slowing saving
Element: there is water there is time to perfect all the fine
Points of diving feet together toes pointed hands shaped right
To insert her into water like a needle to come out healthily dripping
And be handed a Coca-Cola there they are there are the waters
Of life the moon packed and coiled in a reservoir so let me begin
To plane across the night air of Kansas opening my eyes superhumanly
Bright to the damned moon opening the natural wings of my jacket
By Don Loper moving like a hunting owl toward the glitter of water
One cannot just fall just tumble screaming all that time one must use
It she is now through with all through all clouds damp hair
Straightened the last wisp of fog pulled apart on her face like wool revealing
New darks new progressions of headlights along dirt roads from chaos

And night a gradual warming a new-made, inevitable world of one’s own
Country a great stone of light in its waiting waters hold hold out
For water: who knows when what correct young woman must take up her body
And fly and head for the moon-crazed inner eye of midwest imprisoned
Water stored up for her for years the arms of her jacket slipping
Air up her sleeves to go all over her? What final things can be said
Of one who starts her sheerly in her body in the high middle of night
Air to track down water like a rabbit where it lies like life itself
Off to the right in Kansas? She goes toward the blazing-bare lake
Her skirts neat her hands and face warmed more and more by the air
Rising from pastures of beans and under her under chenille bedspreads
The farm girls are feeling the goddess in them struggle and rise brooding
On the scratch-shining posts of the bed dreaming of female signs
Of the moon male blood like iron of what is really said by the moan
Of airliners passing over them at dead of midwest midnight passing
Over brush fires burning out in silence on little hills and will wake
To see the woman they should be struggling on the rooftree to become
Stars: for her the ground is closer water is nearer she passes
It then banks turns her sleeves fluttering differently as she rolls
Out to face the east, where the sun shall come up from wheatfields she must
Do something with water fly to it fall in it drink it rise
From it but there is none left upon earth the clouds have drunk it back
The plants have sucked it down there are standing toward her only
The common fields of death she comes back from flying to falling
Returns to a powerful cry the silent scream with which she blew down
The coupled door of the airliner nearly nearly losing hold
Of what she has done remembers remembers the shape at the heart
Of cloud fashionably swirling remembers she still has time to die
Beyond explanation. Let her now take off her hat in summer air the contour
Of cornfields and have enough time to kick off her one remaining
Shoe with the toes of the other foot to unhook her stockings
With calm fingers, noting how fatally easy it is to undress in midair
Near death when the body will assume without effort any position
Except the one that will sustain it enable it to rise live
Not die nine farms hover close widen eight of them separate, leaving
One in the middle then the fields of that farm do the same there is no
Way to back off from her chosen ground but she sheds the jacket
With its silver sad impotent wings sheds the bat’s guiding tailpiece
Of her skirt the lightning-charged clinging of her blouse the intimate
Inner flying-garment of her slip in which she rides like the holy ghost
Of a virgin sheds the long windsocks of her stockings absurd
Brassiere then feels the girdle required by regulations squirming
Off her: no longer monobuttocked she feels the girdle flutter shake
In her hand and float upward her clothes rising off her ascending
Into cloud and fights away from her head the last sharp dangerous shoe
Like a dumb bird and now will drop in SOON now will drop

In like this the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas down from all
Heights all levels of American breath layered in the lungs from the frail
Chill of space to the loam where extinction slumbers in corn tassels thickly
And breathes like rich farmers counting: will come along them after
Her last superhuman act the last slow careful passing of her hands
All over her unharmed body desired by every sleeper in his dream:
Boys finding for the first time their loins filled with heart’s blood
Widowed farmers whose hands float under light covers to find themselves
Arisen at sunrise the splendid position of blood unearthly drawn
Toward clouds all feel something pass over them as she passes
Her palms over her long legs her small breasts and deeply between
Her thighs her hair shot loose from all pins streaming in the wind
Of her body let her come openly trying at the last second to land
On her back This is it THIS
All those who find her impressed
In the soft loam gone down driven well into the image of her body
The furrows for miles flowing in upon her where she lies very deep
In her mortal outline in the earth as it is in cloud can tell nothing
But that she is there inexplicable unquestionable and remember
That something broke in them as well and began to live and die more
When they walked for no reason into their fields to where the whole earth
Caught her interrupted her maiden flight told her how to lie she cannot
Turn go away cannot move cannot slide off it and assume another
Position no sky-diver with any grin could save her hold her in his arms
Plummet with her unfold above her his wedding silks she can no longer
Mark the rain with whirling women that take the place of a dead wife
Or the goddess in Norwegian farm girls or all the back-breaking whores
Of Wichita. All the known air above her is not giving up quite one
Breath it is all gone and yet not dead not anywhere else
Quite lying still in the field on her back sensing the smells
Of incessant growth try to lift her a little sight left in the corner
Of one eye fading seeing something wave lies believing
That she could have made it at the best part of her brief goddess
State to water gone in headfirst come out smiling invulnerable
Girl in a bathing-suit ad but she is lying like a sunbather at the last
Of moonlight half-buried in her impact on the earth not far
From a railroad trestle a water tank she could see if she could
Raise her head from her modest hole with her clothes beginning
To come down all over Kansas into bushes on the dewy sixth green
Of a golf course one shoe her girdle coming down fantastically
On a clothesline, where it belongs her blouse on a lightning rod:

Lies in the fields in this field on her broken back as though on
A cloud she cannot drop through while farmers sleepwalk without
Their women from houses a walk like falling toward the far waters
Of life in moonlight toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms
Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands that tragic cost
Feels herself go go toward go outward breathes at last fully
Not and tries less once tries tries AH, GOD—

James Dickey

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Route of Evanescence

A Route of Evanescence,
With a revolving Wheel –
A Resonance of Emerald
A Rush of Cochineal –
And every Blossom on the Bush
Adjusts its tumbled Head –
The Mail from Tunis – probably,
An easy Morning’s Ride –

Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Toca su fondo y se remueve

Una ola de luz densa, su fuego intacto.
Una corriente, un viento suave
que todo incita, que todo abrasa ye desata,
que todo acendra
a sus líneas íntimas. Un pleamar la cascada
que abisma el sol (su constelado
desprenderse, su gozoso,
caer, su ígnea raigambre
de cristales: abriendo surcos, abriendo estelas,
vadeando, hundiéndose). La hondura se abre
en la superficie.
el océano y la calma
en que se acuna, todo ese ardiente espesor de arena,
de barbecho, de sal, toca su fondo
y se remueve.

touches its depths and is stirred up

A wave of solid light, its fire intact.
A current, a soft breeze
that arouses everything, that scorches and unravels everything,
that refines everything
back to its pure lines. A high tide waterfall
that the sun throws down (its stars
breaking free, its joyfulness,
falling, its rootballs
of crystals, formed by fire: opening furrows, opening wakes,
wading across, sinking down). Depth opens
on the surface.
the ocean and the calm
of soothing itself, all that burning thickness of sand,
of plough-turned land, of salt, touches its depths
and is stirred up.

Coral Bracho

Translation by Katherine Pierpoint

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cicadas at the End of Summer

Whine as though a pine tree is bowing a broken violin,
As though a bandsaw cleaves a thousand thin sheets of
They chime like freight wheels on a Norfolk Southern
slowing into town.

But all you ever see is the silence.
Husks, glued to the underside of maple leaves.
With their nineteen fifties Bakelite lines they'd do
just as well hanging from the ceiling of a space
museum —

What cicadas leave behind is a kind of crystallized memory;
The stubborn detail of, the shape around a life turned

The color of forgotten things: a cold broth of tea & milk
in the bottom of a mug.
Or skin on an old tin of varnish you have to lift with
lineman's pliers.
A fly paper that hung thirty years in Bird Cooper's pantry
in Brighton.

Martin Walls

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's - he takes the lead
In summer luxury, - he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.

John Keats

To the Grasshopper and the Cricket

Green little vaulter in the sunny grass,
Catching your heart up at the feel of June,
Sole voice that's heard amidst the lazy noon,
When even the bees lag at the summoning brass;
And you, warm little housekeeper, who class
With those who think the candles come too soon,
Loving the fire, and with your tricksome tune
Nick the glad silent moments as they pass;
Oh sweet and tiny cousins, that belong
One to the fields, the other to the hearth,
Both have your sunshine; both, though small, are strong
At your clear hearts; and both were sent on earth
To sing in thoughtful ears this natural song;
Indoors and out, summer and winter, - Mirth.

Leigh Hunt

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer

We turned into the drive,
and gravel flew up from the tires
like sparks from a fire. So much
to be done--the unpacking, the mail
and papers...the grass needed mowing.…
We climbed stiffly out of the car.
The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.

And then we noticed the pear tree.
The limbs so heavy with fruit
they nearly touched the ground.
We went out to the meadow; our steps
made black holes in the grass;
and we each took a pear,
and ate, and were grateful.


These lines are written
by an animal, an angel,
a stranger sitting in my chair;
by someone who already knows
how to live without trouble
among books, and pots and pans…

Who is it who asks me to find
language for the sound
a sheep’s hoof makes when it strikes
a stone? And who speaks
the words which are my food?

Jane Kenyon

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Phone Booth

There should be more nouns
For objects put to sleep
Against their will
The “booth” for instance
With coiled hidden wires
Lidded chrome drawers
Tipping up like lizards’ eyes
We looked out into rhymed rain
We heard varying vowels
Rimbaud’s vowels with colors
Orange or blue bleeps
Types of ancient punctuation
The interpunct between words
A call became twenty-five cents
Times in a marriage we were there
To complain or flirt
A few decades and we wised up
Got used to the shadow
The phone booth as reliquary
An arm could rest
On the triangular shelf
A briefcase between the feet
A pen poked into acoustic holes
While we gathered our action/wits
For magic and pain
The destiny twins
Some of us scratched pale glyphs
Onto the glass door while talking
One day we started to race past
And others started racing
Holding phones to their ears
Holding a personal string
To their lips
If there are overages
There might be nouns for
The clotting of numbers in the sky
So thick the stars can’t shine through
A word for backing away
From those who shout to their strings
In the airport while eating
We loved the half-booths
Could cup one hand on the mouthpiece
Lean two-thirds out to talk to a friend
Sitting in the lobby
The universe grows
We are dizzy as mercury
We are solitudes aided by awe
Let us mourn secrets told to
Fake wood and the trapezoidal seat
Perfume in the mouthpiece
Like a little Grecian sash
Why did we live so fast
The booth hid our ankles
We twisted the rigid cord
As we spoke
It made a kind of whorl

Brenda Hillman

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In an old Mesquite
A low and drooping branch broke,
Yet stayed in place,
Held in a sling of tangled vines -
O my loves, now you hold me.

Richard Tavenner

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back Yard

Shine on, O moon of summer.
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,
All silver under your rain to-night.

An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
to-night they are throwing you kisses.

An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a
cherry tree in his back yard.

The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking
white thoughts you rain down.

Shine on, O moon,
Shake out more and more silver changes.

Carl Sandburg

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When A Child Asks About Angels

When my brother was swept away in a culvert
During a flash flood and into a drainpipe
Under a road, the stopped motorists, two elderly
Sisters on their way home from church, counted
Their breath until he spilled out in the ditch
On the other side alive where they cheered him
From the rail and walked down the path in the rain
In their Sunday shoes, flowered hats and dresses, and they
Guided him through the trees to the shelter of their car.
I am grateful forever to their blanket and thermos
And how they hugged him warm with their bodies
While he was trembling, their huge gorgeous bodies.

Stuart Dischell

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Cuk Son is a story.
Tucson is a linguistic alternative.
The story is in the many languages
still heard in this place of
Black Mountains.
They are in the echo of lost, forgotten languages
heard here even before the people arrived.

The true story of this place
recalls people walking
deserts all their lives and
continuing today, if only
in their dreams.
The true story is ringing
in their footsteps in a
place so quiet, they can hear
their blood moving
through their veins.
Their stories give shape to the
mountains encircling this place.
Wa:k is the story of
water memories of this desert.

Citizens gravitate to Sabino Canyon.
The humming, buzzing, clicking of water life,
the miracle of desert streams
on smooth boulders.
Rocks, sediment older than life itself
serve as reminders.
It should be unnecessary for sticky notes
to remind us what a desert place is.
A place dependent on rains of summer,
light dusting of snow,
the rarity of dry beds as rebel rivers.
It is real desert people who lift their faces
upward with the first signs of moisture.
They know how to inhale properly.
Recognizing the aroma of creosote in the distance.
Relieved the cycle is beginning again.
These people are to be commended.

It is others who lament the heat of
a June day, simultaneously
finding pride on surviving
the heat—a dry heat.
These individuals should simply
be tolerated.

Opposed to those who move
from one air-conditioned environment
to another, never acknowledging the heat of summer.
Being grateful for November, when
temperatures drop below eighty,
complaining of the lack of seasons in the desert,
heading for mountains
to see colors—
these people—well, what can we say.
We must feel for the dogs of Tucson.
Who bark as if they belong to somebody and
who, before the rain, wish they were a color other than black.

Ofelia Zepeda

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"There is something magical about the summer solstice…an equal amount of daylight and darkness with long, gentle periods of transition. It’s important to notice these transitions of nature. Now the days move on their journey to become shorter."

Inner Tube

On the warm July river
head back

upside down river
for a roof

slowly paddling
towards an estuary between trees

there's a dog
learning to swim near me
friends on shore

my head
back to the eyebrow
I'm the prow
on an ancient vessel,
this afternoon
I'm going down to Peru
soul between my teeth

a blue heron
with its awkward
broken backed flap
upside down

one of us is wrong

his blue grey thud
thinking he knows
the blue way
out of here

or me

Michael Ondaatje

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Squash Under the Bed

There was always crooked-neck squash under our beds.
The space under the bed met the criteria of a cool, dark, dry place.
These large, hard-skinned squash with speckled, serrated,
green and yellow designs shared space under our beds
with new cowboy boots, lost socks, forgotten toys,
dust and little spiders.
The squash rested under there with our memory of summer.
Awaiting winter darkness.
With the cold weather, we split the hard skin and expose the
rich yellow meat inside, the bounty of large seeds entangled
in the wetness of their origin.
We saved the seeds for next summer.
We eat the soft, sweet meat of the winter squash.
We swallow the warmth of summer.

Ofelia Zepeda

Landscape, Dense with Trees

When you move away, you see how much depends
on the pace of the days—how much
depended on the haze we waded through
each summer, visible heat, wavy and discursive
as the lazy track of the snake in the dusty road;
and on the habit in town of porches thatched in vines,
and in the country long dense promenades, the way
we sacrificed the yards to shade.
It was partly the heat that made my father
plant so many trees—two maples marking the site
for the house, two elms on either side when it was done;
mimosa by the fence, and as it failed, fast-growing chestnuts,
loblolly pines; and dogwood, redbud, ornamental crab.
On the farm, everything else he grew
something could eat, but this
would be a permanent mark of his industry,
a glade established in the open field. Or so it seemed.
Looking back at the empty house from across the hill,
I see how well the house is camouflaged, see how
that porous fence of saplings, their later
scrim of foliage, thickened around it,
and still he chinked and mortared, planting more.
Last summer, although he’d lost all tolerance for heat,
he backed the truck in at the family grave
and stood in the truckbed all afternoon, pruning
the landmark oak, repairing recent damage by a wind;
then he came home and hung a swing
in one of the horse-chestnuts for my visit.
The heat was a hand at his throat,
a fist to his weak heart. But it made a triumph
of the cooler air inside, in the bedroom,
in the maple bedstead where he slept,
in the brick house nearly swamped by leaves.

Ellen Bryant Voigt

A Love Poem Written for Sterling Brown

(after reading a New York Times article re
a mummy kept preserved for about 300 years)

I'm gonna get me some mummy tape for your love
preserve it for 3000 years or more
I'm gonna let the world see you
tapping a blue shell dance of love
I'm gonna ride your love bareback
on totem poles
bear your image on mountains
turning in ocean sleep
string your sighs thru the rainbow
of old age.
In the midst of desert people and times
I'm gonna fly your red/eagle/laughter 'cross the sky.

Sonia Sanchez

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Doing Laundry on Sunday

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.

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A cicada shell

A cicada shell;
it sang itself
utterly away.


Translated by R.H. Blyth


The Place Where Clouds Are Formed

Every day it is the same.
He comes home.
He tells her about it.
As he speaks, his breath condenses in front of his face.
She goes about her business;
every now and then she looks over.
She doesn’t hear his voice.
She sees the soft fog that continues to form a halo.
She knows he is still talking about that place.
He never tires of it like she does.
Only on summer days when the air is hot
and moisture is still a long time in coming,
she asks him to tell her about that place.
She sits facing him.
Waiting for the first vocalic, non-stops,
the push of air from his lips.
He tells her of the place where clouds are formed.
The cool dampness of his voice is rich.
Even on a dry June day
her face beads with wetness
as he talks directly to her.
Each aspirated sound a gentle burst of coolness.
“Tell me again, tell me again,” she teases.
If he knew she only wanted relief from the heat
and not the story, he would stop talking.
He begins, “The first time I saw the place
where clouds are formed was from
the window of a train . . .”
Another time was in a mirage
in the heat outside Tucson.
Once he thought he saw it
in the dry light of stars.
The place he remembers best
was when he saw it in the eyes
of a woman he spoke to.
When he first noticed it,
she hid it by lowering her gaze.
Soon she let him look freely.
There were times when she opened her eyes
wide, allowing an unobscured view.
Sometimes he saw her eyes smolder
with dryness on a summer day.
Other times she was rich with moisture.
Clouds came in succession.
The earth’s shadows muted.
“You know the forty days
and forty nights?
I was there.
I’ll be there when it happens again,”
she said with a slight smile.
Like a child, he rushed to look
into her eyes at every opportunity.
If he could, he would hang on her eye socket,
peering inside,
marveling at her displays.

An unusually cold December day right around Christmas;
clouds, mist find solace in the canyons of the Santa Catalina Mountains.
White moisture quietly moving amid the cactus.
Truly, clouds, wind, and rain are the few elements
that can touch the saguaro from head to foot.
Oblivious of spines, needles.
Rubbery hide surrounded, soothed by elements.
Contact triggers stored heat of remembered summers.
Moisture beads roll forward, unstoppable.
From the city below
we see mist rising, mist rising.

We sit close in the cab of the truck.
The weather is cold, wet outside.
Too messy to stand in
waiting for a school bus.
My father’s truck is warm inside,
having been at work since four a.m.
The sound of the engine is soothing,
heater working to capacity.
Inside the cab we are silent.
We don’t need language.
We listen to the regular hum of the engine,
rhythm of the windshield wipers,
soft rain on the hood.
Aware of the cold air
surrounding our temporary shelter.
We look out over the fields
where fog clings to the soil.
Every now and then
with the back of his gloved hand
he wipes the windshield.
“Is it coming yet?”
The three of us sit quietly,
breathing clouds.
Clouds condense as
they contact the coolness of the windows.
My father appears to breathe air
with temperature in balance.
He forms no clouds.
He watches us.
We continue to breathe
gray, soft mist, waiting for the school bus.

Ofelia Zepeda

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Seventeenth Day of May

Grow maples in me this grow-maple day;
I lie in the long chair and wait your coming.
Spin from branches heavy with fruit of leaves
My sudden seeds, my one-wings, turning, turning!

Leap in the wind that understands the life:
Land on on my leg and do not slide;
Catch in the ready furrows of my hair—I say
I have no pride.

For in me all the broad and murmuring branches
Wait but to hear it spoken.
The porch, the chair, the gutter will not take you.
But I am open.

Heads of life, stretched to the shape of flight,
Plunge to my upturned palm, and with good reason:
My earth, my rain, my sun, my shade will grow you.
Let your season bring me into season.

Margaret Rockwell Finch

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Alley-ooped with snowmelt and spring,
you toss wet kindled wood aside.
Sweet twigs steam in the cool north
noon, as layered as the still, ice-thatched
ground. Now I see you, now I don't.
Moving through the trees, you heap
debris wild for dry summer
fires. Master of the sudden sprint-trick

and turn, sleek mime of stick-thrown-feints --
they're off! Both dogs suckered again.
Joy-gesturing-juggler, how I love
your arm's suspension as the dogs
thrash through thistle and cow parsnip
in pursuit of prey only they can sense.
Doug fir posts brace the deck's wide
recessed soffits. The sun hoists you.

Christianne Balk

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It is deep autumn: My neigbour-
How does he live, I wonder?


Simply trust;
Do not the petals flutter down,
Just like this?


halfway up the stair--
white chrysanthemums

Elizabeth Searle Lamb

first light
everything in this room
was already here

Christopher Herold

High mountain night wind
Keeps me awake watching as
It tends our camp fire.

Don Salper

The taste
of rain
--Why kneel?

Jack Kerouac

through thin clothes
to naked skin

Hisajo Sugita

drawing light
from another world--
the Milky Way

Yatsuka Ishihara

a white lotus
the monk decides
to cut it!


old posts and old wire
holding wild grape vines holding
old posts and old wire

Robert Spiess

I brush
my mother's hair
the sparks

Peggy Willis Lyles

in the dark
where you undress
a blooming iris

Nobuko Katsura

the inner tide--
what moon does it follow?
I wait for a poem

Diane Di Prima

Sunday, May 9, 2010

You Begin

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
this is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.
It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.

Margaret Atwood

Dear Mom,

It is a pinecone
falling from a tree
on Mother's Day
for luck.

The pinecone travels in a river.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Though we vacationed in a castle, though I
rode you hard one morning to the hum
of bees that buggered lavender, and later
we shared gelato by a spotlit dome
where pigeons looped like coins from a parade--
we weren’t transported back to newlyweds.
We only had a week, between new jobs,
we both were pinched with guilt at leaving Claire.
When, in our most expensive, most romantic meal,
you laid your sunburned hand upon your heart,
it was just to check the phone was on.

When the trip was good as over--when the train
would take us overnight to Rome, the flight
would take us home--I had the unimportant
moment I keep having. I wonder if
we choose what we recall?
The train
was unromantic, smoky. We found a free
compartment, claimed the two bench seats, and eyed
the door. Italians who peered in and saw
your shoes, my auburn hair, our Let’s Go: Rome,
soon found another car. And we were glad.
But then, reluctantly, two couples entered,
settled suitcases on laddered racks,
exchanged some cautious greetings, chose their spots.
Then each one turned to snacks and magazines.
The miles scrolled by like film into its shell.
Night fell. Each took a toothbrush down the hall.
Returned. Murmured to the one he knew.
The man beside the window pulled the shade.
We each snapped off our light, slunk down until
our kneecaps almost brushed. And shut our eyes.

Entwined I found us, waking in the dark.
Our dozen interwoven knees, when jostled,
swayed, corrected, swayed the other way.
Knuckles of praying hands were what they seemed.
Or trees in old growth forests, familiarly
enmeshed, one mass beneath the night wind’s breath.
Or death, if we are good, flesh among flesh,
without self consciousness, for once.
five years husband, you slept, our fellow travelers
slept, scuttling through black time and blacker space.
As we neared the lighted station, I closed my eyes.
Had I been caught awake, I would have moved.

Beth Ann Fennelly

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Washing The Elephant

Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash
the elephant, begging the body to do it
with soap and water, a ladder, hands,
in tree shade big enough for the vast savannas
of your sadness, the strangler fig of your guilt,
the cratered full moon’s light fuelling
the windy spooling memory of elephant?

What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize
your parents in Heaven,” instead of
“Being one with God will make your mother and father
pointless.” That was back when I was young enough
to love them absolutely though still fear for their place
in Heaven, imagining their souls like sponges full
of something resembling street water after rain.

Still my mother sent me every Saturday to confess,
to wring the sins out of my small baffled soul, and I made up lies
about lying, disobeying, chewing gum in church, to offer them
as carefully as I handed over the knotted handkerchief of coins
to the grocer when my mother sent me for a loaf of Wonder,
Land of Lakes, and two Camels.

If guilt is the damage of childhood, then eros is the fall of adolescence.
Or the fall begins there, and never ends, desire after desire parading
through a lifetime like the Ringling Brothers elephants
made to walk through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel
and down Thirty-fourth Street to the Garden.
So much of our desire like their bulky, shadowy walking
after midnight, exiled from the wild and destined
for a circus with its tawdry gaudiness, its unspoken pathos.

It takes more than half a century to figure out who they were,
the few real loves-of-your-life, and how much of the rest—
the mad breaking-heart stickiness—falls away, slowly,
unnoticed, the way you lose your taste for things
like popsicles unthinkingly.
And though dailiness may have no place
for the ones who have etched themselves in the laugh lines
and frown lines on the face that’s harder and harder
to claim as your own, often one love-of-your-life
will appear in a dream, arriving
with the weight and certitude of an elephant,
and it’s always the heart that wants to go out and wash
the huge mysteriousness of what they meant, those memories
that have only memories to feed them, and only you to keep them clean.

Barbara Ras

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oh Wind

Oh wind I see you how you sway
to the left and the right.
You always make me sleep.
Oh wind you always make me dance.
Your music is so beautiful
you sometimes make me laugh.
Your sways make me sway.

Micah Bernard (Age 8)


Lighting one candle
with another candle—
spring evening.

Yosa Buson

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

For My Niece Sidney, Age Six

Did you know that boiling to death
was once a common punishment
in England and parts of Europe?
It's true. In 1542 Margaret Davy,
a servant, was boiled for poisoning
her employer. So says the encyclopedia.
That's the way I like to start my day:
drinking hot black coffee and reading
the 1910 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Its pages are tissue thin and the covers
rub off on your hands in dirt colored
crumbs (the kind a rubber eraser
makes) but the prose voice is all knowing
and incurably sure of itself. My 1956
World Book runs to 18 volumes and has red
pebbly covers. It begins at "Aardvark"
and ends with "Zygote." I used to believe
you could learn everything you'd ever
need by reading encyclopedias. Who
was EB Browning? How many Buddhists
in Burma? What is Byzantine art? Where
do bluebells grow? These days, I own five
sets of encyclopedias from various
eras. None of them ever breathed
a word about the fact that this humming,
aromatic, acid flashback, pungent, tingly-
fingered world is acted out differently
for each one of us by the puppet theatre
of our senses. Some of us grow up doing
credible impressions of model citizens
(though sooner or later hairline
cracks appear in our facades). The rest
get dubbed eccentrics, unnerved and undone
by other people's company, for which we
nevertheless pine. Curses, outbursts
and distracting chants simmer all day
long in the crock-pots of our heads.
Encyclopedias contain no helpful entries
on conducting life's business while the ruckus
in your skull keeps competing for your
attention; or on the tyranny of the word
normal --its merciless sway over those
of us bedeviled and obsessed,
hopeless at school dances, repelled by
mothers' suffocating hugs, yet entranced
by foul smelling chemistry experiments,
or eager to pass sleepless nights seeking
rhymes for misspent and grimace.
Dear girl, your jolly blond one year old
brother, who adults adore, fits into
the happy category of souls mostly at home
in the world. He tosses a fully clothed doll
into the inflatable wading pool in your
backyard (splash!) and laughs maniacally
at his own comic genius. You sit alone,
twenty feet from everyone else, on a stone
bench under a commodious oak, reading aloud,
gripping your book like the steering wheel
of a race car you're learning to drive.
Complaints about you are already filtering
in. You're not big on eye contact or smiling.
You prefer to play by yourself. You pitch fits.
Last week you refused to cut out and paste
paper shapes with the rest of the kids.
You told the kindergarten teacher you were
going to howl like a wolf instead, which you did
till they hauled you off to the principal's
office. Ah, the undomesticated smell
of open rebellion! Your troublesome legacy,
and maybe part of your charm, is to shine
too hotly and brightly at times, to be lost
in the maze of your sensations, to have
trouble switching gears, to be socially
clueless, to love books as living things,
and therefore to be much alone. If you like,
when I die, I'll leave you my encyclopedias.
They're wonderful company. Watching you
read aloud in your father's garden, as if
declaiming a sermon for hedges, I recall
reading about Martin Luther this morning.
A religious reformer born in 1483, he nailed
his grievances, all 95 of them, to a German
church door. Fiery, impossible, untamable
girl, I bet you too post your grievances
in a prominent place someday. Anyway,
back to boiling. The encyclopedia says
the worst offenders were "boiled without
benefit of clergy" which I guess means
they were denied the right to speak
to a priest before being lowered into scalding
water and cooked like beets. Martin Luther
believed we human beings contain the "inpoured
grace of god," as though grace were lemonade,
and we are tumblers brim full of it. Is grace
what we hold in without spilling a drop,
or is it an outflooding, a gush of messy
befuddling loves? The encyclopedia never
explains why Margaret Davy poisoned her employer,
what harm he might have done her or whether
she dripped the fatal liquid on his pudding or sloshed
it into his sherry. Grievances and disagreements:
can they lead the way to grace? If our thoughts
and feelings were soup or stew, would they taste
of bile when we're defeated and be flavored
faintly with grace on better days? I await the time
and place when you can tell me, little butter pear,
screeching monkey mind, wolf cub, curious furrow
browed mammal what you think of all this.
Till then, your bookish old aunt sends you this missive,
a fumbling word of encouragement, a cockeyed letter
of welcome to the hallowed ranks of the nerds,
nailed up nowhere, and never sent, this written kiss.

Amy Gerstler

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In Early Spring

The fields were still matted,
and dirty snow huddled
in patches, but the swing
of the earth had taken place

and it tilted toward the sun’s
warmth that heated up
the back of my neck.
When I passed the horse

I pass every day on my walk,
it whinnied and tossed
its head back and forth –
perhaps a touch of sun

worship in him
or the need to shake off
months of cold, or maybe
to shake me from myself –

and for once it had
my undivided attention,
and it bent its long neck down
to a ball and ran, its head

moving the ball left then
right with the deft touch
of a soccer player. Again
and again, it cut and drove

the ball from one end
of its ring to the other,
Spring’s energy moving
through its body, flanks

and hooves taking form,
its tail and mane becoming
the single unbroken line
of a prehistoric horse

drawn on the muscled stone
of a cave wall. Standing there,
the soft animal of my body
roused itself, and I began to run –

not far and downhill mostly –
toward the pond where, bent over,
chest heaving, I stopped
to laugh at myself and catch

my breath. Six geese
skidded in, a towhee
and then a redwing blackbird
called out, and the light

on the water quickened
in a breeze, each thing
shaping itself to the shape
of the minute, the month,

the season, the turning earth.

Robert Cording

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

French Horn

For a few days only,
the plum tree outside the window
shoulders perfection.
No matter the plums will be small,
eaten only by squirrels and jays.
I feast on the one thing, they on another,
the shoaling bees on a third.
What in this unpleated world isn’t someone’s seduction?
The boy playing his intricate horn in Mahler’s Fifth,
in the gaps between playing,
turns it and turns it, dismantles a section,
shakes from it the condensation
of human passage. He is perhaps twenty.
Later he takes his four bows, his face deepening red,
while a girl holds a viola’s spruce wood and maple
in one half-opened hand and looks at him hard.
Let others clap.
These two, their ears still ringing, hear nothing.
Not the shouts of bravo, bravo,
not the timpanic clamor inside their bodies.
As the plum’s blossoms do not hear the bee
nor taste themselves turned into storable honey
by that sumptuous disturbance.

Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monsieur Pierre Est Mort

My seventh grade French teacher, Mademoiselle Torrosian, kept a pet rock, Pierre, who looked like an average potato. She made occasional mention of him, basking in his round holder on her desk, if it meant including him as an example for that day’s lesson. “Monsieur Pierre voudrais du bifteck et les pommes frites” if we were learning to order a steak and fries. Or “Monsieur Pierre aime Juillet mais pas Janvier” if we were learning to distinguish between the months. Mademoiselle Torrosian dressed as a tablecloth, wearing a checkered yellow top above her dull brown pant legs. She had short hair and wide glasses, though I once caught her stepping out of Kramer Gifts, a shop at the mall where you could buy dirty decks of cards and fuzzy dice. A neighbor of mine, Kev Wilson, cooked up the plan to kidnap Monsieur Pierre, out of boredom, maybe, but it was easily accomplished: I slid the rock off its pedestal into my bookbag during the confusing crush at the end of class, and we had him. I’m not sure that Mademoiselle ever let on that Monsieur Pierre had gone missing, until we left her the first of our many ransom notes. Kev and I had cut the alphabet out of numerous magazines, the way we saw in the movies, and glued odd-shaped letters to construction paper, saying, in terrible French, “Nous avons Monsieur Pierre” for “We have Monsieur Pierre,” and if she’d like him back unharmed, she’d give everyone in the class an “A.” Mademoiselle Torrosian took to reading the notes out loud, correcting our French as she went, and then would utter pleas for his return. She would say, in earnest, “Monsieur Pierre est mon bebe, mon petit oiseau bleu, mon chanson et mon danse” or something like that, and the class would stare ahead without much sympathy. We, in turn, would write more and more perverse ransom notes, describing that we were cutting off Monsieur Pierre’s ears, or putting out his “oeil” or breaking his nose. Mademoiselle Torrosian’s brow would darken each time she entered the classroom and saw a new note lying on her chair. It was a small class; fifteen or twenty kids, and she probably guessed it was me and Kev, but then again, there was always that dickwad Marvin DeLeo, that girl, Angie, who always pronounced “besoin” as “boz-wan” and was always peeved when Mademoiselle corrected her, and Overman, too, that big, crazy, silent loon of a timebomb just waiting to throw someone out the window. Meantime, Monsieur Pierre resided in my backyard, in a regular area where many other rocks lived, and sometimes Kev and I would have a hard time distinguishing him from your typical shale, or quartzite, or whatever we were learning in earth science. One time, I put him in the oven, after my mother had begun baking a load of potatoes and she freaked when she tried to stab him with her big fork, scratching him mightily. Kev and I used him as a hammer once, when we were trying to build a wooden ladder in the backyard, and there we chipped him, but the coup de grace came when we were tossing Monsieur Pierre back and forth in a game of “you’re it” and he fell onto the patio and cracked in half, perfectly. We vowed to superglue him back together, a clear thin line of paste at the fissure, and soon afterwards, I snuck him back into position, on his little round holder beside Mademoiselle Torrosian’s grade book, even as Mademoiselle erased the blackboard. “Oh la la,” she said, turning around a minute later. She held him up to the light, smiling, at first, then dropped him into the empty metal trashcan, where he landed with a good boom. “Monsieur Pierre est mort—dead,” she said, then barked: “Ecoutez!”

Daniel Gutstein

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Almost a Conversation

I have not really, not yet, talked with otter
about his life.

He has so many teeth, he has trouble
with vowels.

Wherefore our understanding
is all body expression—

he swims like the sleekest fish,
he dives and exhales and lifts a trail of bubbles.
Little by little he trusts my eyes
and my curious body sitting on the shore.

Sometimes he comes close.
I admire his whiskers
and his dark fur which I would rather die than wear.

He has no words, still what he tells about his life
is clear.
He does not own a computer.
He imagines the river will last forever.
He does not envy the dry house I live in.
He does not wonder who or what it is I worship.
He wonders, morning after morning, that the river
is so cold and fresh and alive, and still
I don't jump in.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Often I Imagine the Earth

Often I imagine the earth
through the eyes of the atoms we’re made of—
atoms, peculiar
atoms everywhere—
no me, no you, no opinions,
no beginning, no middle, no end,
soaring together like those
ancient Chinese birds
hatched miraculously with only one wing,
helping each other fly home.

Dan Gerber


[the snow is melting]

The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meeting At An Airport

You asked me once,
on our way back
from the midmorning
trip to the spring:
"What do you hate,
and who do you love?"

And I answered,
from behind the eyelashes
of my surprise,
my blood rushing
like the shadow
cast by a cloud of starlings:
"I hate departure...
I love the spring
and the path to the spring,
and I worship the middle
hours of morning."
And you laughed...
and the almond tree blossomed
and the thicket grew loud with nightingales.

...A question
now four decades old:
I salute that question’s answer;
and an answer,
as old as your departure;
I salute that answer’s question...

...And today,
it’s preposterous,
here we are at a friendly airport
by the slimmest of chances,
and we meet.
Ah, Lord!
we meet.
And here you are
it’s absolutely preposterous—
I recognized you
but you didn’t recognize me.
"Is it you?!"
But you wouldn’t believe it.
And suddenly
you burst out and asked:
"If you’re really you,
What do you hate
and who do you love?!"

And I answered—
my blood
fleeing the hall,
rushing in me
like the shadow
cast by a cloud of starlings:
"I hate departure,
and I love the spring,
and the path to the spring,
and I worship the middle
hours of morning."

And you wept,
and flowers bowed their heads,
and doves in the silk of their sorrow stumbled.

Taha Ali

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

won't you celebrate with me

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.


blessing the boats

(at St. Mary's)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,

windchime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.

She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn’t making
because it wasn’t there.

No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.

Tony Hoagland

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Two Sewing

The wind is sewing with needles of rain.
With shining needles of rain
It stitches into the thin
Cloth of earth. In,
In, in, in.
Oh, the wind has often sewed with me.
One, two, three.

Spring must have fine things
To wear like other springs.
Of silken green the grass must be
Embroidered. One and two and three.
Then every crocus must be made
So subtly as to seem afraid
Of lifting colour from the ground;
And after crocuses the round
Heads of tulips, and all the fair
Intricate garb that Spring will wear.
The wind must sew with needles of rain,
With shining needles of rain,
Stitching into the thin
Cloth of earth, in,
In, in, in,
For all the springs of futurity.
One, two, three.

Hazel Hall (1886-1924)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In Winter

At four o’clock it’s dark.
Today, looking out through dusk
at three gray women in stretch slacks
chatting in front of the post office,
their steps left and right and back
like some quick folk dance of kindness,
I remembered the winter we spent
crying in each other’s laps.
What could you be thinking at this moment?
How lovely and strange the gangly spines
of trees against a thickening sky
as you drive from the library
humming off-key? Or are you smiling
at an idea met in a book
the way you smiled with your whole body
the first night we talked?
I was so sure my love of you was perfect,
and the light today
reminded me of the winter you drove home
each day in the dark at four o’clock
and would come into my study to kiss me
despite mistake after mistake after mistake.

Michael Ryan

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Waking in the night;
the lamp is low,
the oil freezing.


The leeks
newly washed white,-
how cold it is!


All day in grey rain
hollyhocks follow the sun's
invisible road.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


While you walk the water’s edge,
turning over concepts
I can’t envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change,
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning. The ocean,
cumbered by no business more urgent
than keeping open old accounts
that never balanced,
goes on shuffling its millenniums
of quartz, granite, and basalt.
It behaves
toward the permutations of novelty—
driftwood and shipwreck, last night’s
beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up
residue of plastic—with random
impartiality, playing catch or tag
or touch-last like a terrier,
turning the same thing over and over,
over and over. For the ocean, nothing
is beneath consideration.
The houses
of so many mussels and periwinkles
have been abandoned here, it’s hopeless
to know which to salvage. Instead
I keep a lookout for beach glass—
amber of Budweiser, chrysoprase
of Almadén and Gallo, lapis
by way of (no getting around it,
I’m afraid) Phillips’
Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare
translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst
of no known origin.
The process
goes on forever: they came from sand,
they go back to gravel,
along with the treasuries
of Murano, the buttressed
astonishments of Chartres,
which even now are readying
for being turned over and over as gravely
and gradually as an intellect
engaged in the hazardous
redefinition of structures
no one has yet looked at.

Amy Clampitt

Friday, January 8, 2010


Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Mary Oliver