Merry Summer Solstice!

Merry Summer Solstice!
El Sol

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Winter Solstice!!

Something must be reassuring to the almond, in the evening star, and the snow wind
   and the long, long, nights,
Some memory of far, sun-gentler lands…

D.H. Lawrence
from “Almond Blossom”



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 14, 2011

Because Even The Word Obstacle Is An Obstacle

Try to love everything that gets in your way;
The Chinese women in flowered bathing caps
murmuring together in Mandarin and doing leg exercises in your lane
while you execute thirty-six furious laps,
one for every item on your to-do list.
The heavy-bellied man who goes thrashing through the water
like a horse with a harpoon stuck in its side and
whose breathless tsunamis rock you from your course.
Teachers all. Learn to be small
and swim past obstacles like a minnow,
without grudges or memory. Dart
toward your goal, sperm to egg. Thinking, Obstacle,
is another obstacle. Try to love the teenage girl
lounging against the ladder, showing off her new tattoo:
Cette vie est la mienne, This life is mine,
in thick blue-black letters on her ivory instep.
Be glad she'll have that to look at the rest of her life, and
keep going. Swim by an uncle
in the lane next to yours who is teaching his nephew
how to hold his breath underwater,
even though kids aren't supposed
to be in the pool at this hour. Someday,
years from now, this boy
who is kicking and flailing in the exact place
you want to touch and turn
may be a young man at a wedding on a boat,
raising his champagne glass in a toast
when a huge wave hits, washing everyone overboard.
He'll come up coughing and spitting like he is now,
but he'll come up like a cork,
alive. So your moment
of impatience must bow in service to the larger story,
because if something is in your way, it is
going your way, the way
of all beings: toward darkness, toward light.

Allison Luterman

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December - 12 month of an 11 year!


Last night you called me out to the December dark
to look up and see what neither of us had ever seen
before: a burnished flock of Canada geese, bent
into a flexed bow and heading south across a clear-
starred moonless sky in silence, winging it
to warmer quarters, and all lit up—like mystery,
I thought, a lit thing bearing nothing but the self
we see and savor but know no more the meaning of
than I know what in the cave of its fixed gaze
our cat is thinking. The geese were lit to the shade
of tarnished gold or dead oak leaves hanging still
in sunshine, or the color tall reeds have when
car-lights stream and splash over them in winter.
And they were—these beings moving as one—
a mystery to us: Why, we asked, their color, who
by daylight are simply black-winged shapes
quickening southwards across a sky-blue canvas?
How could they be lit from below like that, from
somewhere near where we stood on the earth
we shared with them, staring up, the earth that
for this inhabited minute or two must have been
giving off a light that made these creatures shine
for us who were there by chance, with no moonshine
to explain it? Then they're gone, gone dark, gone on,
though in their aftermath the cold dark we stood
our ground in was for a little while neither cold
nor dark but a place of visitation, and we were in it.

Eamon Grennan

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Micah, Ruth, & Taha ~ beginnings & endings

This poem goes out to Micah, with all my love, on his 10th birthday ~

On Turning Ten

 The whole idea of it makes me feel
 like I'm coming down with something,
 something worse than any stomach ache
 or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
 a kind of measles of the spirit,
 a mumps of the psyche,
 a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

 You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
 but that is because you have forgotten
 the perfect simplicity of being one
 and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
 But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
 At four I was an Arabian wizard.
 I could make myself invisible
 by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
 At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

 But now I am mostly at the window
 watching the late afternoon light.
 Back then it never fell so solemnly
 against the side of my tree house,
 and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
 as it does today,
 all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

 This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
 as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
 It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
 time to turn the first big number.

 It seems only yesterday I used to believe
 there was nothing under my skin but light.
 If you cut me I could shine.
 But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
 I skin my knees. I bleed.

Billy Collins



When you come back to me
it will be crow time
and flycatcher time,
with rising spirals of gnats
between the apple trees.
Every weed will be quadrupled,
coarse, welcoming
and spine-tipped.
The crows, their black flapping
bodies, their long calling
toward the mountain;
relatives, like mine,
ambivalent, eye-hooded;
hooting and tearing.
And you will take me in
to your fractal meaningless
babble; the quick of my mouth,
the madness of my tongue.

Ruth Stone


And so

it has taken me

all of sixty years

to understand

that water is the finest drink,

and bread the most delicious food,

and that art is worthless

unless it plants

a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.

Taha Muhammad Ali

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Three for Thanksgiving!


The potato that ate all its carrots,
can see in the dark like a mole,

its eyes the scars
from centuries of shovels, tines.

May spelled backwards
because it hates the light,

pawing its way, padding along,
there in the catacombs.

Bruce Guernsey


Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Joy Harjo



All Souls’ over, the roast seeds eaten, I set  
on a backporch post our sculpted pumpkin  
under the weather, warm still for November.  
Night and day it gapes in at us
through the kitchen window, going soft
in the head. Sleepwalker-slow, a black rash of ants  
harrows this hollow globe, munching  
the pale peach flesh, sucking its seasoned  
last juices dry. In a week, when the ants and  
humming flies are done, only a hard remorseless light  
drills and tenants it through and through. Within,  
it turns mould-black in patches, stays  
days like this while the weather takes it  
in its shifty arms: wide eye-spaces shine,  
the disapproving mouth holds firm. Another week,  
a sad leap forward: sunk to one side
so an eye-socket’s almost blocked, it becomes
a monster of its former self. Human, it would have  
rotted beyond unhappiness and horror  
to some unspeakable subject state—its nose  
no more than a vertical hole, the thin  
bridge of amber between nose and mouth  
in ruins. The other socket opens
wider than ever: disbelief.
                                        It’s all downhill
from here: knuckles of sun, peremptory
steady fingers of frost, strain all day and night—
cracking the rind, kneading the knotted fibres  
free. The crown, with its top-knot mockery  
of stalk, caves in; the skull buckles; the whole  
sad head drips tallowy tears: the end
is in sight. In a day or two it topples on itself  
like ruined thatch, pus-white drool spidering  
from the corner of the mouth, worming its way
down the body-post. All dignity to the winds,  
it bows its bogeyman face of dread
to the inevitable.
                           And now, November almost out,  
it is in the bright unseasonable sunshine
a simmer of pulp, a slow bake, amber shell speckled  
chalk-grey with lichen. Light strikes and strikes  
its burst surfaces: it sags, stays at the end of  
its brief tether—a helmet of dark circles, death caul.  
Here is the last umbilical gasp, everybody’s  
nightmare parent, the pitiless system
rubbing our noses in it. But pity poor lantern-head  
with his lights out, glob by greasy glob
going back where he came from: as each seed-shaped  
drop falls free, it catches and clutches
for one split second the light. When the pumpkin  
lapses to our common ground at last—where  
a swaddle of snow will fold it in no time
from sight—I try to take in the empty space it’s left  
on top of the wooden post: it is that empty space.

Eamon Grennan

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

After a Rainstorm

Because I have come to the fence at night,
the horses arrive also from their ancient stable.
They let me stroke their long faces, and I note
in the light of the now-merging moon

how they, a Morgan and a Quarter, have been
by shake-guttered raindrops
spotted around their rumps and thus made
Appaloosas, the ancestral horses of this place.

Maybe because it is night, they are nervous,
or maybe because they too sense
what they have become, they seem
to be waiting for me to say something

to whatever ancient spirits might still abide here,
that they might awaken from this strange dream,
in which there are fences and stables and a man
who doesn’t know a single word they understand.

Robert Wrigley

Friday, November 11, 2011


Let Us Now Praise Prime Numbers

Let us now praise prime numbers
With our fathers who begat us:
The power, the peculiar glory of prime numbers
Is that nothing begat them,
No ancestors, no factors,
Adams among the multiplied generations.

None can foretell their coming.
Among the ordinal numbers
They do not reserve their seats, arrive unexpected.
Along the lines of cardinals
They rise like surprising pontiffs,
Each absolute, inscrutable, self-elected.

In the beginning where chaos
Ends and zero resolves,
They crowd the foreground prodigal as forest,
But middle distance thins them,
Far distance to infinity
Yields them rare as unreturning comets.

O prime improbable numbers,
Long may formula-hunters
Steam in abstraction, waste to skeleton patience:
Stay non-conformist, nuisance,
Phenomena irreducible
To system, sequence, pattern or explanation.

Helen Spaulding

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I'd Like a Little Flashlight

and I'd like to get naked and into bed and be hot radiating heat from the inside these sweaters and fleeceys do nothing to keep out the out or keep my vitals in—some drafty body I've got leaking in and out in all directions I'd like to get naked into bed but hot on this early winter afternoon already dusky grim and not think of all the ways I've gone about the world and shown myself a fool, shame poking holes in my thinned carapace practically lacy and woefully feminine I'd like to get naked into bed and feel if not hot then weightless as I once was in the sensory deprivation tank in Madison, Wisconsin circa 1992 I paid money for that perfectly body-temperatured silent pitch dark tank to do what? play dead and not die? that was before email before children before I knew anything more than the deaths of a few loved ones which were poisoned nuts of swallowed grief but nothing of life of life giving which cuts open the self bursting busted unsolvable I'd like to get naked! into the bed of my life but hot hot my little flicker-self trumped up somehow blind and deaf to all the dampening misery of my friends' woe-oh-ohs and I'd like a little flashlight to write poems with this lousy day not this poem I'm writing under the mostly flat blaze of bulb but a poem written with the light itself a tiny fleeting love poem to life hot hot hot a poem that would say "oh look here a bright spot of life, oh look another!"

Rachel Zucker

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wednesday poem on Thursday!

The God of Loneliness

It’s a cold Sunday February morning
and I’m one of eight men waiting
for the doors of Toys R Us to open
in a mall on the eastern tip of Long Island.
We’ve come for the Japanese electronic game
that’s so hard to find. Last week, I waited
three hours for a store in Manhattan
to disappoint me. The first today, bundled
in six layers, I stood shivering in the dawn light
reading the new Aeneid translation, which I hid
when the others came, stamping boots
and rubbing gloveless hands, joking about
sacrificing sleep for ungrateful sons. “My boy broke
two front teeth playing hockey,” a man wearing
shorts laughs. “This is his reward.” My sons
will leap into my arms, remember this morning
all their lives. “The game is for my oldest boy,
just back from Iraq,” a man in overalls says
from the back of the line. “He plays these games
in his room all day. I’m not worried, he’ll snap out of it,
he’s earned his rest.” These men fix leaks, lay
foundations for other men’s dreams without complaint.
They’ve been waiting in the cold since Aeneas
founded Rome on rivers of blood. Virgil understood that
death begins and never ends, that it’s the god of loneliness.
Through the window, a clerk shouts, “We’ve only five.”
The others seem not to know what to do with their hands,
tuck them under their arms, or let them hang,
naked and useless. Is it because our hands remember
what they held, the promises they made? I know
exactly when my boys will be old enough for war.
Soon three of us will wait across the street at Target,
because it’s what men do for their sons.

Philip Schultz

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To remove from the frame of
reference the referent.  To erase
singular. (and plural.)  and yet.
The verb never agrees
with its heresy.  Disbelieving.
In absentia.  We dress.

The story of cleavage unwritten.
Erased.  (perhaps.)  but still missed.

And yet.  We are a bedrock of antecedents. 


                                                                             (& sing.  & sing. 
                                                                 & sing.)

TC Tolbert
From territories of folding

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Philip Schultz x 2


Monday mornings Grandma rose an hour early to make rye,
onion & challah, but it was pumpernickel she broke her hands for,
pumpernickel that demanded cornmeal, ripe caraway, mashed potatoes
& several Old Testament stories about patience & fortitude & for
which she cursed in five languages if it didn’t pop out fat
as an apple-cheeked peasant bride. But bread, after all,
is only bread & who has time to fuss all day & end up
with a dead heart if it flops? Why bother? I’ll tell you why.
For the moment when the steam curls off the black crust like a strip
of pure sunlight & the hard oily flesh breaks open like a poem
pulling out of its own stubborn complexity a single glistening truth
& who can help but wonder at the mystery of the human heart when you
hold a slice up to the light in all its absurd splendor & I tell you
we must risk everything for the raw recipe of our passion.



To pay for my father's funeral I borrowed money from people he already owed money to. One called him a nobody. No, I said, he was a failure. You can't remember a nobody's name, that's why they're called nobodies. Failures are unforgettable. The rabbi who read a stock eulogy about a man who didn't belong to or believe in anything was both a failure and a nobody. He failed to imagine the son and wife of the dead man being shamed by each word. To understand that not believing in or belonging to anything demanded a kind of faith and buoyancy. An uncle, counting on his fingers my father's business failures— a parking lot that raised geese, a motel that raffled honeymoons, a bowling alley with roving mariachis— failed to love and honor his brother, who showed him how to whistle under covers, steal apples with his right or left hand. Indeed, my father was comical. His watches pinched, he tripped on his pant cuffs and snored loudly in movies, where his weariness overcame him finally. He didn't believe in: savings insurance newspapers vegetables good or evil human frailty history or God. Our family avoided us, fearing boils. I left town but failed to get away.

Philip Schultz

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Contrariness Of The Mad Farmer

    I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
    inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
    to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.
    I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
    and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
    and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven’s favor,
    in spite of the best advice. If I have been caught
    so often laughing at funerals, that was because
    I knew the dead were already slipping away,
    preparing a comeback, and can I help it?
    And if at weddings I have gritted and gnashed
    my teeth, it was because I knew where the bridegroom
    had sunk his manhood, and knew it would not
    be resurrected by a piece of cake. “Dance” they told me,
    and I stood still, and while they stood
    quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.
    “Pray” they said, and I laughed, covering myself
    in the earth’s brightnesses, and then stole off gray
    into the midst of a revel, and prayed like an orphan.
    When they said “I know that my Redeemer liveth,”
    I told them “He’s dead.” And when they told me
    “God is dead,” I answered “He goes fishing every day
    in the Kentucky River. I see Him often.”
    When they asked me would I like to contribute
    I said no, and when they had collected
    more than they needed, I gave them as much as I had.
    When they asked me to join them I wouldn’t,
    and then went off by myself and did more
    than they would have asked. “Well, then” they said
    “go and organize the International Brotherhood
    of Contraries,” and I said “Did you finish killing
    everybody who was against peace?” So be it.
    Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
    thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
    I say I don’t know. It is not the only or the easiest
    way to come to the truth. It is one way.

Wendell Berry

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient tongue
has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not a language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.

Jack Gilbert


Z is for Zed at the End

After the 0 but before the over,
There’s hope. And then there is none.
There are simply the sheets
Which cover the waiting world. There are the seats
From which we watch. And hover.

At the wedding of now and be ever, someone makes note
That the Mickey Mouse clock on the mantel is stuck
And still. Someone else adds, “May there never be a snake.”
And another says, “And never a poison apple.”
Once we gave the apple and tree a story.

Once we let the snake speak. In a whisper, it said,
“Let no one fall.” And then laughed
Into its tail. And wasn’t it Eve who is said to have said, “Hello”?
And, “You’re right, this is quite tasty.”
All the while, on the opposite page, Ophelia

In her small lake. Ophelia, the water—
Edging her blue-tinged lips and bloated face—
The color of tin. The evening’s hair all laced with lily.
A hint of Madonna.
A face. A bed ready. A bed made.

Mary Jo Bang

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If This Is Paradise

The true mystery of the world is the visible. . .
                                                   -- Oscar Wilde

If this is paradise:  trees, beehives,
boulders.  And this:  bald moon, shooting
stars, a little sun.  If in your hands
this is paradise:  sensate flesh,
hidden bone,  your own eyes
opening, then why should we speak?
Why not lift into each day like the animals
that we are and go silently
about our true business:  the hunt
for water, fat berries, the mushroom's
pale meat, tumble through waist-high grasses
without reason, find shade and rest there,
our limbs spread beneath the meaningless sky,
find the scent of the lover
and mate wildly.  If this is paradise
and all we have to do is be born and live
and die, why pick up the stick at all?
Why see the wheel in the rock?
Why bring back from the burning fields
a bowl full of fire and pretend that it's magic?

Dorianne Laux

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Emily D!

Love - is anterior to Life -
Posterior - to Death -
Initial of Creation, and  
The Exponent of Earth -

Emily Dickinson


Of all the Souls that stand create -
I have elected - One -
When Sense from Spirit - files away -
And Subterfuge - is done -

When that which is - and that which was -
Apart -intrinsic - stand -
And this brief Drama in the flesh -
Is shifted - like a Sand -

When Figures show their royal Front -
And Mists - are carved away,          
Behold the Atom - I preferred -

To all the lists of Clay!

Emily Dickinson


Ample make this Bed -
Make this Bed with Awe -
In it wait till Judgment break   
Excellent and Fair.   
Be its Mattress straight -           5
Be its Pillow round -
Let no Sunrise’ yellow noise   
Interrupt this Ground -

Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Week to Mary Oliver!

The Ponds

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them --

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided --
and that one wears an orange blight --
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away --
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled --
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing --
that the light is everything -- that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading.  And I do.

~ Mary Oliver ~

(House of Light)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


“The mesquite’s root system is the deepest documented; a live root was discovered in a copper mine over 160 feet below the surface. Like all known trees, however, 90% of mesquite roots are in the upper 3 feet of soil. This is where most of the water and oxygen are. The deep roots presumably enable a mesquite to survive severe droughts, but they are not its main life support”

– from A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert (ASDM Press, eds. Phillips & Comus, 2000)

Down here
the layers of earth
are comforting
like blankets.

The soil I think of
as time. Below the caliche
I sift through sediment
from thousands of years.

Though the sharp desert light above
is another world, its pulse
courses through me.

When the mastodons
and ground sloths roamed,
its pulse coursed through me.

When the Hohokam
in the canyon
ground my pods
in the stone
its pulse coursed through me.

When the new gatherers
of the desert
learn again how to live here,
its pulse will course through me.

And I say, I will be ready
if the drought comes.

And I say, go deep
into the Earth.

And I say, go deep
into yourself, go deep

and be ready.

Eric Magrane

in the first years of the twenty-first century

it is more than
makes us human
what is it that I hear
what is it that I want
a poetry of geologic time
outside everything we know
when we are out
                        on the edges
today’s gods
in our own understanding
            a new arrangement
underneath the surface
            today’s structure
                        swirling light—

& shining history

weighs less than

a spider

Eric Magrane 

Originally published in Tygerburning Literary Journal, Spring 2010.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

At Balmorhea State Park

History matters, but if you thought about all the lives entangled in twenty-four
million gallons a day,
you’d go crazy. And I do not wish to.
I wish to observe the cleanliness
of the water, the kittenish algae on the stone
steps. And the small, alert fish—one of them’s
a Gambusia… Hard to believe
the children and all of us are swimming
with two endangered species, but there it is: they attend our entry,
divert our hair. I am rolling
them over and they
are winding me in. I mean
forgetting the future, the sun,
my password. While we sort out what matters,
we can never write enough
about a body diving into water.

Wendy Burk

Originally published in Pilgrimage, vol. 35, no. 2 (2010).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The wednesday poem on wednesday!

Our Valley

We don’t see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn’t your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.

Philip Levine

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday poem on Thursday!

Ode to My Hands

Five-legged pocket spiders, knuckled
starfish, grabbers of forks, why
do I forget that you love me:
your willingness to button my shirts,
tie my shoes—even scratch my head!
which throbs like a traffic jam, each thought
leaning on its horn. I see you

waiting anyplace always
at the ends of my arms—for the doctor,
for the movie to begin, for
freedom—so silent, such
patience! testing the world
with your bold myopia: faithful,
ready to reach out at my
softest suggestion, to fly up
like two birds when I speak, two
brown thrashers brandishing verbs
like twigs in your beaks, lifting
my speech the way pepper springs
the tongue from slumber. O!

If only they knew the unrestrained
innocence of your intentions,
each finger a cappella, singing
a song that rings like rain
before it falls—that never falls!
Such harmony: the bass thumb, the
pinkie's soprano, the three tenors
in between: kind quintet x 2
rowing my heart like a little boat
upon whose wooden seat I sit
strummed by Sorrow. Or maybe

I misread you completely
and you are dreaming a tangerine, one
particular hot tamale, a fabulous
banana! to peel suggestively,
like thigh-high stockings: grinning
as only hands can grin
down the legs—caramel, cocoa,
black-bean black, vanilla—such lubricious
dimensions, such public secrets!
Women sailing the streets
with God's breath at their backs.
Think of it! No! Yes:
let my brain sweat, make my
veins whimper: without you, my five-hearted
fiends, my five-headed hydras, what
of my mischievous history? The possibilities
suddenly impossible—feelings
not felt, rememberings un-
remembered—all the touches
untouched: the gallant strain

of a pilfered ant, tiny muscles
flexed with fight, the gritty
sidewalk slapped after a slip, the pulled
weed, the plucked flower—a buttercup!
held beneath Dawn's chin—the purest kiss,
the caught grasshopper's kick, honey,
chalk, charcoal, the solos teased
from guitar. Once, I played
viola for a year and never stopped

to thank you—my two angry sisters,
my two hungry men—but you knew
I just wanted to know
what the strings would say
concerning my soul, my whelming
solipsism: this perpetual solstice
where one + one = everything
and two hands teach a dawdler
the palpable alchemy
of an unreasonable world.

Tim Seibles

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wednesday poem on Friday


I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.

Rita Dove

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Three for Thursday!


I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided : who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.

I heard the Duffys shouting ‘Damn your soul’
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel -
‘Here is the march along these iron stones’.

That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was most important ? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind
He said : I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.

Patrick Kavanagh


A lovely thing to see:
through the paper window's hole,
the Galaxy.



The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

Masaoka Shiki

Friday, July 22, 2011

The wednesday poem on friday

On the M104
(New York City Public Bus)

    The longing we know that does not have a name
    may be for our lost twins, our cellular siblings
    who flaked away from us
    only days after our conception.
    Like a singular petal tugged from its floribunda,
    most of us were left alone in our planet-wombs,
    gravity-less balloons, loose space suits. Galaxies of mother
    around us, we slept the way I still like to:
    my back nestled against someone else's chest,
    my knees bent and at rest on his
    as though I were sitting in a chair
    but my weight askew, pulled away to a 90-degree angle.
    No wonder, regardless of who it is,
    love is what I feel every time.
    He is my lost one, my lost twin,
    the dolphin, the underwater uterine-angel
    who loved me regardless, who continued
    to swim up against me, whether I pulled away or not.
    I miss him the way a soldier
    has a phantom itch on the elbow
    of his amputated arm. I look into mirrors
    and dress up as someone else.
    Our lost Gods are so hard to find
    though they are as many
    as the flakes of novelty confetti
    that snow from a bridal shower bell.
    Or the pastel dots
    that rise to the roof and multiply
    on this city bus
    as the sun hits a stone
    on some piece of jewelry a passenger is wearing.
    The magic blinks away as we turn the corner
    and a building's shadow takes over.
    We all check our watches
    and bracelets, wondering which one of us
    could have been the source
    of such beauty. The travelers who saw
    look at each other to confirm.
    Our lost Gods, so hard to find --
    their appearances so short, their bodies so small.

Denise Duhamel

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"I like trees.  They seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do."

Willa Cather

A Final Affection

    I love the accomplishments of trees,
    How they try to restrain great storms
    And pacify the very worms that eat them.
    Even their deaths seem to be considered.
    I fear for trees, loving them so much.
    I am nervous about each scar on bark,
    Each leaf that browns. I want to
    Lie in their crotches and sigh,
    Whisper of sun and rains to come.

    Sometimes on summer evenings I step
    Out of my house to look at trees
    Propping darkness up to the silence.

    When I die I want to slant up
    Through those trunks so slowly
    I will see each rib of bark, each whorl;
    Up through the canopy, the subtle veins
    And lobes touching me with final affection;
    Then to hover above and look down
    One last time on the rich upliftings,
    The circle that loves the sun and moon,
    To see at last what held the darkness up.

    Paul Zimmer

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rain on Tin

If I ever get over the bodies of women, I am going to think of the rain,
of waiting under the eaves of an old house
at that moment
when it takes a form like fog.
It makes the mountain vanish.
Then the smell of rain, which is the smell of the earth a plow turns up,
only condensed and refined.
Almost fifty years since thunder rolled
and the nerves woke like secret agents under the skin.
Brazil is where I wanted to live.
The border is not far from here.
Lonely and grateful would be my way to end,
and something for the pain please,
a little purity to sand the rough edges,
a slow downpour from the Dark Ages,
a drizzle from the Pleistocene.
As I dream of the rain’s long body,
I will eliminate from mind all the qualities that rain deletes
and then I will be primed to study rain’s power,
the first drops lightly hallowing,
but now and again a great gallop of the horse of rain
or an explosion of orange-green light.
A simple radiance, it requires no discipline.
Before I knew women, I knew the lonely pleasures of rain.
The mist and then the clearing.
I will listen where the lightning thrills the rooster up a willow,
and my whole life flowing
until I have no choice, only the rain,
and I step into it.

Rodney Jones

Thursday, June 30, 2011

For my brother, David, in his 45th year ~

Clearing a Space

A man should clear a space for himself,
Like Dublin city on a Sunday morning
about six o’clock.
Dublin and myself are rid of our traffic then
And I’m walking.

Houses are solitary and dignified,
Streets are adventures
Twisting in and out and up and down my mind.
The river is talking to itself
And doesn’t care if I eavesdrop.

No longer cluttered with purpose,
The city turns to the mountains
And takes time to listen to the sea.
I witness all three communing in silence
Under a relaxed sky.

Bridges look aloof and protective.
The gates of the park are closed
Green places must have their privacy too.
Office-blocks are empty, important and a bit
Pathetic, if they admitted it!

The small hills of this city are truly surprising
When they emerge in that early morning light.
Nobody has ever walked on them,
They are waiting for the first explorers
to straggle in from the needy north

And squat down here this minute
In weary legions
Between the cathedral and the river.
At the gates of conquest, they might enjoy a deep
Uninterrupted sleep.

To have been used so much, and without mercy
And still to be capable of rediscovering
In itself the old nakedness
Is what makes a friend of the city
When sleep has failed.

I make through that nakedness to stumble on my own,
Surprised to find a city is so like a man.
Statues and monuments check me out as I pass
Clearing a space for myself the best I can,
One Sunday morning, in the original sun, in Dublin.

Brendan Kennelly

And to rain, come to the desert...


The skin cracks like a pod.
There never is enough water.

Imagine the drip of it,
the small splash, echo
in a tin mug,
the voice of a kindly god.

Sometimes, the sudden rush
of fortune.  The municipal pipe bursts,
silver crashes to the ground

and the flow has found
a roar of tongues.  From the huts,
a congregation:  every man woman
child for streets around
butts in, with pots,
brass, copper, aluminum,
plastic buckets,
frantic hands,

and naked children
screaming in the liquid sun,
their highlights polished to perfection,
flashing light,
as the blessing sings
over their small bones.

Imtiaz Dharker

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Poems to celebrate summer solstice 2011~

For Once, Then, Something        

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

Robert Frost


In Summer        

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies' soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.

And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air's soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.

I envy the farmer's boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.

He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another's ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.

He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o'erfull heart, without aim or art;
'T is a song of the merriest.

O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.

Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard,—
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.

So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.

Paul Laurence Dunbar


Summer Night, Riverside        

In the wild soft summer darkness
How many and many a night we two together
Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
Wearing her lights like golden spangles
Glinting on black satin.
The rail along the curving pathway
Was low in a happy place to let us cross,
And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom
Sheltered us,
While your kisses and the flowers,
Falling, falling,
Tangled in my hair....

The frail white stars moved slowly over the sky.

And now, far off
In the fragrant darkness
The tree is tremulous again with bloom
For June comes back.

To-night what girl
Dreamily before her mirror shakes from her hair
This year's blossoms, clinging to its coils?

Sara Teasdale


In morning dew,


Friday, June 17, 2011

from Song of the Open Road


AFOOT and light-hearted, I take to the open road,   
Healthy, free, the world before me,   
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.   
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;   
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,            
Strong and content, I travel the open road.   
The earth—that is sufficient;   
I do not want the constellations any nearer;   
I know they are very well where they are;   
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.     
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;   
I carry them, men and women—I carry them with me wherever I go;   
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;   
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)   

You road I enter upon and look around! I believe you are not all that is here;     
I believe that much unseen is also here.   
Here the profound lesson of reception, neither preference or denial;   
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas’d, the illiterate person, are not denied;   
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar’s tramp, the drunkard’s stagger, the laughing party of mechanics,   
The escaped youth, the rich person’s carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,     
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back from the town,   
They pass—I also pass—anything passes—none can be interdicted;   
None but are accepted—none but are dear to me.   


You air that serves me with breath to speak!   
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings, and give them shape!     
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!   
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!   
I think you are latent with unseen existences—you are so dear to me.   
You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!   
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!     
You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs!   
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!   
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!   
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!   
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!     
From all that has been near you, I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me;   
From the living and the dead I think you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me.   


The earth expanding right hand and left hand,   
The picture alive, every part in its best light,   
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,     
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay fresh sentiment of the road.   
O highway I travel! O public road! do you say to me, Do not leave me?   
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you are lost?   
Do you say, I am already prepared—I am well-beaten and undenied—adhere to me?   
O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to leave you—yet I love you;     
You express me better than I can express myself;   
You shall be more to me than my poem.   
I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all great poems also;   
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles;   
(My judgments, thoughts, I henceforth try by the open air, the road;)     
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me;   
I think whoever I see must be happy.   


From this hour, freedom!   
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,   
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,     
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,   
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,   
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.   
I inhale great draughts of space;   
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.     
I am larger, better than I thought;   
I did not know I held so much goodness.   
All seems beautiful to me;   
I can repeat over to men and women, You have done such good to me, I would do the same to you.   
I will recruit for myself and you as I go;     
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go;   
I will toss the new gladness and roughness among them;   
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;   
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and shall bless me.   

Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear, it would not amaze me;     
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear’d, it would not astonish me.   
Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,   
It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.   
Here a great personal deed has room;   
A great deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,     
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law, and mocks all authority and all argument against it.   
Here is the test of wisdom;   
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools;   
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it, to another not having it;   
Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,     
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is content,   
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;   
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the Soul...

Walt Whitman

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Short History of the Apple

The crunch is the thing, a certain joy in crashing through
living tissue, a memory of Neanderthal days.

    —Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert, 1929

Teeth at the skin. Anticipation.
Then flesh. Grain on the tongue.
Eve's knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching
gravity happen. The history
of apples in each starry core,
every papery chamber's bright
bitter seed. Woody stem
an infant tree. William Tell
and his lucky arrow. Orchards
of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels.
Fire blight. Scab and powdery mildew.
Cedar apple rust. The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.
Snow White with poison on her lips.
The buried blades of Halloween.
Budding and grafting. John Chapman
in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward
Expansion. Apple pie. American
as. Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives of Britain's honeybees:
white man's flies. O eat. O eat.

Dorianne Laux

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More Than Enough

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.

Marge Piercy

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Plums Tasted

The plums tasted
sweet to the unlettered desert-tribe girl-
but what manners! To chew into each!

She was ungainly, low-caste, ill mannered and dirty,
but the god took the fruit she'd been sucking.

Why? She knew how to love.
She might not distinguish
splendor from filth
but she'd tasted the nectar of passion.

Might not know any Veda,
but a chariot swept her away-
now she frolics in heaven, ecstatically bound
to her god.

The Lord of Fallen Fools, says Mira,
will save anyone who can practice rapture like that-
I myself in a previous birth
was a cowherding girl
at Gokul.

-  Mirabai

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How You Know

How do you know if it’s love? she asks,
and I think if you have to ask, it’s not,
but I know this won’t help. I want to say
you’re too young to worry about it,
as if she has questions about Medicare
or social security, but this won’t help either.
“You’ll just know” is a lie, and one truth,
“when you still want to be with them
the next morning” would involve too
many follow-up questions. The difficulty
with love, I want to say, is sometimes
you only know afterwards that it’s arrived
or left. Love is the elephant and we
are the blind mice unable to understand
the whole. I want to say love is this
desire to help even when I know I can’t,
just as I couldn’t explain electricity, stars,
the color of the sky, baldness, tornadoes,
fingernails, coconuts, or the other things
she has asked about over the years, all
those phenomena whose daily existence
seems miraculous. Instead I shake my head.
I don’t even know how to match my socks.
Go ask your mother. She laughs and says,
I did. Mom told me to come and ask you.

Joe Mills

Monday, May 16, 2011

Love Story

The kitchen door opens onto dirt
and the second half of the country
all the way to the Pacific. Rusted
prairie trains out of the tall weeds
elbow the last century aside, rumble
from every direction towards Chicago.

My great-grandfather, who would be
150 years old today, put on his one
tall hat and took the big trip
to Omaha for my great-grandma
with the family ring on his vest
and winter wheat lying wait in seed.

He gave her all the miles he had
and she gave him the future I walk
around in every day. The mountains
were too far west to count so they
doubled back over the land and century
and the real weather kept coming from them.

James Doyle

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The mornings are his,
blue and white
like the tablecloth at breakfast.  
He’s happy in the house,
a sweep of the spoon
brings the birds under his chair.  
He sings and the dishes disappear.

Or holding a crayon like a candle,  
he draws a circle.
It is his hundredth dragonfly.
Calling for more paper,
this one is red-winged
and like the others,
he wills it to fly, simply
by the unformed curve of his signature.

Waterwings he calls them,  
the floats I strap to his arms.  
I wear an apron of concern,  
sweep the morning of birds.  
To the water he returns,  
plunging where it’s cold,
moving and squealing into sunlight.
The water from here seems flecked with gold.

I watch the circles
his small body makes
fan and ripple,
disperse like an echo
into the sum of water, light and air.  
His imprint on the water
has but a brief lifespan,
the flicker of a dragonfly’s delicate wing.

This is sadness, I tell myself,
the morning he chooses to leave his wings behind,  
because he will not remember
that he and beauty were aligned,
skimming across the water, nearly airborne,  
on his first solo flight.
I’ll write “how he could not
contain his delight.”
At the other end,
in another time frame,
he waits for me—
having already outdistanced this body,
the one that slipped from me like a fish,
floating, free of itself.

Cathy Song

Cranes in August

They clutter the house,
awkwardly folded, unable
to rise. My daughter makes
and makes them, having heard
the old story: what we create
may save us. I string
a long line of them over
the window. Outside
the gray doves bring
their one vowel to the air,
the same sound
from many throats, repeated.

Kim Addonizio

Thursday, April 28, 2011

how to write a love poem”

Just today, telling a boy in juvee
how to write a love poem,
I’m stammering over ideas
of detail and unique, trying
to get him not to say happy
or sparkling eyes but to talk
about what is his love’s, only
hers, and no one else’s
like how the first time
I picked up something from
somewhere, a book maybe
a phone, and on the train platform
you smack it straight down
out of my hand and we stare
at each other dead-faced
for a millisecond and then bust
out laughing – like that, I tell
him and he’s cracking up; he’s
dying in this jail, where he doesn’t
know how soon he’ll be out
even though he’s just eighteen
but right now he’s full belly
doubled over and I describe it
to him again and who knows
what this beautiful, tethered young
man has done to forfeit his life
in this place but I remember
again, as he pounds the fused plastic
table how I want sometimes secretly
to hold your head in my hands again
and tell you that a castle of a brownstone
in Brooklyn is yours, that we’ll
be sweet forever, and make
outlandish things from fish and
peppers; and this time I’ll mean
it, except I don’t tell the boy that
part, but he only needs the part
where, when I least expect it,
you’ll slap something out of my
hands and we’ll roll on the floor
laughing and that’s what I want
to remember if you’ll remember
that too, except I worry you don’t
but the boy tells me, still chuckling,
his eyes glassy, that he gets it. I get
he says; detail, I get it, yeah
and shows me the part he’s already
written to his girl about how
he’s not mad that a new man
is holding her and how she deserves
that because she is beautiful
and if he was the new dude, he’d
hold her too, and he respects dude
for knowing how deserving she is
and I say yeah, I get it, like that,
you’re on it. You already know
what to do.

Roger Bonair-Agard

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

To We The People
Lake of creatures and malady
People sometimes flourish
under the sun
The moonlight creatures come out

Micah (Age 9)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How to Spot Someone in Love with You

They tell you you’re brilliant.
They bother you.
They say, “Do you want some of my cookies?”

They are timid around you. They avoid eye contact.
They stare at you when you aren’t looking.
They pause when you talk to them.
They’re spying on you. They’re hiding from you.
You find out they hide a picture of you under their pillow.

They act like they are MACHO!
They pretend they have a six-pack but really they have a six-roll.
They MAKE SURE they say hi to you EVERY DAY.
They bring flowers that you are allergic to. They stand up for you in front of the teacher.
They carve your name in a tree. They throw rocks at your window.
They bring you cookies with hearts on them.

The suspect will blush when you talk to them. Maybe they will faint when they talk to you.
They pretend to faint so that you have to give them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (CPR)
They pass you notes. They write your name on all of their binders in cursive.

Jumping up and wiggling around me, pleading to be scratched behind the ears.
People hugging, dogs licking, horses nuzzling. Skunks stick their tales up very straight and stiff.

They tease you about something they like about you.
They talk about so-and-so. They pretend to like somebody else.
If they think someone else likes you, they hate them.

They try to make you laugh.
They laugh at your dumb jokes.
Their girlfriends giggle around you.
They sing songs that don’t make sense: “I’m a bee spreading my wings, I’m a bee doing my things...”

They blush.
They stick up for you.
They write you a poem.

P.S. They really do stare at you!

by Sarah’s 3/4/5 class

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Late Poem

" . . . a matter of changing a slide in a magic lantern."

I wish we were Indians and ate foie gras
and drove a gas-guzzler
and never wore seat belts

I'd have a baby, yours, cette fois,
and I'd smoke Parliaments
and we'd drink our way through the winter

in spring the baby would laugh at the moon
who is her father and her mother who is his pool
and we'd walk backwards and forwards

in lizard-skin cowboy boots
and read Gilgamesh and Tintin aloud
I'd wear only leather or feathers

plucked from endangered birds and silk
from exploited silkworms
we'd read The Economist

it would be before and after the internet
I'd send you letters by carrier pigeons
who would only fly from one window

to another in our drafty, gigantic house
with twenty-three uninsulated windows
and the dog would be always be

off his leash and always
find his way home as we will one day
and we'd feed small children

peanut butter and coffee in their milk
and I'd keep my hand glued under your belt
even while driving and cooking

and no one would have our number
except I would have yours where I've kept it
carved on the sole of my stiletto

which I would always wear when we walked
in the frozen and dusty wood
and we would keep warm by bickering

and falling into bed perpetually and
entirely unsafely as all the best things are
—your skin and my breath on it.

Cynthia Zarin

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On The Origins Of Things

Everyone knows that the moon started out
as a renegade fragment of the sun, a solar
flare that fled that hellish furnace
and congealed into a flat frozen pond suspended
between the planets. But did you know
that anger began as music, played
too often and too loudly by drunken performers
at weddings and garden parties? Or that turtles
evolved from knuckles, ice from tears, and darkness
from misunderstanding? As for the dominant
thesis regarding the origin of love, I
abstain from comment, nor will I allow
myself to address the idea that dance
began as a kiss, that happiness was
an accidental import from Spain, that the ancient
game of jump-the-fire gave rise
to politics. But I will confess
that I began as an astronomer—a liking
for bright flashes, vast distances, unreachable things,
a hand stretched always toward the furthest limit—
and that my longing for you has not taken me
very far from that original desire
to inscribe a comet's orbit around the walls
of our city, to gently stroke the surface of the stars.

Troy Jollimore

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Lists

I have had, at last count, 44 jobs. Besides writing. Because of my ferocity on the subject of writing, I have refused promotion, insisted on strange hours and manners of employ, skirted any false career that didn’t make room for writing. The first time I noticed that my fanaticism was outwardly evident was when I finished grad school; the NJ and Philadelphia colleges where I taught paid so little that I had to work in a coffee shop, too, to make my rent. I had not been at this coffee shop long, making lattes between grading essays, before people were hanging over the counter asking for prompts, pressing their journals across the counter, telling me about the book they would someday write. My writing ferocity has a big aura, it’s true. I bring my art everywhere I go, in everything I do. Taking inventory in basement bookstores, cleaning cat piss out of attics, serving champagne from silver trays, editing books on foot disease, I bring the river of writing with me everywhere.

This is what I know about the writing life: you must be dogged. Also, you must be flexible.

If you are a writer feeling like you’re not a writer because you have no time, because you have no money, because your faith is lapsing, because your good work is largely unrecognized, remember this: the river of writing is always inside of you. It belongs to you. It is ever present. Sometimes it’s murked green and filled with bloated dead. Sometimes it sparkles and slaps with fat leaping fish. Other times, it is only a watery thread in black muck. Regardless of its incarnation, it is always there. It belongs to you and only you. You are responsible for it.

Actually, I think we worry too much about the writing/product/river itself. If you are going to write, if you will not say no, then the river will always be there. What we should really focus on is our paths to the river. Our methods of returning. Will you not venture down if there are brambles or poison ivy or agendas or hidden beasties? Will you try new paths anytime you have to? Will you do it because you love it?

As a writer, you must write to grow your own innards, your own wisdom, your own sense of self in the world. If you do your writing and share it, you will teach us what you have seen and come to understand it better yourself. This is work so imperative and illuminated that the world must not be allowed to turn without our attempts at it.

So, yeah. “Making time for writing.” This is, to some degree, a fallacy. There is very little time. You can’t make time. I work hard at other things to make money for food and shelter and books. But I maintain, stubbornly, that there is always time to write. It’s already there. If the river is inside of you, then you need not take yourself anywhere, sequester, plan, scheme, schedule, extrapolate time for your writing. You must do it, whenever and wherever and however you can. Thinking counts, too. Living counts, too. Reading counts, too. Writing counts, too. This is your work. Do it however you must.

I have two testimonial lists to the opposing but necessary planets of doggedness and flexibility. Some Things I’ve Written Upon and Some Places Where I’ve Written.

Some Things I’ve Written Upon:

Receipt tape from registers
Folded looseleaf in backpockets
Sheaths of flattened cardboard in an inventory room
The blank page in backs of books
The back flaps of books (when desperate)
Tiny notebooks
Spiral notebooks
Expensive notebooks
Cheap notebooks
recycled, yellowed, fresh, lined and unlined notebooks
Old order forms
Cocktail napkins at the bar between shifts
Paper candy bar wrappers
Once, on a dollar bill, which I then burned to make a point
Receipts from the wallet
Paper ads that fall from magazines
Postcards you meant to send
Old music notation paper
Old library dewey decimal cards
Forming words on a leg, with a finger, for memorization
In acronyms, also for memorization: “The little organ is a dream.” “Dream Organ.” “D. O., D. O.”

Some Places Where I’ve Written:

Under the hedge in Chestnut Hill
In the lunchroom
On their broken chair in the garden
Next to a wheelchair with a woman in it
Beside his easel
Sitting on sand
Sitting on rocks
Sitting on curbs
Sitting on counters
Sitting on benches
Knees up, in bed
Next to 400 suitcases in an attic
In the empty bar before intermission
On the truck
In the hallways
On the edge of the stage
On the sides of mountains
In kayaks
Next to the receiving belt
In the lunchroom
In the lunchroom
In the lunchroom
In the cleaning closet, waiting for the mop bucket to fill
In her borrowed basement
In libraries
In someone else’s kitchen
In the hospital waiting rooms
In my grandfather’s abandoned study
On a box in the closet
Upstairs, with that ghost rushing around
On trains
On porches
On planes
Here, now, where I am making notes on your faces

Be dogged and fierce. Be flexible. Own it.

Elizabeth "Frankie" Rollins

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Give All to Love

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good-frame,
Plans, credit and the Muse,—
Nothing refuse.

’T is a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent:
But it is a god,
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.

It was never for the mean;
It requireth courage stout.
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending,
It will reward,—
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.

Leave all for love;
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,—
Keep thee to-day,
To-morrow, forever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.

Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
First vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young,
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free;
Nor thou detain her vesture’s hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Though her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive;
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011


The mailman
is drunk.
It is spring. It
is spring
and the mailman is
drunk, I see him
shaking his way
down the wet
street from my
window, which
is pretty. My

pretty window the mailman
is drunk in, out
in his slicker
and bright
boots—did I say
it is raining? Rain
and the mailman
is drunk, and
eight, only eight
homes on this
street, and he
is crashing
into air
in the middle—

I love him
for this, love him
drunk, in rain,
in the green pain
oblivion is—

Is it
sick, or strange
placing myself
here in the
story, his green
princess? I did
say it is
spring, and I
see him, and see
the leaves,
slappy wet, begin
to make for the mailman
a frame, a frame
shaped like a leafy
heart, a heart
as leafy as if

as if we
were, this raining
morning, happy.

Laura Newbern

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Am Waiting

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier

and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

Lawrence Ferlingetti

Thursday, February 24, 2011

we came whirling
out of nothingness
scattering stars
like dust



When I Heard the Learned Astronomer

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

If you want what visible reality
can give, you're an employee.
If you want the unseen world,
you're not living your truth.
Both wishes are foolish,
but you'll be forgiven for forgetting
that what you really want is
love's confusing joy.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Allison Wolff

Like a river at night, her hair,
the sky starless, streetlights
glossing the full dark of it:
Was she Jewish? I was seventeen,

an “Afro-American” senior
transferred to a suburban school
that held just a few of us.
And she had light-brown eyes

and tight tube tops and skin
white enough to read by
in a dim room. It was impossible
not to be curious.

Me and my boy, Terry, talked about
“pink honeys” sometimes: we watched
I Dream of Jeannie and could see Barbara
Eden – in her skimpy finery – lounging

on our very own lonely sofas.
We wondered what white girls were
really like, as if they’d been raised
by the freckled light of the moon.

I can’t remember Allison’s voice
but the loud tap of her strapless heels
clacking down the the halls is still clear.
Autumn, 1972: Race was the elephant
sitting on everyone. Even
as a teenager, I took the weight
as part of the weather, a sort of heavy
humidity felt inside and in the streets.

One day, once upon a time, she laughed
with me in the cafeteria – something
about the tater tots, I guess,
or the electric-blue Jell-O. Usually,

it was just some of the displaced brothers
talkin’ noise, clowning around, so she
caught all of us way off-guard. Then,
after school, I waved and she smiled

and the sun was out – that three o’clock,
after-school sun rubbing the sidewalk
with the shadows of trees—

and while the wind pitched the last
of September, we started talking
and the dry leaves shook and sizzled.

In so many ways, I was still a child,
though I wore my seventeen years
like a matador’s cape.

The monsters that murdered
Emmett Till—were they everywhere?
I didn’t know. I didn’t know enough

to worry enough about the story
white people kept trying to tell.
And, given the thing that America is,
maybe sometimes such stupidity works
for the good. Occasionally,

History offers a reprieve, everything
leading up to a particular moment
suddenly declared a mistrial:
so I’m a black boy suddenly

walking the Jenkintown streets
with a white girl—so ridiculously
conspicuous we must’ve been
invisible. I remember her mother

not being home and cold Coca-Cola
in plastic cups and the delicious
length of Allison’s tongue and
we knew, without saying anything.
we were kissing the color line

goodbye and on and on and on for an hour
we kissed, hardly breathing, the light almost
blinding whenever we unclosed our eyes—
as if we had discovered the dreaming door
to a different county and were walking

out as if we could actually
walk the glare we’d been
born into: as if my hand
on her knee, her hand
on my hand, my hand
in her hair, her mouth
on my mouth opened
and opened and opened

Tim Seibles

Wednesday, February 2, 2011



I illuminate myself
with immensity

Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970)
translated by Gian Lombardo


“And suddenly it’s evening”

Ed è subito sera

Ognuno sta solo cuor della terra
traffito da un raggio di sole:
ed è subito sera

Everyone’s always alone on the earth’s breast
pierced by a ray of sunlight:
and suddenly it’s evening

Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968)
translated by Gian Lombardo

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Any true poem should offer its reader paths through thought and intuition toward an altered awareness of his or her own life. I want my poems to speak directly to the reader. At the same time, I hope they complicate the thinking of anyone who reads them. My poems are out of a desire to ask questions, not to supply answers."

Steve Orlen



I’m trying to remember you without nostalgia
thieving your words and hoarding them
because all that I’m getting is the toothbrush
you carried in a mug every day
down the corridor heading for the men’s room
to commit a small act of resistance
against breakdown.

I always laughed:
you have the best hygiene of anyone
in the department, which was a joke
because the stink of cigarettes
surrounded you like the fry oil
of a prep cook. Still something like
tenderness inhered in the mug
and its rigid little daisy.

Here’s how we met: me on job interview
fresh from New England trying
not to sweat in desert heat,
you after friendly dinner with Gail
and studio tour and poetry talk
driving me downtown in some big junk car
with no AC saying Barrio Hollywood
and Hotel Congress and the Shanty.

Then came the test: the story about a whore
in Nogales who had a spider web
tattooed around her pussy. I’m sure that
was the word—offense was the point
and I understood implicit was the question
does your poetry trump your politics?

This was in those years when women
were correcting men as if sex
were a policy that could be rewritten
in a pencil stroke. I passed, laughing it off:
Oh my god you’re kidding that’s incredible.
A poet can find wonder anywhere
and I did wonder how strong a woman
had to be to take that kind of pain.

Here’s how we said goodbye: I came
to visit you, the nurse recalibrating
your drip as you asked, have I got any time?
And you, thumbs down, facing it.
I saw you catch your breath
hand to throat beneath the black t-shirt,
some event the hand would contain,
some moment of self-consolation,
like air was alien.

Aurelie called it
the weird majesty of death
that had come over all of us,
people gathering
in a circle, each face
reorganizing itself through
the eyes of another’s grief
as if to be animated
were to violate the pure encroachment
of the inanimate.

There was a kiss,
me walking you to the bathroom
and then to bed where you lay
in shuttered afternoon light,
others in the room, whatever privacy
once meant it meant no longer
and you seemed nothing but
this invitation to tenderness.

And what kiss was this—not familial peck,
not lovers’ open-mouthed encroachment,
not parental seal of approval but
the mouth opened by the final
so quiet need to say
there is nothing between us
that needs to be cleaned away.

Alison Hawthorne Deming
January 2011

Poet, teacher, friend.

Steve, You will be sorely missed.
We will carry your words with us ~

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Cave of Angelfish Huddle Against the Moon

Put an ear to the light at fall
of dark and you will hear
nothing. This pale luminescence
that drifts in upon them
makes a blue bole of their caves,
a scare of their scything
tails. They tell
in the bubbling dark of images
that come in upon them
when light spreads like an oil slick
and sea fans
that once were their refuge
turn away.
Now there is no dark
dark enough for their silver tails,
scatter of color
(like coins massively
piling in the lap of a miser)
that was, in the day, their pride.
How hugely here we belong.
This is their song
in the silting
drift of the reef.
They have never seen the moon
nor the black scut of night, stars
spread like plankton
in their beastly infinities.

Ron De Maris

(Micah wrote about going to hear President Obama speak in Tucson on January 12, 2011)

I went to hear the president speak with my dad. He talked about the the six people who died from the shooting. One of the most important things he told us what that Gabby opened her eyes! That made me feel happy. He talked about Christina and how she died. I felt sad. Barack Obama got to speak the longest, that made me feel good.

I knew one of the people that got shot. His name is Ron Barber. My mom worked with Gabby at the university.

Afterwards, lots of people were outside looking for Obama’s limousine.