Joy Harjo

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Veteran

I don’t believe in ashes; some of the others do.
I don’t believe in better or best; some of the others do.
I don’t believe in a thousand flowers or the first robin
of the year or statues made of dust. Some of the others do


I don’t believe in seeking sheet music
by Boston Common on a snowy day, don’t believe
in the lighting of malls seasonably
When I’m sleeping I don’t believe in time
as we own it, though some of the others might


Sad lace on green. Veterans stamping the leafy snow
I don’t believe in holidays
long-lasting and artificial. Some of the others do
I don’t believe in starlings of crenelated wings
I don’t believe in berries, red & orange, hanging on
threadlike twigs. Some of the others do


I don’t believe in the light on the river
moving with it or the green bulbs hanging on the elms
Outdoors, indoors, I don’t believe in a gridlock of ripples
or the deep walls people live inside


Some of the others believe in food & drink & perfume
I don’t. And I don’t believe in shut-in time
for those who committed a crime
of passion. Like a sweetheart
of the iceberg or wings lost at sea


the wind is what I believe in,
the One that moves around each form


Fanny Howe

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Mercy

The ship that took my mother to Ellis Island
eighty-three years ago was named "The Mercy."
She remembers trying to eat a banana
without first peeling it and seeing her first orange
in the hands of a young Scot, a seaman
who gave her a bite and wiped her mouth for her
with a red bandana and taught her the word,
"orange," saying it patiently over and over.
A long autumn voyage, the days darkening
with the black waters calming as night came on,
then nothing as far as her eyes could see and space
without limit rushing off to the corners
of creation. She prayed in Russian and Yiddish
to find her family in New York, prayers
unheard or misunderstood or perhaps ignored
by all the powers that swept the waves of darkness
before she woke, that kept "The Mercy" afloat
while smallpox raged among the passengers
and crew until the dead were buried at sea
with strange prayers in a tongue she could not fathom.
"The Mercy," I read on the yellowing pages of a book
I located in a windowless room of the library
on 42nd street, sat thirty-one days
offshore in quarantine before the passengers
disembarked. There a story ends. Other ships
arrived, "Tancred" out of Glasgow, "The Neptune"
registered as Danish, "Umberto IV,"
the list goes on for pages, November gives
way to winter, the sea pounds the alien shore.
Italian miners from Piemonte dig
under towns in western Pennsylvania
only to rediscover the same nightmare
they left at home. A nine-year-old girl travels
all night by train with one suitcase and an orange.
She learns that mercy is something you can eat
again and again while the juice spills over
your chin, you can wipe it away with the back
of your hands and you can never get enough.


Philip Levine

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Animals


Have you forgotten what we were like then
when were were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

Frank O’Hara

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

XVII

No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone.
The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,
they happen in our lives like car crashes,
books that change us, neighborhoods
we move into and come to love.
Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,
women at least should know the difference
between love and death. No poison cup,
no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder
should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder
not merely played but should have listened to us,
and could instruct those after us:
this we were, this is how we tried to love,
and these are the forces they had ranged against us,
and these are the forces we had ranged within us,
within us and against us, against us and within us.

Adrienne Rich
1929-2012

***********************************

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and from moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.

                        e.e.cummings