Sunday, December 31, 2006

301. Edward Lear - W. H. Auden

.
Left by his friend to breakfast alone on the white
Italian shore, his Terrible Demon arose
Over his shoulder; he wept to himself in the night,
A dirty landscape-painter who hated his nose.

The legions of cruel inquisitive They
Were so many and big like dogs: he was upset
By Germans and boats; affection was miles away:
But guided by tears he successfully reached his Regret.

How prodigious the welcome was. Flowers took his hat
And bore him off to introduce him to the tongs;
The demon's false nose made the table laugh; a cat
Soon had him waltzing madly, let him squeeze her hand;
Words pushed him to the piano to sing comic songs;

And children swarmed to him like settlers. He became a land.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

300. The Ascensions - William Pillin

.
You, Marc Chagall, should be able to tell us
what was cremated in Thor's ovens,
you who were always painting ascensions.

The ascensions of priestly violinists,
the ascension of white-gowned brides,
the ascension of purple donkeys,
of lovers, of bouquets, of golden cockerels,
ascensions into the clair-de-lune.

O this soaring
out of shanties and cellars!
the folk spirit ascending
through enchanted alphabets,
through magical numbers,
to a wandering in bluest realms.

The ascension
(from sewers, dives, back-alleys)
of folk-songs to the new moon,
to the feast of lights,
to the silences of Friday evening . . .

. . . and suddenly
in the quietude of steppes
a thin column of smoke ascending
and after that
no more ascensions

* * *

No more ascensions!
Only stone chimneys
heavily clinging
to the earth of Poland.
Not even a marker saying:
Here the Zhids
en-masse ascended

Friday, December 29, 2006

299. From: In My Life, On My Life - Yehuda Amichai

10
When a man dies, they say "He was gathered unto his fathers."
As long as he is alive, his fathers are gathered within him,
each cell of his body and soul a delegate from one of his
thousands of fathers since the beginning of time.

11
Each day now I hear the circles of my life closing,
the click of buckles, like kisses
of conciliation and love. And these lend a rhythm
to the latest version of my life. Things that were lost long ago
find their places now, like billiard balls, each on into its pocket.
Contracts and prophecies are fulfilled, prophecies true and false.
I come upon the missing lids of pots and pans that stayed uncovered,
I find the matching pieces, like an ancient contract of clay
broken into two parts, unequal but fitting together.
Like a mosaic, like a jigsaw puzzle, children searching
for the missing pieces. When the game is over,
the picture will be whole. Complete.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

298. Sad Sestina - Robin Becker

For Susanna Kaysen
from The Horse Fair Illustrates

Today’s sadness is different from yesterday’s:
more green in it, some light rain, premonition of departures
and the unpacking of books and papers. It’s not a bad thing
to be sad, my friend Susanna says. Go with it. I’m going by foot
into this sadness, the way we go as children into the awful
school day and the hours of cruelty and misunderstanding,

the way we go into family, into the savagery of standing
up for ourselves among siblings and parents, in yesterday’s
living room, where secrecy turns to habit and we learn the awful,
unthinkable fact: time twists our days into a series of departures.
When he was mad, my father used to say Someone’s got to foot
the bills, and I think of him now, this man who knew one thing

for sure: you had to pay your own way, since nothing
came free in this life. A young dyke, grandstanding
before the relatives, I held my sadness close, one foot
already out the door. Who could believe in yesterday’s
homilies while women cruised me, seventeen and hot for departure?
Today’s sadness unfurls without drama, without the awful

punishments or reprisals of that house. In its place, the awful,
simple, mystery of human melancholy. Most days, I’d trade anything
to be rid of the blues, accustomed to flight and departure,
strategies that saved my life. Today I’m befriending it, standing
beside my sadness like a pal down on her luck, who knows yesterday
isn’t always a good predictor for tomorrow. A rabbit’s foot

won’t help; when the time comes, it’s a question of putting my foot
in the stirrup and riding the sad horse of my body to the awful
little stable at the edge of town. And there to wait while yesterday
has its way with time. Susanna said, To be sad is not a bad thing,
and I believe her, as I pull the heavy saddle from the standing
horse and hang the bridle away. Sadness readies for my departure,

and I for hers. In a most unlikely departure
from the ordinary, even the tough butch on a bike will be a tenderfoot
when it comes to goodbyes. We carry on, notwithstanding
all the good times gone and December’s awful
cheerfulness. Susanna, if I ever discern something
useful about sadness, I’ll wish I’d known it yesterday.

I’ve put distracting things aside and discovered, underfoot,
no wisdom absent yesterday. Still, a saint would find this awful:
a standing date with change, a season of departures.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

297. XVI. Even As Love Grows More, I Write The Less

.
Even as love grows more, I write the less,
Impelled to speak, unable still to voice
The lyric thoughts like angels that rejoice
Attendant on thy godly loveliness.
Stay the bright swallow high in airy poise,
Carve out of stone an infinite caress,
Garner the fruits of tears and happiness,
Make bloom forever what an hour destroys,

Then shamed by such unprecedented skill
I may find words to name thee, and to sing
Such praises of thy beauty as shall fill
The listening world with floods of carolling;
Till then thou art like starlight on the air,
Or clouds at dawn, unutterably fair.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

296. Heard and Seen - W. H. Auden

.
Events reported by the ear
Are soft or loud, not far or near,
In what is heard we only sense
Transition and impermanence:
A bark, a laugh, a rifle-shot
These may concern us or may not.

What-has-been and what-is-to-be
To vision form a unity:
The seen hill stays the way it is,
But forecasts greater distances,
And we acknowledge with delight
A so-on after every sight.

Monday, December 25, 2006

295. Evenescence - Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn - Evanescence

The silhouette of a mountain. Above it
a dark halo of rain. Dusk's light
fading, holding on. He thinks he's seen
some visible trace of some absent thing.
Knows he won't talk about it, can't.
He arrives home to the small winter pleasures
of a clothes tree, a hatrack,
his heroine in a housedress saying hello.
He could be anyone aware of an almost,
not necessarily sad. He could be a brute
suddenly chastened by the physical world.
They talk about the storm in the mountains
destined for the lowlands, the béarnaise sauce
and the fine cut of beef it improves.
The commonplace and its contingincies,
his half-filled cup, the monstrous
domesticated by the six o'clock news––
these are his endurances,
in fact his privileges, if he has any sense.
Later while they make love, he thinks of
Mantle's long home run in the '57 Series
He falls to sleep searching for a word.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

294. Saying Things - Marilyn Krysl

.
Three things quickly - pineapple, sparrowgrass, whale -
and then on to asbestos. What I want to say tonight is
words, the naming of things into their thing,
yucca, brown sugar, solo, the roll of a snare drum,
say something, say anything, you'll see what I mean.
Say windmill, you feel the word fly out from under and away.
Say eye, say shearwater, alewife, apache, harpoon,
do you see what I'm saying, say celery, say Seattle,
say a whole city, say San Jose. You can feel the word
rising like a taste on the palate, say
tuning fork, angel, temperature, meadow, silver nitrate,
try carbon cycle, point lace, helium, Micronesia, quail.
Any word - say it - belladonna, screw auger, spitball,
any word goes like a gull up and on its way,
even lead lifts like a swallow from the nest
of your tongue. Say incandescence, bonnet, universal joint,
lint - oh I invite you to try it. Say cold cream,
corydalis, corset, cotillion, cosmic dust,
you are all of you a generous and patient audience,
pilaster, cashmere, mattress, Washington pie,
say vise, inclinometer, enjambment, you feel your own voice
taking off like a swift, when you say a word you feel like
a gong that's been struck, to speak is to step out of your skin,
stunned. And you're a pulsar, finally you understand light
is both particle and wave, you can see it, as in
parlour - when do you get a chance to say parlour -
and now mackinaw, toad and ham wing their way
to the heaven of their thing. Say bellows, say sledge,
say threshold, cottonmouth, Russia leather,
say ash, picot, fallow deer, saxophone, say kitchen sink.
This is a birthday party for the mouth - it's better than ice cream,
say waterlily, refridgerator, hartebeest, Prussian blue
and the word will take you, if you let it,
the word will take you along across the air of your head
so that you're there as it settles into the thing it was made for,
adding to it a shimmer and the bird song of its sound,
sound that comes from you, the hand letting go
its dove, yours the mouth speaking the thing into existence,
this is what I'm talking about, this is called saying things.

from The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes

Saturday, December 23, 2006

294. The Birds - Linda Pastan

The Birds

are heading south, pulled
by a compass in the genes.
They are not fooled
by this odd November summer,
though we stand in our doorways
wearing cotton dresses.
We are watching them

as they swoop and gather–
the shadow of wings
falls over the heart.
When they rustle among
the empty branches, the trees
must think their lost leaves
have come back.

The birds are heading south,
instinct is the oldest story.
They fly over their doubles,
the mute weathervanes,
teaching all of us
with their tailfeathers
the true north.

Friday, December 22, 2006

292. After Making Love We Hear Footsteps - Galway Kinnell

.
For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run––as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long married
and he appears––in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small
he has to screw them on, which one day may make him wonder
about the mental capacity of baseball players––
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other and smile
and touch arms across his little, startling muscled body––
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
and blessing love gives again into our arms.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

291. Fire On The Hills - Robinson Jeffers

.
The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front of the roaring wave of the brushfire;
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned
down the black slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,
Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of the his shoulders.
He had come from far off for the good hunting
With fire for his beater to drive the game; the sky was merciless
Blue, and the hills merciless black,
The sombre-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

290. From: 'The Pauper Witch of Grafton' - Robert Frost

.
I was a strapping girl of twenty then.
The smarty someone who spoiled everything
Was Arthur Amy. You know who he was.
That was the way he started courting me.
He never said much after we were married,
But I mistrusted he was none too proud
Of having interfered in the Huse business.
I guess he found he got more out of me
By having me a witch. Or something happened
To turn him round. He got to saying things
To undo what he'd done and make it right,
Like, "No, she ain't come back from kiting yet.
Last night was one of her nights out. She's kiting.
She thinks when the wind makes a night of it
She might as well herself." But he looked best
To let on he was plagued to death with me:
If anyone had seen me coming home
Over the ridgepole, 'stride of a broomstick,
As often as he had in the tail of the night,
He guessed they'd know what he had to put up with.
Well, I showed Arthur Amy signs enough
Off from the house as far as we could keep
And from barn smells you can't wash out of plowed ground
With all the rain and snow of seven years;
And I don't mean just skulls of Roger's Rangers
On Moosilauke, but woman signs to man,
Only bewitched so I would last him longer.
Up where the trees grow short, the mosses tall,
I made him gather me wet snowberries
On slippery rocks beside a waterfall.
I made him do it for me in the dark.
And he liked everything I made him do.
I hope if he is where he sees me now
He's so far off he can't see what I've come to.
You can come down from everything to nothing.
All is, if I'd a-known when I was young
And full of it, that this would be the end,
It doesn't seem to me as if I'd had the courage
To make so free and kick up in folk's faces.
I might have, but it doesn't seem as if.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

289. The Known Unknown - Pattiann Rogers

Some unknowns we can identify––
the untraversed knife-rare ravines
and gorges, the unmapped inner-salt
canyons of an iceberg mountain extending
downward beneath the brief blue spear
of its crag visible above the polar sea.

There are unnamed species
of rainforest beetles, undiscovered,
and, though I myself have never seen them
and therefore cannot truthfully
be said to know them, I believe
in the cosmos of roots composing
subterranean forests of aspen
and pine beneath the forest
where I walk.

None of us will ever know
how a crystal of honeysuckle honey
feels on the tongue off the digger bee.
We will never collect the flowers
of the field daylilies mowed under
in their buds, nor realize any god
whose divinity is left unproclaimed.

There is something a little rapturous
in contemplating the unheard portion
of the phoebe's call, the portion
that might exist beyond this evening's
call were the phoebe to push a measure
further into another realm of itself.
And despite always remaining unknown,
it might be pleasurable to imagine
the sound of Plato's voice, the touch
of Mary's hand, or how it might be
to kiss the blind eyes of Homer, the living
lips of Arthur the King.

The unknown yet known also is vast,
residing from the beginning in the acumen
of the fingertips, the discernment
of the eye, inherent to the unspoken
canon of careful footsteps.

Yet, though I worship it, this
is most fearful to me, being nothing
more than the look of its letters,
the sound of its words: the unknown
unknown.

Monday, December 18, 2006

288. Sestina: Vanishing Point - Marilyn Krysl

.
A city, alive with sleeping people. Awake, the man
feels in his pockets. A roll of film, loose change,
ticket stubs, a book of matches. All he owns
can be quickly summarized. The drift of moonlight
across the dark floor is more to the point
here. Some things don't pin down. The woman

he thought was his is now another woman
in another city. Luminous, she leaves the man
his own flesh, a roll of film. the vanishing point
is that moment when the phone's ringing changes
to silence, and we are vibrant and alone, and moonlight
seems like the only thing that's left worth owning

and we attend its shifting configuration, own it
by our attention. His fist is empty. The woman
is on the move. Like many lovers the moonlight
waxes, illumines her, and wanes, and the man's
heart will beat until it stops. We are a cellchange,
we vanish and reappear, and there's a point

at which you are not who you were. At some point––
but where? she knows no location, only her own
shifting configuration, the play of loose change
in Heisenberg's pocket, nude descending a staircase. A woman
dies but her fingernails grow after death. The man
caught her once, asleep beside a shaft of moonlight

but he moved: the photo's blurred, moonlight
and flesh in slow fog, through their point
of vanishing and gone. There's not a man
on earth or moon can claim to own
white clarity for long. Or was it the woman
dreaming an earthquake, buckling rock changing

the lay of the land? At some point she wakes, changes
cities, names, cuts her hair. Like moonlight
we occur and reoccur. He's not wrong, but the woman
in the photo is dead, the moon's set. What's the point
of trying to buy time? What this man owns
isn't what he needs in the dark. This is the man

who wanted to remember the point at which he fell
asleep. But he's awake, without moonlight or a plan
on his own, on the move, changing like a woman leaving a man.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

287. At Once I Was Irish, At Least - Thomas Whitehead

.
There was no one with me, so
I took my hot baked potato
and while I ate the other
portions of my uncomplicated dinner,

held the potato inside my jacket
and right over my heart,
and you should know, before
we part, how I was better for it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

286. Fugue - Howard Neverov

.
You see them vanish in their speeding cars,
The many people hastening through the world,
And wonder what they would have done before
This time of time speed distance, random streams
Of molecules hastened by what rising heat?
Was there never a world where people just sat still?

Yet they might be all of them contemplatives
Of a timeless now, drivers and passengers
In the moving cars all facing to the front
Which is the future, which is destiny,
Which is desire and desire's end––
What are they doing but just sitting still?

And still at speed they fly away, as still
As the road paid out beneath them as it flows
Moment by moment into the mirrored past;
They spread in their wake the parading fields of food,
The windowless works where who is making what,
The grey towns where the wishes and the fears are done.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

285. On The Circuit - W. H. Auden

.
Among the pelagian travelers,
Lost on their lewd conceited way
To Massachusetts, Michigan,
Miami or L.A.,

An airborne instrument I sit,
Predestined nightly to fulfill
Columbia-Giesen-Management's
Unfathomable will,

By whose election justified,
I bring my gospel of the Muse
To fundamentalists, to nuns,
To Gentiles and to Jews,

And daily, seven days a week,
Before a local sense has jelled,
From talking-site to talking-site
Am jet-or prop-propelled.

Though warm my welcome everywhere,
I shift so frequently, so fast
I cannot now say where I was
The evening before last.

Unless some singular event
Should intervene to save the place,
A truly asinine remark,
A soul-bewitching face,

Or blessed encounter, full of joy,
Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan,
With, here , an addict of Tolkien,
There, a Charles Williams fan.

Since Merit but a dunghill is,
I mount the rostrum unafraid:
Indeed, 'twere damnable to ask
If I am overpaid.

Spirit is willing to repeat
Without a qualm the same old talk,
But Flesh is homesick for our snug
Apartment in New York.

A sulky fifty-six, he finds
A change of mealtime utter hell,
Grown far too crotchety to like
A luxury hotel.

The Bible is a goodly book
I always can peruse with zest,
But really cannot say the same
For Hilton's Be My Guest.

Nor bear with equanimity
The radio in students' cars,
Muzak at breakfast, or––dear God!––
Girl-organists in bars.

Then, worst of all, the anxious thought,
Each time my plane begins to sink
And the No Smoking sign comes on:
What will there be to drink?

Is this a milieu where I must
How grahamgreeneish! How infra dig!
Snatch from the bottle in by bag
An analeptic swig?

Another morning comes: I see,
Dwindling below me on the plane,
The roofs of one more audience
I shall not see again.

God bless the lot of them, although
I don't remember which was which:
God bless the U.S.A., so large,
So friendly, and so rich.

284. Medium as Meteorologist - Heather McHugh

.
Listening in or looking out,
alert to othernesses, grasping something
now and then, a hand or pattern, circle,
sympathy or symbol (one side trembles
when the other one grows hot) – not

knowing one is feeling, past
five-minded touch, one wants
to feel secure. What comes is no more
than an airwave, lick of love, or lack
of candlepower – focus on the glimmer as

the blown rain batters us broadside
from the haunts of nature, just beyond
the blinds. Our knowing is only
a feel for nuance: sentience itself
the whole séance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

283. Boustrophedon - Edward Kleinschmidt

.
Whereas some poems are baskets catching falling
Things, some line up for the diving board
To add twenty-five laps to their scorecards.
This is such a poem. This is the turn this poem
Has taken. If the title is misleading, it is not
Meandering. Its point, like the needle's,
Only indicates direction to the doubled
Thread it is pulling. It might close up random
Pieces of cloth. Stitching can be satisfying
In itself. Take the anklebone broken from
Stepping in a pothole––it is mending and deserves
A crutch. When the bone ages a million years
It will be a prize for those looking. I have
Zigzagged up hills. I have read it is recommended.
Which is zig and which zag I am confused about:
How long can I zig––or zag––before zig loses
Its meaning and becomes, simply, straight line?
I would like to think I could zag all day, zag
To the mailbox, zag to the flowershop, zag home.
I have worn a furrow to the window and have three
Furrows in by forehead when I am surprised at what
I see. I do not know what the ox in the field
Is thinking, plowing on Sunday, twenty-five turns
It has memorized––better to be here than at the hecatomb!
These U-turns, returns, pull the line, turn, turn the world.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

282. To Goethe: A Complaint - W. H. Auden

.
How wonderfully your songs begin
With praise of Nature and her beauty,
But then, as if it were a duty,
You drag some god-damned sweetheart in.
Did you imagine she'd be flattered?
They never sound as if they mattered.

Monday, December 11, 2006

281. Bird-Language - W. H. Auden

.
Trying to understand the words
Uttered on all sides by birds,
I recognize in what I hear
Noises that betoken fear.

Thought some of them, I'm certain, must
Stand for rage, bravado, lust,
All other notes that birds employ
Sound like synonyms for joy.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

280. Poem In Praise of My Husband - Diane di Prima

.
I suppose it hasn't been easy living with me either,
with my piques, and ups and downs, my need for privacy
leo pride and weeping in bed when you're trying to sleep
and you, interrupting me in the middle of a thousand poems
did I call the insurance people? the time you stopped a poem
in the middle of our drive over the nebraska hills and
into colorado, odetta singing, the whole world singing in me
the triumph of our revolution in the air
me about to get that down, and you
you saying something about the carburetor
so that it all went away

but we cling to each other
as if each thought the other was the raft
and he adrift alone, as in this mud house
not big enough, the walls dusting down around us, a fine dust rain
counteracting the good, high air, and stuffing our nostrils
we hang our pictures of the several worlds:
new york collage, and san francisco posters,
set out our japanese dishes, chinese knives
hammer small indian marriage cloths into the adobe
we stumble thru silence into each other's gut

blundering thru from one wrong place to the next
like kids who snuck out to play on a boat at night
and the boat slipped from its mooring, and they look at the stars
about which they know nothing, to find out
where they are going

Friday, December 08, 2006

279. Year's End - Richard Wilbur

.
Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.

I've known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.

There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And in Pompeii

The little dog lay curled and did not rise
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.

These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

278. A Child Is Something Else Again - Yehuda Amichai

.
A child is something else again. wakes up
in the afternoon and in an instant he's full of words,
in an instant he's humming, in an instant warm,
instant light, instant darkness.

A child is Job. They've already placed their bets on him
but he doesn't know it. He scratches his body for pleasure. Nothing hurts yet.
They're training him to be a polite Job,
to say 'thank you' when the lord has given,
to say 'you're welcome' when the lord has taken away.

A child is vengeance.
A child is a missile into the coming generations.
I launched him: I'm still trembling.

A child is something else again: on rainy spring day
glimpsing the garden of Eden through the fence,
kissing him in his sleep,
hearing footsteps in the wet pine needles.
A child delivers you from death.
Child, Garden, Rain, Fate.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

277. Freddy - Stevie Smith

.
Nobody knows what I feel about Freddy
I cannot make anyone understand
I love him sub specie aet ernitaties
I love him out of hand.
I don't love him so much in the restaurants that's a fact
To get him hobnob with my old pub chums needs too much tact
He don't love them and they don't love him
In the pub lub lights they say Freddy very dim.
But get him alone on the open saltings
Where the sea licks up to the fen
He is his and my own heart's best
World without end ahem.
People who say we ought to get married ought to get
smacked:
Why should we do it when we can't afford it and have
ourselves whacked?
Thank you kind friends and relations thank you,
We do very well as we do.
Oh what do I care for the pub lub lights
And the friends I love so well-
There's more in the way I feel about Freddy
Than a friend cal tell.
But all the same I don't care much for his meelyoo I mean
I don't anheimate mich in the ha-ha well-off suburban scene
Where men are few and hearts go tumptytum
In the tennis club lub lights poet very dumb.
But there never was a boy like Freddy
For a haystack's ivory tower of bliss
Where speaking sub specie humanitatis
Freddy and me can kiss.
Exhiled from his meelyoo
Exhiled from mine
There's all Tom Tiddler's time pocket
For his love and mine.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

276. The Precision Of Pain and the Blurriness of Joy - Yehuda Amichai

From: The Precision of of Pain and the Blurriness of Joy: The Touch of Longing Is Everywhere
1
I sit in my friends' garden on a chair made of hollow
bamboo reeds. Other reeds were turned into flutes to be played
in other places. I sit at ease, I sit shiva for time lost
and time that will be lost, and my heart is calm and quiet.
The spirits of the dead visit me in the light of day
and the spirits of the living haunt my nights.
I sit on a chair made of bamboo reeds
that wanted to be flutes, just as the flutes would have liked
to be calm and quiet in a chair. I think about bamboo reeds
that grow near the water. There's longing everywhere.
The precision of pain and the blurriness of joy.

15
And all the while messengers keep running back and forth
to my childhood to retrieve what I forgot or left behind
as if from a house that is about to be demolished,
or like Robinson Crusoe, from the slowly sinking ship
to the island––so I salvage from by childhood provisions and memories
for the next installment of my life.

16
The precision of pain and the blurriness of joy. I'm thinking
how precise people are when they describe their pain in a doctor's office.
Even those who haven't learned to read and write are precise:
"This one's a throbbing pain, that one's a wrenching pain,
this one gnaws, that one burns, this is a sharp pain
and that––a dull one. Right here. Precisely here,
yes, yes." Joy blurs everything, I've heard people say
after night of love and feasting, "It was great,
I was in seventh heaven." Even the spaceman who floated
in outer space, tethered to a spaceship, could say only, "Great,
wonderful, I have no words."
The blurriness of joy and the precision of pain––
I want to describe, with a sharp pain's precision, happiness
and blurry joy. I learned to speak among the pains.

Monday, December 04, 2006

275. The Form Of That Which Is Sought - Pattiann Rogers

.
It could fill and take the shape
of the multiple spaces in the pauses
and sliding shrills of a coyote's
long yodel, or it might match
in measure the pieces of the jagged
sky crossed once and split twice
by the screeching tin bells
of two green hummingbirds fighting
in flight. Perhaps, standing alone
in a field of winter grasses,
my back to the gorged and robust
moon, it assumes the configuration
of all the vacancies not silver-
white with light.

Maybe its structure is like the quick
erratic descent and collapse
of the licks of black that allow
the leaping of flames at night,
or maybe it is the shape fitting
exactly the circle sizes created
inside the atom by its theory.
Its form might be the one difference
between the plump red-gold pulp
of a nectarine and the hard wrinkle
of the pit of its living heart,
or it might possess the form
of the similarity held in common
by a gray-speckled longhorn grazing
in rain and a splintered crack
spreading in the glass of an Arctic
iceberg and the final lingering
chord of a requiem mass.

If it could just be put in the mouth,
then one might know it by the tongue,
feeling all the edges and folds,
the dimensions and horizons
of the shuddering bittersweet shape
of its word. Or, how about this:
it is like love in total darkness,
its form moment by moment becoming itself
and tangible through the gentleness
and finesse upon which the blind
will always depend.

Friday, December 01, 2006

274. Summer Storm - Louis Simpson

.
In that so sudden summer storm they tried
Each bed, couch, closet, carpet, car-seat, table,
Both river banks, five fields, a mountain side,
Covering as much ground as they were able.

A lady, coming on them in the dark
In a white fixture, wrote to the newspapers
Complaining of the statues in the park.
By Cupid, but they cut some pretty capers!

The envious oxen in still rings would stand
Ruminating. Their sweet incessant plows
I think had changed the contours of the land
And made two modest conies move their house.

God rest them well, and firmly shut the door.
Now they are married. Nature breathes once more.

273. Thinking of Tents - Reed Whittemore

.
I am thinking of tents and tentage, tents through the ages.
I had half a tent in the army and rolled it religiously,
But Supply stole it back at war's end, leaving me tentless.
And tentless I thankfully still am, a house man at heart,
Thinking of tents as one who has passed quite beyond tents,
Passed the stakes and the flaps, mosquitoes and mildew,
And come to the ultimate tent, archetypal, platonic
With one cot in it, and one man curled on the cot
Drinking, cooling small angers, smelling death in the distance––
War's end––
World's end––
Sullen Achilles.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

272. Epilogue - Robert Lowell

.
Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme--
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter's vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All's misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun's illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

271. Musée Des Beaux Arts - W. H. Auden

.
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

270. Giacometti - Richard Wilber

.
Rock insults us, hard and so boldly browed
Its scorn needs not to focus, and with fists
Which still unstirring strike:
Collected it resists
Until its buried glare begets a like
Anger in us, and finds our hardness. Proud,

Then, and armed, and with a patient rage
We carve cliff, shear stone to blocks,
And down to the the image of man
Batter and shape the rock's
Fierce composure, closing its veins within
That outside man, itself its captive cage.

So we can baffle rock, and in our will
Can clothe and keep it. But if our will, though locked
In stone it clutches, change,
Then are we much worse mocked
Than cliffs can do: then we ourselves are strange
To what we were, which lowers on us still.

High in the air those habitants of stone
Look heavenward, lean to a thought, or stride
Toward some concluded war,
While we on every side,
Random as shells the sea drops down ashore,
Are walking, walking, many and alone.

What stony shape could hold us now, what hard
Bent can we bulk in air, where shall our feet
Come to a common stand?
Follow along this street
(Where rock recovers carven eye and hand),
Open the gate, and cross the narrow yard

And look where Giacometti in a room
Dim as a cave of the sea, has built the man
We are, and made him walk:
Towering like a thin
Coral, out of a reef of plaster chalk,
This is the single form we can assume.

We are this man unspeakably alone
Yet stripped of the singular utterly, shaved and scraped
Of all but being there,
Whose fullness is escaped
Like a burst balloon's: no nakedness so bare
As flesh gone in inquiring of the bone.

He is pruned of every gesture, saving only
The habit of coming and going. Every pace
Shuffles a million feet.
The faces in this face
Are all forgotten faces of the street
Gathered to one anonymous and lonely.

No prince and no Leviathan, he is made
Of infinite farewells. O never more
Diminished, nonetheless
Embodied here, we are
This starless walker, one who cannot guess
His will, his keel his nose's bony blade.

And volumes hover round like future shades
This least of man, in whom we join and take
A pilgrim's step behind,
And in whose guise we make
Our grim departures now, walking to find
What railleries of rock, what palisades?

Monday, November 27, 2006

269. London Pavement Artist - James Schevill

.
His place is before, not in, the National Gallery,
On the sidewalk, down on hands and knees,
Grey hair a massive flag of identity,
Hands like hooks grappling with stone,
Savage beard a porcupine defense
Against the jeers of passerby.
Draw to eat. Simple motivation,
But what eats him is the pavement,
Devouring his images of chalk
That rain-washed, fog-lost, wind-whipped cement
On which he draws flowers and faces,
Simple subjects to elicit simple coins,
Penny and ha'penny thudding in his cap.
It it art" Stupid question.
The images of chalk fade in the rain . . .
Art is the pavement that eats you.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

268. The Western Approaches - Howard Nemerov

.
As long as we look forward, all seems free,
Uncertain, subject to the Laws of Chance,
Though strange that chance should lie subject to laws,
But looking back on life it is as if
Our Book of Changes never let us change.

Stories already told a time ago
Were waiting for us down the road, our lives
But filled them out; and dreams about the past
Show us the world is post meridian
With little future left to dream about.

Old stories none but scholars seem to tell
among us any more, they hide the ways,
Old tales less comprehensible than life
Whence nonetheless we know the things we do
And do the things they say the fathers did.

When I was young I flew past Skerryvore
Where the Nine Maidens still grind Hamlet's meal,
The salt and granite grain of bitter earth,
But knew it not for twenty years and more.
My chances past their changes now, I know

How long life grows ghostly towards the close
As any man dissolves in Everyman
Of whom the story, as it always did, begins
In a far country, once upon a time,
There lived a certain man and he had three sons . . .

Saturday, November 25, 2006

267. In November - Lisel Mueller

.
Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.

Friday, November 24, 2006

266. West - Louis Simpson

.
On US 101
I felt the traffic running like a beast,
Roaring in space.

Tamalpais
The red princess slopes
In honeyed burial from hair to feet;
The sharp lifting fog
Uncurtains Richmond and the ridge
––With two red rubies set upon the bridge––
And curtains them again.

Ranching in Bolinas, that's the life,
If you call cattle life.
To sit on a veranda with a glass
And see the sprinklers watering your land
And hear the peaches dropping from the trees
And hear the ocean in the redwood trees,

The whales of time,
Masts of the long voyages of earth,
In whose tall branches day
Hangs like a Christmas toy.

On their red columns drowse
The eagles battered at the Western gate;
These trees have held the eagles in their state
When Rome was still a rumor in the boughs.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

265. Mississippi - Louis Simpson

.
When we went down the river on a raft
So smooth it was and easy it would seem
Land moved but never we. Clouds faded aft
In castles. Trees would hurry in the dream
Of water, where we gazed, with this log craft
America suspended on a gleam.

The days were mostly pipes and fishing lines,
Though for a turn or two we had a king,
A Nonesuch with his royal monkeyshines,
But treacherous, for all his capering.
The naked wickedness of his designs
Brought on Democracy, a steady thing.

Steady but alarming. Rip-tooth snags
Are wrapped in smoothness like the tiger's hide,
And when she blows, chickens and carpet bags
Go roiling seaward on the yellow tide.
And Brady photographs the men like flags
Still tilted in the charges where they died.

The river is too strong for bank or bar,
The landmarks change, and nothing would remain
But for the man who travels by a star,
Whose careful eye adjusts the course again . . .
Still shadow at the wheel, his rich cigar
Glowed like a point of rectitude––Mark Twain.

If ever there were Mississippi nights,
If ever there was Dixie, as they sing,
Cry, you may cry, for all your true delights
Lost with the banjo and the Chicken Wing
Where old St. Joe slid on the water lights
And on into the dark, diminishing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

264. 90 North - Randall Jarrell

.
At home, in my flannel gown, like a bear to its floe,
I clambered to bed; up the globe's impossible sides
I sailed all night—till at last, with my black beard,
My furs and my dogs, I stood at the northern pole.

There in the childish night my companions lay frozen,
The stiff fur knocked at my starveling throat,
And I gave my great sigh: the flakes came huddling,
Were they really my end? In the darkness I turned to my rest.

—Here, the flag snaps in the glare and silence
Of the unbroken ice. I stand here,
The dogs bark, my beard is black, and I stare
At the North Pole . . .
And now what? Why, go back.

Turn as I please, my step is to the south.
The world—my world spins on this final point
Of cold and wretchedness: all lines, all winds
End in this whirlpool I at last discover.

And it is meaningless. In the child's bed
After the night's voyage, in that warm world
Where people work and suffer for the end
That crowns the pain—in that Cloud-Cuckoo-Land

I reached my North and it had meaning.
Here at the actual pole of my existence,
Where all that I have done is meaningless,
Where I die or live by accident alone—

Where, living or dying, I am still alone;
Here where North, the night, the berg of death
Crowd me out of the ignorant darkness,
I see at last that all the knowledge

I wrung from the darkness—that the darkness flung me—
Is worthless as ignorance: nothing comes from nothing,
The darkness from the darkness. Pain comes from the darkness
And we call it wisdom. It is pain.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

263. 50 Years Linda Pastan

.
Though we know
how it will end:
in grief and silence,
we go about our ordinary days
as if the acts of boiling an egg
or smoothing down a bed
were so small
they must be overlooked
by death. And perhaps

the few years left, sun drenched
but without grand purpose,
will somehow endure,
the way a portrait of lovers endures
radiant and true on the wall
of some obscure Dutch museum,
long after the names
of the artist and models
have disappeared.

Monday, November 20, 2006

262. Song Of The Oceans Of The World Becoming - Pattiann Rogers

.
The song of the oceans
of the world becoming is always
among us. It rises over and over
from the oceans of the grasslands,
rippling like the shifting waves of orange
autumn sorrell, green May barley.
It ascends in immediacy
from the oceans of the forest floor,
spreads through a flotsam of mosses,
ferns, vine maple, pine accretions;
thus it is permeated by branches,
staubs, leaves, thorny seeds, shingled
bark, which become, in truth,
the momentary architecture
of its carriage and meter.

Smelling slightly of salt, wet weed,
and sea sand, down comes this song
again and again like a tidal blue
surf of the skies, down from the floating
black depth of the stars. It swirls
like channeled winds flooding rock
caverns, like lolling swells of winter
in a whiteout. It engulfs with daylight,
spilling around and throughout
a solar deluge of summer.

The song of the world becoming
in its expanse and bottomless height
can nonetheless gather wholly
into one molecule on the tip of one
tentacle of an anemone attached
to the rim of a low-tide rock,
and briefly balance there. It is complete
and prophetic in a gesture of light
off the neon needle of a damselfly
vanishing and reappearing above
warm mud and water rushes

The song of the oceans of migrating
caribou, flocking bats, goldfinches,
of swarming honey bees, swarming
suns and stellar dusts, travels
beautifully with all the masses
of its expanding cosmic horizons.
Present in circular motions to the outer
edges of the known universe evolving,
it is ancient, it is partial.

So the song is becoming as the world
becomes, and it can never leave us;
for we are the notice in its passages,
and we are the divining in its composition,
and we practice in death the immortality
of its nature forever.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

261. Snow Thinking - Pattiann Rogers

Pattiann Rogers - Snow Thinking

Someone must have thought of snow falling first,
before it happened. That's what I believe,
someone way before me, way before anyone
could write "snow" and then see it happen––
in the cracks between the mud bricks
of the patio, assuming the shapes
of seeded sedum and wineleaf, covering
the tops of overturned flowerpots,
so much whiter than the sky it comes from––
as we do sometimes.

I think it must have come (the being
of the motion of snow, I mean, furling out
of the black, this method of winding
and loosening, this manner of arriving)
first from deep inside someone, as we say,
out of some quiet, exuberant graciousness,
far beyond neutron or electron, was before
eyes or hands, far before any crudeness
like that.

It had to come from someone first,
before snow, this expression of snow,
the swift, easy, multi-faceted
passion possessed and witnessed
in descending snow. It must be so.
Otherwise, how could we, as ourselves,
recognize it now––the event of snow,
so clearly eloquent, so separate,
so much rarer than snow? It's there.
We know it––the succumbing to sky,
the melding, nothing too small
for the embracing, a singular gentleness.

And don't we know now, without seeing it,
without touching it, that outside the window
the snow is coming, accumulating over the walls
and hedges of the garden, covering
the terra cottta, filling all the filigree
and deficiencies of evening?

I believe that snow snowing is the form
of someone singing in the future
to a new and beloved child, a child who,
staring up at the indistinguishable
features of his mother's star–filled face
in the dark, knows, without touching
or seeing, the experience of snow, opening
his mouth to catch and eat every spark
of the story as it breaks and falls
so particularly upon him.

Friday, November 17, 2006

260. From: Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Why Jerusalem? - Yehuda Amichai

9
And there are days here when everything is sails and more sails,
even though there's no sea in Jerusalem, not even a river.
Everything is sails: the flags, the prayer shawls, the black coats,
the monks' robes, the kaftans and kaffiyehs,
young women's dresses and headdresses,
Torah mantles and prayer rugs, feelings that swell in the wind
and hopes that set them sailing in other directions.
Even my father's hands, spread out in blessing,
my mother's broad face and Ruth's faraway death
are sails, all of them sails in the splendid regatta
on the two seas of Jerusalem:
the sea of memory and the sea of forgetting.

17
Two lovers talking to each other in Jerusalem
with the excitement of tour guides, pointing,
touching, explaining: These are my father's eyes you see
in my face, these are the sleek thighs I inherited from a distant mother
in the Middle Ages, this is my voice which traveled
all the way here from three thousand years ago,
this is the color of my eyes, the mosaic of my spirit,
the archaeological layers of my soul. We are holy places.
In ancient caves we can hide and write secret scrolls
and lie together in the dark.
Once in Ein Kerem in an abandoned cave I saw
rooster feathers and the torn dress of a woman
and I was filled with fury, my wrath was almost biblical.
In the courtyard of the orphanage, in the convent beside that cave,
there was suddenly a wild commotion and a rushing about
of young girls and nuns, a crazy she-goat, barking dogs.
Then stillness and a worn brown wall.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

259. Indolence in Early Winter - Jane Kenyon

.
A letter arrives from friends. . . .
Let them all divorce, remarry
and divorce again!
Forgive me if I doze off in my chair.

I should have stoked the stove
an hour ago. The house
will go cold as stone. Wonderful!
I won't have to go on
balancing my checkbook.

Unanswered mail piles up
in drifts, precarious,
and the cat sets everything sliding
when she comes to see me.

I am still here in my chair,
buried under the rubble
of failed marriages, magazine
subscription renewal forms, bills,
lapsed friendships. . . .

This kind of thinking is caused
by the sun. It leaves the sky earlier
every day, and goes off somewhere,
like a troubled husband,
or like a melancholy wife.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

258. Elizabeth Barrett Browning - A Musical Instrument

First printed in the Cornhill Magazine, July, 1860

What was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.

He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,
From the deep cool bed of the river;
The limpid water turbidly ran,
And the broken lilies a-dying lay,
And the dragon-fly had fled away,
Ere he brought it out of the river.

High on the shore sat the great god Pan
While turbidly flow'd the river;
And hack'd and hew'd as a great god can,
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,
Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed
To prove it fresh from the river.

He cut it short, did the great god Pan,
(How tall it stood in the river!)
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,
Steadily from the outside ring,
And notch'd the poor dry empty thing
In holes, as he sat by the river.

‘This is the way,’ laugh'd the great god Pan
(Laughed while he sat by the river)
‘The only way, since gods began
To make sweet music, they could succeed.’
Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,
He blew in power by the river.

Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!
Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.

Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man:
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain––
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds in the river.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

257. Pattiann Rogers - Portrait

.
This is a picture of you
Reading this poem. concentrate
On the finite movement
Of your eyes as they travel
At this moment across
The page, your fingers
Maintaining the stability
Of the sheet. Focus on the particular
Fall of your hair, the scent
Of your hands, the placement of your
Feet now as they acknowledge
Their name.

Simultaneously with these words, be aware
Of your tongue against
Your teeth, the aura
Of heat at your neckline
And wrists, the sense
Of your breath inside its own hollows.

Imagine yourself
Ten feet away and look back
At your body positioned
Here with this book. Picture
The perspective, the attitude
Of your shoulders and hips,
The bend of your head as you
Read of yourself.

Watch how you turn back as you
Remember the sounds surrounding you now,
As you recall the odors
Of wood fibers in this place
Or the lack of them.

And take note of this part
Of your portrait––the actual
Mechanism by which you are perceiving
The picture, the fixed
Expression on your face as you
Arrange these words at this moment
Into their proper circles, as you
Straighten out the aspects
Of the page, the linguistics of the sight
And color of light on the paper.

This is the printed
Form of you watching
Yourself now as you consider
Your person. This portrait is
Finished when you raise
Your eyes.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

256. A Thought In Time - Robert Hillyer

.
Elinor Wylie fell in love with Shelly,
Amy Lowell fell in love with Keats,
Byron posthumously does so well he
Can hardly count his valentine receipts.
Die early, poets, if you would adorn
The boudoirs of young ladies yet unborn.

Nobody ever fell in love with Shakespeare,
Nobody ever fell in love with Blake.
A poet must be Lancelot of the Lake"s peer
Yet perish young and fair for Beauty's sake.
I'm far too old myself, at fifty-three;
No one will ever fall in love with me.

(But hold! a saving thought, a ray of hope!
Edith Sitwell fell in love with Pope.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

255. Pantoum of the Great Depression - Donald Justice

.
Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don't remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don't remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We have our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

254. In Order To Perceive - Pattiann Rogers

.
At first you see nothing. The experience is similar
To opening your eyes wide as white marbles
Inside the deepest cave, beneath tons of limestone,
Or being awake in a dark room, your head
Under a heavy blanket.

Then someone suggests there is a single candle
Wavering far off in one corner, flickering red.
You think you see it
As someone else draws your attention to the sharp
Beaming wing tips, the white end of the beak,
The obvious three points of the wild goose overhead
And the seven-starred poinsettia to the west, the bright
Cluster at its belly.

You are able to recognize, when you are shown,
The sparks flying from the mane of the black stallion,
The lightning of his hooves as he rears,
And in the background a thick forest spreading
To the east, each leaf a distinct pinprick of light.

Then you begin to notice things for yourself,
A line of torches curving along a black valley,
A sparkling flower, no bigger than a snowflake,
Shining by itself in the northwest coordinate.
It is you who discovers the particular flash
Of each tooth inside the bear's open mouth and the miners
With their lighted helmets rising in a row.

How clear and explicit, you tell someone with confidence,
That ship, each separate gleaming line of its rigging,
The glowing dots of the oars, the radiating
Eyes of the figure on the prow, the corners
Of each sail lit.

Soon there is no hesitation to the breadth
Of your discoveries. Until one night during the long
Intensity of your observation, you look so perfectly
That you finally see yourself, off in the distance
Among the glittering hounds and hunters, beside the white
Shadows of the swans. There are points of fire
At your fingertips, a brilliance at the junctures
Of your bones. You watch yourself floating,
Your heels in their orbits, your hair spreading
Like a phosphorescent cloud, as you rise slowly,
A skeleton of glass beads, above the black desert,
Over the lanterned hillsides and on out through the hollow
Stretching directly overhead.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

253. Six Poets In Search Of A Lawyer - Donald Hall

.
Finesse be first, whose elegance deplores
All things save beauty, and the swinging doors;
Whose cleverness in writing verse is just
Exceeded by his lack of taste and lust,
Who lives off lady lovers of his verse
And thanks them by departing with their purse;
Who writes his verse in order to amaze,
To win the Pulitzer, or Time's sweet praise;
Who will endure a moment, and then pass,
As hopeless as an olive in his glass.

Dullard be second, as he always will,
From lack of brains as well as lack of skill.
Expert in some, and dilettante in all
The ways of making poems gasp and fall,
He teaches at a junior college where
He's recognized as Homer's son and heir.
Respectable, brown-suited, it is he
Who represents on forums poetry,
And argues to protect the libeled Muse,
Who'd tear his flimsy tongue out, could she choose.

His opposite is anarchistic Bomb
Who writes a manifesto with aplomb.
Revolt! Revolt! No matter why or when,
It's novelty––old novelty again.
Yet Bomb, if read intently, may reveal
A talent not to murder but to steal:
First from old Gone, whose fragmentary style
Disguised his sawdust Keats a little while;
And now from one who writes at very best
What ne'er was thought and much the less expressed.

Lucre be next, who takes to poetry
The businessman he swore he would not be.
Anthologies and lecture tours and grants
Create a solvency that disenchants.
He writes his poems, now, to suit his purse,
Short-lined and windy, and reserves his curse
For all the little magazines so fine
That offer only fifty cents a line.
He makes his money, certainly, to write,
But writes for money. such is appetite.

Of Mucker will I tell, who tries to show
He is a kind of poet men don't know.
To shadowbox at literary teas,
And every girl at Bennington to seize,
To talk of baseball rather than of Yeats,
To drink straight whiskey while the bard creates––
This is his pose, and so his poems seem
Incongruous in proving life a dream.
Some say, with Freud, that Mucker has a reason
For acting virile in and out of season.

Scoundrel be last. Be deaf, be dumb, be blind,
Who writes satiric verses on his kind.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

252. Reading Time: 1 Minute 26 Seconds - Muriel Rukeyser

.
The fear of poetry is the
fear: mystery and fury of a midnight street
of windows whose low voluptuous voice
issues, and after that there is not peace.

The round waiting moment in the
theatre: curtain rises, dies into the ceiling
and here is played the scene with the mother
bandaging a revealed son's head. The bandage is torn off.
Curtain goes down. And here is the moment of proof.

That climax when the brain acknowledges the world,
all values extended into the blood awake.
Moment of proof. And as they say Brancusi did,
building his bird to extend through soaring air,
as Kafka planned stories that draw to eternity
through time extended. And the climax strikes.

Love touches so, that months after the look of
blue stare of love, the footbeat on the heart
is translated into the pure cry of birds
following air-cries, or poems, the new scene.
Moment of proof. That strikes long after act.

They fear it. They turn away, hand up, palm out
fending off moment of proof, the straight look, poem.
The prolonged wound-consciousness after the bullet's shot.
The prolonged love after the look is dead,
the yellow joy after the song of the sun.
aftermath proof, extended radiance.

Monday, November 06, 2006

251. The Eagle - Alfred Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands:
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

250. In The Waiting Room - Elizabeth Bishop

.
In Worcester, Massachusetts,
I went with Aunt Consuelo
to keep her dentist's appointment
and sat and waited for her
in the dentist's waiting room.
It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines.
My aunt was inside
what seemed like a long time
and while I waited I read
the National Geographic
(I could read) and carefully
studied the photographs:
the inside of a volcano,
black, and full of ashes;
then it was spilling over
in rivulets of fire.
Osa and Martin Johnson
dressed in riding breeches,
laced boots, and pith helmets.
A dead man slung on a pole
--"Long Pig," the caption said.
Babies with pointed heads
wound round and round with string;
black, naked women with necks
wound round and round with wire
like the necks of light bulbs.
Their breasts were horrifying.
I read it right straight through.
I was too shy to stop.
And then I looked at the cover:
the yellow margins, the date.
Suddenly, from inside,
came an oh! of pain
--Aunt Consuelo's voice--
not very loud or long.
I wasn't at all surprised;
even then I knew she was
a foolish, timid woman.
I might have been embarrassed,
but wasn't. What took me
completely by surprise
was that it was me:
my voice, in my mouth.
Without thinking at all
I was my foolish aunt,
I–we–were falling, falling,
our eyes glued to the cover
of the National Geographic,
February, 1918.

I said to myself: three days
and you'll be seven years old.
I was saying it to stop
the sensation of falling off
the round, turning world.
into cold, blue-black space.
But I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.
Why should you be one, too?
I scarcely dared to look
to see what it was I was.
I gave a sidelong glance
--I couldn't look any higher--
at shadowy gray knees,
trousers and skirts and boots
and different pairs of hands
lying under the lamps.
I knew that nothing stranger
had ever happened, that nothing
stranger could ever happen.

Why should I be my aunt,
or me, or anyone?
What similarities--
boots, hands, the family voice
I felt in my throat, or even
the National Geographic
and those awful hanging breasts--
held us all together
or made us all just one?
How--I didn't know any
word for it--how "unlikely". . .
How had I come to be here,
like them, and overhear
a cry of pain that could have
got loud and worse but hadn't?

The waiting room was bright
and too hot. It was sliding
beneath a big black wave,
another, and another.

Then I was back in it.
The War was on. Outside,
in Worcester, Massachusetts,
were night and slush and cold,
and it was still the fifth
of February, 1918.

Friday, November 03, 2006

249. Poem - Donald Justice

.
This poem is not addressed to you.
You may come into it briefly.
But no one will find you here, no one.
You will have changed before the poem will.

Even while you sit there, unmovable,
You have begun to vanish. And it does not matter.
The poem will go on without you.
It has the spurious glamor of certain voids.

It is not sad, really, only empty.
Once perhaps it was sad, no one knows why.
It prefers to remember nothing.
Nostalgias were peeled from it long ago.

Your type of beauty has no place here.
Night is the sky over this poem.
It is too black for stars.
And do not look for any illumination.

You neither can no should understand what it means.
Listen, it comes without guitar,
Neither in rags nor any purple fashion.
And there is nothing in it to comfort you.

Close your eyes, yawn. It will be over soon.
You will forget the poem, but not before
It has forgotten you. And it does not matter.
It has been most beautiful in its erasures.

O bleached mirrors! Oceans of the drowned!
Nor is one silence equal to another.
And it does not matter what you think.
This poem is not addressed to you.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

248. The Mind Is An Ancient And Famous Capital - Delmore Schwartz

.
The mind is a city like London,
smoky and populous: it is a capital
Like Rome, ruined and eternal,
Marked by the monuments which no one
Now remembers. For the mind, like Rome, contains
Catacombs, aqueducts, amphitheaters, palaces,
Churches and equestrian statues, fallen, broken or soiled.
The mind possess and is possessed by all the ruins
Of every haunted, hunted generation's celebration.

"Call us what you will: we are made such by love."
We are such studs as dreams are made on, and
Our little lives are ruled by the gods, by Pan,
Piping of all, seeking to grasp or grasping
All of the grapes; and by the bow-and-arrow god,
Cupid, piercing the heart through, suddenly and forever.

Dusk we are, to dusk returning, after the burbing,
After the gold fall, the fallen ash, the bronze,
scattered and rotten, after the white null statues which
Are winter, sleep, and nothingness: when
Will the houselights of the universe
Light up and blaze?

For it is not the sea
Which murmurs in a shell,
And it is not only heart, at harp o'clock,
It is the tread terror of the uncontrollable
Horses of the apocalypse, running in wild dread
Toward Arcturus––and returning as suddenly . . .

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

247. Memory of a Porch - Donald Justice

.
What I remember
Is how the wind chime
Commenced to stir
As she spoke of her childhood,

As though the simple
Death of a pet cat,
Buried with flowers,

Had brought to the porch
A rumor of storms
Dying out over
Some dark Atlantic.

At least I heard
The thing begin––
A thin, skeletal music––

And in the deep silence
Below all memory
The sighing of ferns
Half asleep in their boxes.

Monday, October 30, 2006

246. Theme and Variation - Peter De Vries

.
Coleridge caused his wife unrest,
Liking other company best;
Dickens, never quite enthralled,
Sent his packing when she palled;
Gauguin broke the marriage vow
In quest of Paradise enow.
These things attest in monochrome:
Genius is the scourge of home.

Lady Nelson made the best of
What another took the rest of;
Wagner had, in middle life,
Three children by another's wife
Whitman liked to play the dastard,
Boasting here and there a bastard.
Lives of great men all remind us
Not to let their labors blind us.

Each helped to give an age its tone,
Though never acting quite his own.
Will of neither wax nor iron
Could have made a go with Byron;
Flaubert, to prove he was above
Bourgeois criteria of love,
Once took a courtesan to bed
Keeping his hat upon his head.

But mine is off to Johann Bach,
For whom my sentiment is "Ach!"
Not once, but twice, a model spouse,
With twenty children in the house.
Some fathers would have walked away
In what they call a fugue today;
But he left no one in the lurch,
And played the stuff he wrote in church.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

245. Happiness - Jane Kenyon

.
There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Friday, October 27, 2006

244. Anonymous Drawing - Donald Justice

.
A delicate young Negro stands
With the reins of a horse clutched loosely in his hands;
So delicate, indeed that we wonder if he can hold the spirited creature beside him
Until the master shall arrive to ride him.
Already the animal's nostrils widen with rage or fear.
But if we imagine him snorting, about to rear,
This boy, who should know about such things better than we.
Only stands smiling, passive and ornamental, in a fantastic livery
Of ruffles and puffed breeches,
Watching the artist apparently, as he sketches.
Meanwhile the petty lord who must have paid
For the artist's trip up from Perugia, for the horse, for the boy, for everything here, in fact, has been delayed,
Kept too long by his steward, perhaps, discussing
Some business concerning the estate, or fussing
Over the details of his impeccable toilet
With the manservant whose opinion is that any alteration at all would spoil it.
However fast he should come hurrying now
Over this vast greensward, mopping his brow
Clear of the sweat of the fine Renaissance morning, it would be too late:
The artist will have had his revenge for being made to wait,
A revenge not only necessary but right and clever––
simply to leave him out of the scene forever.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

243. Poem White Page White Page Poem - Muriel Rukeyser

.
Poem white page white page poem
something is streaming out of a body in waves
something is beginning from the fingertips
they are starting to declare for my whole life
all the despair and the making music
something like wave after wave
that breaks on a beach
something like bringing the entire life
to this moment
the small waves bringing themselves to white paper
something like light stands up and is alive

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

242. The Inner Part - Louis Simpson

(2004)

When they had won the war
And for the first time in history
Americans were the most important people––

When the leading citizens no longer lived in their shirt sleeves
And their wives did not scratch in public;
Just when they'd stopped saying "Gosh!"––

When their daughters seemed as sensitive
As the tip of a fly rod,
And their sons were as smooth as a V-8 engine––

Priests, examining the entrails of birds,
Found the heart misplaced, and seeds
As black as death, emitting a strange odor.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

241. I Am - John Clare

John Clare - I Am
(1793-1864)

I am––yet what I am, none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes––
They rise and vanish in oblivion's host,
Like shadows in love, frenzied stifled throes––
And yet I am, and live––like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
Even the dearest that I love the best
Are strange––nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod,
A place where woman never smiled or wept––
There to abide with my Creator God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below––above, the vaulted sky.

Monday, October 23, 2006

240. But That Is Another Story - Donald Justice

But That Is Another Story (1)

.
I do not think the ending can be right.
How can they marry and live happily
Forever, these who were so passionate
At chapter's end? Once they are settled in
The quiet country house, what will they do,
So many miles from anywhere?
Those blond ancestral ghosts crowding the stair,
Surely they disapprove? Ah me,
I fear love will catch cold and die
From pacing naked through those drafty halls
Night after night. Poor Frank! Poor Imogene!
Before them now their lives
Stretch empty as great Empire beds
After the lovers rise and the damp sheets
Are stripped by envious chambermaids.

And if the first night passes brightly enough,
What with the bonfires lit with old love letters,
That is no inexhaustible fuel, perhaps?
God knows how it must end, not I.
Will Frank walk out one day
Alone through the ruined orchard with his stick,
Strewing the path with lissome heads
Of buttercups? Will Imogene
Conceal in the crotches of old trees
Love notes for beardless gardeners and such?
Meanwhile they quarrel and make it up
Only to quarrel again. A sudden storm
Pulls the last fences down. Now moonstruck sheep
Stray through the garden all night peering in
At the exhausted lovers where they sleep.

But That Is Another Story (2)

I do not think the ending can be right.
How can they marry and live happily
Forever, these who were so passionate
At chapter's end? Once they are settled in
The quiet country house, what will they do,
So many miles from anywhere?
Those blond Victorian ghosts crowding the stair,
Surely they disapprove? Ah me,
I fear love will catch cold and die
From pacing naked through those drafty halls
Night after night. Poor Frank! Poor Imogene!
Before them now their lives
Stretch empty as great Empire beds
After the lovers rise and the damp sheets
Are stripped by envious chambermaids.

And if the first night passes brightly enough,
What with the bonfires built of old love letters,
That is no inexhaustible fuel, I think
A later dusk may find them, hand in hand,
Stopping among the folds to watch
The mating of the more ebullient sheep.
(And yet how soon the wool itself must lie
Scattered like snow, or miniature fallen clouds.)
God knows how it must end, not I.
Will Frank walk out one day
Alone through the ruined orchard with his stick,
Strewing the path with lissome heads
Of buttercups? Will Imogene
Conceal in the hollows of appointed oaks
Love notes for beardless gardeners and like?

Meanwhile they quarrel, and make it up
Only to quarrel again. A sudden storm
Pulls the last fences down. The stupid sheep
Stand out all night now coughing in the garden
And peering through the windows where they sleep.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

239. Old Paintings On Italian Walls - Kathleen Raine

.
Who could have thought that men and women could feel,
With consciousness so delicate, such tender secret joy?
With finger-tips of touch as fine as music,
They greet one another on viols of painted gold
Attuned to harmonies of world with world.
They sense, with inward look and breath withheld,
The stir of intangible presences
Upon the threshold of the human heart alighting––
Angels winged with air, with transparent light,
Archangels with wings of fire and faces veiled.
Their eyes gleam with wisdom radiant from an invisible sun.

Others contemplate the mysteries of sorrow:
Some have carried the stigmata, themselves icons
Depicting a passion no man as man can know,
We being ignorant of what we do;
And painted wounded hands are by the same knowledge formed
Beyond the ragged ache that flesh can bear
And we with blunted mind and senses dulled endure.
Giotto's compassionate eyes, rapt in sympathy of grief,
See the soul's wounds that hate has given to love,
And those that love must bear
With the spirit that suffers always and everywhere.

Those painted shapes stilled in perpetual adoration
Behold in visible form invisible essences
That hold their gaze entranced through centuries; and we
In true miraculous icons may see still what they see,
Though the sacred lineaments grow faint, the outlines crumble,
And the golden heavens grow dim
Where the Pantocrator shows in vain wounds once held precious.
Paint and stone will not hold them to our world
When those who once cast their bright shadows on those walls
Have faded from our ken, we from their knowledge fallen.

Friday, October 20, 2006

238. Notes For The Chart In 306 - Ogden Nash

Question: where does death being call Dodger Thomas come from?

The bubbles soar and die in the sterile bottle
Hanging upside down on the bedside lamppost.
Food and drink
Seep quietly through the needle strapped to the hand.
The arm welcomes the sting of mosquito hypodermic––
Conveyor of morphia, the comforter.
Here's drowsiness, here's lassitude, here's nothingness,
Sedation in excelsis.
The clouded mind would stray into oblivion
But for the grackle-squawk of the box in the hall,
The insistant call for a faceless goblin horde
Of sorcerers, vivisectionists, body-snatchers.
Dr. Polyp is summoned,
Dr. Gobbo and Dr. Prodigy,
Dr. Tortoise, Dr. Sawdust, and Dr. Mary Poppins,
La belle dame sans merci.
Now it's Dr. Bandalog and Dr. Bacteria,
And last of all, the terrifying one,
Dodger Thomas.
And there is no lock on the door.
On the third day, the goblins are driven off
To the operating room beneath the hill
Dr. Vendeleur routs gibbering Bandarlog.
Bacteria flees before swarthy Dr. Bagderian.
Sawdust and Polyp yield to Saunders and Pollitt,
And it's Porter instead of Tortoise who knocks at the door.
He will test the blood, not drain it.
The eerie impostors are gone, all gone but one––
Dodger Thomas.
I know he is lurking somewhere in a shadow.
Dodger Thomas.
I've never met him, but old friends have.
I know his habit:
He enters without knocking.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

237. For Instance - Denise Levertov

.
Often, it's nowhere special: maybe
a train rattling not fast or slow
from Melbourne to Sydney, and the light's fading,
we've passed that wide river remembered
from a tale about boyhood and fatal love, written
in vodka prose, clear and burning––
the light's fading and then
beside the tracks this particular
straggle of eucalypts, an inconsequential
bit of a wood, a coppice, looks you way,
not at you, through you, through the train,
over it––gazes with branches and rags of bark
to something beyond your passing. It's not,
this shred of seeing, more beautiful
than a million others, less so than many;
you have no past here, no memories,
and you'll never set foot among these shadowy
tentative presences. Perhaps when you've left this continent
you'll never return; but it stays with you:
years later, whenever
its blurry image flicks on in your head,
it wrenches from you the old cry:
O Earth, belovéd Earth!
––like many another faint
constellation of landscape does, or fragment
of lichened stone, or some old shed
where you took refuge once from pelting rain
in Essex, leaning on wheel or shafts
of a dusty cart, and come out when you heard
a blackbird return to song though the rain
was not quite over; and, as you thought there'd be,
there was, in the dark quarter where frowning clouds
were still clustered, a hesitant trace
of rainbow; and across from the expected
gleam of East Anglian afternoon light, and leaves
dripping and shining. Puddles, and the roadside weeds
washed of their dust. Earth,
that inward cry again––
Erde, du liebe . . .

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

236. Who - Jane Kenyon

.
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?

Monday, October 16, 2006

235. Bearded Oaks - Robert Penn Warren

.
The oaks, how subtle and marine,
Bearded, and all the layered light
Above them swims; and thus the scene,
Recessed, awaits the positive night.

So, waiting, we in the grass now lie
Beneath the languorous tread of light:
The grassed, kelp-like, satisfy
The nameless motions of the air.

Upon the floor of light, and time,
Unmurmuring, of polyp made,
We rest; we are, as light withdraws,
Twin atolls on a shelf of shade.

Ages to our construction went,
Dim architecture, hour by hour:
And violence, forgot now, lent
The present stillness all its power.

The storm of noon above us rolled,
Of light the fury, furious gold,
The long drag troubling us, the depth:
Dark is unrocking, unrippling, still.

Passion and slaughter, ruth, decay
descend, minutely whispering down,
Silted down swaying streams, to lay
Foundation for our voicelessness.

All our debate is voiceless here,
As all our rage, the rage of stone;
If hope is hopeless, then fearless is fear,
And history is thus undone.

Our feet once wrought the hollow street
With echo when the lamps were dead
All windows, once our headlight glare
Disturbed the doe that, leaping fled.

I do not love you less that now
The caged heart makes iron stroke,
Or less that all that light once gave
The graduate dark should now revoke.

We live in time so little time
And we learn all so painfully,
That we may spare this hour's term
To practice for eternity.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

234. A Woman Alone - Denise Levertov

.
When she cannot be sure
which of two lovers it was with whom she felt
this or that moment of pleasure, of something fiery
streaking from head to heels, the way the white
flame of a cascade streaks a mountainside
seen from a car across a valley, the car
changing gear, skirting a precipice,
climbing . . .
When she can sit or walk for hours after a movie
talking earnestly and with bursts of laughter
with friends, without worrying
that it's late, dinner at midnight, her time
spent without counting the change . . .
When half her bed is covered with books
and no one is kept awake by the reading light
and she disconnects the phone, to sleep till noon . . .
Then
self-pity dries up, a joy
untainted by guilt lifts her.
she has fears, but not about loneliness;
fears about how to deal with the aging
of her body––how to deal
with photographs and the mirror. She feels
so much younger and more beautiful
than she looks. At her happiest
––or even in the midst of
some less than joyful hour, sweating
patiently through a heatwave in the city
or hearing the sparrows at daybreak, dully gray,
toneless, the sound of fatigue––
a kind of sober euphoria makes her believe
in her future as an old woman, a wanderer,
seamed and brown,
little luxuries of the middle of life all gone,
watching cities and rivers, people and mountains,
without being watched; not grim nor sad,
an old winedrinking woman, who knows
the old roads, grass-grown, and laughs to herself . . .
She knows it can't be:
that's Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby from The Water Babies,
no one can walk the world any more,
a world of fumes and decibels.
But she thinks maybe
she could get to be tough and wise, some way,
anyway. Now at least
she is past the time of mourning,
now she can say without shame or deceit,
O blessed Solitude.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

233. The Door - Jane Hirshfield

.
A note waterfalls steadily
through us,
just below hearing.

Or this early light
streaming through dusty glass:
what enters, enters like that,
unstoppable gift.

And yet there is also the other,
the breath-space held between any call
and its answer––

In the querying
first scuff of footstep,
the wood owls' repeating,
the two-counting heart:

A little sabbath,
minnow whose brightness silvers past time.

The rest-note,
unwritten,
hinged between worlds,
that precedes change and allows it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

232. The Revised Versions - Lawrence Raab

.
Even Samuel Johnson found that ending
unbearable, and for over a hundred years
Lear was allowed to live, along with Cordelia,
who marries Edgar, who tried so hard
to do the right thing. It's not easy
being a king, having to worry every day

about the ambitions of your friends.
Who needs a bigger castle?
Let's sleep on it, Macbeth might tell his wife,
wait and see what comes along.
So Antony keeps his temper, takes Cleopatra
aside to say: We need to talk this through.

And Hamlet? Send him back to school to learn
no one ever really pleases his father.
And while he"s reading he'll remember
how pretty Ophelia was, how much
she admired his poems.
Why not make what you can of love?

It's what we want for ourselves,
wary of starting a fight, anxious
to avoid another scene, having suffered
through too many funerals and heard
how eloquently the dead are praised
who threw their lives away.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

231. Ellipsis, Third or Fourth Dot, Depending -Stuart Dischell

.
All my life I wanted to join the carnival.
I would be happy there upon the midway,
Tearing the heads off chickens. I know
This sounds grotesque, someone's mad ravings
Or sick bravado. How to say, I mean it only
Metaphorically.When I compare myself
I don't appear so badly. The mess I have
Made around me, which is not chicken heads
But letters, library books, shut-off notices,
Rebukes me less. I see myself as a defined
Person, one with sharp edges, a good suit
That fits and a silk shirt buttoned to the neck.
The world loves a gent. It looks at my shoes.
I wear a white scarf and I am off to the opera.
All my life I wanted to Join the opera.
I would be perfect there among the painted sets,
Singing basso profundo under my cap. I could
Even play a woman there and show the crowd
Things I am capable of doing.The flowers thrown
To the footlights would enclose me like a garden.
All my life I wanted to exist in a garden.
Standing like a timepiece in the center of the lawn,
The barely perceptible movement of my shadow
Would be nonetheless significant as the hours
That revolve on my face. At night I'd be meaning-
Less to anyone but myself, or on a cloudy day.
All my life I wanted to join the clouds,
To be among them, the easily ethereal,
The ever-changing, and handsomely made. I
Would drift, congregate, vanish, roll in,
And sometimes touch the others into a day
So black the ground seems farther than the sky.
All my life I wanted to be the sky,
To carry the whole of the world inside me,
To pat my forests and deserts with satisfaction.
My God, I could be the child Sky Day,
Born on a commune to idealists, given to
Wearing black and nose rings and being twenty
For the first time and only time in his/her life;
To be that shaven-headed and vital, to have
Written in paint on the wall of the city
When all my life I wanted to be that wall-
Part of the neighborhood, the block, the building:
To be seen in a rush through the express bus window
Or studied a long time in traffic. HOW MANY
DEAD, MR. PRESIDENT NO BLOOD FOR OIL.
DANIELLE I STILL LOVEYOU. ICE RULES.
And I have wanted to be my neighborhood,
My block, my building. I have wanted
To be this city where I live, to walk down
The avenues of myself, whistling a tune
Through all the people that look like me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

230. The Moment - Theodore Roethke

.
We passed the ice of pain,
And came to a dark ravine,
And there we sang with the sea;
The wide, the bleak abyss
Shifted with our slow kiss.

Space struggled with time;
The gong of midnight struck
The naked absolute.
Sound, silence sang as one.

All flowed: without, within;
Body met body, we
Created what's to be.

What else to say?––
We end in joy

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

229. Waking At 3 a. m. - William Stafford

.
Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn't matter—even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.

You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.

You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.

Monday, October 09, 2006

228. The Californians - Theodore Spencer

.
Beautiful and blond they come, the Californians,
Holding their blond beautiful children by the hand;
They come with healthy sunlight in tall hair;
Smiling and empty they stride back over the land.

Tanned and tempting, they reverse the pioneer
And glide back to Atlantic shores from their state,
And shows on Broadway have tall, oh, very tall girls,
To replace the shorter kind we generate.

California men put airplanes on like shoes
To swoop through the air they beautifully advertise,
And the women of California are splendid women,
With nothing, nothing, nothing behind their eyes.

Oranges, movies, smiles, and rainless weather,
Delightful California, you spread to our view,
And the whitest teeth, the brownest, most strokable shoulders,
And a hateful wish to be empty and tall like you.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

227. Between The Lines (excerpt) - John Koethe

.
Sometimes I think that I can feel the outside world
Relax, and feel its weight become a part of me again.
The thoughts that linger in the mind, the sounds that
Filter through the trees—these things aren't merely
Signs of some imaginary life to be denied me while the
Heart of everything I used to have remains alive. It
Troubles me that time should make things sweeter, that
Instead of learning how to perceive things as they are I've
Learned to lose them, or to see them as they disappear
Into the insubstantial future. Everything here is mine,
Or lies within my power to accept. I want to find a way
To live inside each moment as it comes, then let it go
Before it breaks up in regret or disillusionment. I've
Constantly defined myself by difference, yet after all
These years I feel as far away as ever from the kind of
Strength I'd hoped the differences would bring. Where
Is that boundless life I know exists beyond the words?
When will the fear that makes me cling to them be gone
And leave me undivided? I can hear the transitory song
The birds sing, but what dominates my mind remains the
Faint, insistent one that draws me back into this dim
Interior where something waits for me, and waits alone.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

226. First Love - Wislawa Szmborska

(translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)

They say
the first love's most important.
That's very romantic,
but not my experience.

Something was and wasn't there between us,
something went on and went away.

My hands never tremble
when I stumble on silly keepsakes
and a sheaf of letters tied with string
— not even ribbon.

Our only meeting after years:
two chairs chatting
at a chilly table.

Other loves
still breathe deep inside me.
This one's too short of breath even to sigh.

Yet just exactly as it is,
it does what the others still can't manage:
unremembered,
not even seen in dreams,
it introduces me to death.

Friday, October 06, 2006

225. The Uninvited - Lawrence Raab

.
There are two ghosts in the house
Ray Milland and his sister move into
at the beginning of the movie.
They don't know that, of course,
and they're both skeptical when things
start happening — the weeping
before dawn, the room their dog won't go near,
that elusive scent of mimosa.
It's all pretty tame by today's standards,
where you can count on somebody
getting a spike through her head as soon
as she's had sex with her boyfriend. But in 1944
there was time to be unsettled.
There were good mothers and bad ones,
and it took a while, as it does
in this movie, to figure that out.
At the end you looked back at your life and saw
how the pieces fit together — why there was weeping,
and what made it stop. So the past isn't over
until you understand it, which is one of the reasons
ghosts keep appearing. They need you to see
who they were, and sometimes
they won't rest until you forgive them.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

224. The Missing Person - Donald Justice

.
Donald Justice - The Missing Person

He has come to report himself
A missing person.

The authorities
Hand him the forms.

He knows how they have waited
With the learned patience of barbers

In small shops, idle,
Stropping their razors.

But now that these spaces in his life
Stare up at him blankly,

Waiting to be filled in,
He does not know where to begin.

Afraid that he may not answer even
To a description of himself,

He asks for a mirror.
They reassure him

That he can be nowhere
But wherever he finds himself

From moment to moment,
Which, for the moment, is here.

And he might like to believe them,
But in the mirror

He sees what is missing.
It is himself

He sees there emerging
Slowly, as from the dark

Of a furnished room,
Only by darkness,

One who receives no mail
And is known to the landlady only

For keeping himself to himself,
And for whom it will be years yet

Before he can trust to the light
This last disguise, himself.