Sunday, April 30, 2006

97. I KNEW A WOMAN - Theodore Roethke

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, and undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).

Friday, April 28, 2006


Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
A gold of lemon, root and rind,
She sifts in sunlight down the stairs
With nothing on. Nor on her mind.

We spy beneath the banister
A constant thresh of thigh on thigh––
Her lips imprint the swinging air
That parts to let her parts go by.

One-women waterfall, she wears
Her slow descent like a long cape
And pausing, on the the final stair
Collects her motions into shape.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

95. AFTERWARD - Adrienne Rich

Now that your hopes are shamed, you stand
At last believing and resigned,
And none of us who touch your hand
Know how to give you back in kind
The words you flung when hopes were proud:
Being born to happiness
Above the asking of the crowd,
You would not take a finger less.

We who know limits now give room
To one who grows to fit her doom

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I am asking you to come back home
before you lose the chance of seein' me alive.
You already missed your daddy.
You missed you uncle Howard.
You missed Luciel.
I kept them and I buried them.
You showed up for the funerals.
Funerals are the easy part.

You even missed that dog you left.
I dug him a hole and put him in it.
It was a Sunday morning, but dead animals
don't wait no better than dead people.

My mamma used to say she could feel herself
runnin' short of the breath of life. So can I.
And I am blessed tired of buryin' things I love.
Somebody else can do that job to me.
You'll be back here then; you come for funerals.

I'd rather you come back now and got my stories.
I've got whole lives of stories that belong to to you.
I could fill you up with stories,
stories I ain't told nobody yet,
stories with your name, your blood in them.
Ain't nobody gonna hear them if you don't
and you ain't gonna hear them unless you get back home.

When I am dead, it will not matter
how hard you press your ear to the ground.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A marry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him, and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which
was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

92. DEAR READER - Billy Collins

Baudelaire considers you his brother,
and Fielding calls out to you every few paragraphs
as if to make sure you have not closed the book,
and now I am summoning you up again,
attentive ghost, dark silent figure standing
in the doorway of these words.

Pope welcomes you into the glow of his study,
takes down a leather-bound Ovid to show you.
Tennyson lifts the latch to a moated garden,
and with Yeats you lean against a broken pear tree,
the day hooded by low clouds.

But now you are here with me,
composed in the open field of this page,
no room or manicured garden to enclose us,
no Zeitgeist marching in the background,
no heavy ethos thrown over us like a cloak.

Instead, our meeting is so brief and accidental,
unnoticed by the monocled eye of History,
you could be the man I held the door for
this morning at the bank or post office
or the one who wrapped my speckled fish.
You could be someone I passed on the street
or the face behind the wheel of an oncoming car.

The sunlight flashes off your windshield,
and when I look up into the small, posted mirror,
I watch you diminish—my echo, my twin—
and vanish around a curve in this whip
of a road we can't help traveling together.

Friday, April 14, 2006

91. BEDTIME - Denise Levertov

We are a meadow where the bees hum,
mind and body are almost one

as the fire snaps in the stove
and our eyes close,

and mouth to mouth, the covers
pulled over our shoulders,

we drowse as horses drowse afield,
in accord; though the fall cold

surrounds our warm bed, and though
by day we are singular and often lonely.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


At times I almost believed it: madness
the only way to say yes,
to stumble into shapes of night
the gape open
like abandoned wells––
This would work like no other

disguise––yet I chose another
route, neither mad
nor well
enough to shout yes!
when morning scissor-blades opened
my sack of night

full of valentines to death––Night
whose curve of darkness I preferred to other
hours' slanting light that would open
all my closed lives––not the madly
flowered darkness that would make you say yes!
but—–I might as well

admit it—the well-
sealed kind of night
where I could nod yes
to another
sputter of benign madness
from the loaded gun of an open

wound whose red opening
was never stanched well
enough; if only I hadn’t feared the mad
shudder-burst & bloom demanded by you night
I would have become another
woman, spread open like a figtree in my father’s
northern garden, Yes

a house with its shutters open
to another
throng of lovers climbing my well-
flowered hair night after night,
all Amherst going mad,

its quartz contentment split open by the pulsing night––
Molly, as well become you as another—–
Yes, and my heart going like mad and saying yes
I will yes!

Monday, April 10, 2006

89. How Many Nights - Galway Kinnell

How many nights
have I lain in terror,
O Creator Spirit, Maker of night and day,

only to walk out
the next morning over the frozen world
hearing under the creaking of snow
faint, peaceful breaths . . .
bear, earthworm, ant . . .

and above me a wild crow crying 'yaw yaw yaw'
from a branch nothing cried from ever in my life.

Friday, April 07, 2006

88. A QUIET JOY – Yehuda Amichai

I’m standing in a place where I once loved.
The rain is falling. The rain is my home.

I think words of longing: a landscape
out to the very edge of what’s possible.

I remember you waving your hand
as if wiping mist from the windowpane,

and your face, as if enlarged
from an old blurred photo.

Once I committed a terrible wrong
to myself and others.

But the world is beautifully made for doing good
and for resting, like a park bench.

And late in life I discovered
a quiet joy
like a serious disease that’s discovered too late:

just a little time left now for quiet joy.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

87. SPELL OF CREATION - Kathleen Raine

Within the flower there lies a seed,
Within the seed there springs a tree,
Within the tree there spreads a wood.

In the wood there burns a fire,
And in the fire there melts a stone,
Within the stone a ring of iron.

Within the ring there lies an O
Within the O there looks an eye,
In the eye there swims a sea,

And in the sea reflected sky,
And in the sky there shines the sun,
Within the sun a bird of gold.

Within the bird there beats a heart,
And from the heart there flows a song,
And in the song there sings a word.

In the word there speaks a world,
A word of joy, a world of grief,
From joy and grief there springs my love.

Oh love, my love, there springs a world,
And on the world there shines a sun
And in the sun there burns a fire,

Within the fire consumes my heart
And in by heart there beats a bird,
And in the bird there wakes an eye,

Within the eye, earth, sea and sky,
Earth, sky and sea within O
Lie like the seed within the flower.

Saturday, April 01, 2006



(13th century quatrain)

Nou goth sonne under wod, -
me reweth, Marie, thi faire Rode.
Nou goth sonne under tre, -
me reweth, Marie, thi sone and the.