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

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.

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

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
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
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
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.

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.

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.