Saturday, November 29, 2014

The View by Mark Strand

The View

For Derek Walcott

This is the place. The chairs are white. The table shines.
The person sitting there stares at the waxen glow.
The wind moves the air around, repeatedly,
As if to clear a space. ‘A space for me,’ he thinks.
He’s always been drawn to the weather of leavetaking,
Arranging itself so that grief – even the most intimate –
Might be read from a distance. A long shelf of cloud
Hangs above the open sea with the sun, the sun
Of no distinction, sinking behind it – a mild version
Of the story that is told just once if true, and always too late.
The waitress brings his drink, which he holds
Against the waning light, but just for a moment.
Its red reflection tints his shirt. Slowly the sky becomes darker,
The wind relents, the view sublimes. The violet sweep of it
Seems, in this effortless nightfall, more than a reason
For being there, for seeing it, seems itself a kind
Of happiness, as if that plain fact were enough and would last.

Saint Francis And The Sow by Galway Kinnell

Saint Francis And The Sow

The bud 
stands for all things, 
even for those things that don't flower, 
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; 
though sometimes it is necessary 
to reteach a thing its loveliness, 
to put a hand on its brow 
of the flower 
and retell it in words and in touch 
it is lovely 
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing; 
as Saint Francis 
put his hand on the creased forehead 
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch 
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow 
began remembering all down her thick length, 
from the earthen snout all the way 
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail, 
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine 
down through the great broken heart 
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering 
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them: 
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Having a Coke With You by Frank O'Hara

Having a Coke With You

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona 
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian 
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt 
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches 
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still 
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it 
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint 
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world 
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick 
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time 
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism 
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or 
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me 
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them 
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank 
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully 
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience 
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First Thanksgiving by Sharon Olds

First Thanksgiving

When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object,
like a soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, after him, fresh
from the other world—which lay, from within him,
within me. Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing—whirling, over the months,
in a slow blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she’s fast asleep, I’ll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing, then tossed them back
into the air—I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.

Man Matching Description by Jamaal May

Man Matching Description

Because the silk scarf could have cradled
a neck as delicate as that of a cygnet,
but was instead used in last night’s strangling,
it is possible to marvel at the finish on handcuffs.

Because I can imagine handcuffs, 
pummeled by stones until shimmering,
the flashlight that sears my eyes
is too perfect to look away.

Because a flashlight has more power 
on a southern roadside than my name and blood 
combined and there is no power in the very human 
frequency range of my voice and my name is dead 
in my mouth and my name is in a clear font on a license 
I can’t reach for before being drawn down on—
Because the baton is long against my window,
the gun somehow longer against my cheek,  
the vehicle cold against my abdomen 
as my shirt rises, twisted in fingers
and my name is asked again—I want to 
say, SwanI am only a swan. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

not an elegy for Mike Brown by Danez Smith

not an elegy for Mike Brown

I am sick of writing this poem
but bring the boy. his new name

his same old body. ordinary, black
dead thing. bring him & we will mourn
until we forget what we are mourning

& isn’t that what being black is about?
not the joy of it, but the feeling

you get when you are looking
at your child, turn your head,
then, poof, no more child.

that feeling. that’s black.


think: once, a white girl

was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war.

later, up the block, Troy got shot
& that was Tuesday. are we not worthy

of a city of ash? of 1000 ships
launched because we are missed?

always, something deserves to be burned.
it’s never the right thing now a days.

I demand a war to bring the dead boy back
no matter what his name is this time.

I at least demand a song. a song will do just fine.


look at what the lord has made.
above Missouri, sweet smoke.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Contact by Maureen N. McLane


and sex once
a day a week a
month a year
goes by and one
hyacinth only
returns, frail
blue against the militant
grass that does cover all
in the residential
precinct of the
New England town
its roads long paved
old Indian trails the steps
they took toward
us the first
exchange for a fish
two biscuits

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Dream It Is Afternoon When I Return to Delhi by Agha Shahid Ali

I Dream It Is Afternoon When I Return to Delhi

At Purana Qila I am alone, waiting
for the bus to Daryanganj. I see it coming,
but my hands are empty.
“Jump on, jump on,” someone shouts,
“I’ve saved this change for you
for years. Look!”
A hand opens, full of silver rupees.
“Jump on, jump on.” The voice doesn’t stop.
There’s no one I know. A policeman,
handcuffs silver in his hands,
asks for my ticket.
I jump off the running bus,
sweat pouring from my hair.
I run past the Doll Museum, past
headlines on the Times of India
Panting, I stop in Daryaganj,
outside Golcha Cinema.

Sunil is there, lighting
a cigarette, smiling. I say,
“It must be ten years, you haven’t changed,
it was your voice on the bus!”
He says, “The film is about to begin,
I’ve bought an extra ticket for you,”
and we rush inside:

Anarkali is being led away,
her earrings lying on the marble floor.
Any moment she’ll be buried alive.
“But this is the end,” I turn
toward Sunil. He is nowhere.
The usher taps my shoulder, says
my ticket is ten years old.

Once again my hands are empty.
I am waiting, alone, at Purana Qila.
Bus after empty bus is not stopping.
Suddenly, beggar women with children
are everywhere, offering
me money, weeping for me.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lullaby by W. H. Auden


Lay your sleeping head, my love, 
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful. 

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit’s sensual ecstasy. 

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreadful cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but not from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost. 

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless.
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Poem by Wisława Szymborska

A Poem

Nothingness unseamed itself for me too.
It turned itself wrong side out.
How on earth did I end up here—
head to toe among the planets,
without a clue how I used not to be.

O you, encountered here and loved here,
I can only guess, my arm on yours,
how much vacancy on that side went to make us,
how much silence there for one lone cricket here,
how much nonmeadow for a single sprig of sorrel,
and sun after darknesses in a drop of dew
as repayment—for what boundless droughts?

Starry willy-nilly! Local in reverse!
Stretched out in curvatures, weights, roughnesses, and motions!
Time out from infinity for endless sky!
Relief from nonspace in a shivering birch tree’s shape!

Now or never wind will stir a cloud,
since wind is exactly what won’t blow there.
And a beetle hits the trail in a witness’s dark suit,
testifying to the long wait for a short life.

And it so happened that I’m here with you.
And I really see nothing
usual in that.

(Translated by Clare Cavanagh)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Asking for My Younger Brother by Franz Wright

Asking for My Younger Brother

I never did find you.
I later heard how you'd wandered the streets
for weeks, washing dishes before you got fired;
taking occasional meals at the Salvation Army
with the other diagnosed. How on one particular night
you won four hundred dollars at cards:
how some men followed you and beat you up,
leaving you unconscious in an alley
where you were wakened by police
and arrested for vagrancy, for being tired
of getting beaten up at home.
I'd dreamed you were dead,
and started to cry.
I couldn't exactly phone Dad.
I bought a pint of bourbon
and asked for you all afternoon in a blizzard.
In Hell
Dante had words with the dead,
they had no bodies
and he could not touch them, nor they him.
A man behind the ticket counter
in the Greyhound terminal.
pointed to one of the empty seats, where
someone who looked like me sometimes sat down
among the people waiting to depart.
I don't know why I write this.
With it comes the irrepressible desire
to write nothing, to remember nothing;
there is even the desire
to walk out in some field and bury it
along with all my other so-called
poems, which help no one—
where each word will blur
into earth finally,
where the mind that voiced them
and the hand that took them down will.
So what. I left
the bus fare back
to Sacramento with this man,
and asked him
to give it to you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Homework Assignment on the Subject of Angels by Tadeusz Różewicz

Homework Assignment on the Subject of Angels


look like
flakes of soot
cabbage leaves
stuffed with black rice
painted red
blue flames
with yellow tongues

fallen angels
look like
moons wedged beneath
the green fingernails of the dead

angels in heaven
look like the inner thighs
of an underage girl

like stars
they shine in shameful places
they are pure like triangles and circles
with silence
inside them

fallen angels
are like the open windows of a morgue
like cows’ eyes
like the skeletons of birds
like falling planes
like flies on the lungs of fallen soldiers
like streaks of autumn rain
connecting lips with birds taking flight

over a woman’s palm
a million angels

devoid of belly buttons
they type on sewing machines
long poems in the shape
of a white sail

their bodies can be grafted
onto the trunk of an olive tree

they sleep on ceilings
falling drop by drop

(Translated by Joanna Trzeciak)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Don’t let that horse . . . by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Don’t let that horse . . .

Don’t let that horse
                              eat that violin

    cried Chagall’s mother

                                     But he   
                      kept right on

And became famous

And kept on painting
                              The Horse With Violin In Mouth

And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
                                        and rode away   
          waving the violin

And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across

And there were no strings   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Survival Rate by Fady Joudah

Survival Rate

When at customs I don’t declare
what I brought into my country
from that other minor country

when in legacy mode
my teeth have grown too yellow
the surprise-hug of a carnivorous flower

I exploit the marasmic like photons
seen from a city under a full moon
Congo red

and get away with our
decolonized gut flora miasmatic
melismatic tempura time

A joke for a body moored to dislocation
when all the mouth can do is say

Your eyes grabbed mine by the elbows
our fourth and sixth cranial nerves intact
after you’d pitched your face

in my shoulder for me to wander
your cheek and chin
and rose cemetery

This is variance in clinical features
of bombs strapped to the waist
We all have them

Red blood cells ants
released to circulate the body
until they die

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Danse Macabre by W. H. Auden

Danse Macabre

It`s farewell to the drawing-room`s civilized cry, 
The professor`s sensible whereto and why, 
The frock-coated diplomat`s aplomb, 
Now matters are settled with gas and with bomb.  

The works for two pianos, the brilliant stories, 
Of reasonable giants and remarkable fairies, 
The pictures, the ointments, the frangible wares 
And the branches of olive are stored upstairs.  

For the Devil has broken parole and arisen, 
He has dynamited his way out of prison, 
Out of the well where his Papa throws 
The rebel angel, outcast rose.  

Like influenza he walks abroad, 
He stands by the bridge, he waits by the ford, 
As a goose or a gull he flies overhead, 
He hides in the cupboard and under the bed.  

Assuming such shapes as may best disguise 
The hate that burns in his big blue eyes; 
It may be a baby that croons in its pram, 
Or a dear old grannie boarding a tram.  

A plumber, a doctor, for he has skill 
To adopt a serious profession at will; 
Superb at ice-hockey, a prince at the dance, 
He`s fierce as a tiger, secretive as a plants.  

O were he to triumph, dear heart, you know 
To what depths of shame he would drag you low; 
He would steal you away from me, yes, my dear, 
He would steal you and cut off your beautiful hair.  

Millions already have come to their harm, 
Succumbing like doves to his adder`s charm; 
Hundreds of trees in the world are unsound: 
I`m the axe that must cut them down to the ground.  

For I, after all, am Fortunate One, 
The Happy-Go-Lucky, the spoiled Third Son; 
For me it is written the Devil to chase 
And to rid the earth of the human race.  

The behaving of man is world of horror, 
A sedentary Sodom and slick Gomorrah; 
I must take charge of the liquid fire 
And storm the cities of human desire.  

The buying and selling, the eating and drinking, 
The disloyal machines and irreverent thinking, 
The lovely dullards again and again 
Inspiring their better ambitions men.  

I shall come, I shall punish, the Devil be dead, 
I shall have caviar thick on my bread, 
I shall build myself a cathedral for home 
With a vacuum-cleaner in every room.  

I shall ride the parade in platinum car, 
My feature shall shine, my name shall be Star,
Day-long and night-long the bell I shall peal, 
And down the long street I shall turn the cartwheel.  

So Little John, Long John, Peter and Paul, 
And poor little Horace with only ball, 
You shall leave your breakfast, your desk and your play 
On a fine summer morning the Devil to slay.   

For it`s order and trumpet and anger and drum 
And power and glory command you to come; 
The graves shall fly open and let you all in, 
And the earth shall be emptied of mortal sin.  

The fishes are silent deep in the sea, 
The sky are lit up like a Christmas tree, 
The star in the West shoots its warning cry: 
«Mankind is alive, but mankind must die».  

So good-bye to the house with its wallpaper red, 
Good-bye to the sheets on the warm double bed, 
Good-bye the beautiful birds on the wall,  
It`s good-bye, dear heart, good-bye to you all.