Wednesday, April 29, 2015

’N’em by Jericho Brown


They said to say goodnight
And not goodbye, unplugged
The TV when it rained. They hid
Money in mattresses
So to sleep on decisions.
Some of their children
Were not their children. Some
Of their parents had no birthdates.
They could sweat a cold out
Of you. They’d wake without
An alarm telling them to.
Even the short ones reached
Certain shelves. Even the skinny
Cooked animals too quick
To catch. And I don’t care
How ugly one of them arrived,
That one got married
To somebody fine. They fed
Families with change and wiped
Their kitchens clean.
Then another century came.
People like me forgot their names.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Orphaned Old by Marie Ponsot

Orphaned Old

I feel less lucky since my parents died.
Father first, then mother, have left me
out in a downpour
roofless in cold wind
no umbrella no hood no hat no warm
native place, nothing
between me and eyeless sky.

In the gritty prevailing wind
I think of times I’ve carelessly lost things:
              that white-gold ring when I was eight,
              a classmate named Mercedes Williams,
              my passport in Gibraltar,
              my maiden name.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Centaur by May Swenson

The Centaur

The summer that I was ten --
Can it be there was only one 
summer that I was ten?

It must have been a long one then -- 
each day I'd go out to choose 
a fresh horse from my stable

which was a willow grove 
down by the old canal.
I'd go on my two bare feet. 

But when, with my brother's jack-knife, 
I had cut me a long limber horse 
with a good thick knob for a head,

and peeled him slick and clean 
except a few leaves for the tail, 
and cinched my brother's belt

around his head for a rein, 
I'd straddle and canter him fast
up the grass bank to the path,

trot along in the lovely dust 
that talcumed over his hoofs, 
hiding my toes, and turning

his feet to swift half-moons. 
The willow knob with the strap 
jouncing between my thighs

was the pommel and yet the poll 
of my nickering pony's head. 
My head and my neck were mine,

yet they were shaped like a horse. 
My hair flopped to the side 
like the mane of a horse in the wind.

My forelock swung in my eyes, 
my neck arched and I snorted. 
I shied and skittered and reared, 

stopped and raised my knees,
pawed at the ground and quivered. 
My teeth bared as we wheeled

and swished through the dust again. 
I was the horse and the rider, 
and the leather I slapped to his rump 

spanked my own behind.
Doubled, my two hoofs beat 
a gallop along the bank,

the wind twanged in my mane, 
my mouth squared to the bit. 
And yet I sat on my steed 

quiet, negligent riding, 
my toes standing the stirrups,
my thighs hugging his ribs. 

At a walk we drew up to the porch. 
I tethered him to a paling. 
Dismounting, I smoothed my skirt

and entered the dusky hall.
My feet on the clean linoleum 
left ghostly toes in the hall.

Where have you been? said my mother. 
Been riding, I said from the sink, 
and filled me a glass of water.

What's that in your pocket? she said.
Just my knife. It weighted my pocket 
and stretched my dress awry.

Go tie back your hair, said my mother, 
and Why Is your mouth all green?
Rob Roy, he pulled some clover 
as we crossed the field, I told her. 

Under the Porch by Dennis Nurkse

Under the Porch

Lucky peeled the wings
from a fly
and gave them to me,
as Father once trusted me
with the tiny screws
when he fixed his glasses.
But in my cupped hands
they disappeared.
It was a miracle.
We looked everywhere.
They fly buzzed—
how could it still buzz?—
much louder then before.
At last we reconciled ourselves
and knelt with great compassion
and watched as it moved
in an almost line,
then an almost circle,
there in the crawl space
under the huge brushes
rigid with shellac:
and we were rapt
as if we’d found
the way out of loneliness.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mariela by Sandra Cisneros


One day you forget his bitter smell
and one day you forget your shame.
You remember how your small cry
rose like a blackbird from the corn,
when you picked yourself up from the earth
how the clouds moved on.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lamento by Tomas Tranströmer


He put the pen down.
It lies there without moving.
It lies there without moving in empty space.
He put the pen down.

So much that can neither be written nor kept inside!
His body is stiffened by something happening far away
though the curious overnight bag beats like a heart.

Outside, the late spring.
From the foliage a whistling—people or birds?
And the cherry trees in bloom pat the heavy trucks on the way home.

Weeks go by.
Slowly night comes.
Moths settle down on the pane: small pale telegrams from the world.

(Translated by Robert Bly)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Lost Hotels of Paris by Jack Gilbert

The Lost Hotels of Paris

The Lord gives everything and charges
by taking it back. What a bargain.
Like being young for a while. We are
allowed to visit the hearts of women,
to go into their bodies so we feel
no longer alone. We are permitted
romantic love with its bounty and half-life
of two years. It is right to mourn
for the small hotels of Paris that use to be
when we used to be. My mansard looking
down to Notre Dame every morning is gone,
and me listening to the bell at night.
Venice is no more. The best Greek islands
have drowned in acceleration. But it’s the having
not the keeping that is the treasure.
Ginsberg came to my house one afternoon
and said he was giving up poetry
because it told lies, that language distorts.
I agreed, but asked what we have
that gets it right even that much.
We look up at the stars and they are
not there. We see the memory
of when they were, once upon a time.
And that too is more than enough.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Spring Morning by May Swenson

A Spring Morning

Your right hand and my left
hand, as if they were bodies
fitting together, face each other.

As if we were dancing. But
we are in bed. The thumb of your
hand touches my cheek. My head

feels the cool of the pillow.
Your profile, eye and ear and lip
asleep, has already gone

through the doorway of your dream.
The round-faced clock ticks on,
on the shelf in dawnlight.

Your hand has met mine,
but doesn’t feel my cheek is wet.
From the top of the oak

outside the window, the oriole
over and over repeats its
phrase, a question.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

I Saw In Louisiana A Live Oak Growing by Walt Whitman

I Saw In Louisiana A Live Oak Growing

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the 
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous 
      leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves 
      standing alone there without its friend near, for
      I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves
      upon it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in 
       my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear 
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me 
      think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in
       Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a 
      lover near,
I know very well I could not.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Dugout by Jill Bialosky

The Dugout

They like it here
shaded from the sun, drinking Gatorade
in the dugout among the solitude
of brothers.

After one strikes out
or misses a ball,
angry fathers climb the gated fence
that separates spectators
from players and curse.
All night only the male crickets chirp,

nocturnal and cold-blooded,
they take on the temperature
of their surroundings.
They run the top of one wing
along the teeth
at the bottom of the other.

Their wings up and open
like acoustical sails, the sound restless
and unending.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Disillusion by Langston Hughes


I would be simple again,
Simple and clean
Like the earth,
Like the rain,
Nor ever know,
Dark Harlem,
The wild laughter
Of our mirth
Nor the salt tears
Of your pain.
Be kind to me,
Oh, great dark city.
Let me forget.
I will not come
To you again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Elegy for Smoking by Patrick Phillips

Elegy for Smoking

It’s not the drug I miss
but all those minutes
we used to steal
outside the library,
under restaurant awnings,
out on porches, by the quiet fields.
And how kind
it used to make us
when we’d laugh
and throw our heads back
and watch the dragon’s breath
float from our mouths,
all ravenous and doomed.
Which is why I quit, of course,
like almost everyone,
and stay inside these days
staring at my phone,
chewing toothpicks
and figuring the bill,
while out the window
the smokers gather
in their same constellations,
like memories of ourselves.
Or like the remnants
of some decimated tribe,
come down out of the hills
to tell their stories
in the lightly falling rain—
to be, for a moment, simply there
and nowhere else,
faces glowing each time they lift to their lips
the little flame.