Tuesday, June 30, 2015

And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Dylan Thomas

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.   
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,   
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;   
Though they go mad they shall be sane,   
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;   
Though lovers be lost love shall not;   
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.   
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;   
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,   
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,   
And the unicorn evils run them through;   
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;   
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.   
No more may gulls cry at their ears   
Or waves break loud on the seashores;   
Where blew a flower may a flower no more   
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;   
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,   
And death shall have no dominion.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

Lady Lazarus
I have done it again.   
One year in every ten   
I manage it——
A sort of walking miracle, my skin   
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,   
My right foot
A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine   
Jew linen.
Peel off the napkin   
O my enemy.   
Do I terrify?——
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?   
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be   
At home on me
And I a smiling woman.   
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.   
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.   
The peanut-crunching crowd   
Shoves in to see
Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.   
Gentlemen, ladies
These are my hands   
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.   
The first time it happened I was ten.   
It was an accident.
The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.   
I rocked shut
As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Is an art, like everything else.   
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.   
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.
It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.   
It’s the theatrical
Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute   
Amused shout:
‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.   
There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge   
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge   
For a word or a touch   
Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.   
So, so, Herr Doktor.   
So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,
I am your valuable,   
The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.   
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——
A cake of soap,   
A wedding ring,   
A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer   
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair   
And I eat men like air.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kid by Simon Armitage


Batman, big shot, when you gave the order
to grow up, then let me loose to wander
leeward, freely through the wild blue yonder
as you liked to say, or ditched me, rather,
in the gutter . . . well, I turned the corner.
Now I've scotched that "he was like a father
to me" rumour, sacked it, blown the cover
on that "he was like an elder brother"
story, let the cat out on that caper
with the married woman, how you took her
downtown on expenses in the motor.
Holy robin-redbreast-nest-egg-shocker!
Holy roll-me-over-in-the-clover,
I'm not playing ball boy any longer
Batman, now I've doffed that off-the-shoulder
Sherwood-Forest-green and scarlet number
for a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper;
now I'm taller, harder, stronger, older.
Batman, it makes a marvellous picture:
you without a shadow, stewing over
chicken giblets in the pressure cooker,
next to nothing in the walk-in larder,
punching the palm of your hand all winter,
you baby, now I'm the real boy wonder.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Lot's Wife by Anna Akhmatova

Lot's Wife

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her, 
who suffered death because she chose to turn.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Signs and Portents by Stanley Kunitz

Signs and Portents


Jonathan, the last of the giant tortoises 
on wind-beaten Saint Helena, 
misses his island mate, 
who died in a fall from a cliff 
a century ago.
He is ancient and crusty, 
more lonely than Bonaparte 
strutting on the volcanic beach, 
reviewing his triumphs.
Lately he has made himself 
a deliberate nuisance 
to the sporting set 
of the British Crown Colony 
by butting and upending benches 
near the tennis courts 
and disrupting croquet games 
by sitting on the croquet balls.


At the Porch of the Caryatids 
on the Acropolis 
the noble supportive maidens 
are stepping down 
from their weathered pedestals, 
one by one, 
to seek asylum in a museum.
Their places will be taken 
by identical synthetic sisters 
conditioned to withstand 
the high, classic, polluted air.


Three thousand years ago 
they soaked him in pickling brine, 
stuffed his body with resins, 
baked him in desert heat. 
He was Ramses the Second, 
feared by Hittites and Israelites, 
the hard Pharaoh of Exodus
colossal as the temples 
his minions sweated out of rock.
Paris has him now on temporary loan.
In the aseptic laboratory 
of the Musée de L'Homme, 
where he lies in state 
for special treatment, 
who will cure the old mummy 
of the loathsome fire 
raging under his bandages?


Children at play in a field, 
tumbling down a hole 
into the pristine Palaeolithic, 
showed us the way, 
ripped the lid from the grotto. 
We sped to the spot on wheels 
with our cameras and basket lunches. 
Now the bison of Lascaux, 
prodded from the centuries 
of limestone sleep, are sick.
Clots of virulent mold 
suppurate on their flanks, 
emitting a green stain. 
We name it la maladie verte
an infection from people.
At the back of our minds 
squat figures, whose hairy hands 
carried torches and the dream of art 
through cheerless labyrinths, 
gabble in the shadows. 


On Twelfth Street in Manhattan, 
opposite St. Vincent's Mental Pavilion, 
while I was sweeping the sidewalk 
of its increment of filth, 
deposited by dogs and unleashed humans, 
a blue van rolled by 
with its sidepanel reading: 
I did not catch the face of the driver.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Reassurance by Thom Gunn

The Reassurance 

About ten days or so
After we saw you dead
You came back in a dream.
I’m all right now you said.

And it was you, although
You were fleshed out again:
You hugged us all round then,
And gave your welcoming beam.

How like you to be kind,
Seeking to reassure.
And, yes, how like my mind
To make itself secure. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Archaic Torso of Apollo by Rainer Maria Rilke

Archaic Torso of Apollo
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

(Translated by Stephen Mitchell)


Monday, June 22, 2015

Puzzle Pieces by D. A. Powell

Puzzle Pieces

They haven’t invented a “morning after” pill that actually gets rid of the morning after. As long as we’re talking about where I been.

Down to the E-Z Stop market to grab some buds. That’s when I ran into Hot Check Hannah, who wrote, you guessed it, a hot check

& got me some smokes. Somehow I still had five bucks when I got to the bar. I wish I’d had it when I left. I could have used five dollars. 

I’m not even gonna tell you what it was like to fuck in Eddie’s trailer. Or Eddie’s friend’s trailer. [Different Eddie] [Different trailer]

God knows where he is now. Once, we were close enough to give each other lice. The future is the present we leave for others.

Besides the complications, there were bodies, the wonder of bodies, the misery of bodies. Oh, Time, you done robbed me blind.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Radio by Frank O'Hara


Why do you play such dreary music
on Saturday afternoon, when tired
mortally tired I long for a little
reminder of immortal energy?
week long while I trudge fatinguingly
from desk to desk in the museum
you spill your miracles of Grieg
and Honegger on shut-ins.
                   Am I not
shut in too, and after a week
of work don’t I deserve Prokofieff?
Well, I have my beautiful de Kooning
to aspire to. I think it has an orange
bed in it, more than the ear can hold.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Truth the Dead Know by Anne Sexton

The Truth the Dead Know

For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959 
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,   
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,   
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.   
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,   
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch   
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes   
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse   
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Lovely Assistant by Patrick Phillips

My Lovely Assistant

After the episode of That’s Incredible!
in which a whole family of Armenians
in sequined shirts ate fire
and spewed blue, burning plumes, my brother
tied a cottonball to a bent coathanger
and dipped the end in gasoline.

What made us who we are,
one crazy, fearless—one always afraid?
I stood by the ping-pong table
in our mother’s only sparkly dress,
playing the role of Patricia, Lovely Assistant

because he was bigger than me,
and a master of the headlock,
and threatened, with his breath of snot
and bubble gum and cigarettes,
a vicious wedgy if I didn’t.

So I handed him the silver Zippo,
not knowing what future waited for my brother,
still thinking I could save him
who hated being saved—

who took my dare one night to lie
on the yellow stripe of Brown’s Bridge Road
and stayed there talking to himself,
pointing to a satellite adrift among the stars,
while I begged him to get up.

What sat in an upstairs bedroom
giggling at the click of our father’s .38.
Who loved the sting of the torch
sizzling his spit-glazed tongue.

So I kept one eye on the door, knowing
from experience how it would end,
how all things turned finally to anger
in that house, where he leaned back, shark-eyed,
and took a swig from the red gas can,
the spitting image of our father in a rage.

He stood between me and that pain.
Knowingly, he raised the magic wand up to his lips.
I sit and wonder what it means—
my brother’s sweet face
bursting into flames.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Punishment by Seamus Heaney


I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adulteress,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeuur

of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Crumpled-Up Note Blowing Away by Franz Wright

Crumpled-Up Note Blowing Away

Were no one
here to witness it,
could the sun be
said to shine? Clearly,
you pedantic fool.

But I’ve said all that
I had to say.
In writing.
I signed my name.
It’s death’s move.

It can have mine, too.
It’s a perfect June morning,
and I just turned eighteen;
I can’t even believe
what I feel like today.

Here am I, Lord,
sitting on a suitcase,
waiting for my train.
The sun is shining.
I’m never coming back.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

When You Are Old by W. B. Yeats

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Points of View by Ishmael Reed

Points of View

The  pioneers and the indians
disagree about a lot of things
for example, the pioneer says that
when you meet a bear in the woods
you should yell at him and if that
doesn't work, you should fell him
The indians say that you should
whisper to him softly and call him by
loving nicknames
No one's bothered to ask the bear
what he thinks

Friday, June 12, 2015

Half-Mexican by Juan Felipe Herrera


Odd to be a half-Mexican, let me put it this way
I am Mexican + Mexican, then there’s the question of the half
To say Mexican without the half, well it means another thing
One could say only Mexican
Then think of pyramids – obsidian flaw, flame etchings, goddesses with
Flayed visages claw feet & skulls as belts – these are not Mexican
They are existences, that is to say
Slavery, sinew, hearts shredded sacrifices for the continuum
Quarks & galaxies, the cosmic milk that flows into trees
Then darkness
What is the other – yes
It is Mexican too, yet it is formless, it is speckled with particles
European pieces? To say colony or power is incorrect
Better to think of Kant in his tiny room
Shuffling in his black socks seeking out the notion of time
Or Einstein re-working the erroneous equation
Concerning the way light bends – all this has to do with
The half, the half-thing when you are a half-being



How they stalk you & how you beseech them
All this becomes your life-long project, that is
You are Mexican. One half Mexican the other half
Mexican, then the half against itself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nike Who Hesitates by Zbigniew Herbert

Nike Who Hesitates

Nike is most beautiful at the moment
when she hesitates
her right hand beautiful as a command
rests against the air
but her wings tremble

For she sees
a solitary youth
he goes down the long tracks
of a war chariot
on a gray road in a gray landscape
of rocks and scattered juniper bushes

that youth will perish soon
right now the scale containing his fate
abruptly falls
toward the earth

Nike would terribly like
to go up
and kiss him on the forehead

but she is afraid
that he who has never known
the sweetness of caresses
having tasted it
might run off like the others
during the battle

Thus Nike hesitates
and at last decides
to remain in the position
which sculptors taught her
being mightily ashamed of that flash of emotion
she understands
that tomorrow at dawn
this boy must be found
with an open breast
closed eyes
and the acid obol of his country
under his numb tongue

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Would Live In Your Love by Sara Teasdale

I Would Live In Your Love

I would live in your love as the
     sea-grasses live in the sea,
Borne up by each wave as it
     passes, drawn down by each
     wave that recedes;
I would empty my soul of the
     dreams that have gathered
     in me,
I would beat with your heart as
     it beats, I will follow your
     soul as it leads.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sleeping alone by May Swenson

Sleeping alone

Waiting for first light,
for the lift of the curtain,
for the world to ripen,
tumbling toward the sun,

I lie on my side,
head sunk in the pillow,
legs upfolded,
as if for Indian burial.

My arms are friends
relaxed beside each other.
One hand, open, touches,
brings warmth to the other.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Hard-Shell Clams by Marie Ponsot

Hard-Shell Clams

When it was too late for him to provide
his own share in my happy childhood, my
father stopped clowning out stories & tried
for a whole day to see me—a good try
by both of us. Back we went to the seaside
of old summers, we two, we talked, we swam,
sleek with cocoa butter that caught the sand—
a glitter like chain mail guarding who I am
from his used blue gaze that stared to understand.
Closed, stuck closed, I watched us—far me far him—
go small, smaller, further, father, joy dim
in beach light. Our last chance, last perfect day.

We laughed. We ate four dozen hard-shell clams.
We swallowed what I would not let us say.