Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rain Towards Morning by Elizabeth Bishop

Rain Towards Morning

The great light cage has broken up in the air, 
freeing, I think, about a million birds 
whose wild ascending shadows will not be back, 
and all the wires come falling down. 
No cage, no frightening birds; the rain 
is brightening now. The face is pale 
that tried the puzzle of their prison 
and solved it with an unexpected kiss, 
whose freckled unsuspected hands alit. 

Remember by Christina Rossetti


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Three Cranes by Richie Hofmann

Three Cranes

Wading low through marsh and grass,
quick and cautious, the crane, too,
knows this: there is a freedom
in submitting to another. Cranes mate
for life.  With necks outstretched,
they take flight, a double-arrow’s stab
of silver, released and then gone.
I have searched for nourishment
in you, like a long black beak
in the earth.  How was I to know
what I would find there?  Every night,
we shrieked our presence to each other,
desire or grief lacquering us onto our lives
like birds on a paneled screen.
All winter long, the men built
another bridge, stacking slabs of metal
and concrete near the barrier island
where we lived.  I was worried we had fallen
from each other.  Silent on the beach,
we watched machines hoisted on and off
the earth. Standing one-legged in the marsh:
a crane, all steel and orange light,
binding the horizon. 
What will become of us? I almost said.
Gulls wove in and out of the cables,
shrieking up and down within its stacks,
in unison, I noticed, with our breath.
It almost looked like a living thing. 
Lying on my stomach, reading
Crane’s letters again, I felt a hand
behind me.  Orange light pressed
the window.  The hand that touched
my shoulder was yours (“I know now
there is such a thing as indestructibility”).
Your confessor, I listened for your breath
(“the cables enclosing us and pulling
us upward”), but felt only the ceiling fan,
and traffic, somewhere, chafing against
a wet street.  Then, your lips on my neck
(“I think the sea has thrown itself upon me
and been answered”) before closing the book 
and turning my body under yours. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Milk by Edward Hirsch


My mother wouldn't be cowed into nursing
and decided that formula was healthier
than the liquid from her breasts.

And so I never sucked a single drop
from the source, a river dried up.
It was always bottled for me.

But one night in my mid-thirties
in a mirrored room off Highway 59
a woman who had a baby daughter

turned to me with an enigmatic smile
and cupped my face in her chapped hands
and tipped her nipple into my mouth.

This happened a long time ago in another city
and it is wrong to tell about it.
It was infantile to bring it up in therapy.

And yet it is one of those moments—
misplaced, involuntary—that swim up
out of the past without a conscience:

She lifts my face and I taste it—
the sudden spurting nectar,
the incurable sweetness that is life.

Suppose your Father was a Redbird by Pattiann Rogers

Suppose your Father was a Redbird

Suppose his body was the meticulous layering
Of graduated down which you studied early,
Rows of feathers increasing in size to the hard-splayed
Wine-gloss tips of his outer edges.

Suppose, before you could speak, you watched
The slow spread of his wing over and over,
The appearance of that invisible appendage,
The unfolding transformation of his body to the airborne.

Then today you might be the only one able to see
The breast of a single red bloom
Five miles away across an open field.
The modification of your eye might have enabled you
To spot a red moth hanging on an oak branch
In the exact center of the Aurorean Forest.
And you could define for us, "hearing red in the air,"
As you predict the day pollen from the poppy
Will blow in from the valley.

Naturally you would picture your faith arranged
In filamented principles moving from pink
To crimson at the final quill. And the red tremble
Of your dream you might explain as the shimmer
Of his back lost over the sea at dawn.
Your sudden visions you might interpret as the uncreasing
Of heaven, the bones of the sky spread,
The conceptualized wing of the mind untangling.

Imagine the intensity of your revelation
The night the entire body of a star turns red
And you watch it as it rushes in flames
Across the black, down into the hills.

If your father was a redbird,
Then you would be obligated to try to understand
What it is you recognize in the sun
As you study it again this evening
Pulling itself and the sky in dark red
Over the edge of the earth.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Don’t Write History As Poetry by Mahmoud Darwish

Don’t Write History As Poetry

Don’t write history as poetry, because the weapon is
The historian. And the historian doesn’t get fever
Chills when he names his victims and doesn’t listen
To the guitar’s rendition. And history is the dailiness
Of weapons prescribed upon our bodies. “The
Intelligent genius is the mighty one.” And history
Has no compassion so that we can long for our
Beginning, and no intention so that we can know what’s ahead
And what’s behind . . . and it has no rest stops by
The railroad tracks for us to bury the dead, for us to look
Toward what time has done to us over there, and what
We’ve done to time. As if we were of it and outside it.
History is neither logical nor intuitive that we can break
What is left of our myth about happy times,
Nor is it a myth that we can accept our dwelling at the doors
Of judgment day. It is in us and outside us . . . and a mad
Repetition, from the catapult to the nuclear thunder.
Aimlessly we make it and it makes us . . . Perhaps
History wasn’t born as we desired, because
The Human Being never existed?
Philosophers and artists passed through there . . .
And the poets wrote down the dailiness of their purple flowers
Then passed through there . . . and the poor believed
In sayings about paradise and waited there . . .
And gods came to rescue nature from our divinity
And passed through there. And history has no
Time for contemplation, history has no mirror
And no bare face. It is unreal reality
Or unfanciful fancy, so don’t write it.
Don’t write it, don’t write it as poetry!

(Translated by Fady Joudah)


Friday, July 24, 2015

Correctives by Don Paterson


The shudder in my son’s left hand
he cures with one touch from his right,
two fingertips laid feather-light
to still his pen. He understands

the whole man must be his own brother
for no man is himself alone;
though some of us have never known
the one hand’s kindness to the other.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Publication Date by Franz Wright

Publication Date

One of the few pleasures of writing
is the thought of one’s book in the hands of a kind-hearted
intelligent person somewhere. I can’t remember what the
     others are right now.
I just noticed that it is my own private

National I Hate Myself and Want to Die Day
(which means the next day I will love my life
and want to live forever). The forecast calls
for a cold night in Boston all morning

and all afternoon. They say
tomorrow will be just like today,
only different. I’m in the cemetery now
at the edge of town, how did I get here?

A sparrow limps past on its little bone crutch saying
I am Federico Garcia Lorca
risen from the dead–
literature will lose, sunlight will win, don’t worry. 

What Matters by May Swenson

What Matters

It may be that it doesn’t matter
who or what or why you love.
(Maybe it matters when, and for how long.)
Of course, what matters is how strong.

Maybe the forbidden, the unbelievable,
or what doesn’t respond—
what grabs all and gives nothing—
what is ghoul or ghost,
what proves you a fool,
shrinks you, shortens your life,
if you love it, it doesn’t matter.
Only the love matters—
the stubbornness, or the helplessness.

At a certain chemical instant
in early youth, love’s trigger is cocked.
Whatever moves into focus
behind the cross hairs, magnifies,
is marked for target, injected with
magic shot. But the target doesn’t matter.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ashes of Life by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Ashes of Life

Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
Eat I must, and sleep I will,—and would that night were here!
But ah!—to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
Would that it were day again!—with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do;
This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through,—
There's little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me,—and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,—
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow.
There’s this little street and this little house.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Let’s Meet in a Restaurant by Marge Piercy

Let’s Meet in a Restaurant

Is food the enemy?
Giving a dinner party has become
an ordeal. I lie awake the night
before figuring how to produce

a feast that is vegan, gluten free,
macrobiotic, avoiding all acidic
fruit and tomatoes, wine, all nuts,
low carb and still edible

Are beetles okay for vegans?
Probably not. Forget chocolate
ants or fried grasshoppers.
Now my brains are cooked.

Finally seven o’clock arrives
and I produce the perfect meal.
At each plate for supper, a bowl
of cleanly washed pebbles. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blue by Philip Levine


Dawn. I was just walking
back across the tracks
toward the loading docks
when I saw a kid climb
out of a boxcar, his blue
jacket trailing like a skirt,
and make for the fence. He’d
hoisted a wet wooden flat
of fresh fish on his right
shoulder, and he tottered
back and forth like someone
with one leg shorter than
the other. I took my glasses
off and wiped them on the tails
of my dirty shirt, and all
I could see where the smudges
of the men wakening one
at a time and reaching for
both the sky and the earth.
My brother in law, Joseph,
the railroad cop, who talked
all day and night of beer
and pussy, Joseph in his suit
shouting out my name, Pheel!
Pheel! waiving a blue bandana
and pointing behind me to
where the kid cleared the fence
and the weak March sun
had topped the car barns,
to a pale, watery sky, wisps
of dirty smoke, and the day.

To My Heart, on Sunday by Wisława Szymborska

To My Heart, on Sunday

Thank you, my heart:
you don’t dawdle, you keep going
with no flattery or reward,
just from inborn diligence.

You get seventy credits a minute.
Each of your systoles
shoves a little boat
to open sea
to sail around the world.

Thank you, my heart:
time after time
you pluck me, separate even in sleep,
out of the whole.

You make sure I don’t dream my dreams
up to that final flight,
no wings required.

Thank you, my heart:
I woke up again
and even though it’s Sunday,
the day of rest,
the usual preholiday rush
continues underneath my ribs.

(Translated by Stanislaw Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

First Morning by Garth Greenwell

First Morning

I woke up to piss, and then to wake
the kids it was my charge to wake. 
In the little bowl of the field of our camp
the dozens of tents rose weirdly up
in the lingering low fog like stationary sails,
like ships in opening ice. The sun’s
slit eye ghosted distant from the east;
the made world glanced at the unmade.

Awake before me, in nothing but shorts, 
towel slung slack across his neck, 
the small boy danced an awkward sideways
dance across the just unfrozen ground,
his bare feet locked in fog, his skin—
musculature lithe beneath it sliding
liquid and adult—bristling with cold, 
white gleaming lunar in the morning air.

Behind me, a body turned in its tent, 
then another, then from inside the tarps
the waking voices of adolescent boys.
I imagined them cycling the intimate air
moist with sleep, and their breathing skin 
bare, and some of them hard, and some
sweating incommunicable dreams—

Turning from them, and from my own response,
I wandered toward woods that stretched
the previous night impenetrably far,
now a band of trees just three or four deep—
and at the back of it a makeshift fence,
three lines of wire stapled into bark, 
ridiculous, forceless, yet gathered there
six cows stood worshipful and blank.

Coming to them quietly I watched 
their pastoral loveliness melt away 
to uninflectable abjection: legs and stomachs slick
with excrement; nostrils caked with mucus
and flies, flaring at my scent; their own scent,
stinging and sweet at once, stomach-
churningly strong; and piercing each ear, 
sole adornment, an orange plastic disc

counting them out for slaughter. Until some fine
invisible line between us snapped
they let me close; then, disturbed, leaned
sudden as a body back. I took
a small red apple from my jacket and reached 
my arm out over the fence and stood,
the waxed skin gleaming dully in my hand, 
unclear emblem of something generous

and empty and good. The closest one, 
the least afraid, slowly stretched its neck 
to sniff my hand, then pulled back its lips
and took the fruit in its teeth, alien eyes locked 
humanly ahead. What did I stand there
wanting? The slack jaws worked
the white flesh referenceless, grinding 
a momentary sweetness out.

Friday, July 17, 2015

London by Tishani Doshi


Waking beside a broad and empty face
I lie to him about what moves me
And it is nothing to do with wooden farmhouses,
Cathedrals, or damp grass.
It is nothing to do with what brought me to him,
Or the perpetual blue sky I’ve given up
To be here, in Rathbone Place,
His bed of white, ragged spaces.
That lifeless life, the thick body he carries around
Under his skin – What have these to do
With our meeting in the middle of listless winter
Full of drink and desperateness?
I pick up my uncleanliness, six black pieces
Of clothing and slip into the morning.
London at 7am is grey, unmoving –
A city in slow recovery.
It is only ache after all that takes us anywhere –
So I return to a borrowed room, 
A collection of things of mine, resembling
Nothing and stubbornly strange to me.
All night there has been such clattering and heaving.
The wind outside is full of noise and raging.
But it is quiet here, by myself, alone
With ideas of love and not much else.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Flamingo Watching by Kay Ryan

Flamingo Watching

Wherever the flamingo goes,
she brings a city’s worth
of furbelows. She seems
unnatural by nature—
too vivid and peculiar
a structure to be pretty,
and flexible to the point
of oddity. Perched on
those legs, anything she does
seems like an act. Descending
on her egg or draping her head
along her back, she’s
too exact and sinuous
to convince an audience
she’s serious. The natural elect,
they think, would be less pink,
less able to relax their necks,
less flamboyant in general.
They privately expect that it’s some
poorly jointed bland grey animal
with mitts for hands
whom God protects.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In Memory Of My Mother by Patrick Kavanagh

In Memory Of My Mother

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday -
You meet me and you say:
'Don't forget to see about the cattle - '
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life -
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us  - eternally.

The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin

The Whitsun Weddings

That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
    Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense   
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence   
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.

All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept   
    For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.   
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and   
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;   
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped   
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass   
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth   
Until the next town, new and nondescript,   
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
    The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys   
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls   
I took for porters larking with the mails,   
And went on reading. Once we started, though,   
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls   
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,   
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

As if out on the end of an event
    Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant   
More promptly out next time, more curiously,   
And saw it all again in different terms:   
The fathers with broad belts under their suits   
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;   
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,   
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,   
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that

Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.   
    Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed   
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days   
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define   
Just what it saw departing: children frowned   
At something dull; fathers had never known

Success so huge and wholly farcical;
    The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared   
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.   
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast   
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say
    I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
—An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,   
And someone running up to bowl—and none   
Thought of the others they would never meet   
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.   
I thought of London spread out in the sun,   
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:

There we were aimed. And as we raced across   
    Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss   
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail   
Travelling coincidence; and what it held   
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power   
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower   
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.

Monday, July 13, 2015

New Hotel by Adam Zagajewski

New Hotel


In February the poplars are even slimmer
than in summer, frozen through. My family
spread across the earth, beneath the earth,
in different countries, poems, paintings.

Noon, I’m on Na Groblach Square.
I sometimes came to see my aunt
and uncle here (partly out of duty).
They’d stopped complaining about their fate,

the system, but their faces looked like
an empty secondhand bookshop.
Now someone else lives in that apartment,
strange people, the scent of a strange life.

A new hotel was built nearby,
bright rooms, breakfasts doubtless comme il faut,
juices, coffee, toast, glass, concrete,
amnesia—and suddenly, I don’t know why,
a moment of penetrating joy.

(Translated by Clare Cavanagh)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Homosexuality by Henri Cole


First I saw the round bill, like a bud;
then the sooty crested head, with avernal eyes
flickering, distressed, then the peculiar
long neck wrapping and unwrapping itself,
like pity or love, when I removed the stovepipe
cover of the bedroom chimney to free
what was there and a duck crashed into the room
(I am here in this fallen state), hitting her face,
bending her throat back (my love, my inborn
turbid wanting, at large all night), backing away,
gnawing at her own wing linings (the poison of my life,
the beast, the wolf), leaping out the window,
which I held open (now clear, sane, serene),
before climbing back naked into bed with you.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Shipfitters by Allen Grossman


It's a matter of concern to me that Leonardo's
Angels—who are so beautiful—are inadequately
provided with wings by the curious master.
Surely Leonardo knew they couldn't arrive here
to pray, or point, or weep, or at the end
save themselves from fire, by the means depicted.
It's also a matter of concern to me that Midge Berger,
wife of Ben Berger who owned the Mpls. Lakers,
played a good game of golf despite a tic
over her left eye (which raised her handicap),
and that Ben, a short man, liked to be photographed
next to George Mikan (7'2"), whom he hired for the purpose.
Midge was best friend of Beatrice, my mother.
Both girls are dead now. But it's still a matter of
concern to me that Ben and Midge went to China
in 1951 and that Midge carried back in her lap
(28 hours, PANAM) a model river boat, a "junk,"
as a present for Beatrice, empress of Mpls.
and its streams. The boat was made by learned felons
in Nanking prison on the Yangste, all dead,
but in their time they knew how to make a boat.
They would have been loftsmen, welders, riveters,
anglesmiths, flange turners, and the like. Look how
the hull, the spars, the sails, etc. are clearly right!
They were competent men. They knew how boats work.
I said to myself: "That will be my death-ship,
when it comes time."—And now wind rises.
The tide is at flood. The great green sails set
downstream, toward the harbor busy with trade.
The winds shift offshore.—Friends. Be thou assured!


Friday, July 10, 2015

Nineteen Thirty-Eight by Charles Simić

Nineteen Thirty-Eight

That was the year the Nazis marched into Vienna, 
Superman made his debut in Action Comics, 
Stalin was killing off his fellow revolutionaries, 
The first Dairy Queen opened in Kankakee, Ill., 
As I lay in my crib peeing in my diapers. 
“You must have been a beautiful baby,” Bing Crosby sang. 
A pilot the newspapers called Wrong Way Corrigan 
Took off from New York heading for California 
And landed instead in Ireland, as I watched my mother 
Take a breast out of her blue robe and come closer. 
There was a hurricane that September causing a movie theater 
At Westhampton Beach to be lifted out to sea. 
People worried the world was about to end. 
A fish believed to have been extinct for seventy million years 
Came up in a fishing net off the coast of South Africa. 
I lay in my crib as the days got shorter and colder, 
And the first heavy snow fell in the night. 
Making everything very quiet in my room. 
I believe I heard myself cry for a long, long time.