Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Moon And The Yew Tree by Sylvia Plath

The Moon And The Yew Tree

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary 
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue. 
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God 
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility 
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place. 
Separated from my house by a row of headstones. 
I simply cannot see where there is to get to. 

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right, 
White as a knuckle and terribly upset. 
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet 
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here. 
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky -- 
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection 
At the end, they soberly bong out their names. 

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape. 
The eyes lift after it and find the moon. 
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary. 
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls. 
How I would like to believe in tenderness - 
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles, 
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes. 

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering 
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars 
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue, 
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews, 
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness. 
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild. 
And the message of the yew tree is blackness - blackness and silence.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Museum by Yves Bonnefoy

The Museum

A clamor, in the distance. A crowd running under the rain beating down, between the canvases the sea wind set clattering.

A man passes crying something. What is he saying? What he knows! What he has seen! I make out his words. Ah, I almost understand!

I took refuge in a museum. Outside the great wind mixed with water reigns alone from now on, shaking the glass panes.

In each painting, I think, it's as if  God were giving up on finishing the world.

(Translated by Mary Ann Caws)


Monday, August 29, 2016

The Rain by Robert Creeley

The Rain

All night the sound had   
come back again, 
and again falls 
this quiet, persistent rain. 

What am I to myself 
that must be remembered,   
insisted upon 
so often? Is it 

that never the ease,   
even the hardness,   
of rain falling 
will have for me 

something other than this,   
something not so insistent— 
am I to be locked in this 
final uneasiness. 

Love, if you love me,   
lie next to me. 
Be for me, like rain,   
the getting out 

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi- 
lust of intentional indifference. 
Be wet 
with a decent happiness.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

At Burt Lake by Tom Andrews

At Burt Lake

To disappear into the right words
and to be their meanings. . .

October dusk.
Pink scraps of clouds, a plum-colored sky.
The sycamore tree spills a few leaves.
The cold focuses like a lens. . .

Now night falls, its hair
caught in the lake's eye.

Such clarity of things. Already
I've said too much. . .

language must happen to you
the way this black pane of water,
chipped and blistered with stars,
happens to me.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Let Me Handle My Business, Damn by Morgan Parker

Let Me Handle My Business, Damn

Took me awhile to learn the good words
make the rain on my window grown
and sexy now I’m in the tub holding down
that on-sale Bordeaux pretending
to be well adjusted I am on that real
jazz shit sometimes I run the streets
sometimes they run me I’m the body
of the queen of my hood filled up
with bad wine bad drugs mu shu pork
sick beats what more can I say to you
I open my stylish legs I get my swagger
back let men with gold teeth bow to my tits
and the blisters on my feet I become electric
I’m a patch of grass the stringy roots
you call home or sister if you want
I could scratch your eyes make hip-hop die again
I’m on that grown woman shit before I break
the bottle’s neck I pour a little out: I am fallen

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Greatest Colors for the Emptiest Parts of the World by Carl Phillips

The Greatest Colors for the Emptiest Parts of the World

Sure, I used to say his name like a truth that, just
by saying it aloud, I could make more true, which
makes no more sense than having called it sorrow,
when it was only the rain making the branches hang
more heavily, so that some of them, sometimes,
even touched the ground … I see that now. I can

see how easy it is to confuse estrangement with
what comes before that, what’s really just another
form of being lost, having meant to spell out—
wordlessly, handlessly—I’m falling, not Sir,
I fell. As for emptiness spilling where no one
ever wanted it to, and becoming compassion, as

for how that happens— What if all we do is all we
can do? what if longing, annihilation, regret are all this
life’s ever going to be, a little music thrown across and
under it, ghost song from a cricket box when the last
crickets have again gone silent, now, or be still forever,
as the gathering crowd, ungathering, slowly backs away?


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pleasures by Denise Levertov


I like to find   
what's not found   
at once, but lies

within something of another nature,   
in repose, distinct.   
Gull feathers of glass, hidden

in white pulp: the bones of squid   
which I pull out and lay
blade by blade on the draining board—

       tapered as if for swiftness, to pierce   
       the heart, but fragile, substance
       belying design.               Or a fruit, mamey,

cased in rough brown peel, the flesh   
rose-amber, and the seed:
the seed a stone of wood, carved and

polished, walnut-colored, formed   
like a brazilnut, but large,
large enough to fill
the hungry palm of a hand.

I like the juicy stem of grass that grows
within the coarser leaf folded round,
and the butteryellow glow
in the narrow flute from which the morning-glory   
opens blue and cool on a hot morning.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mother of the Groom by Seamus Heaney

Mother of the Groom

What she remembers
Is his glistening back
In the bath, his small boots
In the ring of boots at her feet.

Hands in her voided lap,
She hears a daughter welcomed.
It's as if he kicked when lifted
And slipped her soapy hold.

Once soap would ease off
The wedding ring
That's bedded forever now
In her clapping hand.

A Violence by Nicole Sealey

A Violence

You hear the high-pitched yowls of strays
fighting for scraps tossed from a kitchen window.
They sound like children you might have had.
Had you wanted children. Had you a maternal bone,
you would wrench it from your belly and fling it
from your fire escape. As if it were the stubborn
shard now lodged in your wrist. No, you would hide it.
Yes, you would hide it inside a barren nesting doll
you’ve had since you were a child. Its smile
reminds you of your father, who does not smile.
Nor does he believe you are his. “You look just like
your mother,” he says, “who looks just like a fire
of suspicious origin.” A body, I’ve read, can sustain
its own sick burning, its own hell, for hours.
It’s the mind. It’s the mind that cannot.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Broad Bean Sermon by Les Murray

The Broad Bean Sermon

Beanstalks, in any breeze, are a slack church parade
without belief, saying trespass against us in unison,
recruits in mint Air Force dacron, with unbuttoned leaves.

Upright with water like men, square in stem-section
they grow to great lengths, drink rain, keel over all ways,
kink down and grow up afresh, with proffered new greenstuff.

Above the cat-and-mouse floor of a thin bean forest
snails hang rapt in their food, ants hurry through several dimensions:
spiders tense and sag like little black flags in their cordage.

Going out to pick beans with the sun high as fence-tops, you find
plenty, and fetch them. An hour or a cloud later
you find shirtfulls more. At every hour of daylight

appear more than you missed: ripe, knobbly ones, freshy-sided,
thin-straight, thin-crescent, frown-shaped, bird-shouldered, boat-keeled ones,
beans knuckled and single-bulged, minute green dolphins at suck,

beans upright like lecturing, outstretched like blessing fingers
in the incident light, and more still, oblique to your notice
that the noon glare or cloud-light or afternoon slants will uncover

till you ask yourself Could I have overlooked so many, or
do they form in an hour? unfolding into reality
like templates for subtly broad grins, like unique caught expressions,

like edible meanings, each sealed around with a string
and affixed to its moment, an unceasing colloquial assembly,
the portly, the stiff, anf those lolling in pointed green slippers ...

Wondering who’ll take the spare bagfulls, you grin with happiness
– it is your health – you vow to pick them all
even the last few, weeks off yet, misshapen as toes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ash by Tracy K. Smith


Strange house we must keep and fill.

House that eats and pleads and kills.

House on legs. House on fire. House infested

With desire. Haunted house. Lonely house.

House of trick and suck and shrug.

Give-it-to-me house. I-need-you-baby house.

House whose rooms are pooled with blood.

House with hands. House of guilt. House

That other houses built. House of lies

And pride and bone. House afraid to be alone.

House like an engine that churns and stalls.

House with skin and hair for walls.

House the seasons singe and douse.

House that believes it is not a house.

I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies by June Jordan

I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies


I will no longer lightly walk behind
a one of you who fear me:
                                     Be afraid.
I plan to give you reasons for your jumpy fits
and facial tics
I will not walk politely on the pavements anymore
and this is dedicated in particular
to those who hear my footsteps
or the insubstantial rattling of my grocery
then turn around
see me
and hurry on
away from this impressive terror I must be:
I plan to blossom bloody on an afternoon
surrounded by my comrades singing
terrible revenge in merciless
I have watched a blind man studying his face.
I have set the table in the evening and sat down
to eat the news.
I have gone to sleep.
There is no one to forgive me.
The dead do not give a damn.
I live like a lover
who drops her dime into the phone
just as the subway shakes into the station
wasting her message
canceling the question of her call:

fulminating or forgetful but late
and always after the fact that could save or 
condemn me

I must become the action of my fate.


How many of my brothers and my sisters
will they kill
before I teach myself
Shall we pick a number? 
South Africa for instance:
do we agree that more than ten thousand
in less than a year but that less than
five thousand slaughtered in more than six
months will

I must become a menace to my enemies.


And if I 
if I ever let you slide
who should be extirpated from my universe
who should be cauterized from earth
(lawandorder jerkoffs of the first the
terrorist degree)
then let my body fail my soul
in its bedeviled lecheries

And if I 
if I ever let love go
because the hatred and the whisperings
become a phantom dictate I o-
bey in lieu of impulse and realities
(the blossoming flamingos of my
wild mimosa trees)
then let love freeze me

I must become
I must become a menace to my enemies.


Monday, August 15, 2016

What He Thought by Heather McHugh

What He Thought

We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the Mayor, mulled a couple
matters over. The Italian literati seemed
bewildered by the language of America: they asked us
what does “flat drink” mean? and the mysterious
“cheap date” (no explanation lessened
this one’s mystery). Among Italian writers we 

could recognize our counterparts: the academic,
the apologist, the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib. And there was one
administrator (The Conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone
narrated sights and histories
the hired van hauled us past.
Of all he was most politic—
and least poetic-- so
it seemed. Our last few days in Rome 
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?) to whom
he had inscribed and dated it a month before. I couldn’t
read Italian either, so I put the book
back in the wardrobe’s dark. We last Americans 

were due to leave
tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant,
and there we sat and chatted, sat and chewed, till,
sensible it was our last big chance to be Poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked 

“What’s poetry?
Is it the fruits and vegetables
and marketplace at Campo dei Fiori 

or the statue there?” Because I was
the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn’t have to think-- “The truth
is both, it’s both!” I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest
to say. What followed taught me something
about difficulty,  

for our underestimated host spoke out
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said: 

The statue represents
Giordano Bruno, brought
to be burned in the public square
because of his offence against authority, which was to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government
but rather is poured in waves, through
all things: all things
move. “If God is not the soul itself,
he is the soul OF THE SOUL of the world.” Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him forth to die 

they feared he might incite the crowd (the man
was famous for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask
in which he could not speak. 

That is how they burned him.
That is how he died, 
without a word,
in front of everyone. And poetry-- 

(we’d all put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on softly)-- poetry 

is what he thought, but did not say.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Meaning by Czesław Miłosz


When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add Up,
What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.

And if there is no lining to the world?
If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
Make no sense following each other?
And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?

Even if that is so, there will remain
A word wakened by lips that perish,
A tireless messenger who runs and runs
Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
And calls out, protests, screams.


On Flowers. On Negative Evolution by Alan Dugan

On Flowers. On Negative Evolution

When the front-end loader ran over my wife’s Montauk daisies
I wanted to tell the driver, Butch—a nice kid—but couldn’t:
“No flowers, no us. Flowers are basic to human life.
That’s why we think they’re beautiful. No flowers, no seeds;
no seeds, no greenery; no greenery, no oxygen: we
couldn’t even breathe without them. Also: no greens,
no grasses; no grasses, no herbivorous animals;
no animals, no beefsteaks. There wouldn’t be anything
to eat except fish, and no way to breathe unless
we went back to the ocean and redeveloped gills.
There the seaweeds would make oxygen by flowering underwater,
the way it used to be in the old days, and you
would be running over them in your submarine. This is why
flowers are thought beautiful, and this is why it’s important
not to destroy too many of them carelessly, and why you could
have been more careful with my wife’s god-damned daisies.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Geranium by Theodore Roethke

The Geranium

When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine--
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she'd lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.)

The things she endured!--
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
She leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me--
And that was scary--
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Vulnerability Study by Solmaz Sharif

Vulnerability Study

your face turning from mine
to keep from cumming

8 strawberries in a wet blue bowl

baba holding his pants
up at the checkpoint

a newlywed securing her updo
with grenade pins

a wall cleared of nails
for the ghosts to walk through

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

When a Man I Love Jerks Off in My Bed Next to Me and Falls Asleep by Morgan Parker

When a Man I Love Jerks Off in My Bed Next to Me and Falls Asleep

I think of my father
vodka-laughing: Aw shit,
when Daddy said go pick out a switch
from the lemon tree we knew
that switch better be good.
My father was a drunk altar boy.
My father was a Southern boy.
My father is a good man.
When you grow up in the South, you know
the difference between a good switch and a bad one.
Pick what hurts best. The difference between drinking
to disappear and drinking to remember.
Be polite. Be gentle. Be a vessel. Be ashamed.
As a child, I begged to be whooped.
I pinched myself with my nails when I was wrong.
I tried to pull out my eyelashes. I said, Punish me
I said for I have sinned I am disgusting.
Here is the order in which we studied the Bible
in second grade: 1: Genesis, or, God is a man
and he owns you. You were bad. Put on some
got-damn clothes. 2: Exodus, or, you would still
be a slave if it were not for men. Also, magic.
Magic or, never question a man’s truth.
3: Job, or, suffer, suffer because it is holy.
During the classes on Revelation, I think
I drifted to sleep. I think I dreamed
trumpets when I touched my hot parts
then touched the cold steel of my desk.
I knew what it meant to be wrong and woman.
When I walk into the world and know
I am a black girl, I understand
I am a costume. I know the rules.
I like the pain because it makes me.
I deserve the pain. I deserve you
looking at me, moaning, looking away.
Son of a bitch. My rent is due.
No one kissed my tits and read the Bible.
Good and evil. Pleasure and empty
curtain grid of dawn light.
I call this honor. I call this birthright.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Homage to a Government by Philip Larkin

Homage to a Government

Next year we are to bring all the soldiers home
For lack of money, and it is all right.
Places they guarded, or kept orderly,
Must guard themselves, and keep themselves orderly.
We want the money for ourselves at home
Instead of working. And this is all right.

It's hard to say who wanted it to happen,
But now it's been decided nobody minds.
The places are a long way off, not here,
Which is all right, and from what we hear
The soldiers there only made trouble happen.
Next year we shall be easier in our minds.

Next year we shall be living in a country
That brought its soldiers home for lack of money.
The statues will be standing in the same
Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.
Our children will not know it's a different country.
All we can hope to leave them now is money.


Monday, August 8, 2016

alternate names for black boys by Danez Smith

alternate names for black boys

1.   smoke above the burning bush
2.   archnemesis of summer night
3.   first son of soil
4.   coal awaiting spark & wind
5.   guilty until proven dead
6.   oil heavy starlight
7.   monster until proven ghost
8.   gone
9.   phoenix who forgets to un-ash
10. going, going, gone
11. gods of shovels & black veils
12. what once passed for kindling
13. fireworks at dawn
14. brilliant, shadow hued coral
15. (I thought to leave this blank
       but who am I to name us nothing?)
16. prayer who learned to bite & sprint
17. a mother’s joy & clutched breath


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dayley Island by Frederick Seidel

Dayley Island

Gulls spiral high above 
The porch tiles and my gulf-green, 
Cliff-hanging lawn, with their 
Out-of-breath wail, as 
Dawn catches the silver ball 
Set in the dried up bird bath 
To scare the gulls. My slippers 
Exhale lamé.

I was egged on by old age—
To sell that house, 
Winterize this house, 
Give up my practice... that 
You, Pauli, gave up 
At Belzec, our son at Belsen, 
And one at Maidenek, 
Our last at Maidenek.

Below the cliff, the shallows 
Tear apart, beating 
Themselves white and black, 
While the sea’s smooth other edge 
Towers, reddening, 
Over the surfacing sun. 
I rise early, always, 
Earlier each day...

Holding on. 
But it’s the island that’s locked in 
By the sea—a case 
Of vaginismus, Pauli—
Except for the one bridge 
To the next island. I’m free—
Dayley’s first once Jewish, 
Non-practicing analyst:

Old, but she has no helper; 
Station-wagon, but 
She’s not a tourist; poor for 
An island Venus or matron. 
The man who sells me fish 
Says he fought my Nazis, 
The captured ones talked 
Just like me—I’m somebody.

Last week—March-cold 
In the middle of August, 
Snow-blue, high, thin skies—
I drove the hour to Brunswick 
To drop my suits at
Maine’s Only Chinese Laundry, 
A down-easter’s, 
With a Negro presser.

The man was just then off
For Hagard to shoot rabbits
For the reward,
Three miles off Dayley’s east shore.
Years before,
A mainlander
Had loosed two white rabbits
There; now it was theirs.

Frail, pink-veined, pale ears,
And pink as perfect gums,
Pink eyes, rose noses, as if
Diseased—I’d been there.
The lead-gray Yankee owner,
After the shotgun blast,
Strode forward, gathered the bunch,
And one by one, grabbed each

By its hind legs while it sobbed,
And swinging it against
The bare lawn, slapped it dead,
And swung it to the shrubs.
I left the cleaners wanting
So to tell you. The sun’s
Well up now. Our blue carpet’s
Fading evergreen, Pauli.


The Sun Underfoot Among the Sundews by Amy Clampitt

The Sun Underfoot  Among the Sundews

An ingenuity too astonishing 
to be quite fortuitous is 
this bog full of sundews, sphagnum- 
lined and shaped like a teacup. 
                                                        A step 
down and you’re into it; a 
wilderness swallows you up: 
ankle-, then knee-, then midriff- 
to-shoulder-deep in wetfooted 
understory, an overhead 
spruce-tamarack horizon hinting 
you’ll never get out of here. 
                                            But the sun 
among the sundews, down there, 
is so bright, an underfoot 
webwork of carnivorous rubies, 
a star-swarm thick as the gnats 
they’re set to catch, delectable 
double-faced cockleburs, each 
hair-tip a sticky mirror 
afire with sunlight, a million 
of them and again a million, 
each mirror a trap set to 
unhand unbelieving, 
                                      that either 
a First Cause said once, “Let there 
be sundews,” and there were, or they’ve 
made their way here unaided 
other than by that backhand, round- 
about refusal to assume responsibility 
known as Natural Selection. 
                                                    But the sun 
underfoot is so dazzling 
down there among the sundews, 
there is so much light 
in the cup that, looking, 
you start to fall upward.