Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Cats — National Poetry Month

 The Cats

To find such glory in a dehydrated pea
on the tile between the stove and fridge.

To toss the needs of others aside
when you simply aren't in the mood for affection.

To find yourselves so irresistible.

And always in a small spot of sun,
you sprawl and spread out the pleasure of yourselves

never fretting, never wanting to go back
to erase your few decisions.

To find yourself so remarkable
all the day long.

from Come Now to the Window. © Laurel Poetry Collective, 2003. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ask — National Poetry Month


Why is this night different from all other nights?
    Don't we know the answer to that already?
Why are they called "the four questions"
    when it's really one question with four answers?

Do you believe we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt?
    That we cried out to God and God heard us?

That the Holy Blessed One lifted us out of there
    with that mighty hand and outstretched arm?
Does the archaeological record support any of this?
    Wouldn't we know if Hebrews had built the pyramids?
If the Angel of Death passed over the bloody lintels
    why didn't the Egyptians just imitate the Hebrews?

Does it matter if the Exodus actually happened?
    Does it matter to whom? Who's asking?
Is the story untrue if it isn't history?
    If I say I love you, is that true or false?
Why do we keep repeating this narrative?
    What does that say about who we think we are?
— Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Courtesy The Velveteen Rabbi

Monday, April 14, 2014

Order — National Poetry Month

Chag Kashruth Pesach.


Breakfast on kosher macaroons and Diet Pepsi
in the car on the way to Price Chopper for lamb.

Peel five pounds of onions and let the Cuisinart
shred them while you push them down and weep.

Call your mother because you know she’s preparing
too, because you want to ask again whether she cooks

matzah balls in salted water or broth, because you can.
Crumble boullion cubes like clumps of wet sand.

Remember the precise mixing order, beating
then stirring then folding, so that for one moment

you can become your grandfather.
Remember the year he taught you this trick,

not the year his wife died scant weeks before seder
and he was already befuddled when you came home.

Realize that no matter how many you buy
there are never quite enough eggs at Pesach

especially if you need twelve for the kugel
and eighteen for the kneidlach and another dozen

to hardboil and dip in bowls of stylized tears.
Know you are free! What loss. What rejoicing.

— Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Courtesy The Velveteen Rabbi

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Making Apple Sauce with my Dead Grandmother — National Poetry Month

Making Apple Sauce with my Dead Grandmother

I dig her up and plop her down in a wicker chair. 

She's going to make apple sauce and I'm going to get drunk.

She's cutting worms out of the small green apples from the back 


and I'm opening up a bottle. It erects like a tower 

in the city of my mouth. 

The way she makes apple sauce it has ragged 

strips of skin and spreads thickly over toast. 

It's infamous; eating it is as close to God as I'm going to get,

but I don't tell her. There's a dishtowel wrapped around her head 

to keep her jaw from falling slack-- 

Everything hurts. 

But I don't tell her that either. I have to stand at the callbox

and see what words I can squeeze in. I'm getting worried. 

If I dig her up and put her down in the wicker chair 

I'd better be ready for the rest of the family 

to make a fuss. I better bring her back right. 

The whole house smells of cinnamon and dust. 

We don't speak. She's piling the worms up in a bowl 

and throwing them back into the yard.


 by Bianca Stone

About this poem:

"What you don't realize about elegies, until someone you love dies, is that the reality of loss is fleeting. It then becomes something imaginary in your mind; a horror story you're addicted to. I approach the elegy trying to understand the moment they ceased to be in this world; the difference between the two realities. It creates a third: that delicious and devastating, invented garden that is poetry." — Bianca Stone

?Bianca Stone


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Flounder — National Poetry Month


Here, she said, put this on your head.

She handed me a hat.

you 'bout as white as your dad,

and you gone stay like that.

Aunt Sugar rolled her nylons down

around each bony ankle,

and I rolled down my white knee socks

letting my thin legs dangle,

circling them just above water

and silver backs of minnows

flitting here then there between

the sun spots and the shado


This is how you hold the pole

to cast the line out straight.

Now put that worm on your hook,

throw it out and wait.

She sat spitting tobacco juice

into a coffee cup.

Hunkered down when she felt the bite,

jerked the pole straight up

reeling and tugging hard at the fish

that wriggled and tried to fight back.

A flounder, she said, and you can tell

'cause one of its sides is black.

The other is white, she said.

It landed with a thump.

I stood there watching that fish flip-flop,

switch sides with every jump.

by Natasha Trethewey

Friday, April 11, 2014

One, Two — National Poetry Month

One, Two



One girl was taller and one was brown. They played ball

Without a ball, happily kicking an orange through the dust.

My notes say this: because, when you’re young, fear and the other emotions

Are so close together you can’t tell them apart.

I fill the blue tin cup with water, swallow its shocking cold. Again, again,

Though when I move my hand beyond the light I bring back air.

The dress I wore to his funeral lay for a year on the floor of my closet.

Then I washed it, hung it up, and that was the second year.

The body is not the soul the soul is not the body. Repeat this daily

In times of war, plague, flood, famine, drought, or the guillotine.

My great aunt died in summer. Her mad friend, a painter, hid two pounds of bacon

And all her silver on the roof. Guess how they were found.

“On the first day of war, already there’s no getting out,” a man said, stammering.

You can see the wolf in the dog by the way it stands, with its elbows in.

I got through the days by making a list: wash face / get dressed.

A horse can be utterly dusty and still smell all horse.

At Stonypath now a temple and gardens and, still, a stony path.

For example, if he was faithful to me but wished he were not.

It is better, I think, to suffer a nightmare under the heading

War comma Slanting Light.

He was studying words someone had scrawled in a margin,

So he copied them into a margin and left the center blank.


At dusk the deer I once fed daily stand head-to-tail in the yard like a little train.

The drought has ended. They turn their heads as if a bell had rung and then stilled.

What is not ours, he asked me. Or was it not a question, was it what

Is not ours: the black bowl, the morning light, the tea leaves, the soul.

Ten years have passed, and still I feel the rope-burn on my palms, the lightning

In my hair the rain not fallen yet, the moment, as I let the horse go.

Twin beds in a room with a high ceiling, a bare floor.

Outside, Seville stood with its light disheveled, its cold pure.

If I could have turned away it would have been there,

Which we called now and spoke of, even then.

What are the odds, I asked him, touching my hand for the first time

To Shiva’s brass body, the whirling world.

“But don’t, now, don’t—” My friend on the phone,

Trying to talk through hail on the roof, a radio, some kind of bird.

My notes say this: a red poppy blooms where it is not wanted, a not-quite-red poppy,

Which marks it as American, and less acquainted with grief.

A teabag is called Origami and the stitching is called Sincere.

The kettle boils, he handed me tea, and handed me tea again till our life ended.

For a moment I could not find the war, in memory. Then I turned my head and everything

Again was islanded, a raised hand, ripened breath, nothing fallen, still.

When the saw-whet owl flew into our window glass, I made him come out to the night and see.

He was naked and cold and pleased. It was kitten-like and alive and the grass was dry.


In the part of the form where they ask for annual income

I listed all the countries he had been to that I had not.

In one of the mudholes, someone had laid the wire shelf

From an old refrigerator. Under our tires it sank, bent, held.

This is the doctrine of heaven, heaven, hell. For example, his arm was heavy.

For example, beating my fists and tearing my hair.

Where the creek runs over the footbridge I meant to write under.

The notebook was spiral-bound and the ink was dry.

We walked through Fez when I was young, though not so young as I had been.

From vats of dye the steam was steam-colored, and the men were almost naked, barefoot, warm.

It took a year to teach that horse to pick up his feet like a gentleman.

Right, right, left, left, pick them clean as a whistle, clean as bone.

My notes say this: if two people stand on the bridge, they are lovers but not genuine.

The plate is old, but English, not Cantonese.

“America went down a rabbit hole,” they say, and they mean the war. That spring,

At the foot of a pine, we found a rabbit’s skeleton in the decomposing stomach of an owl.

Every page is a prayer flag, I said, and meant to ink them. Instead, he began to turn them

Faster and faster the farther we went from home.

We visited the Streets of Charcoal, Tin, Barrel, Drum, Brick, Bell.

We did not visit the Streets of Copper, Sugar, Jars, Mats, Shoes, Sails.

I asked him to choose a moment when I was not dead, but nearly,

And carry me up the mountain to a lion’s den.


I wonder if falling he knew; and if, what. It was our first night together.

I was young and in love and still trying to guide him past the door.

But you can’t hold his hand, they said, the bones are broken.

They said kiss his cold cold lips and walk away.

When the tall girl kicked the landmine, her sister caught it neatly in two hands

As she had been taught. For example, a short fly-ball on a windy day.

My notes say this: eyedrops, goggles, a wet handkerchief in a plastic bag,

And Vaseline doesn’t prevent burns from tear gas: it makes them worse.

That night they washed his face and they combed his hair. For months thereafter,

Memory was a page of writing from which words had been randomly erased.

My notes say this: the fields are cut and the wine is pressed.

Earth is a ball on an elephant’s back: blue, white, near, and it never falls.

In Hanoi it was raining, so the Street of Votive Papers, Ghost Money, Counterfeit,

Became Straw Mats and Rope, became Mirror.

The word Alba means Scotland, white, the soul, a robe, or nothing.

In the dictionary: nothing. And that was the second day.

The horse was called Nimbus and the mountain called Adam,

The vase two hundred years old and the flowers fresh.

We paid three pennies, lit three candles, took off our shoes and knelt on them,

Not because we believed, but because the path to that temple was long and steep.

Word-like sounds that are not words, or not words I know.

They wanted to tell me how many hours it would take for him to burn.

by Susan Tichy
Courtesy Beloit Poetry Journal

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Unexpected Poem — National Poetry Month

This poem is from 365 Days Subway: Poems by New Yorkers, by a blogger who, whenever she rides the subway, asks a stranger to write a poem. Go there now. It's wonderful. Thanks to PBS NewsHour for leading me to this treasure.

An Unexpected Poem: Jeremy S
4/5 to 42nd Street from Fulton, Aug. 1st, 2013
My daughter pointed out that he was eating something strange. I could see a food book tucked behind him. What an enthusiastic and kind person — a social worker for World Trade Center workers who have become ill.

An unexpected poem
In the morning
Eating the husk cherries
I bought the day before.

Reading a book
Expecting no one to notice
Tuning out the crowds
A moment – or a few –
Of imagined quiet.

Who knows where this will go?
An unexpected poem,
A chance to think.

Courtesy  365 Day Subway: Poems by New Yorkers