Friday, April 30, 2010

Pastan Reflects on a Daughter

To a Daughter Leaving Home

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

by Linda Pastan
from The Imperfect Paradise. © W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
courtesy of The Writer's Almanac

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poem in Your Pocket Day is Today!

Jot down this poem and put it in your pocket, like my friend Beth Field does.  (However, I suspect she has memorized it, the Peety-Swie she is!)

Runny's Rig Bomance

Runny had a firlgriend,
Her name was Sunny Bue.
He called her nots of licknames,
Like "kitchy-Itchy Koo."
Sometimes he called her "Boney-Hun,"
And sometimes "Dovey Lear,"
But he only called her "Peety-Swie"
When no one else could hear.

- Shel Silverstein

What's your pocket poem?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Honor of the First Night Baseball Game (Independence, Kan., 1930)

Casey at the Bat

Published: The Examiner (06-03-1888)
The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that —
We'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.

by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ramping Up for Poem in Your Pocket Day

A pocket poem can be short, small, compact — or can be as long as you want it to be.  (I've seen some big pockets in my time.)  It can be a poem you carry in your head, others you slip into your checkbook (because when you're writing a check, one needs the salve of a poem).  

I hang a couple on my walls at work.  

I also recite this one to David whenever I'm feeling clever:

'Twas in a restaurant they met,
Romeo and Juliet.
He had no cash to pay the debt
so Romeo'd what Juliet.

Here are a couple from my friend Beth Field.

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. 
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I've brought a big bat and I'm ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me.
- Dr. Seuss

Shake and shake
The catsup bottle.
None will come,
And then a lot'll.

Richard Armour

What's your favorite pocket poem? E-mail me and receive a book of poetry for your effort!

Check back on April 29, Poem in Your Pocket Day, for a few more pocket poems!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Baptism to the Bard

While the date of William Shakespeare's birth is only a guess,  there is record of one of the earliest experiences of his young life: he was baptized on this date in 1564.  In his honor, I post a "poem" from his play As You Like It.

Jaques to Duke Senior

                          All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

by William Shapespeare

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Damsels in Distress

This poem by Liona Averill reminds me of my friend Corinne, who at age seven said her favorite Star Wars character was Princess Leia because "she didn't wait for someone to save her."   Thanks to Liona for sharing her poem and to my sister-in-law Jeannie Fow for discovering this poet!

Damsels in Distress

You know those Damsels in Distress?
The ones who are more annoying than the rest?
"Save me from this wicked witch!"
What a snitch!
"This dragons going to eat me!"
The next girl to the scene gets a gown for free!
It's pretty and pink and has fine white lace!
The girl who had it didn't carry mace.
And why are they always talking about a knight in shining armor?
Who's to say he's not a farmer?
So next time you see a Damsel in Distress,
Walk up and say, "I prefer a dragon with flaming breath."

by Liona Averill

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Poets Who Have Passed

I just discovered a new holiday: National Dead Poets Remembrance Day!  It is October 7, the anniversary of the death of Edgar Allen Poe.  Many states are holding special events in 2010 to commemorate the new holiday; check out what's happening in your state.  

Celebrate the poets in your neighborhood, living and dead — and if you need to know who some of them are, visit the Dead Poets Society to find out who's buried in your state.

Macabre?  Sure.  But hilarious, too!

In honor of passed poets everywhere, here is a poem by one of my favorite poets of all time: Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979).

A Miracle for Breakfast

  At six o'clock we were waiting for coffee,
waiting for
coffee and the charitable crumb
that was going to be served from a certain balcony
--like kings of old, or like a miracle.
It was still dark. One foot of the sun
steadied itself on a long ripple in the river.

The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river.
It was so cold we hoped that the coffee
would be very hot, seeing that the sun
was not going to warm us; and that the crumb
would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle.
At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.

He stood for a minute alone on the balcony
looking over our heads toward the river.
A servant handed him the makings of a miracle,
consisting of one lone
cup of coffee
and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb,
his head, so to speak, in the clouds--along with the sun.

Was the man crazy? What under the sun
was he trying to do, up there on his balcony!
Each man received one rather hard crumb,
which some flicked scornfully into the river,
and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee.
Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle.

I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle.
A beautiful villa stood in the sun
and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee.
In front, a baroque white plaster balcony
added by birds, who nest along the river,
--I saw it with one eye close to the crumb--

and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb
my mansion, made for me by a miracle,
through ages, by insects, birds, and the river
working the stone. Every day, in the sun,
at breakfast time I sit on my balcony
with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee.

We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee.
A window across the river caught the sun
as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.

by Elizabeth Bishop
Poem Hunter                                                              

Friday, April 23, 2010

Not Exactly the Same Ones, But Vows Nonetheless

After a Noisy Night

            The man I love enters the kitchen
with a groan, he just
woke up, his hair a Rorschach test.
A minty kiss, a hand
on my neck, coffee, two percent milk,
microwave. He collapses
on a chair, stunned with sleep,
yawns, groans again, complains
about his dry sinuses and crusted nose.
            I want to tell him how
much he slept, how well,
the cacophony of his snoring
pumping in long wheezes
and throttles—the debacle
of rhythm—hours erratic
with staccato of pants and puffs,
crescendi of gulps, chokes,
pectoral sputters and spits.
            But the microwave goes ding!
A short little ding! – sharp
as a guillotine—loud enough to stop
my words from killing the moment.
            And during the few seconds
it takes the man I love
to open the microwave, stir,
sip and sit there staring
at his mug, I remember the vows
I made to my pillows, to fate
and God: I'll stop eating licorice,
become a blonde, a lumberjack,
a Catholic, anything,
but bring a man to me:
            so I go to him: Sorry, honey,
sorry you had such a rough night
hold his gray head against my heart
and kiss him, kiss him.

from The Hour Between Dog and Wolf. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 1997.

(P.S. I purchased this book from the publisher as soon as I read this poem.  I will let you know what I think when I read it.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Poem in Your Pocket Day on the Horizon!

April 29 is Poem in Your Pocket Day.  

In celebration, poetry lovers, here's a deal: if you send me a poem by April 27, 2010 for Poem in Your Pocket Day, I will send you a book of poetry.

To inspire you, here is a poem from New York City for Poem in Your Pocket Day:


Tonight is quiet.

there'll be fighting.

My first battle.

I'll be brave

in the morning

as I set the pace:




Men will march

many to their deaths

as I spur them on:






I wish my ma was


"Sleep tight -

sweet dreams,"

would be

right fine


to hear.

By Cynthia Cotten
courtesy Academy of American Poets and New York City

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Losing It

The Lost Heifer 
When the black herds of the rain were grazing,
In the gap of the pure cold wind
And the watery hazes of the hazel
Brought her into my mind,
I thought of the last honey by the water
That no hive can find.

Brightness was drenching through the branches
When she wandered again,
Turning sliver out of dark grasses
Where the skylark had lain,
And her voice coming softly over the meadow
Was the mist becoming rain.
by Austin Clarke

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Only Tennessee Williams Could Have Composed This

Life Story
After you've been to bed together for the first time,
without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
the other party very often says to you,
Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
what's your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do

sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
lying together in completely relaxed positions
like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.

You tell them your story, or as much of your story
as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
      Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, until the oh
is just an audible breath, and then of course

there's some interruption. Slow room service comes up
with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
and gaze at himself with mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
And then, the first thing you know, before you've had time
to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
they're telling you their life story, exactly as they'd intended to all

and you're saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
no more than an audible sigh,
as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
and stops breathing forever. Then?

Well, one of you falls asleep
and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
and that's how people burn to death in hotel rooms.

from The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams. © New Directions, 2002.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Idris Anderson's Red Coat

The Red Coat

It's sleeting when we walk from the white church,
the ground frozen, the brown grass brittle.
I am somewhat back in the long black line of mourners,

behind my sisters, their husbands and children. I see it
all as it's happening as though it's not happening.
The roses on the polished oak of my father's coffin

are sheeting with ice and I know the red coat
is too thin to keep my mother warm. She's not shivering.
She walks across the breaking grass behind the coffin

slowly and with great dignity—without her oxygen tank,
her mouth open, a rose filled with snow.
She's walking toward something silver and mechanical,

like a fence around the grave. There's a canopy imprinted
with the logo of the funeral home, Herndon and Sons,
and four rows of white plastic chairs and the artificial grass.

A blue tarp covers a red clay pile of earth. We aren't supposed
to notice these things. Bits of color in wool hats and scarves
and the red coat. My mother was determined to wear the red coat

which I'd bought for myself but gave to her because she loved it,
because it is the color that he loved on her,
because I could not bear her not having anything she loved.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ode to the Laundromat On Its 66th Anniversary

Peter Pan, The Laundry and Your Poem

Each washing machine at Shockey's has a name in black script,
Evelyn, Ida, Donna, or Tom.
It's a quiet afternoon and the change machines aren't cooperating:
They take a five-dollar bill and spit a single quarter back.

Amidst the kids' laundry, separated into three piles,
Like the children in the Darling family-big,middle,baby-
Your poem arrives.

Your handwriting on the envelope, some type of trick with time,
Propels me to another moment ten years before,
When I found your poem together in my mailbox with an orange.

I was quite content, before Peter Pan arrived
Playing his pipes at the foot of my bed,
Searching through the bureau drawers for his lost shadow.

At first I read the poem in gulps, like swallowing chocolate whole,
Just happy to be holding something from you, something that made me
Feel those other days, the magic fairy dust.

The second time I read it, I felt the air in the lines, the structure,
The girders lying beneath the words. And the third time I read it,
I recognized that, however many lives we live, whatever land we fly to,
The stars will guide us still.

Dryers spin off balance as I hold the pages in my hand. My daughter
Reads a chapter book in the scooped plastic chair. Look, I have a daughter,
Look, you have a son, I have two sons, you have a wife, you have a house, a job.

Into the laundromat walks a man with a red ponytail, short cutoffs.
How jealous I am he has only one load, uses only one dryer,
While my daughter and I have three carts hung with shirts like
The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

His face, when I finally see it, is yours.
That boyish, pixie charm. Here is Pan all grown up,
Folding his laundry, shadow sewn securely to the backs of his heels.

by Melissa White
courtesy Santa Fe Poetry Broadside.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


 On this day in 1861, Virginia seceded from the Union.  Today, it is simultaneously unthinkable and revered by many who celebrate Virginia's past.  Even the governor of the commonwealth celebrated Virginia's Confederate past with a proclamation.  

I don't understand how someone can revere the very thing that brought this nation to its knees and wrought the bloodiest battles of its history.  Study it, of course.  Learn from it, assuredly. But regard it with pride?  I shake my head sadly.  The very word adopted by the secessionists, "confederate," is defined as a plot by henchmen, an unsavory deed.  That is not my Virginia.  

My Virginia is the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling softly like the spine of the land.  It's the softness of the vowels and flat As spoken by those native to the southern end.  It's the dogwoods exploding in the spring along Skyline Drive and the Beltway.  It's the Southern land cradling the nation's capitol.  It's Monticello, Mount Vernon, Montpelier, those who built and nurtured the nation.  It's the names of rivers and mountain ranges foreign-sounding to a native of the West.  It has more universities than you can shake a stick at, each with its own rich history and personality.  It's an eclectic mix of rich and poor, urban and rural, crowded and cavernous, that threatens to divide itself yet again but won't.  And so I share this poem, celebrating its beauty. Enjoy.  

Virginia Evening   
Just past dusk I passed Christiansburg,
cluster of lights sharpening
as the violet backdrop of the Blue Ridge
darkened. Not stars
but blue-black mountains rose
before me, rose like sleep
after hours of driving, hundreds of miles
blurred behind me. My eyelids
were so heavy but I could see
far ahead a summer thunderstorm flashing,
lightning sparking from cloud
to mountaintop. I drove toward it,
into the pass at Ironto, the dark
now deeper in the long steep grades,
heavy in the shadow of mountains weighted
with evergreens, with spruce, pine,
and cedar. How I wished to sleep
in that sweet air, which filled--
suddenly over a rise--with the small
lights of countless fireflies. Everywhere
they drifted, sweeping from the trees
down to the highway my headlights lit.
Fireflies blinked in the distance
and before my eyes, just before
the windshield struck them and they died.
Cold phosphorescent green, on the glass
their bodies clung like buds bursting
the clean line of a branch in spring.
How long it lasted, how many struck
and bloomed as I drove on, hypnotic
stare fixed on the road ahead, I can't say.
Beyond them, beyond their swarming
bright deaths came the rain, a shower
which fell like some dark blessing.
Imagine when I flicked the windshield wipers on
what an eerie glowing beauty faced me.
In that smeared, streaked light
diminished sweep by sweep you could have seen
my face. It was weary, shocked, awakened,
alive with wonder far after the blades and rain
swept clean the light of those lives
passed, like stars rolling over
the earth, now into other lives.

by Michael Pettit

Friday, April 16, 2010

And the Pulitzer Goes To: Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Versed, described as "a book striking for its wit and linguistic inventiveness, offering poems that are often little thought-bombs detonating in the mind long after the first reading."  Enjoy this poem, which is included in the book and first published in Poetry magazine.

Click here to listen to the poem read by the poet herself.

Birth Order


You’re it.

It is (you are)
an error

with an arsenal
of disguises,

with a system
of incorporation
built in,

with enmity,

with direction.


What have you got to lose?

gray tile roof,

gray sky scored
by power lines.

This framed measure
of distance
as intimacy.

Shadows of fingers

move across the white page.

could write this.

That word—


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Engagement Poem

On April 15, 2008, David proposed to me.  You can relive that moment here — and enjoy this poem now.

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.

by W. B. Yeats

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poem With a Pirate Patch

Postcard to I. Kaminsky from a Dream at the Edge of the Sea  

I was leaving a country of rain for a country of apples. I hadn't much time. I told my beloved to wear his bathrobe, his cowboy boots, a black patch like a pirate might wear over his sharpest eye. My own bags were full of salt, which made them shifty, hard to lift. Houses had fallen, face first, into the mud at the edge of the sea. Hurry, I thought, and my hands were like birds. They could hold nothing. A feathery breeze. Then a white tree blossomed over the bed, all white blossoms, a painted tree. "Oh," I said, or my love said to me. We want to be human, always, again, so we knelt like children at prayer while our lost mothers hushed us. A halo of bees. I was dreaming as hard as I could dream. It was fast—how the apples fattened and fell. The country that rose up to meet me was steep as a mirror; the gold hook gleamed.

 by Cecilia Woloch

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Who Wouldn't, I Must Ask the Reader!


My father, in middle age, falls in love with a dog.
He who kicked dogs in anger when I was a child,
who liked his comb always on the same shelf,
who drank martinis to make his mind quiet.

He who worked and worked—his shirts
wrapped in plastic, his heart ironed
like a collar. He who—like so many men—
loved his children but thought the money

he made for them was more important
than the rough tweed of his presence.
The love of my father's later years is
a Golden Retriever—more red

than yellow—a nervous dog who knows
his work clothes from his casual ones,
can read his creased face, who waits for
him at the front door—her paws crossed

like a child's arms. She doesn't berate him
for being late, doesn't need new shoes
or college. There is no pressure to raise her
right, which is why she chews the furniture,

pees on rugs, barks at strangers who
cross the lawn. She is his responsible soul
broken free. She is the children he couldn't
come home to made young again.

She is like my mother but never angry,
always devoted. He cooks for his dog—
my father who raised us in restaurants—
and takes her on business trips like

a wife. Sometimes, sitting beside her
in the hair-filled fan he drives to make
her more comfortable, my father's dog
turns her head to one side as if

thinking and, in this pose, more than
one of us has mistaken her for a person.
We would be jealous if she didn't make
him so happy—he who never took

more than one trip on his expensive
sailboat, whose Mercedes was wrecked
by a valet. My mother saw him behind
the counter of a now-fallen fast food

restaurant when she was nineteen.
They kissed beside a river where fish
no longer swim. My father who was
always serious has fallen in love with

a dog. What can I do but be happy for him?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Vampire Poem? Cool!

Christabel [Beneath the lamp]   
Beneath the lamp the lady bowed,
And slowly rolled her eyes around;
Then drawing in her breath aloud,
Like one that shuddered, she unbound
The cincture from beneath her breast:
Her silken robe, and inner vest,
Dropt to her feet, and full in view,
Behold! her bosom, and half her side—
A sight to dream of, not to tell!
O shield her! shield sweet Christabel!

Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs;
Ah! what a stricken look was hers!
Deep from within she seems half-way
To lift some weight with sick assay,
And eyes the maid and seeks delay;
Then suddenly as one defied
Collects herself in scorn and pride,
And lay down by the Maiden's side!—
And in her arms the maid she took,
   Ah wel-a-day!
And with low voice and doleful look
   These words did say:
'In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell,
Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel!

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poetic, Literary and a Few Plain Ol' Fun Epigrams

What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole;
Its body brevity, and wit its soul. 

 Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool,  
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.

Little strokes
Fell great oaks.
Men seldom make passes 
At girls who wear glasses. Dorothy Parker  

Here lies my wife: here let her lie!
Now she's at rest — and so am I.

I am His Highness' dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

I'm tired of Love: I'm still more tired of Rhyme.
But Money gives me pleasure all the time.

I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.

To define the beautiful is to misunderstand it.
— Charles Robert Anon (Fernando Pessoa)

To be safe on the Fourth,
Don't buy a fifth on the third.

This Humanist whom no belief constrained
Grew so broad-minded he was scatter-brained.

Candy Is dandy,
But liquor Is quicker. — Ogden Nash  

If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.Catherine the Great    
Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.Oscar Wilde    

I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I'm not dumb, and also I'm not blonde.Dolly Parton     

Thanks to Wikipedia, The HyperTexts and the Academy of American Poets for some great gems!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

For Bobby and Lisa on Their Wedding Day

When a Woman Loves a Man
When she says Margarita she means Daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again,"
she means, "Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window."

He's supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
    is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one-ten in the morning,
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, "We're talking about me now,"
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
"Did somebody die?"

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water ruching over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

When he says, "Ours is a transitional era."
"That's very original of you," she replies,
dry as the Martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time
It's fun
What do I owe you?
Let's start with an apology
Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying "Laughter."
It's a silent picture.
"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says,
"and you can quote me on that,"
which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
    another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
    airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he's there. He doesn't complain that
    she's two hours late
and there's nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She's like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Library in Poetry

It is no secret, my love of books.  I hope also it is no secret I hold an equally deep love for libraries, especially public ones.  The first tax-supported public library opened on this day in 1833, in Peterborough, N.H., and it stands today with more than 9,000 other public libraries that feed our need for information and resources.  

You may not be able to get a subscription to the Post or pay for Internet connection, but you know you can get that at the library — as well as books in many languages, DVDs, recorded books and reference material and magazines from all over the world.

We talk about all of the things we can live without in economic hard times.  Some jurisdictions seem to think libraries are one of those things that can come and go when "times get tough."  You and I know better.  Call your mayor, call your chairman, call your parish president or county leader and make sure they know that, too.

 While we're at it, let's have a shout-out to all of the librarians out there who know where, when and how to find out anything we need to know (whether we knew it or not).  Between them and the Dewey Decimal System, we're saved!



'For out of olde feldes, as men seyth, Cometh al this newe corne yer by yere, And out of olde bokes, in good feyth, Cometh al this newe science that men lere.'

Chaucer: The Parlement of Foules
Fourteen centuries have learned, From charred remains, that what took place When Alexandria's library burned Brain-damaged the human race.

Whatever escaped Was hidden by bookish monks in their damp cells Hunted by Alfred dug for by Charlemagne Got through the Dark Ages little enough but enough For Dante and Chaucer sitting up all night

looking for light.
A Serbian Prof's insanity,
Commanding guns, to split the heart,
His and his people's, tore apart
The Sarajevo library.

Tyrants know where to aim As Hitler poured his petrol and tossed matches Stalin collected the bards... In other words the mobile and only libraries...

of all those enslaved peoples from the Black to the Bering Sea
And made a bonfire
Of the mainsprings of national identities to melt

the folk into one puddle
And the three seconds of the present moment
By massacring those wordy fellows whose memories were

bigger than armies.
Where any nation starts awake
Books are the memory. And it's plain
Decay of libraries is like
Alzheimer's in the nation's brain.

And in my own day in my own land I have heard the fiery whisper: 'We are here To destroy the Book To destroy the rooted stock of the Book and The Book's perennial vintage, destroy it Not with a hammer or a sickle And not exactly according to Mao who also Drained the skull of adult and adolescent To build a shining new society With the empties...'
For this one's dreams and that one's acts
For all who've failed or aged beyond
The reach of teachers, here are found
The inspiration and the facts.

As we all know and have heard all our lives Just as we've heard that here.
Even the most misfitting child
Who's chanced upon the library's worth,
Sits with the genius of the Earth
And turns the key to the whole world.

Hear it again.

by Ted Hughes
courtesy New Library: The People's Network

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Repeatedly Poetic

I know Mr. Milburn was featured recently on this blog, but I can't help but share yet another of his works.  Achingly lovely and tragic.  I can't look away.  I don't want to look away.  I bet you feel the same way.

On the Phone

That whooshing, watery,
radio-being-tuned sound
tells me he's outdoors
on his way somewhere
and I'd better talk fast.
I can't remember
the last time I phoned him
without dreading that countdown
to when he says, "I'm going
into the subway, Dad, got to go."
Lately, he even calls me from the street—
a convenient way to keep
his keeping in touch short. He's right—
I'd talk to him for an hour,
marching through my pent-up questions.
It tires me, wanting him so much,
the resistance with which he responds.
I bet there's a girl out there
he'd duck into a lobby
to keep speaking to
as long as she desired. Instead,
he tells me that I'm breaking up,
and there's a sound
as if he's dropped the phone
into a rushing river, which then
pulls him in too, his life.

by Michael Milburn
from Drive By Heart. © Word Press, 2009. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grateful For Our New York Honeymoon

For My Wife

How were we to know, leaving your two kids
behind in New Hampshire for our honeymoon
at twenty-one, that it was a trick of cheap
hotels in New York City to draw customers
like us inside by displaying a fancy lobby?
Arriving in our fourth-floor room, we found
a bed, a scarred bureau, and a bathroom door
with a cut on one side the exact shape
of the toilet bowl that was in its way
when I closed it. I opened and shut the door,
admiring the fit and despairing of it. You
discovered the initials of lovers carved
on the bureau's top in a zigzag, breaking heart.
How wrong the place was to us then,
unable to see the portents of our future
that seem so clear now in the naiveté
of the arrangements we made, the hotel's
disdain for those with little money,
the carving of pain and love. Yet in that room
we pulled the covers over ourselves and lay
our love down, and in this way began our unwise
and persistent and lucky life together.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What is it Good For? (Wait, That's "War"!)

They hang around, hitting on your friends
or else you never hear from them again.
They call when they're drunk, or finally get sober,

they're passing through town and want dinner,
they take your hand across the table, kiss you
when you come back from the bathroom.

They were your loves, your victims,
your good dogs or bad boys, and they're over
you now. one writes a book in which a woman

who sounds suspiciously like you
is the first to be sadistically dismembered
by a serial killer. They're getting married

and want you to be the first to know,
or they've been fired and need a loan,
their new girlfriend hates you,

they say they don't miss you but show up
in your dreams, calling to you from the shoeboxes
where they're buried in rows in your basement.

Some nights you find one floating into bed with you,
propped on an elbow, giving you a look
of fascination, a look that says I can't believe

I've found you. It's the same way
your current boyfriend gazed at you last night,
before he pulled the plug on the tiny white lights

above the bed, and moved against you in the dark
broken occasionally by the faint restless arcs
of headlights from the freeway's passing trucks,

the big rigs that travel and travel,
hauling their loads between cities, warehouses,
following the familiar routes of their loneliness.

from What Is This Thing Called Love. © W.W. Norton, 2004. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hiking and Poetry

David and I hiked portions of the Shenandoah National Park yesterday, and I suspect by the time you read this, our bodies will be screaming at us for hiking miles uphill.  (Plus, while it's too early to tell, I'm sure I got "a little sun," which is a euphemism for blondes for "Holy moly, am I pink! Why do I eschew sunscreen, especially this early in the season?")

In dubious honor of this occasion, I searched the Internet for "hiking+poetry" and found a description of the Hyla Brook Nature/Poetry Trail.  There you can wander off a trail and — well, let me have the people at tell you:
The Hyla Brook Nature/Poetry Trail is certainly the shortest walk in this hiker’s guide, an abbreviated amble barely straying from the meadow that interrupts the woods behind the Robert Frost homestead. It’s a simple stroll, spare and unadorned, like the poetry inspired by the hard realities of life encountered on this farm. Should you arrive, however, with the necessary resource of an inquiring mind, your journey here will expand well beyond the confines of the trail. Special attractions: The poems and observations of a backyard naturalist in the context of his rural environment. A separate tour of Frost's house and barn is also seasonally available.

As a result, I simply must share a Robert Frost poem, courtesy of

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.