Sunday, April 30, 2017

3 am, outside Tonopah • National Poetry Month

I hope you liked this year's selection of poems for National Poetry Month. Don't worry, we won't just stop cold turkey — so be sure to check back and perhaps discover a new gem on this blog. If you find a poem you like, send it to me, and I'll share it with the rest of the class.

3 am, outside Tonopah

All I can see on the black ribbon
of Highway 10 is the fine mist
of sand in my headlights.
There used to be mountains
on the horizon. Dawn will return
them in time.
                          The light
in the empty parking lot of Joe
and Tonopah Sue’s shuts off
as I pass. The radio plays
only soft static, but it’s more pleasant
than the thoughts in my head.
When the static becomes tedious, I sing
“Maybe Later.” If you were
here, you would hum the bass
line and — Stop. I will not play
this game. Oh, god, this is when I wish
I listened to myself.
                                     In the dark, no one can see
me let go. My sobs come out
of the place in my chest
you used to be. This is not

the poem I wanted to write you.

by Chris Fow Cohen
Shared with the author's permission

Saturday, April 29, 2017

At the Station • National Poetry Month

At the Station

When the girl got off the train at the college town,
she leapt up and wrapped her legs around the waist
of the boy she’d come to visit, and they spun
around, embracing and shrieking with joy.
Their love set off a piccolo’s vibration.
Those years are gone for us—I see you every day,
we eat meals together from decades-old plates.
But when we lie in bed at night, you take my hand,
and I feel the orb that’s formed around us tighten,
while you and I, like knitting needles in a ball
of yarn, lie beside each other, fingers touching.

by Anya Krugovoy Silver 
from from nothing.
courtesy The Writer's Almanac

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz • National Poetry Month

The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz

As if there could be a world 
Of absolute innocence 
In which we forget ourselves 

The owners throw sticks 
And half-bald tennis balls 
Toward the surf 
And the happy dogs leap after them 
As if catapulted— 

Black dogs, tan dogs, 
Tubes of glorious muscle— 

Pursuing pleasure 
More than obedience 
They race, skid to a halt in the wet sand, 
Sometimes they'll plunge straight into 
The foaming breakers 

Like diving birds, letting the green turbulence 
Toss them, until they snap and sink 

Teeth into floating wood 
Then bound back to their owners 
Shining wet, with passionate speed 
For nothing, 
For absolutely nothing but joy.

by Alicia Ostriker
from Poems Selected and New, 1968–1998
Courtesy of Poetry Foundation

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Remember • Poem in Your Pocket Day • National Poetry Month

Poem in Your Pocket Day is devoted to carrying around poems to share and give away. Print out this poem and put a copy in your pocket. Give a copy to a friend, leave a copy in a book you borrowed from a friend.... Read it and share it!


Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.

by Joy Harjo 
from She Had Some Horses 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

XIII ( Dedications) • National Poetry Month

I share this poem every year — so enjoy.

XIII (Dedications)

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening  window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a gray day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

by Adrienne Rich
from An Atlas of a Difficult World

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Reading a Science Article on the Airplane to JFK • National Poetry Month

Reading a Science Article on the Airplane to JFK

Today I flew over the Midwest
filling out a questionnaire
on the emotional life of the brain
and personal capacity for resilience
against despair. I was making
a sculpture of my limbic systems
in a huge conceptual neurosis.
Under the simulated
middleclass environment
of the fuselage
the snow was falling.
And in everyone’s skulls
complex régimes went on and on and on.
I seek forever the right way to know this.
That there are bridges
not built in me. That there are areas
that do not light up—
You are at a party having a conversation
with an interesting stranger.
You are in a restaurant and the service is bad.

By Bianca Stone


Monday, April 24, 2017

Six Young Men • National Poetry Month

Ted Hughes was inspired to write this poem after seeing a photograph of six young men taken on the eve of The Great War at Lumb Falls near Hebden Bridge. Click here to read about the plaque dedicated in that location in 2007 for the men and this poem.

Six Young Men

The celluloid of a photograph holds them well -
Six young men, familiar to their friends.
Four decades that have faded and ochre-tinged
This photograph have not wrinkled the faces or the hands.
Though their cocked hats are not now fashionable,
Their shoes shine. One imparts an intimate smile,
One chews a grass, one lowers his eyes, bashful,
One is ridiculous with cocky pride -
Six months after this picture they were all dead.

All are trimmed for a Sunday jaunt. I know
That bilberried bank, that thick tree, that black wall,
Which are there yet and not changed. From where these sit
You hear the water of seven streams fall
To the roarer in the bottom, and through all
The leafy valley a rumouring of air go.
Pictured here, their expressions listen yet,
And still that valley has not changed its sound
Though their faces are four decades under the ground.

This one was shot in an attack and lay
Calling in the wire, then this one, his best friend,
Went out to bring him in and was shot too;
And this one, the very moment he was warned
From potting at tin-cans in no-man's land,
Fell back dead with his rifle-sights shot away.
The rest, nobody knows what they came to,
But come to the worst they must have done, and held it
Closer than their hope; all were killed.

Here see a man's photograph,
The locket of a smile, turned overnight
Into the hospital of his mangled last
Agony and hours; see bundled in it
His mightier-than-a-man dead bulk and weight:
And on this one place which keeps him alive
(In his Sunday best) see fall war's worst
Thinkable flash and rending, onto his smile
Forty years rotting into soil.

That man's not more alive whom you confront
And shake by the hand, see hale, hear speak loud,
Than any of these six celluloid smiles are,
Nor prehistoric or, fabulous beast more dead;
No thought so vivid as their smoking-blood:
To regard this photograph might well dement,
Such contradictory permanent horrors here
Smile from the single exposure and shoulder out
One's own body from its instant and heat.

by Ted Hughes

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Richard Cory • National Poetry Month

Thanks to my friend Bob for this cheerful suggestion. (Rest assured, Gentle Readers, we are keeping an eye on him.)

Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Solstice • National Poetry Month


How again today our patron star
whose ancient vista is the long view

turns its wide brightness now and here:
Below, we loll outdoors, sing & make fire.

We build no henge
but after our swim, linger

by the pond. Dapples flicker
pine trunks by the water.

Buzz & hum & wing & song combine.
Light builds a monument to its passing.

Frogs content themselves in bullish chirps,
hoopskirt blossoms

on thimbleberries fall, peeper toads
hop, lazy—

            Apex. The throaty world sings ripen.
Our grove slips past the sun’s long kiss.

We dress.
We head home in other starlight. 
Our earthly time is sweetening from this.

by Tess Taylor