Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Daffodils, Parents (and a Peek at Tomorrow)

Here are a couple of poems you might like.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

by Robert Hayden

Plus a final daffodil poem from my friend, a very gifted poet:

at a girls' school

The halls of our high school
quivered with the voices of girls
selling frilly-mouthed daffodils
to mark the start of Spring.

We girls, our first years there,
wore dark wool and saddle shoes.
In time, we graduated into gray
blazers and dun-colored weejuns.

But always the daffodils returned
to school at the onset of Spring,
as if the first flares of radiant,
sunshiny flowers could erase

everything drab or lackluster
around us -- even dingy winter.

by Lenny Lianne, 2008

And don't think the poems will stop today. The madness and magic will continue! There still is poetry to experience, including poems from you, and even from me. Really. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Manhood and Aunt Cleone

Today, on the eve of the last of National Poetry Month, I offer you two very different poems courtesy of The Writer's Almanac — because I can't decide.

Her Legacy
For Aunt Cleone

After the divorce,
she sent me twenty dollars
tucked into the folds
of her crinkly blue stationery
written hard on both sides.
No use crying
over spilt milk, she said,
still, what a shame. There
never had been divorce
in the family. By then,
I had a child
and could barely remember
my aunt's voice, but her certainties
were plain. No leaping
off cliffs for her.
The whir of the sewing machine,
her shelves lined with canned goods
straight from the garden,
that was more her way. Her long letters,
full of other people's news,
never mentioned
my father's silence,
or her own lack of children.
From a quick how are you,
she'd go right to
the surgery of a neighbor
I would never meet,
or what a nice visit
she'd just enjoyed with Elsie.
Who was Elsie? I never exactly knew.
But, after all, weren't we all part
of the great messy human family?
It swirled around her kitchen,
where she tied a fresh apron
around her waist,
and carried on.
She would hope for the best,
she concluded before signing her name.
Use the money
for something special.
Something just for you.

by Barbara Bloom
from On the Water Meridian. © The Hummingbird Press, 2007

The Rites of Manhood

It's snowing hard enough that the taxis aren't running.
I'm walking home, my night's work finished,
long after midnight, with the whole city to myself,
when across the street I see a very young American sailor
standing over a girl who's kneeling on the sidewalk
and refuses to get up although he's yelling at her
to tell him where she lives so he can take her there
before they both freeze. The pair of them are drunk
and my guess is he picked her up in a bar
and later they got separated from his buddies
and at first it was great fun to play at being
an old salt at liberty in a port full of women with
hinges on their heels, but by now he wants only to
find a solution to the infinitely complex
problem of what to do about her before he falls into
the hands of the police or the shore patrol
—and what keeps this from being squalid is
what's happening to him inside:
if there were other sailors here
it would be possible for him
to abandon her where she is and joke about it
later, but he's alone and the guilt can't be
divided into small forgettable pieces;
he's finding out what it means
to be a man and how different it is
from the way that only hours ago he imagined it.

by Alden Nowlan
from What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread

Thanks to Maryclare Maslyn and Bill Kitzerow for their bathroom poems; I will publish them next.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Longly-Weds

Is there a pre-nuptial pasta anniversary? If so, David and I will celebrate it as he tries to snake out the kitchen drain that holds a pound of angel hair pasta (and I thought the hard part was cooking a second pound!).

The Eggshell Debacle of 2004 was temporary, so there is hope....

The Longly-Weds Know

That it isn't about the Golden Anniversary at all,
But about all the unremarkable years
that Hallmark doesn't even make a card for.

It's about the 2nd anniversary when they were surprised
to find they cared for each other more than last year

And the 4th when both kids had chickenpox
and she threw her shoe at him for no real reason

And the 6th when he accidentally got drunk on the way
home from work because being a husband and father
was so damn hard

It's about the 11th and 12th and 13th years when
they discovered they could survive crisis

And the 22nd anniversary when they looked
at each other across the empty nest, and found it good.

It's about the 37th year when she finally
decided she could never change him

And the 38th when he decided
a little change wasn't that bad

It's about the 46th anniversary when they both
bought cards, and forgot to give them to each other

But most of all it's about the end of the 49th year
when they discovered you don't have to be old

to have your 50th anniversary!!!!

by Leah Furnas
from To Love One Another

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Prayers, Daffodils

Today: a poem courtesy of The Writer's Alamanc and the last of the daffodil poems.

Prayer Chain

My mother called to tell me
about an old classmate of mine who

was dying on the parish prayer chain—
or was very sick—or destitute—

or it had not worked out—the marriage—
or the kids were all on drugs—and

all the old mothers were praying intensely
for all the pain of their children

and for life—they were praying for life—
in their quiet rooms—sipping decaf coffee—

I bet they've been praying for me at times—
so I'll find my way—so I won't rob a bank—

I'll take them—the mystical prayers of old mothers—
it matters—all this patient and purposeful love.

by Tim Nolan

As you can tell from the biography, Tim Nolan is a lawyer by trade. The last, but not least, of the daffodil poems comes from another person who helps keep us on the straight and narrow.


The challenge was a bit daffy
but I hear the roar of the trumpets and this quest I must bare

Will I turn yellow and run from fear of trying to enlighten this central crown?

Only time shall tell! ……

Not a rose bud so my sleigh I can not seek

I must be quick witted and firmly plant my feet

It’s April and as you know spring is finally here

I’m not a drinking man but I could sure use a cold beer

The frost of the glass would tickle my tongue as the yellow colored malt will ease my senses

Why a Daffodil? It’s just a silly bulbous plant

Why not something more easily described? The smell of bacon cooked in the morning or the aroma of a fresh pot of coffee on a chilly morning in May

I can hear the trumpets playing softly from its pretty yellow crown

I was hoping some one else could hear it but there is no one else around

I now can see why she does this to me

Mother Nature you are a pest, but since you are here forever and I am just a guest

I will enjoy the sights and smells that you so graciously offer and thank for the rain you send and sunshine on my shoulder

The wind in my back, the sun in my face makes this Daffodil garden such a wonderful place.

by Bill Kitzerow

Remember, today is the deadline for submitting your bathroom poems. Now, I cannot remember which day is which, so if your poem comes in on Monday, who's the wiser? Not I, I assure you. So keep those cards and poems coming!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Lullaby from Auden

The second line of this poem arrested me. Thank you to Louise for sharing this with me and reminding me of such beauty.


Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm:
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's carnal ecstacy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost.
All the dreaded cards foretell.
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought.
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find our mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

by W. H. Auden
(courtesy of

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Answer to the Question: What Do Women Want?

Frankly, I think she's right.

"What Do Women Want?"
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

by Kim Addonizio
From Tell Me. © 2000

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Inspiration for The Latest Competition

For those who are taking up the pen for our next contest, here is a poem I hope will provide at least a modicum of inspiration:

A Girl in Milwaukee and a Girl in Brooklyn

My wife is talking on the phone in Milwaukee
To her girlfriend in Brooklyn.
But, in the middle of all that, my wife has to go pee.
And it turns out that the girl in Brooklyn,
At the very same time, also has to go pee.
So they discuss this for a moment,
And they're both very intelligent people.
They decide to set their phones down and go to the bathroom
(This was back when people set their phones down).
So they do this, and now we have a live telephone line open
Between Milwaukee and Brooklyn
With no one speaking through it for about two minutes as
A girl in Milwaukee and a girl in Brooklyn go to the bathroom.

by Matt Cook
from Eavesdrop Soup (and reviewed favorably by Jeffrey McDaniel). © Manic D Press
(Courtesy of The Writer's Almanac)

Now, I know you're itching to write a poem involving a bathroom. (So to speak.) So, write already! Everyone who submits a poem by Sunday, April 27, will receive a book of poetry.

Ask the lucky winners of the last contest how rewarding it is: Rob Paine, Maryclare Maslyn, Bill Kitzerow and Bill Stewart. (Wait, don't ask yet -- their books are in the mail!)

And to further inspire you, here is another daffodil poem:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Chrissy’s voice is now shrill
“Darn it, Bill
You stepped on my daffodil!”

by Bill Stewart

So, in light of all of this inspiration, I leave you to your muse. Be amused. And I am looking forward to your poems!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Elegy, and a Daffodil

This poem is for Cindy, who died a year ago today — and for her good friend Kathy, and the others who miss her so.

What Came to Me

I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.

by Jane Kenyon

And here is a lovely daffodil poem.

Nearly Twenty Years

Nearly twenty years
I tell him I love yellow roses
They are delivered
Red or dark red
I thank him for remembering

The anniversary date
The accomplishment
The growth
The change

Nearly twenty years
A bouquet of daffodils, daisies, periwinkle, iris
A white dress, a black tuxedo
I tell him I love periwinkle
He remembers

The periwinkle shirt
The small periwinkle bracelet
The periwinkle earrings
The periwinkle paper

Nearly twenty years
Daffodils blooming in the center strip
Yellow like the roses I love
The very yellow in my wedding bouquet
My son says he can’t remember

Seeing such beautiful flowers
Seeing condensed color in a road
Seeing spring coming forth
Seeing sunlight as bright

Nearly twenty years
I long for yellow roses
I see yellow daffodils
I think of my husband, my sons
And I wonder if they will remember

by Maryclare Maslyn

Tomorrow, more daffodils.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day and Daffodils Part One

Happy Earth Day! In honor of Earth Day, I will take a page from librarian Pam B. and post the immortal words of Kermit the Frog, through the pen of Joe Rapposo:

It's Not Easy Being Green
It's not that easy being green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green's the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful

Now, for one of your long-awaited daffodil poems!

Today's poem is courtesy of Rob Paine, as penned by Jack Handey
(who is a real person!):
Consider the daffodil.
And while you're doing that,
I'll be over here, looking through your stuff.

Rob will receive a book of poetry for proving he knows Jack.

More daffodils tomorrow!

Monday, April 21, 2008


A "necessary" is necessary.

Technically, a necessary is a privy. However, when you need one, there is no quibbling.

So here is your challenge: write a poem about a bathroom. It doesn't have to be your own bathroom. (But it does have to be your own poem.) Be creative: I wrote a poem that began in my childhood kitchen, involved poker and wound up in a cemetery.

C'mon, I'll be there with you all the time. Er, not there, but — never mind. Just write your bathroom poem. I'll be there when you get out.


The condo I just bought has two. Some houses
had three. What to do with them all? Use one?
Turn the others into extra closets?
Reserve one for guests? There are none
I'd invite. I talk too much to too
many people all day. On conference
weekends I have to talk Sundays too,
and when I close my door, I want silence.

Back home we were seven. Our bathroom the only
room we could lock in a house without keys.
We'd sit, read, dream, alone, not lonely,
until testy banging disturbed our peace.
Then we'd sigh, flush, put down our text,
and turn our sanctuary over to the next.

by Elisabeth Kuhn
from Average C-Cup © Turning Point

Tomorrow: daffodils!

P.S. If you haven't shared your daffodil poem, send it in today. If I receive it by 5 pm Tuesday, I'll post it with the others. C'mon, it'll be fun, and you get a book of poems for your efforts.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Madame Curie, Remembered

Today is the anniversary date of when Marie Curie and her husband Pierre isolated the radioactive element radium.

In recognition, I will share a poem by Adrienne Rich about the Nobel Prize-winner.


Living in the earth-deposits of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power.

(courtesy American

I also want to share a second poem by Adrienne Rich, which happens to be one of my favorite poems. It was published in Atlas of a Difficult World.

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.

I apologize that I've been otherwise occupied and not as attentive as I should have been this week. Thank you for your patience, and we will spend the rest of National Poetry Month together.

Look for your daffodil poems to be published this week, and I am planning another event or contest. Keep your pens poised!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day, and I'm glad to share my favorite pocket poem — though I confess, it's more a "put on your wall and make everyone read it there in the office while you watch" poem.

Some days, it really is everything, the wet green stalk of the field on the other side of the road. Would you risk everything to reach your wet green stalk? (I know how it sounds, people, but work with me!)

Small Frog Killed on the Highway

I would leap too
Into the light,
If I had the chance.
It is everything, the wet green stalk of the field
On the other side of the road.
They crouch there, too, faltering in terror
And take strange wing. Many
Of the dead never moved, but many
Of the dead are alive forever in the split second
Auto headlights more sudden
Than their drivers know.
The drivers burrow backward into dank pools
Where nothing begets

Across the road, tadpoles are dancing
On the quarter thumbnail
Of the moon. They can't see,
Not yet.

by James Wright
(courtesy Elite Skills Classics)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Prose Poem Like No Other

I'm sorry if we were poem-less yesterday. It was a crazy day that really didn't stop until an hour into today.

However, it was a good kind of crazy: David and I became engaged to be married.

I didn't think anything of David insisting we go to a 10 pm movie — on a weeknight. And why wouldn't Alicia and Bob want to go see "Leatherheads," too? At our favorite theater, no less. Punctuality is important for both David, who is a stickler (God love him, he has his job cut out for him) and me (when it comes to movies, people — I don't want to miss a single trailer!). And despite an unanticipated visit from his mom and (she's fine!) her trip down the stairs, I was standing in the movie theater as the first trailer came up on the screen.

Only it wasn't a trailer. It was David. Dropping on one knee (next to a poster of a movie titled "Married Life," which I innocently had nixed from the evening's lineup).

Once I got my voice back and finished kissing him, I gave him my answer: absolutely yes. With silly grins plastered on our faces, we enjoyed "Leatherheads" and shared a tub of popcorn.

Three different folks at Cinema Arts moved projectors around to make this surprise a reality, so support them and their compatriots by watching your movies at Cinema Arts Theatre and University Mall Theatres. Tell them I sent you.

And today, I'll let this prose poem speak for itself.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Finding One Poem, Sharing Another

Today's Poem-a-Day was a big, pleasant surprise: Jeffrey McDaniel, a former classmate from George Mason University.

The poem shared by was saucy, but the poem I heard on his MySpace page was lovely. I will share both with you. Please visit Jeff's MySpace page (no membership required).

The first you would have received as part of Poem-a-Day (to which I'm sure you subscribed). The second one you simply must listen to — please go to the link on the title and listen.

Compulsively Allergic to the Truth

I'm sorry I was late.
I was pulled over by a cop
for driving blindfolded
with a raspberry-scented candle
flickering in my mouth.
I'm sorry I was late.
I was on my way
when I felt a plot
thickening in my arm.
I have a fear of heights.
Luckily the Earth
is on the second floor
of the universe.
I am not the egg man.
I am the owl
who just witnessed
another tree fall over
in the forest of your life.
I am your father
shaking his head
at the thought of you.
I am his words dissolving
in your mind like footprints
in a rainstorm.
I am a long-legged martini.
I am feeding olives
to the bull inside you.
I am decorating
your labyrinth,
tacking up snapshots
of all the people
who've gotten lost
in your corridors.

From The Endarkenment. © 2008 by Jeffrey McDaniel.

Listen to this one before you read it by clicking on the title. Then stick around and listen to others — especially the Archipelago of Kisses. You'll be glad you did.

The Quiet World

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
the government has decided to allot
each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it
to my ear without saying hello.
In the restaurant I point
at chicken noodle soup. I am
adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long
distance lover and proudly say
I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond, I know
she's used up all her words
so I slowly whisper I love you,
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

from The Forgiveness Parade. © 1998 by Jeffrey McDaniel.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Civil War — Another Side of the Story

There are (at least) two sides to every story, and today we will read one of the most famous poems of the Northern side of this tale called the American Civil War.

Julia Ward Howe wrote a very memorable work that is sung still today. Go ahead, hum quietly while you read on, and I'll bet you are singing it by the time you finish reading.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic
by Julia Ward Howe

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My Grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His Judgement Seat.
Oh! Be swift, my soul, to answer Him, be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

And because it's Sunday, you get a bonus poem:

The Fancy Shot
by Charles Dawson Shanly

"Rifleman, shoot me a fancy shot
Straight at the heart of yon prowling vidette;
Ring me a ball in the glittering spot
That shines on his breast like an amulet!"

"Ah, captain! here goes for a fine-drawn bead,
There's music around when my barrel's in tune!"
Crack! went the rifle, the messenger sped,
And dead from his horse fell the ringing dragoon.

"Now, rifleman, steal through the bushes, and snatch
From your victim some trinket to handsel first blood;
A button, a loop, or that luminous patch
That gleams in the moon like a diamond stud!"

"O captain! I staggered, and sunk on my track,
When I gazed on the face of that fallen vidette,
For he looked so like you, as he lay on his back,
That my heart rose upon me, and masters me yet.

"But I snatched off the trinket--this locket of gold;
An inch from the centre my lead broke its way,
Scarce grazing the picture, so fair to behold,
Of a beautiful lady in bridal array."

"Ha! rifleman, fling me the locket!--'tis she,
My brother's young bride, and the fallen dragoon
Was her husband--Hush! soldier, 'twas Heaven's decree,
We must bury him there, by the light of the moon!

"But hark! the far bugles their warnings unite;
War is a virtue,-weakness a sin;
There's a lurking and loping around us to-night;
Load again, rifleman, keep your hand in!"

(poems courtesy Home of the American Civil War and

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Civil War — One Side of the Story

On April 12, 1861, the Confederacy shelled Fort Sumter, S.C, which launched the American Civil War.

In honor of this day, I give you a poem written by a Southern lawyer, born in Winchester, Va., which later was set to music and is considered one of the most famous Rebel songs. I first heard it years ago on "Songs of the Civil War," which my friend Collin shared with me, and I found it very stirring.

Good Ol' Rebel Soldier

by Major Innes Randolph, C.S.A.

Oh, I'm a good old Rebel soldier, now that's just what I am;
For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn!
I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won,
And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.

I hates the Constitution, this "Great Republic," too!
I hates the Freedman's Bureau and uniforms of blue!
I hates the nasty eagle with all its brags and fuss,
And the lying, thieving Yankees, I hates 'em wuss and wuss!

I hates the Yankee nation and everything they do,
I hates the Declaration of Independence, too!
I hates the "Glorious Union" -- 'tis dripping with our blood,
And I hates their striped banner, and I fit it all I could.

I followed old Marse Robert for four years, near about,
Got wounded in three places, and starved at Point Lookout.
I cotched the "roomatism" a'campin' in the snow,
But I killed a chance o' Yankees, and I'd like to kill some mo'!

Three hundred thousand Yankees is stiff in Southern dust!
We got three hundred thousand before they conquered us.
They died of Southern fever and Southern steel and shot,
But I wish we'd got three million instead of what we got.

I can't take up my musket and fight 'em now no more,
But I ain't a'gonna love 'em, now that's for sartain sure!
I do not want no pardon for what I was and am,
And I won't be reconstructed, and I do not care a damn!

(Thanks to

According to Poems and Songs of the American Civil War, "Edward VII, the Prince of Wales, heard it at a reception in London and called it 'that fine American song with the cuss words in it.'"

Friday, April 11, 2008

Robert Frost in Yiddish

Okay, so I've been all over Robert Frost lately. However, today I have a special reason: Leo Rosten, the author of Joys of Yiddish. I have loved that book for years. It's so much more than a dictionary. It's a cultural reference book filled with jokes, wry observations and love of language. I couldn't resist — and neither should you. Go ahead, pick up a copy and enjoy!

Anyway, today is Leo Rosten's birthday. The New York Times wrote a great story about him in 1997, and I learned a lot about his life.

Now, this all comes together in an incongruous Google. I searched for "poems about Yiddish" and discovered that someone had transliterated "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" into Yiddish.

So here, with great affection and debt to Mr. Rosten, I give you "A vald-bazukh in a shney-nakht."

A vald-bazukh in a shney-nakht
(A forest-visit on/in a snow-evening)

kh' veys vemens vald es iz, mir dakht,
I know whose wood it is, to me it seems
khotsh hoyz zayns shteyt oyf shtetl shliakh;
Though house his stands on village path;
er vet nisht zen, vi kh' blayb do shteyn
He will not see how I stay here stand
un zayn farshnaytn vald bavakh.
And his snowed-in wood watch over.

mayn kleyner ferd muz zayn dershtoynt
My little horse must be astounded
tsu blaybn, vu s'iz nisht bavoynt
To stay where it is not inhabited
lem vald un taykh-mit ayz fartsamt,
Near wood and pond, with ice framed
in shvartster nakht fun yor-aleyn.
In the blackest night of year-alone.

er fregt mit klung fun zayn geshpan,
He asks with ring of his harness,
tsi iz a toes do faran?
Question particle-is a mistake here existing?
altz shvaygt-bloys shtiler vint un roym
Everything is still, only quiet wind and space,
un fal fun shney-pukh nokhanand.
And fall of snow-down in succession.

der vald iz fintster, tif, un sheyn
The wood is dark, deep and beautiful
nor ikh-ze flikhten far mir shteyn
But I see duties before me standing
un maylen veg biz shlof tsu geyn,
And miles road till sleep to go,
un maylen veg biz shlof tsu geyn.
And miles road till sleep to go.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

by Robert Frost

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Poem-a-Day — WYSIWYG

I've been a little swamped this month, so I let the Poem-a-Day e-mails pile up, unattended for a few days. I know, shame on me, but today I read them.

If you haven't already, you really must sign up. The poems include not only a poem in its entirety, but also a couple of other titles (with hyperlinks) to other poems by the same author and related poems. You will recognize some poems, and others you may not.

Monday's poem by Alan Shapiro led me to another. I liked them both, so I will share both with you now.

The one that was e-mailed was "Just" and among the other poems suggested by the same author was "Haunting." Really, did you think I could resist?

Without further ado, please enjoy these two poems, courtesy of


after the downpour, in the early evening,
late sunlight glinting off the raindrops sliding
down the broad backs of the redbud leaves
beside the porch, beyond the railing, each leaf
bending and springing back and bending again
beneath the dripping,
between existences,
ecstatic, the souls grow mischievous, they break ranks,
swerve from the rigid V's of their migration,
their iron destinies, down to the leaves
they flutter in among, rising and settling,
bodiless, but pretending to have bodies,

their weightlessness more weightless for the ruse,
their freedom freer, their as-ifs nearly not,
until the night falls like an order and
they rise on one vast wing that darkens down
the endless flyways into other bodies.

Nothing will make you less afraid.

© 2008 by Alan Shapiro. From Old War.


The Haunting

It may not be
the ghostly ballet
of our avoidances
that they’ll remember,
nor the long sulks
of those last months,
nor the voices
chilly with all
the anger we
were careful mostly
not to show
in front of them,
nor anything
at all that made
our choice to live
apart seem to us
both not only
but good, but just.

No, what I think
will haunt them is
precisely what
we’ve chosen to
forget: those too
infrequent (though
even toward
the end still
possible) moments
when, the children
upstairs, the dinner
cooking, one of us
would all at once
start humming an old
tune and we’d dance,
as if we did
so always, in
a swoon of gliding
all through the house,
across the kitchen,

down the hall
and back, we’d sway
together, we’d twirl,
we’d dip and cha-
cha and the children
would hear us and
be helpless not
to come running
down to burrow
in between us,
into the center
of the dance that now,
I think, will haunt them
for the very joy
itself, for joy
that was for them,
for all of us
together, something
better than joy,
and yet for you
and me, ourselves,
alone, apart,
still not enough.

© 2005 by Alan Shapiro. From Tantalus In Love.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Prize-Winning Poetry: Philip Schultz

On Monday, Philip Schultz was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Failure, his collection of poems. Enjoy this poem from an earlier book, Living in the Past.

Grandma Climbs

Grandma climbs a chair to yell at God for killing
her only husband whose only crime was forgetting
where he put things. Finally, God misplaced him. Everyone
in this house is a razor, a police radio, a bulging vein.
It's too late for any of us, Grandma says to the ceiling.
She believes we are chosen to be disgraced and perplexed.
She squints at anyone who treats her like a customer, including
the toilet mirror, and twists her mouth into a deadly scheme.
Late at night I run at the mirror until I disappear. The day is over
before it begins, Grandma says, jerking the shade down over
its once rosy eye. She keeps her husband's teeth in a matchbox,
in perfumed paraffin; his silk skullcap (with its orthodox stains)
in the icebox, behind Uncle's Jell-O aquarium of floating lowlifes.
I know what Mrs. Einhorn said Mrs. Edels told Mr. Kook about us:
God save us from having one shirt, one eye, one child. I know
in order to survive. Grandma throws her shawl of exuberant birds
over her bony shoulders and ladles up yet another chicken thigh
out of the steaming broth of the infinite night sky.

From Living in the Past © 2004

By the way, how are you doing on your daffodil poem?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poetry: Hass, and a bonus poem

Robert Hass and Philip Schultz yesterday were named the winners of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Today I will feature Robert Hass; tomorrow, Schultz. Here is a poem from his prize-winning book, Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005. Click on the title to hear the poet read his work — it's quite lovely.

First Things At The Last Minute

The white water rush of some warbler’s song.
Last night, a few strewings of ransacked moonlight
On the sheets. You don’t know what slumped forward
In the nineteen-forties taxi or why they blamed you
Or what the altered landscape, willowy, riparian,
Had to do with the reasons why everyone
Should be giving things away, quickly,
Except for spendthrift sorrow that can’t bear
Needing to be forgiven and look for something
To forgive. The motion of washing machines
Is called agitation. Object constancy is a term
Devised to indicate what a child requires
From days. Clean sheets are an example
Of something that, under many circumstances,
A person can control. The patterns moonlight makes
Are chancier, and dreams, well, dreams
Will have their way with you, their way
With you, will have their way.

(with thanks to The Poetry Center at Smith College)

And a bonus poem:
Privilege of Being (Click on title to hear Hass reading the poem)
Many are making love. Up above, the angels
in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing
are braiding one another's hair, which is strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy--
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed--
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man's shut eyelids and says,
look at me, and he does. Or is it the man
tugging the curtain rope in that dark theater?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They shudder pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress.
It is like the keening sound the moon makes sometimes,
rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,
it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again and hold each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death for an hour so,
and one day, running at sunset, the woman says to the man,
I woke up feeling so sad this morning because I realized
that you could not, as much as I love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness,
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail of their ambitions. He runs beside her, he thinks
of the sadness they have gasped and crooned their way out of
coming, clutching each other with old invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about intimacy between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other,
and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.

(With thanks to

Monday, April 7, 2008

William's Daffodils

Today is William Wordsworth's birthday. Born in 1770 in England, he was buddies with another influential poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (he of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" fame).

Here is one of his poems you are sure to know:

The Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Now, here is a challenge: write a poem that has the word "daffodil" somewhere in it. The poem can be as short as a haiku or as long as, well, Wordsworth's poem.

Submit it to me by April 13 via e-mail and I will publish it (anonymously or with full credit, whichever you prefer). I will write a poem, too, and publish it as well. Depending on the collection of poems I receive, I will begin publishing them April 14.

All those who submit poems will receive a book of poetry for their efforts.

I look forward to receiving your poems!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Persephone on a Sunday

Nothing says "Sunday" more than the mythical underworld. It's a category for poems at, which is very cool. (At least, I think so.)

I'd have gone straight to Dante, but you would have been expecting that.

So, with no further ado, I give you Glück.

A Myth of Devotion

When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.

Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness

Gradually, he thought, he'd introduce the night,
first as the shadows of fluttering leaves.
Then moon, then stars. Then no moon, no stars.
Let Persephone get used to it slowly.
In the end, he thought, she'd find it comforting.

A replica of earth
except there was love here.
Doesn't everyone want love?

He waited many years,
building a world, watching
Persephone in the meadow.
Persephone, a smeller, a taster.
If you have one appetite, he thought,
you have them all.

Doesn't everyone want to feel in the night
the beloved body, compass, polestar,
to hear the quiet breathing that says
I am alive, that means also
you are alive, because you hear me,
you are here with me. And when one turns,
the other turns—

That's what he felt, the lord of darkness,
looking at the world he had
constructed for Persephone. It never crossed his mind
that there'd be no more smelling here,
certainly no more eating.

Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn't imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.

He dreams, he wonders what to call this place.
First he thinks: The New Hell. Then: The Garden.
In the end, he decides to name it
Persephone's Girlhood.

A soft light rising above the level meadow,
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you

but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you're dead, nothing can hurt you
which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.

by Louise Glück
from Averno. © 2006 by Louise Glück.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

VMI Inaugural Poetry Seminar, Part II

In honor of Virginia Military Institute's Inaugural Poetry Seminar April 4-5, I offer a poem by Bruce Weigl:

Dead Man, Thinking

Snow geese in the light of morning sky,
exactly at the start of spring. I was
looking through the cracks of the blinds at my future which seemed
absent of parades, for which I was grateful,
and only yesterday

I watched what an April wind could do
to a body wrapped in silk,
though I turned my eyes away,
the way the teacher says,
once the beauty was revealed.

How long it takes to die, in the fifty-fifth year
is what I thought about today.
I told some truths so large, no one could bear to hear them.
I bow down to those who could not hear the truth.
They could not hear the truth because they were afraid
that it would open a veil into nothing.
I bow down to that nothing. I bow down to a single red planet
I saw in the other world’s sky,
as if towards some
fleshy inevitability.

I bow down to the red planet. I bow down
to the noisy birds, indigenous to this region.
Only sorrow can bend you in half
like you’ve seen on those whose loves have gone away.
I bow down to those loves.

by Bruce Weigl, courtesy of

Friday, April 4, 2008

Emerson, VMI and Poetry

In honor of Virginia Military Institute's Inaugural Poetry Seminar April 4-5, I offer a poem by Pulitzer Prize winner Claudia Emerson, whom I heard read at the Virginia Festival of the Book:

Surface Hunting

You always washed artifacts
at the kitchen sink, your back
to the room, to me, to the mud

you'd tracked in from whatever
neighbor's field had just been plowed.
Spearpoints, birdpoints, awls and leaf-

shaped blades surfaced from the turned earth
as though from beneath some thicker
water you tried to see into.

You never tired, you told me, of the tangible
past you could admire, turn over
and over in your hand—the first

to touch it since the dead one that had
worked the stone. You lined bookshelves
and end tables with them; obsidian,

quartz, flint, they measured the hours you'd spent
with your head down, searching for others,
and also the prized hours of my own

solitude—collected, prized,
saved alongside those artifacts
that had been for so long lost.

(Thanks to Blackbird, an online literary journal of literature and art)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ponies and Poetry

On April 3, 1860, the short-lived Pony Express was launched. A mere 16 months later, it was obsolete, thanks to Western Union.

Nearly a century and a half later, we have a new kind of instant message. How many times have you checked your e-mail, impatient for a response to the message you sent mere moments ago?

In honor of those who risked life and limb to get the mail through, I share with you a poem by W. H. Auden.

By the way, you simply must check out the short film on YouTube that features the author reading this poem. It's incredible.

Night Mail

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
Thro' sparse counties she rampages,
Her driver's eye upon the gauges.
Panting up past lonely farms
Fed by the fireman's restless arms.
Striding forward along the rails
Thro' southern uplands with northern mails.

Winding up the valley to the watershed,
Thro' the heather and the weather and the dawn overhead.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheepdogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, the climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers' declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

by W. H. Auden
(with special thanks to Sovereignty)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Do You Know Your Shakespeare?

Poll: Many Britons don't know Shakespeare

LONDON, March 27 (UPI) -- A British survey suggests a third of Britons cannot correctly identify the profession of playwright William Shakespeare.

The survey of 3,000 people also found a quarter of respondents did not know John Keats was a poet and less than a third did not know "Winnie-the-Pooh" scribe A. A. Milne was an author, The Sun reported Thursday. An additional two-thirds of respondents could not correctly identify Oscar Wilde as the author of "The Importance of Being Earnest."

The poll, conducted ahead of a poetry contest run by English poet laureate Andrew Motion, suggested 70 percent of Britons have never written a poem to a loved one although two-thirds of survey participants said they would like to receive one.

"Although most people accept that poetry has a vital role in personal as well as national life, these findings show a depressing level of ignorance," Motion said. "The good news is that 61 percent said they would like to have poetry play a role in their lives -- in which case we hope they might also want to write one."

Here's a Shakespeare poem so you won't be among these people!

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

List Universe Gets Into Poetry

Last month, I mentioned that List Universe was a great way to whittle away hours, going from list to list learning about Weird Al Yankovic, mass murderers and space.

Now there's one more reason: poetry.

Check out 20 Examples of Why You Should Enjoy Poetry. The fabulous list includes samples of some of English literature's most famous poems, including Shakespeare, Keats, Barrett Browning, Donne and more. Here's a sample:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Visit the list — and tell me which of the poets or poems you think also should have been included.