spirits of the dead :: edgar allan poe

Thy soul shall find itself alone
‘Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

riding chaucer in the stirrups :: sophie hughes

Braced in that compromising position
(feet in the stirrups, pelvis slid forward)
my April ritual begins-
examination of the innards.
The patient should be put at ease,
and so we speak of poetry.
I haven’t studied it in years,
you say, feeling for fibroids.
In fact, I can recite only one.
Let me … hear it, I grunt
between heavy pressings on my abdomen.
You clear your throat,
Whanne that Aprille with his showres soote…
press and probe, press and probe
The Droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
I catch breath as the cool instrument
zooms in for a cervical smear.
And bathed every veyne, you pause, forgetting.
I joyfully prompt you, … in swich licour
You pat my tummy, indicating the exam is done.
I sit up, pull down the angel robe,
we join together in one more line,
Of which vertu engendered is the flour;

Geoffrey, my good man, meet my Doctour of Phisik;
in al this world ne was ther noon hym lik.

birches :: robert frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust–
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows–
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

naming the stars :: joyce sutphen

This present tragedy will eventually
turn into myth, and in the mist
of that later telling the bell tolling
now will be a symbol, or, at least,
a sign of something long since lost.

This will be another one of those
loose changes, the rearrangement of
hearts, just parts of old lives
patched together, gathered into
a dim constellation, small consolation.

Look, we will say, you can almost see
the outline there: her fingertips
touching his, the faint fusion
of two bodies breaking into light.

discontinous poems :: alberto caeiro

translated by edouard roditi

The frightful reality of things
Is my everyday discovery.
Each thing is what it is.
How can I explain to anyone how much
I rejoice over this, and find it enough?

To be whole, it is enough to exist.

I have written quite a number of poems
And may write many more, of course.
Each poem of mine explains it,
Though all my poems are different,
Because each thing that exists is always proclaiming it.

Sometimes I busy myself with watching a stone,
I don’t begin thinking whether it feels.
I don’t force myself to call it my sister,

But I enjoy it because of its being a stone,
I enjoy it because it feels nothing,
I enjoy it because it is not at all related to me.

At times I also hear the wind blow by
And find that merely to hear the wind blow makes
it worth having been born.

I don’t know what others will think who read this;
But I find it must be good because I think it
without effort,
And without the idea of others hearing me think,
Because I think it without thoughts,
Because I say it as my words say it.

Once they called me a materialist poet
And I admired myself because I never thought
That I might be called by any name at all.
I am not even a poet: I see.
If what I write has any value, it is not I who am
valuable.
The value is there, in my verses.
All this has nothing whatever to do with any will
of mine.

the idea of order at key west :: wallace stevens

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.
For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of the sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and firey poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
Words of fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

Courtesy of A.M.

theme in yellow :: carl sandburg

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

all hallows :: louise glück

Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.

about my very tortured friend, peter :: charles bukowski

he lives in a house with a swimming pool
and says the job is
killing him.
he is 27. I am 44. I can’t seem to
get rid of
him. his novels keep coming
back. “what do you expect me to do?” he screams
“go to New York and pump the hands of the
publishers?”
“no,” I tell him, “but quit your job, go into a
small room and do the
thing.”
“but I need ASSURANCE, I need something to
go by, some word, some sign!”
“some men did not think that way:
Van Gogh, Wagner—”
“oh hell, Van Gogh had a brother who gave him
paints whenever he
needed them!”

“look,” he said, “I’m over at this broad’s house today and
this guy walks in. a salesman. you know
how they talk. drove up in this new
car. talked about his vacation. said he went to
Frisco—saw Fidelio up there but forgot who
wrote it. now this guy is 54 years
old. so I told him: ‘Fidelio is Beethoven’s only
opera.’ and then I told
him: ‘you’re a jerk!’ ‘whatcha mean?’ he
asked. ‘I mean, you’re a jerk, you’re 54 years old and
you don’t know anything!’”

“what happened
then?”
“I walked out.”
“you mean you left him there with
her?”
“yes.”

“I can’t quit my job,” he said. “I always have trouble getting a
job. I walk in, they look at me, listen to me talk and
they think right away, ah ha! he’s too intelligent for
this job, he won’t stay
so there’s really no sense in hiring
him.
now, YOU walk into a place and you don’t have any trouble:
you look like an old wino, you look like a guy who needs a
job and they look at you and they think:
ah ha!: now here’s a guy who really needs work! if we hire
him he’ll stay a long time and work
HARD!”

“do any of those people,” he asks “know you are a
writer, that you write poetry?”
“no.”
“you never talk about
it. not even to
me! if I hadn’t seen you in that magazine I’d
have never known.”
“that’s right.”
“still, I’d like to tell these people that you are a
writer.”
“I’d still like to
tell them.”
“why?”
“well, they talk about you. they think you are just a
horseplayer and a drunk.”
“I am both of those.”
“well, they talk about you. you have odd ways. you travel alone.
I’m the only friend you
have.”
“yes.”
“they talk you down. I’d like to defend you. I’d like to tell
them you write
poetry.”
“leave it alone. I work here like they
do. we’re all the same.”
“well, I’d like to do it for myself then. I want them to know why
I travel with
you. I speak 7 languages, I know my music—”
“forget it.”
“all right, I’ll respect your
wishes. but there’s something else—”
“what?”
“I’ve been thinking about getting a
piano. but then I’ve been thinking about getting a
violin too but I can’t make up my
mind!”
“buy a piano.”
“you think
so?”
“yes.”

he walks away
thinking about
it.

I was thinking about it
too: I figure he can always come over with his
violin and more
sad music.

english as a second language :: april bernard

That voice—from the tv—that voice,
thick smoky cheese, or, no—
dark as burnt flan, sweet,
venison-sweet in the heavy smoke
of a tavern hearth, and hot as brandy.
I served that voice for months,
in a theater on 13th near Third
where losers are the ones who crack first.
I gave you azured hours, nights,
and you placed your soul,
pretty as a dead mouse, at my feet.
Gutturals, the candles guttering backstage.
Your voice went everywhere
you dared not put your hands.

the apparent :: linda gregg

When I say transparency, I don’t mean seeing through.
I mean the way a symbol is made when an X is drawn over O.
As the world moves when it is named. In the sense
of truth by consciousness, which we translate as opposites.
The space we breathe is also called distance.
Presence gives. Absence allows and calls,
until Presence holds the invisible, weeping.
Transparent in the way the heart sees old leaves.
As we become more like the hills by feeling.
I mean permanence. As when the deer and I
regard each other. Ah, there was no fear then.
When she went with her young from the meadow
back into the nearly night of the woods,
it was because the rain came down suddenly harder.

ms :: david watts

it was like his nerves
were dipped in pickling vinegar
piecemeal
starting at the periphery and spotting
in between
and it was changing
like a transforming request
a sensory overload
where some impulses make it
some don’t
and that’s the story
of his numbness
except that it felt like oatmeal
drying on the skin
only with oats you can see
where the damage is
they say that stress
could have started it
oh he could buy that story
and have pocket change
left over
while this moth of his nightmare
kept eating at the wool
of his nerve endings

niña :: octavio paz

Entre la tarde que se obstina
y la noche que se acumula
hay la mirada de una niña.

Deja el cuaderno y la escritura,
todo su ser dos ojos fijos.
En la pared la luz anula.

¿Mira su fin o su principio?
Ella dirá que no ve nada.
Es transparente el infinito.

Nunca sabrá que lo miraba.

~~~~~

translated by A.Z.F.

Between the lazy afternoon
and the slow gathering of night
there is a gazing girl who soon

forgets her class and what to write.
She is a pair of transfixed eyes.
Lamps on the wall have lost their light.

Did she see her birth or her demise?
She’ll say that there was nothing there.
Infinity is imprecise.

She gazed and cannot reckon where.

Courtesy of A.M.

a song on the end of the world :: czesław miłosz

translated by anthony milosz

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.

Warsaw, 1944

consolation :: wislawa szymborska

translated by clare cavanagh and stanislaw baranczak

Darwin.
They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.

True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.

Hence the indispensable
silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.

home :: bruce weigl

I didn’t know I was grateful
for such late-autumn
bent-up cornfields

yellow in the after-harvest
sun before the
cold plow turns it all over

into never.
I didn’t know
I would enter this music

that translates the world
back into dirt fields
that have always called to me

as if I were a thing
come from the dirt,
like a tuber,

or like a needful boy. End
Lonely days, I believe. End the exiled
and unraveling strangeness.

taking off emily dickinson’s clothes :: billy collins

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer’s dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women’s undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything –
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.

So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

hummingbird :: elaine terranova

What with foresight and dancing,
gypsies would seem to pass easily
between worlds. The hummingbird too—

only a moth with a beak—
Have I ever heard it hum?

Yet it’s everywhere welcome,
coaxed by red flowers, even sugar water,
for we are devious, in our desires.

And the dead, we embody them
for our own purposes. I can’t talk
to a shadow, to an abstraction.

A sun worshiper, my brother,
always raising his face to it.
One touch and the body roar quieted.

Now, though I walk the length
of the park, he is not there.
He is nowhere under the sun.

I want the dead but I am with
the living. The tulips raise up their hands.
The lunch crowd swallows me.

a green crab’s shell :: mark doty

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like–

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws’

gesture of menace
and power. A gull’s
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
–size of a demitasse–
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer’s firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into this
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
similarly,
revealed some sky.

Courtesy of S.L.

notes from the other side :: jane kenyon

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

where broken (the darkness :: liz waldner

Cows on the spine of the hill like the spine of a book are some letters

Letters with legs; like an E and an L or an R that is squared like the box of the
body of cows

Like the spine of a book, the legs and the bodies of cows spell out the name and
maybe the head spells also the name of the book on whose spine is embossed
the name made of grass:

The light of the many days and the darkness the roots of the grass pull up out
of the hill and the light pushes down with the feet of the cows and the darkness
inside of the skulls of the cows, all these the name has eaten

The lines of the spines of the cows grazing the sky, the meeting of spine and sky
also marking the arcing edges of dark or light letters on dark or light pages
where, broken, the name grazes the thing it will know or mean or become

These are the choices.
However, there are other books.

I think I should have loved you presently :: edna st. vincent millay

I think I should have loved you presently,
And given in earnest words I flung in jest;
And lifted honest eyes for you to see,
And caught your hand against my cheek and breast;
And all my pretty follies flung aside
That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,
Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.
I, that had been to you, had you remained,
But one more waking from a recurrent dream,
Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,
And walk your memory’s halls, austere, supreme,
A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
Who would have loved you in a day or two.

@ :: paul muldoon

Like the whorl of an out-of-this-world ear that had been lent
to an oak-gall wasp by a tenth century Irish monk
who would hold out oak-gall ink against the predicament
in which he found himself…

Like the ever-unfolding trunk
of the elephant in the room that gives such a bad vibe
it vies with your old hippie girlfriend who once lent such weight
to any argument to which you feared she might subscribe,
including her insistence we abbreviate
our most promising rlshps…

Like the scrolled-down tail
of a Capuchin monkey drawing on its inner strengths
as it hammers short-sighted snail against short-sighted snail
that has nonetheless gone to extraordinary lengths…

Like the tapeworm swallowed by a hippie who was once fat
but is now kind of bummed out you’ve lost track of where she’s at.

From The Design Observer, courtesy of A.D.A.

aerialist :: sylvia plath

Each night, this adroit young lady
Lies among sheets
Shredded fine as snowflakes
Until dream takes her body
From bed to strict tryouts
In tightrope acrobatics.

Nightly she balances
Cat-clever on perilous wire
In a gigantic hall,
Footing her delicate dances
To whipcrack and roar
Which speak her maestro’s will.

Gilded, coming correct
Across that sultry air,
She steps, halts, hung
In dead center of her act
As great weights drop all about her
And commence to swing.

Lessoned thus, the girl
Parries the lunge and menace
Of every pendulum;
By deft duck and twirl
She draws applause; bright harness
Bites keen into each brave limb

Then, this tough stint done, she curtsies
And serenely plummets down
To traverse glass floor
And get safe home; but, turning with trained eyes,
Tiger-tamer and grinning clown
Squat, bowling black balls at her.

Tall trucks roll in
With a thunder like lions; all aims
And lumbering moves

To trap this outrageous nimble queen
And shatter to atoms
Her nine so slippery lives.

Sighting the stratagem
Of black weight, black bail, black truck,
With a last artful dodge she leaps
Through hoop of that hazardous dream
To sit up stark awake
As the loud alarmclock stops.

Now as penalty for her skill,
By day she must walk in dread
Steel gaunticts of traffic, terror-struck
Lest, out of spite, the whole
Elaborate scaffold of sky overhead
Fall racketing finale on her luck.

listening :: david ignatow

You wept in your mother’s arms
and I knew that from then on
I was to forget myself.

Listening to your sobs,
I was resolved against my will
to do well by us
and so I said, without thinking,
in great panic, To do wrong
in one’s own judgment,
though others thrive by it,
is the right road to blessedness.
Not to submit to error
is in itself wrong
and pride.

Standing beside you,
I took an oath
to make your life simpler
by complicating mine
and what I always thought
would happen did:
I was lifted up in joy.

roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges :: koh jee leong

From this poem on I forswear
talking about the body as if it is a house for the soul
– with windows for eyes and walls for the skin of cells –
or a cathedral or a cave, as if the body is a container for something finer.

There is nothing finer than the body
of the woman who drew the first bison on the wall of the cave,
or the body of the man bent over
his cruciform plan for the cathedral,

or the body of the child who drew
away from companions playing tag in the field,
wandered down a narrow trail to the lake
and dreamt of a great flood that covered all the earth, and a house floating,

and so I will not compare the jaws to doors swinging
on hinges, or the top of the mouth to a roof.
When my imagination fails me,
I’ll name the body plainly by its name.

From Softblow