the apple’s song :: edwin morgan

Tap me with your finger,
rub me with your sleeve,
hold me, sniff me, peel me
curling round and round
till I burst out white and cold
from my tight red coat
and tingle in your palm

as if I’d melt and breathe
a living pomander
waiting for the minute
of joy when you lift me
to your mouth and crush me
and in taste and fragrance
I race through your head
in my dizzy dissolve.

I sit in the bowl
in my cool corner
and watch you as you pass
smoothing your apron.
Are you thirsty yet?
My eyes are shining.

(Via KW)

listening to bach’s solo suites :: gregory orr

Listening to Back’s solo suites
For cello, you know
He’s found the poem
But not the words,
Doesn’t need the words.

And the words don’t matter
When the mother weeps
Over her dead child.

Some of the most important
poems don’t get written down,
But you’ll find them in the Book.

distances :: eavan boland

The radio is playing downstairs in the kitchen.
The clock says eight and the light says
winter. You are pulling up your hood against a bad morning.

Don’t leave, I say. Don’t go without telling me
the name of that song. You call it back to me from the stairs—
‘I Wish I Was in Carrickfergus’

and the words open out with emigrant grief the way the streets
of a small town open out in
memory: salt-loving fuchsias to one side and

a market in full swing on the other with
linen for sale and tacky apples and a glass and wire hill
of spectacles on a metal tray. The front door bangs

and you’re gone. I will think of it all morning while a fine
drizzle closes in, making the distances
fiction: not of that place but this and of how

restless we would be, you and I, inside the perfect
music of that basalt and sandstone
coastal town. We would walk the streets in

the scentless afternoon of a ballad measure,
longing to be able
to tell each other that the starched lace and linen of

adult handkerchiefs scraped your face and left your tears
falling; how the apples were mush inside the crisp sugar
shell and the spectacles out of focus.

From Poets & Writers

planet earth :: p.k. page

It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.

            —In Praise of Ironing by Pablo Neruda


It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.

The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool’s gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness.

and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green, sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky – such an 0! overhead – night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving.

It has to be made bright, the skin of this planet
till it shines in the sun like gold leaf.
Archangels then will attend to its metals
and polish the rods of its rain.
Seraphim will stop singing hosannas
to shower it with blessings and blisses and praises
and, newly in love,
we must draw it and paint it
our pencils and brushes and loving caresses
smoothing the holy surfaces.

via ecocentrism

sparrow :: peter campion

With its swift
flick and plummet
through the chrism
of these first hours
after the rain
spraying droplets
off its wingtips then
scissoring past
the phone lines
into the blue
distance of roofs
and freeways
how not see it as
diving past
all we slather
onto the world
diving past it
the same way
we survive
our happiness
and also: sorrow.

From Poetry Daily

and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood :: elizabeth biller chapman

Wings of moss, the fabric of this place where
lambs toward evening chew upon their damp green
grasses till each ewe’s distinctive call, then
butt under the belly to nurse. Mother—
a sparrow hurls his dawn song at our wall.
Those droplet fingers I nuzzled, your linen
shroud, all becoming mossed—only for an
hour or so at a time can I feel whole.
What thrift, this tide incoming among lined
limpets whose pale blue circles are left behind.
A sand like honeycomb: presence and absence
from me. . . and she moved through the fair. Listen—
will you hear field blackbirds, the way they dance,
tap with their feet, pretending they are rain.

marble hill :: sarah hannah

You’ve missed the train—
The birds care nothing about it.
In the brush, in the eaves of rock
Yellow moths wink like paper.
You’ve missed the train,
A perfect miss; it snaked by slowly
As you stumbled down the steps from the subway overpass.
Starlings rattle in the brush.
A dayliner passes, puffing clouds in silence.
Maybe you should have married
That rock guitarist from Jersey.
There was a pleasant stillness then—
A home, yellow flutterings—
Which you cannot help considering, bound,
For another hour, to this stubborn plain
While the afternoon sun makes water of the air
And concrete, and in this heat
Edges blur between outcroppings:
Sooted cliffs, car mufflers, non-refundables.
You’re getting older;
You’re less able to contain your questions.

Is there any marble in this hill at all?

samurai song :: robert pinsky

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

the evening star :: louise glück

Tonight, for the first time in many years,
there appeared to me again
a vision of the earth’s splendor:

in the evening sky
the first star seemed
to increase in brilliance
as the earth darkened

until at last it could grow no darker.
And the light, which was the light of death,
seemed to restore to earth

its power to console. There were
no other stars. Only the one
whose name I knew

as in my other life I did her
injury: Venus,
star of the early evening,

to you I dedicate
my vision, since on this blank surface

you have cast enough light
to make my thought
visible again.

hear it

the poem on the wall :: po chü-i

[Yüan Chen wrote that on his way to exile he had discovered
a poem inscribed by Po Chü-I, on the wall of the Lo-k‘ou Inn.]

My clumsy poem on the inn-wall none cared to see.
With bird-droppings and moss’s growth the letters were
           blotched away.
There came a guest with heart so full, that though a page
           to the Throne,
He did not grudge with his broidered coat to wipe off the
           dust, and read.

From Poetry Daily

perfect pitch :: peter pereira

       “F. . . the oven is an F”
       Samantha Foggle, age 3

Oh, to hear the world with such clarity.
Such surety. To know the note
of your breakfast chat is B-flat minor.
That the ’57 Chevy stalled outside the
garage is a D. To recognize the Apricot
kitchen paint for what it is: F-sharp.
To understand the way you feel for him is G,
definitely a G. And as you watch him
descend the scale of the front steps to his car
for work, the house quiets to an A.
The arpeggio of last night’s Every
Good Boy Deserves Favor
still ringing in your ears.

shopping with mayakovsky :: jason koo

One morning I wake
not wanting to get out of bed,
and see a cloud
in my room.
“Mayakovsky?” I say.
“Find me some trousers!” he orders.
I scramble to the closet
and pull out a pair of jeans.
“Don’t know if these will fit,” I say.
“Of course they will!” he says.
“I’m a cloud!”
He puts them on and begins to look more like
himself, his cloudiness
assembling
into a column. “Don’t have much style, do you?”
he says. “Nevermind—
let us go out into the world and find ourselves
an ocean.” Before I
can object
he’s kicked me out the door
into the sunlight.
“Ah, just what I was looking for,”
he says, reaching up for the sun and fixing it
like a monocle
in his eye. “Now, poet,”
he laughs, slapping me on the back
and sending me flying
into some pines, “take me to your supermarket.”
I point him down the street—
rain leaks from his legs,
flame leaps from his eye,
and as we walk he floods and scorches, scorches and floods…
“Marvelous!” he cries.
“Your window-flashing automobiles!
Your torrent of engines!
But these buildings are ugly.”
I slow him down
by telling him about my problems in love.
“What will it be?” he says,
his face softening,
the floodtide letting up.
“Love or no-love?
And what kind of love:
big or minute?”
He grins and nudges me with a feathery elbow:
“Girls are partial to poets.”
We arrive at the supermarket,
where Mayakovsky
falls in love with the automatic doors.
He walks into the store over and over again,
each time announcing,
“But I—!”
The people in the cash register lines
drop their products.
Turning,
Mayakovsky bows and says,
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
I
present to you
Vladimir Mayakovsky: a Tragedy.”
One woman screams—
the rest smile and bat their eyelashes.
I grab a shopping cart
and Mayakovsky hops in.
We cruise through the aisles,
blackening the boxes.
“Look at all this food,” he says.
“Over there! The ocean.”
We roll into the frozen fish section,
slowing by freezer doors
so Mayakovsky can open and fog them
one by one.
He sees the lobster tank
and tells me to stop,
going silent
with concentration.
“This is how I feel, ” I say,
stooping. Calmly,
Mayakovsky tells me to move
on, then, once out of view of the lobsters, wheels
and says, “Stop moping!”
“But what’s the point?” I say.
“I’m not you—I’m just wasting my time.”
“You think you’re wasting your time?
You don’t know what it is
to waste time
until you’ve written a three-thousand line elegy
on the death of Lenin.
Try drawing posters
and championing boiled water
for a change.” I apologize
and he says, “Who can blame you for feeling
unproductive
with all these stores around?
Forget about them.
Sharpen yourself
on the edge
of your own decision.
“But what if nobody listens?” I ask.
“Hit them with hammer strokes
of metaphor
in stanzas like pistol points.
Make sure you sing.”
We pass the kitchen utensils
and Mayakovsky plucks
a long wooden spoon
from its rack, folds
a tuft of cloudfront
neatly back into a lapel,
and inserts the spoon
like a boutonniere.
“Now, let us find some women!”
he says, pointing to the produce section.
But then: “Never,
under any circumstances,
set your heel on the throat
of your own song.”
As we turn toward the tomatoes
the spoon shifts, revealing
the tiny, clean bullethole underneath.

ladies and gentlemen in outer space :: ron padgett

Here is my philosophy:
Everything changes (the word “everything”
has just changed as the
word “change” has: it now
means “no change”) so
quickly that it literally surpasses my belief,
charges right past it
like some of the giant
ideas in this area.
I had no beginning and I shall have
no end: the beam of light
stretches out before and behind
and I cook the vegetables
for a few minutes only,
the fewer the better. Butter
and serve. Here is my
philosophy: butter and serve.

reluctance :: robert frost

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

I cry your mercy—pity—love!—ay, love :: john keats

To Fanny.

I cry your mercy—pity—love!—ay, love!
Merciful love that tantalises not
One-thoughted, never-wandering, guileless love,
Unmask’d, and being seen—without a blot!
O! let me have thee whole,—all—all—be mine!
That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest
Of love, your kiss,—those hands, those eyes divine,
That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast,—
Yourself—your soul—in pity give me all,
Withhold no atom’s atom or I die,
Or living on, perhaps, your wretched thrall,
Forget, in the mist of idle misery,
Life’s purposes,—the palate of my mind
Losing its gust, and my ambition blind!

revenge :: taha muhammad ali

translated

At times … I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
into
a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I’d rest at last,
and if I were ready—
I would take my revenge!

*

But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who’d put
his right hand over
the heart’s place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they’d set—
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.

*

Likewise … I
would not murder him
if it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who
couldn’t bear his absence
and whom his gifts would thrill.
Or if he had
friends or companions,
neighbors he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school …
asking about him
and sending him regards.

*

But if he turned
out to be on his own—
cut off like a branch from a tree—
without a mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbors or friends,
colleagues or companions,
then I’d add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness—
not the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I’d be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street—as I
convinced myself
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.

Nazareth
April 15, 2006

From The Center for the Art of Translation; Courtesy of N.I.

credo :: matthew rohrer

I believe there is something else

entirely going on but no single
person can ever know it,
so we fall in love.

It could also be true that what we use
everyday to open cans was something
much nobler, that we’ll never recognize.

I believe the woman sleeping beside me
doesn’t care about what’s going on
outside, and her body is warm
with trust
which is a great beginning.

to become the tree :: gregory orr

To become the tree,
That’s easy.
To be the flower,
Not so hard.
But to become the beloved,
That’s not allowed.
The distance between you:
Crucial as the poem
That bridges it.
That space between your two
Bodies, no matter how closely
Pressed: it’s essential,
It defines what it is to be
In the world: surrounded
By infinite space, balanced
On the points of a pin,
Spinning there,
Singing your song.

river village :: tu fu

A clear river winds around the village
all summer long village life is peaceful
swallows in the rafters come and go at will
seagulls on the water visit friends and kin
my wife draws a chessboard on a piece of paper
my children make fishhooks out of sewing needles
thankfully an old friend shares his office rice
what else does this poor body need

the fascination of what’s difficult :: william butler yeats

The fascination of what’s difficult
Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent
Spontaneous joy and natural content
Out of my heart. There’s something ails our colt
That must, as if it had not holy blood
Nor on Olympus leaped from cloud to cloud,
Shiver under the lash, strain, sweat and jolt
As though it dragged road metal. My curse on plays
That have to be set up in fifty ways,
On the day’s war with every knave and dolt,
Theatre business, management of men.
I swear before the dawn comes round again
I’ll find the stable and pull out the bolt.

a mathematics of breathing :: carl phillips

I

Think of any of several arched
colonnades to a cathedral,

how the arches
like fountains, say,

or certain limits in calculus,
when put to the graph-paper’s cross-trees,

never quite meet any promised heaven,
instead at their vaulted heights

falling down to the abruptly ending
base of the next column,

smaller, the one smaller
past that, at last

dying, what is
called perspective.

This is the way buildings do it.

II

You have seen them, surely, busy paring
the world down to what it is mostly,

proverb: so many birds in a bush.
Suddenly they take off, and at first

it seems your particular hedge itself
has sighed deeply,

that the birds are what come,
though of course it is just the birds

leaving one space for others.
After they’ve gone, put your ear to the bush,

listen. There are three sides: the leaves’
releasing of something, your ear where it

finds it, and the air in between, to say
equals. There is maybe a fourth side,

not breathing.

III

In my version of the Thousand and One Nights,
there are only a thousand,

Scheherazade herself is the last one,
for the moment held back,

for a moment all the odds hang even.
The stories she tells she tells mostly

to win another night of watching the prince
drift into a deep sleeping beside her,

the chance to touch one more time
his limbs, going,

gone soft already with dreaming.
When she tells her own story,

Breathe in,
breathe out

is how it starts.

one train may hide another :: kenneth koch

(sign at a railroad crossing in Kenya)

In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
That is, if you are waiting to cross
The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at
Least after the first train is gone. And so when you read
Wait until you have read the next line —
Then it is safe to go on reading.
In a family one sister may conceal another,
So, when you are courting, it’s best to have them all in view
Otherwise in coming to find one you may love another.
One father or one brother may hide the man,
If you are a woman, whom you have been waiting to love.
So always standing in front of something the other
As words stand in front of objects, feelings, and ideas.
One wish may hide another. And one person’s reputation may hide
The reputation of another. One dog may conceal another
On a lawn, so if you escape the first one you’re not necessarily safe;
One lilac may hide another and then a lot of lilacs and on the Appia
        Antica one tomb
May hide a number of other tombs. In love, one reproach may hide another,
One small complaint may hide a great one.
One injustice may hide another—one colonial may hide another,
One blaring red uniform another, and another, a whole column. One bath
        may hide another bath
As when, after bathing, one walks into the rain.
One idea may hide another: Life is simple
Hide Life is incredibly complex, as in the prose of Gertrude Stein
One sentence hides another and is another as well. And in the laboratory
One invention may hide another invention,
One evening may hide another, one shadow, a nest of shadows.
One dark red, or one blue, or one purple—this is a painting
By someone after Matisse. One waits at the tracks until they pass,
These hidden doubles or, sometimes, likenesses. One identical twin
May hide the other. And there may be even more in there! The obstetrician
Gazes at the Valley of the Var. We used to live there, my wife and I, but
One life hid another life. And now she is gone and I am here.
A vivacious mother hides a gawky daughter. The daughter hides
Her own vivacious daughter in turn. They are in
A railway station and the daughter is holding a bag
Bigger than her mother’s bag and successfully hides it.
In offering to pick up the daughter’s bag one finds oneself confronted by
        the mother’s
And has to carry that one, too. So one hitchhiker
May deliberately hide another and one cup of coffee
Another, too, until one is over-excited. One love may hide another love
        or the same love
As when “I love you” suddenly rings false and one discovers
The better love lingering behind, as when “I’m full of doubts”
Hides “I’m certain about something and it is that”
And one dream may hide another as is well known, always, too. In the
        Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve may hide the real Adam and Eve.
Jerusalem may hide another Jerusalem.
When you come to something, stop to let it pass
So you can see what else is there. At home, no matter where,
Internal tracks pose dangers, too: one memory
Certainly hides another, that being what memory is all about,
The eternal reverse succession of contemplated entities. Reading
        A Sentimental Journey look around
When you have finished, for Tristram Shandy, to see
If it is standing there, it should be, stronger
And more profound and theretofore hidden as Santa Maria Maggiore
May be hidden by similar churches inside Rome. One sidewalk
May hide another, as when you’re asleep there, and
One song hide another song; a pounding upstairs
Hide the beating of drums. One friend may hide another, you sit at the
        foot of a tree
With one and when you get up to leave there is another
Whom you’d have preferred to talk to all along. One teacher,
One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man
May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It
        can be important
To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.

Via poets.org (with audio!)

writing in the afterlife :: billy collins

I imagined the atmosphere would be clear,
shot with pristine light,
not this sulphurous haze,
the air ionized as before a thunderstorm.

Many have pictured a river here,
but no one mentioned all the boats,
their benches crowded with naked passengers,
each bent over a writing tablet.

I knew I would not always be a child
with a model train and a model tunnel,
and I knew I would not live forever,
jumping all day through the hoop of myself.

I had heard about the journey to the other side
and the clink of the final coin
in the leather purse of the man holding the oar,
but how could anyone have guessed

that as soon as we arrived
we would be asked to describe this place
and to include as much detail as possible—
not just the water, he insists,

rather the oily, fathomless, rat-happy water,
not simply the shackles, but the rusty,
iron, ankle-shredding shackles—
and that our next assignment would be

to jot down, off the tops of our heads,
our thoughts and feelings about being dead,
not really an assignment,
the man rotating the oar keeps telling us—

think of it more as an exercise, he groans,
think of writing as a process,
a never-ending, infernal process,
and now the boats have become jammed together,

bow against stern, stern locked to bow,
and not a thing is moving, only our diligent pens.

the others :: michael ryan

They slept and ate like us.
Feral they were not.
The intricacy of their handiwork
bespoke a fineness we’d be taught.

Yet we wiped them out.
It was eerily easy to do,
although they knew we were coming
and knew we knew they knew.

Not only did they not resist
our guns like bloody hacking coughs
in their libraries and hospitals,
their bedrooms and their schools—

they would not acknowledge us.
We felt like fools. There was no keening.
Even the children did not cry.
It was as if meaning

inhered so deeply in their daily
lives we could not touch it;
nor would they quit living to be
slaughtered, it was so inviolate.

celestial :: tina chang

When everything was accounted for
you rummaged through my bag to find
something offensive: a revolver,
a notebook of misinterpreted text.

I’m God’s professor.
His eyes two open ovens.
He has a physical body
and it hiccups and blesses.

Tell me a story before the mudslide,
tell it fast before the house falls,
before it withers in the frost, before
it dozes off next to the television.

I couldn’t tell if it was that screen
or the sky spitting dust and light.

how to be eaten by a lion :: michael johnson

If you hear the rush, the swish of mottled sand
and dust kicked up under the striving paws,
its cessation, falling into the sharp and brittle grass
like the tick of a tun roof under sun
or hint of rain that nightly wakes you,
try to stand your ground. Try not to scream,
for it devalues you. That tawny head and burled
mange, the flattened ears of its sleek engine
will seem only a blur, a shock, a shadow,
across your neck that leaves you cold.
It may seem soft, barely a blow,
more like a falling, an exquisite giving
of yourself to the ground, made numb
to those eyes. It may be easier just to watch,
for fighting will only prolong things,
and you will have no time to notice the sky,
the texture of dust, what incredible leaves
the trees have. Instead, focus on your life,
its crimson liquor he grows drunk on.
Notice the way the red highlights his face,
how the snub nose is softened, the lips made
fuller; notice his deft musculature, his rapture,
because in all creation there is not art
to compare with such elegance, such simplicity.
Notice this and remember it,
this way in which you became beautiful
when you thought there was nothing more.

portrait d’une femme :: ezra pound

Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea,
London has swept about you this score years
And bright ships left you this or that in fee:
Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things,
Strange spars of knowledge and dimmed wares of price.
Great minds have sought you—lacking someone else.
You have been second always. Tragical?
No. You preferred it to the usual thing:
One dull man, dulling and uxorious,
One average mind—with one thought less, each year.
Oh, you are patient, I have seen you sit
Hours, where something might have floated up.
And now you pay one. Yes, you richly pay.
You are a person of some interest, one comes to you
And takes strange gain away:
Trophies fished up; some curious suggestion:
Fact that leads nowhere; and a tale or two,
Pregnant with mandrakes, or with something else
That might prove useful and yet never proves,
That never fits a corner or shows use,
Or finds its hour upon the loom of days:
The tarnished, gaudy, wonderful old work;
Idols and ambergris and rare inlays,
These are your riches, your great store; and yet
For all this sea-hoard of deciduous things,
Strange woods half sodden, and new brighter stuff:
In the slow float of differing light and deep,
No! there is nothing! In the whole and all,
Nothing that’s quite your own.
                  Yet this is you.