halloween party :: kenn nesbitt

We’re having a Halloween party at school.
I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool!
I dyed my hair black, and I cut off my bangs.
I’m wearing a cape and some fake plastic fangs.

I put on some makeup to paint my face white,
like creatures that only come out in the night.
My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red.
I look like I’m recently back from the dead.

My mom drops me off, and I run into school
and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool.
The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak—
the Halloween party is not till next week.

all she wrote :: harryette mullen

Forgive me, I’m no good at this. I can’t write back. I never read your letter.
I can’t say I got your note. I haven’t had the strength to open the envelope.
The mail stacks up by the door. Your hand’s illegible. Your postcards were
defaced. Wash your wet hair? Any document you meant to send has yet to
reach me. The untied parcel service never delivered. I regret to say I’m
unable to reply to your unexpressed desires. I didn’t get the book you sent.
By the way, my computer was stolen. Now I’m unable to process words. I
suffer from aphasia. I’ve just returned from Kenya and Korea. Didn’t you
get a card from me yet? What can I tell you? I forgot what I was going to
say. I still can’t find a pen that works and then I broke my pencil. You know
how scarce paper is these days. I admit I haven’t been recycling. I never
have time to read the Times. I’m out of shopping bags to put the old news
in. I didn’t get to the market. I meant to clip the coupons. I haven’t read
the mail yet. I can’t get out the door to work, so I called in sick. I went to
bed with writer’s cramp. If I couldn’t get back to writing, I thought I’d catch
up on my reading. Then Oprah came on with a fabulous author plugging
her best selling book.

condolence note: los angeles :: carol muske-dukes

The sky is desert blue,
Like the pool. Secluded.
No swimmers here. No smog—

Unless you count this twisting
Brush fire in the hills. Two kids
Sit, head-to-head, poolside,

Rehearsing a condolence note.
Someone has died, “Not an intimate,
Perhaps a family friend,” prompts

The Manners Guide they consult.
You shouldn’t say God never makes
Mistakes
, she quotes, snapping her

Bikini top. Right, he adds–You
Could just say, He’s better off–or
Heaven was always in his future.

There’s always a better way to say
We’re sorry that he’s dead–but
they’re back inside their music now,

Pages of politeness fallen between them.
O do not say that the Unsaid drifts over us
Like blown smoke: a single spark erupts

In wildfire! Cup your hands, blow out
This wish for insight. Say: Forgive me
For living when you are dead. Say pardon

My need to praise, without you, this bright
Morning sky. It belongs to no one–
But I offer it to you, heaven in your future–

Along with silent tunes from the playlist,
The end-time etiquette book dropped
From the hand of the young sleeper.

It’s all we have left to share. The book
Of paid respects, the morning’s hot-blue
iPod, sunlit words on a page, black border.

blowing the fluff away :: robyn sarah

For E.B.

The sprig of unknown bloom you sent last fall
spent the long winter drying on my wall,
mounted on black. But it had turned to fluff
some months ago. Tonight I took it down
because I thought that I had had enough
of staring at it. Brittle, dry and brown,
it seemed to speak too plainly of a waste
of friendship, forced to flower, culled in haste.

So, after months of fearing to walk past
in case the stir should scatter it to bits,
I took it out to scatter it at last
with my own breath, and so to call us quits.
—Fooled! for the fluff was nothing but a sheath,
with tiny, perfect flowers underneath.

happy as a dog’s tail :: anna swir

Happy as something unimportant
and free as a thing unimportant.
As something no one prizes
and which does not prize itself.
As something mocked by all
and which mocks at their mockery.
As laughter without serious reason.
As a yell able to outyell itself.
Happy as no matter what,
as any no matter what.

Happy
as a dog’s tail.

to autumn :: louise glück

      —for Keith Althaus

Morning quivers in the thorns; above the budded snowdrops
caked with dew like little virgins, the azalea bush
ejects its first leaves, and it is spring again.
The willow waits its turn, the coast
is coated with a faint green fuzz, anticipating
mold. Only I
do not collaborate, having
flowered earlier. I am no longer young. What
of it? Summer approaches, and the long
decaying days of autumn when I shall begin
the great poems of my middle period.

literature in the 21st century :: ronald wallace

Sometimes I wish I drank coffee
or smoked Marlboros, or maybe cigars—
yes, a hand-rolled Havana cigar
in its thick, manly wrapping,
the flash of the match between
worn matchbook and stained forefinger,
the cup of the palm at the tip,
the intake of air, and the slow and
luxuriant, potent and pleasurable
exhale. Shall we say also a glass
of claret? Or some sherry with its
dark star, the smoke blown into the bowl
of the glass, like fog on portentous
morning, the rich man-smell of gabardine
and wool, of money it its gold clip?

Sometimes I wish I had habits
a man wouldn’t kick, faults a good man could
be proud of. I’d be an expatriate from
myself, all ink-pen and paper in a Paris café
where the waiters were elegant and surly,
the women relaxed and extravagant
with their bobbed hair and bonbons, their
perfumed Galoises, their oysters and canapés,
and I’d be writing about war and old losses—
man things-and not where I am, in this
pristine and sensitive vessel, all
fizzy water, reticence, and care, all reduced
fat and purified air, behind my deprived
computer, where I can’t manage even
a decaf cap, a mild Tiparillo, a glass of
great-taste-less-filling light beer.

october :: robert frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

peace :: gerard manley hopkins

When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?

O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.

untitled :: anonymous

translated by Richard Rutt

On that screen are painted a cat with its front teeth bared
                       and a little mouse in front of the cat.
Oh, that cat looks a swift one.
                       It is going to catch that mouse!
Shall I too see if I can find some bashful lover
                       and try to catch him?

rain effect :: mary ruefle

A bride and a groom sitting in an open buggy
in the rain, holding hands but not looking
at each other, waiting for the rain to stop,
waiting for the marriage to begin, embarrassed
by the rain, the effect of the rain on the bridal
veil, the wet horse with his mane in his eyes,
the rain cold as the sea, the sea deep as love,
big drops of rain falling on the leather seat,
the rain beaded on a rose pinned to the groom’s
lapel, the rain on the bride’s bouquet,
on the baby’s breath there, the sound of the rain
hitting the driver’s top hat, the rain
shining like satin on the black street,
on the tips of patent leather shoes, Hokusai’s
father who polished mirrors for a living, Hokusai’s
father watching the sky for clouds, Hokusai’s father’s son
drawing rain over a bridge and over the people crossing
the bridge, Hokusai’s father’s son drawing the rain
for hours, Hokusai’s father rubbing a mirror, the rain
cold as the sea, the sea cold as love, the sea swelling
to a tidal wave, at the tip of the wave white.

faure’s second piano quartet :: james schuyler

On a day like this the rain comes
down in fat and random drops among
the ailanthus leaves—”the tree
of Heaven”—the leaves that on moon-
lit nights shimmer black and blade-
shaped at this third-floor window.
And there are bunches of small green
knobs, buds, crowded together. The
rapid music fills in the spaces of
the leaves. And the piano comes in,
like an extra heartbeat, dangerous
and lovely. Slower now, less like
the leaves, more like the rain which
almost isn’t rain, more like thawed-
out hail. All this beauty in the
mess of this small apartment on
West 20th in Chelsea, New York.
Slowly the notes pour out, slowly,
more slowly still, fat rain falls.

poem (the day gets slowly started) :: james schuyler

The day gets slowly started.
A rap at the bedroom door,
bitter coffee, hot cereal, juice
the color of sun which
isn’t out this morning. A
cool shower, a shave, soothing
Noxzema for razor burn. A bed
is made. The paper doesn’t come
until twelve or one. A gray shine
out the windows. “No one
leaves the building until
those scissors are returned.”
It’s that kind of a place.
Nonetheless, I’ve seen worse.
The worried gray is melting
into sunlight. I wish I’d
brought my book of enlightening
literary essays. I wish it
were lunch time. I wish I had
an appetite. The day agrees
with me better than it did, or,
better, I agree with it. I’ll
slide down a sunslip yet, this
crass September morning.

first love :: john clare

I ne’er was struck before that hour
    With love so sudden and so sweet,
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
    And stole my heart away complete.

My face turned pale as deadly pale,
    My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?
    My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face
    And took my eyesight quite away,
The trees and bushes round the place
    Seemed midnight at noonday.

I could not see a single thing,
    Words from my eyes did start—
They spoke as chords do from the string,
    And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter’s choice?
    Is love’s bed always snow?
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
I never saw so sweet a face
    As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
    And can return no more.

yonder :: rae armantrout

1

Anything cancels
everything out.

If each point
is a singularity,

thrusting all else
aside for good,

“good” takes the form
of a throng
of empty chairs.

Or it’s ants
swarming a bone.

2

I’m afraid
I don’t love
my mother
who’s dead

though I once –
what does “once” mean? –
did love her .

So who’ll meet me over yonder?
I don’t recognize the place names.

Or I do, but they come
from televised wars.

smart or dumb? :: gregory orr

Smart or dumb? Who cares?
High or low? It makes no difference.

The head and the heart – which
One’s on top? Doesn’t matter
As long as both take part.

The poem can’t tell the difference.
No, that’s not true: It knows,
But still it reads us
With indifference, reads us all the same.

prairie octopus, awake :: nicky beer

The night’s turned everything to junipers
shagged & spooked with cerulean chalk-fruit,
weird berries whiffing of Martians in rut.
I forget this isn’t my universe
sometimes. Sometimes I think I was falling
most of my life to land here, a lone skirl
in the immaculate hush. In my world
I waltzed with my ink-self, my black shantung.

Owls swallow vowels in stilled trees. It’s not
sleeplessness, it’s fear of what the dark will
do if I don’t keep a close eye on it.
Blue minutes leak from the pricked stars’ prisms,
seep into the earth unchecked. Just as well—
I’ve hardly enough arms to gather them.

lyric :: khaled mattawa

Will answers be found
like seeds
planted among rows of song?

Will mouths recognize
the hunger
in their voices, all mouths in unison,

the ah in harmony, the way words
of hope are more
than truth when whispered?

Will we turn to each other and ask,
how long
has it been…how long since?

A world now, a world then
and each
is seeking a foothold, trying

to remember when we looked
at one another
and found—A world again—Surely

what we long for is at the wheel
contending.

Surely, we’ll soon hear
its unearthly groan.

for the fog horn when there is no fog :: sarah hannah

Still sounding in full sun past the jetty,
While low tide waves lap trinkets at your feet,

And you skip across dried trident trails,
Fling weeds, and do not think of worry.

For the horn that blares although you call it stubborn,
In error, out of place. For the ridicule endured,

And the continuance.
You can count out your beloved – crustaceans –

Winking in spray, still breathing in the wake,
Beneath the hooking flights of gulls,

Through the horn’s threnody.
Count them now among the moving. They are.

For weathervane and almanac, ephemeris and augur,
Blameless seer versed in bones, entrails, landed shells.

For everything that tries to counsel vigilance:
The surly sullen bell, before the going,

The warning that reiterates across
The water: there might someday be fog

(They will be lost), there might very well
Be fog someday, and you will have nothing

But remembrance, and you will have to learn
To be grateful.

god’s secretary :: r. s. gwynn

Her e-mail inbox always overflows.
Her outbox doesn’t get much use at all.
She puts on hold the umpteen-billionth call
As music oozes forth to placate those
Who wait, then disconnect. Outside, wind blows,
Scything pale leaves. She sees a sparrow fall
Fluttering to a claw-catch on a wall.
Will He be in today? God only knows.

She hasn’t seen His face—He’s so aloof.
She’s long resigned He’ll never know or love her
But still can wish there were some call, some proof
That He requires a greater service of her.
Fingers of rain now drum upon the roof,
Coming from somewhere, somewhere far above her.

coda :: basil bunting

A strong song tows
us, long earsick.
Blind, we follow
rain slant, spray flick
to fields we do not know.

Night, float us.
Offshore wind, shout,
ask the sea
what’s lost, what’s left,
what horn sunk,
what crown adrift.

Where we are who knows
of kings who sup
while day fails? Who,
swinging his axe
to fell kings, guesses
where we go?

time :: thomas lux

I have a friend whose hair is like time: dark
deranged coils lit by a lamp
when she bends back her head to laugh. A unique event,
such as the crucifixion of Christ, was not
subject to repetition, thought St. Augustine, and therefore,
time is linear. Does the universe
have an end, a beginning? Yes, the former the door
through which she departs, the latter
the door by which she returns,
and inbetween there is no rest from wanting her.

Time—each moment of which a hair on a child’s nape.
Time—the chain between the churning tractor and the stump.
Time—her gown tossed like a continent at the creation.
Newton, an absolutist, thought time a container
in which the universe exists—nonending, nonbeginning.
Time—enamored, forgiven by dust
and capable of calling a single blade of grass an oasis.
Time—of swivel, small streams, plinth, stanchions.
And then Kant says, no, time does not apply
to the universe, only to the way we think about time.

Time—the spot where the violin touches the maestro’s cheek.
Time—an endless range of cumulonimbus.
Time—Good Monarch of the deepest blue inevitable.
The relativists (with whom the absolutists,
as usual, disagree) argue that concepts of past,
present, and future are mind dependent, i.e.,
would time exist without conscious beings?
Oh Ultimate Abstract, is there time
in time, is there rest, in time,
from wanting her?

the rain :: robert creeley

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent—
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.

Poetry Foundation’s lovely pdf

language :: w. s. merwin

Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again, and we will never forget them. We need them. Like the back of the picture. Like our marrow, and the color in our veins. We shine the lantern of our sleep on them, to make sure, and there they are, trembling already for the day of witness. They will be buried with us, and rise with the rest.

nocturne :: michelle y. burke

A man can give up so much,
can limit himself to handwritten correspondence,
to foods made of whole grains,
to heat from a woodstove, logs
hewn by his own hand and stacked neatly
like corpses by the backdoor.

He can play nocturnes by heart.
They will not make the beloved appear.
He can learn the names of all the birds
in the valley. Not one
will be enticed to learn his.

From American Life in Poetry

visiting crescent pond :: ch’eng hao

We circle the shore of Crescent Pond
to the north is a tower that touches the sky
the world has changed in the autumn air
we pour a cup for the evening chill
the image of a cloud pauses on the water
the sound of a stream lingers beneath the trees
our tasks are endless there’s no need to count
let’s meet again our next day off

rest. :: richard jones

It’s so late I could cut my lights
and drive the next fifty miles
of empty interstate
by starlight,
flying along in a dream,
countryside alive with shapes and shadows,
but exit ramps lined
with eighteen wheelers
and truckers sleeping in their cabs
make me consider pulling into a rest stop
and closing my eyes. I’ve done it before,
parking next to a family sleeping in a Chevy,
mom and dad up front, three kids in the back,
the windows slightly misted by the sleepers’ breath.
But instead of resting, I’d smoke a cigarette,
play the radio low, and keep watch over
the wayfarers in the car next to me,
a strange paternal concern
and compassion for their well being
rising up inside me.
This was before
I had children of my own,
and had felt the sharp edge of love
and anxiety whenever I tiptoed
into darkened rooms of sleep
to study the small, peaceful faces
of my beloved darlings. Now,
the fatherly feelings are so strong
the snoring truckers are lucky
I’m not standing on the running board,
tapping on the window,
asking, Is everything okay?
But it is. Everything’s fine.
The trucks are all together, sleeping
on the gravel shoulders of exit ramps,
and the crowded rest stop I’m driving by
is a perfect oasis in the moonlight.
The way I see it, I’ve got a second wind
and on the radio an all-night country station.
Nothing for me to do on this road
but drive and give thanks:
I’ll be home by dawn.

vespers [in your extended absence, you permit me] :: louise glück

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.

Courtesy of K. W.