to any reader :: robert louis stevenson

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.

postscript :: seamus heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

 

 

(via AD)

the storm-struck tree :: jessica greenbaum

As the storm-struck oak leaned closer to the house —
The remaining six-story half of the tree listing toward the glass box
Of  the kitchen like someone in the first tilt of stumbling —
The other half crashed into the neighbors’ yards, a massive
Diagonal for which we had no visual cue save for
An antler dropped by a constellation —
As the ragged half   leaned nearer, the second storm of cloying snow
Began pulling on the shocked, still-looming splitting, and its branches dragged
Lower like ripped hems it was tripping over
Until they rustled on the roof under which I
Quickly made dinner, each noise a threat from a body under which we so recently
Said, Thank goodness for our tree, how it has accompanied us all these years,
Thank goodness for its recitation of the seasons out our windows and over
The little lot of our yard, thank goodness for the birdsong and 
squirrel games
Which keep us from living alone, and for its proffered shade, the crack of the bat
Resounding through September when its dime-sized acorns
Land on the tin awning next door. Have
Mercy on us, you, the massively beautiful, now ravaged and charged
With destruction.
We did speak like that. As if from a book of psalms
Because it took up the sky

red, red bra :: hal sirowitz

I bought a red bra, she said.
I knew you’d like it.
The only problem was I didn’t
have a red blouse to wear with it.
I bought that & red pants
& shoes, so it wouldn’t stand out
so much. I also thought of getting
red panties. But I said to hell with that.
I’m not going to worry if one small part
of the outfit doesn’t match. And who’s
going to see my underwear? Just you.
what do you know about fashion? Nothing.

nude asleep in the tub :: wayne miller

As if she were something opened —
like a pocket watch — her body
.

slipped beneath a surface
peeled back to reveal its surface —
.

drops of air clinging to her thighs
like roe. Outside, the snow
.

pressed down against the city’s
rooftops; a frozen shirt
.

on the clothesline hung slack,
no longer cracked and whipped
.

by the wind. And the window
just a slide of silence — its slip
.

into evening measured
in drips from the tap. I found
.

I was alone with her body —
refracted and clarified — water
.

breathing with her breath.
What could I do but watch
.

the lightwebs lambently drift
along the walls? — as if
.

the room’s edges radiated
from her, as if I were inside
.

her thought. But then,
even before this could register,
.

the clothesline creaked
and the wind picked up,
.

and she stirred, so the water
broke from her into water.

a song in the front yard :: gwendolyn brooks

I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).

But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

 

(via, via)

wood’s edge :: brenda hillman

Infinity lifted:
a gasp of emeralds.

I thought I felt
the tall night trees
between them,

no exactitude,
a wait not even
known yet.

I held my violet up;
no smell.
It made a signal squeak
inside, bats,

lisps of pride;

ah, their little things,
their breath: lungs of a painting,

they swept me
in four ways, their square
plans, as I have made
a good square saying,

you I
you not-I
not-you I
not-you not-I,

ritual of hope
whose weight
has not been measured—

there is no audience for poetry :: kevin prufer

They wanted him to stop kicking like that—
it made their eyes corkscrew, drilled the sun in the sky
so light dumped out like blood from a leak.
The boy in the trunk wouldn’t die.

They drove and drove, and he dented the trunk’s tight lid,
called their names, then pounded the wheel wells
with a tire iron. The sun filled
their skulls so they felt like hell

and the boy in the trunk wouldn’t listen. You’d think
it was burning hot in there, you’d think he’d be gone,
passive, but no. The boy in the trunk
banged on and on

until the noise grew godalmighty unforgivable
and they had no choice but to pull into the woods,
leave the car, try to hitch a ride with someone
quieter, someone who could

listen without interrupting. They’d had a hot day.
The road simmered to the overheated sky.
But from far away they still heard him, the boy
in the trunk, his empty cry.

and water lies plainly :: laurie sheck

Then I came to an edge of very calm
But couldn’t stay there. It was the washed greenblue mapmakers use to indicate
Inlets and coves, softbroken contours where the land leaves off
And water lies plainly, as if lamped by its own justice. I hardly know how to say how it was
Though it spoke to me most kindly,
Unlike a hard afterwards or the motions of forestalling.

Now in evening light the far-off ridge carries marks of burning.
The hills turn thundercolored, and my thoughts move toward them, rough skins
Without their bodies. What is the part of us that feels it isn’t named, that doesn’t know
How to respond to any name? That scarcely or not at all can lift its head
Into the blue and so unfold there?

dusza :: wislawa szymborska

Duszę się miewa.
Nikt nie ma jej bez przerwy i na zawsze.

Dzień za dniem,rok za rokiem
może bez niej minąć.

Czasem tylko w zachwytach
i lękach dzieciństwa
zagnieżdża się na dłużej.
Czasem tylko w zdziwieniu,
że jesteśmy starzy.

Rzadko nam asystuje
podczas zajęć żmudnych,
jak przesuwanie mebli,
dźwiganie walizek,
czy przemierzanie drogi w ciasnych butach.

Przy wypełnianiu ankiet
i siekaniu mięsa
z reguły ma wychodne.

Na tysiąc naszych rozmów uczestniczy w jednej
a i to niekoniecznie, bo woli milczenie.

Kiedy ciało zaczyna nas boleć i boleć,
cichcem schodzi z dyżuru.

Jest wybredna:niechętnie widzi nas w tłumie,
mierzi ją nasza walka o byle przewagę
i terkot interesów.

Radość i smutek
to nie są dla niej dwa różne uczucia.
Tylko w ich połączeniu jest przy nas obecna.

Możemy na nią liczyć
kiedy niczego nie jesteśmy pewni,
a wszystkiego ciekawi.

Z przedmiotów materialnych
lubi zegary z wahadłem
i lustra, które pracują gorliwie,
nawet gdy nikt nie patrzy.

Nie mówi skąd przybywa
i kiedy znowu nam zniknie,
ale wyraźnie czeka na takie pytania.

Wygląda na to,
że tak jak ona nam,
również i my
jesteśmy jej na coś potrzebni.

(translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

A Few Words On The Soul

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

Sometimes
it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

the dipper :: kathleen jamie

It was winter, near freezing,
I’d walked through a forest of firs
when I saw issue out of the waterfall
a solitary bird.

It lit on a damp rock,
and, as water swept stupidly on,
wrung from its own throat
supple, undammable song.

It isn’t mine to give.
I can’t coax this bird to my hand
that knows the depth of the river
yet sings of it on land.

hanging fire :: audre lorde

I am fourteen
and my skin has betrayed me
the boy I cannot live without
still sucks his thumb
in secret
how come my knees are
always so ashy
what if I die
before morning
and momma’s in the bedroom
with the door closed.

I have to learn how to dance
in time for the next party
my room is too small for me
suppose I die before graduation
they will sing sad melodies
but finally
tell the truth about me
There is nothing I want to do
and too much
that has to be done
and momma’s in the bedroom
with the door closed.

Nobody even stops to think
about my side of it
I should have been on Math Team
my marks were better than his
why do I have to be
the one
wearing braces
I have nothing to wear tomorrow
will I live long enough
to grow up
and momma’s in the bedroom
with the door closed.

 

(via, via)

legacies :: nikki giovanni

her grandmother called her from the playground
    “yes, ma’am”
    “i want chu to learn how to make rolls” said the old
woman proudly
but the girl didn’t want
to learn how because she knew
even if she couldn’t say it that
that would mean when the old one died she would be less
dependent on her spirit so
she said
    “i don’t want to know how to make no rolls”
with her lips poked out
and the old woman wiped her hands on
her apron saying “lord
    these children”
and neither of them ever
said what they meant
and i guess nobody ever does

(via, via)

silence :: billy collins

There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a player not moving on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.

The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night

like snow falling in the darkness of the house—
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.

(via, via)

yellow bowl :: rachel contreni flynn

If light pours like water
into the kitchen where I sway
with my tired children,

if the rug beneath us
is woven with tough flowers,
and the yellow bowl on the table

rests with the sweet heft
of fruit, the sun-warmed plums,
if my body curves over the babies,

and if I am singing,
then loneliness has lost its shape,
and this quiet is only quiet.

mole :: wyatt prunty

For weeks he’s tunneled his intricate need
Through the root-rich, fibrous, humoral dark,
Buckling up in zagged illegibles
The cuneiforms and cursives of a blind scribe.

Sleeved by soft earth, a slow reach knuckling,
Small tributaries open from his nudge—
Mild immigrant, bland isolationist,
Berm builder edging the runneling world.

But now the snow, and he’s gone quietly deep,
Nuzzling through a muzzy neighborhood
Of dead-end-street, abandoned cul-de-sac,
And boltrun from a dead-leaf, roundhouse burrow.

May he emerge four months from this as before,
Myopic master of the possible,
Wise one who understands prudential ground,
Revisionist of all things green;

So when he surfaces, lumplike, bashful,
Quizzical as the flashbulb blind who wait
For color to return, he’ll nose our green-
rich air with the imperative poise of now.

to the reader : polaroids :: chase twichell

Who are you, austere little cloud
drawn to this page, this sky in the dream
I’m having of meeting you here?

There should be a word that means “tiny sky.”
Probably there is, in Japanese.
A verbal Polaroid of a Polaroid.

But you’re the sky, not a cloud.
I’m the cloud. I gather and dissipate,
but you are always here.

Leave a message for me if you can.
Break a twig on the lilac, or toss
a few dried petals on the hood of my car.

May neither of us forsake the other.
The cloud persists in the darkness,
but the darkness does not persist.

sisters :: lucille clifton

me and you be sisters.
we be the same.

me and you
coming from the same place.

me and you
be greasing our legs
touching up our edges.

me and you
be scared of rats
be stepping on roaches.

me and you
come running high down purdy street one time
and mama laugh and shake her head at
me and you.

me and you
got babies
got thirty-five
got black
let our hair go back
be loving ourselves
be loving ourselves
be sisters.

only where you sing,
I poet.

wild gratitude :: edward hirsch

Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey,
And put my fingers into her clean cat’s mouth,
And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens,
And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air,
And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight,
I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart,
Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing
In everyone of the splintered London streets,

And was locked away in the madhouse at St. Luke’s
With his sad religious mania, and his wild gratitude,
And his grave prayers for the other lunatics,
And his great love for his speckled cat, Jeoffry.
All day today—August 13, 1983—I remembered how
Christopher Smart blessed this same day in August, 1759,
For its calm bravery and ordinary good conscience.

This was the day that he blessed the Postmaster General
“And all conveyancers of letters” for their warm humanity,
And the gardeners for their private benevolence
And intricate knowledge of the language of flowers,
And the milkmen for their universal human kindness.
This morning I understood that he loved to hear—
As I have heard—the soft clink of milk bottles
On the rickety stairs in the early morning,

And how terrible it must have seemed
When even this small pleasure was denied him.
But it wasn’t until tonight when I knelt down
And slipped my hand into Zooey’s waggling mouth
That I remembered how he’d called Jeoffry “the servant
Of the Living God duly and daily serving Him,”
And for the first time understood what it meant.
Because it wasn’t until I saw my own cat

Whine and roll over on her fluffy back
That I realized how gratefully he had watched
Jeoffry fetch and carry his wooden cork
Across the grass in the wet garden, patiently
Jumping over a high stick, calmly sharpening
His claws on the woodpile, rubbing his nose
Against the nose of another cat, stretching, or
Slowly stalking his traditional enemy, the mouse,
A rodent, “a creature of great personal valour,”
And then dallying so much that his enemy escaped.

And only then did I understand
It is Jeoffry—and every creature like him—
Who can teach us how to praise—purring
In their own language,
Wreathing themselves in the living fire.

happiness :: paisley rekdal

I have been taught never to brag but now
I cannot help it: I keep
a beautiful garden, all abundance,
indiscriminate, pulling itself
from the stubborn earth: does it offend you
to watch me working in it,
touching my hands to the greening tips or
tearing the yellow stalks back, so wild
the living and the dead both
snap off in my hands?
The neighbor with his stuttering
fingers, the neighbor with his broken
love: each comes up my drive
to receive his pitying,
accustomed consolations, watches me
work in silence awhile, rises in anger,
walks back. Does it offend them to watch me
not mourning with them but working
fitfully, fruitlessly, working
the way the bees work, which is to say
by instinct alone, which looks like pleasure?
I can stand for hours among the sweet
narcissus, silent as a point of bone.
I can wait longer than sadness. I can wait longer
than your grief. It is such a small thing
to be proud of, a garden. Today
there were scrub jays, quail,
a woodpecker knocking at the white-
and-black shapes of trees, and someone’s lost rabbit
scratching under the barberry: is it
indiscriminate? Should it shrink back, wither,
and expurgate? Should I, too, not be loved?
It is only a little time, a little space.
Why not watch the grasses take up their colors in a rush
like a stream of kerosene being lit?
If I could not have made this garden beautiful
I wouldn’t understand your suffering,
nor care for each the same, inflamed way.
I would have to stay only like the bees,
beyond consciousness, beyond
self-reproach, fingers dug down hard
into stone, and growing nothing.
There is no end to ego,
with its museum of disappointments.
I want to take my neighbors into the garden
and show them: Here is consolation.
Here is your pity. Look how much seed it drops
around the sparrows as they fight.
It lives alongside their misery.
It glows each evening with a violent light.

summer night, riverside :: sara teasdale

In the wild soft summer darkness
How many and many a night we two together
Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
Wearing her lights like golden spangles
Glinting on black satin.
The rail along the curving pathway
Was low in a happy place to let us cross,
And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom
Sheltered us,
While your kisses and the flowers,
Falling, falling,
Tangled in my hair….

The frail white stars moved slowly over the sky.

And now, far off
In the fragrant darkness
The tree is tremulous again with bloom
For June comes back.

To-night what girl
Dreamily before her mirror shakes from her hair
This year’s blossoms, clinging to its coils?

glass corona :: brian henry

The opening (read: aperture)
is open by design (read: default),
so susceptible to departure

with the brain floating, bag of salt,
loud, malleable light, the sky profuse
in its movement from rim to vault,

an orb (read: void) open to obtuse
approach from any outer corridor
(read: vector), as if angle could produce

what sight announces as visitor,
a gravity-infected flash, or fleck,
that, focused, becomes meteor,

the surface less limit than wreck,
the eye a crash site, open to air,
onto a sky that will not reflect.

blue hanuman :: joan larkin

A four-armed flutist took me
to the blue avatar: stone-blue
monkey, whiskers silver,
broken beads silver–
paint dashed by the artist on cheap paper.
Bought for a few annas, God
kneels, looks left. Intense concentration.
His ink hands rip open his chest,
pull skin aside like a velvet curtain–
Rama and Sita alive
at his core. And what devotion shall
my flesh show, and my broken-open breast.
His blueblack tail flicks upward, its dark
tip a paintbrush loaded blue.

vertical :: linda pastan

Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality
of trees
which we notice
in December
as if for the first time:
row after row
of dark forms
yearning upwards.
And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor
the gods
of the vertical:
stalks of wheat
which to the ant
must seem as high
as these trees do to us,
silos and
telephone poles,
stalagmites
and skyscrapers.
but most of all
these winter oaks,
these soft-fleshed poplars,
this birch
whose bark is like
roughened skin
against which I lean
my chilled head,
not ready
to lie down.

pinguid :: marc straus

I came across this word unexpectedly.
It means fatty, greasy, unctuous–I can’t say exactly
since I’ve not seen it before. That’s the beauty
of language–such surprise and variation, each synonym
a slightly different meaning. I think of unctuous
as a wormy, mealy-mouthed flatterer; greasy, a male:
disingenuous, pomaded, cigarette dangling
from mouth. It’s in these nuances that we position
ourselves. Today, a patient asked me to explain
highly mitotic. It was on her biopsy report. She said
the dictionary described it as cell division.
It doesn’t mean exactly that, I said. Then what?
she asked. Words sometimes take on special meanings,
I explained. It’s dependent on the context, the background
of the person using it. So what does it mean then?
she pressed again. I thought for a second about how
I might answer, craft an accurate explanation,
tinge the meaning with ambiguity, how it might slip
along the surface, viscous and opaque, pinguid and smooth.

stubborn ounces :: bonaro w. overstreet

(To One Who Doubts the Worth of
Doing Anything If You Can’t Do Everything)

You say the Little efforts that I make
will do no good: they never will prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in balance.

I don’t think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.

did not come back :: lucie brock-broido

In the roan hour between then & then again, the now, in the Babel
Of a sorrel ship gone horizontal to a prow of night, the breach of owls

Abducted by broad light, but blind, in the crime, the titanesque of rare
Assault–we who have come back–petitioning, from the chair

Electric with bad news, from the stunning, from the narrows
Of an evening gall, from the mooring of an hour slanted on the follow

Bow, she rose from a bed of Ireland like a flyted trout, a shiny
Marvel on the sailor’s deck, an apologia–divining–

As once, as at a salted empire port, he washed
Her fleeted body & they lied, the best of them, the cream & crush

Of this, the madrigal & sacrifice of that, the best of them,
The slowest velvet suffocation of their kind, did not come

Whittled back by autumn, at an hour between thorn & chaff,
Not come riddled with oblivion, the crossing & a shepherd’s staff,

The moment between Have & Shall Not Want, we who have salt
Always know, that we who have–the best of us–did not come back.