Thursday, April 29, 2010

Though His Name Is Infinite, My Father Is Asleep

by Larry Levis

When my father disappeared,
He did not go into hiding.
In old age, he was infinite,
So where could he hide? No,
He went into his name,
He went into his name, & into
The way two words keep house,
Each syllable swept clean
Again when you say them;
That's how my father left,
And that's how my father went
Out of his house, forever.
Imagine a house without words,
The family speechless for once
At the kitchen table, & all night
A hard wind ruining
The mottled skin of plums
In the orchard, & no one
Lifting a finger to stop it.
But imagine no word for "house,"
Or wind in a bare place always,
And soon it will all disappear--
Brick, & stone, & wood--all three
Are wind when you can't say
"House," & know, anymore, what it is.
Say Father, then, to no one,
Or say my father was, himself,
A house, or say each word's a house,
Some lit & some abandoned.
Then go one step further,
And say a name is a home,
As remote & as intimate.
Say home, then, or say, "I'll
Never go home again," or say,
Years later, with that baffled
Ironic smile, "I'm on my way
Home," or say as he did not,
"I'm going into my name."
Go further; take a chance, & say
A name is infinite. Repeat all
The names you know, all
The names you've ever heard,
The living & the dead, the precise
Light snow of their syllables.
Say your own name, or say
A last name, say mine, say his,
Say a name so old and frayed
By common use it's lost
All meaning now, & sounds
Like a house being swept out,
Like wind where there's no house.
Say finally there is no way
To document this, or describe
The passing of a father, that
Faint scent of time, or how
He swore delicately, quickly
Against it without ever appearing
To hurry the ceremony of swearing.
And say, too, how you disliked
And loved him, how he stays up
All night now in two words,
How his worn out, infinite name
Outwits death when you say it.
And say finally how the things
He had to do for you
Humiliated him until
He could not get his breath, & say
How much they mattered, how
Necessary he was. And then,
Before sleep, admit, also,
That his name is nothing,
Light as three syllables,
Lighter than pain or art, lighter
Than history, & tell how two words,
That mean nothing to anyone
Else, once meant a world
To you; how sometimes, even you,
In the sweep of those syllables,
Wind, crushed bone, & ashes--
Begin to live again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Ache of Marriage

by Denise Levertov

The ache of marriage:
thigh and tongue, beloved,
are heavy with it,
it throbs in the teeth

We look for communion
and are turned away, beloved,
each and each

It is leviathan and we
in its belly
looking for joy, some joy
not to be known outside it

two by two in the ark of
the ache of it

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just This

by W.S. Merwin

When I think of the patience I have had
back in the dark before I remember
or knew it was night until the light came
all at once at the speed it was born to
with all the time in the world to fly through
not concerned about ever arriving
and then the gathering of the first stars
unhurried in their flowering spaces
and far into the story the planets
cooling slowly and the ages of rain
then the seas starting to bear memory
the gaze of the first cell at its waking
how did this haste begin this little time
at any time this reading by lightning
scarcely a word this nothing this heaven

Saturday, April 24, 2010


by W.S. Merwin

Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for

or what to call you I think I did not
even know I was looking how would I

have known you when I saw you as I did
time after time when you appeared to me

as you did naked offering yourself
entirely at that moment and you let

me breathe you touch you taste you knowing
no more than I did and only when I

began to think of losing you did I
recognize you when you were already

part memory part distance remaining
mine in the ways that I learn to miss you

from what we cannot hold the stars are made

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Gentle Surgury

by Malachi Black

Once more the bright blade of a morning breeze
glides almost too easily through me,

and from the scuffle I’ve been sutured to
some flap of me is freed: I am severed

like a simile: an honest tenor
trembling toward the vehicle I mean

to be: a blackbird licking half-notes
from the muscled, sap-damp branches

of the sugar maple tree… though I am still
a part of any part of every particle

of me, though I’ll be softly reconstructed
by the white gloves of metonymy,

I grieve: there is no feeling in a cut
that doesn’t heal a bit too much.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


by Yona Harvey

Four tickets left, I let her go --
Firstborn into a hurricane.

I thought she escaped
The floodwaters. No -- but her

Head is empty of the drowned
For now -- though she took

Her first breath below sea level.

Ahhh awe & aw
Mama, let me go -- she speaks

What every smart child knows --
To get grown you unlatch

Your hands from the grown

& up & up & up & up
She turns—latched in the seat

Of a hurricane. You let
Your girl what? You let

Your girl what?

I did so she do I did
so she do so --

Girl, you can ride

A hurricane & she do
& she do & she do & she do

She do make my river

An ocean. Memorial,
Baptist, Protestant birth -- my girl

Walked away from a hurricane.

& she do & she do & she do & she do
She do take my hand a while longer.

The haunts in my pocket

I’ll keep to a hum: Katrina was
a woman I knew. When you were

an infant she rained on you & she
do & she do & she do & she do

Monday, April 19, 2010

This Much I Do Remember

by Billy Collins

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from the millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The World's Lap

by Lance Larsen

The world keeps wanting to float off into Italian
frescoes, dissolve into acacias,
fall lightly like dust into the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile the body, tired mule,
pushes the grocery cart through Perishables.
The math is simple.
Spirit + body = a sadness machine.

Subtract either spirit or body and you're left
with a story
problem for actuaries
Guillotines make permanent separation a snap.
Ditto famines and plagues,
ditto waves if you try to cross
the ocean without holding fast to a floating object.

But how to keep the machine happy--
supply it with live clams and dead auteurs?
Dance it through corn mazes
in the Midwest? An owner's manual
would help, but how does one translate
the Upanishads of the clavicle,
and where do you add oil in a sadness machine?

Once in a San Jose park, on vacation, I asked
my daughter, Where are we?
She looked up at me: My dolly sits
on mine lap, I sit on yours lap, you sit
on the chair's lap, the chair sits
on the world's lap. There are a million
ways to say "California." Only a few promise rest.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dance Yrself Clean

I interrupt this touchy-feely poetry fest to bring you breaking news from the world of music.

LCD Soundsystem is streaming their forthcoming album, This Is Happening, on their website. Be good to yourself and go listen to "Dance Yrself Clean". Turn up the volume. Perhaps, if you feel like it, move your hips a little. It's easily one of the best songs of the year.

The Poet Without Degree

{poem was here}

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Babies

by Mark Strand

Let us save the babies.
Let us run downtown.
The babies are screaming.

You shall wear mink
and your hair shall be done.
I shall wear tails.

Let us save the babies
even if we run in rags
to the heart of town.

Let us not wait for tomorrow.
Let us drive into town
and save the babies.

Let us hurry.
They lie in a warehouse
with iron windows and iron doors.

The sunset pink of their skin
is beginning to glow.
Their teeth

poke through their gums
like tombstones.
Let us hurry.

They have fallen asleep.
Their dreams
are infecting them.

Let us hurry.
Their screams rise
from the warehouse chimney.

We must move faster.
The babies have grown into their suits.
They march all day in the sun without blinking.

Their leader sits in a bullet-proof car and applauds.
Smoke issues from his helmet.
We cannot see his face:

we are still running.
More babies than ever are locked in the warehouse.
Their screams are like sirens.

We are still running to the heart of town.
Our clothes are getting ragged.
We shall not wait for tomorrow.

The future is always beginning now.
The babies are growing into their suits.
Let us run to the heart of town.

Let us hurry.
Let us save the babies.
Let us try to save the babies.

Friday, April 09, 2010

After Years

by Ted Kooser

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer’s retina
as he stood in the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

April Verses

Since April is national poetry month, I'm going to put myself out there a bit and share some selections of my own original poetry, alongside works from some of my favorite poets. I've already fallen several rejection letters short in my quest for publication this year, but there's no accounting for taste in the sour, overflowing inboxes of the blind assistant editors who've mistakenly cast me off. :) Out of respect for copyrights, revisions, and my own publishing aspirations etc. I'll only leave my originals up for a week or so before taking them down. And I gratefully acknowledge the copyrights of individuals whose poetry I'm posting. I will happily remove them upon request.

In the world of writing (oh, divine!), poetry is the ultimate craft. There are some great online publishers out there that are doing exciting things for poetry, some of my favorites being: Anti-Poetry, Sixth Finch, and SIR!. Check them out. I often let my inner demons or other obligations get in the way of my writing. I want to be more consistent, and less willing to let the muse get away - more like the fisherman in this outstanding poem by Raymond Carver.

After Rainy Days
Raymond Carver

After rainy days and the same serious doubts-
strange to walk past the golf course,
sun overhead, men putting, or teeing, whatever
they do on those green links. To the river that flows
past the clubhouse. Expensive houses on either side
of the river, a dog barking at this kid
who revs his motorcycle. To see a man fighting
a large salmon in the water just below
the footbridge. Where a couple of joggers have stopped
to watch. Never in my life have I seen anything
like this! Stay with him, I think, breaking
into a run. For Christ's sake, man, hold on!