Poems of the Month
  
                                                    
FEBRUARY  2014

                                                  (E-mail submissions, suggestions, feedback or commentary by clicking here.)

 

February 14, 2014

                                                VALENTINE'S FULL MOON
 

                                                I can live in a world where

                                                I don't work.

                                                But I can't work

                                                In a world where

                                                I don't live.
 

                                                                    --Lessing

 

February 9, 2014

LLANTO
 

Plum, almond, cherry have come and gone,

the wisteria has vanished in

the dawn, the blackened roses rusting

along the barbed-wire fence explain
 

how April passed so quickly into

this hard wind that waited in the west.

Ahead is summer and the full sun

riding at ease above the stunned town
 

no longer yours.  Brother, you are gone,

that which was earth gone back to earth,

that which was human scattered like rain

into the darkened wild eyes of herbs
 

that see it all, into the valley oak

that will not sing, that will not even talk.
 

                --Philip Levine
 

                The Simple Truth

 

February 27, 2013

                              IN MEMORIUM

                        JOHN CORDES POWERS

               December 26, 1924  to February 27, 2013

 

                               The River of Life
 

   Life springs forth by swiftly overflowing a resistant cliff--

          It grows in strength supplied by streams of love,

             tributaries of support and waves of learning--

   The river wanders through sometimes quiet gentle waters

        and sometimes through frighteningly swift waters--

               Along the way meeting rocky resistance,

            bubbling joy and unfathomed satisfaction--

All too soon it has passed -- gone from view, gone but not forgotten--

                                      But -- Oh!

                         What journey it has been.
 

                              --Gary Goby, MD

 

 

February 21, 2013

ONE ART
 

The art of losing isn't hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
 

Lose something every day.  Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn't hard to master.
 

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel.  None of these will bring disaster.
 

I lost my mother's watch.  And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn't hard to master.
 

I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
 

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident

the art of losing's not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
 

                                    --Elizabeth Bishop


 

February 28, 2012

SIMMERING
 

The day's last few patients

struggle from their rooms,

pause for pleasant small talk

with nurses, the leave me

feeling empty, hungry.

Forks of mole' chicken

follow hot rellano.

Downing the Negra beer

I stand up, pay and leave

with some other hunger.

Night's a goodie grocery

where I pull music, port

and memories from the shelf,

make poetry in dreams,

waken not hungry--yet.
 

-- If you live, your time will come

 

February 21, 2012

                                                            DON'T FORGET ADA
 

                                                            Ninety year old Ada walks in
                                                            alone, drops her weight on the orange chair--
                                                            loose skin and wrinkled blouse falling down
                                                            and out with her soft, old belly. 

                                                            Don't want to wear this thing no more!

                                                            Sweat-smudged, bubble gum pink
                                                            fiberglass cast leaves behind her wrist
                                                            with no more thought than last hour's memories. 

                                                            Just want to get back to my weaving...
                                                            Don't remember who put it on,
                                                            when or where.
                                                            Don't bother my mind with
                                                            the day or the President--
                                                            just want this off me. 

                                                            Gotta get back to my weaving.
 

                                                            -- If you live, your time will come

 

February 14, 2012
                                                            Orchid Island
 

                                                            Let's, honey, moon
                                                            on that island
                                                            of my heart.

                                                            Yes, lover, soon
                                                            we'll find our wings
                                                            and depart

                                                            to a sainted isle
                                                            where mysteries'
                                                            miracles abound:

                                                            brave bloom of the wild
                                                            orchid--like you--
                                                            startling beauty found.

                                                            I delight in you:
                                                            just-born-bare body
                                                            bright in the moonlight,

                                                            then darting right through
                                                            the ocean waters
                                                            (you harbor inside!)

                                                            more gorgeous, too,
                                                            than all the snorkel fish
                                                            after a long boat ride.

                                                            We will marry every year,
                                                            and better still,
                                                            come together in a heartbeat
                                                            on that island
                                                            of two-made-three hearts.

                                                            -- If you live, your time will come

 

February 1, 2012

                                                            LAST LIGHT
 

                                                            With that extra hour of after-supper sun

                                                            daylight savings buys,

                                                            plod through dried cattle droppings

                                                            past the budding rose brush.

                                                            Freshly cut hilltop pine stump

                                                            reflects final minutes of sunlight

                                                            in its honey-crusted pitch.

                                                            A deer's mud-deep tracks lead to it.

                                                            Staccato bird poetry flies

                                                            through a melody of tumbling water

                                                            and the deep bass rumble

                                                            of down-shifting trucks.

                                                            Two mangy fireweed stalks throw

                                                            thin shadows on the pine perch

                                                            while a sunburst of yellow trilliium

                                                            defies the darkness forming behind it.
 

                                                           -- If you live, your time will come

 

February 27, 2011

                                                            Duffy
 

                                                            Duffy was my dog

                                                            He was my favorite, too

                                                            I remember when he was happy

                                                            he would roll around on the floor

                                                            He was funny, cute, fluffy, too

                                                            He barely ever barked at anyone

                                                            except the mailman, of course

                                                            If I could give him another life

                                                            that would be a blast, but

                                                            unfortunately I can't go back in the past

                                                            So last summer was a very sad summer

                                                            Duffy died.  I've had him since

                                                            I was three, so it was hard

                                                            to say goodbye

                                                            Young or old we never knew

                                                            his age but soon he

                                                            had entered his final

                                                            stage.

                                                                        --Larissa Van Ert
                                                                  

February 20, 2011

Petals

Life is a stream
On which we strew
Petal by petal the flower of our heart;
The end lost in dream,
They float past our view,
We only watch their glad, early start.
Freighted with hope,
Crimsoned with joy,
We scatter the leaves of our opening rose;
Their widening scope,
Their distant employ,
We never shall know. And the stream as it flows
Sweeps them away,
Each one is gone
Ever beyond into infinite ways.
We alone stay
While years hurry on,
The flower fared forth, though its fragrance still stays.

--Amy Lowell

  

February 14, 2011

                                                        Hinterhof
                                   

                                                        Stay near to me and I'll stay near to you--

                                                        As near as you are dear to me will do,

                                                               Near as the rainbow to the rain,

                                                               The west wind to the windowpane,

                                                        As fire to the hearth, as dawn to dew.
 

                                                        Stay true to me and I'll stay true to you--

                                                        As true as you are new to me will do,

                                                               New as the rainbow in the spray,

                                                               Utterly new in every way,

                                                        New in the way that what you say is true.
 

                                                        Stay near to me, stay true to me.  I'll stay

                                                        As near, as true to you as heart could pray.

                                                               Heart never hoped that one might be

                                                               Half of the things you are to me--

                                                        The dawn, the fire, the rainbow and the day.
 

                                                                                        --James Fenton

                                                                (published in OUT OF DANGER)

 

February 13, 2011

                                                        Damn Black Funeral
 

                                                        Damn funeral, black everywhere.

                                                        It was all great heart, what people had to share.

                                                        But so about used to be--really hard to bear.
 

                                                        Goddamn funeral is what it is; is still hurtin'.

                                                        When people talk about me like that, I know I'm hurdlin'...
 

                                                         Why can't we do this on every tenth birthday?

                                                        Man, let the living hear all that good say!
 

                                                        Why save it for the funeral and the wake?

                                                        All that good stuff gone--make our hearts break

                                                        into tears, flowing faster than the wine.

                                                        Coulda made his soul sing, hearing all that poetry and praise.


                                                        Nothing wrong with praising a person who is still alive.

                                                        Every ten years, I say.
 

                                                                                          --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (from IF YOU LIVE, YOUR TIME WILL COME)
 

 

February 10, 2011

                                                        Waking
 

                                                        There is nothing

                                                        and then there is everything at once,

                                                        a grand re-creation.

                                                        The recovery room hums like high tension wires

                                                        or a neon sign.  Go ahead, stare.

                                                        It says: Isn't this a miracle

                                                        Isn't this a miracle
 

                                                        You have returned

                                                        from that vast sleep

                                                        during which you forgot the doctor's voice.

                                                        Count backward it said,

                                                        and you obeyed, as if you had a choice

                                                        how far or to what dream you'd spin;

                                                        the mask sickening, air thin. 
 

                                                        You slid into death's false pocket

                                                        jingled like a change

                                                        to haggle the price of a grave--

                                                        or so it seemed.

                                                        You might as well behave--

                                                        anesthesia time is a nightmare place

                                                        of his steel hands, white-shrouded face.
 

                                                        Then armies of hummingbirds

                                                        buzz your veins.  You hear a radio,

                                                        the clock's exaggerated tick.

                                                        You've been reborn to skin on sheets,

                                                        pain's fire doused by needle stick

                                                        The nurse's mother-face wavers before your eyes.

                                                        Waking is her truth; all the rest, white lies.
 

                                                                                        --Courtney Davis, RNC

                                                        (published in UNCHARTED LINES)

 

February 28, 2010

                                                For The Record
 

                                                The papal nuncio, John Burchard, writes calmly
                                                that dozens of mares and stallions
                                                were driven into a courtyard of the Vatican
                                                so the Pope Alexander VI and his daughter,
                                                Lucretia Borgia, could watch from a balcony
                                                "with pleasure and much laughter"
                                                the equine coupling going on below.
                                                When this spectacle was over
                                                they refreshed themselves, then waited
                                                while Lucretia's brother, Caesar,
                                                shot down ten unarmed criminals
                                                who were herded  into the same courtyard.
                                                Remember this the next time you see
                                                the name Borgia, or the word Renaissance.
                                             
  I don't know what I can make of this,
                                                this morning.  I'll leave it for now.
                                                Go for that walk I planned earlier, hope maybe
                                                to see those two herons sift down the cliffside
                                                as they did for us earlier in the season
                                                so we felt alone and freshly
                                                put here, not herded, not
                                                driven.

                                                                    -Raymond Carver

                                                (published in A NEW PATH TO THE WATERFALL)

 

February 27, 2010

                                                What Love Is
 

                                                Across the kitchen table, we fight again.
                                                I shout, It's MY future, leave the steak
                                                my father grilled for me.  Stomping up the steps,
                                                I think of the veins bulging on his forehead,
                                                the white collar he so desired tight around his neck.
                                                Hungry, I sit on the landing, listen to him
                                                gripe to my mother: The world won't
                                                treat him half as well.
  From my height,
                                                I watch him enter sunlight in the front hall,
                                                peeling the foil off a small chocolate egg,
                                                silent, meticulous.  Glimmers of pity
                                                fleck the white plaster, and wooden
                                                floorboards, rising up through my disdain
                                                solid as the house.  Later, I go back down
                                                to the kitchen, past the banister-posts
                                                marking this stairway of lost chances.
                                                He's slicing pears by the stove.
                                                Our mean words linger like cooking smells
                                                in the air between us.  I mumble, I'm not going
                                                upstairs anymore.
 His back muscles shake
                                                under the knit shirt.  Cut, cut, he works the blade,
                                                jiggling his belted belly, pressed
                                                against the counter.  He turns, comes at me,
                                                the knife still tight in his fist.  Its flash
                                                circles my head as we embrace.

                                                                       --Peter Blair

                                                (published in LAST HEAT)


 

                                                                   
 

February 26, 2010

                                                Remembrance
 

                                                Your hands easy

                                                weight, teasing the bees

                                                hived in my hair, your smile at the

                                                slope of my cheek.  On the

                                                occasion, you press

                                                above me, glowing, spouting

                                                readiness, mystery rapes

                                                my reason.
 

                                                When you have withdrawn

                                                your self and the magic, when

                                                only the smell of your

                                                love lingers between

                                                my breasts, then, only

                                                then, can I greedily consume

                                                your presence.
 

                                                                --Maya Angelou

                                                (published in AND STILL I RISE)

 

February 25, 2010

                                                    I Wish
 

                                                    I wish I had a lot of money.

                                                    I wish I had a house.

                                                    I wish I could meet my two TV friends.

                                                    I wish I was a pretty person.

                                                    I wish I could have a cat and a dog.

                                                    Maybe I could write to Santa and say,

                                                    Santa, I want it all.
 

                                                                --Alberta Lilley

                                                    (published in LONG NIGHT AHEAD)

 

 

February 24, 2010

                                                    The Coupling
 

                                                    During meals I used to watch them:
                                                    Her stirring and muttering,
                                                    Him spooning and sucking,
                                                    Both of them busy and undistractible,
                                                    Both stoking him with a concocted fuel
                                                    Of borscht and chunks of meat
                                                    And cucumber
                                                    And pumpernickel bread.
                                                    From their odd cooperation and intentness,
                                                    I knew his hunger was important.

                                                    All afternoon he would be in the cellar
                                                    Bent at the grinding wheel.
                                                    Sometimes I was allowed to stand and watch,
                                                    And while I saw him spark the knives to life,
                                                    I could always hear her thudding just above us
                                                    In her boxy shoes,
                                                    Canning her overripe cherries, thinking her slow thoughts.
                                                    I could not understand how they connected;
                                                    They seemed to have only their oldness in common.

                                                    Then once at a Bar Mitzvah
                                                    When he was flushed with unaccustomed wine,
                                                    Responding to a bout of dirty jokes
                                                    I heard him say with pride,
                                                    "When I was young I was a bull."
                                                    And I believed him,
                                                    Saw him black and sleek
                                                    Stamping out his demands in the tall grass.

                                                    The only time I ever heard her reminisce
                                                    It was about the farm in Russia
                                                    When she was a girl
                                                    And about the animals she left behind.
                                                    In particular, it was about a cow,
                                                    A cow with feelings "just like a person."
                                                    When she told me the story, she had cried,
                                                    And later I had cried when I recalled
                                                    The times I'd heard him say "old cow, old stupid cow"
                                                    About her underneath his breath.

                                                    But now, perhaps a little drunk myself,
                                                    I saw them in a field a century away,
                                                    Him snorting and erect with strength and need
                                                    Charging at her from behind,
                                                    Her grazing steadily on thick hoofs,
                                                    Not looking back,
                                                    Squatting slightly in her awkward way,
                                                    Bracing herself to take the full brunt of his love.
 

                                                                                    --Susan Astor

                                                    (published in DAME the University of Georgia Press)

 

 

February 23, 2010

                                                            The Storm
 

                                                            A perfect rainbow! a wide

                                                            arc low in the northern sky

                                                            spans the black lake
 

                                                            troubled by little waves

                                                            over which the sun

                                                            south of the city shines in
 

                                                            coldly from the bare hill

                                                            supine to the wind which

                                                            cannot waken anything
 

                                                            but drives the smoke from

                                                            a few lean chimneys streaming

                                                            violently southward
 

                                                                   --William Carlos Williams

                                                            (published in THE WEDGE)

 

February 22, 2010

                                                    Madam Theodora
 

                                                    Madam Theodora takes my hand,

                                                    urgently.  With precision twists it at

                                                    the wrist and stares intently as i unbend

                                                    my fisted fingers and capitulate

                                                    my sweaty palm.  Behind her turbaned head

                                                    neon letters loop backwards, buzz

                                                    and blink off and on.  Palms Read.

                                                    In the narrow room a polonaise

                                                    plays softly.  A tiny corner sink drips

                                                    and Madam sees a journey over water.

                                                    Tonight, like every night, the subway yaws and creeps,

                                                    clacking home over the black, black river

                                                    I wonder about fortune, about life, and love redux...

                                                    But what can one expect for five bucks.
 

                                                                            --Brooke Wiese

                                                    (published in AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD)

 


February 21, 2010

                                                Communal Living


                                                When we were young and immortal

                                                what would we have said,

                                                if an angel had come down

                                                to our shack in Oregon's green

                                                hills, as we warmed ourselves

                                                beside the woodstove in a dark

                                                soot-laden dawn, waiting for

                                                Enid to make a pot of oatmeal,

                                                Wayne to chop more wood;
 

                                                if she waded her way among the piles

                                                duffel bags, the psychedelic

                                                watercolors, the cans of Bugler,

                                                packs of Camels with rising suns,

                                                waves of color and stars drawn on,

                                                found us in overalls and hiking boots,

                                                our long cotton paisley skirts,

                                                hair down past the waist, our manes

                                                blowing in the smoky early morning

                                                as we rolled our first cigarettes

                                                or weed, maybe someone put on The Band,

                                                Jackie Lomax or Fresh Cream.
 

                                                She would furl her wings, point and

                                                say--you, dead at 23, a suicide; you,

                                                medical school; you, a life of loss and

                                                unemployment; you, a mother, activist

                                                in Vermont; you, filmmaker in Russia;

                                                you, one year of law school, one son,

                                                then dead at 40, an unnamed virus.

                                                Would we have tilted back our

                                                uncombed heads and laughed?
 

                                                                    --Alice Jones

                                                (published in BLOOD AND BONE)

 

February 20,2010
 

                                                The Doctor
 

                                                Guilty, he does not always like his patients.
                                                But here, black fur raised, their yellow-eyed dog
                                                mimics Cerberus, barks barks at the invisible,
                                                so this man's politics, how he may crawl
                                                to superiors does not matter.  A doctor must care
                                                and the wife's on her knees in useless prayer,
                                                the young daughter's like a waterfall.

                                                Quiet, Cerberus!  Soon enough you'll have a bone
                                                or two.  Now, coughing, the patient expects
                                                the unjudged lie: "Your symptoms are familiar
                                                and benign"--someone to be cheerfully sure,
                                                to transform tremblings, gigantic unease,
                                                by naming like a pet some small disease
                                                with a known aetiology, certain cure.

                                                So the doctor will and yes he will prescribe
                                                the usual dew from a banana leaf; poppies and
                                                honey too; ten snowflakes or something whiter
                                                from the bole of a tree; the clearest water
                                                ever, melting ice from a mountain lake;
                                                sunlight from waterfall's edge, rainbow smoke;
                                                tears from eyelashes of the daughter.
 

                                                                        --Dannie Abse

                                                (published in BLOOD AND BONE
                                                 edited by Angela Belli and Jack Coulehan)

 

February 19, 2010

                                        Any Time


                                        Vacation?  Well, our children took our love apart:

                                        "Why do you hold Daddy's hand?" "Susy's mother

                                        doesn't have gray in her hair."  And scenes crushed

                                        our wonder--Sun Valley, Sawtooths, those reaches

                                        of the Inland Passage, while the children took our

                                        simple love apart.


                                        (Children, how many colors does the light have?

                                        Remember the wide shafts of sunlight, roads

                                        through the trees, how light examines the road hour 

                                        by hour?  It is all various, no simple on-off colors.

                                        And love does not come riding west through the

                                        trees to find you.)


                                        "Daddy, tell me your best secret."  (I have woven

                                        a parachute out of everything broken; my scars

                                        are my shield; and I jump, daylight or dark,

                                        into any country, where as I descend I turn

                                        native and stumble into terribly human speech

                                        and wince recognition.)


                                        "When you get old, how do you know what to do?"

                                        (Waves will quiet, wind lull; and in that

                                        instant I will have all the time in the world;

                                        something deeper than birthdays will tell me all I need.)

                                        "But will you do right?"  (Children, children,

                                        oh see that waterfall.)


                                                                             --William Stafford

                                        (published in THE WAY IT IS)  

                              

February 18, 2010

                                        Sea Lullaby

                                       
                                        The old moon is tarnished
                                        With smoke of the flood,
                                        The dead leaves are varnished
                                        With colour like blood.

                                        A treacherous smiler
                                        With teeth white as milk,
                                        A savage beguiler
                                        In sheathings of silk.

                                        The sea creeps to pillage,
                                        She leaps on her prey;
                                        A child of the village
                                        Was murdered today.

                                        She came up to meet him
                                        In a smooth golden cloak,
                                        She choked him and beat him
                                        To death, for a joke.

                                        Her bright locks were tangled,
                                        She shouted for joy,
                                        With one hand she strangled
                                        A strong little boy.

                                        Now in silence she lingers
                                        Beside him all night
                                        To wash her long fingers
                                        In silvery light.

                                                    --Elinor Wylie

                                        (published in THE PREMIER BOOK OF MAJOR POETS
                                         edited by Anita Dore)

 

February 17, 2010

                                        Curse One: The Wraith

 

                                        You are a small shape of death crouched among leaves.
                                        The twist of your red mouth is the torque of poison.
                                        Tangle of leaves, spill of leaves, slow rot of leaves. . .
                                        Misery, ruin, iniquity. You are the scuffling thing in dry grass.
                                        Rodent, snail, the curly-legged spider, centipede, rat snake.
                                        I see you by the back-hooded barbecue in November, brooding
                                        like the smoke of burned meat. The fire in the coals gone out,
                                        the sun hung low and weak in smoldering sky, cold
                                        breath of winter. You are all smoke breath, grief, and conniving.
                                        You are the alien thing invading my garden, a haunt, a plague,
                                        lurking beyond light and warmth, there in the shadows wearing
                                        death inside out, a curse on the sky. You are a spot, a flaw, a
                                        blotch and a stain on the world you corrupt and I hate
                                        you and fear you and look for you everywhere with dread.

                                                                                       --Cynthia Huntington

 

February 16, 2010

                                                Tomorrow's Song
 

                                                The USA slowly lost its mandate
                                                in the middle and later twentieth century
                                                it never gave the mountains and rivers,
                                                            trees and animals,
                                                                    a vote.
                                                all the people turned away from it
                                                            myths die; even continents are impermanent

                                                        Turtle Island returned.
                                                        my friend broke open a dried coyote-scat
                                                        removed a ground squirrel tooth
                                                        pierced it, hung it
                                                        from the gold ring
                                                        in his ear.

                                                We look to the future with pleasure
                                                we need no fossil fuel
                                                get power within
                                                grow strong on less.

                                                Grasp the tools and move in rhythm side by side
                                                        flash gleams of wit and silent knowledge
                                                                            eye to eye
                                                sit still like cats or snakes or stones
                                                        as whole and holding as
                                                                            the blue black sky.
                                                gentle and innocent as wolves
                                                                            as tricky as a prince.

                                                At work and in our place:

                                                        in the service
                                                        of the wilderness
                                                        of life
                                                        of death
                                                        of the Mother's breasts!

                                                                    --Gary Snyder

                                                (published in TURTLE ISLAND)

 

February 14, 2010

                                                        Momma
 

                                                        Roses are red

                                                        Violets are blue,

                                                        You love me

                                                        And I love you, too.
 

                                                                --Larissa Van Ert

 

February 13, 2010

                                                    Orchids


                                                    They lean over the path,

                                                    Adder-mouthed,

                                                    Swaying close to the face,

                                                    Coming out, soft and deceptive.

                                                    Limp and damp, delicate as a young bird's tongue;

                                                    Their fluttery fledgling lips

                                                    Move slowly,

                                                    Drawing in the warm air.  


                                                    And the night,

                                                    The faint moon falling through whitewashed glass,

                                                    The heat going down

                                                    So their musky smell comes even stronger,

                                                    Drifting down from their uossy cradles:

                                                    So many devouring infants!

                                                    Soft luminescent fingers,

                                                    Lips neither dead nor alive,

                                                    Loose ghostly mouths

                                                    Breathing.


                                                                    --Theodore Roethke

                                                    (published in THE COLLECTED POEMS OF THEODORE ROETHKE)

 

                                                

February 12, 2010

                                     Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

 

                                    Do not go gentle into that good night,
                                    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
                                    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

                                    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
                                    Because their words had forked no lightning they
                                    Do not go gentle into that good night.

                                    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
                                    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
                                    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

                                    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
                                    And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
                                    Do not go gentle into that good night.

                                    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
                                    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
                                    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

                                    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
                                    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
                                    Do not go gentle into that good night.
                                    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

                                                                           --Dylan Thomas

                                    (Note:  DT's father was going blind when DT wrote this poem.)

 

 

February 11, 2010

                                                    The Edge of the Roof
 

                                                    I don't like it here, I want to go back.

                                                    According to the old Knowers

                                                    if you're absent from the one you love

                                                    even for one second that ruins the whole thing!
 

                                                    There must be someone...just to find

                                                    one sign of the other world in this town

                                                    would be enough.
 

                                                    You know the great Chinese Simurgh bird

                                                    got caught in this net...

                                                    And what can I do?  I'm only a wren.

                                                    My desire-body, don't come

                                                    strolling over this way.

                                                    Sit where you are, that's a good place.
 

                                                    When you want dessert, you choose something rich.

                                                    In wine, you look for what is clear and firm.

                                                    What is the rest?  The rest is mirages,

                                                    and blurry pictures, and milk mixed with water.

                                                    The rest is self-hatred, and mocking other people, and bombing.
 

                                                    So just be quiet and sit down.

                                                    The reason is--you are drunk,

                                                    and this is the edge of the roof.
 

                                                                            --Rumi

                                                    (published in WHEN GRAPES TURN TO WINE
                                                    versions of Rumi, by Robert Bly)

 

February 10, 2010

                                                    The Grownup

 

                                                    All this stood upon her and was the world

                                                    and stood upon her with all in fear and grace

                                                    as trees stand, growing straight up, imageless

                                                    yet wholly image, like the Ark of God,

                                                    and solemn, as if imposed upon a race.

                                                       
                                                    And she endured it all: bore up under

                                                    the swift-as-flight, the fleeting, the far-gone,

                                                    the inconceivably vast, the still-to-learn,

                                                    serenely as a woman carrying water

                                                    moves with a full jug.  Till in the midst of play,

                                                    transfiguring and preparing for the future,

                                                    the first white veil descended, gliding softly
 

                                                    over her opened face, almost opaque there.

                                                    never to be lifted off again, and somehow

                                                    giving to all her questions just one answer:

                                                    In you, who were a child once--in you.
 

                                                                        --Rainer Maria Rilke

                                                    (published in THE SELECTED POETRY OF
                                                    RAINER MARIA RILKE edited and translated by
                                                    Stephen Mitchell)

February 9, 2010

                      Ophélie (Ophelia)

                                 I

On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping
                        White Ophelia floats like a great lily;
                        Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils...
                        - In the far-off woods you can hear them sound the mort.   

For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
                        Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.
                        For more than a thousand years her sweet madness
                        Has murmured its ballad to the evening breeze.

The wind kisses her breasts and unfolds in a wreath
                        Her great veils rising and falling with the waters;
                        The shivering willows weep on her shoulder,
                        The rushes lean over her wide, dreaming brow.

The ruffled water-lilies are sighing around her;
                        At times she rouses, in a slumbering alder,
                        Some nest from which escapes a small rustle of wings;
                        - A mysterious anthem falls from the golden stars.

II   

O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!
                        Yes child, you died, carried off by a river!
                        - It was the winds descending from the great mountains of
Norway
                        That spoke to you in low voices of better freedom

It was a breath of wind, that, twisting your great hair,
                        Brought strange rumors to your dreaming mind;
                        It was your heart listening to the song of Nature
                        In the groans of the tree and the sighs of the nights;   

It was the voice of mad seas, the great roar,
                        That shattered your child's heart, too human and too soft;
                        It was a handsome pale knight, a poor madman
                        Who one April morning sate mute at your knees!           

Heaven! Love! Freedom! What a dream, oh poor crazed Girl!
                        You melted to him as snow does to a fire;
                        Your great visions strangled your words
                        - And fearful Infinity terrified your blue eye!

III

- And the poet says that by starlight
                        You come seeking, in the night, the flowers that you picked
                        And that he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils
                        White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.

--Arthur Rimbaud

((published in ARTHUR RIMBAUD, COLLECTED POEMS (1962)
                                             - As translated by Oliver Bernard)  

 

 

February 8, 2010

                                            Song of the Highest Tower
 

                                            O may it come, the time of love.
                                            The time we'd be enamored of.

                                            I've been patient too long,
                                            My memory is dead,
                                            All fears and all wrongs
                                            To the heavens have fled.
                                            While all my veins burst
                                            With a sickly thirst.

                                            O may it come, the time of love.
                                            The time we'd be enamored of.

                                            Like the meadow that is dreaming
                                            Forgetful of cares,
                                            Flourishing and flowering
                                            With incense and tares,
                                            Where fierce buzzings rise
                                            Of filthy flies.

                                             O may it come, the time of love.
                                            
The time we'd be enamored of.  


                                                            --Arthur Rimbaud

                                            (published in A SEASON IN HELL
                                             translated by Louise Vare`se)
                            
                                                       

                                                                

February 7, 2010

                                           Winter Love
 

                                           Let us have winter loving that the heart

                                           May be in peace and ready to partake

                                           Of the slow pleasure spring would wish to hurry

                                           Or that in summer harshly would awake,

                                           And let us fall apart, O gladly weary,

                                           The white skin shaken like a white snowflake.


                                                                            --Elizabeth Jennings

                                           (published inA BOOK OF LOVE POETRY)                                                           


                                                           

February 6, 2010

                                                Buddha Inside the Light


                                                The core of every core, the kernel of every kernel,

                                                an almond!  held in itself, deepening in sweetness:

                                                all of this, everything, right up to the stars,

                                                is the meat around your stone.  Accept my bow.
 

                                                Oh, yes, you feel it, how the weights on you are gone!

                                                Your husk has reached into what has no end,

                                                and that is where the great saps are brewing now.

                                                On the outside a warmth is helping,


                                                for, high, high above, your own suns are growing

                                                immense and they glow as they wheel around.

                                                Yet something has already started to live

                                                in you that will live longer than the suns.
 

                                                                --Rainer Maria Rilke

                                                (published in SELECTED POEMS OF RAINER MARIA RILKE
                                                                    translated from the German by Robert Bly) 

              

February 5, 2010

                                                       White Flowers


                                                                            Last night
                                                                           in the fields
                                                                I lay down in the darkness
                                                                     to think about death,
                                                                   but instead I fell asleep,
                                                               as if in a vast and sloping room
                                                                filled with those white flowers
                                                                      that open all summer,
                                                                        sticky and untidy,
                                                                       in the warm fields.
                                                                          When I woke
                                                              the morning light was just slipping
                                                                         in front of the stars,
                                                                         and I was covered
                                                                            with blossoms.
                                                                             I don't know
                                                                         how it happened--
                                                                             I don't know
                                                                  if my body went diving down
                                                                        under the sugary vines
                                                                in some sleep-sharpened affinity
                                                                   with the depths, or whether
                                                                           that green energy
                                                                            rose like a wave
                                                                and curled over me, claiming me
                                                                            in its husky arms.
                                                             I pushed them away, but I didn't rise.
                                                               Never in my life had I felt so plush,
                                                                                or so slippery,
                                                                      or so resplendently empty.
                                                                               Never in my life
                                                                        had I felt myself so near
                                                                                that porous line
                                                                 where my own body was done with
                                                            and the roots and the stems and the flowers
                                                                                     began.
 

                                                                                        --Mary Oliver

                                                         (published in NEW AND SELECTED POEMS)

 

                                                           
 February 4, 2010                                                  
                                                    The Secret


                                                    Two girls discover
                                                    the secret of life
                                                    in a sudden line of
                                                    poetry. 

                                                    I who don't know the
                                                    secret wrote
                                                    the line. They
                                                    told me 

                                                    (through a third person)
                                                    they had found it
                                                    but not what it was
                                                    not even 

                                                    what line it was. No doubt
                                                    by now, more than a week
                                                    later, they have forgotten
                                                    the secret, 

                                                    the line, the name of
                                                    the poem. I love them
                                                    for finding what
                                                    I can't find, 

                                                    and for loving me
                                                    for the line I wrote,
                                                    and for forgetting it
                                                    so that 

                                                    a thousand times, till death
                                                    finds them, they may
                                                    discover it again, in other
                                                    lines 

                                                    in other
                                                    happenings. And for
                                                    wanting to know it,
                                                    for 

                                                    assuming there is
                                                    such a secret, yes,
                                                    for that
                                                    most of all.


                                                          --Denise Levertov


 

February 3, 2010

The Kitty-Cat Bird

 

The Kitty-Cat Bird sat on a fence.

Said the Wren your Song isn't worth ten cents.

You're a Fake, you're a Fraud, you're a Hor-rid Pretense!

   --Said the Wren to the Kitty-Cat Bird. 

 

You've too many Tunes, and none of them Good:

I wish you would act like a bird really should,

Or stay by yourself down deep in the wood,

    --Said the Wren to the Kitty-Cat Bird.

 

You mew like a Cat, you grate like a Jay:

You squeak like a Mouse that lost in the Hay,

I wouldn't be You for even a day,

     --Said the Wren to the Kitty-Cat Bird. 

 

The Kitty-Cat Bird, he moped and he cried.

Then a real cat came with a Mouth so Wide

That the Kitty-Cat Bird just hopped inside.

"At last I'm myself!"--and he up and died

      --Did the Kitty--the Kitty-Cat Bird.

 

You'd better not laugh; and don't say, "Pooh!"

Until you have thought this Sad Tale through:

Be sure that whatever you are is you

    --Or you'll end like the Kitty-Cat Bird.

 

--Theodore Roethke

(published in I AM! SAYS THE LAMB   <1961>)

 

 

February 2, 2010

                                                It


                                                            Sometimes we fit together like the creamy

                                                            speckled three-section body of the banana, that

                                                            joke fruit, as sex was a joke when we were kids,

                                                            and sometimes it is like a jagged blue comb of glass across my skin,

                                                            and sometimes you have me bent over as thick paper can be

                                                            folded, on the rug in the center of the room

                                                            far from the soft bed, my knuckles

                                                            pressed against the grit in the grain of the rug's braiding where they

                                                            laid the rags tight and sewed them together,

                                                            my ass in the air like a lily with a wound on it

                                                            and I feel you going down into me as

                                                            my own tongue is your cock sticking

                                                            out of my mouth like a stamen, the making and

                                                            breaking of the world at the same moment,

                                                            and sometimes it is sweet as the children we had

                                                            thought were dead being brought to the shore in the

                                                            narrow boats, boatload after boatload.

                                                            Always I am stunned to remember it,

                                                            as if I have been to Saturn or the bottom of a trench in the sea floor, I

                                                            sit on my bed the next day with my mouth open and think of it.


                                                                                                --Sharon Olds

                                                                (published in THE GOLD CELL)

 

February 1, 2010

                                                    Love...in You the Earth
 

                                                    Little
                                                    rose,
                                                    roselet,
                                                    at times,
                                                    tiny and naked,
                                                    it seems
                                                    as though you would fit
                                                    in one of my hands,
                                                    as though I'll clasp you like this
                                                    and carry you to my mouth,
                                                    but
                                                    suddenly
                                                    my feet touch your feet and my mouth your lips:
                                                    you have grown,
                                                    your shoulders rise like two hills,
                                                    your breasts wander over my breast,
                                                    my arms scarcely manages to encircle the thin
                                                    new-moon line of your waist:
                                                    in love you have loosened yourself like sea water:
                                                    I can scarcely measure the sky's most spacious eyes
                                                    and I lean down to your mouth to kiss the earth.


                                                                                                                        --Pablo Neruda

                                                                (published in THE CAPTAIN'S VERSES
                                                                translated by Donald D. Walsh)

 


                                                           


February 28, 2009
                                                        THE KOOKABURRAS
                                               

                                                        In every heart there is a coward and a procrastinator.

                                                        In every heart there is a god of flowers, just waiting

                                                        to come out of its cloud and lift its wings.

                                                        The kookaburras, kingfishers, pressed against the edge of

                                                        their cage, they asked me to open the door.

                                                        Years later I wake in the night and remember how I said to them,

                                                        no, and walked away.

                                                        They had the brown eyes of soft-hearted dogs.

                                                        They didn't want to do anything so extraordinary, only to fly

                                                        home to their river.

                                                        By now I suppose the great darkness has covered them.

                                                        As for myself, I am not yet a god of even the palest flowers.

                                                        Nothing else has changed either.

                                                        Someone tosses their white bones to the dung-heap.

                                                        The sun shines on the latch of their cage.

                                                        I lie in the dark, my heart pounding.

                                                                                        --Mary Oliver

                                                        (published in House of Light)

 

February 27, 2009
                                                        TOUGH AT TEN
 

                                                        Amelia, my father's mother,
                                                        lived too far from California to be Grandma.
                                                        Nebraska's distance stretched her title wider:
                                                        Grandmother 'Melia.
                                                        But it was into grandma's lap we'd slip
                                                        after two thousand miles on our Dodge's hard cushions.

                                                        All of ten, I really wanted to check out the bra section.
                                                        But excitement was running through me--I just had time
                                                        to tear and wipe with that cold, glossy Sears & Roebuck.
                                                        Guess uncle James was trying to cool me off
                                                        with direct-hit squirts of unpasteurized cow's milk.
                                                        Grandma 'Melia handed me towels to dry off,
                                                        then a lap-seat show of her photo album.

                                                        Even that fading black and white
                                                        showed her face in tactile contradiction:
                                                        mango fresh cheeks up to the rims
                                                        where two coal-rough eyes begin.
                                                        She holds her infant sister
                                                        one third her size: head above head
                                                        with electric fence eyes
                                                        daring, "get past here alive!"

                                                        "My Lord," I worried even then,
                                                        "was she ever given time to be ten?"

                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (published in Poet Speak)

 

February 26, 2009
                                                        ADDLED VERSE
 

                                                        When things have all gone bad to worse

                                                        And I find myself filled with curse

                                                        I set about onerous tasks first

                                                                then soothe my mind with addled verse.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
                                                                 Profound Dittycism
)

  

February 25, 2009
                                                        LIVING MOMENTS
 

                                                        Morning sun exposes the thin, cold sheet
                                                        snow spirit tossed on Big Sur ridge overnight.
                                                        I feel its chill reminder that even the dark hours
                                                        can be used to create wonder.

                                                        Silent as this rare Pacific Coast snow
                                                        I will soon leave without footprints,
                                                        droppings or bent grass and twig
                                                        left to disclose wintry nights lived here.

                                                        Like our whale-watching from the baths
                                                        you have had sightings of me: head down
                                                        and tail up before the dive, then spewing
                                                        like some Native American smoke signal.

                                                        I've no warm Baja waters to hurry to,
                                                        no dreams of rollicking with the newborn
                                                        mammal migrators.  I have only wonder--
                                                        how do I look before taking a dive?

                                                        "There is no dive--only the jump, suspension in air,
                                                        acceleration, and powerful explosion of splash."
                                                        Speak to me more of those living moments!
                                                        But let me reply that even the whales dream. 

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (from Seeds on a Wind Ride)

 

February 24, 2009
                                                        ONLY FOR THIS
 

                                                        Sometimes, it seems, I live only for this:

                                                        Climbing soft shoulders, the early morning kiss

                                                        Heats, melts and tumbles into globes' abyss.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (from Create that Love that Love Creates)

 

February 23, 2009
                                                        UNIVERSES APART
 

                                                        Alan is a solitary lad.
                                                        Yes, a sailor once gone mad.
                                                        He spoke, as he smoked,
                                                        of Jesus--
                                                        as well of the words
                                                        people use to keep
                                                        themselves apart.

                                                        "I cannot say hello
                                                        I'll have you know.
                                                        It's a one-sided affair
                                                        whose initiation I cannot bear.
                                                        No, I cannot say
                                                        I'll enjoy this day."

                                                        Yet he told of a priest's
                                                        sermon: Love one another.
                                                        (then silence--thrice)
                                                        The gathered looked at each other
                                                        to feel if it's true,
                                                        to ask of the price.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (from Nothing Else Matters)

 

February 22, 2009
                                                        GABRIEL
 

                                                        I come home to the cottage.
                                                        I climb the balcony.
                                                        It's the archangel Gabriel
                                                        Waiting there for me.

                                        He says: Boss, boss, cut the loss,
                                        Don't take on so.
                                        Don't get mad with Gabriel.
                                        Let it go.              

                                                        I go into the kitchen
                                                        To fix myself a drink.
                                                        It's the archangel Gabriel
                                                        Weeping by the sink.

                                                        He says: Boss, boss, cut the loss,
                                                        Don't take on so.
                                                        Don't get mad with Gabriel.
                                                        Let it go.

                                                        I say: You've been away in Magsaysay,
                                                        You've not clocked in all week;
                                                        You're as strong as an ox,
                                                        But you're work shy
                                                        With your head bowed low and your pleading eyes
                                                        And I'm too mad to speak.

                                                        I come home two hours later.
                                                        The archangel drops a tear.
                                                        He's sitting there in the same old chair
                                                        And he's drunk all the beer.

                                                        He says: Boss, boss, cut the loss,
                                                        Don't take on so.
                                                        Don't get mad with Gabriel.
                                                        Let it go.

                                                        I say: You've drunk yourself into outer space.
                                                        You're giving me one of those looks.
                                                        You're as wild as the moon in storm time
                                                        And I'd like to know the reason I'm
                                                        Supposed to keep you on the books.

                                                        Yes I should have known when I took you on
                                                        When you tumbled from the sky
                                                        That you're set in your ways and that' all.
                                                        You're a Gabriel and you've had a fall.
                                                        You can't change and nor can I
                                                        Gabriel
                                                        You can't change and nor can I.

                                                                                    --James Fenton

                                                        (published in Out of Danger)


                                                       

February 21, 2009
                                                        DO NO HARM
 

                                                        A spider in the sink is stunned.  The light.
                                                        My size.  Big sucker, brown.  The body
                                                        bulges.  Otherwise, it's squat.  If I wait
                                                        a few minutes without moving, it'll glide
                                                        over the dry porcelain, attending
                                                        to its needs.  Why do these spiders appear?
                                                        This one must have dropped from the ceiling
                                                        on a sticky thread.  It couldn't have been
                                                        exploring.  Spiders don't, unless...looking
                                                        for water?  Attracted to a new spot?
                                                        I don't think so.  Out in the open sink,
                                                        vulnerable at any moment
                                                        to flood, this arachnid is as good as dead.
                                                        What kind of being?  There is no way
                                                        to understand how it feels.  It may eat
                                                        its own eggs.  It hasn't friends.  The sheen
                                                        of the porcelain means nothing to it.
                                                        Act without thought.  I will turn the tap
                                                        to the right temperature and pull out
                                                        my razor.  I could switch off the light and wait
                                                        for the spider to leave, or flick it up
                                                        with a Kleenex.  But I don't.  I let
                                                        the torrent loose and turn for a moment
                                                        to the shower, so I can't see the spider
                                                        struggling and sliding, as its whole life,
                                                        for all I know, flashes in front of it.

                                                                                        --Jack Coulehan, MD

                                                        (published in JAMA: Volume 292, No. 22)

 

February 20, 2009
                                                        OPEN HIGHWAY
 

                                                        Freedom is two hands:

                                                        One in a pocket,

                                                        Other in north wind;

                                                        Standing on two feet:

                                                        One in the soil,

                                                        Fellow on asphalt;

                                                        Blowing out mouth dry

                                                        With smoky taste;

                                                        Living in this mind--

                                                        That's not only mine.

                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

 

February 19, 2009
                                                        SETTLE DOWN
 

                                                        Winter hands me hat and gloves
                                                        to remove beneath the maples,
                                                        place on my make-shift desk
                                                        and free fingers to scribble
                                                        soft, round moves like love.

                                                        With Galway Kinnell
                                                        bound at my side I step
                                                        through daffodils past tractor tires
                                                        up deer and human trail
                                                        to perch under heavy maple arms.

                                                        Strange cat screech stops me.
                                                        Across the overgrown road I look
                                                        into the abandoned auto shed.
                                                        As I imagine that feral
                                                        scaring holy terror into my cat

                                                        the cries cease.  I hurry
                                                        over hoof prints to sit and read
                                                        of another man's perch,
                                                        every man's oatmeal.
                                                        Then watch the sun settle down.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (from Seeds on a Wind Ride)

 

February 18, 2009
                                                        FIVE FINGER GRASS
 

                                                        Bobbing smoothly on back your son rides into the clinic.
                                                        I imagine a papoose board hidden by your black hair
                                                        reaching down to touch his short-cropped sheen.

                                                        I'm surprised into the present as you lean
                                                        closer to boast he can dunk his little basketball!
                                                        Not his keen sense for deer behind rhododendrons,
                                                        or how he spots bobcat scat along the trail to Mad River.

                                                        Your great-grandfather once paused from cool coastal fishing
                                                        to trek feverishly into foothills where the medicine parents
                                                        taught him to find five finger grass,
                                                        which part to chew, and when to spit it out.

                                                        Only after his well-child visit ends
                                                        you confide your concerns of pounding chest
                                                        that barely keeps leaping heart from throat.
                                                        "Dreams are all nightmare."

                                                        I offer you a stick to chew on,
                                                        "Sometimes, at night, a man has finished
                                                        his labors, but his heart has not.
                                                        This energy can ride a man's spirit
                                                        like the wild plains-born pony."

                                                        Nodding respectfully, you raise
                                                        son up in your arms.
                                                        You feel your breast again
                                                        beating ribs proud and strong,
                                                        like the poised rider
                                                        of a plains mustang.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (published in Mediphors)

 

February 17, 2009
                                                        RIVER BANK MEETING
 

                                                        Hard and careful saint,
                                                        less innocent of sin
                                                        than I am of grace,
                                                        stare downstream with me.

                                                        Float the Spree with me past co-eds
                                                        studying Goethe in the grass,
                                                        beyond guitar gleaming sweat
                                                        the shirtless gypsy let,
                                                        and toddler tucked in stroller
                                                        to pull mom from her house.

                                                        Now, let pour a story
                                                        I can reflect on to forget
                                                        having nothing to offer you
                                                        but these stranger stories we've met.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

 

February 16, 2009
                                                        Trying to Name What Doesn't Change
 

                                                        Roselva says the only thing that doesn't change
                                                        is train tracks.  She's sure of it.
                                                        The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery
                                                        by the side, but not the tracks.
                                                        I've watch one for three years, she says,
                                                        and it doesn't curve, doesn't break, doesn't grow.

                                                        Peter isn't sure.  He saw an abandoned track
                                                        near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train
                                                        is a changed track.  The metal wasn't shiny anymore.
                                                        The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.

                                                        Every Tuesday on Morales Street
                                                        butchers crack the necks of a hundred hens.
                                                        The widow in the tilted house
                                                        spices her soup with cinnamon.
                                                        Ask her what doesn't change.

                                                        Stars explode.
                                                        The rose curls up as if there is fire in the petals.
                                                        The cat who knew me is buried under the bush.


                                                        The train whistle still wails its ancient sound
                                                        but when it goes away, shrinking back
                                                        from the walls of my brain,
                                                        it takes something different with it every time.

                                                                                            -- Naomi Nye

                                                        (published in Yellow Glove

                                                     

February 15, 2009
                                                        ASK FOR NOTHING
 

                                                        Instead walk alone in the evening
                                                        heading out of town toward the fields
                                                        asleep under a darkening sky;
                                                        the dust risen from your steps transforms
                                                        itself into a golden rain fallen 
                                                        earthward as a gift from no known god.
                                                        The plane trees along the canal bank,
                                                        the few valley poplars, hold their breath
                                                        as you cross the wooden bridge that leads
                                                        nowhere you haven't been, for this walk
                                                        repeats itself once or more a day.
                                                        that is why in the distance  you see 
                                                        beyond the first ridge of low hills
                                                        where nothing ever grows, men and women
                                                        astride mules, on horseback, some even
                                                        on foot, all the lost family you
                                                        never prayed to see, praying to see you,
                                                        chanting and singing to bring the moon
                                                        down into the last of the sunlight.
                                                        Behind you the windows of the town
                                                        blink on and offf, the houses close down;
                                                        ahead the voices fade like music
                                                        over deep water, and then are gone;
                                                        even the sudden, tumbling finches
                                                        have fled into smoke, and the one road
                                                        whitened in moonlight leads everywhere.

                                                                                                                -- Philip Levine 

                                                        (published in The Simple Truth)

                                                    

February 14, 2009
                                                        I WILL BE THERE
 

                                                        Setting sun tosses dozens of pink
                                                        rose buds across the sky
                                                        as my car slows on our drive.

                                                        White puffs of dandelion hope
                                                        settle into tentative stillness
                                                        like quivering lips silence.

                                                        Bee brushes black poppy pistil
                                                        clean of the sweet marrow
                                                        meant to fertilize a red tomorrow.

                                                        Pressed-wood door sweeps in
                                                        day's end inspiration
                                                        from across begonia blossoms.

                                                        Delicious daughter crush me welcome
                                                        with your petal-dropping embrace
                                                        and its flesh dew taste.

                                                        At the close of each long day
                                                        there's no place I'd rather bring
                                                        my pistil home to play!

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)

 

February 13, 2009
                                                        SOMETHING ABOUT MAGIC
 

                                                        I just saw the last guest out the door--

                                                        Guess this dinner party's finally o'er.

                                                        Now it's late and I've worn myself out,

                                                                        So I should be glad.

                                                        But, hell, I'm kickin' through these darkened rooms

                                                                        Feeling only sad.
 

                                                        Energy so high makes me despair

                                                        Of finding that pitch again anywhere.

                                                        Maybe I should call ev'rybody up,

                                                                        Do it again next week.

                                                        Then we'll all eat, drink and make merry--

                                                                        Boogie cheek to cheek.
 

                                                        Well, I need to work next week--ev'ry day.

                                                        Ah, my practical side is having its say.

                                                        If only I could capture these special times

                                                                        And lock 'em away.

                                                        Or is there something about magic won't let

                                                                        You do it that way?

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (from Collected Words)

February 12, 2009
                                                        RIGHT INACTION


                                                        Saturday in the Arcata Brewery
                                                        a field of garter snakes with limbs
                                                        encircles in slithers the one woman
                                                        whose marble-perfect face rests
                                                        still as the wall's Ansel Adams.

                                                        "Reptile brains--two more hours
                                                        they'll be drunk and all
                                                        fall away from me,"
                                                        the barmaid determines.

                                                        She reminds me of Dirk's Doberman,
                                                        poised patrician of abandoned car,
                                                        seething motionless
                                                        on a passenger seat pillow
                                                        with lips drawn open
                                                        while the sedan's haggard body kneels
                                                        toward the flat, driver-side wheel.

                                                        Dirk values that used-up car
                                                        almost as much as his dog.
                                                        Trusts her territorial instincts
                                                        to keep secure car's future,
                                                        Doberman's--and his. 

                                                        A heartening strength in knowing
                                                        these two females stand
                                                        with the few holding
                                                        bone-and-sinew knowledge
                                                        of what to do, when,
                                                        and with whom.

                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (published in The Sow's Ear Poetry Review)                                                     

February 11, 2009
                                                        BREAKTHROUGH


                                                        Silver surface invites me bend forward,
                                                        look beyond the briars--
                                                        and their gortex hiss of danger.
                                                        Luckily, not all that ditch water
                                                        frosted before freezing.

                                                        A small, clear portal faintly reflects my face
                                                        while displaying its drowned plantain
                                                        like the rosebud trapped in a paper weight.

                                                        Not here to keep things still,
                                                        my highlander hop delivers
                                                        right boot to that window.
                                                        Plate-glass thick ice gives a low moan
                                                        followed by a sharp screech.

                                                        My imagination smelled an adrenaline feast:
                                                        served by sudden gravity give-way
                                                        topped with electric bite of chilled water--

                                                        but because the solid water would not shatter,
                                                        all it got was X-ray insight to broken ankle
                                                        and this poem.

                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (published in NORTHWEST PASSAGE)

                                                                                                                                                    

February 10, 2009
                                                        HEARTS MURMUR

                                                        Before I opened my eyes
                                                        the day was given angular shape
                                                        by two crows' caws.

                                                        When I listened with my stethoscope
                                                        that shape was softened by the blowing
                                                        murmur of your heart.

                                                        I was sure the crows had
                                                        no news for me,
                                                        and would never have
                                                        guessed yours.

                                                        "I've known about that
                                                        murmur for twenty years.
                                                        It's my brother I'm sick about:
                                                        crashed in the Alps--frontal lobe.

                                                        Will he survive; how will I know?
                                                        These questions are not fair to you, doc.
                                                        I'm just so worried about him
                                                        I thought I'd call on you
                                                        for some reassuring words."

                                                        "Thank you.  Nor do I
                                                        wish to live alone."

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (from Nothing Else Matters)
 

                                                    

February 9, 2009
                                                        MY BOOKS WAIT IN THE BEDROOM
 

                                                        From this room's perspective
                                                        everything's aligned.
                                                        Clean counter edge points through
                                                        white kitchen door's slit
                                                        to just wide of the perpendicular
                                                        cinder block bookshelf
                                                        that holds photos and fantasies
                                                        pressing page-to-page.

                                                        Words are stacked there tightly
                                                        closed against themselves
                                                        until some inspiration comes
                                                        and pages fly open
                                                        with the sigh of unbound bellows,
                                                        like when I push open
                                                        your breathing thighs.

                                                        Step with me into room's hot summer.
                                                        Close the curtains, remove our clothes.
                                                        Riffle my pages with your moist breath
                                                        that opens me. Realign.
                                                        "Author...oh, God...author!"
                                                        I swear I hear you cry,
                                                        though my senses are not to be trusted
                                                        in the tumult of our sweat storm.

                                                        Feeling our sticky pages
                                                        close back against themselves,
                                                        my eyes open to a chaos of bookmarks--
                                                        solitary sentinels of unfinished stories.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                        (published in Poetry Journal)

 

February 8, 2009
                                                        SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A MOTHERLESS CHILD  

                                                        Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
                                                        Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
                                                        Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
                                                        Long way from my home...

                                                        Sometimes I wish I could fly like a bird up in the sky.
                                                        Oh, sometimes I wish I could fly, fly like a bird up in the sky.
                                                        Sometimes I wish I could fly like a bird up in the sky.
                                                        Little closer to home...

                                                        Motherless children have a hard time.
                                                        Motherless children have such a hard time.
                                                        Motherless children have such a real hard time.
                                                        So far from home...

                                                        Sometimes I feel like freedom is near.
                                                        Sometimes I feel like freedom is here.
                                                        Sometimes I feel like freedom is so near.
                                                        But we're so far from home...

                                                        Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
                                                        Baby, sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
                                                        Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
                                                        Long way from home...

                                                        Sometimes I feel like it's close at hand.
                                                        Sometimes feel the Kingdom is at hand.
                                                        Sometimes I feel like Kingdom is now.
                                                        Oh, we're so far from home...

                                                                                --Van Morrison

                         

February 7, 2009
                                     
THE LEMONS

                                                Forget the sun and the dizzy moths.
                                                Forget the pieces of mockingbird that the cats have left by the side gate.
                                                Forget the hose running under the honeysuckle:
                                                the lemons are offering us holiness again.
                                                They are making us go down on our knees to smell them.
                                                They are making us think of old loves, to grieve over them.
                                                They are singing every little song, they are conjuring every temptation.
                                                They have been having sex with the oranges and tangerines, the yard
                                                is rife with their pollens, they are sweeter than they even know.
                                                They speak together.  They are amazing me with their navels and nipples.
                                                How they flaunt themselves on the spider-veined limbs all pained with thorn.
                                                They are trying to make me lazy, to turn me against my simple work--
                                                they do not want to be plucked from their own dreaming.
                                                They are telling us again how they come each year, bringing secrets
                                                from their other world, and how we are never able to decipher them.
                                                How long now before we put up the aluminum ladder
                                                and pull on the leather-palmed gloves?  How long with the shape
                                                and heft of lelmon voluptuous in my hand?  How long
                                                with the summer in its steep track, and the low cars cruising
                                                out on the avenues, and the drone of the small airplanes
                                                like bees over the far houses?

                                                                            --Frank X. Gaspar  
                                            
                                                (published in
A Field Guide to the Heavens)


February 6, 2009
                                                            WAL-MART KOAN

 

                                                            Everything you want,

                                                            Gotta pay the price.

                                                            So you want nothing --

                                                            That'll cost plenty.

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from A First Collection of Hai-Choo:
                                                                     Little Sneezes of Profound Dittycism
)

 

February 5, 2009
                                                            EASE ON

                                                            Summer, with his escorts

                                                            blonde Spring and red-haired Autumn,

                                                            waltzes Winter's ball

                                                            awkward as all adolescence.

                                                                             --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from A First Collection of Hai-Choo)
 

February 4, 2009

                                                         BEFORE THE WORDS WERE SAID

                                                      
     I'm just looking for the face you had
                                                                                                Before the world was made...
                                                                                                Your original face
                                                                                                Before time and space.

                                                                                                Van Morrison,  Before the World Was Made

                                                        
                                                         I took your criticisms to heart

                                                                     like a dull-edged dagger;

                                                         slowly the blood river flowed by,

                                                                    thickened.

                                                         With moist fingers I scooped it up

                                                                    to make my blood pudding.


                                                                                My strength returned.


                                                          Now the snow does not lie so deep

                                                                    that I can't lumber on.

                                                         Spring rubs its hands warm to touch me

                                                                    in the waiting valley.

                                                         What was it you said to me that night --

                                                                    you heard no original voice?

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                         (from Nothing Else Matters)
 

February 3, 2009                         

                                                                        CIRCUIT PRAYER

 

                                                                        Kneel still as water in June's dry tempo.
                                                                        Creek pauses to pool,
                                                                        basks noonday warm.
                                                                        A silt-bottom frog womb
                                                                        pulses without ripple.

                                                                        Stringy tadpole egg-sac wriggles.
                                                                        Artful black pimples,
                                                                        Houdinis in a bag,
                                                                        escape to childhood:
                                                                        big bang on pond-scum plane.

                                                                        Great circle of nucleotide reminders,
                                                                        convulsing rosary,
                                                                        dips as a dowsing rod
                                                                        pointing the way to
                                                                        victims of life renewed.

                                                                        Opening chess move of the innocent--
                                                                        soft-bellied players lose
                                                                        tails of planned surrender
                                                                        to penitent hands cupped,
                                                                        awarded prayer beads.

                                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                                        (published in SLIGHTLY WEST)

 

February 2, 2009                          GOT MILK?

                                                                                 
                                                   Tawny Roosevelt elk,
                                                   my fellow American immigrant,
                                                   I recognize your rump
                                                   drawn back in the morning fog
                                                   from forelegs washed by the Klamath.
                                                   I have been a river away from my herd
                                                   before a day's even gotten underway.

                                                   Those you would join impress
                                                   only with their massive passivity.
                                                   Your ponderously racked alpha--
                                                   stately, still and ten yards ahead--
                                                   sways me most to curious musing,
                                                   "Can these creatures possibly be
                                                   dumb as Holsteins?"

                                                   On my drive home you startle me again:
                                                   your alpha has led the tribe to settle
                                                   on a grassy roadside meadow
                                                   for an incongruous tourist photo op!
                                                   I smile broadly as I imagine
                                                   your leader's bemused look as a challenge,
                                                   "How now thin cows?"

                                                                              --Tim Van Ert

                                                   (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)

                                                                                   

February 1, 2009                          FEBRUARY FIRST                                               
                                                                                   

                                                                                   

                                                   Earth's wide Yakima Canyon yawns

                                                   dark in the corner of my sleepy view

                                                   now that the huskies' penned-up complaints

                                                   have snuffed out my dreams.
 

                                                   I rub my eyes

                                                   warm with resentment

                                                   I've been denied the unruffled sleep

                                                   of earth under its snow blanket.
 

                                                   A quail hen bobs up the hill

                                                   toward the exposed porch,

                                                   checks the seed dish lying there

                                                   empty but for shells.
 

                                                   Chill wind flaps one loose shutter.

                                                   Inside, white barn owls

                                                   make laps high in the rafters.

                                                   The chalk-powder lanes they drop

                                                   mark their pacing track.
 

                                                   To find on this first of February

                                                   even the birds restrained

                                                   sharpens my longing

                                                   for the first crocus flowering.

                                                                         --Tim Van Ert

                                                   (published in NORTHWEST PASSAGE)