March's Poems of the Month

                                         (E-mail submissions, suggestions, feedback or commentary timiimit@mockok.com)
 

March 22, 2014

1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
 
         S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
  A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
  Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
  Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
  Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
  Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
 
LET us go then, you and I,  
When the evening is spread out against the sky  
Like a patient etherized upon a table;  
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,  
The muttering retreats         5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels  
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:  
Streets that follow like a tedious argument  
Of insidious intent  
To lead you to an overwhelming question….         10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”  
Let us go and make our visit.  
 
In the room the women come and go  
Talking of Michelangelo.  
 
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,         15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes  
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,  
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,  
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,  
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,         20
And seeing that it was a soft October night,  
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.  
 
And indeed there will be time  
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,  
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;         25
There will be time, there will be time  
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;  
There will be time to murder and create,  
And time for all the works and days of hands  
That lift and drop a question on your plate;         30
Time for you and time for me,  
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,  
And for a hundred visions and revisions,  
Before the taking of a toast and tea.  
 
In the room the women come and go         35
Talking of Michelangelo.  
 
And indeed there will be time  
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”  
Time to turn back and descend the stair,  
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—         40
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)  
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,  
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—  
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)  
Do I dare         45
Disturb the universe?  
In a minute there is time  
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.  
 
For I have known them all already, known them all:  
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,         50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;  
I know the voices dying with a dying fall  
Beneath the music from a farther room.  
  So how should I presume?  
 
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—         55
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,  
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,  
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,  
Then how should I begin  
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?         60
  And how should I presume?  
 
And I have known the arms already, known them all—  
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare  
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)  
Is it perfume from a dress         65
That makes me so digress?  
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.  
  And should I then presume?  
  And how should I begin?
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
 
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets         70
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes  
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…  
 
I should have been a pair of ragged claws  
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
 
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!         75
Smoothed by long fingers,  
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,  
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.  
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,  
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?         80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,  
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,  
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;  
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,  
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,         85
And in short, I was afraid.  
 
And would it have been worth it, after all,  
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,  
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,  
Would it have been worth while,         90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,  
To have squeezed the universe into a ball  
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,  
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,  
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—         95
If one, settling a pillow by her head,  
  Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;  
  That is not it, at all.”  
 
And would it have been worth it, after all,  
Would it have been worth while,         100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,  
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—  
And this, and so much more?—  
It is impossible to say just what I mean!  
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:         105
Would it have been worth while  
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,  
And turning toward the window, should say:  
  “That is not it at all,  
  That is not what I meant, at all.”
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
        110
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;  
Am an attendant lord, one that will do  
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,  
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,  
Deferential, glad to be of use,         115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;  
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;  
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—  
Almost, at times, the Fool.  
 
I grow old … I grow old …         120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.  
 
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?  
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.  
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.  
 
I do not think that they will sing to me.         125
 
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves  
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back  
When the wind blows the water white and black.  
 
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea  
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown         130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

 

March 30, 2013
 

                       THE GENESIS OF BUTTERFLIES

The dawn is smiling on the dew that covers

The tearful roses; lo, the little lovers

That kiss the buds, and all the flutterings

In jasmine bloom, and privet, of white wings,

That go and come, and fly, and peep and hide,

With muffled music, murmured far and wide.

Ah, the Spring time, when we think of all the lays

That dreamy lovers send to dreamy mays,

Of the fond hearts within a billet bound,

Of all the soft silk paper that pens wound,

The messages of love that mortals write

Filled with intoxication of delight,

Written in April and before the May time

Shredded and flown, playthings for the wind's playtime,

We dream that all white butterflies above,

Who seek through clouds or waters souls to love,

And leave their lady mistress in despair,

To flit to flowers, as kinder and more fair,

Are but torn love-letters, that through the skies

Flutter, and float, and change to butterflies.


                                                            by: Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

                       

This English translation of "The Genesis of Butterflies" was composed by Andrew Lang (1844-1912).

 

March 24, 2013

Josephine Baker finds herself

She picked me up
like a slow-burning fuse. I was down
that girls’ club used to run in Brixton,
on acid for fuel. Lipstick lesbians,
techno so hardcore it’s spewing out Audis.
She samples my heartbeat and mixes it with
vodka on the rocks. I’m her light-skinned, negative,
twenty-something, short black wavy-bobbed diva.
She purrs La Garçonne, fancy a drink? I say
Yes. She’s crossing the Star Bar like it’s a catwalk. So sleek!
A string of pearls, her flapper dress
studded with low-cut diamonds
through my skin, straight to my heart.
Twenties chic! She works
me up and down. I worship
the way she looks.

The way she looks
me up and down. I worship
twenties chic. She works
through my skin, straight to my heart
studded with low-cut diamonds.
A string of pearls, her flapper dress.
Yes! She’s crossing the Star Bar like it’s a catwalk so sleek
she purrs, la garçonne! Fancy a drink? I say.
Twenty-something, short, Black, wavy-bobbed diva:
Vodka on the rocks, I’m her light-skinned negative.
She samples my heartbeat and mixes it with
techno so hardcore it’s spewing out Audis
on acid for fuel. Lipstick Lesbians,
that girls’ club used to run in Brixton
like a slow-burning fuse. I was down.
She picked me up.

                             --Patience Agbabi
 

March 10, 2013

                Myth
            MYTH
 

I was asleep while you were dying.

It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow

I make between my slumber and my waking,
 

 the Erebus I keep you in, still trying

not to let go. You’ll be dead again tomorrow,

but in dreams you live. So I try taking
 

you back into morning. Sleep-heavy, turning,

my eyes open, I find you do not follow.

Again and again, this constant forsaking. 

*

Again and again, this constant forsaking:

my eyes open, I find you do not follow.

You back into morning, sleep-heavy, turning.
 

But in dreams you live. So I try taking,

not to let go. You’ll be dead again tomorrow.

The Erebus I keep you in—still, trying—
 

I make between my slumber and my waking.

It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow.

I was asleep while you were dying.

                                            Natasha Trethewey

 “Myth” from Native Guard. Copyright © 2007 by Natasha Trethewey.

 

March 3, 2013
 

SAVING THE GOOD STUFF FOR YOU
 

I've seen trouble from every direction
My old head is peppered with grey
I could never resist life's temptations
They just seemed to fall in my way
I've had wives and I treated them badly
And maybe a lover or two
All the time, I didn't know it
I was saving the good stuff for you

I was saving the good stuff for you, darling
Saving the good stuff for you
There was some part of me who knew, darling
To save the good stuff for you

And I even thought on occasion
It was love that was making me blue
Some kind of love, well, I called it love
Maybe fatal attraction will do
Well, I got it all out of my system
My heart it is tested and true
All the time, I didn't know it
I was saving the good stuff for you

I was saving the good stuff for you, darling
Saving the good stuff for you
There was some part of me who knew, darling
To save the good stuff for you

I'm glad that you never did know me
When I was out of control
I was hollow right there in the middle
Some people got sucked in the hole
But I cut myself loose from the old ways
And you're all that I'm clinging to
All the time, I didn't know it
I was saving the good stuff for you

I was saving the good stuff for you, darling
Saving the good stuff for you
There was some part of me who knew, darling
To save the good stuff for you
Well I was saving the good stuff for you

            --Richard Thompson

 

 

March 21, 2012

BETWEEN SUNSET AND SUNRISE

If you cannot laugh,
lower your eyes
as this day dies--
crawl with the sun's light
out a window towards night.

The day delivers too much sun
to see this particular piece of earth,
produces so many sounds
the mind jumps onto dream stage.

My eyes open
to a dark window and start
to question the morning.

Clock tells me it's that time
to begin a day of trying to do

what has never been done so well before.

           -- If you live, your time will come
 

March 12, 2012

                                                        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!

                                                        -- If you live, your time will come

 

March 4, 2012

                                                                    RETREAD
 

                                                                    Trucker's retread carcass

                                                                    nose-down on the road --

                                                                    a tired armadillo

                                                                    unable to make it south

                                                                    out of Oregon.
 

                                                                     -- If you live, your time will come
 

March 31, 2011

                                                Anorexia
 

                                                Not everyone is so skilled
                                                at the ancient art, not everyone
                                                can exist on air, refusing
                                                the burden of flesh.  Hating

                                                the yellow globs of fat an any
                                                form--under the skin, padding
                                                the heart, cushions for the eye's
                                                globes, but mostly those

                                                that mark her as her mother's-- 
                                                the encumbering curves of hip
                                                or breast, she eats only
                                                oranges and water, a cannibal

                                                of self.  Trying to undo all
                                                the knots the female body has
                                                tied, all the cyclical obligations,
                                                to gush, to feed, she chooses

                                                to hone her shape down,
                                                her scapulae prepared like
                                                thin birds, to fly away from
                                                the spine.  Barely held together

                                                by silk and liquid and air,
                                                she floats, flightless, the water's
                                                iciness along her back;
                                                she tries not to be sucked

                                                down by the black cold,
                                                its deadliness pulling
                                                at the nape of her long neck,
                                                biting at her unfeathered heels.

                                                                    --Alice Jones

                                                (BLOOD & BONES, POEMS BY PHYSICIANS)

 

                                                 

                                               

March 20, 2011

It Is Born
 

Here I came to the very edge

where nothing at all needs saying,

everything is absorbed through weather and the sea,

and the moon swam back,

its rays all silvered,

and time and again the darkness would be broken

by the crash of a wave,

and every day on the balcony of the sea,

wings open, fire is born,

and everything is blue again like morning.
 

--Pablo Neruda

                                            

 

March 19, 2011

                                                           Green Pastures
 

                                                Because I was raised knee-deep in cow manure

                                                on a dairy farm in Idaho, I know a mess

                                                when I see one.  At Pt. Reyes on the coast

                                                of northern California they transformed the estuary

                                                at the head of the shallow trough called Tomales Bay

                                                into cow pastures where hundreds of cows graze

                                                producing milk, methane, and manure.  (I don't know

                                                what the relative amounts are, not being one of those

                                                smart people who can figure out such things,

                                                but it doesn't sound like a pleasant job, trailing

                                                along behind a Holstein, weighing and measuring

                                                whatever comes out of it.)
 

                                                                                                All that manure

                                                flushing into the bay doesn't do the fish or plants

                                                or anything that lives there much good.  In fact

                                                it's killing them and Lord knows what's happening

                                                to the whales that swim past the mouth of the bay

                                                on their regular migration, although if it comes

                                                down to a struggle for survival between the cows

                                                and whales, my money's on the whales who don't

                                                stand around all day eating grass and farting

                                                methane and waiting for somebody to milk them.
 

                                                The environmentalists are trying to get the farmers

                                                to give up the cows, but what's a dairy farm

                                                without cows?  And once you get used to milking

                                                cows twice a day, it's hard to break the habit

                                                although the use of machines has taken most

                                                of the pleasure out of it for everybody involved.
 

                                                Tomales Bay is a long narrow fissure

                                                marking the path of the San Andreas Fault

                                                beneath it.  Maybe when the big quake comes

                                                the whole controversy will be quickly resolved:

                                                cows, drainage, and even the bay itself,

                                                but it will be a dreadful mess with liquid cow manure

                                                flying around and the magnificent homes of the rich

                                                along the bay sliding down into it.

                                                                            --Richard Shelton

                                                (THE LAST PERSON TO HEAR YOUR VOICE)

 

March 13, 2011

                                                            THE USE OF FICTION
 

                                                    A boy claims he saw you on a bicycle last week,

                                                    touring his neighborhood.  "West Cyprus Street!" he shouts,

                                                    as if your being there and his seeing you

                                                    were some sort of benediction.

                                                    To be alive, to be standing outside

                                                    on a tender February evening...

                                                    "It was a blue bicycle, ma'am, your braid was flying,

                                                    I said hello and you laughed, remember?"
 

                                                    You almost tell him your bicycle seat is thick with dust,

                                                    the tires have been flat for months.

                                                    But his face, that radiant flower, says you are his friend,

                                                    he has told his mother your name.

                                                    Maybe this is a clear marble

                                                    he will hide in his sock drawer for months.

                                                    So who now, in a universe of figures,

                                                    would deny West Cyprus Street,

                                                    throwing up clouds into this literal sky?

                                                    "Yes, amigo"--hand on shoulder--

                                                    "It was I."

                                                                        Naomi Shihab Nye

                                                    (published in Yellow Glove)

       

 

March 3, 2011


Picking Blueberries, Austerlitz, New York, 1957

Once, in summer,
in the blueberries,
I fell asleep, and woke
when a deer stumbled against me.
I guess
she was so busy with her own happiness
she had grown careless
and was just wandering along
listening
to the wind as she leaned down
to lip up the sweetness.
So, there we were
with nothing between us
but a few leaves, and the wind's
glossy voice
shouting instructions.
The deer
backed away finally
and flung up her white tail
and went floating off toward the trees--
but the moment before she did that
was so wide and so deep
it has lasted to this day;
I have only to think of her--
the flower of her amazement
and the stalled breath of her curiosity,
and even the damp touch of her solicitude
before she took flight--
to be absent again from this world
and alive, again, in another,
for thirty years
sleepy and amazed,
rising out of the rough weeds,
listening and looking.
Beautiful girl,
where are you?

--Mary Oliver

(published in NEW AND SELECTED POEMS)


 

March 31, 2010

Resigning from a Job in a Defense Industry

The names of things--sparks!
I ran on them like a component:
Henries, microhenries, Blue
Beavers, wee wee ductors:
Biographer of small lives,
Of a plug and his girl named Jack,
Of Utopian colonies which worked--
Steel, germanium, brass, aluminum,
Replaceables.
Outside, afloat, my words
Swung an arm charting the woman
Who was the river bottom.
We tried, beyond work, at work,
To keep what we loved. Near
Christmas I remember the office
Women trimming their desperately
Glittering holy day trees. And,
Just as I left, the company
Talent show, the oils and sentiment
Thick on still lifes and seacoasts,
The brush strokes tortured as a child's
First script. Someone
Had studied driftwood; another man,
The spray of a wave, the mania
Of waters above torpedoes.

--Sandra McPherson

(published in VITAL SIGNS, COMTEMPORARY AMERICAN
POETRY FROM THE UNIVERSITY PRESSES)




March 30, 2010

Luggage

she carries her eyes from country to country
in Rome adding the crisp slant of sky
as earlier she gathered crowds of coffee cups
frothing hot miles a scared man with a name tag
planted firmly on one shoulder
rows of empty chairs buckled cases
and the bags from India tied and tied with rope
as she gets older the luggage grows
lighter and heavier together
strange how the soil absorbs water
and is quickly dry again
how the filled room points to the window
haggard smiles of waiting strangers
brief flash and falling back to separateness
how much everyone is carrying
moving belt the artifacts expand
now a basket of apricots
a mini-stove from England
an Italian grandfather weeps on the shoulder
of his glorious departing girl
the woman takes it in thinking
how this world has everything and offers it
how it is good we only have two hands

--Naomi Shihab Nye

(published in FUEL)




March 29, 2010

Song of the Barren Orange Tree

Woodcutter,
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.

Why was I born among mirrors?
The day walks in circles around me,
and the night copies me
in all its stars.

I want to live without seeing myself.
And I will dream that ants
and thistleburrs are my
leaves and my birds.

Woodcutter,
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.

--Federico Garcia Lorca

(published in THE SELECTED POEMS OF
translated by W.S. Merwin)




March 28, 2010

Luck of the Draw

Witching on dry land is prophecy,
and drilling a well, creation.
Pipes of our neighbors' wells dry up,
and they auction all they own.
We seed each angry cloud
and dance each dance with weather.

When it's time to irrigate dry crops,
we crank an old Ford engine
and pump the purest water
up from nothing we've ever seen,
pouring our luck over fields
flat as the moon.

The Ogallala aquifer drops
three feet each season,
and nothing we know brings water
out of stone. Home is a casino
of chance and choice,
four arms that hold each other.

--Walter McDonald

(published in COUNTING SURVIVORS)

 

 



March 27, 2010

O Taste and See

Because of a kiss on the forehead
in the long Night's infirmary,
through the red wine let light shine deep.
Because of the thirtysix just men
that so stealthily roam this earth
raise high the glass and do not weep.
Who says the world is not a wedding?
Couples, in their oases, lullabye.
Let glass be full before they sleep.
Toast all that which seems to vanish
like a rainbow stared at, those bright
truant things that will not keep;
and ignorance of the last night
of our lives, its famished breathing.
Then, in the red wine, taste the light.

--Dannie Absee

(published in NEW AND COLLECTED POEMS )




March 26, 2010

Lullaby

Each morning I finish my coffee,
And climb the stairs to the charts,
Hoping yours will be filed away.
But you can't hear me,
You can't see yourself clamped
Between this hard plastic binder:
Lab reports and nurses' notes, a sample
In a test tube. I keep reading
These terse comments: stable as before,
Urine output still poor, respiration normal.
And you keep on poisoning
Yourself, your kidneys more useless
Than seawings drenched in an oil spill.
I find my way to your room
And lean over the bedrails
As though I can understand
Your wheezed-out framents.
What can I do but check
Your tubes, feel your pulse, listen
To your heartbeat insistent
As a spoiled child who goes on begging?
Old man, listen to me:
Let me take you in a wheelchair
To the back room of the records office,
Let me lift you in my arms
And lay you down in the cradle
Of a clean manila folder.

--Jon Mukand

(published in ON DOCTORING)




March 25, 2010

Nightfall

With a plunk, like the old drunken poet
falling into a stream, we're suddenly drenched
with darkness. No one expected a plunge,
the free fall into some other element.
It takes a while to find balance. Out
on the porch, we lie on deck chairs,

weary passengers to somewhere else.
Mt. Tam bundles down under flannel blankets,
like us, as Venus appears in a cat's cradle
of phone wires. Upland Berkeley—
street light hums, jasmine and verbena,
cars struggling through their gears up Marin.

I try to describe those tiny
rainbow shells that bury themselves
in Florida sand. You tell about
a cove in Hawaii, bright fish,
then suddenly a crowd of dolphins
surrounds you. Being among them.

Something unimagined happens, some leap
of the heart dropping its old scales,
tired fish, that wasn't expecting
a voyage, just wanted to be tucked in
to its berth, wanted a bedtime story,
wanted one light left on.

--Alice Jones

(publinshed in THE CORTLAND REVIEW)




March 24, 2010

The Breaking of Rainbows

Oil is spilling down the little stream
Below the bridge. Heavy and slow as blood,
Or with an idiot's driveling contempt:
The spectral film unfolding, spreading forth
Prismatically in a breaking of rainbows,
Reflective radiance, marble evanescence,
It shadows the secret moves the water makes,
Creeping upstream again, then prowling down,
Sometimes asleep in the dull corners, combed
As the deep grass is combed in the stream's abandon,
And sometimes tearing open silently
Its seamless fabric in momentary shapes
Unlikened and nameless as the shapes of sky
That open with the drift of cloud, and close,
High in the lonely mountains, silently.
The curve and glitter of it as it goes
The maze of its pursuit, reflect the water
In agony under the alien, brilliant skin
It struggles to throw off and finally does
Throw off, on its frivolous purgatorial fall
Down to the sea and away, dancing and singing
Perpetual intercession for this filth--
Leaping and dancing and singing, forgiving everything.

--Howard Nemerov

(published in THE WINTER LIGHTNING)




March 23, 2010

Green Rose Tan

Poverty is still sacred. Christian
and political candles burn before it
for a little longer. But secretly
poverty revered is poverty outlived:
childhoods among bed-ticking midnights
blue as impetigo mixture, through the grilles,
cotton-rancid contentments of exhaustion
around Earth's first kerosene lamp
indoors out of wet root-crop fields.
Destitution's an antique. The huge-headed
are sad chaff blown my military bohemians.
Their thin metal bowls are filled or not
from the sky by deodorised descendants
of a tart-tongued womb-noticing noblesse
in the goffered hair-puddings of God's law
who pumped pioneer bouillons with a potstick,
or of dazzled human muesli poured from ships
under the milk of smoke and decades.
The mass rise into dignity and comfort
was the true modern epic, black and white
dwarfing red, on the way to green rose tan.
Green rose tan that the world is coming to,
land's colour as seen from space
and convergent human skin colour, it rises
out of that unwarlike epic, in the hours
before intellect refracts and disdains it,
of those darker and silver-skinned, for long ages
humbly, viciously poor, our ancestors,
still alive in India, in Africa, in ghettoes.
Ancestors, ours, on the kerb in meshed-glass towns.

--Les Murray

(published in SUBHUMAN REDNECK POEMS)





March 22, 2010

To Waken an Old Lady

Old age is
a flight of small
cheeping birds
skimming
bare trees
above a snow glaze.
Gaining and failing
they are buffeted
by a dark wind--
But what?
On harsh weedstalks
the flock has rested,
the snow
is covered with broken
seedhusks
and the wind tempered
by a shrill
piping of plenty.

--William Carlos Williams

 



March 21, 2010

Destinations

The Dalai Lama suggests that
happiness is compassion
found within but
not about ourselves.
An acquaintance believes that
the tramp she found dead in
the alley behind her apartment
was meant to support her
intention to move where
she is less likely to see
things like that.
I hope she moves quickly
because some homeless men
are my friends and deserve
to be part of more
important decisions.
I have not asked directly,
but I suspect the Dalai Lama
would say that it
does not matter where we
live or die but how
gracefully we move on,
leaving behind everything
we thought we
could not be without.

--Scott Lubbock

(published in ON THE WAY TO WATER)




March 20, 2010

I Know a Man

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,--John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

--Robert Creeley

(published in COMTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETRY
edited by Donald Hall)




March 19, 2010

Olivera Street

We wanted to walk on the only cobbles in L.A.,
smell the clay yellow gourds, lacquered chilies,
get away from a wife and old lover,
feel the thud of guitars on our chests,
eat corn meal and spiced rolled beef,
like families in the picnic ads...
you felt so good you teased me
into having my fortune told
(as if the room had rules for us)...
she said she could tell I had something to hide,
reading my eyes, or the sweat in my palms,
or looking at you smiling beside me,
but we didn't care--we'd lost our tickets back
and forgot where we came from--
just two of the hundreds trying
to be for a while like the others.

--Ron Linder

(published in DANCER STAY OUT!)




March 18, 2010

St. Peter and the Angel

Delivered out of raw continual pain,
smell of darkness, groans of those others
to whom he was chained--

unchained, and led
past the sleepers,
door after door silently opening--
out!
And along a long street's
majestic emptiness under the moon:

one hand on the angel's shoulder, one
feeling the air before him,
eyes open but fixed . . .

And not till he saw the angel had left him,
alone and free to resume
the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of
what he had still to do,
not till then did he recognize
this was no dream. More frightening
than arrest, than being chained to his warders:
he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.
Had the angel's feet
made any sound? He could not recall.
No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.
He himself must be
the key, now, to the next door,
the next terrors of freedom and joy.

--Denise Levertov




March 17, 2010

Bittersweet Nightshade

It has been months since I could walk this far.
At noon the fencerow thick with bittersweet
nightshade flashes with summer sun. There are
no clouds, no fleeting deer, no swirls of breeze,
nothing I remember from the last time
I was here. Now I lean my cane against
a post, lying back where the long stems climb
and scramble over everything that rests

in their way. I love to see these blue stars.
Their five points bend back to reveal a blunt
golden cone nestled in the heart of leaf
where in this light long shadows run like tears.
The wide yellow berries starting to run
toward red are the exact color of grief.

--Floyd Skloot


(published in BITTERSWEET NIGHTSHADE)




March 16, 2010

The Long Goodbye

Couldn't love, isn't loved, will love:
I'm afraid our time for today is up.
You're welcome. Help yourself to a second cup.
(She slipped off her body like a glove.)

Whatever happens, you mustn't lose hope.
The truth takes time but can be seen;
The answer is on the blackboard, which is green.
Why do you think they call it dope?

Keep in mind that the odds are long, and if
Some of us are not impressed
And some can't wait to get undressed,
Proceed as best you can. Keep a stiff

Upper lip. Under the knowledge tree
Don't ask the snake
If he thinks you're making a mistake.
What won't be, won't be.

As the sun goes on going west,
Indifferent to shades of black and white,
Be sure to murmur a last good night
And lie down and take your beauty rest.

--David Lehman

(published in AN ALTERNATIVE TO SPEECH)




March 15, 2010

Soloing

My mother tells me she dreamed
of John Coltrane, a young Trane
playing his music with such joy
and contained energy and rage
she could not hold back her tears.
And sitting awake now, her hands
crossed in her lap, the tears start
in her blind eyes. The TV set
behind her is gray, expressionless.
It is late, the neighbors quiet,
even the city--Los Angeles--quiet.
I have driven for hours down 99,
over the Grapevine into heaven
to be here. I place my left hand
on her shoulder, and she smiles.
What a world, a mother and son
finding solace in California
just where we were told it would
be, among the palm trees and all-
night super markets pushing orange
back-lighted oranges at 2 A.M.
"He was alone," she says, and does
not say, just as I am, "soloing."
What a world, a great man half
her age comes to my mother
in sleep to give her the gift
of song, which--shaking the tears
away--she passes on to me, for now
I can hear the music of the world
in the silence of that word:
soloing. What a world--when I
arrived the great bowl of mountains
was hidden in a cloud of exhaust,
the sea spread out like a carpet
of oil, the roses I had brought
from Fresno browned on the seat
beside me, and I could have
turned back and lost the music.

--Philip Levine

(published in WHAT WORK IS)
 



March 14, 2010

I Wake Up, Having Dreamed of Snow

My head in the wall where it belongs,
my feet beneath the covers, I recall
watching the mail carrier sliding
on his bicycle, expertly turning
between stalled cars, hollering
like a child or fool, Yahoo! Yahoo!
Surely I will carry this disappointment
all day, this feeling of being interrupted
at the critical moment--knees bent,
sled in my gloved hands--at the top
of a long, glistening, white, illogical hill.

-- Joseph Green

(published in DELUXE MOTEL)

 


March 13, 2010

Transfiguration

Underpants
lying limp, shapeless
on the bathroom floor

Shoes scattered
by ones and twos
throughout the house

Yesterday's newspaper
in disarray
over the library rug

Earrings and watch,
keys and glasses
chronically mislaid

These common objects
once grew Dragon size
inflamed my senses

But through a gradual
Transfiguration
they have become

Small and comforting
reminders of you,
who from the beginning

Accepted
with minimal complaints
my psoriatic scales

And all other less
genetically programmed
errors.

--John Wright

(published in BLOOD & BONE)




March 12, 2010

Cinderella

Her imaginary playmate was a grown-up
In sea-coal satin. The flame-blue glances,
The wings gauzy as the membrane that the ashes
Draw over an old ember--as the mother
In a jug of cider--were a comfort to her.
They sat by the fire and told each other stories.
"What men want..." said the godmother softly--
How she went on it is hard for a man to say.
Their eyes, on their Father, were monumental marble.
Then they smiled like two old women, bussed each other,
Said, "Gossip, gossip"; and, lapped in each other's looks,
Mirror for mirror, drank a cup of tea.
Of cambric tea. But there is a reality
Under the good silk of the good sisters'
Good ball gowns. She knew...Hard-breasted, naked-eyed,
She pushed her silk feet into glass, and rose within
A gown of imaginary gauze. The shy prince drank
A toast to her in champagne from her slipper
And breathed, "Bewitching!" Breathed, "I am bewitched!"
--She said to her godmother, "Men!"
And, later, looking down to see her flesh
Look back up from under lace, the ashy gauze
And pulsing marble of a bridal veil,
She wished it all a widow's coal-black weeds.
A sullen wife and reluctant mother,
She sat all day in silence by the fire.
Better, later, to stare past her sons' sons,
Her daughters' daughters, and tell stories to the fire.
But best, dead, damned, to rock forever
Beside Hell's fireside--to see within the flames
The Heaven to whose gold-gauzed door there comes
A little dark old woman, the God's Mother,
And cries, "Come in, come in! My son's out now,
Out now, will be back soon, may be back never,
Who knows, eh? We know what they are--men, men!
But come, come in till then! Come in till then!"

--Randall Jarrell

(published in RANDALL JARRELL SELECTED POEMS
edited by William H. Pritchard)
 



March 11, 2010

Holy Gray Rising

When I last saw Todd Malcolm
he was stepping through the Pan Am gate
in tunneled fluorescence
for the Peace Corps in Zaire.
I gave him a Field and Stream,
said I'd send Crystal Light and Valium.
Write. What else to say? Yeah. And if you're sick,
get out. But for god's sake, I only wanted him to land
and gouge the lowland clay
for the carp pond he dreamt continuously
high.
I was eating cereal at dawn
when the phone rang. Todd's dead.
It was drizzling
but I went fishing anyway. Still nothing,
rereading his last letter,
nothing about the drought.
I would've signaled back to Zaire, to black men standing
on the split mud, to women
beating the dust into clouds. The rain is coming,
I'd yell. Call the Pond Man back!
Todd walked--the African lightning
too beautiful to miss, and dazzled gazelles
flashed blue over gravel. The acacia's furrowed bark
arched, and there was one loose branch I believe
he saw and wanted for a staff. Then lightning struck
and the tree exploded
burning twenty million volts back to me,
out grounded, drifting off the bank,
drinking black New York coffee.
One pond filling, finally.
A holy gray rising between us.

--Henry Hughes

(published in MEN HOLDING EGGS)
 



March 10, 2010

How to Eat a Villanelle

First, pull the pinchers off; then shake its shell
to shrug the flesh out. Read the recipe:
With villanelles, you must eat bones and all.

Broast in a genteel slime, chilled consomme';
extrude the guts in strips: 5 a's, 6 b's
Pull the pinchers, then shake its shell.

I've taken waking slow, I've taken ale--
long naps, cathartics, aspirin, liberties--
with villanelles. (You must eat bones and all.)

My remedies, nightmares, and raped refrains
are stuffed with iambs, slick consistencies.
Pull the pinchers off; then shake. Its shell

is jointed; clamp both claws down at the tail.
Sinews should sheathe the frame. Temper your teeth:
with villanelles you must eat bones and all.

Serve the stuffing steaming in the skull,
garnish with nuts, add pepper by degrees.
Now pull the pinchers off, and shake its shell;
With villanelles, you must eat bones and all.

--Robin Seyfried

(published in THE SEATTLE REVIEW vol XX, #2)




March 9, 2010
Breakfast at Sessions
--for Roland

Frank tells Kathy cows are scattered
across Highway 75, but Kathy says,
"Like hell," chops the spatula edge
on the grill and no eggs are going over
easy today. She flips hash browns,
points our way and paints a streak
out the south window, says,
"Butler killed those kids. His bull."
I whisper, "Whose bull, what kids?"
I want Roland to ask. This is his cafe.
She serves his #3 eggs hard
and points the hot sauce toward Obsidian,
says, "Must have been September,
morning like this, little fog, some frost.
No one told you?"
Roland shakes his head.
She's got both hands
on the pumice. The grease from the grill
hasn't a chance. She rubs black to black,
scratches some stain on the highway.
"Kids out for a weekend. He was twenty-four,
she just nineteen. They'd camped at Red Fish.
His bull fills the entire south lane.
Bastard's fences fail again."
Roland pushes me his toast and Kathy slaps
two more packets of grape jelly to the counter.
"Two kids killed, he sits and drinks,
his fences half gone.
Frank runs Butler's herd off the highway
regular as salsa on eggs."
Rusty Butler. Rusty Butler, again
his name crackles on asphalt,
the hide of that bull, motorcycle tires,
Kathy's grill.

--Kevin Miller
(published in LIGHT THAT WHISPERS MORNING)

March 8, 2010
A Red Glove

A red glove,
ragged and pale,
rests on a chair

with all it has
imagined
touched.

At its own command,
it will begin
to squeeze the air

for the crimson
the roses
are dreaming.

--Tom McKeown
(published in THREE HUNDRED TIGERS)

March 7, 2010
Farms at Auction

Bidders from out of state drop by and stare.
They kick our neighbor's clods
and wade mirages like walking on water.
My barn a mile away appears to burn.

My neighbor's barbed wires shimmer,
his cattle blur, about to disappear.
Three years hailed out, he's quitting,
enough debt to break his children,

enough silage in his silo to feed one winter cow.
The auctioneer calls gimme, gimme,
all he owns gone twice and sold,
even the dirt, the oaks his father planted.

I remember summer clouds a mile away,
bubbles a dozen churches prayed for.
I envied his rain, the downpour I wanted,
nothing but thunder for my parched stalks.

I didn't hear the hail, too busy cursing rain
to count my blessings. Sheered off,
his stubble rots. His beds are gone,
his trunks and keepsakes, hauled off to town

in a trailer returned to the farm for auction.
The man with wide suspenders kisses a bullhorn,
a sideshow barker. And loaded with luck
we gather close and watch some bidder

poke our neighbor's plows and tractor,
his wife's best tablecloths
like touching her robes and dresses
to satisfy himself they're silk.

-- Walter McDonald
(published in COUNTING SURVIVORS)

March 6, 2010
Long Distance
You call her from town
and know enough about the nature
of phones to prepare in advance
what you are going to say.
You imagine the place
she lives, watch her head
turn toward the ringing,
drying her hands on a dishtowel
as she walks, reaching
for the receiver.
No answer.
You picture her sitting
cross-legged on the couch,
listening to the ringing,
but looking at her nails,
knowing it is you, wondering
why you don’t hang up, why
you stand green and red
in the 7-11 lights, listening
to a phone ringing miles away.

--John Calvin Hughes

March 5, 2010
Revelation

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone find us really out.

'Tis pity of the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

--Robert Frost
(published in A BOY'S WILL)

March 4, 2010
Retired Ballerinas, Central Park West

Retired ballerinas on winter afternoons
walking their dogs
in Central Park West
(or their cats on leashes--
the cats themselves old highwire artists)
The ballerinas
leap and pirouette
through Columbus Circle
while winos on park benches
(laid back like drunken Goudonovs)
hear the taxis trumpet together
like horsemen of the apocalypse
in the dusk of the gods
It is the final witching hour
when swains are full of swan songs
And all return through the dark dusk
to their bright cells
in glass highrises
or sit down to oval cigarettes and cakes
in the Russian Tea Room
or climb four flights in back rooms
in Westside brownstones
where faded playbill photos
fall peeling from their frames
like last year's autumn leaves
--Lawrence Ferlinghetti
(published in ENDLESS LIFE: SELECTED POEMS)


March 3, 2010
Where I Came From

My dad put me in my mother
but he didn't pick me out.
I am my own quick woman.
What drew him to my mother?
Beating his drumsticks
he thought--why not?
And he gave her an umbrella.
Their marriage was like that.
She hid ironically in her apron.
Sometimes she cried into the biscuit dough.
When she wanted to make a point
she would sing a hymn or old song.
He was loose-footed. He couldn't be counted on
until his pockets were empty.
When he was home the kettle drums,
the snare drum, the celeste,
the triangle throbbed.
While he changed their heads,
the drum skins soaked in the bathtub.
Collapsed and wrinkled, they floated
like huge used condoms.

--Ruth Stone
(published in SECOND HAND COAT)


March 2, 2010
The Possibility

The lizard on the wall, engrossed,
The sudden silence from the wood
Are telling me that I have lost
The possibility of good.
I know this flower is beautiful
And yesterday it seemed to be.
It opened like a crimson hand.
It was not beautiful to me.
I know that work is beautiful.
It is a boon. It is a good.
Unless my working were a way
Of squandering my solitude.
And solitude was beautiful
When I was sure that I was strong.
I thought it was a medium
In which to grow, but I was wrong.
The jays are swearing in the wood.
The lizard moves with ugly speed.
The flower closes like a fist.
The possibility recedes.
--James Fenton
(published in OUT OF DANGER)


March 1, 2010
A Ritual Mouse
The mouse in the cupboard repeats himself.
Every morning he lies upside down
Astonished at the violence of the spring
That has tumbled him and the flimsy trap again.
His beady expressionless eyes do not speak
Of the terrible moment we sleep through.
Sometimes a little blood runs from his mouth,
Small and dry like his person.
I throw him into the laurel bush as being too small
To give the offenses that occasion burial.
It begins to be winter; he is a field mouse
And comes in, but how unwisely, from the cold.
Elsewhere now, and from their own points of view,
Cats and poisoners are making the same criticism:
He seems no wiser for having been taken
A dozen nights running. He looks weak;
Given a subtler trap he might have informed
Or tried to bargain with whatever it is mice have.
Surely there is always that in experience
Which could warn us; and the worst
That can be said of any of us is:
He did not pay attention.
--William Meredith
(published in THE PREMIER BOOK OF MAJOR POETS
an anthology edited by Anita Dore)

March 31, 2009
Farmer's Son

Pushing up through the hill silhouette
like an awkward fungal bloom
full moon bulges yellow-orange
in its annual promise of harvest.
A bounty spring's first spade-turn forcast
with scores of wriggling, ringed worms.

Tonight's clear sky arms autumn
with frost to oust another summer.
But not before the fluted orange
pumpkin squash are loaded
to bob the highway like fall leaves
streaming a river's ocean ride.

All my love feels like this:
heaped by fists pumping
clenched, then open,
into wagons sneaking off
to broadcast the harvest
a heart had promised.

--Tim Van Ert
(published in Seeds On a Wind Ride)

March 30, 2009
ONE MORE HOUR SERVED UP

At the close of another eight-hour play
I sit on knotty pine slip-proofed by asphalt roofing
to view the world according to our back door steps:
lights dim as the sun melts past suggestion,
then -- just in time to pacify a restless attention --
starlight pokes between hickory's top branches
like teats from Bushy's white fur underbelly.
Opening score from sandy surf orchestra
sends crescendos over coastal redwoods
to human ears buoying above haunches
at this hobo junction where fat cat gobbles kibble,
opossum and raccoon ransack garbage
and Bushy and Joey spill drool
over even the most absent-minded touch.
Minutes are ladled like bean soup at the Gospel Mission;
each foghorn blow a measure of what's left in the pot.
Anticipation, a swollen balloon, breaks
as three-quarter moon is seen to glide past
tissues of fog crouched on forest's black matting --
deep woods ghosts daring its audience
to enter the dark hours of a world unexplored.
--Tim Van Ert

March 29, 2009
SONOGRAM

On the night of the Leonid meteor shower, you already
a sweet burning in your mother's womb, your parents and I
walked after midnight to a rise in the town cemetery
where we stood shivering among a Milky Way of gravestones,
eyes pitched skyward, and watched stars like seeds of flame
plunge soundless to the horizon--so many that I began to feel
sheepish from shouting Look! over and over.
Which is what I keep saying about your first "picture",
your head and face, swirls of light against dark, like a distant
galaxy coming suddenly into focus--reminding me that
my awe that November night was as much for the accretion
of your bones from dust the same as the stars,
their light the light of your face streaming towards us.
Little star, you who were always there, finally we see you.
--Anne W. Richey
(published in JAMA Vol. 292 No. 15 October 20, 2004)

March 28, 2009
ALCATRAZ

When I was a girl, I knew I was a man
because they might send me to Alcatraz
and only men went to Alcatraz.
Every time we drove to the city I'd
see it there, white as a white
shark in the shark-rich Bay, the bars like
milk-white ribs. I knew I had pushed my
parents too far, my inner badness had
spread like ink and taken me over, I could
not control my terrible thoughts,
terrible looks, and they had often said
they would send me there--maybe the very next
time I spilled my milk, Ala
Cazam, the iron doors would slam, I'd be
there where I belonged, a girl-faced man in the
prison no one had escaped from. I did not
fear the other prisoners,
I knew who they were, men like me who had
spilled their milk one time too many,
not been able to curb their thoughts--
what I feared was the horror of the circles: circle of
sky around the earth, circle of
land around the Bay, circle of
water around the island, circle of
sharks around the shore, circle of
outer walls, inner walls,
iron girders, steel bars,
circle of my cell around me, and there at the
center, the glass of milk and the guard's
eyes upon me as I reached out for it.
--Sharon Olds
(published in The Gold Cell)

March 27, 2009
POET'S ALCHEMY

Divulge the particulars,
reveal universals.
--Tim Van Ert
(from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
Profound Dittycism)

March 26, 2009
READER'S HAMMOCK

Mound-rippled, pine and scrub oak rendezvous:
wind’s sighs of self-satisfaction blow
(like Nature on a reed instrument)
through yellow and green leaves.
Sounds like hang your hammock here to me.
I imagine Ponderosas pleading their privilege
to cradle book laden human weight,
and peg them like two common thieves--
the eye hooks hold strong.
Sticky tears of incense dry quickly in the summer heat.
Hemp lines steel themselves to tug-of-war
with the gravity they serve to relieve.
Then the wind slows and allows me
to turn the white leaves without struggle.
. Suspended here, every story breathes and moves.
The midnight freight yard with paint cans and markers twitching,
a dark corner crumpled by cans of beer,
writer assailed at the Nairobi lake shore for an algebra lesson and
legs above back, choosing which triplet to "sacrifice."
Eyes close now, stories continue.
--Tim Van Ert
(from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)

March 25, 2009
NEWBORN

As I blow bubbles
onto infant tummy,
she blows laughter
back into mine.
--Tim Van Ert
(from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
Profound Dittycism)

March 24, 2009
D'ORSAY

Looming airplane hangar's
swollen, arching innards
bears a runway within
inviting us take wing to hover
among our stone and bronzed brethren.
They do not move as we,
if alike in stillness seem--
displaying fluid grace in Art
while our moves betray
how we from Grace did part.
If we could just be still,
stand here perfectly still,
in quiet long enough
might we not easily fly
in flesh-statue rebuff?
Outside it's the metros,
the concrete and sandals
must handle our mobile weights.
Knowing draws us inside
where vast airspace awaits.
--Tim Van Ert
(from Create that Love that Love Creates)

March 23, 2009
TIPI SWEAT

Sweat lodge poles raised and covered
wait to close tipi's canvas mouth
after the fire tender joins
the dozen dim-white forms inside
angled toward their gaps like beggar's teeth.
Initiated by ten stones passed
red hot on pitchfork tines,
sweat-immersion baptism begins
melting helter-skelter thoughts.
Water bowl passes, lip to sweat-confused lip.
As anger flares up from Carol's gut
she spits out her water share.
Rocks steam while she speaks--
mouthful of rancid kisses
after his final door slam.
Six more sizzling stones enter--
a signal the chanting can begin.
Each person has a prayer to offer
in the sounds bodies produce
with tongues freed from words.
--Tim Van Ert
(published in Seeds on a Wind Ride)

March 22, 2009
FURNACE LABOR

Liquid red iron races hot
down the runners, cools
to sluggish silver; crusts
into immobility.
Sweating, we sledge it,
and shovel the hot chunks
into wheel barrows.
The boards we stand on
to protect our shoes flame up
under our soles.
Once I crouch too low
to the iron, lift,
and dump. A white light
hugs the furnace greens
around my knee and thigh
like sunlight shafting
into the cast house. Misty
and liquid, the gleams
thicken, unearthly blue
water rising. It takes me
a few seconds
to realize I'm burning.

--Peter Blair
(published in Last Heat)

March 21, 2009
A PHOENIX AT FIFTY

At new age fifty
turn toward an old self
and rock on my back in a torn green hammock
deep in a ruined garden
where first the sweet birds sang
behind a white wood cottage
at Montecito Santa Barbara
stink in sea-vine succulents
under huge old eucalyptrees
wind blows white sunlight thru
A mute ruined statue of a nymph dancing
turns in sun
as if to sing 'When day is done'
It is not
A helicopter flies
out of an angle of the sun
its windmill choppers waving
thru the waving treetops
thru which the hot wind blows & blows
pure desire made of light
I float on my back in the sea of it
and gaze straight up into eye-white sky
and into eyes of one beloved whispering
'Let
me
in'
Too bright
too bright!
I close my eyes
lest sun thru such lenses
set me afire
but the blown light batters thru
lids and lashes
I burn and leave
no ashes
Yet will arise

--Lawrence Ferlinghetti
(published in Endless Life: Selected Poems)

March 20, 2009
DUSTING EARTH IN RETURN
Bees that have found a rich source,
return to the hive and perform a
waggle dance to recruit other bees.
-- Starr and Taggart
Insects winging a fate
we humans seem to fear
invite trepidation
as they bob everywhere--
swarmy venom squadrons
etched eerily in air.
Somehow knowing their tasks
(always moving, busy)
perfect wax cells are filled
in waltz-like harmony
with sticky, royal mead
or sister sibs-to-be.
Indeed, is it not I
who flits flower to flower
packing in the pollen
heedless of my power
to combine and create,
to nourish a culture?
Winging sticky-footed
to alight the Queen's door
I drop what I've gathered
for it is mine no more.
So how am I to know
just what I do this for?
We greet in buzz and dance--
expressions known, not learned.
Our mind is a social
teeming that does not yearn
as we crawl over petals
dusting earth in return.
--Tim Van Ert
(published in Scarabogram)

March 19, 2009
LAUGHING MATTERS

I believe in no beginning to laughter
As there is no end to tears.
We are birthed and bosomed to infinity
Laughter bearing all those years.
I'm beginning to believe eternally
As I hide behind my fears
Soon you'll proffer me everything
I've known all these years.
Give the child your candlelight,
Light a child's earth.
Be now with your presence
At this being's birth
The reacher and the teacher
Providing all through mirth.
--Tim Van Ert
(from Collected Words)

March 18, 2009
CAREFUL
All those mistakes
devised in haste
are all it takes
a soul to waste.
--Tim Van Ert
(from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
Profound Dittycism)

March 17. 2009
HERE LIES GOD

Each one a dusty speck
hoping to burn out brightly
like the trillion grains'
shooting star demise--
flicker flames through
back-moon-lit clouded sky.
Each harbors unnumbered
nerve cell connections
firing in a Milky Way brain
to carry God,
like the million million galaxies,
to repeated deaths.
Under the weight of mighty
wonder each one lies;
with our chaos of synapses
we flawed creators stare
through God's billions of eyes.
Each of the eight billion striving
to know the unimaginable,
part of the eight billion tries
to re-create the universe on earth,
are God-particles somehow
(puzzling as the smirking moon)
able to manufacture
what the trillion trillion God
can never create:
a lie.
Simple as sand,
complex as mind,
come cries before the final surprise;
God must look at that
co-created in each of us--
the lies.
--Tim Van Ert
(from Nothing Else Matters)

March 16, 2009
HILLSIDE FORMATON

Slashes of parallel lines open
like slatted blinds to reveal
chalky columns of vertebral stone
which awaken a fantasy that the earth
has exposed herself
because of a bawdy lust
for the stares of bipeds.
--Tim Van Ert
(from Nothing Else Matter)

March 15, 2009
Walking Out of the Treasury Building

Lord, the air smells good today, straight from the mysteries
within the inner courts of God.
A grace like new clothes thrown
across the garden, free medicine for everybody.
The trees in their prayer, the birds in praise,
the first blue violets kneeling.
Whatever came from Being is caught up in being, drunkenly
forgetting the way back.
One man turns and sees his birth
pulling separate from the others.
He fills with light, and colors change here.
He drinks it in, and everyone is wonderfully
drunk, shining with his beauty.
I can't really say that I feel the pain of others,
when the whole world seems so sweet.
Face to face with a lion, I grow leonine.
Walking out of the Treasury building, I feel generous.
Anyone still sober in this weather must be afraid
of people, afraid what they'll say.
Enough talking. If we eat too much greenery,
we're going to smell like vegetables.
--Rumi
(published in OPEN SECRET)

March 14, 2009
A Woman in Front of a Bank

The bank is a matter of columns,
like . convention,
unlike invention; but the pediments
sit there in the sun

to convince the doubting of
investments “solid
as rock”—upon which the world
stands, the world of finance,

the only world: Just there,
talking with another woman while
rocking a baby carriage
back and forth stands a woman in

a pink cotton dress, bare legged
and headed whose legs
are two columns to hold up
her face, like Lenin’s (her loosely

arranged hair profusely blond) or
Darwin’s and there you
have it:
a woman in front of a bank.

--William Carlos Williams

(published in Selected Poems)

March 13, 2009
FEAR IS ONE WAY WE DIE

"Decelerate into
then accelerate out of
trouble,"
Grandpa John recounted
before I was old enough to drive.
His advice proved true
for my Kawasaki on California's
coastal Highway One:
leaning
down into
then rising
up out of
each curve on that road.
So I applied it to my heart:
slowing down to civilized
when courting,
then getting out quickly
when I feared danger.
Was that meant as a lesson for life,
I wish to ask him now,
or just a driving rule?
Either way, the bike taught me
no looking back over the shoulder.
It's scan left,
check right,
then straight ahead.
--Tim Van Ert
(published in Poet Speak)

March 12, 2009
SIMMERING

The day's last few patients
straggle from their rooms,
pause for pleasant small talk
with nurses, then 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.
--Tim Van Ert
(from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)

March 11, 2009
GENIUS
E=mc2
Translates as,
"Speed of light:
Ten smiles
Per glower."
--Tim Van Ert
(from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
Profound Dittycism)

March 10, 2009
WE LONG IN EXILE

As some live to serve,
we breathe to sustain
ecstasy.
All stand at the whY
reaching for an arm
to pull away from failure
or avoid imagined
harm
while we fear
nothing
but the noisy farm
where sweaty toil
boils over in
waves
creating undertows
of their own
demise.
--Tim Van Ert

March 9, 2009
RIDING THE RIVER ROAD

Even if a town has one snaking
dangerous as the Missouri at night,
many have not seen the River Road--
it does not lead downtown or to a mall.
But, even better than that road,
dawn's fishermen know the river's banks:
it's slippery softness likely explored more
than their wives at home in bed.
Last century's trappers kicked out a trickle,
a trail later flooded with asphalt.
Next year River Road's shoulders get padded--
bicycles are back in fashion.
When wheeled barges rumble past,
shaking bike and rider like lapped driftwood,
I will close my eyes just long enough
to become Huck Finn heading south.
--Tim Van Ert
(published in Seeds On a Wind Ride)

March 8, 2009
THE STOLEN BRANCH

In the night we shall go in
to steal
a flowering branch.
We shall climb over the wall
in the darkness of the alien garden,
two shadows in the shadow.
Winter is not yet gone,
and the apple tree appears
suddenly changed
into a cascade of fragrant stars.
In the night we shall go in
up to its trembling firmament,
and your little hands and mine
will steal the stars.
And silently,
to our house,
in the night and the shadow,
with your steps will enter
perfume's silent step
and with starry feet
the clear body of spring.
--Pablo Neruda
(published in The Captain's Verses)


March 7, 2009
ARKANSAS

There is a deep brooding
in Arkansas.
Old crimes like moss pend
from poplar trees.
The sullen earth
is much too
red for comfort.
Sunrise seems to hesitate
and in that second
lose its
incandescent aim, and
dusk no more shadows
than the noon.
The past is brighter yet.
Old hates and
ante-bellum lace, are rent
but not discarded.
Today is yet to come
in Arkansas.
It writhes. It writhes in awful
waves of brooding.
--Maya Angelou
(published in And Still I Rise)

March 6, 2009
NOTHING ELSE MATTERS

God grant me the audacity to look for those things
others assume you have hidden,
the strength to do it on blind faith
during the droughts
and the wisdom to know
nothing else matters.
--Tim Van Ert
(from Nothing Else Matters)

March 5, 2009
RUMPELSTILTSKIN

Straw into gold, straw into gold--
If you are so bold.
This the way (so I am told):
Straw into gold, straw into gold.

Straw into god, straw into gold--
Young man be so bold!
The burning bush dispels soul's cold.
Thus we all grow old:
Straw into god, straw into gold.
--Tim Van Ert
(from Create That Love That Love Creates)

March 4, 2009
TIRED HANDS

Lies are the hired hands
recruited by my mind
to dig feeling's grave.
--Tim Van Ert
(From A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
Profound Dittycism)
March 3, 2009
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 trillium
defies the darkness forming behind it.
--Tim Van Ert
(from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)
March 2, 2009
CAN'T FACE IT

If I should waken
before I die,

slap me in the face
and ask me why.
--Tim Van Ert
(from A First Collection of Hai-Choo--Little Sneezes of
Profound Dittycism)

March 1, 2009
IT PLEASES

Far above the dome
Of the capitol--
It's true!
A large bird soars
Against white cloud,
Wings arced,
Sailing easy in this
humid Southern sun-blurred
breeze--
the dark-suited policeman
watches tourist cars--
And the center,
The center of power is nothing!
Nothing here.
Old white stone domes,
Strangely quiet people,
Earth-sky-bird patterns
idly interlacing
The world does what it pleases.
Washington D.C. XI:73
--Gary Snyder
(published in Turtle Island)