Poems of the Month

                                                                MAY  2013

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

May 5, 2013

                                        Morning Light
 

                                        You will creep in silent shadows

                                        Of all those past

                                        Daring not to disturb

                                        The crowd as they chant unknown elegies

                                        For your sons and daughters
 

                                        Raise your head, unfold your arms

                                        Lift you voice above the crowd

                                        Through your conscience you have come to know

                                        The sound of tomorrow awakening
 

                                        A lark sang

                                        You were awakened from your slumber

                                        Were not the trees dancing in the wind?

                                        How could you not listen to the roaring sound

                                        Of the eagle soaring effortlessly

                                        Above your eyes?
 

                                        Let your tongue taste the rumble

                                        Of these threatening skies

                                        Thunder and lightning bring tears to my eyes

                                        Shedding no tears you look away
 

                                        Will you ever know the serenity of peaceful skies?

                                        Let the clouds part

                                        And the morning star will spread its light

                                        On this desperate world
 

                                        For it takes no more light

                                        To bring hope

                                        Than a whole, minute flash

                                        Let the morning light dance in your eyes

                                        For it may be your destiny

                                        To dance with it
 

                                                                        John Henry Van Ert, Jr
 

                                                     UNPUBLISHED COLLECTION

 

May 27, 2012

READER'S HAMMOCK



Mound-rippled, pine and scrub oak rendezvous:

windís 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--

midnight freight yard paint cans, markers twitching;

a dark corner crumpled by cans of beer;

writer assailed at Nairobi lake for an algebra lesson;

legs above back, choosing which triplet to sacrifice.

 
Eyes close now, stories continue.


If You Live, Your Time Will Come

 

May 9, 2012

                                                                        FORGET SOME THINGS


                                                                         I forget some warnings
                                                                                     in the presence of beauty.

                                                                         Clematis' nursery instructions
                                                                                     remind of winter's freeze.

                                                                         Cat's mole-prey dumped in root hole
                                                                                     need not be an omen.

                                                                         But this December brought
                                                                                     such warm amnesia.

                                                                         Hope directs knowledge vacuums
                                                                                     to draw in lush beliefs,

                                                                         Such as how unpotted clematis roots,
                                                                                     finding perfect placement,

                                                                         Respond like young Olympians: sprinting
                                                                                     fragrant, flowered vines.

                                                                         If only bathroom's metal pipework
                                                                                     alone had frozen,

                                                                         Sweet clematis would not have withered black,
                                                                                     dropping curled leaves.

                                                                         But fingering green buds on twining limbs in spring
                                                                                     redeems challenged faith:

                                                                         Clematis will bloom again
                                                                                     through summer and fall.

                                                                            --if you live, your time will come

 

May 29, 2011

                                                                The Lady Bug
 

                                                                The day our daughter gets into college

                                                                a lady bug flies straight toward our bed

                                                                and lands on my pillow.  Head down,

                                                                it trudges along rapidly, its

                                                                furled wings sticking out the back

                                                                from under the red shell.  I wet

                                                                my thumb in tea, it mounts the thumb,

                                                                I hold still, as when first nursing,

                                                                breathing evenly.  After

                                                                a while it drips to the pillowcase

                                                                and noses like a scenter.  I touch some tea

                                                                to the taut percale and the lady bug

                                                                kneels in cow's milk and tannic acid, then a

                                                                joint buckles and it's lying on its rim

                                                                lapping souchong.  I fetch a plate

                                                                and a leaf, wistful to build it a cage,

                                                                raise it to reproductive age

                                                                and then raise its babies.  But it draws back,

                                                                lifting its feet up sharply from the icy

                                                                floral porcelain.  Then I remember

                                                                it's a carnivore, I get the swatter

                                                                and go hunting for it, stun a fly, half-

                                                                crush it and set it down.  The lady bug

                                                                rears up, fondles the wings,

                                                                rubs the fondle up its forearms, then

                                                                takes a tour of the whole creature

                                                                three times its size, licks the leg barbs,

                                                                noses into the anus, treads across the

                                                                bulbs of the eyes.  I lean over, and remember

                                                                the first days of our daughter's life

                                                                when I bent double over her cradle

                                                                as she slept, my tears odd, wild,

                                                                tropical spots on the cot-sheet,

                                                                I swore to her I'd raise her until in her strength she could leave me.
 

                                                                                            --Sharon Olds

                                                                                (THE WELLSPRING)

               

May 14, 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

                                                                                (in ON THE BLUE SHORE OF SILENCE)

 

May 8,2011

                                                        The Simple Truth


                                                        I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes,

                                                        took them home, boiled them in their jackets

                                                        and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.

                                                        Then I walked through the dried fields

                                                        on the edge of town.  In middle June the light

                                                        lung on in the dark furrows at my feet,

                                                        and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds

                                                        were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers

                                                        squawking back and forth, the finches still darting

                                                        into the dusty light.  The woman who sold me

                                                        the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone

                                                        out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses

                                                        praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables

                                                        at the road-side stand and urging me to taste

                                                        even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way,

                                                        she swore, from New Jersey.  "Eat, eat," she said,

                                                        "Even if you don't I'll say you did."

                                                                                                                Some things

                                                        you know all your life.  They are so simple and true

                                                        they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,

                                                        they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,

                                                        the glass of water, the absence of light gathering

                                                        in the shadows of picture frames, they must be

                                                        naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.

                                                        My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965

                                                        before I went away, before he began to kill himself,

                                                        and the two of us to betray our love.  Can you taste

                                                        what I'm saying?  It is onions or potatoes, a pinch

                                                        of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,

                                                        it stay in the back of your throat like a truth

                                                        you never uttered because the time was always wrong,

                                                        it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,

                                                        made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,

                                                        in a form we have no words for, and you live on it.
 

                                                                                                --Philip Levine

                                                        (from  THE SIMPLE TRUTH -- winner, Pulitzer Prize)

           

May 31, 2010

                                                        Absent with Official Leave


                                                        The lights are beginning to go out in the barracks.

                                                        They persist or return, as the wakeful hollow,

                                                        But only for a moment; then the windows blacken

                                                        For all the hours of the soldier's life.
 

                                                        It is life into which he composes his body.

                                                        He covers his ears with his pillow, and begins to drift

                                                        (Like the plumes the barracks trail into the sky)

                                                        Past the laughs, the quarrels, and the breath of others
 

                                                        To the ignorant countries where civilians die

                                                        Inefficiently, in their spare time, for nothing...

                                                        The curved roads hopping through the aimless green

                                                        Dismay him, and the cottages where people cry
 

                                                        For themselves and, sometimes, for the absent soldier--

                                                        Who inches through hedges where the hunters sprawl

                                                        For birds, for birds; who turns in ecstasy

                                                        Before the slow small fires the women light
 

                                                        His charmed limbs, all endearing from the tub.

                                                        He dozes, and the washed locks trail like flax

                                                        Down the dark face; the unaccusing eyes 

                                                        That even the dream's eyes are averted from


                                                        See the wind puff down the chimney, warm the hands

                                                        White with the blossoms it pretends are snow...

                                                        He moans like a bear in his enchanted sleep,

                                                        And the grave mysterious beings of his years--
 

                                                        The causes who mourn above his agony like trees--

                                                        Are moved for their child, and bend across his limbs

                                                        The one face opening for his life, the eyes

                                                        That look without shame even into his.


                                                        And the man awakes, and sees around his life

                                                        The night that is never silent, broken with the sighs

                                                        And patient breathing of the dark companions

                                                        With whom he labors, sleeps, and dies.
 

                                                                            --Randall Jarrell

                                                        (published in RANDALL JARRELL SELECTED POEMS)

                

May 30, 2010

                                                        In Maceio
 

                                                        She gave me the flowers--

                                                        two armfuls of red Iris backed with

                                                        fern fronds and this red, red of

                                                        parrot feathers, red

                                                        of a death shout, of any heart's

                                                        last breath.  She

                                                        gave me the flowers.

                                                        I said what are they called in

                                                        Portuguese?  She

                                                        smiled , shook her head and no one else

                                                        knew either.  But she wanted

                                                        me to know, she was giving me

                                                        the flowers.  Not just

                                                        decoration on the table behind which

                                                        I stood to tell the night students

                                                        about poetry in America.  They

                                                        were dying, these flowers, in the heat of

                                                        my English flowing over the tired students,

                                                        some of whom had driven three hours to

                                                        get there, students with

                                                        red eyes, eyes that had worked all day and

                                                        studied all night.  "But they're

                                                        stupid, these students," Eduardo said,

                                                        Eduardo who spent his nights

                                                        with them and had to

                                                        do it, though he meant to love them and

                                                        did, working two jobs himself--a professor

                                                        on strike at the University, needing more

                                                        pay, making it up with these

                                                        night students, these ones who he said wanted

                                                        more and who came stupid and mostly stayed

                                                        stupid while they got an education.

                                                        But she gave me the flowers,

                                                        picked them up in her two arms

                                                        as we started to move from the lecture room

                                                        to leave them behind to be thrown out

                                                        with the trash.  She gave me

                                                        the flowers and I said did you

                                                        understand what I said? and she said "yes,"

                                                        maybe the only English she knew and she

                                                        put the red flowers with no name

                                                        into my arms and I walked out of there.


                                                                            --Tess Gallagher

                                                        (published in THE SEATTLE REVIEW)

 

 

May 29, 2010

Suzanne

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she's half crazy
But that's why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you've always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind.

--Leonard Cohen

 

May 28, 2010

                                                        For My Stepdaughter
 

                                                        When I show you I've replaced

                                                        the Aucuba japonica at the side

                                                        of the house, its tower of yellow-speckled

                                                        leaves like variegated galaxies turning

                                                        black with spider mites, you say,

                                                        "That's where Mom hid her wine bottles,"

                                                        green glass empty on the bank

                                                        of your childhood.  You remember

                                                        the afternoons she drove           

                                                        you home from school drunk,

                                                        the nights she passed out

                                                        on the carpet or driveway,

                                                        your sister shouting, "I hate you!"

                                                        at the dark.
 

                                                        Maybe that's why I garden,

                                                        to dig a deep hole

                                                        like in the native ritual

                                                        for pain, shout into it,

                                                        letting earth break it down.

                                                        Over every inch of our yard

                                                        I turn in compost and peat moss,

                                                        help clay become loam,

                                                        its minerals available to seedlings

                                                        and transplants, encourage roots,

                                                        like your and mine

                                                        to go deep.
 

                                                                    --Paula Jones Gardiner

                                                        (published in THE SEATTLE REVIEW)

 

               

May 27, 2010

                                                        Dolphin Feeding

                                                        A shimmering sea, a moonlit beach
                                                        and a gathering of primal shapes...
                                                        They come in ones and twos--
                                                        a streak amidst the swirl of wave and foam,
                                                        shadows glinting silver in the moonlight--
                                                        metallic gray made shining hide.

                                                        Close enough for me to see old scars
                                                        each dolphin takes the fish quite gently from my hands,
                                                        then nudges more boldly for a second course,
                                                        a wet eye gleaming in anticipation...

                                                        This is a meeting of elements,
                                                        a mutual venturing forth.
                                                        I'm waist deep in their water
                                                        while they ride waves ever closer to my shore.
                                                        They seek what I offer.
                                                        I am pulled to what they are.

                                                        For a moment, as fish pass
                                                        from my hand to their mouth
                                                        we meet,
                                                        linked by this scaly offering
                                                        and our own separate hungers.

                                                        For a moment we are joined.
                                                        But the link cannot hold,
                                                        and we both know it.

                                                        The nudge of greeting
                                                        and the tug farewell are intertwined
                                                        as sea and land reclaim their own.
 

                                                                        --Suzanne Graham

                                                        (published in POETSPEAK)

 

May 26, 2010

                                                        Banquet at the Tso Family Manor

 

                                                        The windy forest is checkered
                                                        By the light of the setting,
                                                        Waning moon. I tune the lute,
                                                        Its strings are moist with dew.
                                                        The brook flows in the darkness
                                                        Below the flower path. The thatched
                                                        Roof is crowned with constellations.
                                                        As we write the candles burn short.
                                                        Our wits grow sharp as swords while
                                                        The wind goes round. When the poem
                                                        Contest is ended, someone
                                                        Sings a song of the South. And
                                                        I think of my little boat,
                                                        And long to be on my way.

                                                                    --TU FU

                                                        http://www.counterpunch.org/poems02202009.html
 

 

May 25, 2010

                                                Iceman
 

                                                You climbed high into that thin air

                                                with straw stuffed into your leather tunic

                                                the pouch of seeds

                                                and flint weapons

                                                because the wind called your name

                                                or for a vision quest

                                                to the bear spirit of the mountain

                                                or an odyssey

                                                to reach the legendary land

                                                the old men spoke of.

 

                                                Forgive this rude intrusion

                                                of wrenching and chipping

                                                the breaking of your parts.

                                                There have been other instances

                                                of their bumbling feet

                                                and clumsy picks

                                                priceless pieces lost, vessels broken

                                                it's only their eagerness

                                                driven, like you

                                                by a rage to know.


                                                        --Arnold Perrin

                                               (published in WINDOW)

   

May 24, 2010

                                                Potter's Clay

                                                A tiny fragment of the seasoned soil
                                                Damp, dimpled, warming under your hand,
                                                Color you can feel with your skin
                                                Grainy like a starfish, fluid-solid.
                                                All the here and now presses your forearms,
                                                Pulling energy into your body to steer
                                                The guiding hand, slick with slurry,
                                                Searching for the shape of the soul.
                                                Clasping clay, your hands find the way inside,
                                                Tapping heart, gut, womb, unearthing
                                                A longing for touch in corners long lost,
                                                The smell of hope on your fingertips.
                                                So familiar, the fragrant wet earth,
                                                Filling your hand with my surrender.
 

                                                                    --Linda F. Burghardt

                                                (published in MEDICINAL PURPOSES)

 

May 23, 2010

                                                Lament

                                                Someone is dead.
                                                Even the trees know it,
                                                those poor old dancers who come on lewdly,
                                                all pea-green scarfs and spine pole.
                                                I think...
                                                I think I could have stopped it,
                                                if I'd been as firm as a nurse
                                                or noticed the neck of the driver
                                                as he cheated the crosstown lights;
                                                or later in the evening,
                                                if I'd held my napkin over my mouth.
                                                I think I could...
                                                if I'd been different, or wise, or calm,
                                                I think I could have charmed the table,
                                                the stained dish or the hand of the dealer.
                                                But it's done.
                                                It's all used up.
                                                There's no doubt about the trees
                                                spreading their thin feet into the dry grass.
                                                A Canada goose rides up,
                                                spread out like a grey suede shirt,
                                                honking his nose into the March wind.
                                                In the entryway a cat breathes calmly
                                                in her watery blue fur.
                                                The supper dishes are over and the sun
                                                unaccustomed to anything else
                                                goes all the way down.

                                                                                    --Anne Sexton

                                                (published in CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETRY
                                                 Edited by Donald Hall, Second Edition)

 

May 22, 2010

                                                Years in a Thought
 

                                                Did you smell that smell that took you back in time?

                                                Perhaps it was a place where you once were.

                                                Perhaps it was a feeling in your heart.

                                                Like an invisible cluster of bubbles, it bursts for you alone.

                                                You look around.  I love that person, that place.

                                                How strong and tender and fragrant.  The heart ached.

                                                The things we love and fear never disappear.

                                                Like the light and heat from a candle flame,

                                                if the fire is extinguished, we hold the image of the flame,

                                                we know how it feels

                                                and the odor of the smoldering wick,

                                                that armor-piercing smell.
 

                                                                --Dennis Muong

                                                (published in FIREWEED)

 

May 21, 2010

                                                Youth Sunday

                                                Your long fingers reached for the sermon
                                                as the preacher passed out parts.
                                                I was left with the Lord's Prayer
                                                and the benediction

                                                Saturday night the group went out for pizza,
                                                shared stories from last semester.
                                                I had a boyfriend back on campus,
                                                you were engaged.

                                                The hair curling around your ears was dark,
                                                the hair on your arms, darker.  You toyed
                                                with a pepperoni, then leaned toward me
                                                and whispered, Let's get out of here.

                                                We drove to the beach in your beat-up Chevy.
                                                I abandoned my shoes.  The wind lifted
                                                the hair from my neck and my skirt swirled
                                                around my legs.  Your fingers pressed my arm.

                                                Sunday morning, our eyes meet over the altar
                                                as organ notes rolled in my gut.  I prayed
                                                over a sea of bowed heads and remembered
                                                how the cold waves woke us.
 

                                                                --Ann Campanella

                                                (published in MAIN STREET RAG)


 

May 20, 2010

                                                Redeeming the Thistle

                                                As Claire and my mother climb stone steps
                                                in our garden, they recapture names I might
                                                have called my children in a fairy tale:
                                                Lithodora, Penstemon, Coreopsis Moonbeam.

                                                They stare at my neighbors' front yard:
                                                morning glory around roses, blackberries ripe
                                                in the plum tree, quack grass bursting
                                                through concrete, a few seeds on bent
                                                dandelion stems.  Worst of all, the thistle.

                                                Grab a paper bag and get over there.  Cover
                                                those flowers before they go to seed.
                                                Chop the bottom and cart that thistle away!
                                                They nod and look at me.

                                                Later, I pull my own crabgrass,
                                                dandelions, a little oxalis.  No thistles.
                                                I remember my neighbors work long hours,
                                                sometimes sleep at their office, afraid
                                                their microfilm company will fail.

                                                I cross the street to inspect the pariah:
                                                tall...needle-spiked.
                                                Brown flowers like bristles.  Soft
                                                purple down at the tip.
 

                                                                --Phyllis Mannan

                                                (published in FIREWEED)

 

May 19, 2010

                                                MRI of a Poet's Brain
 

                                                In this image

                                                of your brain

                                                I see each curve

                                                in the corpus callosum,

                                                curlicues of gyri,

                                                folding of fissures,

                                                sinuous sulci,

                                                mammillary bodies,

                                                arcuate fasciculus,

                                                angular gyrus,

                                                tracts and nuclei,

                                                eyes and ears,

                                                tongue and pharynx,
 

                                                but not even

                                                a single syllable

                                                of one

                                                tiny

                                                poem.

                                                --Vernon Rowe

                            (published in BLOOD & BONE, POEMS BY PHYSICIANS)

 

May 18, 2010

                                                Flying at Night 

                                                Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
                                                Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
                                                like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
                                                some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
                                                snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
                                                back into the little system of his care.
                                                All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
                                                tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

                                                                                    --Ted Kooser

                                                (published at http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/flying-at-night)

 

May 16, 2010

                                                    Bernard and Sarah
 

                                                    "Hang them where they'll do some good," my grandfather
                                                    said, as he placed the dusty photograph
                                                    in my father's hands.  My father and I stared
                                                    at two old people posed stiffly side by side--
                                                    my great-great-great-grandparents, in the days
                                                    when photography was young, and they were not.
                                                    My father thought it out as we drove home.

                                                    Deciding that they might do the most good
                                                    somewhere out of sight, my father drove
                                                    a nail into the back wall of his closet;
                                                    they have hung there ever since, brought out
                                                    only on such occasions as the marriage
                                                    of one of his own children.  "I think you ought
                                                    to know the stock you're joining with," he says.

                                                    The back they go to the closet, where they hang
                                                    keeping their counsel until it is called for.
                                                    Yet, through walls, over miles of fields and woods
                                                    that flourish still around the farm they cleared,
                                                    their eyes light up the closet of my brain
                                                    to draw me toward the place I started from,
                                                    and when I have come home, they take me in.
 

                                                                                --Henry Taylor

                                                    (published in VITAL SIGNS, CONTEMPORARY POETRY
                                                     FROM THE UNIVERSITY PRESSES--ed. Ronald Wallace)

 

May 15, 2010

                                                    Crane Moon
 

                                                    Five o'clock,
                                                    corn twisted like iron,
                                                    dry glazed oaks,
                                                    the sandhill cranes filling the fields
                                                    of northwest Indiana.
                                                    Beneath the broken clouds,
                                                    the washed lines of reddening light,
                                                    a pair leafs out
                                                    broadwinged against the sun.
                                                    Long hollow bones, the upward flick
                                                    of a feathered wrist.

                                                    Rust-stained,
                                                    they pick at the earth,
                                                    and dance,
                                                    bowing low and leaping
                                                    open-sailed
                                                    throwing leaves over their red crowns
                                                    bouncing like loose planets
                                                    beside the bleached grass.

                                                    It's dark now
                                                    under the crane moon.
                                                    There's nothing on the road to Indianapolis.
                                                    And nothing in the car,
                                                    but a blue robe in a suitcase
                                                    and magazines full of shining animals.
 

                                                                                --Henry Hughes

                                                    (published in MEN HOLDING EGGS)

 

May 14, 2010

                                                    Gleaning
 

                                                    When I was a girl in Los Angeles we'd go gleaning.
                                                    Coming home from Sunday picnics in the canyons,
                                                    Driving through orange groves, we would stop at fields
                                                    Of lima beans, already harvested, and glean.
                                                    We children would pick a few lima beans in play,
                                                    But the old ones, bending to them, gleaned seriously
                                                    Like a picture in my Bible story book.

                                                    So, now, I glean seriously,
                                                    Bending to pick the beans that are left.
                                                    I am resigned to gleaning.  If my heart is heavy,
                                                    It is with the weight of all it's held.
                                                    How many times I've lain
                                                    At midnight with the young men in the field!
                                                    At noon the lord of the field has spread his skirt
                                                    Over me, his handmaid.  "What else do you want?"
                                                    I ask myself, exasperated at myself.
                                                    But inside me something hopeful and insatiable--
                                                    A girl, a gown-up, giggling, gray-haired girl--
                                                    Gasps: "More, more!"  I can't help hoping,
                                                    I can't help expecting
                                                    A last man, black, gleaning,
                                                    To come to me, at sunset, in the field.
                                                    In the last light we lie there alone:
                                                    My hands spill the last things they hold,
                                                    The days are crushed beneath my dying body
                                                    By the body crushing me.  As I bend
                                                    To my soup spoon, here at the fireside, I can feel
                                                    And not feel the body crushing me, as I go gleaning.
 

                                                                            --Randall Jarrell

                                                    (published in RANDALL JARRELL, SELECTED POEMS)

 

May 13, 2010

                                                        Dust and Memory
 

                                                        A small unshaven man, perhaps fifty,

                                                        with a peaked cap pulled sideways

                                                        to hide his features.  He bowed his head

                                                        to the ground, groaned, rose to thrust

                                                        his head back in abandon, and flung

                                                        his body forward again.  A supplicant

                                                        on his knees to what?  The earth and sea

                                                        that had misused him?  The power of pain?

                                                        The female God-face painted on the prow

                                                        of the fishing boat whose shade he hid in?

                                                        When the cap fell away I recognized a man

                                                        I passed each evening coming home at dusk,

                                                        a near neighbor to whom I'd never spoken

                                                        and never would.  After dark I did not

                                                        steal back to find him gone or to hear

                                                        the sea, moonless, itself only a word

                                                        without consonants, repeated invisibly

                                                        inside my head.

                                                                                What is this about?

                                                       Wherever you are now there is earth

                                                        somewhere beneath you waiting to take

                                                        the little you leave.  This morning I rose

                                                        before dawn, dressed in the cold, washed

                                                        my face, ran a comb through my hair

                                                        and felt my skull underneath, unrelenting,

                                                        soon the home of nothing.  The wind

                                                        that swirled the sand that day years ago

                                                        had a name that will outlast mine

                                                        by a thousand years, though made of air,

                                                        which is what I too shall become, hope-

                                                        fully, air that says quietly in your ear,

                                                        "I'm dust and memory, your two neighbors

                                                        on this cold star."  That wind, the Levante, 

                                                        will howl through the sockets of my skull

                                                        to make a peculiar music.  When you hear it,

                                                        remember it's me, singing, gone but here,

                                                        warm still in the fire of your care.
 

                                                                                --Philip Levine

                                                        (published in THE SIMPLE TRUTH)

  

May 12, 2010

                                        Mayakovsky In New York: A Found Poem

 

                                        New York: You take a train that rips through versts.
                                        It feels as if the trains were running over your ears.

                                        For many hours the train flies along the banks
                                        of the Hudson about two feet from the water. At the stops,
                                        passengers run out, buy up bunches of celery,
                                        and run back in, chewing the stalks as they go.

                                        Bridges leap over the train with increasing frequency.

                                        At each stop an additional story grows
                                        onto the roofs. Finally houses with squares
                                        and dots of windows rise up. No matter how far
                                        you throw back your head, there are no tops.

                                        Time and again, the telegraph poles are made
                                        of wood. Maybe it only seems that way.

                                        In the narrow canyons between the buildings, a sort
                                        of adventurer-wind howls and runs away
                                        along the versts of the ten avenues. Below
                                        flows a solid human mass. Only their yellow
                                        waterproof slickers hiss like samovars and blaze.
                                        The construction rises and with it the crane, as if
                                        the building were being lifted up off the ground
                                        by its pigtail. It is hard to take it seriously.

                                        The buildings are glowing with electricity; their evenly
                                        cut-out windows are like a stencil. Under awnings
                                        the papers lie in heaps, delivered by trucks.
                                        It is impossible to tear oneself away from this spectacle.

                                        At midnight those leaving the theaters drink a last soda.
                                        Puddles of rain stand cooling. Poor people scavenge
                                        bones. In all directions is a labyrinth of trains
                                        suffocated by vaults. There is no hope, your eyes
                                        are not accustomed to seeing such things.

                                        They are starting to evolve an American gait out
                                        of the cautious steps of the Indians on the paths of empty
                                        Manhattan. Maybe it only seems that way.


                                                    --Annie Dillard

                                        (published in THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY)

 

May 11, 2010

                                            West Coast
 

                                            Mikeís up from Noe Valley one Friday
                                            and we go out to The Copper Gate
                                            in Ballard with his in-laws, for the pickled
                                            herring and strange Danish cheeses.
                                            Decorating the restaurant bathroom
                                            hang light boxes displaying nude
                                            women posing in black-and-white
                                            and men who are dressed like women.
                                            This used to be a sailorís bar, and what
                                            remains is this form of their loneliness,
                                            and it becomes mine for a few hours,
                                            reminding my body of its lusts
                                            for close skin and how different from light
                                            skin is, more like glass, or the breathing
                                            of a horse in a dark, sodden field.

                    
                                                            --Ed Skoog

                                            (published in NARATIVE MAGAZINE)
 

 

May 10, 2010

                                                A Blessing

                                                    "Freely chosen, discipline
                                                                                        is absolute freedom."

                                                                                                                --Ron Serino

                                       
                                        1.
                                        The blue shadow of dawn settles
                                        its awkward silks into the enamelled kitchen
                                        and soon you will wake with me into the long
                                        discipline of light and day--the morning sky
                                        startled and starred with returning birds.
                                        You have-whisper, half-sigh, "This will never stop."
                                        And I say, "Look at the constellations
                                        our keys and coins make, there,
                                        on the polished sky of the dresser top."

                                        2.
                                        From what sometimes seems an arbitrary
                                        form or discipline often come two words
                                        that rhyme and in the rhyming fully marry
                                        the world of spoons and sheets and common birds
                                        to another world that we have always known
                                        where the waterfall of dawn does not drown
                                        even the haloed gnat; where we are shown
                                        how to find and hold the pale day moon, round
                                        and blessed in the silver lake of a coffee spoon.
 

                                                                    --Mekeel McBride

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

 

May 9, 2010                                                   

                                                Only One Mother


                                                Hundreds of stars in the pretty sky,
                                                Hundreds of shells on the shore together,
                                                Hundreds of birds that go singing by,
                                                Hundreds of lambs in the sunny weather.

                                                Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
                                                Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
                                                Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
                                                But only one mother the wide world over.

                                                                        --George Cooper

                                                (published on worldwideweb)

 

May 8, 2010

                                                    Spotting
 

                                                    when you were a girl, was a technique
                                                    learned patiently
                                                    in a warm dance studio
                                                    with a speckled linoleum floor
                                                    and a humming fan.
                                                    Focus.  Focus on one spot
                                                    at eye level,
                                                    as you chaine', pique', pirouette.
                                                  
 Whip your head around!  Bobbie pins fly
                                                    from the bun your mother twisted and sprayed
                                                    with VO-5 after she renewed the errant elastic
                                                    of your pink slipper.
                                                    Find your spot
                                                    or you will be too dizzy
                                                    to complete the dance.

                                                    Now, spotting is a horror
                                                    discovered
                                                    in a ladies' room--
                                                    speckled panties and a rattling fan.
                                                    You should be telling yourself something: Focus
                                                    on one red spot, one red spot,
                                                    life pouring out of you,
                                                    plans falling through, joy
                                                    you shared with your mother,
                                                    and others, now bleeding out of you
                                                    as you search in your purse
                                                    for your doctor's number.
                                                    You will have to send someone
                                                    to find your husband at your table in the crowded
                                                    room.  Focus
                                                    as the dance is interrupted.
                                                    Never been more focussed.
                                                    Never more dizzy.
 

                                                                  --Suzanne Baldwin Leitner

                                                    (published in MAIN STREET RAG)

 

May 7, 2010

                                                    Reluctance
 

                                                    Out through the fields and the woods

                                                        And over the walls I have wended;

                                                    I have climbed the ills of view

                                                        And looked at the world, and descended;

                                                    I have come by the highway home,

                                                        And lo, it is ended.
 

                                                    The leaves are all dead on the ground,

                                                        Save those that the oak is keeping

                                                    To ravel them one by one

                                                        And let them go scraping and creeping

                                                    Out over the crusted snow,

                                                        When others are sleeping.
 

                                                    And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,

                                                        No longer blown hither and thither;

                                                    The last lone aster is gone;

                                                        The flowers of the witch hazel wither;

                                                    The heart is still aching to seek,

                                                        But the feet question "Whither?"
 

                                                    Ah, when to the heart of man

                                                        Was it ever less than a treason

                                                    To go with the drift of things,

                                                        To yield with a grace to reason,

                                                    And bow and accept the end

                                                        Of a love or a season?
 

                                                                        --Robert Frost

                                                    (published in A BOY'S WILL)

 

May 6, 2010

                                                    El Curandero
 

                                                    I am bathing.  All my greyness--
                                                    The hospital, the incurable illnesses,
                                                    This headache--is slowly given over
                                                    To bathwater, deepening it to where

                                                    I lose sight of my limbs.  The fragrance,
                                                    Twenty different herbs at first (dill, spices
                                                    From the Caribbean, aloe vera)
                                                    Settles, and becomes the single, warm air

                                                    Of my sweat, of the warmth deep in my hair--
                                                    I recognize it, it's the smell of my pillow
                                                    And of my sheets, the closest things to me.
                                                    Now one with the bathroom, every oily tile

                                                    A different picture of me, every square
                                                    One in which I'm given the power of curves,
                                                    Distorted, captured in some less shallow
                                                    Dimension--now I can pray.  I can cry, and he'll

                                                    Come.  He is my shoulder, maybe, above
                                                    The grey water.  He is in the steam,
                                                    So he can touch my face.  Rafael,
                                                    He says, I am your saint.  So I paint

                                                    For him the story of the day: the wife
                                                    Whose husband beat purples into her skin,
                                                    The jaundiced man (who calls me Ralph, still,
                                                    Because that's more American), faint

                                                    Yellows, his eyes especially--then,
                                                    Still crying, the bright red a collision
                                                    Brought out of its perfect vessel, this girl,
                                                    This life attached to, working, the wrong thing

                                                    Of a tricycle.  I saw pain--
                                                    Primitive, I could see it, through her split
                                                    Chest, in her crushed ribs--white-hot.  Now,
                                                    I can stop.  He has listened, he is silent.

                                                    When he finally speaks, touching my face,
                                                    It sounds herbal, or African, like drums
                                                    Or the pure, tiny bells her child's cries
                                                    Must have been made of.  Then, somehow,

                                                    I'm carried to my bed, the pillow, the sheets
                                                    Fragrant, infinite, cool, and I recognize
                                                    His voice.  In the end, just as sleep takes
                                                    The world away, I know it is my own.

                                                                                        --Rafael Campo

                                                    (published in BLOOD & BONES, POEMS BY PHYSICIANS)

 

May 5, 2010

                                                    Colored Pencils
 

                                                    Dashing, limitless color

                                                    shades kindergarten yellow;

                                                    Spanking hands of time--

                                                    growing up, growing old.
 

                                                    Youthful orange--

                                                    ripening anticipation,

                                                    breaks no bounds rebellion.
 

                                                    Blue streams,

                                                    heartbreak tears,

                                                            Love lost--

                                                    Disguise shaped

                                                    defense.
 

                                                    Experimental years weave in

                                                             and out

                                                    purpleish haze.

                                                    Traces faded jaded memories,

                                                    etched into scars.
 

                                                    Fast forward--falling fatally

                                                    into finish.

                                                    Tired hands, tired feet;

                                                    white anguish--

                                                    pursue on.

                                                    Leaving color behind.
 

                                                            --Jessica Talmon 

                                                    (published in NORTHWEST PASSAGE)

 

May 4, 2010

                                                    I Look Like Ogden Nash
 

                                                    Her new face having grown out of her other one,
                                                    I knew her at once when I saw her again,
                                                    but her dilated eyes and haywire hair belonged
                                                    in a place miles away where she had been
                                                    cleaning electric rooms full of static dust
                                                    that clogged her vacuum, blistered her skin.

                                                    What she had witnessed there, she could not list.
                                                    What it meant to her, she could not begin
                                                    to say, but across the landscape drying on the line,
                                                    her stare summarized everything she had seen:
                                                    an actual-size disaster with television newscasts trying
                                                    to be real.  Beneath us, still, the grass was green,

                                                    the overcast sky above us, white as ash.
                                                    Printed on the shirt she was wearing, a cartoon
                                                    character announced, I Look Like Ogden Nash.
                                                   
But she didn't.  She looked as distant as the moon,
                                                    as if she might have fallen out of night,
                                                    rubbed through thickening air until it flashed
                                                    and left her standing here, unlucky satellite.
 

                                                                                --Joseph Green

                                                    (published in DELUXE MOTEL)

 

May 3, 2010

                                                Love Poem

                                                My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
                                                At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
                                                Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
                                                And have no cunning with any soft thing

                                                Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
                                                The refugee uncertain at the door
                                                You make at home; deftly you steady
                                                The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

                                                Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers' terror,
                                                Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
                                                Yet leaping before apopleptic streetcarsó
                                                Misfit in any space. And never on time.

                                                A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
                                                With words and people and love you move at ease;
                                                In traffic of wit expertly maneuver
                                                And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

                                                Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
                                                Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
                                                So gaily in love's unbreakable heaven
                                                Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

                                                Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glassesó
                                                I will study wry music for your sake.
                                                For should your hands drop white and empty
                                                All the toys of the world would break.

 

                                                            --John Frederick Nims

 

May 2, 2010

                                                    Presence
 

                                                    All's a foretelling of you.

                                                    Sun in its glory ascending,

                                                    Soon you will follow, I hope.
 

                                                    Into the garden you walk,

                                                    Rose of the roses you are,

                                                    Lily of lilies as well.
 

                                                    When you but move in the dance,

                                                    All of the stars are in motion

                                                    With you and round where you move.
 

                                                    Night!  just let the night come!

                                                    Now you outshine the attractive

                                                    Delicate glow of the moon.
 

                                                    Delicate, fetching you are,

                                                    Flowers, the moon, and the stars

                                                    Celebrate, sun, only you.
 

                                                    Sun! be such to me too,

                                                    Creator of days in a glory;

                                                    Life and eternity--thus.


                                                                                --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

                                                                (published in SELECTED POEMS, ed. Christopher Middleton
                                                                trans. by Michael Hamburger, David Luke, Christopher Middleton,
                                                                John Frederick Nims, Vernon Watkins)   

May 1, 2010

                                                    This Is An Ant
 

                                                    Do you still wake up amazed, sad
                                                    that the only world is in your head?  A sparrow picks bread,
                                                    lindens breathe, and that small brown spider
                                                    has webbed the porch again.  Spider?  What does it matter
                                                    if you see her suck enough of Sunday's blood
                                                    to shed and lay eggs?  She can't think you.
                                                    Hunger's in the kitchen now--coffee, toast, a leftover donut--and, oh, ants

                                                    but from where?  Think of moist places, a neighbor jogging,
                                                    then stare out the window
                                                    draped with onion skins.  Cells, a teacher once said, scraping her cheek,
                                                    while farmer ants tunneled between glass.  Smash it,
                                                    you thought for a second, eating macaroni & cheese.
                                                    You think of it now as they type into the house,
                                                    single notes lettered from a stuck key across the counter,
                                                    tracking a journey made small enough
                                                    to understand.  Understand?  Does the queen understand it's spring?

                                                    Glossy calendar guarding combs of light.  Monday--nothing will happen
                                                    to change this, Tuesday--you might die
                                                    or have sex with a friend, Wednesday--you will remember
                                                    the death of a child.  You always wake, piss, eat,
                                                    read something that could be heard in another voice.
                                                    Newspapers on the porch,
                                                    the Science Times.  You look at pictures and think this is an ant,
                                                    but not the one walking the wall, the one you can
                                                    scoop up and throw into the web.
 

                                                                                    --Henry Hughes

                                                    (published in MEN HOLDING EGGS)

 


May 31, 2009
                                                            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)

 

May 30, 2009
                                                            THE MAN WHO HATED TREES
 

                                                            When he started blaming robberies
                                                            on trees, you knew for sure
                                                            something was wrong.

                                                            This man who clipped hair,
                                                            who spent years shaving the necks
                                                            of cafeteria managers,
                                                            sweeping lost curls down drains,
                                                            this man who said, "It is always better
                                                            to cut off a little too much..."

                                                            You could say he transferred
                                                            one thing to another when he came home,
                                                            hair to leaves, only this time
                                                            he was cutting down whole bodies,
                                                            from the feet up, he wanted
                                                            to make those customers stumps.

                                                            One tree dropped purple balls
                                                            on the roof of his car.
                                                            One tree touched the rain gutter.
                                                            He didn't like blossoms, too much mess.
                                                            "Trees take up the sky.
                                                            It's my light, why share it?"
                                                            He said thieves struck more
                                                            on blocks where there were trees.
                                                            "The shade, you know.  They like the dark."
                                                            You lived for days with the buzz of his chain saw
                                                            searing off the last little branches of neighborly affection.

                                                            It was planting season in the rest of the town
                                                            but your street received a crew cut.
                                                            Two pecan trees that had taken half a century to rise
                                                            now stood like Mohawk Indians, shorn.
                                                            He gloated on his porch surrounded by amputations.
                                                            You caught him staring greedily
                                                            at the loose branches swinging over your roof.

                                                            Tomorrow, when everything was cut, what then?
                                                            He joked about running over cats
                                                            as the last chinaberry crashed,
                                                            as the truck came to gather arms and legs
                                                            waggling their last farewell.

                                                            What stories did he tell himself,
                                                            this patriot of springtime,
                                                            and how did it feel to drive down sprouting boulevards
                                                            with his bald, bald heart?

                                                                                    --Naomi Shihab Nye

                                                            (published in Yellow Glove)

 

May 29, 2009
                                                           BETWEEN
 

                                                           Oh, do you remember--

                                                           when we were young?

                                                           We just had fun...

  

                                        And, now, remember

                                                           as we get older,

                                                          we're just that much bolder.

  

                                       Oh, but that damned

                                                          stuck between--

                                                          our souls seethed mean!

                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

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

 

May 28, 2009
                                                            NOT TONIGHT
 

                                                            Sun settles his day labor chin-up--
                                                            jutting coastal Oregon's
                                                            stubbled silhouette.  Dark, live firs
                                                            streaked with fire-whitened sticks
                                                            give him the tired look of the aging.
                                                            Above him floats a cloud bear cub
                                                            whose four soft paws stretch in play
                                                            and get a pink fur glow
                                                            from waning Cinco de Mayo sun.

                                                            Turning down their drive, she carries--
                                                            cub in right brain, stubble in left--
                                                            a balanced vision to their bedroom

                                                            where rusty beard barely shakes
                                                            out her lover's, Not tonight, honey.
                                                            As her right hand seizes it,
                                                            he's covered with their pink blanket
                                                            while rolling over to light a cigarette.
                                                            Slowly cooling to steel, she's braced
                                                            for another red light night.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in Seeds On a Wind Ride)


                                               

May 27, 2009
 

                                                            BEDROCK 

                                                            1.

                                                            The stout-hearted quake with fear to beg.

                                                            Must I always seek you between lives

                                                            like a stranger walking city alleys?

                                                            Just whisper me one more myth

                                                            before the pillage

                                                            of another full moon.

 

                                                            2.

                                                            In pants your sharp perfume escapes

                                                            tight lips; utterance like muscle

                                                            strung taut on bone.

                                                            I fail to feel a midwife's moist touch --

                                                            rather the friction of molecules shoved

                                                            by bulging heart pumping flesh.

 

                                                            3.

                                                            Glassy round roll your oaths, turned

                                                            in my clutch to black onyx beads.

                                                            Their dark power now defunct,

                                                            you toss them like trinkets

                                                            in your tourist carton from Khartoum

                                                            (coffin of failed cures for boredom.)

 

                                                            4.

                                                            You, whose every night crawls away in a cuddle,

                                                            once said I was your fifty-dog boyfriend

                                                            and I believed you.  If I get up and walk

                                                            out of your bed beyond your room,

                                                            it's a sleep-walking drive programmed

                                                            in the twisted circuitry of my genes.

 

                                                            5.

                                                            I will own up to my personal penchants,

                                                            but the rest smells of slop thrown

                                                            to pigs at the farm where you retreat

                                                            with the wake-walking of someone

                                                            kicking a shiny rock to curse the topsoil --

                                                            one who won't examine bedrock for ore.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Nothing Else Matters)

 

 

 

May 26, 2009
                                                            AT HOME IN THE LABORS OF LOVE
 

                                                            As they tumble to the fore in play
                                                            sun's rays awaken my love with kisses.
                                                            Our fluid bed is mud and brine
                                                            dredged each day for treasures
                                                            local natives know lie therein.

                                                            Submerged we wear only oceans
                                                            suited for a birth revisited
                                                            by aquanauts in ecstasy
                                                            panting unlike shored fish
                                                            more like water buffalo
                                                            at home in the labors of love.

                                                            As my passions surface
                                                            your radiance races--
                                                            brilliant rising bubbles--
                                                            to be the first to break
                                                            through dawn's solar swells
                                                            which lift, threatening,
                                                            then let down smoothly,
                                                            tugging to ask, "Again?"

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Nothing Else Matters)

 

May 25, 2009
                                                            HUMMINGBIRD PAUSES AT THE TRUMPET VINE


                                                                     Who doesn't love

                                                        roses, and who

                                                        love the likes

                                                        of the black ponds
 

                                                        floating like flocks

                                                        of tiny swans,

                                                        and of course the flaming

                                                        trumpet vine


                                                        where the hummingbird comes

                                                        like a small green angel, to soak

                                                        his dark tongue

                                                        in happiness--


                                                        and who doesn't want

                                                        to live with the brisk

                                                        motor of his heart

                                                        singing
 

                                                        like a Schubert,

                                                        and his eyes

                                                        working and working like those days of rapture,

                                                        by van Gogh, in Arles?
 

                                                        Look! for the most of the world

                                                        is waiting

                                                        or remembering--

                                                        most of the world is time
 

                                                        when we're not here,

                                                        not born yet, or died--

                                                        a slow fire

                                                        under the earth with all
 

                                                        our dumb wild blind cousins

                                                        who also

                                                        can't even remember anymore

                                                        their own happiness--
 

                                                        Look!  and then we will be

                                                        like the pale cool

                                                        stones, that last almosst

                                                        forever.

                                                                    --Mary Oliver

                                                        (published in New and Selected Poems)

May 24, 2009
                                                            GOSPEL
 

                                                            Halfway to nowhere--

                                                            I thought I heard
                                                            Church bells ringing,
                                                            The blind man on the corner
                                                            Call out my name.

                                                                            --Charles Simic

                                                            (published in The World Doesn't End)

 

May 23, 2009
                                                            ROCKS AND FOG
                                                                           
(for another poet)

                                                           
                                                            You bite my heart--as a surgeon
                                                                        sticks his scalpel to save a life!

                                                            Let me see through your dreaming
                                                                                eyes while I'm awake...

                                                            Your songs of stones as suns
                                                                        in rice bowls filled with water.

                                                            Your chant of the bear who ran
                                                                                from a circus to perform.

                                                            Your moan of an old woman searching
                                                                        her pillow snowfields
                                                                                for sons and daughters.

                                                            Your crowds of sideshows, druids,
                                                                        narrowly-escaped Intensive Cares.

                                                            We trees try to stay standing in your wind.

                                                                                        --Ron Linder

                                                            (published in Dancer Stay Out!)

 
                                                                       

May 22, 2009
 

        ALL ELSE FOLLOWS

 
 

Having been born, death follows immediately

 

                        with its dogged inevitability.

                       

                        All fall.

 

                        What's unknown is when and how we will die

                       

                        (not if or why).

 

                        Left to us are our attitudes and actions.

 

                        All else follows.

               
                                    --Tim Van Ert

 

May 21, 2009
                                                            JOHN LENNON
 

                                                            If you don't look
                                                                        what do you see?

                                                            If you don't try
                                                                        when do you succeed?

                                                                        AND

                                                            If you don't laugh
                                                                        how can you cry?

                                                                        BUT

                                                            If you don't love
                                                                        you just don't love.

                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Collected Words)

 

May 20, 2009
                                                                      WOMB
 

                                                            As the first rays of hall lights
                                                            meet waves of wake-up bustle
                                                            I awaken to alight
                                                            this foreign floor.       

                                                            Where the night before there was cloud cover
                                                            a saffron sliver of moon drifts disrobed.
                                                            Resonating my assent
                                                            I step into the shower.

                                                            These cool ablutions
                                                            the marbled stairs grant my feet
                                                            mingle with rekindled warmth
                                                            from the kitchen's hearth.

                                                            From femme and feline sensations swirl:
                                                            yeasts, purrs, convections, mute hues, caresses.
                                                            Phillipe and I, encompassed,
                                                            sit sipping this sustenance.

                                                            Once hushed, grandma now hovers
                                                            between her English and French
                                                            mumbling train schedules and times--
                                                            then turns silent.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Create That Love That Love Creates)

 

May 19, 2009
                                                            SEPTEMBER TWENTY-FIRST
 

                                                            Evening darkness is peppered
                                                            by a neighbor's yard light:
                                                            dried corn stalks exposed dancing--
                                                            or quaking?--in warm wind.
                                                            I leave them up for times like this,
                                                            to hear what the dead have to say.

                                                            The same hot, dry summer
                                                            which left limbs holding cobs
                                                            pocked with missing kernels,
                                                            provided many nights
                                                            without cloud cover to obscure
                                                            our local galaxy's dimming glow.

                                                            As my cat's life-or-death yowls
                                                            interrupt crickets' balmy cadence,
                                                            I harbor conflicted worries,
                                                            Is it his brother, or a raccoon?
                                                           
And, Will I leave life too soon,
                                                            or be left in a parched body too long?

                                                            I imagine some Milky Way force
                                                            providing our bodies energy
                                                            to shake and quake messages--
                                                            never mind unripe fruits.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)

 

May18, 2009
                                                            BE HERE WOW
 

                                                            All my tomorrows fly up to kiss me

                                                            singing softly that they would not miss me.

                                                            Cumulus clouds billow down to meet me

                                                            wobbling to the day heaven would greet me.

                                                                           --Tim Van Ert

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

 

May 17, 2009
                                                            CROWS
 

                                                            If you let go of life before I do,
                                                            if eager death rushes to fill those
                                                            vacancies I cannot touch, I will
                                                            close your eyes.  I will feather
                                                            my fingers over your lids.  I will
                                                            not let the crows have your eyes.

                                                            I will bathe you with sweet water
                                                            from the spring or damp leaves or
                                                            even my tongue if the world is dry.

                                                            And I, left to fend for myself, when
                                                            my time comes, will scoop with my
                                                            bare hands a shallow mask in the
                                                            damp soil, will lie on my belly,
                                                            my face looking into the earth
                                                            from which I come, turned away
                                                            from all but the voices of crows.

                                                                                    --Scott Lubbock

                                                            (published in On the Way to Water)

 

May 16, 2009
                                                            NARCISSUS
 

                                                            Narcissus.
                                                            Your fragrance.
                                                            And the depth of the stream.

                                                            I would remain at your verge.
                                                            Flower of love.
                                                            Narcissus.

                                                            Over your white eyes flicker
                                                            shadows and sleeping fish.
                                                            Birds and butterflies
                                                            lacquer mine.

                                                            You so minute and I so tall.
                                                            Flower of love.
                                                            Narcissus.

                                                            How active the frogs are!
                                                            They will not leave alone
                                                            the glass which mirrors
                                                            your delirium and mine.

                                                            Narcissus.
                                                            My sorrow.
                                                            And my sorrow's self.

                                                                                --Federico Garcia Lorca

                                                            translated by William Jay Smith

                                                            (published in The Selected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca)

 

 

May 15, 2009
                                                            GETTING THE DAILY NEWS
 

                                                            No quarters jingle my pockets along
                                                            this morning's sloppy, wet-pant walk.
                                                            I follow deep, curved deer prints--
                                                            head bowed to read the world's forms:

                                                                mud serves weeds
                                                                that pop blossoms
                                                                to sun's mystery signal;

                                                                daffodils
                                                                bow brown heads down
                                                                as iris takes the stage;

                                                                birds swoop young,
                                                                lean plants then perch oaks
                                                                to sing their short stories.

                                                            Eyes raise, with corners of mouth,
                                                            as I get to the sports section--
                                                            squawked at and run out of the glade
                                                            by the nesting ring-necked pheasant's mate.

                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in Seeds On a Wind Ride)

 

May 14, 2009
                                                            POETS PLAYING
 

                                                            Never mind that my bridge is small,
                                                            that it crosses a stream of dry stones,
                                                            that it's painted Navajo red
                                                            --not orange-red as in Japanese gardens.

                                                            But when you suggest water lilies,
                                                            I offer Basho's frog.  When you raise it
                                                            three koi, I up it one blue heron and,
                                                            over there by the native deer fern,

                                                            a golden full-moon maple.  By now
                                                            we're laughing at this escalation,
                                                            our wives amused by poets playing,
                                                            freed for the moment of brooding concerns.

                                                            Never mind either that my pond
                                                            is a failed patch of sod, that the bridge
                                                            does not lead to meditation furrows
                                                            raked in fine gravel, but to compost bins

                                                            crouched behind an ancient cedar log
                                                            where the work of returning is under way.
                                                            An act of nature that I now see
                                                            as the exact metaphor for hope.

                                                                                    --John L. Wright, MD

                                                            (published in JAMA, December 22/29, 2004--Vol 292, No. 24)

   

May 13, 2009
                                                            SUMMER KNIGHTS
 

                                                            that empty coffee cup
                                                            those crumbs on the plate and
                                                            two butts in the tray

                                                            Directorless, a stage is set:
                                                            snaking sidewalk shedding
                                                            chuckholes
                                                            nonetheless charms
                                                            unwitting walk-ins.

                                                            Heat-seeking missiles,
                                                            these men's visages--
                                                            deftly maneuvered masks--
                                                            lock on target:
                                                            all (yet nothing) asked.

                                                            Tediously she bends her hackneyed props:
                                                            automated glance
                                                            off the limp left wrist,
                                                            too quick exhalations
                                                            of each suspenseful drag.

                                                            Somewhere on a Paris street her man
                                                            passes her with every stranger's footstep
                                                            while she sits shrouded in summer's fever
                                                            accompanied by the stillness of empty chairs' legs
                                                            and the incessant somersaulting of her watch's hands.

                                                            The stares come
                                                            in endless progression,
                                                            heavy--
                                                            like those she'd
                                                            be climbing up alone,
                                                            too soon.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Create That Love That Love Creates)

 

May 12, 2009
                                                            BUCKING
 

                                                            Poor young buck

                                                            runs away on my legs

                                                            turning his horned head

                                                            to show me your eyes.

                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

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

 

May 11, 2009
                                                            READING AT THE JAMBALAYA
 

                                                            Rising from worn-smooth chair
                                                            slow and awkward like an egret
                                                            called away from marsh duties,
                                                            Daniel wears a fading rose-tint cap
                                                            sparse and simple as his words.

                                                            His palm-warped spiral notebook
                                                            glowing the same off-mauve shade
                                                            as his upturned grinning lips
                                                            reminds me of a rapturous
                                                            color-coordinated choir boy

                                                            about to praise the Lord in song.
                                                            With imagery delicate as his thin body
                                                            and feelings pocked as the face
                                                            he hopes his knit cap can hide,
                                                            Daniel reminds us of elegance beyond sense.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in Seeds On a Wind Ride)

 

May 10, 2009
                                                            MARY'S SECOND CHILD

                                                            Then Joseph...took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she
                                                            had brought forth her first born son.
        --Matthew
 

                                                            It's no miracle I'm what I am, believe me.
                                                            I was the harvest of a sweaty, human planting,
                                                            never far enough from the whine of father's saw.
                                                            No credulous beasts, no Eastern mystics
                                                            tired of gold or human boys heard my birth;
                                                            and where was I to find a winged heaven
                                                            to trumpet my entrance?  I had no connections.

                                                            Mother worked to give my light,
                                                            her first curse my first lullaby.
                                                            If there was in her groaning a measure
                                                            of disappointment--even outrage--who could blame her?
                                                            The only men she knew before me or her husband
                                                            were angelic, everlasting and painless,
                                                            their bodies light as cloud.

                                                            Joseph grasped at what he couldn't comprehend,
                                                            shook his dusty hands at the sky, his lust
                                                            fed by the jeers of every young fool in town.
                                                            On the night he first touched her,
                                                            as much in anger as need, he told me later,
                                                            she lay looking at him as if she were
                                                            queen of heaven, and he grew soft as cloth.

                                                            But after what she'd been through
                                                            the first time, she was ready to see
                                                            in every pail of water drawn from the well
                                                            a shining dove hovering near her reflection,
                                                            in each wine cup or scrap of fish
                                                            an alien son, arrogant and cold.
                                                            Love held no more surprises for her.

                                                            When she died gray and confused
                                                            just before learning to fly
                                                            she looked at me, the image of her two lovers,
                                                            and called me "Jesus"--she's up there now
                                                            singing at him, most likely, beaming.
                                                            When you're conceived to walk with angels
                                                            can children of earth and flesh move you?

                                                                                            --David Citino

                                                            (published in Vital Signs, an Anthology Edited by Ronald Wallace)

 

May 9, 2009
                                                            THE SONG THE BLIND MAN SINGS
 

                                                            I am blind, you out there, that is a malediction,
                                                            an awful thing, a contradiction,
                                                            something heavy every day.
                                                            I lay my hand on the arm of the woman,
                                                            my gray hand on the gray of her gray,
                                                            and she leads me through empty spaces.

                                                            You move and push and like to imagine
                                                            that your sound is not like the sound of stone on stone;
                                                            however, you are wrong: I am the only one
                                                            who lives and suffers and has a sound.
                                                            I have an endless scream in me,
                                                            and I don't know which is screaming, my heart
                                                            or my intestines.

                                                            Do you recognize my songs?  You didn't sing them,
                                                            not quite with the stressing I use.
                                                            Every morning new light comes
                                                            warmly into the open house,
                                                            and you have a feeling that moves from face to face,
                                                            and that leads you astray to caring.

                                                                                            --Rainer Maria Rilke

                                                            (published in Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke,
                                                             translated by Robert Bly)

 

May 8, 2009
                                                            ON MACKSBURG ROAD
 

                                                            Soft paw thumps play our roof--
                                                            white cat under midnight light--
                                                            as dog barks form a music
                                                            they've always heard.

                                                            Undisturbed by fleeting car noise,
                                                            the FatherMother makes faces
                                                            with its cover of clouds,
                                                            and a stillness stretches.

                                                            Now heartbeats can be heard--
                                                            two child's
                                                            for mother's every one--
                                                            as we fall into sleep together,

                                                            not hearing the moon
                                                            depart behind clouds,
                                                            or a cat landing
                                                            on the lawn.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)

 

May 7, 2009
                                                            CARRIED AWAY
 

                                                            Moving through the shadows of the city
                                                            Feeling no sun within, nor rain without.
                                                            Moving toward something
                                                            Expecting nothing more.

                                                            I hear those voices lift my city soul
                                                            From its sidewalk beat
                                                            In this city bowing grass
                                                            At the chorus' feet.

                                                            Several stand strong singing
                                                            Voices of angels touching
                                                            Feet on the ground.
                                                            Making mountains
                                                            Moving mountains
                                                            Being mountain
                                                            Rocked and swayed.

                                                            These people I know not, but
                                                            Their words melt through me
                                                            As I am drawn to song
                                                            Being melting melody.

                                                            A pause to drink at mountain stream
                                                            Carried me gurgling to the valley
                                                            Visited only in dream.
                                                            I may not be carried this way again
                                                            Nor step back into the shadows of the city's pain.

                                                                                  --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Collected Words)

 

May 6, 2009
                                                            BREAKING THE CODE
 

                                                            She feared a physician's intrusion--
                                                            lung cancer terror voiced with still eyes.
                                                            I chose to assist her surgeon
                                                            with the neck-node biopsy;
                                                            was drafted to assist
                                                            her fate's savage bite.

                                                            Her sweat-spent face sagged
                                                            toward purpling right hand
                                                            as the gaping trench we dug
                                                            finally let loose her lump,
                                                            then fired back its red missiles.
                                                            Panic sparked through our guts
                                                            fueled by routine's dry tinder.

                                                            Unfair! my clenched teeth screamed
                                                            when I saw her dusky fist.
                                                            seize our sterile barrier.
                                                            Then, Flat line--stand back!
                                                           
(from chest's spongy twitch
                                                            and sickening heavy bounce.)

                                                            Pus-filled lungs and clammy groin
                                                            were quickly invaded by blades,
                                                            needles and tubes--
                                                            while my mind grew thicker,
                                                            We gotta stick her...

                                                            She did not say goodbye
                                                            or where she wanted to go.

                                                            Death spills the suffering life contains.
                                                            This afternoon her pain passed on,
                                                            trenchant hours measured to me,
                                                            lifelong pangs for her children.

                                                            With quiet whispers the others
                                                            filed out beside me.
                                                            My heart wanted comfort of wailing--
                                                            tropical gusts to blow the chill
                                                            out of the now-dimmed surgical suite--
                                                            but I found no loved ones,
                                                            no beating of breasts.

                                                            Had Christ felt the blade placed
                                                            between his ribs with love?
                                                            I prayed that she ask Him,
                                                            and then for her children--
                                                            who had no chance to say goodbye.

                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (published in Archives of Family Medicine)

 

May 5, 2009
                                                            LUMPECTOMY
 

                                                            She arrives at the clinic feeling more
                                                            like a mole painted on a performer's skin
                                                            than a pigment allotted by providence
                                                            to begin her life with distinction.

                                                            Smoothly curved hillock offers
                                                            no camouflage nor landmaarks
                                                            for the unique imperfection
                                                            soon withdrawn under ether.

                                                            In resignation the assailed site
                                                            yawns toothless, soft, open:
                                                            a moist, impotent slouch not even
                                                            rubbery enough to rebound.

                                                            Don't yield so sedately
                                                            other pliable portions.
                                                            Close without trespass
                                                            private inlet to your being.

                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Nothing Else Matters)

 

May 4, 2009

                                                            WORD POWER

 

                                                            Point out particulars.

                                                            Divulge universals.

                                                            Convene word musicals.

                                                            Shoulder failure

                                                            with shrugs.

                                                            Carry success

                                                            in smiles.

                                                            Relish struggle

                                                            that breathes.

                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                       

May 3, 2009
                                                            THE RULE OF THIRDS
                                   

                                                            Third, third, third--the rule I learned
                                                            about the stories of the ill.

                                                            A third get well--joints begin to move,
                                                            pain improves, depression's dull

                                                            embrace is eased.  The villain leaves
                                                            without a trace and no one knows

                                                            the hero's name--doctor
                                                            or the patient, science or the grace.

                                                            A third grow crippled in the pain
                                                            of joints gone stone, their minds decline,

                                                            the villain takes the loot no matter what
                                                            your dour professor does, or you--

                                                            in the arrogance of youth--might try.
                                                            We learn by progress in our minds.

                                                            A third remain the same.  They take
                                                            the villain in, they harbor him

                                                            until his tale is theirs and theirs is his.
                                                            They visualize their bodies with his eyes.

                                                            Our rule of thirds was not as kind
                                                            as love's compassion is,

                                                            nor as thunderous as an essay
                                                            on machines, but it spoke

                                                            the language of the body
                                                            in its genes.

                                                                            --Jack Coulehan

                                                            (published in Blood & Bone, Poems by Physicians)

 

May 2, 2009

                                                            I SEE MY GIRL

 

                                                            When I see you off to camp, I see you

                                                            bending your neck to the weight of your cello, I

                                                            see your small torso under the

                                                            load of your heavy knapsack the way a

                                                            boulder would rest on the body of a child, and

                                                            suddenly I see your goodness, the weight of your

                                                            patient dogged goodness as you slog your

                                                            things to the plane, you like like a small-boned

                                                            old lady from darkest Europe

                                                            going toward steerage, carrying all the family goods.

                                                            Suddenly the whole airport is full of your goodness, your

                                                            thin hair looks whittled down by your goodness, your

                                                            pale face looks drained of blood, your

                                                            upward gaze looks like the look of

                                                            someone lying under a stone.

                                                            For so long I prayed you would be good,

                                                            prayed you would not be anything like Hitler as

                                                            I as a child feared I was like Hitleróbut I

                                                            didnít mean this, the oppression of goodness, the

                                                            deadness.  You ask for something to eat

                                                            and my heart leaps up, I take off your backpack and we

                                                            lean your cello against a chair and

                                                            then I can sit and watch you eat chocolate pudding,

                                                            spoonful after careful spoonful, your

                                                            tongue moving slowly over the mixture

                                                            in deep pleasure, Oh itís good, Mom,

                                                            itís good, you beam, and the air around your face

                                                            shines with the dark divided shining of goodness.

                                                                                                    --Sharon Olds

                                                            (published in The Gold Cell)

May 1, 2009
                                                            UPON AWAKENING
 

                                                            Remember
                                                            to put your kisses where they belong:
                                                            in springtime's
                                                            tender breezes--so soft and so strong.

                                                            There they fly
                                                            cooing, invisible mourning doves:
                                                            graceful wings
                                                            in rhythmic dances--the touch of love.

                                                            I await
                                                            as winds stir, skies darken and wonder:
                                                            will I be
                                                            blessed by your breath--before the thunder?

                                                            Or shall I
                                                            wrap me in dreams' receptive ether
                                                            to entice
                                                            your currents of nourishment hither?

                                                            Just feed me
                                                            your love fruits while I'm forced away;
                                                            I will feast
                                                            on the wind--til we make love some day.

                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                            (from Create That Love That Love Creates)