Friday, February 29, 2008

A Farewell

Harriet Monroe (1936)

Good-bye!—no, do not grieve that it is over,
The perfect hour;
That the winged joy, sweet honey-loving rover,
Flits from the flower.

Grieve not—it is the law. Love will be flying—
Yes, love and all.
Glad was the living—blessed be the dying.
Let the leaves fall.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Robyn Sarah

It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.
It is possible that we are past the middle now.
It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.
Yes: I think that we have crossed it. Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of,
but to a different show, clearly inferior.

Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.
The tickets are to that other show.

It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened hall
without waiting for the last act: people do.
Some people do. But it is possible
that we will stay seated in our narrow seats
all through the tedious dénouement
to the unsurprising end—riveted, as it were;
spellbound by our own imperfect lives
because they are lives,
and because they are ours.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Near Field

W.S. Merwin (2008)

This is not something new or kept secret
the tilled ground unsown in late spring
the dead are not separate from the living
each has one foot in the unknown
and cannot speak for the other
the field tells none of its turned story
it lies under its low cloud like a waiting river
the dead made this out of their hunger
out of what they had been told
out of the pains and shadows
and bowels of animals
out of turning and
coming back singing
about another time

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For William Stafford

Henry Taylor (1995)

30 August 1993

Someone we love, old friend, has telephoned
to let me know you're gone—and so you are.
I touch the steady books; my mind casts back,
then forth, and says, as you said once, So long—
I look toward seeing you everywhere.

Monday, February 25, 2008

TV Movie

Jack Turner (1995)

This is true: it really happened. Honest.
Life is a movie based on a true story.
Doors open; faces glow in the hall.
There is the glint of a knife. It all ends
in court, or in the hospital where it started,
or in a ditch near some abandoned site,
or at a suburban bank that is being robbed.

There was a soft depression in the baby's head.
But he did well at school and never interfered
with his education, never questioned its creed.
He took care of dental hygiene, never lost his teeth.
His credit is A-OK. He could borrow tomorrow or now.
Still he has to die somehow. People have to sleep.
The thing has got to end in time for the local news.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Elizabeth Bishop (1937)

Summer is over upon the sea.
The pleasure yacht, the social being,
That danced on the endless polished floor,
Stepped and side-stepped like Fred Astaire,
Is gone, is gone, docked somewhere ashore.

The friends have left, the sea is bare
That was strewn with floating, fresh green weeds.
Only the rusty-sided freighter
Goes past the moon's marketless craters
And the stars are the only ships of pleasure.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Louis MacNeice (1940)

The glamour of the end attic, the smell of old
Leather trunks—Perdita, where have you been
Hiding all these years? Somewhere or other a green
Flag is waving under an iron vault
And a brass bell is the herald of green country
And the wind is in the wires and the broom is gold.

Perdita, what became of all the things
We said that we should do? The cobwebs cover
The labels of Tyrol. The time is over—
Due and in some metropolitan station
Among the clank of cans and the roistering files
Of steam the caterpillars wait for wings.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dawn Revisited

Rita Dove

Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading
glorious shade. If you don't look back,

the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits—
eggs and sausage on the grill.
The whole sky is yours

to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on,
shake a leg! You'll never know
who's down there, frying those eggs,
if you don't get up and see.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Just Now

W.S. Merwin

In the morning as the storm begins to blow away
the clear sky appears for a moment and it seems to me
that there has been something simpler than I could ever
simpler than I could have begun to find words for
not patient not even waiting nor more hidden
than the air itself that became part of me for a while
with every breath and remained with me unnoticed
something that was here unnamed unknown in the days
and the nights not separate from them
not separate from them as they came and were gone
it must have been here neither early nor late then
by what name can I address it now holding out my thanks

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Things of the World

Robert Sargent (1991)

I would like to say something for things as they are, in themselves,
Not standing for anything else, multiform, legion
In their fleeting exactitude,

Fashioned in intricate and elusive ways, individual,
Each like nothing else precisely. I am speaking
Of observable things, this chair,

This leaf, that slab, the sun, dust, a fly,
Sometimes interacting, sometimes not, depending
On the nature of each, but always

And ever changing, coming into being, vanishing;
May be observed or not; beautiful or ugly
Only as someone's opinion;

Neither right nor wrong; neutral; concerned only with
Their presence here, enduring their given span:
The manifold things of the world

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chinese Poem

J. D. McClatchy (2008)

Whatever change you were considering,
Do not plant another tree in the garden.
One tree means four seasons of sadness:
What is going,
What is coming,
What will not come,
What cannot go.

Here in bed, through the south window
I can see the moon watching us both,
Someone's hand around its clump of light.
Yours? I know you are sitting out there,
Looking at silver bloom against the black.

That drop from your cup on the night sky's
Lacquer you wipe away with your sleeve
As if its pleated thickets were the wide space
Between us, though you know as well as I do
This autumn is no different from the last.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fruit of Loneliness (from Words on the Wind)

May Sarton (1930)

Now for a little I have fed on loneliness
As on some strange fruit from a frost-touched vine—
Persimmon in its yellow comeliness,
Of pomegranate-juice color of wine,
The pucker-mouth crab apple, or late plum—
On fruit of loneliness have I been fed.
But now after short absence I am come
Back from felicity to the wine and bread.
For, being mortal, this luxurious heart
Would starve for you, my dear, I must admit,
If it were held another hour apart
From that food which alone can comfort it—
I am come home to you, for at the end
I find I cannot live without you, friend.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Lola Ridge

Your faith is in what you hold,
Monster, with your back against the lakes.
You gather the cities close, with iron reins
Knotted in your frozen grip.
But your sleepily savage eyes, like a white bull's,
Turn neither to the East nor West.
Sometimes a sickness takes you—
Convulsive movements pass along your length. . . .
I think there is a giant child that kicks in you,
Where your blood is running like a river under its ice.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

On a Night of Snow

Elizabeth Coatsworth

Cat, if you go outdoors, you must walk in the snow.
You will come back with little white shoes on your feet,
little white shoes of snow that have heels of sleet.
Stay by the fire, my Cat. Lie still, do not go.
See how the flames are leaping and hissing low,
I will bring you a saucer of milk like a marguerite,
so white and so smooth, so spherical and so sweet—
stay with me, Cat. Outdoors the wild winds blow.

Outdoors the wild winds blow, Mistress, and dark is the night,
strange voices cry in the trees, intoning strange lore,
and more than cats move, lit by our eyes' green light,
on silent feet where the meadow grasses hang hoar—
Mistress, there are portents abroad of magic and might,
and things that are yet to be done. Open the door!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Are You Tired of Me, My Darling?

unknown, traditional

Are you tired of me, my darling?
Did you mean those words you said
That made me love you forever
Since the day when we were wed—
I still recall the springtime
When the two of us first met
And spoke words of warm affection,
Words my heart can ne'er forget.

Do you think the bloom's departed
From the cheeks you once thought fair?
Do you think I've grown cold-hearted
From a load of toil and care?
Tell me, would you do it over?
Or would you make it otherwise?
Are you tired of me, my darling?
Answer only with your eyes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Rest

Lawrence Raab (1979)

You've tried the rest.
You've waited long enough.
Everything catches up with you.

And you're too old,
or too young.
Or you don't have the money

or you don't have the time.
Maybe you're shy, and maybe
you're just afraid.

How often have you heard it,
have you promised
yourself you'd try

something really different
if you had the chance?
Though you can't help but wonder

if all those people
know what they're doing, now
you're saying it with them:

Eventually everything
catches up with us,
and it starts to show.

We've waited all our lives, or as long
as we can remember, whichever
is long enough.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Purpose of Time Is to Prevent Everything from Happening at Once

X.J. Kennedy

Suppose your life a folded telescope
Durationless, collapsed in just a flash
As from your mother's womb you, bawling, drop
Into a nursing home. Suppose you crash
Your car, your marriage—toddler laying waste
A field of daisies, schoolkid, zit-faced teen
With lover zipping up your pants in haste
Hearing your parents' tread downstairs—all one.

Einstein was right. That would be too intense.
You need a chance to preen, to give a dull
Recital before an indifferent audience
Finally slow in jeering you and clapping.
Time takes its time unraveling. But, still,
You'll wonder when your life ends. Huh? What happened?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

To Himself

Mark Strand (1987)

So you've come to me now without knowing why;
Nor why you sit in the ruby plush of an ugly chair, the sly
Revealing angle of light turning your hair a silver gray;
Nor why you have chosen this moment to set the writing of years
Against the writing of nothing; you who narrowed your eyes,
Peering into the polished air of the hallway mirror, and said
You were mine, all mine; who begged me to write, but always
Of course to you, without ever saying what it was for;
Who used to whisper in my ear only the things
You wanted to hear; who comes to me now and says
That it's late, that the trees are bending under the wind,
That night will fall; as if there were something
You wanted to know, but for years had forgotten to ask,
Something to do with sunlight slanting over a table
And chair, an arm rising, a face turning, and far
In the distance a car disappearing over the hill.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What Became

Wesley McNair (2001)

What became of the dear
strands of hair pressed
against the perspiration
of your lover's brow
after lovemaking as you gazed
into the world of those eyes,
now only yours?

What became of any afternoon
that was so vivid you forgot
the present was up to its old
trick of pretending
it would be there

What became of the one
who believed so deeply
in this moment he memorized
everything in it and left
it for you?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Calling

Maxine Kumin (1986)

Over my desk Georgia O'Keefe says
I have no theories to offer and then
takes refuge in the dismbodied
third person singular: One works
I suppose because it is the most
interesting thing one knows to do.
O Georgia! Sashaying between
first base and shortstop as it were
drawing up a list of all the things
one imagines one has to do . . .
You get the garden planted. You
take the dog to the vet. You
certainly have to do the shopping.

Syntax, like sex, is intimate.
One doesn't lightly leap from person
to person. The painting, you said,
is like a thread that runs
through all the reasons for all the other
things that make one's life.
O awkward invisible third person,
come out, stand up, be heard!
Poetry is like farming. It's
a calling, it needs constancy,
the deep woods drumming of the grouse,
and long life, like Georgia's, who
is talking to one, talking to me,
talking to you.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Fossil Fuel

John Dickson (1985)

Dark storms of the afternoon persist
until what little day there was has gone,
but she still lingers in his eyes
and seldom lets him sleep.
He has grown vulnerable—
a turtle with no shell,
a bird trapped in the cat's hypnotic eye.
Her shadow has left its imprint on the wall.

A scoop of coal revives the fireplace
and melts the chill that harbors in the bone
but soon releases ghosts of mastodons
and fish and flying reptiles
pressed in their carbon matrix since that day
when some upheaval trapped them in their bog.

He lives his life inert, compressed by time
growing steady in his orbit
and established in his ways
until somewhere on this journey
he is making to himself,
she returns to him to set his head afire
and all his million years of words
escape at last to keep her warm.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Measuring Worm

Richard Wilbur (2008)

This yellow striped green
Caterpillar, climbing up
The steep window screen,

Constantly (for lack
Of a full set of legs) keeps
Humping up his back.

It’s as if he sent
By a sort of semaphore
Dark omegas meant

To warn of Last Things.
Although he doesn’t know it,
He will soon have wings,

And I, too, don’t know
Toward what undreamt condition
Inch by inch I go.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Obligation To Be Happy

Linda Pastan (1996)

It is more onerous
than the rites of beauty
or housework, harder than love.
But you expect it of me casually,
the way you expect the sun
to come up, not in spite of rain
or clouds but because of them.

And so I smile, as if my own fidelity
to sadness were a hidden vice—
that downward tug on my mouth,
my old suspicion that health
and love are brief irrelevancies,
no more than laughter in the warm dark
strangled at dawn.

Happiness. I try to hoist it
on my narrow shoulders again—
a knapsack heavy with gold coins.
I stumble around the house,
bump into things.
Only Midas himself
would understand.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Valentine For Matthew Arnold

William Logan (1977)

The Seas of Faith are full again with vain
Philosophies, empty orders of gods,
Demons of the mind and heart supplanting
The slow angers of love with hollow stares
And rhetoric. These are not days to love,
When the rare expectations of morning
Will be blackened by the shoddy evening.
Let us be faithless to one another.
The monarch butterflies now copulate
In the kitchen, bats bare their teeth against
The screens, and throatless songbirds rasp all night.
At dawn, armies of toads and frogs litter
The walks. All animals act cruelly
Toward each other. We are no different.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

We Have Not Long To Love

Tennessee Williams (1991)

We have not long to love,
Light does not stay.
The tender things are those
we fold away.

Coarse fabrics are the ones
for common wear.
In silence I have watched you
comb your hair.

Intimate the silence,
dim and warm.
I could, but I did not, reach
to touch your arm.

I could, but do not, break
that which is still.
(Almost the faintest whisper
would be shrill.)

So moments pass as though
they wished to stay.
We have not long to love.
A night. A day . . . .

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Love Cook

Ron Padgett

Let me cook you some dinner
Sit down and take off your shoes
and socks and in fact the rest
of your clothes, have a daiquiri,
turn on some music and dance
around the house, inside and out,
it's night and the neighbors
are sleeping, those dolts, and
the stars are shining bright,
and I've got the burners lit
for you, you hungry thing.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Benefits of Ignorance

Hal Sirowitz

If ignorance is bliss, Father said,
shouldn't you be looking blissful?
You should check to see if you have
the right kind of ignorance. If you're
not getting the benefits that most people
get from acting stupid, then you should
go back to what you always were—
being too smart for your own good.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Final Notations

Adrienne Rich (1991)

it will not be simple, it will not be long
it will take little time, it will take all your thought
it will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
it will be short, it will not be simple

it will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
it will not be long, it will occupy your thought
as a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
it will take all your flesh, it will not be simple

You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
you are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
you are taking parts of us into places never planned
you are going far away with pieces of our lives

it will be short, it will take all your breath
it will not be simple, it will become your will

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Few Last Lines of Laundry

Eamon Grennan (1991)

This ragged shining,
these embodied nothings
are the image of us:

full of ourselves
in every puff of air
and hanging on

for dear life. At mid-day,
when the wind picks up,
such dancing. Look at us:

washed and stretched
to the very limit,
almost touching one another.