Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Weather

Jane Hirshfield (2012)

Wakeful, sleepy, hungry, anxious,
restless, stunned, relieved.

Does a tree also?
A mountain?

A cup holds
sugar, flour, three large rabbit-breaths of air.

I hold these.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Billy Collins (2012)

One bright morning in a restaurant in Chicago
as I waited for my eggs and toast,
I opened the Tribune only to discover
that I was the same age as Cheerios.

Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
for today, the newspaper announced,
was the seventieth birthday of Cheerios
whereas mine had occurred earlier in the year.

Already I could hear them whispering
behind my stooped and threadbare back,
Why that dude's older than Cheerios
the way they used to say

Why that's as old as the hills,
only the hills are much older than Cheerios
or any American breakfast cereal,
and more noble and enduring are the hills,

I surmised as a bar of sunlight illuminated my orange juice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Neither Here Nor There

W.S. Merwin (2012)

An airport is nowhere
which is not something
generally noticed

yet some unnamed person in the past
deliberately planned it
to be there

and you have spent time there
and are spending time there again
for something you have done
which you do not entirely remember
like the souls of Purgatory

you sit there in the smell
of what passes for food
breathing what is called air
while the timepieces measure
their agreement

you believe in it
while you are there
because you are there
and sometimes you may even feel happy
to be that far on your way
to somewhere

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

By the Same Author

James Longenbach (2012)

Today, no matter if it rains,
It's time to follow the path into the forest.

The same people will be walking the same dogs,
Or if not the same dogs, dogs that behave in similar fashions,
Some barking, some standing aloof.
The owners carry plastic bags.

But this is the forest, they complain, we must do as we like.
We must let the dogs run free,
We must follow their example,
The way we did when we were young.

Back then we slept, watched TV—
We were the dogs.
By the time the screen door slammed, we were gone.

Nobody really talks like that in the forest.
They're proud of their dogs,
Proud especially of the ones who never bark.
They're upset about the Norway maple, it's everywhere,
Crowding out the hickories and oaks.

Did you know it takes a million seeds to make one tree?
Your chances of surviving in the forest,
Of replicating yourself, are slim.

Today, the smaller dogs are wearing raincoats,
The bigger ones are stiffing it out.
They're tense, preoccupied,
Running in circles,
Getting tangled in the leash—

It's hard remaining human in the forest.
To move the limbs of the body,
To speak intelligible words,
These things promise change.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Opus Posthumous

James Longenbach (2012)

When I painted, everybody saw.

When I played piano, everybody heard.

I ate your raspberries.

The sign no trespassing applied to me.

Now, the hemlocks have grown higher than the house.

There's moss on my stoop, a little mildew

In the shower but you've never seen my shower.

I can undress by the window,

I can sleep in the barn.

The sky, which is cloudy,

Suits the earth to which it belongs.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Ellen Bryant Voigt (2012)

One minute a slender pine indistinguishable from the others
the next its trunk horizontal still green the jagged stump
a nest for the flickers
one minute high wind and rain the skies
lit up the next a few bright winking stars the lashing of the brook

one minute an exaltation in the apple trees the shadblow trees
the next white trash on the ground new birds
or the same birds crowding the feeder
one minute the children were sleeping in their beds

you got sick you got well you got sick

the lilac bush we planted is a tree the cat creeps past
with something in her mouth she's hurrying down to where

the culvert overflowed one minute bright yellow
marsh marigolds springing up the next
the farmer sweeps them into his bales of hay

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I am happy living simply

Marina Tsvetaeva (1919)
translated from the Russian by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

I am happy living simply:
like a clock, or a calendar.
Worldy pilgrim, thin,
wise—as any creature. To know

the spirit is my beloved. To come to things—swift
as a ray of light, or a look.
To live as I write: spare—the way
God asks me—and friends do not.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Stephen Dunn (2012)

The Lord woke me in the middle of the night,
and there stood Jesus with a huge tray,
and the tray was heaped with cookies,
and He said, Stephen, have a cookie,

and that's when I knew for sure the Lord
is the real deal, the Man of all men,
because at that very moment
I was thinking of cookies, Vanilla Wafers

to be exact, and there were two
Vanilla Wafers in among the chocolate
chips and the lemon ices, and one
had a big S on it, and I knew it was for me,

and Jesus took it off the tray and put it
in my mouth, as if He were giving me
communication, or whatever they call it.
Then He said, Have another,

and I tell you I thought a long time before I
refused, because I knew it was a test
to see if I was a Christian, which means
a man like Christ, not a big ole hog.

Monday, February 27, 2012

After Love

Sarah Teasdale

There is no magic any more,
We meet as other people do,
You work no miracle for me
Nor I for you.

You were the wind and I the sea—
There is no splendor any more,
I have grown listless as the pool
Beside the shore.

But though the pool is safe from storm
And from the tide has found surcease,
It grows more bitter than the sea,
For all its peace.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Gottfried Benn
translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

One says: please no inner life,
manners by all means, but nothing affective,
that's no compensation
for the insufferable
difficulties of outward-directed expression—
those cerebralized

when my little prince
pokes his chubby little legs through the bars of his cot
it melts my heart, it was like that with Otto Ernst,
and it's no different now

the contraries are not easy to reconcile
but when you survey the provinces
the inner life
has it by a neck.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Poor

Roberto Sosa
translated from the Spanish by Spencer Reece

The poor are many
and so—
impossible to forget.

No doubt,
as day breaks,
they see the buildings
where they wish
they could live with their children.

can steady a coffin
of a constellation on their shoulders.
They can wreck
the air like furious birds,
blocking out the sun.

But not knowing these gifts,
they enter and exit through mirrors of blood,
walking and dying slowly.

And so,
one cannot forget them.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Strange Sea

Edith Södergran
translated from the Swedish by Averill Curdy

Implausible fish bloom in the depths,
mercurial flowers light up the coast;
I know red and yellow, the other colors, —

but the sea, det granna granna havet, that's the most dangerous
to look at.
What name is there for the color that arouses
this thirst, which says,
the saga can happen, even to you—