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Archive for October, 2008

After great pain a formal feeling comes–
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions–was it He that bore?
And yesterday–or centuries before?

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Wislawa Szymborska said this in her 1996 Nobel speech. Only 17 poets have won the Nobel Prize in literature since the prize was first awarded in 1901.Of those 17 poets, only two are women: Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), a Chilean poet, won it in 1945 and Szymborska (born in 1923) won it in 1996. One of my favorite poems by Szymborska is about being a poet.

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Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

All kinds of people chase after poets,
Like screech owls after linnets.

When a child is taken from you, when a child you’ve born and loved is stolen and you know you will never see that child again, it is the only thing you think about for the rest of your life. It is on the power of this loss that Victor Hugo based his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any’thing.
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Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
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In Praise of my Sister

My sister doesn’t write poems,
and it’s unlikely that she’ll suddenly start writing poems.
She takes after her mother, who didn’t write poems,
and also her father, who likewise didn’t write poems.
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Rebus

You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.

Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
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Seawater Stiffens Cloth

Seawater stiffens cloth long after it’s dried.
As pain after it’s ended stays in the body:
A woman moves her hands oddly
because her grandfather passed through
a place he never spoke of. (more…)

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A Single Autumn

The year my parents died
one that summer one that fall
three months and three days apart
I moved into the house
where they had lived their last years
it had never been theirs
and was still theirs in that way
for a while

echoes in every room
without a sound
all the things that we
had never been able to say
I could not remember

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The Room

I think all this is somewhere in myself
The cold room unlit before dawn
Containing a stillness such as attends death
And from a corner the sounds of a small bird trying
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