Archive for the ‘Poem of the day’ Category

The Yellow Sweater

Typography and type face,
point size, leading and line length.
I adjust the spaces between your words,

to make sense of the meaning.
The words are there
like the yellow sweater

tangling at the foot of our bed
the night we make love.
The sweater twists in our feet,

jams in the sheets,
tangles in the edge of the covers,
as we fasten and unfasten each other.

Few things in life are clear to people. 
They look into their hands
and forget what it is they are holding,

what it is they want to hold
what hesitates in the water between them —
those lips, those lips.

Did you have those so many years ago,
and one willing to see them,
waiting for them to open,

like words on a page to mine.

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The Triggering Town

All things belong

to the music of guns,

after you’ve put one to your chest

and pulled the trigger.

It initiates everything else in your life —

who you love

where you work

what you eat

where you live.

It is the one thing

you can depend on,

closed around that wound

the act of setting and

resetting the safety

then turning it off.

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Dara Wier (right) with poets James Tate and Mong-Lan

The Pressure of the Moment

The pressure of the moment can cause someone to kill
someone or something

The leniency of consideration might treat with more

Which is to be desired. Or at least often to be desired.

But if my house is on fire and you notice, I wish you would

That fire. But if my hair is on fire, while I’m sure
you’ll be enjoying

The spectacle of it, act quickly or don’t act at all. But
if a sudden

Jarring of us all out of existence is eminent, do
by Dara Wier (born 1949)

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Cracked Marble

A desk,
sturdy, useful
fixed in one spot,

used to write letters.
When can I return to you,
the letters say,

and the desk remains unmoved.
I can shove you around, I say,
love, lust, desire,

all written here.
I can move you to another room.

The desk and I live in a neighborhood
split in half like a heart —
along one ridge

white-collar workers
who live among kings
Edison, Galileo, Darwin, Curie —

and on the other, a trailer park.
The two halves are equal,
divided by a single fence.

Cottonwoods stand
in a park near my house
presenting their seeds to the wind,

watching Penelope
weave a web
through her window.

She finishes it,
begins again,
cutting threads,

searching for fresh cloth
she hasn’t worn away
with sewing and mending

loose ends.
I shove the desk around,
this way, that,

and the top half falls,
cracking marble
on an antique washstand.

Mother, grandmother,
great grandmother,
we’ve all stood beside it each morning

checking the clock,
sliding the marble aside
to conceal deeds of trust

insurance policies, stock.
Outside, a calypso orchid grows
beneath my bedroom window

where I sometimes hear footsteps.
What are you after
as you travel through my soul,

what are you looking for
as you breathe in
these white flowers.

Can you hear Penelope say,
Odysseus, Odysseus, come home.

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Constance Olson and HIlda Morley
at Black Mountain College.

Sheep Language

What have I done that I should find myself
here, in this meadow
in the Cotswolds, sheep bleating
(from time to time) on the other side of
the fence,
hurrying away
from the drinking-trough as I pass,
so I feel
their peace infringed upon
(& I the cause of it)
that peace their drowsy presence overfills to brimming,
Keatslike, almost more than I can hold
But I hold it
as if in a waking dream, the spell is
upon me & out of it
my voice can speak & speaks as
it must in accents only they
can understand:
a voice for them,
as they need to hear it,
have heard it
centuries ago — sheep-language —
I must have
stood here & found the sequence
of words, the phrase,
the cadence
formed for their ears,
for the rhythm
of their nuzzling,
their nudging movements
& I, a speaker
of first-generation English,
who recognize the knights
in stained-glass windows
in the village churches
of Gloucestershire which William Morris loved,
those knights
who cut my Jewish forefathers down, setting out
for the Crusades,
these little churches built, as
Morris saw them
in joyful dedication,
out of love.
by Hilda Morley (1919–1998)

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Robin Robertson

Albatross in Co. Antrim

after Baudelaire

The men would sometimes try to catch one,
throwing a looped wire at the great white cross
that tracked their every turn, gliding over their deep
gulfs and bitter waves: the bright pacific albatross.

Now, with a cardboard sign around his neck, the king
of the winds stands there, hobbled: head shorn,
ashamed; his broken limbs hang down by his side,
those huge white wings like dragging oars.

Once beautiful and brave, now tarred, unfeathered,
this lost traveller is a bad joke; a lord cut down to size.
One pokes a muzzle in his mouth; another limps past,
mimicking the skliff, sclaff of a bird that cannot fly.

The poet is like this prince of the clouds
who rides the storm of war and scorns the archer;
exiled on the ground, in all this derision,
his giant wings prevent his marching.
by Robin Robertson (born 1955)

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Edna St. Vincent Millay, photo by
Alfred Eisenstaedt

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again—
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man—who happened to be you—
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud—I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place—
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, (1892-1950)

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Donald Davie

Across the Bay

A queer thing about those waters: there are no
Birds there, or hardly any.
I did not miss them, I do not remember
Missing them, or thinking it uncanny.

The beach so-called was a blinding splinter of limestone,
A quarry outraged by hulls.
We took pleasure in that: the emptiness, the hardness
Of the light, the silence, and the water’s stillness.

But this was the setting for one of our murderous scenes.
This hurt, and goes on hurting:
The venomous soft jelly, the undersides.
We could stand the world if it were hard all over.
by Donald Davie (1922–1995)

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Philip Levine

Our Valley

We don’t see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn’t your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.
by Philip Levine (born 1928)

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Minnie Bruce Pratt

Cutting Hair

She pays attention to the hair, not her fingers, and cuts herself
once or twice a day. Doesn’t notice anymore, just if the blood
starts flowing. Says, Excuse me, to the customer and walks away
for a band-aid. Same spot on the middle finger over and over,
raised like a callus. Also the nicks where she snips between
her fingers, the torn webbing. Also spider veins on her legs now,
so ugly, though she sits in a chair for half of each cut, rolls around
from side to side. At night in the winter she sleeps in white
cotton gloves, Neosporin on the cuts, vitamin E, then heavy
lotion. All night, for weeks, her white hands lie clothed like
those of a young girl going to her first party. Sleeping alone,
she opens and closes her long scissors and the hair falls under
her hands. It’s a good living, kind of like an undertaker,
the people keep coming, and the hair, shoulder length, French
twist, braids. Someone has to cut it. At the end she whisks
and talcums my neck. Only then can I bend and see my hair,
how it covers the floor, curls and clippings of brown and silver,
how it shines like a field of scythed hay beneath my feet.

Giving a Manicure

The woman across from me looks so familiar,
but when I turn, her look glances off. At the last
subway stop we rise. I know her, she gives manicures
at Vogue Nails. She has held my hands between hers
several times. She bows and smiles. There the women
wear white smocks like technicians, and plastic tags
with their Christian names. Susan. No, not Susan,
whose hair is cropped short, who is short and stocky.
This older lady does my hands while classical music,
often Mozart, plays. People passing by outside are
doubled in the wall mirror. Two of everyone walk
forward, backward, vanish at the edge of the shop.
Susan does pedicures, pumice on my heels as I sit
on the stainless-steel throne. She bends over, she
kneads my feet in the water like laundry. She pounds
my calves with her fists and her cupped palms slap
a working beat, p’ansori style. She talks to the others
without turning her head, a call in a language shouted
hoarse across fields where a swallow flew and flew
across the ocean, and then fetched back to Korea
a magic gourd seed, back to the farmer’s empty house
where the seed flew from its beak to sprout a green vine.
When the farmer’s wife cut open the ripe fruit, out spilled
seeds of gold. Choi Don Mee writes that some girls
in that country crush petals on their nails, at each tip
red flowers unfold. Yi Yon-ju writes that some women
there, as here, dream of blades, knives, a bowl of blood.
by Minnie Bruce Pratt (born 1946)

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