Thursday, April 30, 2009

Epilogue to The Tempest - William Shakespeare

Prospero -

Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mother Doesn't Want a Dog - Judith Viorst

Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they smell,
And never sit when you say sit,
Or even when you yell.
And when you come home late at night
And there is ice and snow,
You have to go back out because
The dumb dog has to go.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they shed,
And always let the strangers in
And bark at friends instead,
And do disgraceful things on rugs,
And track mud on the floor,
And flop upon your bed at night
And snore their doggy snore.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
She's making a mistake.
Because, more than a dog, I think
She will not want this snake.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Vacation - Rita Dove

I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Snow on Saddle Mountain - Gary Snyder

The only thing that can be relied on
is the snow on Kurakake Mountain.
fields and woods
thawing, freezing, and thawing
totally untrustworthy.
it's true, a great fuzzy windstorm
like yeast up there today, still
the only faint source of hope
is the snow on Kurakake Mountain.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Excerpts from 5 & 7 & 5 - Anselm Hollo

follow that airplane
of course I'm high this is
an emergency


far shore Ferris wheel
turning glowing humming love
in our lit-up heads


switch them to sleep now
the flying foxes swarm out
great it's flurry time

Saturday, April 25, 2009

from: The Father of My Country - Diane Wakoski

my father was not in the telephone book
in my city;
my father was not sleeping with my mother
at home;
my father did not care if I studied the
my father did not care what I
and I thought my father was handsome and I loved him and I wondered
whyhe left me alone so much
so many years
in fact, but
my father
made me what I am
a lonely woman
without purpose, just as I was
a lonely child
without a father. I walked with words, words, words, and names,
names. Father was not
one of my words.
Father was not
one of my names.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Unknown Bird - W.S. Merwin

Out of the dry days
through the dusty leaves
far across the valley
those few notes never
heard here before

one fluted phrase
floating over its
wandering secret
all at once wells up
somewhere else

and is gone before it
goes on fallen into
its own echo leaving
a hollow through the air
that is dry as before

where is it from
hardly anyone
seems to have noticed it
so far but who now
would have been listening

it is not native here
that may be the one
thing we are sure of
it came from somewhere
else perhaps alone

so keeps on calling for
no one who is here
hoping to be heard
by another of its own
unlikely origin

trying once more the same few
notes that began the song
of an oriole last heard
years ago in another
existence there

it goes again tell
no one it is here
foreign as we are
who are filling the days
with a sound of our own

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nothing Except Maybe - Alden Marin

A list of
petty annoyances:
The crinkling
pastry bag
The agitated
barking dog
the upset baby
in a CVS
Pharmacy line
shrieking to his mom
(and she’s not stopping him)
A few more:
Loud helicopters
in the morning
Harleys revving up
people crossing intersections
far too slowly
What can be done
about these daily bugaboos?
Nothing, except, maybe
to write about them.

More of Alden Marin's poems can be found on his website.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Fist - Derek Walcott

The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard the, heart. This way at least you live.

In poetry news, W.S. Merwin has been awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for his collection "The Shadows of Sirius." This is his second Pulitzer. He also won in 1971. Look for a sample of his poetry in the coming days.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coyotes in Greenwich! - Julie Sheehan

Here hedges are upholstered, each cobblestone
has an appointment, greening boughs aspire
in vain to Tudor style while even ramblers
know their place. And yet, we saw hibiscus
in high alarm, cat-slunk shivering it.

Coyotes invade. They claim to be the truth.
Black bears nose the bougainvillea, moving
eastward, indiscriminate, original.
Our sinks back up, our toilets will not drain,
our nature disobediently tends toward nature.

But we will have no blame, for we attend
our garbage as we always have, bury
and send away what could not prosper Here.
In children's books we keep foxes and mice;
where are the Apaches to back us up?

Logically we sleep though not in comfort
these days. Our wives keep turning in our beds
like roasting meat, the stones call out to us
campfires fringe the Merritt. In our kitchens
pasta forks bare fangs, pans hang like scalps.

Monday, April 20, 2009

From: Twenty-One Love Poems - Adrienne Rich

No one's fated or doomed to love anyone.
The accidents happen, we're not heroines,
they happen in our lives like car crashes,
books that change us, neighborhoods
we move into and come to love.
Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,
women at least should know the difference
between love and death. No poison cup,
no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder
should have caught some ghost of us; that tape-recorder
not merely played but should have listened to us,
and could instruct those after us
this we were, this is how we tried to love,
and these are the forces they had ranged against us,
and these are the forces we had ranged within us,
within us and against us, against us and within us.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

DSS Dream - Martín Espada

I dreamed
the Department of Social Services
came to the door and said:
"We understand
you have a baby,
a goat, and a pig living here
in a two-room apartment.
This is illegal.
We have to take the baby away,
unless you eat the goat."

"The pig's OK?" I asked.
"The pig's OK," they said.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's all I have to bring today (26) Emily Dickenson

It's all I have to bring today –
This, and my heart beside –
This, and my heart, and all the fields –
And all the meadows wide –
Be sure you count – should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Buck in the Snow - Edna St. Vincent Millay

White sky, over the hemlocks bowed with snow,
Saw you not at the beginning of evening the antlered buck and his doe
Standing in the apple-orchard? I saw them. I saw them suddenly go,
Tails up, with long leaps lovely and slow,
Over the stone-wall into the wood of hemlocks bowed with snow.

Now he lies here, his wild blood scalding the snow.

How strange a thing is death, bringing to his knees, bringing to his antlers
The buck in the snow.
How strange a thing--a mile away by now, it may be,
Under the heavy hemlocks that as the moments pass
Shift their loads a little, letting fall a feather of snow--
Life, looking out attentive from the eyes of the doe.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Song of Despair - Pablo Neruda

The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.

In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.

You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!

It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.

Pilot’s dread, fury of a blind diver,
turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank!

In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded.
Lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire,
sadness stunned you, in you everything sank!

I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.

Oh flesh, my own flesh, woman whom I loved and lost,
I summon you in the moist hour, I raise my song to you.

Like a jar you housed the infinite tenderness,
and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.

There was the black solitude of the islands,
and there, woman of love, your arms took me in.

There were thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and the ruins, and you were the miracle.

Ah woman, I do not know how you could contain me
in the earth of your soul, in the cross of your arms!

How terrible and brief was my desire of you!
How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.

Oh the bitten mouth, oh the kissed limbs,
oh the hungering teeth, oh the entwined bodies.

Oh the mad coupling of hope and force
in which we merged and despaired.

And the tenderness, light as water and as flour.
And the word scarcely begun on the lips.

This was my destiny and in it was the voyage of my longing,
and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank!

Oh pit of debris, everything fell into you,
what sorrow did you not express, in what sorrow are you not drowned!

From billow to billow you still called and sang.
Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.

You still flowered in songs, you still broke in currents.
Oh pit of debris, open and bitter well.

Pale blind diver, luckless slinger,
lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour
which the night fastens to all the timetables.

The rustling belt of the sea girdles the shore.
Cold stars heave up, black birds migrate.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
Only the tremulous shadow twists in my hands.

Oh farther than everything. Oh farther than everything.

It is the hour of departure. Oh abandoned one.

This poem was translated by W. S. Merwin

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Running - Richard Wilbur

(North Caldwell, New Jersey)

What were we playing? Was it prisoner's base?
I ran with whacking keds
Down the cart-road past Rickard's place,
And where it dropped beside the tractor-sheds

Leapt out into the air above a blurred
Terrain, through jolted light,
Took two hard lopes, and at the third
Spanked off a hummock-side exactly right,

And made the turn, and with delighted strain
Sprinted across the flat
By the bull-pen, and up the lane.
Thinking of happiness, I think of that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bilingual/Bilingüe - Rhina P. Espaillat

My father liked them separate, one there,
one here (allá y aquí), as if aware

that words might cut in two his daughter's heart
(el corazón) and lock the alien part

to what he was - his memory, his name
(su nombre) - with a key he could not claim.

"English outside this door, Spanish inside,"
he said, "y basta." But who can divide

the world, the word (mundo y palabra) from
any child? I knew how to be dumb

and stubborn (testaruda); late, in bed,
I hoarded secret syllables I read

Until my tongue (mi lengua) learned to run
where his stumbled. And still the heart was one.

I like to think he knew that, even when,
proud (orgulloso) of his daughter's pen,

he stood outside mis versos, half in fear
of words he loved but wanted not to hear.

This poem was performed by one of my students at our state's Poetry Out Loud competition. It was a powerful reading that I hear every time I read this poem.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Ballad of Don Gato - unk.

O Senor Don Gato was a cat.
On a high red roof Don Gato sat.
He was there to read a letter,
(guau, guau, guau)
where the reading light was better,
(guau, guau, guau)
'Twas a love-note for Don Gato!
"I adore you," wrote the ladycat,
who was fluffy white, and nice and fat.
There was not a sweeter kitty,
(guau, guau, guau)
in the country or the city
(guau, guau, guau)
and she said she'd wed Don Gato!

O Senor Don Gato jumped with glee!
He fell off the roof and broke his knee,
broke his ribs and all his whiskers,
(guau, guau, guau)
and his little solar plexus
(guau, guau, guau)
"Ay Caramba!!" cried Don Gato.
All the doctors they came on the run,
just to see if something could be done.
And they held a consultation,
(guau, guau, guau)
about how to save their patient,
(guau, guau, guau)
how to save Senor Don Gato.

But in spite of everything they tried,
poor Senor Don Gato up and died.
No, it wasn't very merry,
(guau, guau, guau)
going to the cemetary,
(guau, guau, guau)
for the ending of Don Gato.
But as the the funeral passed the market square,
such a smell of fish was in the air,
though the burial was plated,
(guau, guau, guau)
he became reanimated,
(guau, guau, guau)
he came back to life, Don Gato!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Three Poems for Easter but not necessarily about Easter

Spring is like a perhaps hand - E. E. Cummings


Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.

Spring and All - William Carlos Williams

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines-

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

Birds Again - Jim Harrison

A secret came a week ago though I already
knew it just beyond the bruised lips of consciousness.
The very alive souls of thirty-five hundred dead birds
are harbored in my body. It’s not uncomfortable.
I’m only temporary habitat for these not-quite-
weightless creatures. I offered a wordless invitation
and now they’re roosting within me, recalling
how I had watched them at night
in fall and spring passing across earth moons,
little clouds of black confetti, chattering and singing
on their way north or south. Now in my dreams
I see from the air the rumpled green and beige,
the watery face of earth as if they’re carrying
me rather than me carrying them. Next winter
I’ll release them near the estuary west of Alvarado
and south of Veracruz. I can see them perching
on undiscovered Olmec heads. We’ll say goodbye
and I’ll return my dreams to earth.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

One Art - Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Miracles - Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Telephone - Robert Frost

'When I was just as far as I could walk
From here today,
There was an hour
All still
When leaning with my head again a flower
I heard you talk.
Don't say I didn't, for I heard you say--
You spoke from that flower on the window sill-
Do you remember what it was you said?'

'First tell me what it was you thought you heard.'

'Having found the flower and driven a bee away,
I leaned on my head
And holding by the stalk,
I listened and I thought I caught the word--
What was it? Did you call me by my name?
Or did you say--
Someone said "Come" -- I heard it as I bowed.'

'I may have thought as much, but not aloud.'

"Well, so I came.'

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Definitely - Mary Jo Bang

What is desire
But the hard wire argument given
To the mind's unstoppable mouth.

Inside the braincase, it's I
Want that fills every blank. And then the hand
Reaches for the pleasure

The plastic snake offers. Someone says, Yes,
It will all be fine in some future soon.
Definitely. I've conjured a body

In the chair before me. Be yourself, I tell it.
Here memory makes you
Unchangeable: that shirt, those summer pants.

That beautiful face.
That tragic beautiful mind.
That mind's ravenous mouth

That told you, This isn't poison
At all but just what the machine needs. And then,
The mouth closes on its hunger.

The heart stops.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Last Wolf in Edmonson County - Davis McCombs

Then I stood below the pedestal of Dismal Rock
as shadows straggled up like sheep from the river.
I wanted to believe his ghost might prowl among them,
that something of his hunger might still be limping
down a faint scent trail to its end, but I could not.
Autumn lit the wicks of the leaves; the river, foaming,
garbled, recovered its voice. I did not climb
the flash-lit, switchback trail to the rockhouse.
I did not stand before the petroglyphs again
nor rake at the midden of ash below them with a stick.
I waited until the dark took everything,
but the sound of water; the spillway's troughs of stone,
the dam's think plug. I waited where the blood spoor
of local narrative intersects a trail gone cold,
and what came stalking there was not a shade, though
it moved with stealth among the sawbriars, lit by nothing.

Davis McCombs is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas. He was a Park Ranger at Mammoth Cave National Park from 1991-2001.

I particularly like the feeling of barely flickering hope amid desolation in this poem.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Three Poems

Teddy Bear - Leanna, age 6, USA

My Teddy Bear is nice and soft
It comes in handy when I'm scared
He follows me wherever I go
That is something that I know.


Chocolate Spread - Joshua B, age 6, England

Chocolate Spread is my favourite,
I like it on my toast,
And if I look quite carefully,
I get it through the post!
My little sister Sophie
Steals it from my plate.
I know what she thinks of it,
She thinks it is really great!
P.S. I get angry most
When Sophie steals my toast!


Sorrow - Udeshi B., age 10, India

Sorrow is like a tsunami,
That wipes away happiness,
A shock to make you sadder
than you already are,
Joys being swept away
like the sweeping away of leaves,
Friendships being broken,
fights being made,
Losing something
you love.
These poems and more can be found at -

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Two Poems for April 5th

Metaphysics - Allen Ginsberg

This is the one and only
firmament; therefore
it is the absolute world.
There is no other world.
The circle is complete.
I am living in Eternity.
The ways of this world
are the ways of Heaven.

New York, mid - 1949


Baseball Couplet - Donald Hall

When the tall puffy
Figure wearing number
nine starts
late for the fly ball,
laboring forward
like a lame truckhorse
startled by a gartersnake,
--this old fellow
whose body we remember
as sleek and nervous as a filly's--
and barely catches it
in his glove's
tip, we rise and applaud weeping:
On a green field we observe the ruin
of even the bravest
body, as Odysseus
wept to glimpse
among the shades the shadow
of Achilles.


April 5, 2009 is the twelfth anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's death. It is also opening day of the baseball season. Today we celebrate both. I'd like to think Ginsberg (not noted as a great baseball fan) would appreciate Hall's depiction of the beginning of physical decline and the evocation of the ancient Greeks.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Looking Around, Believing - Gary Soto

How strange that we can begin at any time.
With two feet we get down the street.
With a hand we undo the rose.
With an eye we lift up the peach tree
And hold it up to the wind — white blossoms
At our feet. Like today. I started
In the yard with my daughter,
With my wife poking at a potted geranium,
And now I am walking down the street,
Amazed that the sun is only so high,
Just over the roof, and a child
Is singing through a rolled newspaper
And a terrier is leaping like a flea
And at the bakery I pass, a palm,
Like a suctioning starfish, is pressed
To the window. We're keeping busy —
This way, that way, we're making shadows
Where sunlight was, making words
Where there was only noise in the trees.

Friday, April 3, 2009

God Says Yes to Me - Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes