The Swan

The Swan

by Mary Oliver:

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Published in: on December 15, 2009 at 2:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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This is Not For Your Eyes

This is Not For Your Eyes

by B.V. Marshall
You will invite
this poem to dinner
without your parents’
permission. You will not
horrify them; the poem
is light enough to pass and exotic
enough for spice. You will
decorate this poem with
your attention,
decant it with care into tumblers
so easy to grasp,
drink in the aroma under scrutiny
and a tasteful chandelier. You will
receive the poem
in the dark; let it
uncoil your hair while it curls your toes.
You will fondle the poem.
You will take the poem into you,
as it stiffens and say the poem again and again like a mantra.
You will not stain the sheets but wonder,
briefly, if the poem
will remember your name
next Tuesday when the slick streets
force you back to rolodexes,
palm pilots, cubicles. Then,
applying a glaze
to your fixed lips you will
see the poem on a far away bus.
You will not wave, or shout or recall
the rhyme. Your parents will
have enough sense to keep mum. They serve
dinner again. The linen gleams
as if it were never touched.
The poem walks
under a marble dome, shoots
a teller, a guard and self.
You will see
this on your cable and
shut the channel.

(Published in Obsidian III // Summer 2005 // Vol. 6 No. 1)

Published in: on December 3, 2009 at 1:25 am  Leave a Comment  

The Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy

by Dorianne Laux

They brushed a quarter with glue
and glitter, slipped in on bare
feet, and without waking me
painted rows of delicate gold
footprints on my sheets with a love
so quiet, I still can’t hear it.

My mother must have been
a beauty then, sitting
at the kitchen table with him,
a warm breeze lifting her
embroidered curtains, waiting
for me to fall asleep.

It’s harder to believe
the years that followed, the palms
curled into fists, a floor
of broken dishes, her chainsmoking
through long silences, him
punching holes in his walls.

I can still remember her print
dresses, his checkered Taxi, the day
I found her in the closet
with a paring knife, the night
he kicked my sister in the ribs.

He lives alone in Oregon now, dying
of a rare bone disease.
His face stippled gray, his ankles
clotted beneath wool socks.

She’s a nurse on the graveyard shift,
Comes home mornings and calls me,
Drinks her dark beer and goes to bed.

And I still wonder how they did it, slipped
that quarter under my pillow, made those
perfect footprints…

Whenever I visit her, I ask again.
“I don’t know,” she says, rocking, closing
her eyes. “We were as surprised as you.”

 

(I don’t know which collection this poem is from because I read it in an anthology, but a recent award winning book by this author is: Facts About the Moon: Poems)

Published in: on November 16, 2009 at 5:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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God Says Yes To Me

God Says Yes To Me

by 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

 

Published in: on November 4, 2009 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Poppies in October

Poppies in October

by Sylvia Plath

Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly——

A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky

Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.

O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.

(From Ariel by Sylvia Plath)

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What She Was Wearing

What She Was Wearing

by Denver Butson

this is my suicide dress
she told him
I only wear it on days
when I’m afraid
I might kill myself
if I don’t wear it

you’ve been wearing it
every day since we met

he said

and these are my arson gloves

so you don’t set fire to something?
he asked

exactly

and this is my terrorism lipstick
my assault and battery eyeliner
my armed robbery boots

I’d like to undress you he said
but would that make me an accomplice?

and today she said I’m wearing
my infidelity underwear
so don’t get any ideas

and she put on her nervous breakdown hat
and walked out the door

(from Illegible Address. Luquer Street Press, 2004. )

Published in: on October 16, 2009 at 6:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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History Lesson

History Lesson

By Natasha Trethewey

I am four in this photograph, standing
on a wide strip of Mississippi beach,
my hands on the flowered hips

of a bright bikini. My toes dig in,
curl around wet sand. The sun cuts
the rippling Gulf in flashes with each

tidal rush. Minnows dart at my feet
glinting like switchblades. I am alone
except for my grandmother, other side

of the camera, telling me how to pose.
It is 1970, two years after they opened
the rest of this beach to us,

forty years since the photograph
where she stood on a narrow plot
of sand marked colored, smiling,

her hands on the flowered hips
of a cotton meal-sack dress.

Published in: on October 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Let Evening Come

Let Evening Come

by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

Published in: on October 8, 2009 at 6:31 pm  Comments (1)  
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Carp Poem

Carp Poem

By Terrance Hayes

After I have parked below the spray paint caked in the granite
grooves of the Fredrick Douglass Middle School sign

where men and women sized children loiter like shadows
draped in the outsized denim, jerseys, bangles, braids, and boots

that mean I am no longer young, after I have made my way
to the New Orleans Parish Jail down the block

where the black prison guard wearing the same weariness
my prison guard father wears buzzes me in,

I follow his pistol and shield along each corridor trying not to look
at the black men boxed and bunked around me

until I reach the tiny classroom where two dozen black boys are
dressed in jumpsuits orange as the pond full of carp I saw once in Japan,

so many fat snaggle-toothed fish ganged in and lurching for food
that a lightweight tourist could have crossed the pond on their backs

so long as he had tiny rice balls or bread to drop into the water
below his footsteps which I’m thinking is how Jesus must have walked

on the lake that day, the crackers and wafer crumbs falling
from the folds of his robe, and how maybe it was the one fish

so hungry it leapt up his sleeve that he later miraculously changed
into a narrow loaf of bread, something that could stick to a believer’s ribs,

and don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer too, in the power of food at least,
having seen a footbridge of carp packed gill to gill, packed tighter

than a room of boy prisoners waiting to talk poetry with a young black poet,
packed so close they might have eaten each other had there been nothing else to eat.

(Published in the Konundrum Engine Literary Review)

Published in: on October 2, 2009 at 6:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Secret Life

A Secret Life

by Sylvia Plath

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don’t say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you’ve just made love
and feel you’d rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you’re brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that’s unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you’d most protect
in the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it’s like a small fire
in a clearing, it’s what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It’s why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who’ll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

Published in: on September 18, 2009 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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