To Dorothy

To Dorothy

by Marvin Bell

You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
And a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
Of a windy night, it brushes the wall
And sweeps away the day till we sleep.

A child said it, and it seemed true:
“Things that are lost are all equal.”
But it isn’t true. If I lost you,
The air wouldn’t move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn’t be yours. If I lost you,
I’d have to ask the grass to let me sleep.

Published in: on September 17, 2009 at 4:41 am  Comments (1)  
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Ordinance on Arrival

Ordinance on Arrival

by Naomi Lazard

Welcome to you
who have managed to get here.
It’s been a terrible trip;
you should be happy you have survived it.
Statistics prove that not many do.
You would like a bath, a hot meal,
a good night’s sleep. Some of you
need medical attention.
None of this is available.
These things have always been
in short supply; now
they are impossible to obtain.

This is not
a temporary situation;
Our condolences on your disappointment.
It is not our responsibility
everything you have heard about this place
is false. It is not our fault
you have been deceived,
ruined your health getting here.
For reasons beyond our control
there is no vehicle out.

Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Man Eating

Man Eating

by Jane Kenyon

The man at the table across from mine
is eating yogurt. His eyes, following
the progress of the spoon, cross briefly
each time it nears his face. Time,

and the world with all its principalities,
might come to an end as prophesied
by the Apostle John, but what about
this man, so completely present

to the little carton with its cool,
sweet food, which has caused no animal
to suffer, and which he is eating
with a pearl-white plastic spoon.

(from Collected Poems)

Published in: on August 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Vespers

Vespers
by Louise Glück

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.

Published in: on August 15, 2009 at 4:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Two Untitled Prose Poems

by Gary Young

It’s a joy to be subtracted from the world. Holding my son’s naked body against my own, all I feel is what he is. I cannot feel my own skin. I cannot feel myself touching him, but I can recognize his hair, the heft of his body, his warmth, his weight. I cannot measure my own being, my subtle boundaries, but I know my son’s arms, the drape of his legs, smooth and warm in a shape I can measure. I have become such a fine thing, the resting-place for a body I can know.

+          +        +

My son stepped between two mirrors positioned to reveal an endless train of reflections stretching to infinity. When he looked at the string of his reflections left and right, I expected him to laugh, but he said, come home, all you children, come home.

(Both from Pleasure: Poems by Gary Young)

Published in: on July 9, 2009 at 12:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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I Wish in the City of Your heart

I Wish in the City of Your heart

by Robley Wilson

I wish in the city of your heart
you would let me be the street
where you walk when you are most
yourself. I imagine the houses:
It has been raining, but the rain
is done and the children kept home
have begun opening their doors.

Published in: on July 7, 2009 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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My Father and the Fig Tree

My Father and the Fig Tree

by Naomi Shihab Nye

For other fruits, my father was indifferent.
He’d point at the cherry trees and say,
“See those?  I wish they were figs.”
In the evening he sat by my beds
weaving folktales like vivid little scarves.
They always involved a figtree.
Even when it didn’t fit, he’d stick it in.
Once Joha was walking down the road
and he saw a fig tree.
Or, he tied his camel to a fig tree and went to sleep.
Or, later when they caught and arrested him,
his pockets were full of figs.

At age six I ate a dried fig and shrugged.
“That’s not what I’m talking about! he said,
“I’m talking about a fig straight from the earth –
gift of Allah! —  on a branch so heavy
it touches the ground.
I’m talking about picking the largest, fattest,
sweetest fig
in the world and putting it in my mouth.”
(Here he’d stop and close his eyes.)

Years passed, we lived in many houses,
none had figtrees.
We had lima beans, zucchini, parsley, beets.
“Plant one!” my mother said.
but my father never did.
He tended garden half-heartedly, forgot to water,
let the okra get too big.
“What a dreamer he is.  Look how many
things he starts and doesn’t finish.”

The last time he moved, I got a phone call,
My father, in Arabic, chanting a song
I’d never heard. “What’s that?”
He took me out back to the new yard.
There, in the middle of Dallas, Texas,
a tree with the largest, fattest,
sweetest fig in the world.
“It’s a figtree song!” he said,
plucking his fruits like ripe tokens,
emblems, assurance
of a world that was always his own.

(from19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East)

Published in: on June 21, 2009 at 6:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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night feed

Night Feed

by Eavan Boland

You rise, you dawn
roll-sleeved Aphrodites,
out of a camisole brine,
a linen pit of stitches,
silking the fitted sheets
away from you like waves.

You seam dreams in the folds
of wash from which freshes
the whiff and reach of fields
where it bleached and stiffened.
Your chat’s sabbatical:
brides, wedding outfits,

a pleasure of leisured women
are sweated into the folds.

(from ‘Degas’s Laundress’)

Published in: on June 21, 2009 at 6:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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Welcome to Hiroshima

Welcome to Hiroshima

by Mary Jo Salter
is what you first see, stepping off the train:
a billboard brought to you in living English
by Toshiba Electric. While a channel
silent in the TV of the brain

projects those flickering re-runs of a cloud
that brims its risen columnful like beer
and, spilling over, hangs its foamy head,
you feel a thirst for history: what year

it started to be safe to breathe the air,
and when to drink the blood and scum afloat
on the Ohta River. But no, the water’s clear,
they pour it for your morning cup of tea

in one of the countless sunny coffee shops
whose plastic dioramas advertise
mutations of cuisine behind the glass:
a pancake sandwich; a pizza someone tops

with a maraschino cherry. Passing by
the Peace Park’s floral hypocenter (where
how bravely, or with what mistaken cheer,
humanity erased its own erasure),

you enter the memorial museum
and through more glass are served, as on a dish
of blistered grass, three mannequins. Like gloves
a mother clips to coatsleeves, strings of flesh

hang from their fingertips; or as if tied
to recall a duty for us, Reverence
the dead whose mourners too shall soon be dead,

but all commemoration’s swallowed up

in questions of bad taste, how re-created
horror mocks the grim original,
and thinking at last They should have left it all
you stop. This is the wristwatch of a child.

Jammed on the moment’s impact, resolute
to communicate some message, although mute,
it gestures with its hands at eight-fifteen
and eight-fifteen and eight-fifteen again

while tables of statistics on the wall
update the news by calling on a roll
of tape, death gummed on death, and in the case
adjacent, an exhibit under glass

is glass itself: a shard the bomb slammed in
a woman’s arm at eight-fifteen, but some
three decades on—as if to make it plain
hope’s only as renewable as pain,

and as if all the unsung
debasements of the past may one day come
rising to the surface once again—
worked its filthy way out like a tongue.

(I’m not sure which book this is from, but her latest is: A Phone Call to the Future: New and Selected Poems)

Published in: on June 15, 2009 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Evolution

Evolution

by Greg Boyd

Somehow a crackpot biologist figures out how to grow a money

tree. When the first bud breaks, Grant’s face unfolds. Then the tree

doubles in size daily, until it’s taller than a redwood, its branches

broader than an oak’s. And still it grows, cracking sidewalks and

toppling buildings as its trunk widens, draining lakes and diverting

rivers as its root system stretches, eclipsing the sun as its billions

of branches, each bristling with hundred-dollar leaves, bud and

sprout. Giant seed coins explode like popcorn, fall to the earth, and

blossom overnight. Among men, those best suited for survival grow

wings with which to fly to trees. They dot the leaves like aphids, their

tiny mouths tearing at the green.

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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