Monday, September 22, 2008
12 More Poems I've Liked
"What Water Left Behind"
A watercolour by Van Hoogdalem
the moment you see this you know
why the painter made this
it had to be this way
an interior with a few things
one can see that he loved this scene
not for its so-called beauty
but for its contingencies
the window, the wall, the table, the chairs
the floor -- they don't have the desire
to belong together
but what unites them for a moment is
slanting light streaming through the window
flooding everything with every shade of red
you can see how he saturated the paper
with water -- water now evaporated
leaving things behind as they were,
there in that light
-- Rutger Kopland
translated from the Dutch by Willem Groenewegen
* * *
I have been here too many times before
you & now it's time to go
crazy again will that make you like me? I think so
often about you & all those bon aperitifs we had
wanted to have but didn't in Paris where we
never got to did we No we didn't although now
Here I am & everyone loves me so
where are you? & why don't they go
away? I didn't ask for this I asked for you
love but you said No, you didn't say
May I? true & crazy here I am
again unkempt in my passion at that May I?
-- Ted Berrigan
* * *
When she was fourteen, she says,
she ran away from home, at sixteen
she bought a big bike and hit the road,
moving from town to town, looking for
something she can't explain.
Later, with her fluffy blonde hair
tucked under a cap, she worked at
fixing computers for a living.
It's just one weird thing after another;
an odd life, she says, for a farmer's daughter.
Now, briefly, she's alighted
behind the counter of the aquarium shop
to wait out the winter. We sit and talk
while the fish gape and kiss the glass
in a bother of colourless bubbles.
He blue eyes are wide awake and dreaming:
she's inside a huge television set
under the sea, surrounded by a movie
of a coral reef where a million
coloured fish flicker like confetti.
She shows me the book she's reading:
see, she says, when a butterfly
breaks out of the cocoon, it is already
delicate and pretty.
She lights another cigarette, stares out
through the rainy window at the street
full of showers and the heavy traffic
stalled on the hill,
thinking of the open road,
sunshine, and the next flower.
-- John Tranter
* * *
"She Teaches Herself to Chop Wood by Reading Poetry"
Aim for the point that everything circles.
There will be space to let you in.
At a certain moment a decision is irreversible, the weight
-ed blade dropping itself to impact.
You know people who've cut themselves
with their own axes.
Admire the pieces, how you can't put them together
to make a tree.
-- Alison Calder
* * *
After bedtime the child climbed on her dresser
and peeled phosporescent stars off the sloped
gable-wall, dimming the night-vault of her ceiling
like a haze, or the interferring glow
of a great city, small hands anticipating
eons as they raided the playful patterns
her father had mapped for her -- black holes now
where the raised thumb-stubs and ears of the Bat
had been, the feet of the Turtle, wakeful
eyes of the Mourning Dove. She stuck those paper
stars on herself. One on each foot, the backs
of her hands, navel, tip of nose and so on,
then turned on the lamp by her bed and stood close
like a child chilled after a winter bath
pressed up to an air duct or a radiator
until those paper stars absorbed more light
than they could hold. then turned off the lamp,
walked out into the dark hallway and called.
Her father came up. He heard her breathing
as he clomped upstairs preoccupied, wrenched
out of a rented film just now taking grip
on him and the child's mother, his day-end
bottle of beer set carefully on the stairs,
marking the trail back down into that evening
adult world -- he could hear her breathing (or
really, more an anxious, breathy giggle) but
couldn't see her, then in the hallway stopped,
mind spinning to sort the apparaition
of fireflies hovering ahead, till he sensed
his daughter and heard in her breathing
the pent, grave concentration of her pose,
mapped onto the star chart of the darkness,
arms stretched high, head back, one foot slightly raised --
the Dancer, he supposed, and all his love
spun to centre with crushing force, to find her
momentarily fixed, as unchanging
as he and her mother must seem to her,
and the way the stars are; as if the stars are.
* * *
On time's lap sat simmering
burnt on lost hearths' desires,
tasks fulfilled not fulfilled
through joys dying,
pain reborn in hearts
that felt they have forgotten
but not forgotten forever
sleeping ever last of all
with the down sloping of hopes lost
reborn every day in the anguish of
long known long shores
stretching though childhood memories.
Birds and hunting at grandfather's farm far away
and squirrels hide in time's harvest.
-- Kofi Awoonor
* * *
"My Father's House Has Many Mansions"
Who could have said we belonged together,
my father and my self, out walking, our hands held
behind our backs in the way Goethe recommended?
Our heavy glances tipped us forward -- the future,
a wedge of pavement with our shoes in it . . .
In your case, beige, stacked, echoing clogs;
and mine, the internationally scruffy tennis shoes --
seen but not heard -- of the protest movement.
My mother shook her head at us from the window.
I was taller and faster but more considerate:
tense, overgrown, there on sufferance, I slowed down
and stooped for you.
I wanted to share your life.
Live with you in your half-house in Ljubljana,
your second address: talk and read books;
meet your girlfriends, short-haired, dark, oral;
go shopping with cheap red money in the supermarket;
share the ants in the kitchen, the unfurnished rooms,
the fallible winter plumbing. Family was abasement
and obligation . . . The three steps to your door
were three steps to heaven. But there were only visits.
At a party for your students -- my initiation! --
I ceremoniously down a leather glass of slivovica.
But then nothing. I wanted your mixture of resentment
and pride in me expanded to the offer of equality.
Is the destination of paternity only advice . . . ?
In theirk ecxtasy of growth, the bushes along the drive
scratch your bodywork, dislocate your wing-mirror.
Every year, the heraldic plum-tree in your garden
surprises you with its small, rotten, fruit.
-- Michael Hofmann
* * *
Today I whacked you, fly, who was making more fuss than
a ratty Volkswagen ascending a mountain:
I crushed you with the catechism of Augustine
(the German edition by Gustav Kruger,
which I"ll wager
few have read, or will ever . . . ):
thus De Catechizandis Rudibus
has pressed out your worried buzz, brought you
to a thimble-fountain of maggot pus.
And had I sent you off to Paradise, odd fly out of Hadrumetum,
had you been, say, a disciple of Chrysostom,
or a little optimist following Origen, rather than
a broom-chasing peregrine, I might have let you go.
But there you were
just back from bugging mules, Gaul-blown,
smaller than the small books of Hippo.
What a life you must have had,
swirled in the breath of running dogs,
your eyes domed and numerous
as the basilicas of Carthage.
-- Gabriel Gudding
* * *
"Cooking Supper While My Sister Dies"
She takes her last meal of sugar water and oblivion ,
the needle keen as a knife, a double-edge bridge
she must cross into the Unsayable. Wait, I say, wait --
but she will not, nor can I o with her, delay
in each grain of rice, exile in the onions I chop so fine
I am word blind, my face wet with the rain
that was her grief, and mine, that we did not love
each other long enough. Black olives, then zucchini
diced, swept into a pan from the wooden board,
a heave offering to the wind-dark sea.
And I must . . . I can only . . . I am left with . . .
this tomato, sun-ripened and taut, tinged green
as the pock where it let go of the vine. Into hinged
wedges I cut it slowly. Slowly. Wanting
her to be like a flower that opens into a summer night
of stars, breath by breath.
Wondering, Is it here? Is it yet? Is it now?
-- Margaret Gibson
* * *
"Poem in Orange Tones"
Curtains hung closed, sealing off the window,
and the silver waste of a snail glistened
on the sidewalk outside, minutely rotting,
where night had taken its fluttering light away
and a rumbling in the world's belly
signaled the rising red of a day. Dew trembled
to keep its balance on a spear of grass.
Dirt lamented in the cemeteries. The fir
grieved not to be as hard as oak or olive.
Everything in the world regretted something --
the ash not to be fire, blue not to be red,
a radish not to have the smell of an onion.
Thus, with the whole world resisting waking up,
men and women, also, woke
slowly, reluctantly, with eyelashes melted together
and frozen brows
and would have tossed all day long in bed
like fallen leaves
if certain trees had not produced a sound like laughter,
if particular birds had not sung in orange tones,
or if the air had not wrecked itself
on the lower lip of the horizon. A white journey
was beginning, rosy in the distance,
a drone was starting to sound just under the surface
of the land, in the woods where it had been too wet
to echo and in the water, now that the moon
had stopped pulling
orphaned questions out of private prayers,
and it was time. The doors opened.
The curtains spread. What if there was to be rage
in the middle of metal, rebellion in some motor
somewhere, or wrath in the weather?
Whatever can happen will, and rakes will clatter
to clear the consequence of time,
and saws will sing to fell even the olive tree,
and the strength of the onion falter,
but still we live the days
as if in a crystal
in which the smell of fruit is increased
day by day by the sun.
And the color yellow regret it was never green,
and the east and the west long to trade places,
and the shadow would like just once
to come out on top.
-- Marvin Bell
* * *
"A Quick Poem"
I was listening to Gregorian chants
in a speeding car
on a highway in France.
The trees rushed past. Monks' voices
sang praises to an unseen God
(at dawn, in a chapel trembling with cold).
Domine, exaudi orationem meam,
males voices pleaded calmly
as if salvation were just growing in the garden.
Where was I going? Where was the sun hiding?
My life lay tattered
on both sides of the road, brittle as a paper map.
With the sweet monks
I made my way towards the clouds, deep blue,
toward the future, the abyss,
gulping hard tears of hail.
Far from dawn. Far from home.
In place of walls -- sheet metal.
Instead of a vigil -- a flight.
Travel instead of remembrance.
A quick poem instead of a hymn.
A small, tired star raced
and the highway's asphalt shone,
showing where the earth was,
where the horizon's razor lay in wait,
and the black spider of evening
and night, widow of so many dreams.
-- Adam Zagajewski
translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh
* * *
And what have I done, after all?
For years I didn't do a thing.
I only looked out the window.
Raindrops soaked into the lawn,
year after year.
Later, tiny flowers blossomed,
a chain of flowers,
probably in spring.
Then tulips, daffodils,
As for me, I did nothing.
Winter and summer tumbled
between the blades of grass.
I slept as much as I could.
It was a big enough window.
Whatever a person needs
I saw in that window.
-- Dahlia Ravikovitch
translated from the Hebrew by Chana Block & Ariel Bloch
* * *
Friday, September 05, 2008
Some Poems About Love by Women
"In Darkness We Find Each Other"
Two weeks away and when I return
we meet like blind people,
finger tips first,
cautious of obstacles.
How dare you, your body says,
stiff in greeting.
How dare you leave me this long?
This means, I missed you.
In darkness we find each other.
As if it were any other night
we don old T-shirts for sleep,
caught a little breathless
at glimpsing flesh again.
I tap-tap my fingers over
your lost chest, your thigh
all of you, knocking
Are you there? Are you home?
Finding you, safe
in the trusted place that is our bodies
melting into Hello.
-- Kate Braid
* * *
Enough already -- why don't we just get in the car and drive?
That's what we did when we were younger:
Wake up in the middle of the night with a feeling of let's go
and head north, deep into winter, straight up 95,
right to the border and beyond. In those days, we could live on
one sandwich and half an ounce of hashish. But hurry now, hurry
I want to be cold in a French city. I want to go to Montreal
We'll shop. We'll by shoes and dresses; furs
I'll call you cherie. We'll smoke cigarettes to achieve
a Russian look. We'll sleep in the finest hotel on rue Rachel
and when we rise, I will feed you cake and tea with cinnamon
Cherie. You are the heart of me. Like the living moon,
alive in early morning, you prove that we have put
the night behind us. That we have another day
Let's gp tp
We'll drink coffee and eat chocolate in a garden of ice and snow
I want to see you in boots and gloves walking on a cobbled street,
walking under colored lights with ice crystals in your hair. I want
To see you through the window of a gallery buying postcards
of frozen rivers, frozen lakes, and icebound streams
So hurry now, hurry. While the stars are still out, while the
temperature is dropping, while true north pulls us toward
the Milky Way, let us steal off into the night. Tomorrow,
strangers will points us out on Catherine Street. They will say,
There are the lovers who came to see the northern lights
Welcome them into our city, into the home of the north wind
-- Eleanor Lerman
* * *
"Portrait of My Lover as a Spoon"
When you're next in Argentina, Lord,
can you get some DULCE DE LECHE for me?
To be gobbled up straight from the tin
with my little spoon
in my big dark house
where I'm pacing about, O Lord,
craving something sweet,
because sweetness and thickness
was where I went wrong, O Lord,
and you're more like ice
and all I need now is a plastic spoon for my jelly,
O all I need now is a white, molded spoon
to hold in my hand
as I wait for my white milk jelly.
(You'll know it, O Lord, by the photograph of the cow
stretching around the tin like a white dachshund.)
-- Selima Hill
* * *
"On the Wing"
You fly to my table with unbuttoned sleeves.
You look like an angel with unbuttoned sleeves.
Where have you been? Did you run from a fire?
Here, share my meal with unbuttoned sleeves.
Like a page dipped in ink, your cuff's in my coffee.
You have something to tell with unbuttoned sleeves.
Don't say it yet. that's not what you mean.
I know you too well with unbuttoned sleeves.
How many years since I first loved your face?
You could have set sail with unbuttoned sleeves.
Clothes make the man. Our bed's still unmade.
Please pay the bill with unbuttoned sleeves.
Unbutton me back to our first nakedness.
I have no name at all with unbuttoned sleeves.
-- Mary Jo Salter
* * *
"Feeding the Ducks at the Howard Johnson Motel"
I wouldn't say I was dying for it.
But he was already undressed, trousers, socks, shirt
in a heap on the floor. Now it's four in the morning and he
wants to feed the ducks. I tell him the ducks are sleeping.
The ducks are awake, though, floating
around and around on the pond
like baby icebergs. It's a wonder they don't freeze,
it's a wonder there aren't videos
in every room with ducks clouding the screens.
When I was six, my parents took me
to the Jungle Queen, family dining, with portholes
over every table. Fish swam past my nose,
dull-whiskered carp, shadowy
as X-rays. I tried to squeeze crumbs
through the glass, but now I think those fish fed
on one another. He saved bread
from dinner, and throws a piece to the biggest
duck, paddling in circles. even the taste
of our bodies comes from so far away,
from bodies and bodies where we have washed
ourselves clean and hard as stones.
If a duck shuddered into him, it would
shatter. If my tongue blew away, I might know
what to tell him. instead, i say, Why does the orange
bedspread look hideous when duck feet, the same
color, are beautiful? He throws again
and again, the bread sinking right
in front of their beaks.
I have been hungry so long I could
lift an empty glass to my mouth and savor the air
for hours. Each time I throw bread
I feel like a child, my arm reaching out across
the pond, pitching as hard
as it can the fat balls of dough. Only
now I am aware of their dumbness,
their duck stupidity, how
they do not even see the bread, which glows
as it fall, every crust and crumb
shining under the lights of the motel. Suddenly I
think of his teeth , hard
behind his lips; how, if a duck
bit me now, my hand
would open its heart, the rich
smell of something baking rising
from my flesh.
-- Susan Mitchell
* * *
Sitting in foreign airports
I dream of
familiar smiles, familiar thighs,
and remind myself
somewhere there is you.
Sounds come to me
filtering through my thoughts.
Faces pass as I sit waiting.
There strangers do not know you
but through me
they see you drifting.
-- Heather Royes
* * *
Everything I am is what survived
love's leaving. Everything I see, eat, want,
have is what survived the goneness
of what love is. Love, like time, takes down
the house, leaving only the partial walls,
open squares of light for windows,
and a door. the people here wrap
their special stones in large tea leaves.
I walked back from that looking for
a fallen bamboo the right length
for drying kimonos, thinking what
a surprise it is that even such a love
becomes familiar like everything else.
I kept a place for it, stubborn, blessed.
Even through the six years of pain after.
Now it's like the sun going down
each day. Or the moon changing size
predictably all along its range of feeling.
Dies and comes again. but love is
like the salmon that have not come back
to Walnut Creek for the last three years.
-- Linda Gregg
* * *
"Home, and I've"
covered the flowered linen
where i graze
on a convolvulus that hides in
lion grass, and ride in-
to the sunrise on a sand
horse. These days
shorten, but the afternoon simmered
me down. I had dinner
alone, with retrospective
on the blaz-
on of your throat's tiger-lily flush
and your salt sap enough
company until tomorrow.
the fat blue
lamp spills on a ziggurat of books,
mug the same cobalt. Looks
like reprise of lesson one
in how to
keep on keeping on. easier, with
you fixed hours away; both
solitude and company
have a new
savor: yours. Sweet woman, I'll woman-
fully word a nomen-
clature for what we're doing
when we come
to; come to each other with our eyes,
ears, arms, minds, everything wide
open. Your tonic augments
incanations till they work. I can
stop envying the man
whose berth's the lap where I'd like
to rool home
tonight. I've got May's new book for bed,
steak, greens, and wine inside
me, you back tomorrow, some
words, some laz-
y time (prune the plants, hear Mozart) to
indulge in missing you.
-- Marilyn Hacker
* * *
I once read that people are likely to marry within a ten-mile
radius of their hometown, and so I offer for your approval
my high school boyfriend and his car -- a Pontiac he drove
religiously to the mall and back and out to a cranberry field
where we'd fuck and smoke and listen to the radio most
nights. I'm talking about his white-boy's hands red-knuckled
and clumsy on my jeans, of parks and parking lots, the eerie
shapes a playground makes against the stars. I'm talking
about night, what we left behind so often in the rush before
police swooped in to dump our bootleg beer, the joint we
left beneath a rusted swing and the kid, next day, who found
it there. Listen, I know our fumbling rose, not out of desire,
but desperation. I know we drove incircles, because those
were the only roads we knew. I know how it is to have a place
inhabit the body, to feel a car rolling fast and a boy's hand
working on your knee. We were at the mercy of location;
he lived just up the street. God knows we would have loved
anybody else, given the opportunity.
-- Elizabeth Bachinsky
* * *
"I Invent You"
I invent you in the garden
I invent that you talk to me
that you call me
and in fact you do talk to me
and sometimes I don't understand
what you say
and I am amazed at you
at your mystery
and I pretend that I understand
so that you won't go away.
Day after day I invent you
and that's my way
of confronting your absence
because if I don't invent you
the joy of my hours
and you as well.
-- Claribel Alegria
(translated by Carolyn Forche)
* * *
Arigato, sweetheart, so here we are again in the up-tempo
blue-note auditorium of conjugal bickering, sound system
controlled by Mister Moody, dimmer switch by yours truly,
denoument written two hundred years before by desperate
emigres from Ireland and Allemagne with accents of inglese,
francese, and hard-drinking pow-wow native Hunkpapa
gitche-gumees, shaken not stirred into a DNA cocktail,
hold the olives, that makes us so very miserable, but
infrequently, thank Jehosaphat, or else we'd take a leap, a
jump on the Japanese bandwagon and fold ourselves hiri-
kiri into a silver bird, flap our wings like Zeus, transmuted,
looking for Leda, Hera hot on his trail, knowing her
man but driven mad by jealousy rather than revenge. No, it's
never that bad, and once rising from the tempestuous
ooze, we're full of vows, no more martinis, no picking up
Pandora on a rainy night, and always follow the Marquess of
Queensberry rules, dukes up, but that's a load of tommy
rot because dirty fighting leads to the boudoir, where all love
sick pugilists go for balm, which the body dishes out
tout de suite while the mind would rather truss itself
up in a Sadean costume, black leather and whips of pious
virtue betrayed, never remembering that love or its
wily surrogate passion has a biological agenda, the equation for
ecstasy written in every cell in the body, so while we're
yelling like kamakazis, I'm thinking, Where's my baby, my
Zeus, it's your Hera, darling, your milkmaid incognito, redux.
-- Barbara Hamby
* * *
"Sex in the Culture"
Sex in the culture
is drug & liberty bell.
I knew its guises,
both stern and cheerful,
but then with you, that hour,
cut off from the mainland, normal day,
entirely, so I can't remember
what god could have spoken to us or why,
I felt unlike me, afterwards,
in every cell,
while downstairs you whistled and made tea.
It wasn't sex, not sex at all.
-- Anne Rouse
* * *
I washed the grapes, let clear water run through them
till my nails went numb, gave them hours to drip
lopsidedly from sieve to sink while I rinsed
the small Greek cucumbers, laid them in rows,
patted them dry, sluiced the fat vine tomatoes.
I did this for you. Took you in my mouth.
Lingered over you. Ridges rose along
your feet, ribbed them like miniature canoes.
I lay still on the shore. Not talking, smiled
as you rabbited on, your gripes, your jokes.
I aged myself slowly as I dared,
once in a while suggested walks. Waylaid you
under the young acacia, looking up
into a work for green that was a word
for gold. Let you sleep to a silent phone.
Now you house me. Stumble on my misnomers
under the kick of language, catch my drift
in a chance remark and hurry me home.
Tenderness, ah tenderness, you observe,
on the tip of your tongue, a hint of cachou.
I am the silk page at your fingertips
running down on me, the fruit you revolve
and leave mapped in bloom, the blur of a lens
you lift a shirt hem to, rub over, breathe on,
I am the way you see the world anew.
-- Mimi Khalvati
* * *
I want you and you are not here. I pause
in this garden, breathing the colour thought is
before language into still air. Even your name
is a pale ghost and, though i exhale it again
and again, it will not stay with me. tonight
I make you up, imagine you, your movements clearer
than the words i have you say you said before.
Wherever you are now, inside my head you fix me
with a look, standing here whilst cool late night
dissolves into the earth. I have got your mouth wrong,
but still it smiles. i hold you closer, miles away,
inventing love, until the calls of nightjars
interrupt and turn what was to come, was certain,
into memory. The stars are filming us for no one.
-- Carol Ann Duffy
* * *
"Song for Your Inside Out"
Lips across the room, wings, arms
assume flight, the moon a lover I might
caress, planets I might come to know
the astronomy of your milky skin.
You fed me, stretched my appetite.
What was inside is now out.
What was out now discarded.
What was hard become supple.
Complications, distractions, playful, playful,
cat toy, cat nip, cat dancer, you are
my scratching post, I stretch into you, extend
the claws to the edge where the muscles contract, rakish
and proud when it comes to your body, when it comes
to my body, when it comes to our skin, when it comes
to fingers and the world, as you say, is juicy.
-- Sina Queyras
* * *
Naked, you bring me water
(yes, I'm thirsty!)
in your mouth,
place it over mine
so I taste you
in the cold rivers of the city.
Sometime my love for you
is a boat I ride,
never sure where I'm going
as if East and West
had nothing to do
with the sun,
were simply words
tattooed on the arms
of a sailor lost
I can't believe this
rainy season. The small
hairs on your belly
swirl in one direction
like grass at the bottom
of a stream. Adrift
in a boat that holds
a restless cargo
I'm still thirsty,
the only water I can drink
is from your mouth.
-- Lorna Crozier
* * *
"Thought of Night"
Just think of it, and you
surround it with
its opposite. That's thought's
domain. Take here
and now, for instance.
Do we see a line where there
is none? We draw
up sides, forgetting how in cells
division make things whole. To me
I'm complete, but I'm partial to you.
So as we fall
into the night (which isn't,
after all is said and done,
the opposite of day) I cannot see
our differences. Love mends
the broken language. We are each
the first of persons (thought I know
I mustn't speak for tow). I only mean
I feel myself again,
and it is you.
-- Heather McHugh
* * *
What I like
your even breathing
touches your skin
--Opal Palmer Adisa
* * *