Friday, March 20, 2009


Some Poems with Titles Beginning with the Letter "P"

"Past the Middle of My Life"

Ripple after ripple of lake-light
breaks on the sand and stays there.
The faraway has just passed through.
The day is small but it begins with so much
beauty, I am poured out like water.
A red squirrel stands upright on the woodpile,
clenches his paws on his chest and stares,
wanting me to choose.  Maybe it was Jesus on the lake
in his fishing boat, the disciples pulling up their nets,
light from their faces and hands -- his face, his hands --
what water carries to the shore, the hard gleam of heaven.
There should be music.  Harps in the birches,
psalters and a drum.  I dance on the sand,
twirl one way, then the other.  The fire begins in my feet.
There should be baskets for the fish, there should be
hunger.  That I can give you.  I used to shine.

-- Lorna Crozier

* * *

"Poet as Immortal Bird"

A second ago my heart thump went
and I thought, "This would be a bad time
to have a heart attack and die, in the
middle of a poem," then took comfort
in the idea that no one I have ever heard
of has ever died in the middle of writing
a poem, just as birds never die in mid-flight.
I think.

-- Ron Padgett

* * *


Yellow flowers
shower the decaying wooden palace
lending an air of rebirth to Paramaribo
with its zangvogels in cages -- everywhere,
and its pock-marked, shot-marked brick buildings,
exuding a glorious past before the coups.

The zangvogels,
small brown birds in their cages,
sing each Sunday morning in the market,
and the war-scarred city awaits recuperation.
Ghosts haunt the red-brick buildings
of Fort Zeelandia,
where old photos of the resplendent kottomissi ladies hang,
and black boys, stoked up on crack,
drive fancy cars through the swampy slums of Latour.

The flat, brown river stretches,
penetrates the Amazon,
giving promise of a more authentic life. 
Trembling on the brink,
Suriname waits.

-- Heather Royes

* * *

"Perpetuum Mobile"

Between people's
and their realization
there is always
a greater drop
than in the highest
of waterfalls.

This potential gradient
can be exploited
if we build a sort of
power station above it.

The energy it supplies,
even if we use it only
to light our cigarettes,
is something
for while one is smoking
one can very seriously
think up
ideals even crazier.

-- Marin Sorescu
translated from the Romanian by Michael Hamburger

* * *

"Perfect Day"

I am just a woman of the shore
wearing your coat against the snow
that falls on the oyster-catchers' tracks
and on our own; falls
on the still grey waters
of Loch Morar, and on our shoulders
gentle as restraint:  a perfect weight
of snow as tree-boughs
and fences bear against a loaded sky:
one more flake, they'd break.

-- Kathleen Jamie

* * *

"Personal Reasons"

Your hair -- short, long; stars, a bed
under stars, moon; your stars, your moon,
your embrace, your circumstances, my
buttons, your earrings; your collections
of moonlight in darkened rooms -- let it all
fall when it will:  so surrounded are we
already by all that we have lost
to each other, we could be god and goddess,
we could be grass and sky, flower and tree,
two of anything in romantic proximity.  But
we are -- that's it -- one man and one woman,
alike we choose to believe.  But it
(you and me) wasn't always that way,
or not so very much that very way -- us.

-- Marvin Bell

* * *


Headier than anything distilled or fermented,
shudder-touch of the pulse between her legs
with his flat-open hand on it, taking its small beats
as they tumble after one another one by one,
as a bird inside a hiding place of wet leaves
might give the game away, the whole branch
a spasm asperging suddenly air with light-drops,
silence broken by a faint cry of fright as a hand
bunches and punches it -- fingers bent, extending
their search for softness, wild eyes igniting
as it backs deeper into the dark till it can no more
and in a commotion of flesh and feathering feels
pulse against pulse, and capture, coming to light, release.

-- Eamon Grennan

* * *


It was always Good Friday
those Saturday afternoons.
Stooped babkas in black coats
and babushkas, kneeling
in marble aisles
before racks of vigil candles,
faces buried in hands.
Weeping echoes through the dim church
as foreign as their droned
language of prayer.
I stood in line
waiting the priest's question,
"Alone or with others?"'
and my turn in Confession,
trying to imagine
the terrible sins of old women.

-- Stuart Dybek

* * *


Nothing new arrives from Rio, again.
The geography prevents it.  There is a faded
portrait of a general on the wall,
a short-lived rebellion on the muddy plain
and an Englishwoman who dreams at a window
and hopes that something will arrive
but nothing ever does.
A rose bush clutching at the rusty fence

dries into brittle sticks.  Far away
across the Atlantic, a storm full of rain
swells like a bruise and floods the sea.
The lady sighs to see her hopes decline.
Across the misty ridges, behind the breeze,
is South America.  Just over there.

-- John Tranter

* * *


The poet, mindful of the daring lives
Of bards who dwelt in garrets, drank in dives,
And bought in little shops within the means
Of working folk theirk soup-bone, salt, and beans,
Becoming, in the cause of literature,
Adjunctive members of the laboring poor,

Ascends the platform now to read his verse
Dressed like a sandhog, stevedore, or worse,
And wears a collar of memorial blue
To give the brave Bohemian past its due.

Musicians, who remember when their sort
Were hirelings at some duke's or prince's court,
Obliged to share the noble patron's feast
Belowstairs, or below the salt at least,
Now sweep onto the concert stage disguised
As those by whom they once were patronized.

How princely are their tailcoats!  How refined
Their airs, their gracious gestures!  And behind
The great conductor who urbanely bows
Rise rank on rank on rank of noble brows.

-- Richard Wilbur

* * *


These are the very rich garments of the poor
Tousling gradation of rainbow, song & soothing tricks
With a crooked margin there & there is here:  we
Are the waiting fragments of his sky, bouncing a red rubber ball in the veins.

Do you have a will?  And one existing so forgets all
Desuetude desultory having to move again, take power from snow,
Evening out not more mild than beastly kind, into a symbol.
I hate that.  I think the couple to be smiles over glasses, and

Questions not to find you, the which they have.  O Marriage
Talking as you is like talking for a computer, needing to be
Abacus, adding machine, me.  Up from the cave's belly, down from the airy populace
That lace my soul, a few tears from the last the sole surviving Texas Ranger,

Freed, freely merge with your air, dance.  Blue are its snowflakes
Besprinkled blue lights on his eyes, & flakes.  For her

I'd gladly let the snake wait under my back, and think, to walk,
And pass our long love's day.  Landscape rushing away.

-- Ted Berrigan

* * *


The stars contain a world of their own
ships drag  fires over the sea
my soul,  inflamed and bitter as you pray devoutly,
free yourself from the link of darkness.

Ships drag fires over the sea
night shrinks and stays still as though a stranger
my soul, inflamed and bitter as you pray devoutly,
you recognize the law that binds you.

Night shrinks and stays still as though a stranger
the lights have gone out over the black silk
my soul, you recognize the law that binds you,
and what will stay with you, what abandon you.

The lights have gone out over the black silk
there's no sound but the rattle of time;
what will stay with you, what abandon you
should the dumb loophole explode with a flash.

There's no sound but the rattle of time
metallic column at the limit of pain
should the dumb loophole explode with a flash
you won't find even a dream to shed a tear.

Metallic column at the limit of pain
the moment rises like a suspended blade
you won't find even a dream to shed a tear
among your immaterial throng that constricts like a snake.

The moment rises like a suspended blade
why does peace delay its coming?
Among your immaterial throng that constricts like a snake
there's no heaven nor angelic happiness.

\Why does peace delay its coming?
Among the taciturn counting their sorrow
there's no heaven nor angelic happiness:
the stars contain a world of their own.

--= George Seferis
translated from the Greek by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

* * *

"Petit Mal"

This is how, perhaps,
we first came to know
the gods:  tiny ailment,

a sudden advent of dread,
and more dread in the shuddering
wake:  how the mind hinged

open to the unforeseen
dimension, the chaotic prime,
stirred brew of all

we ever were:  we
could not live there, could
not bear to have the world's

remnants we had stitched
into a coat of lights
ripped, then remade again

and again:  yet here's this
swaddling aura, this nimbus
we're stunned each time to wear.

--Richard Foerster

* * *


Who fit that sash in the back window?  And
who took this snapshot of us at the airport,
tilting your camera woozily?  Whose thumb
occludes us?  Are we crying before this
stranger?  Who saved it, creased it,
smoothed it, fixed it to black paper by four
right-angle triangles?  No master framer
reckoning by golden section, no
journeyman riffling soft curls of cedar to
vines, cornets, putti, and fleurs de lys.  No.
Whoever fit that bastard sash out back
queered it at such a slant you've got to ram
the heel of your hand slam up against it --
good, white-glossed Protestant pine, plain
as the pane that rattles when it shuts

-- Michael Donaghy

* * *

"Prayer in Sufi Spirit"

Why the braids?
Peace and beauty plaited into one,
hunger into another
the drip-drip of blood from a third.

undo your hair -- time for a good brushing
Let your hair loose, let the wind lift it,
each strand curled and free:  room for light to roam.

-- Sholeh Wolpe

* * *


Bird song, cinnamon, fatigue, the flight
memorable for its lack of sleep.
Daiquiris in the Honolulu lounge
in transit, biting stalks
of celery.  Breakfast
at the hotel -- a feast of peppers,
turmeric and chicken.
Start the day with a tongue of fire,
a final presentation to deaf
but fluent-in-English ears.
Decline an invitation to a Kuala Lumpur
dance hall; take, full of sleep, the short
flight to Penang.
Three nights of night markets:
masks, batik shirts, gamelan,
open fires, German and English
tourists, a red and yellow sarong
brought home in the hope
that my wife will wear it.  The last day:
a walk in Georgetown where a rickshaw
driver sits with the back of his head
in the clasped palms of his hands,
wearing a pair of shorts, smiling
in front of his shack where the chickens
surround him, well fed from the open
sewers.  A clay pot of squid, star
anise and long beans.  A torrent of rain
the chef washes her hands in.

-- Stephen Brockwell

* * *


Winter is too vast let's go to the pomegranate
the surface of the day grew cold, to the pomegranates
pomegranate will have something to tell us
a thousand warm words strew from the summer
my tongue dry, from here let's go to the pomegranate
pomegranate has a house, very crowded
I wish we lived there too
the house too big
every room a distance, children closed boxes
the back yard a chaos.  when  we split grapes
how we were vineyard friends, it seems, 
the thief is robbing the garden
from its leaves
the vineyard
stripped naked
if the roughneck enters the pomegranate garden
sadness, fall on words prior to the skin,
before the tongue feels cold feels sad, the skin
must bloom and disperse us, going to the pomegranate
the house like pomegranate a garden inside a garden
woman, garden to love, the mad a creeping ivy woman
holding to your love, now, let's go to the pomegranate

say, we coaxed this love from the hand of the pomegranate, let's.

-- Haydar Ergulen
translated from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat

* * *

"Paring the Apple"

There are portraits and still-lifes.

And there is paring the apple.

And then?  Paring it slowly,
From under cool-yellow
Cold-white emerging.  And . . . ?

The spring of concentric peel
Unwinding off white,
The blade hidden, dividing.

There are portraits and still-lifes
And the first, because 'human'
Does not excel the second, and
Neither is less weighted
With a human gesture, than paring the apple
With a human stillness.

The cool blade
Severs between coolness, apple-rind
Compelling a recognition.

-- Charles Tomlinson

* * *


Some people need a harsher kind of love.
I like the smooth soft wetness of our s ex.
I like the gentle easy way we move,

our bodies blending in a fleshy weave,
our lips, torsos, tongues a sensuous mix.
Some people need a harsher kind of love.

One plays the master, the other plays the slave.
They plunge each other's depths with plastic dicks.
I like him gentle.  I like his easy move

against me, desire rising like a wave
that draws us slowly to its crest then breaks.
Some women need a harsher kind of love.

A brutish forceful man is what they crave.
They scream and bite; they claw their lovers' backs.
I like the gentle, easy way you move,

and taste and touch my skin, without a glove,
or ropes to bind me.  How could I relax,
confronted with a harsher kind of love?
I'll take the gentle, easy way we move.

-- Beth Gylys

* * *


The sun gone for a moment, air
intrudes itself, a cool presence, bodies
sit on the warm grass --

The word gone, the red letters
of speech --lips held open, tongue held still,
nothing but vowels, oh, ooh, the ah
of pain, the uh of hurt, the hhh of almost
nothing left, the hush of nothing except
the slightest breath --

the word gone, spirit
came, it filled, mouth to mouth,
the whole house.

Then fire, a dazzle
of tongues, doing things over, things
that were done--

the first breath breathed
into something, then everyone
talking at once --

A cloud slips from the shoulder
of the sun, the sun falls on the bodies stripped
again, the bodies houses filled with flesh --

For a moment, the house was nothing
but mouth, the tongue
of the body the tongue of the holiest ghost
of the word that was, that was to be --

-- Martha Collins

* * *

"Paper-White Narcissus"

Strange, how they got their name --
a boy, barely a man,
looked into sunlit water
and saw himself so beautiful
he spent his life pursuing
that treacherous reflection.
There is no greater loneliness.

Here they are, risen
from the darkness of the pebbled pool
we have made for them in a dish --
risen and broken through
the long, green capsules
to show us their faces:

they are so delicate they invite
protection or violation,
and they are blind.

--Lisel Mueller

* * *


Between a laugh and rare luck
A man makes provision for clarity.
He is the beholder who holds little:
The moon, what is left of it, reflected light
Drawn as the expression of full knowledge,
Another day's spent endowment.
As in the cold world, the sheltered world,

The air of earth and foundation,
The example overshadows the argument
And is illumination:  a cast, a casting.
Clarity is not precision, the particular
Intersection, the crude X.
It is what the tools cannot measure:
The gap, the lack, the verge of arrival.

-- Eric Pankey

* * *

"Painted Portrait"

Westerik the painter on his craft:
paint is simply a few grains in oil
this substance needs to be inspired

he relates how he does this

how he creates a face, for example,
first he models the face with white
and paints the flesh on top of this
in layers, layers he resands
repaints, scratches, repaints

until he sees the curves of skin
on the flesh of a face

a trick of the old masters, he says
the white underneath works as a mirror
it renders a mysterious glow
from within

in his painting 'Dying' you see
the almost transparent face
of his deceased daughter

he relates that he saw this image
through his eyelids -- he had closed
his eyes to the blazing sunlight

I found that so beautiful, he says
I thought, it is flesh she returns to
leaving life again

and it's true -- in the paint you see
beneath the skin a mysterious glow
of joy and sorrow

-- Rutger Kopland
translated from the Dutch by Willem Groenewegen

* * *

"Panties and the Buddha"

Frantic to finish, frantic not to forget
details for a thousand deadlines,
"Clean underpants!" I think in the shower,
get out, drag a plastic tub, and string a line
under the tropic showerhead, grabbing clothespins,
hauling soap and dirty silk panties back
behind the curtain with me, still wed
to ALL THINGS NOW! (Poor Buddha, there's an ax
in your back.)  Make of yourself a lightness,
Buddha says.  Loofahs, gels, rinses and shampoos:
timing the hair rinse to rinsing the pants --
clip each by its crotch, lace dripping.

I won't know I have a body until you,
darling, imagine this lingerie on me as I
excuse myself to the ladies' room stall
of this restaurant in a foreign city
to lean my forehead on the marble, all
items on my lists crossed out, and the ax
I put in the Buddha's back starts slipping out
as I hike up a silk jungle print on my ass,
glad to remember I have one, as you
always remind me how glad  you are to  feel
this silk beneath the plain wool of my slacks.

-- Molly Peacock

* * *


Death will not correct
a single line of verse
she is no proof-reader
she is no sympathetic
lady editor

a bad metaphor is immortal

a shoddy poet who has died
is a shoddy dead poet

a bore bores after death
a fool keeps up his foolish chatter
from beyond the grave

-- Tadeusz Rozewicz
translated from the Polish by Adam Czerniawski

* * *

"Purple Loosestrife"

is too good to be true, in all its definitions.
Once beloved, once beautiful:  today the wildflower magazines
apologize for including it.  It induces wrath
in water-gardeners everywhere.  Crews of volunteers
uproot and burn the plants from marshes in Minnesota.

Like the remedies of revisionists, it does the job
too well -- like kudzu, or hybrid trout, anything introduced
with good intentions.  It wipes out the competition.
Where it grows best it is least desired.
You can't buy it in any nursery.

Doing its enterprising best it seeds itself,
driving out local weedy growth, what fits, what came first.
Best named of all  wild things, for those who love the names,
it casts itself into the swamps and will not quit.
Like  an imperialist, it has changed the landscape forever.

-- Ann Townsend

* * *

"Police Business"

The suspect
spat blood and said,
"I love you," causing us
to lose our places.
We had warned him once
that being recognizable
was still
the best way to stay hidden.

Harmless as the hose is turquoise
where it snakes
around the primroses --
those pink
satellite dishes,
scanning the columns.

Was that an incarnation there
when say connected
with so?  (Was it
an angel
or a Big, Big Star)?
we're just trying to make sure
that the heart's desire
stays put.

-- Rae Armantrout

* * *

"Pumpkin Picking"

The day we take our son into  the orange fields to go pumpkin picking,
he proudly wheels the wagon through the muddied rows

stopping now and then to observe the pumpkins,
how one is lopsided, another the shape of a woman's torso,

one the size of an October moon.  Before us the gray, fractured sky
so close you feel you could walk into it and enter the other world,

the air the kind of cold you pray for in August.
By the side of the road a man is burning leaves,

the smell drifts through the tangled rows, seeps into our wool jackets, our hair,
the way loss penetrates every aspect of a landscape, from a frozen

patch of ground, to this stand of blue spruce in the distance.
While my son is strutting down one row, filling his wagon with pumpkins,

occasionally kicking one that h as broken loose and begun to mold,
I've wandered further into the field through so many rows of orange heads

it's as if the souls of our lost children have entered this graveyard
where in a month's time the fields will be picked over, pumpkins splayed

open, smashed, left to rot.  Ready to be pulped, seeds cleaned,
roasted, later carved into jack-o-lanterns for our table, these pumpkins haunt me.

How they grow wild, almost arbitrary, how they give so much meaning
to a boy I cherish.  Look, their thick, husky umbilical stems that wed them to the ground,

how with a quick slice of a blade, even a hearty pull,
they are cast free from the earth toward  heaven.

-- Jill Bialosky

* * *

"Plants Possess a Voluntary Power of Motion"

Ham begets Ham.  A lithe green patch pitches south, a sunny air-
port's unthinkable cargo.  Enameled and arched, I'd rather be
brick.  when brick I'd prefer to be swimming.  My other car has in-
visible wings.  In the mirrored mirror, a comet trucking.  Whenever
two upon the dew, the coneflower, a roadside feather.  the firefly
lingers, deer in the woods.  A little something for the young finch,
milky begonias compliant as steel.

-- Elizabeth Willis

* * *


Still, still, the trees in morning thaw,
sealed still against steel cold
and ragged on the windward sides (the conifers)
let wilted-petal light
tip-touch every needle, the lest twig,

they are prepared
for onslaught when the obliterating
blasts sweep in again.

Meanwhile they dwell
thus, now.

And they are ready
even for spring, to swell
sing break spiral shimmer
when that become the
inconceivable now.

-- Margaret Avison

* * *

"Praise for My Heart "

Don't you deserve a few lines for yourself,
You  who work in the dark, in silence,
Under no orders, with no weekends free,
Shipping food to the hungry cells
On all my peripheries?
When I waked in the morning it seems clear
You've been at it all night
I get up shamed by your diligence.

What can such effort signify
But faith in the enterprise?
You're certain the world would be wounded
If you once failed me.
You believe in me without thinking.

-- Carl Dennis

* * *
* * *

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