Thursday, August 09, 2007


20 Short Poems


Like the radiator that sits
in the kitchen passing gas;
like the mop with its head
on the floor, weeping;
or the poinsettia that pretends
its leaves are flowers;
the cheap paint peels
off the steamed walls.
When you have nothing to say,
the sadness of things
speaks for you.

--Ruth Stone


"For Them To Come"

One candle is enough. It's dim light
is more appropriate, it will be kindlier
when Shadows come, the Shadows of Love.

One candle is enough. Tonight the room
must not have too much light. Immersed entirely in revery
and in suggestion, and in the low light --
Thus deep in revery I will dream a vision so

that Shadows may come, the Shadows of Love.

-- C. P. Cavafy
(translated by Rae Dalven)



A pink house trailer,
scuffed and rusted, sunken
in weeds. On the line,

five pale blue workshirts
up to their elbows
in raspberry canes --

a good, clean crew
of pickers, out early,
sleeves wet with dew,

and near them, a pair
of bright yellow panties
urging them on.

-- Ted Kooser



Leaving is not the same
as creeping out of the house
pulling the door quietly to
behind your existence and not
coming back. You continue to be
someone who's expected.

Leaving you may describe as
a sort of staying on. No one
is waiting, for you are still there.
No one says goodbye,
for you are not going away.

--Rutger Kopland
(translated by James Brockway)


"June Bugs"

Like prom queens, or brides, they have their season.
Nightly for a month, thudding the pane for lamplight, night light,
any light at all. By midnight it's all over. Their brief lives,
so many scuffed pumps discarded on the floor.

Ten (thousand) Foolish Virgins who never figured out flame.

any entomologist will tell you, the June bug's an evolutionary freak.
Plump bodies, brittle and lacquered, they fly about as fallibly as hens
and with as much racket. Brownish beetles of the cockchafer group,
they crash the future. Fig-eaters out of Eden
clinging to hope and drapery.

--Anne Compton


"My Daughter and Apple Pie"

She serves me a piece of it a few minutes
out of the oven. a little steam rises
from the slits on top. Sugar and spice --
cinnamon -- burned into the crust.
But she's wearing these dark glasses
in the kitchen at ten o'clock
in the morning -- everything nice --
as she watches me break off
a piece, bring it to my mouth,
and blow on it. My daughter's kitchen,
in winter. I fork the pie in
and tell myself to stay out of it.
She says she loves him. No way
it could be worse.

--Raymond Carver



You have never looked so fine
as now, when you are not here.

--So shot with light,
so sharply defined --

I cut my finger on the white
of this paper.
I cut my eyes on the keen edges of your

I am faithless to you, distant one.
I lie with your blinding shadow, your

White mind.

--Gwendolyn MacEwen


"Lo and Behold"

Mountain tips soften after so much rain,
the wild guesses of birds blending with air
and the uppermost buds, with a godlike
promotion, burst open.

Especially beautiful
are the brown and drunken bats
who nosedive down the barnside,
not quite earthbroken.

-- Mary Ruefle




-- Leonard Cohen


"That Would Not Be Good"

When I am alone
I am afraid to turn
too quickly.

What is behind my back
may not, after all, be ready
to take a shape suitable
for human eyes.

And that would not be good.

-- Anna Swir
(translated by Czeslaw Milosz & Robert Nathan)


"September Garden Party"

We sit with friends at the round
glass table. The talk is clever;
everyone rises to it. Bees
come to the spiral pear peelings
on your plate.
From my lap or your hand
the spice of our morning's privacy
come drifting up. Fall sun
passes through the wine.

-- Jane Kenyon



Sometimes when a customer in a shadowy restaurant
is shelling an almond
a hand comes to rest on his narrow shoulder
he hesitates to finish his glass
the forest in the distance is resting under its snows
the sturdy waitress has turned pale
he will have to let the winter night fall
has she not often seen
on the last page
of a book of modest learning
the word end printed
in ornate capitals?

-- Jean Follain
(translated by W. S. Merwin)


"The Garden"

Oleander: coral
from lipstick ads in the 50's.

Fruit of the tree of such knowledge.

To "smack"
(thin air)
meaning kiss or hit.

It appears
in the guise of outwarn usages
because we are bad?

Big masculine threat,
insinuating and slangy.

-- Rae Armantrout


"The Shaker Barn"

I would lie down with you here, side by side,
Our own memorials in what amounts to
The Shakers' cathedral, this circular hay barn,
The two of us fieldmice under storeys of hay,

Tons of hay, a column of hay that changes
The ceiling into a gigantic waggon wheel
Or a rose window made entirely of wood
Which we can see through as far as the sky.

-- Michael Longley


"A Conversation with a Mouse"

One day a mouse called to me from his curly nest:
"How do you sleep? I love curliness."

"Well, I like to be stretched out. I like my bones to be
All lined up. I like to see my toes way off over there."

"I suppose that's one way," the mouse said, "but I don't like it.
The planets don't act that way, nor the Milky Way."

What could I say? You know you're near the end
Of the century when a sleepy mouse brings in the Milky Way.

-- Robert Bly


"Small Poem About the Hounds and the Hares"

After the kill, there is the feast.
And toward the end, when the dancing subsides
and the young have sneaked off somewhere,
the hounds, drunk on the blood of the hares,
begin to talk of how soft
were their pelts, how graceful their leaps,
how lovely their scared, gentle eyes.

-- Lisel Mueller



Among the beachstones, some
wink at you, sunwet.

Rocks you would not think
of pocketing, if you met them dry,
ride home knocking against your thigh.

Next day, ranged upon the sill
they are nothing if not dull,
these mute lumps -- grainy and grey.

Where are the glints that caught your eye?
What made you pick them?

Lick them.

-- Robyn Sarah



Not yet old enough, still only a kid,
you meet Hazel. She is not old enough either --
it is the world before: it is early. The two of you
walk through slow, heavy, thick air.

Now you are coming to the corner where hummingbirds have
their nest. You breathe. It is the honeysuckle
tangled along the church wall. Each of you
takes a blossom to taste as y ou say goodbye.

That flavor lasts a long time. Forever.

-- William stafford


"Word: Russets"

Whoever longs fro spring to come,
be stayed by winter's hamper-hued
but choicest -- russet apples.

Though it still feel iron hard
its seeds are black, its juices sweet.

Aroma? in the seeds?
There is a fragrance of the one-day flower;
later, a tang of fruit; sharper in peel.
But -- seeds?

Where else is the aroma hid?
and how much more of good
sensed, anticipated,
or understood.

-- Margaret Avison



There are so many poems
in the world. There are so many
tea-colored peaches ripening
or rotting on the trees;
there is so much noisy
birdsong, so many trees.
I long for the God of abstinence
whose single fruit
is the sun, whose brief hymn
is the one poem necessary.

-- Linda Pastan

I just read through the first ten of these. Some enjoyable stuff - the Cavafy and the Kopland are my favourites. The Cohen too really. I'll head back for another ten soon.
Thanks for stopping by. Glad you found some you enjoyed. Kopland is a poet I've just recently discovered who has some fine work; I gather that he's extremely popular in his home country of The Netherlands.
I really, really liked Ted Kooser's poem, amongst them all and the one about the mouse and the milky way, and the the one about The Shaker's Cathedral.
I just read the final ten. Jane Kenyon's is good, quite racy! Jean Follain's poem is intriguing in the way her poems often are. And I liked William Stafford's memory among the honeysuckle.
Thanks for those. Much enjoyed the variety.
Thanks, everyone.
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