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POEM-A-DAY 2001
_PAD
April is National Poetry Month and we always celebrated in our stores and online with our POEM A DAY program. Each and every customer in the store got a printed copy of the day's poem and every one on our email list had the poem emailed their way. We shared some of our favorite poems this way from 2000 to when we closed our doors for the last time. All poetry books were 10% OFF for the entire month as well.
Enjoy the poems.
 

— other poems from other years: 2000 | 2002 | 2003 | 2005 | 2006 | 2009

April 1

VANDALS, HORSES

The vandals are dreaming, wolves are dreaming,
The horses are staked to their deaths.

In the poem of the vandals dreaming
A word bites through a lip,

Drawing blood. (The poem is in ruins.)
The vandals dream their arms unseen,

Dream themselves buried in the belly
Of the birthing mare, as a foal is

Torn to life. (The poem is banal
As the barn is bloody.)

And you and I, and you and I, we steal
Each other's blankets, wrap ourselves

In darkness, wind, in anything
The night will let us, to feel safe.

Do you feel safe? (Soft,
the vandals sleep.) Because a word

Is a dream of its meaning, you and I
Must dream the vandals dreaming:

Soft, the horses nicker in the barn.
(Soft, our poem begins as vandals dream.)

     Alan Michael Parker
     New American Poets
     Middlebury College Press



April 2

FALL

The way the maples outside my window
Drop their leaves not one by one,
Like houseplants, but all together
In a shower of red and yellow, leads the unwary
To suppose them a message about renewal,
To forget the colors have always been there
Waiting beneath the green for the shorter days
When the green stopes flowing.
To read the change as a promise
Of late work outshining early
Is to be lured by glitter into disappointment.
And if a lucky few of the many observers
Excited by the leaves to a final effort
Somehow succeed, their lives ever afterward
Seem veiled by a mist of fiction,
However undeniable their accomplishments. Unreal
Like the lives of those early settlers,
Pious sectarians, who persuaded themselves
That New England was all theirs,
Deeded to them in a holy covenant,
A delusion that bestowed great confidence,
Great power. Of course I'm glad they came.
Otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here
Looking out the window at the fiery maples,
Telling myself again and again it's foolish
To believe their leaves are letters
Sent from the capital to the provinces
With news of a brightness as yet unseen
Waiting in the dark for a sign from me.

     Carl Dennis
     Ranking the Wishes
     Penguin



April 3

QUILT

At night this quiet covers me,
grown ragged on the center seam,
dividing all its history.

I touch the remnants-finely spun,
familiar pieces handed down
from chest to chest for far too long

to still remember what was cut,
that it was once a blouse, a skirt
she wore the night he took her heart.

I touch the fields I thought I knew
and smooth the places healed into
each other, at the ridges sewn

with careful secrets mouthed for all
the years she couldn't tell a soul.

     Diane Thiel
     Echolocations
     Story Line Press



April 4

THE FIRST AND LAST GHOST DANCE OF LESTER FALLS APART

It rained buffalo
in a wheat field
just off the reservation.

Confused and homeless
but otherwise free
of injury, the buffalo were rounded up and shipped
to Spokane's Walk in the Wild Zoo.

From behind a symbolic chain link fence
the buffalo stared
intelligently

at white visitors
who soon became very nervous.

Everything beautiful
begins somewhere.

     Sherman Alexie
     The Summer of Black Widows
     Hanging Loose Press



April 5

ALONE

I go out on the porch
and watch a firefly weave
through the pines-lost Saint,
stone lantern, looking
for the way.

The slow wheel in my chest
turning, I sit at the card table,
and trace your hair in the blue
dust of my saucer. The rib of moon
sails on.

The sun drops into
this valley. The leaves on the maple
lift, and shiver in the morning-
like the thin dresses in a closet
you're opening, somewhere.

     David St. John
     Hush
     Houghton Mifflin

INSURGENT MEXICO

In scorched dry desert
where sun is god and god eats life
great god sun going down
pastes up immense red posters
on adobe walls
and then falls down
over the horizon
'with the flare of a furnace blast'
and the posters faded yellow
fall into darkness
leaving only shadows to prove
one more revolution has passed

     Ferlinghetti
     Who Are We Now?
      A New Directions Paperback



April 6

OLIVER HARDY NEAR THE END

He's misplaced his wife's
name. She carries the bath
to him. Washes everyplace
he's famous first.

His mind on dissolve.
He cannot say Stan.
He cannot say
a thing. Not help,
not comb, not summer.

Anguish white gravy.
Puddles of it. Baking-
soda biscuits mulled
and put back.
Crumbs down the chest
of his nightshirt.
Suspenders won't hold
him up. Now weighs less
than he lost.

Honey (she prunes his mustache)
you and Stan are on tv tonight.

Cocoa on his chin.
The blue of black and white.
A comedian in each eye.
Funny fellows he'd someday
like to meet.

     Walter Pavlich
     Running Near the End of the Worlds
     University of Iowa



April 7

THE HOUSE WAS QUIET AND THE WORLD WAS CALM

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

     Wallace Stevens
   
 The Palm at the End of the Mind
     Vintage

CROW IS WALKING

Crow is walking
to see things at ground level,
the landscape as new under his feet
as the air is old under his wings.

He leaves the dead rabbit waiting--
it's a given; it'll always be there--
and walks on down the dirt road,

admires the pebbles,
how they sparkle in the sun;

checks out his reflection
in a puddle full of sky
which reminds him
of where he's supposed to be,

but he's beginning to like
the way the muscles move in his legs
and the way his wings feel so comfortable
folded back and resting.

He thinks he might be beautiful,
the sun lighting his back
with purple and green.

Faint voices from somewhere far ahead
roll like dust down the road towards him.
He hurries a little.

His tongue moves in his mouth;
legends of language move in his mind.

His beak opens.
He tries a word.

     Grace Butcher
     Best American Poetry 2000
     Scribner



April 8

CAMPING

We had been walking all day up the mountain
until evening we could reach into the clouds.
I leaned over a tin of fire and saw in its flame
a man coming up from the river with horses.
The backs of the animals were lit with their lather;
they closed their eyes for good when we mounted.
We rode our lives through darkness.
Then we came to a body of water where they drank
our shadows off the currents.
I heard your voice like a shell against my ear.
We knew we had reached no place familiar,
we knew we could never turn back.

     Christine Garren
     Afterworld
     University of Chicago Press

GLASS HOUSE

They learned to build by building, walls all glass,
with doors that roll on marbles, looking out
on all the green a body could take in,
a cluster of glass houses left as if
left not to be left, full of their old lives.
A child's bed on a lower level keeps
a paper Chinese kite and a blue dress.
This house begins to blend into the land,
its skylight broken by a branch, the grain
of the driftwood railing rotted out,
the few books waterstained and yellowing.
I come by moonlight, aping my own ghost,
the moist air and the white light on my skin,
as if, outside myself, I might look in,
a mystified light center of myself,
to be drawn through the shiny needle's eye,
this house of glass through which the world must pass.

     Greg Miller
     Iron Wheel
     University of Chicago Press



April 9

SIGNS

when the birds begin to walk
when the crows in their silk tuxedos
stand in the road and watch
as oncoming traffic swerves to avoid
the valley of dead things
when the geese reject the sky
and sit on the apron of highway 95
one wing pointing north the other south

and what does it mean this morning
when a man runs wild eyed from his car
shirtless and shoeless his palms spread wide
into the jungle of traffic into a world
gone awry the birds beginning to walk
the man almost naked almost cawing
almost lifting straining to fly

     Lucille Clifton
     Best American Poetry 2000
     Scribner



April 10

I WROTE A GOOD OMELET

I wrote a good omelet . . . and ate a hot poem . . .
after loving you

Buttoned my car . . . and drove my coat home . . . in the
rain . . .
after loving you

I goed on red . . . and stopped on green . . . floating somewhere
in between . . .
being here and being there . . .
after loving you

I rolled my bed . . . turned down my hair . . . slightly confused
but . . . I don't care . . .
Laid out my teeth . . . and gargled my gown . . . then I stood
. . . and laid me down . . .
to sleep . . .
after loving you

     Nikki Giovanni

YOU DECIDE TO BRING HER FLOWERS

You decide to bring her flowers even though it's
your first date and you're scared you're coming
on too strong and you don't even know if it's a
date-date or just a date but you decide to bring
her flowers even though you think maybe she just
wants a new friend though you remind yourself
she's the one who called and asked you out to
dinner but she can't really have a crush on you
can she, so you decide to take the risk and bring her
flowers because all your life you've tried to
second guess everyone else's feelings and deny your
own so you decide to bring her flowers because
anyway if you looked in the mirror you'd see
desire written all over your face as soft and
fragile as the purple petals of the iris she is now
holding with such shy pleasure in her eyes that
your stomach lurches with the wanting of her and
you decide your biggest fear is that she'll say yes

     Leslea Newman
     Love Me Like You Mean It



April 11

(untitled)

I live my life in growing orbits
which move out over the things the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.

     Rainer Maria Rilke
     Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke
     Harper Row

(untitled)

We are not separate beings,
you and I.
We are different strands
of the same Being.

You are me and I am you
and we are they
and they are us.

This is how we're meant to be,
each of us one,
each of us all.

You reach out across
the void of Otherness to me
and you touch your own soul.

     Leonard Peltier
     Prison Writings, My Life Is My Sundance
     St. Martin's Press



April 12

HIDDEN

If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
as if the stone has
swallowed it.

If you tuck the name of a loved one
under your tongue too long
without speaking it
it becomes blood
sigh
the little sucked-in breath of air
hiding everywhere
beneath your words.

No one sees
the fuel that feeds you.

     Naomi Shihab Nye
     Fuel
     BOA Editions



April 13

STUDY THE MASTERS

like my aunt timmie.
it was her iron,
or one like hers,
that smoothed the sheets
the master poet slept on.
home or hotel, what matters is
he lay himself down on her handiwork
and dreamed. she dreamed too, words:
some cherokee, some masai and some
huge and particular as hope.
if you heard her
chanting as she ironed
you would understand form and line
and discipline and order and
america

     Lucille Clifton
     Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems,1988-2000
     BOA Editions



April 14

STORY

A woman's taking her late-afternoon walk
on Chestnut where no sidewalk exists
and houses with gravel driveways
sit back among the pines. Only the house
with the vicious dog is close to the road.
An electric fence keeps him in check.
When she comes to that house, the woman
always crosses to the other side.

I'm the woman's husband. It's a problem
loving your protagonist too much.
Soon the dog is going to break through
that fence, teeth bared, and go for my wife.
She will be helpless. I'm out of town,
helpless too. Here comes the dog.
What kind of dog? A mad dog, a dog
like one of those teenagers who just loses it
on the playground, kills a teacher.

Something's going to happen that can't happen
in a good story: out of nowhere a car
comes and kills the dog. The dog flies
in the air, lands in a patch of delphiniums.
My wife is crying now. The woman who hit
the dog has gotten out of her car. She holds
both hands to her face. The woman who owns
the dog has run out of her house. Three women
crying in the street, each for different reasons.

All of this is so unlikely; it's as if
I've found myself in a country of pure fact,
miles from truth's more demanding realm.
When I listened to my wife's story on the phone
I knew I'd take it from her, tell it
every which way until it had an order
and a deceptive period at the end. That's what
I always do in the face of helplessness,
make some arrangements if I can.

Praise the odd, serendipitous world.
Nothing I'd be inclined to think of
would have stopped that dog.
Only the facts saved her.

     Stephen Dunn
     Different Hours
     Norton

(untitled)

I have been thinking of the difference
between water
and the waves on it. Rising,
water's still water, falling back,
it is water, will you give me a hint
how to tell them apart?

Because someone has made up the word
"wave," do I have to distinguish it
from water?

There is a Secret One inside us;
the planets in all the galaxies
pass through his hands like beads.

That is a string of beads one should look at with
luminous eyes.

     Kabir (version by Robert Bly)
     The Kabir Book-Forty-four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir
     Beacon Press



April 15

WHAT DO WOMEN WANT?

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their cafe, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snots over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

     Kim Addonizio
     Tell Me
     BOA Editions



April 16

AS I WAS TELLING DAVID AND ALEXANDRA KELLY

My brother swears this is true.
And others have willingly,
-generously testified,
as they did that other time when
after leaving an office party
they pulled off the expressway,
walked into a place he'd never
been to before, and ordered
a few more drinks while he
headed for the lavatory.
But as he was crossing the dining room
on the other side of the bar
this vicious fight broke out.
Two women-well-dressed, tall,
gorgeous-tore into each other,
punching, clawing, swinging
spike-heeled shoes, pulling
each other's hair, and my brother,
aghast, jumped between them
to break it up, grabbed them roughly,
held them apart, berated
them, tried to shake some sense
into-when he gradually pieced
it all together: the changed look
on their faces, the disapproval,
the utter silence of condemnation
that everyone aimed not at the
women, but at him, the fact that
it was a supper club theatre
and he had just jumped into
the climactic scene of a play--
But this, I hasten to add, is not
about my brother but his neighbor,
a man whose roof needed repair;
a man who, more than most, feared heights.
A ladder, to this neighbor,
didn't ordinarily suggest the kind
of elevating work that joins
the material to the spiritual,
so before mounting it he called
his children over and, as he wrapped
a rope thick enough to moor a barge
around his waist and lashed
the other end around the car bumper,
carefully explained to them
how they should steady the ladder
until he had climbed onto the roof.
Up he went, not overstepping
but securing both feet on the same rung
before proceeding to the next:
a trembling man on a trembling ladder. He squirmed over the drain,
crawled up the not very steep slope,
flopped over the peak, then slid
inch by inch down the rear slope
until he felt confident enough
to kneel instead of crawl,
to sigh and take a deep breath
before he began to cut a shingle.
Perhaps the first horripilating signal
was a subtle tug on the rope,
like an ange plucking a harp string.
Perhaps it was a sudden tautness
around his waist, or, perhaps,
he heard the station wagon door
slam shut, then the ignition,
the engine roar to life, or
slowly grindingly churn before it
kicked in and he was yanked heavenward
then jerked back, slammed, twisted,
keel-hauled belly up, belly down,
over the roof, dashed onto the
driveway to be dragged, dribbled,
bounced along the road, his
wife looking this way and that
as she drove on, wondering
wherever were those screams coming from?
Doctors, police, all believed
she could very well have not seen
the rope; could not, with windows
rolled up, have ascertained,
while they lasted, the source,
proximity, and intensity of the screams
And I, for one, though respectful of
the family's desire for privacy,
think for numerous, inevitable,
irresistible philosophical,
sociological but mostly religious
reasons, this place, this event,
this man deserves a shrine
which, if donations are forthcoming
I am willing to oversee
the construction of
at 145 Sampson Avenue,
Islip, Long Island, New York.
That's right, that's the name
of the place: Islip. I swear.

     Paul Violi
     Best American Poetry 2000
     Scribners



April 17

ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER

So many true paths.
A wealth of exceptional teachers.
Countless rivers I've never fished.
Love's possibilities defying math.
All these dirty dishes.

     Jim Dodge
     Bait & Ice
     Tangram

OUR PARENTS

Our parents died at least twice,
the second time when we forgot their stories,
or couldn't imagine how often they craved love,
or felt useless, or yearned for some justice
in this world. In their graves, our parents' need
for us is pure, they're lost without us.
Their honeymoon in Havana does or does not
exist. That late August in the Catskills-
we can decide to make them happy.

What is the past if not unfinished work,
swampy, fecund, seductively revisable?
One of us has spent his life developing respect
for the weakness of words, the other for what
must be held on to; there may be a chance for us.

We try to say what happened in that first house
where we were, like most children, the only
needy people on earth. We remember
what we were forbidden, who got the biggest slice.
Our parents, meanwhile, must have wanted something
back from us. We know what it is, don't we?
We've been alive long enough.

     Stephen Dunn
     Different Hours
     Norton



April 18

SINGSONG

When I was young, the moon spoke in riddles
and the stars rhymed. I was a new toy
waiting for my owner to pick me up.

When I was young, I ran the day to its knees.
There were trees to swing on, crickets for capture.

I was narrowly sweet, infinitely cruel,
tongued in honey and coddled in milk,
sunburned and silvery and scabbed like a colt.

And the world was already old.
And I was older than I am today.

     Rita Dove
     On the Bus with Rosa Parks
     W. W. Norton & Co.

NOT A MAN

I am not a man who generally
Loves the grace of summer quiet

I prefer the sneer of winter
& the grit of ash smeared upon the air

But when you stood on the veranda
Of the old farmhouse as the night breezes played

Over the folded pleats of that snowy nightgown
I could believe the heavenly owl

Crying in the distance was only moments away
From his desperate descent & sublime happiness

Opening his wings above the silver streak of purpose
Moonlight had swollen into a special prey.

     David St. John
     The Red Leaves of Night
     Harper Perennial



April 19

IN THOSE DAYS

In those days-they were long ago-
The snow was cold, the night was black.
I licked from my cracked lips
A snowflake, as I looked back

Through branches, the last uneasy snow.
Your shadow, there in the light, was still.
In a little the light went out.
I went on, stumbling-till at last the hill

Hid the house. And, yawning,
In bed in my room, alone,
I would look out: over the quilted
Rooftops, the clear stars shone.

How poor and miserable we were,
How seldom together!
And yet after so long one thinks:
In those days everything was better.

     Randall Jarrell
     Selected Poems
     Noonday

ONE

One of the lizards
was blowing bubbles
as it did pushups on the tree trunk
I did pushups this morning
on the carpet
and I blew bubbles of Bazooka
last night in the car
I believe the mystics are right
when they say we are all One

     Leonard Cohen
     Stranger Music
      Pantheon



April 20

THE BLAME

That which you made me do I did.
That which you made me say I did.
Now the blame, like oil over water,
spreads, and so our life together
that began in vows-the licensed oath-
has leased itself back to us both:
what we knew and couldn't know
what our words no longer show.

     Michael Collier
     The Ledge
    
Houghton Mifflin



April 21

OF RAIN AND AIR

All day I have been closed up
inside rooms, speaking of trivial
matters. Now at last I have come out
into the night, myself a center

of darkness.
Beneath the clouds the low sky glows
with scattered light. I can hardly think
this is happening. Here in this bright absence

of day, I feel myself opening out
with contentment.
All around me the soft rain is whispering
of thousands of feet of air

invisible above me.

     Wayne Dodd
     A Book of Luminous Things
     Harcourt Brace



April 22

WHY MIRA CAN'T GO BACK TO HER OLD HOUSE

The colors of the Dark One have penetrated Mira's body;
the other colors washed out.
Making love with Krishna and eating little - those are my
pearls and my carnelians.
Chanting-beads and the forehead streak, those are my
bracelets.
That's enough feminine wiles for me. My teacher taught this.
Approve me or disapprove me: I praise the Mountain Energy
night and day.
I take the path that ecstatic human beings have taken for
centuries.
I don't steal money, nor hit anyone; what will you charge me with?
I have felt the swaying of the elephant's shoulders........
and now you want me to climb on a jackass? Try to be serious!

     Mirabai (version by Robert Bly)
     News of the Universe
     Sierra Club Books



April 23

"MEXICAN IS NOT A NOUN"

"Mexican"
is not
a noun
nor an
adjective

"Mexican"
is a life
long
low-paying
job

a check
mark on
a welfare
police
form

more than
a word
a nail in
the soul
but

it hurts
it points
it dreams
it offends
it cries

it moves
it strikes
it burns
just like
a verb

     Francisco X. Alaracon
     No Golden Gate for Us
     Pennywhistle
     (to 46 UC Santa Cruz students and 7 faculty arrested in Watsonville for showing solidarity with 2,000 striking cannery workers who were mostly  
      Mexican women, October 27, 1985)



April 24

DUSK

Dusk over the lake,
clouds floating
heat lightning
a nightmare behind branches;
from the swamp
the odor of cedar and fern,
the long circular
wail of the loon-
the plump bird aches for fish
for night to come down.

Then it becomes so dark
and still
that I shatter the moon with an oar.

     Jim Harrison
     Selected & New Poems 1961-1981
     Dell

THE SUN

Look: the sun has spread its wings
over the earth to dispel the darkness.

Like a great tree, with its roots in heaven,
and its branches reaching down into the earth.

     Judah Al-Harizi, Translation T. Carmi
    
A Book of Luminous Things
     Harcourt Brace



April 25

ASK ME

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

     William Stafford
     Stories That Could Be True
     Harper & Row



April 26

EVENING EBB

The ocean has not been so quiet for a long while; five night-
herons
Fly shorelong voiceless in the hush of the air
Over the calm of an ebb that almost mirrors their wings.
The sun has gone down, and the water has gone down
From the weed-clad rock, but the distant cloud-wall rises. The ebb
whispers.
Great cloud-shadows float in the opal water.
Through rifts in the screen of the world pale gold gleams, and the
evening
Star suddenly glides like a flying torch.
As if we had not been meant to see her; rehearsing behind
The screen of the world for another audience.

     Robinson Jeffers
     A Book of Luminous Things
     Harcourt Brace

PEOPLE GETTING DIVORCED

People getting divorced
riding around with their clothes in the car
and wondering what happened
to everyone and everything
including their other
pair of shoes

And if you spy one
then who knows what happened
to the other
with tongue alack
and years later not even knowing
if the other ever
found a mate
without splitting the seams
or remained intact
unlaced

and the sole
ah the soul
a curious conception
hanging on somehow
to walk again
in the free air
once the heel
has been replaced

     Ferlinghetti
    
Who Are We Now?
     A New Directions Paperback



April 27

CAGED FORTUNETELLER

Sleeplessness, you're like a pawnshop
Open late
On a street of failing businesses.
The owner plays a flute,
And it's like night bird's calling
In a city where there are no birds.

There's a painting over the cash register:
Of a stiff Quaker couple dressed in black.
They each hold a cat under their arm.
One is a tiger, the other is Siamese.
The eyes are closed because it's late,
And because cats see better with eyes closed.

The pawnshop owner has an electric fortuneteller
In a glass cage.
Now he plugs her in and turns the other lights off.
"O foolish fellow," say she,
"If you can find your way, please hurry to me,
I'll even take out my breasts at the door
To light your way in the dark."

The street is shadowy and so is the sky.
We could be meeting Jacob and the angel.
We could be meeting our sleeplessness,
And the nun who carries morphine to the dying,
The black nun in soft, furry slippers.

     Charles Simic
     Hotel Insomnia
     HBJ



April 28

PROSPECT

Among orange-tiled rooftops,
and chimney pots
the fen fog slips,
gray as rats,

while on spotted branch
of the sycamore
two black rooks hunch
and darkly glare,

watching for night,
with absinthe eye
cocked on the lone, late,
passer-by.

     Sylvia Plath
     The Collected Poems
     Harper



April 29

CLEAR NIGHT

Clear night, thumb-top of a moon, a back-lit sky.
Moon-fingers lay down their same routine
On the side deck and the threshold,
and white keys and the black keys.
Bird hush and bird song. A cassia flower falls.

I want to be bruised by God.
I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out.
I wanted to be stretched, like music wrung from a dropped seed.
I want to be entered and picked clean.

And the wind says "What?" to me.
And the castor beans, with their little earrings of death,
say "What?" to me.
And the stars start out on their cold slide through the dark.
And the gears notch and the engines wheel.

     Charles Wright
     Country Music
     Wesleyan

AS ALWAYS

Now that we're okay, I guess we should finish
the dishes, straighten up, attend to things so long
neglected. Just look at the plants falling from
their pots, the cat so thin; I wonder where we've been.
Everything has grown a skin of dust (what is that song
you're whistling?), and the air tastes like lilacs.
But isn't it still December? We've been gone so long.

I'm not sure of this, but I remember holding
a hand that became a glass. And then the years--
those skeins of silk slipping from their folds,
the light trapped in places like blood fixed in a bruise.
It rained every day, umbrellas looming large
in the cramped doorways, the crowded vestibules; no one
knew they were passing inward to an airy dryness so severe
their clothes fell away like feathers. And for a while
we wore our organs outside our bodies.

But as always, there were those with expertise
and grace, who knew enough to help us back
into our clothes, back into the world.
I've never held a hand so long as his
who led me through alleys between buildings
to a shaft of daylight, a circle of warmth that shrank,
as I stood in it, to a spot on the sidewalk, a dime
I picked up and carried back to the world.

If we open the door and a window,
perhaps a breeze will lift away the dust,
though I feel light enough still to blow loose
of my body. Now that we're okay, there's very little
that keeps us here, which is why, perhaps, we stay.
I no longer hear the leaves as voices gathering
beneath the trees, in the gutters.
But I would recognize your heart if I saw it.

     James Harms
     New American Poets
     Middlebury College Press



April 30

THE ARTIST

Do you remember the crazy guy
Who stuck candles in his hat
So he could paint the sea at night?
Alone on that empty Jersey beach,
He kept squinting into the dark,
And waving his brush wildly.

Teresa said he got the dumb idea
From a movie she saw once.
Still, there he was, bearded and hairy
Like the devil himself
Piling one murky color on top of another
While we stood around watching,
The candles on his head flickering
Then going out one by one.

     Charles Simic
     Hotel Insomnia
     Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

THE DAWN WALKERS

Down the flat beach they come, the dawn walkers,
in the still cool air, along the slow continuous
roaring of the breakers, and phantasmal foam

they could be conjured from, on bad or soon-
to-be-bad knees, on joints no warming up
can take the stiffness out of now; the hale,

the not so hale, the tentative shufflers
and baby-steppers, two by two, or singly,
walk over the sand that giving way beneath them

tilts them forward, as if uphill they go,
pushing themselves, both Sisyphus and stone,
both stone and hill, pushing a heavy stone

that every step makes heavier up a hill
that's growing ever steeper as they push.
How far do we have to go? their bodies ask.

In every bead of sweat that stings their eyes,
each quickened pant, their bodies feel the night
press down against them through the brightened sky.

They feel it, and they falter, and they ask,
how far? how far? And then they right themselves
and push on, answering, not now, not yet.

     Alan Shapiro
     The Dead, Alive and Busy
     University of Chicago Press

WHITE OWL FLIES INTO AND OUT OF THE FIELD

Coming down
out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel,
or a buddha with wings,
it was beautiful
and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings-
five feet apart-and the grabbing
thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys
of the snow-

and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes,
to lurk there,
like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows-
so I thought:
maybe death
isn't darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us-

as soft as feathers-
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,
not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow-
that is nothing but light-scalding, aortal light-
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

     Mary Oliver
    
House of Light
     Beacon Press
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