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POEM-A-DAY 2005
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 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2006 | 2009

April 1

Light Fingers

Feather duster in a child’s grip
swished over bottles of Old Grand-Dad
in my father’s liquor store,
my hand hovering briefly
above rolls of coin in the cash drawer other objects stolen from local merchants—
a magnifying glass,
a hi-lo thermometer, an Indian rubber baseball,
novelties, candy, cigarettes: If you wouldn’t give me what I deserved,
what you seemed to promise,
then I would take it from you.
The splendor of scissors.
The consideration of a rubber stamp
“for your attention.”
 
At some point, after the accumulation
of the objects of desire,
and later, after they became unforgettable,
beyond understanding and useless, this is when I looked back and saw the boy
making a daring effort to be part
of the family’s sadness All the grief that preceded me—
war, fire, the destruction of culture,
the powerlessness of parents,
the compensation of shameful inward lives— this, I perceived, is simply what it means
to be human. So now there is nothing
to wrest into myself,
for myself.
But there is the spirit leaping with dread and exultation, demanding everything.
And the old cunning. When Mrs. O’Brien suggested that Joseph,
our son, and I go see his priest
about our common venal behavior,
my mother, a Holocaust survivor,
threw her out of the house.
 
I returned to my favorite pastime:
a book of sleight-of-hand tricks,
small objects, all objects, vanishing.  

     Ron Slate
     from
The Incentive of the Maggot



April 2

Lines

Voice, perhaps you are the universe,
the hum of spiders.
If on the mountain a single bear
comes into the orchard:
much less, the husk of a locust
drops from the currant bush:
or the wind rattles a loose clapboard,
exchanging one skin for another—
it is the self longing to cross the barrier.
Sensing the visitors who hide among us,
the air enters and takes away.
Sharp as the odor of fresh sawdust,
the color of lost rooms,
those erotic odors, angst of brevity:
like crossing your thighs
in a spasm of loneliness.  

     Ruth Stone
     from
PMS



April 3

The Music of Time  

The young woman sewing
by the window hums a song
I don’t know: I hear only
a few bars, and when the trucks
barrel down the broken street
the music is lost. Before the darkness
leaks from the shadows of
the great cathedral, I see her
once more at work and later
hear in the sudden silence
of nightfall wordless music rising
from her room. I put aside
my papers, wash and dress
to eat at one of the seafood
places along the great avenues
near the port where later
the homeless will sleep. The I
walk for hours in the Barrio
Chino passing the open
doors of tiny bars and caves
from which the voices of old men
bark out the stale anthems
of love’s defeat. “This is the world,”
I think, “this is what I came
in search of years ago.” Now I
can go back to my single room,
I can lie awake in the dark
rehearsing all the trivial events
of the day ahead, a day that begins
when the sun clears the dark spires
of someone’s God, and I waken
in a flood of dust rising from
nowhere and from nowhere comes
the actual voice of someone else.   

     Philip Levine
     from
Rattle



April 4

A Flower and the Sky  

Blue circles ending
where they began,
making forever
the seed beginning life  
Always color, first sight
then comes petals making flowers
from the ground up
green leaf and steam  
Skies change it season
complementing flower’s color
blending as two
a flower and the sky  

     Michael Panzich



April 5

Apes  

One day apes made their grab for power.
Gold seal-rings,
starched shirts,
aromatic Havanas,
feet squashed into patent leather.
Deeply involved in our other pursuits,
we didn’t notice: someone read Aristotle,
someone else was wholly in love.
Rulers’ speeches became somewhat more chaotic,
they even gibbered, but still, when
did we ever really listen? Music was better.
Wars: ever more savage; prisons:
stinking worse than before.
Apes, it seems, made their grab for power.  
  
     Adam Zagajewski
     from
Without End



April 6

After Midnight  

No, this is no grim reaper,
skipping along, taking farmer and townsman,
the upright girl, the plump priest,
beggar and emperor alike,
nor is the dancing god,
hovering over the alpine waters of Silas Maria,
pointing beyond himself as he leaps,
filling speech balloons like Superman.
It’s just the two of us, paired,
when, around midnight,
war threatens yet again,
after the late news
led by the kitchen radio:
in an old-fashioned foxtrot
we draw together
all that’s about to pull us apart.  Just a few measures, love,
before you see it—
as you always do around this time—
that we get our pills:
single ones and numbered.   

     Gunter Grass
     The New Yorker, December 6, 2004



April 7

What the Paymaster Said  

Instead of a paycheck, the company offered me kind thoughts. We’ll give you three, the paymaster said, one for your diligence and two for your beautiful wife. No, no. I did not want their kind thoughts. I’d had enough of them.  If not that, the paymaster said, then what about apples? They are delicious apples, fresh from Wisconsin, and sweet. Under every one, the fruitpicker has held his palm, has wobbled each apple until it fell ripely into his hand of its own accord. Three bushels. But I did not want their apples. I wanted what was mine.  
We must learn not to be selfish in difficult times, the paymaster said, but you type quite well. You type superbly, your fingers flashing across the keyboard like beautiful blades of tall grass when the wind blows from the distant mountains. I will give you cigarettes for your typing, or I will give you bombs.  
The bombs are quite nice. They fall from airplanes which you will rent by the hour. The company will lease you an airplane at a discounted rate, but the bombs will be yours to keep. You have such a pleasant manner, we can’t afford to lose you. So I make this fine offer. I shook my head. I didn’t want cigarettes or bombs. I have many mouths to feed and my wife would not be happy if I brought home only bombs.  The paymaster sighed and adjusted his coat so the gold buttons winked in the office lights. You are ungrateful, he told me, but I will offer you one more thing. Instead of a paycheck, I will give you coffins. The grain is as fine as a dragonfly’s wing. Coffins for your entire family—all at the company’s generous expense.
 
     Kevin Prufer
     from
Witness



April 8

Moments  

You sit there
try to remember
when that was
just how long ago  
You saw yourself
in this or that
sepia yellowed
snapshot memory  
Standing there
holding nothing
as if it were a fish  
  
     Kirk Robertson
     from
Just Past Labor Day   



April 9

The Tiger  

Today we saw a tiger
with two heads come
bounding out of the
forest by the corner of
Main and Bailey. We
were not afraid. The
war had stopped fifteen
minutes previous, we
had stopped in a bar
to celebrate, but now
stood, transfixed,
by another fear.  
 
     Robert Creeley
     from
The Collected Poems 1945-1975



April 10

Ozymandias of Egypt

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:-Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
”My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.  

     Percy Bysshe Shelley



April 11

Listen  

I threw a snowball across the backyard
My dog ran after it to bring it back.
It broke as it fell, scattering snow over snow.
She stood confused, seeing and smelling nothing.
She searched in widening circles until I called her.  
She looked at me and said as clearly in silence
as if she had spoken,
I know it’s here, I’ll find it,
went back to the center and started the circles again.  I called her two more times before she came
slowly, stopping once to look back.  
That was this morning. I’m sure that she’s forgotten.
I’ve had some trouble putting it out of my mind  

     Miller Williams
     from
Poetry 180



April 12

on the inside
of my eyelids
drama unfolds
slipsliding scenarios
of which I am
the consummate
victim/hero
with poor elocution
never on the mark
I’ve sung a ballad
to a murderer
off-key
while holding
the winning lotto numbers
I’ve walked on water
then rooftops
then water again
laughing
with my companion
who has a pineapple
for a head
<lashes flutter>
when we last left
our hero
she was knee-deep
in ricecakes
as a policeman
wrote her a ticket
“you can’t stand
there you know!
there’s decent people
in this town!”
a dramatic pause
and then he said
“I’ve always loved you
despite your
crooked tooth and
your penchant
for pleather.”
<lashes flutter>
and I’m off again. 

     Kristina McClanahan



April 13

Part of Eve’s Discussion  

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat
from your hand
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem
to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no
storm, as when
a hundred startling lift and bank together before they
wheel and drop,
very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it
occurs to you
your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin,
like
the moment just before you forget what it was you were
about to say,
it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only
all the time.  

     Marie Howe



April 14

...In a hand basket
 

I recollect
the grand maleficence
splatter,
like
legalized
indecency,
all over
her ground-trodden
perplexion
I would
have loved
to throw; toss
my fresh-faced
grocery bag
hearty with
ribsteaks,
over said
perplexion
but I’m a nihilist
and she was filthy  

     Phil Kumsar



April 15

Xenophanes  

By fate, not option, frugal Nature gave
One scent to hyson and to wall-flower,
One sound to pine-groves and to waterfalls,
One aspect to the desert and the lake.
It was her stern necessity: all things
Are of one pattern made: bird, beast, and flower,
Song, picture, form, space, thought and character,
Deceive us, seeming to be many things,
And are but one. Beheld far off, they part
As God and devil; bring them to the mind,
They dull it’s edge with their monotony.
To know one element, explore another,
And in the second reappears the first.
The specious panorama of a year
But multiplies the image of a day,—
A belt of mirrors round a taper’s flame;
And universal Nature, through her vast
And crowded whole, and infinite paroquet,
Repeats one note.  
 
     Ralph Waldo Emerson
     from
Essays and Poems



April 16

The Rider  

Some believe the end will come in the form of a mathematical equation.
Others believe it will descend as a shining horse.
I calculate the probabilities to be even at fifty percent:
Either a thing will happen or it won't.
I open a window,
I unmake the bed,
Somehow, I am moving closer to the equation or to the horse with everything
I do.
Death comes in the form of a horse covered in shining equations.
There will be no further clues, I see.
I begin to read my horse.
The equations are drawn in the shapes of horses:
Horses covered in equations.
I am tempted to hook an ankle around the world as I ride away.
For I am about to ride far beyond the low prairie of beginnings and endings.  

     Sarah Manguso
     from
American Letters & Commentary



April 17

Iron Train  

The train stopped at a little station
and for a moment stood absolutely still.
The doors slammed, gravel crunched underfoot,
someone said goodbye forever,  
a glove dropped, the sun dimmed,
the doors slammed again, even louder,
and the iron train set off slowly
and vanished in the fog like the nineteenth century.    

     Adam Zagajewski    
     translated by Clare Cavanagh    
     from
180 more



April 18

Letters to Roger Tory Peterson  

1.

Dear Sir, I need a field guide to the immediate future.  
It hangs back in the dense April foliage,
uttering its faint unplaceable song.  
Help me discern the true bird  
from such frail indications,
label its call-note as chuck or tseet.  
Help me bring it into the open,  
by an action as simple
as “kissing the back of the hand.”  

2.

Dear Sir, I need a field guide to my neighbors.  
For instance, the old man with a lilt in his walk,
twirling his putter always; Is he playing golf, or is that for snakes?  
And the hollow-cheeked woman on her one-speed!
She stands on the pedals  
with such remorseless effort, her eyes lasers for the horizon.
Is she allergic to the earth? Her wheels turn as slowly as the stars.  
What strange creatures! In what way are their habits adaptive,
and to what families do they belong?  

3.

Dear Sir, I need a field guide to the afterlife.
Will I be light enough to sit on a cloud  
Or are certain clouds especially reinforced?  
Teach me to separate the adults angels from the immatures.
Tell me if I’ll join the Israelites  In an eternal V of migration.  
I picture St. Francis with “yellow wingbars and a buffy throat.”
Tucking into his dinner of sparrows  With a lobster fork and scalpel.  

4.

Dear Sir, I need a field guide to grief.
Help me to recognize its pinpricks in the night sky’s velvet  Like an imperfectly sealed darkroom,
a place where I could live forever making images  
Clouded and half-ruined, by these hints of a life of light.  

     George Estreich
     from
Textbook Illustrations of the Human Body



April 19

A Blessing  

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their
happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts
of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.    

     James Wright
     from
The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 3rd Edition  



April 20

The Journey  

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
”Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.  

     Mary Oliver  



April 21

Landfall  

To make it right I should have arrived
by ship. Let that Guinea shore
come up slow, watched and waited for
from the deck of some slight
and creaking craft. On recrossing
that island below sea where time
stands still, where then and now
day after watery day, become one
let all those who crossed before me
slave and sailor, black and white
seeker and prisoner, come alive
and speak to me. Instead I fell luciferlike
cast down from that orderly abode of machines
into an inferno of human hunger and need
I fell from the air, arriving abruptly
a few minutes before sunset on the day before
Halloween. At my landfall
I felt the air traveler's deep relief
at the solid, silent earth beneath my feet
before I took a breath and choked
in the putrid suffocating heat. All around me
half-naked boys flew on blurring legs
all shouting for coins. My cousins these?
My long-lost brothers, my family?
No. They only see me
as a shirt and tie
come from America, source of power and money
suffering and absurd, innocent and naive
but with U.S. coins jingling
in my pockets. I gave them all I had
and heard them laugh at me. It took me
two years to learn that laugh, two years
to laugh at how hard I cried.  

Steve Barnett, a Woodland author, wrote this poem about landing at the airport in Sierra Leone when he was there with the Peace Corps. It sheds a little light on his state of mind while working on his book The Road to Makokota. Signed copies of Steve's book are available in this very bookstore. The poem has never been published, and he was kind enough to allow us to share it with you during Poem a Day 2005.



April 22

In the Beauty Created by Others  

Only in the beauty created
by others is there consolation,
in the music of others and other's poems.
Only others save us,
even though solitude tastes like
opium. The others are not hell,
if you see them early, with their
foreheads pure, cleansed by dreams.
That is why I wonder what
words should be used, “he” or “you.” Every “he”
is a betrayal of a certain “you” but
in return someone else's poem
offers the fidelity of a sober dialogue.    

     Adam Zagajewski
     from
Without End



April 23

Ode to Lost Sleep  

Noisy doggerel at three ayem
Brings me
Hardwood floor on toenails
The rattle of rearranged newspaper bedding  
I press my head harder
And deeper
Into my pillow
Seeking escape from
Endless ruminations on  
My sweet love senses
Wakeful tossings and
Trouble in paradise
With warm massaging
Caresses
She tries to prod me back to that
Other room of dreams  
There is that sentence in the
E-mail that could be taken as
Criticism
Or praise
I am uncertain of its
Intent  
There are projects and processes
Endless passages of text to
Mutter at one another
There is an interminable
Procession of people with whom
To deal  
Shifting, turning, musing
Adjusting I slowly
Mentally
Edit my poem
And change those words
Into these  

     Keith R. Prior
     3:58 am October 12, 1998



April 24

The Room I Work In  

The room I work in is a foursquare
as half a pair of dice.
It holds a wooden table
with a stubborn peasant's profile,
a sluggish armchair, and a teapot's
pouting Hapsburg lip.
From the window I see a few skinny trees,
wispy clouds, and toddlers,
always happy and loud.
Sometimes a windshield glints in the distance
or, higher up, an airplane's silver husk.
Clearly others aren't wasting time
while I work, seeking adventures
on earth or in the air.
The room I work in is a camera obscura.
And what is my work—
waiting motionless,
flipping pages, patient meditation,
passivites not pleasing
to that judge with the greedy gaze.
I write as slowly as if I’ll live two hundred years.
I seek images that don't exist,
and if they do they're crumpled and concealed
like summer clothes in winter,
when frost stings the mouth.
I dream of perfect concentrations; if I found it
I’d surely stop breathing.
Maybe it's good I get so little done.
But after all, I hear the first snow hissing.  

     Adam Zagajewski
     from
Without End



April 25

The Century’s Decline  

Our twentieth century was going to improve on the others.
It will never prove it now,
now that its years are numbered,
its gait is shaky,
its breath is short.  
Too many things happened
that weren’t supposed to happen,
and what was supposed to come about
has not.  Happiness and spring, among other things,
we’re supposed to be getting closer.  Fear was expected to leave the mountains and the valleys.
Truth was supposed to hit home
before a lie.  
A couple of problems weren’t going
to come up anymore:
hunger, for example,
and war, and so forth.  There was going to be respect
for helpless people’s helplessness,
trust, that kind of stuff.  Anyone who planned to enjoy the world
is now faced
with a hopeless task.  
Stupidity isn’t funny.
Wisdom isn’t gay.
Hope
isn’t that young girl anymore,
et cetera, alas.  God was finally going to believe
in a man both good and strong,
but good and strong
are still two different men.  
“How should we live?” someone asked me in a letter.
I had meant to ask him
the same question.  Again, and as ever,
as may be seen above,
the most pressing questions
are naïve ones.  

     Wislawa Szymborska
     from
View With a Grain of Sand



April 26

Lives of the Poets  

I was fortunate enough to have
a mother who on one occasion
encouraged me by commissioning
a poem. Newly married, I
was tackling my first teaching job
when a letter came which said, in part:
“As writing is so easy for you
I want you to write a poem about
the San Benito Ladies Auxiliary
that I belong to. Our club has twenty
members and we bake cute cookies
and serve them with coffee and do our sewing
at the meeting. We make stuffed animals
to give poor Texas kids at Xmas.
We meet on every other Wednesday.
Tell all that in the poem. Write
the poem to be sung to the tune
of Silent Night Holy Night
as that is the only song I have learned
to play so far on my accordion.
I want to play and sing it at
the club meeting, I could do it myself
of course but writing makes me nervous.
I’m sure you will do this for me because
it is so easy for you and I know
you wouldn’t want me to get nervous.
I have to have it this week so I
can get it down pat for the next meeting.”  In the midst of grading a hundred or so
freshman themes, trying to master
A Vision so I could teach Yeats, and reading
the output of my creative writing
class, I wrote the poem for her.
(Some of the rhymes were hard.) I’m only
sorry that I didn’t keep
a copy, and that I missed the performance.  

     Mona Van Duyn
     from
If It Be Not I



April 27

The Return of the Key  

It was a drowsy summer afternoon,
hot wind stirring the papers in the room,
smoke slanting up from my cigarette
as from a tiny factory that produced only smoke.  
I was reading William Carlos Williams,
growing weary of the note on the kitchen table
and the broken glass on the roadside,
so I reached into one of his small poems  
and lifted out a tiny key
lying on a glass tray next to a glass tumbler
in a room of an inn where someone stood
in the doorway holding a suitcase.  
I knew all things come in threes,
so I was not discouraged when the key
did not open the golden lock
on my daughter's diary,  
or the empty strongbox under the bed,
and I knew I was getting warm
when I entered the orangerie
and stood before the birdcage on its metal stand.  
Small wonder that the bird
fluttered into the air
and circled the chandelier
as soon as the little door swung open.  
Smaller wonder
that it banked sharply
against a background of windows,
then dove and disappeared  
into the anthology of American poetry
that lay open on the table—
the key clenched in its beak,
the pages lifting like many wings in the breeze.    

     Billy Collins
     from
Nine Horses



April 28

A Dent in a Bucket  

Hammering a dent out of a bucket    
a woodpecker    
answers from the woods  
.
Brighter Yellow
 
An “Ozark Trucking” bigrig pulls up
by me on the freeway, such a vivid yellow!
a brighter yellow than bulldozers.
This morning James Lee Jobe was talking    
of the wild blue bonnets
and the dark red Indian paintbrush down in Texas.
Said, “from a distance—them growing all together    
makes a field of solid purple.”
Hey—keep on the right side
of that yellow line         

... both from
Brief Years  
.
One Day in Late Summer
 
One day in late summer in the early nineties I had lunch with my old friend Jack Hogan, ex-longshore union worker and activist of San Francisco, at a restaurant in my small Sierra town. The owner had recently bought and torn down the adjoining brick building which had been in its time a second-hand bookstore, “3Rs,” run by a puckish ex-professor. Our lunch table in the patio was right where the counter had been. Jack was married to my sister once. We all hung out in North Beach back in the fifties, but now he lives in Mexico.    This present moment    
that live on    
to become    
long ago

     Gary Snyder
     from
Brief Years in Danger on Peaks



April 29

Horse  

In its stall stand the 19th century,
its hide a hot shudder of satin,
head stony and willful,
an eye brown as a river and watchful:
a sentry a long way ahead
of a hard, dirty army of hooves.  
Starlight  
All night, this soft rain from the distant past.
No wonder I sometimes waken as a child.  
A Glimpse of the Eternal  
Just now,
a sparrow lighted
on a pine bough
right outside
my bedroom window
and a puff
of yellow pollen
flew away.    

     all by Ted Kooser    
     from
Delights & Shadows



April 30

The Minimal  

I study the lives on a leaf: the little
Sleepers, numb nudgers in cold dimensions,
Beetles in caves, newts, stone-deaf fishes,
Lice tethered to long limp subterranean weeds,
Squirmers in bogs,
And bacterial creepers
Wriggling through wounds
Like elvers in ponds,
Their wan mouths kissing the warm sutures,
Cleaning and caressing,
Creeping and healing.    

     Theodore Roethke
     from
Eight American Poets
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