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POEM-A-Day 2009 NPM
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 | 2005 | 2006

April 1
Moon
Open the book of evening to the page 
where the moon, always the moon, appears 

between two clouds, moving so slowly that hours 
will seem to have passed before you reach the next page 

where the moon, now brighter, lowers a path 
to lead you away from what you have known 

into those places where what you had wished for happens, 
its lone syllable like a sentence poised 

at the edge of sense, waiting for you to say its name 
once more as you lift your eyes from the page
and close the book, still feeling what it was like 
to dwell in that light, that sudden paradise of sound.
Mark Strand

April 2
Water
Before I was born I was water.
I thought of this sitting on a blue
chair surrounded by pink, red, white
hollyhocks in the yard in front
of my green studio. There are conclusions
to be drawn but I can't do it anymore.
Born man, child man, singing man,
dancing man, loving man, old man, 
dying man. This is a round river
and we are her fish who become water.
Jim Harrison

April 3
The Poet's Occasional Alternative   
I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead      it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft     a poem would have had some
distance to go     days and weeks and
much crumpled paper
the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor
everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it       many friends
will say     why in the world did you
make only one
this does not happen with poems
because of unreportable
sadness I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsible eatership      I do not
want to wait a week      a year
generation for the right
consumer to come along
Grace Paley

April 4

Seriousness

Driving the Garden State Parkway to New York, I pointed out two crows to a woman who believed crows always travel in threes. And later just one crow eating the carcass of a squirrel. "The others are nearby," she said, "hidden in trees." She was sure. Now and then she'd say "See!" and a clear dark trinity of crows would be standing on the grass. I told her she was wrong to under- or overestimate crows, and wondered out loud if three crows together made any evolutionary sense. I was almost getting serious now. Near Forked River, we saw five. "There's three," she said, "and two others with a friend in a tree." I looked to see if she was smiling. She wasn't. Or she was. "Men like you," she said, "need it written down, notarized, and signed."

Stephen Dunn


April 5

Late Hours  

On summer nights the world
moves within earshot
on the interstate with its swish
and growl, an occasional siren
that sends chills through us.
Sometimes, on clear, still nights,
voices float into our bedroom,
lunar and fragmented,
as if the sky had let them go
long before birth. In winter we close the windows
and read Chekhov,
nearly weeping for this world. What luxury, to be so happy
that we can grieve
over imaginary lives.

Lisel Mueller


April 6

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? 

Mary Oliver


April 7

The Love Cook

Let me cook you some dinner.
Sit down and take off your shoes
and socks and in fact the rest
of your clothes, have a daiquiri,
turn on some music and dance
around the house, inside and out,
it’s night and the neighbors
are sleeping, those dolts, and
the stars are shining bright,
and I’ve got the burners lit
for you, you hungry thing.

Ron Padgett


April 8
A Substitute for You
I’m a fan of Christopher Columbus
I want to find a spice route too
They’ve got a substitute for sugar
I want a substitute for you
I’m gonna ride those trade winds
Find gold in El Dorado too
They’ve got MasterCard for money
I need a substitute for you
My feet at night
Are so cold
I tell you they’re turning blue
They have a substitute for coal oil 
I’ll buy a substitute for you
Some things are real though most things 
Really don’t be true
They got a substitute for the truth
But a lie right now won’t do
You let me think you loved me
Luckily I can’t sue
With work and play we drifted
I’m requesting something new
I’m not saying
This is nice
There’s a crack
That love fell through
I’m just saying
What we had is gone
I need a substitute 
For you
Nikki Giovanni

April 9
Perfection Wasted
And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market—
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That’s it: no one
imitators and descendants aren’t the same. 
John Updike

April 10
The Sailor
In my movie the boat goes under
An he alone survives the night in the cold ocean,
Swimming he hopes in a shoreward direction.
Daylight and he’s still afloat, pawing the water
And doesn’t yet know he’s only fifty feet from shore.
He goes under for what will be the last time
But only a few feet down scrapes bottom.
He’s suddenly a changed man and half hops, half swims
The remaining distance, hauls himself waterlogged
Partway up the beach before collapsing into sleep.
As he dreams the tide comes in
And rolls him back to sea.
Geof Hewitt

April 11
Topography
After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Sharon Olds

April 12
Easter Morning
On Easter morning all over America
the peasants are frying potatoes in bacon grease.
We’re not supposed to have "peasants"
but there are tens of millions of them
frying potatoes on Easter morning,
cheap and delicious with catsup.
If Jesus were here this morning he might
be eating fried potatoes with my friend
who has a ‘51 Dodge and a ‘72 Pontiac.
When his kids ask why they don’t have
a new car he says, "these cars were new once
and now they are experienced."
He can fix anything and when rich folks
call to get a toilet repaired he pauses
extra hours so that they can further
learn what we’re made of.
I told him that in Mexico the poor say
that when there’s lightning the rich
think that God is taking their picture.
He laughed 
Like peasants everywhere in the history
of the world ours can’t figure out why
they’re getting poorer. Their sons join
the army to get work being shot at.
Your ideals are invisible clouds
so try not to suffocate the poor,
the peasants, with your sympathies.
They know that you’re staring at them.
Jim Harrison

April 13
Poetry
And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind. 
Pablo Neruda

April 14
The Shoe 
Each time I relived it, after the worst
was over, I’d say to myself, as if my fate
would solace me,
”at least I’ll never have to do this again.”
It is true that I’ll never have to kiss his
dying hands, now dead. I’ll never have
to find where he left his coffee mug, now mine.
I’ll never have to wash his hair or repair
his typewriter or stock the medicine stand.
I’ll never even have to find places
that can use his clothes because
some friend-I don’t remember who-
did that for me when I could not. I 
distributed his portrait, I picked up his poems.
I thanked friends and children for helping me
hold on. I made braids out of dead funeral
flowers to border the rooms where
once he breathed and took on the heavy
chores, gladly, of loving me. I sprinkled
one teaspoon of his ashes on our bereft bed
and slept with them. They scourged my body.
But when that single shoe, the mate I thought
had got sent off with its partner, showed up
today, alone, crouching behind the couch, alive
with Effie’s opulent Turkish angora fur, I knew
solace was something I could neither seek nor
find. Oh beloved! I know I am an old woman.
But I cannot live in your shoe.
Kathryn Starbuck

April 15
Late Fragment
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
 _____________ & _________________
Bonnard’s Nudes
His wife. Forty years he painted her.
Again and again. The nude in the last painting
the same young nude as the first. His wife.
As he remembered her young. As she was young.
His wife in her bath. At her dressing table
in front of the mirror. Undressed.
His wife with her hands under her breasts
looking out on the garden.
The sun bestowing warmth and color.
Every living things in bloom there.
She young and tremulous and more desirable.
When she died, he painted a while longer. 
A few landscapes. Then died.
And was put down next to her.
His young wife.
Raymond Carver

April 16
Iron Train
The train stopped at a little station
and for a moment stood absolutely still.
The door slammed, gravel crunched underfoot,
someone said a 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

April 17
The Terrapin
The terrapin and his house are one.
Though he may go, he's never gone. 
He's housed within, from nose to toe:
A door, a floor, and no window. 
There's little room; the light is dim;
His furniture is only him. 
He doesn't speak what he thinks about
here no guest comes, a thought's a shout.
He pokes along; he's in no haste:
He has no map and no suitcase; 
He has no worries and no woes,
For where he is is where he goes.
Ponder this wonder under his dome,
Who, wandering, is always home.
Wendell Berry

April 18
The Orange
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange-
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave-
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.
The rest of the day was quite easy
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.
Wendy Cope

April 19
Here
Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face
how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be
at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration
that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips
Grace Paley

April 20
Litany
You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine.
              - Jacques Crickillon
You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass,
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is no way you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's teacup.
But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and-somehow-
        the wine.
Billy Collins

April 21 - two poems for the price of one
An Apology

Forgive me
for backing over
and smashing
your red wheelbarrow.

It was raining
and the rear wiper
does not work on
my new plum-colored SUV.

I am also sorry
about the white
chickens.
F.J. Bergmann

___________ _____ ________________ __________________


Mrs Darwin

7 April 1852.
Went to the Zoo.
I said to him—
Something about that Chimpanzee over there
reminds me of you.
Carol Ann Duffy

April 22
I Stop Writing the Poem
 
to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I'm still a woman.
I'll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt 
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I'll get back
to the poem. I'll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there's a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it's done.
Tess Gallagher

April 23
December Moon
Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.
Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
Where the wild creatures ranged
While the moon rose and shone.
Why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?
How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we'll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.
May Sarton

April 24
What I Want Is
What I want is
Enough money
To have what I want
What I want is
My own hill
And beneath that hill
A pond
In the pond a lazy
Bass or two
And duck feathers
Resting on the mud
Of the shore
Between the hill
And mud a patch
Of grass where I
Can lie and count
My seven trees
My seven clouds
And count the coyotes
Coming down the hill
To drink
Coyote 1 Coyote 2
C.G. Hanzlicek

April 25
Where He Found Himself

The new man unfolded a map and pointed
to a dark spot on it. “See, that’s how 
far away I feel right all the time, right here,
among all of you,” he said.
    “Yes,” John the gentle mule replied,
“alienation is clearly your happiness.”
But the group leader interrupted,
“Now, now, let’s hear him out,
let’s try to be fair.” The new man felt
the familiar comfort of everyone against him.
     He went on about stupidities
of love, life itself as one long foreclosure,
until another man said, “I was a hog,
a terrible hog, and now I’m a llama.”
To which another added, “And me, I was a wolf.
Now children walk up to me, unafraid.”
     The group leader asked the new man,
“What kind of animal have you been?”
“A rat that wants to remain a rat,” he said
and the group began to soften
as they remembered their own early days,
the pain before the transformation.
Stephen Dunn

April 26
The Vacation 
Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
towards the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.
Wendell Berry

April 27
Advice to Writers 
Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.
Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.
From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.
 
 ... and here's a BONUS BILLY
No Time
In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side under a smooth slab of granite.
Then, all day long, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down
Billy Collins

April 28
Hope
 
It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
     it shakes sleep from its eyes
     and drops from mushroom gills,
          it explodes in the starry heads
          of dandelions turned sages,
               it sticks to the wings of green angels
               that sails from the tops of maples.
It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
     it lives in each earthworm segment
     surviving cruelty,
         it is the motion that runs
         from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
               it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
               of the child that has just been born.
It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is this poem, trying to speak.
Lisel Mueller

April 29
Writing on Not Writing
I can feel my ship about to come in.
A white ship in a snowstorm
moving in.
The ship is made of gulls
huddled together
in the shape of a ship.
When it arrives, they will fly out into the storm,
leaving space inside it
clear as reason.
I can tell there's going to be a blizzard
of being somewhere else
any minute
because of time's noise eating itself up
that is the noise of listening
that looks like a seething, florid whiteout of wings.
Jack Myers

April 30

The Raven

Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as 'Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered 'Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, 'Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
'Doubtless,' said I, 'what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking 'Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, me thought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
'Wretch,' I cried, 'thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he has sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'

Prophet!' said I, 'thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.

''Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting—
'Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Edgar Allan Poe

 
 



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