Monday, March 25, 2013

My Father Comes to the City

Tonight his airplane comes in from the West,
and he rises from his seat, a suitcoat slung
over his arm. The flight attendant smiles
and says, "Have a nice visit," and he nods
as if he has done this all before,
as if his entire life hasn't been 170 acres
of corn and oats, as if a plow isn't dragging
behind him through the sand and clay,
as if his head isn't nestling in the warm
flank of a Holstein cow.

Only his hands tell the truth:
fingers thick as ropes, nails flat
and broken in the trough of endless chores.
He steps into the city warily, breathing
metal and exhaust, bewildered by the
stampede of humanity circling around him.
I want to ask him something familiar,
something about tractors and wagons,
but he is taken by the neon night,
crossing carefully against the light.

Joyce Sutphen

Suddenly, sun

What the Day Gives

Suddenly, sun. Over my shoulder
in the middle of gray November
what I hoped to do comes back,

Across the street the fiery trees
hold onto their leaves,
red and gold in the final months
of this unfinished year,
they offer blazing riddles..

In the frozen fields of my life
there are no shortcuts to spring,
but stories of great birds in migration
carrying small ones on their backs,
predators flying next to warblers
they would, in a different season, eat.

Stunned by the astonishing mix in this uneasy world
that plunges in a single day from despair
to hope and back again, I commend my life
to Ruskin's difficult duty of delight,
and to that most beautiful form of courage,
to be happy.

Jeanne Lohmann, 'The Light of Invisible Bodies'

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Some say you're lucky

Some say you're lucky
If nothing shatters it.
But then you wouldn't
Understand poems or songs.
You'd never know
Beauty comes from loss.

It's deep inside every person:
A tear tinier
Than a pearl or thorn.
It's one of the places
Where the beloved is born.

Gregory Orr


Going south, we watched spring
unroll like a proper novel:
forsythia, dogwood, rose;
bare trees, green lace, full shade.
By the time we arrived in Georgia
the complications were deep.

When we drove back, we read
from back to front. Maroon went wild,
went scarlet, burned once more
and then withdrew into pink,
tentative, still in bud.
I thought if only we could go on
and meet again, shy as strangers.

"Fiction" by Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together


Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear  
one more friend  
waking with a tumor, one more maniac  

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness  
has come  
and changed nothing in the world  

except the way I stumbled through it,  
for a while lost  
in the ignorance of loving  

someone or something, the world shrunk  
to mouth-size,  
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness  
that doesn’t leave a stain,  
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ...
Tonight a friend called to say his lover  
was killed in a car  
he was driving. His voice was low

and guttural, he repeated what he needed  
to repeat, and I repeated  
the one or two words we have for such grief  

until we were speaking only in tones.  
Often a sweetness comes  
as if on loan, stays just long enough  

to make sense of what it means to be alive,  
then returns to its dark  
source. As for me, I don’t care  

where it’s been, or what bitter road  
it’s traveled  
to come so far, to taste so good.

Stephen Dunn

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.

Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.

Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

Brendan Kennelly, 'Do Not Go Gentle'

Thursday, March 7, 2013

And wished to drown

I suppose like others
I have come through fire and sword,
love gone wrong,
head-on crashes, drunk at sea,
and I have listened to the simple sound of water running
in tubs
and wished to drown.

Charles Bukowski, The People Look Like Flowers at Last

Consummation Of Grief

I even hear the mountains
the way they laugh
up and down their blue sides
and down in the water
the fish cry
and the water
is their tears.

I listen to the water
on nights I drink away
and the sadness becomes so great
I hear it in my clock
it becomes knobs upon my dresser
it becomes paper on the floor
it becomes a shoehorn
a laundry ticket
it becomes
cigarette smoke
climbing a chapel of dark vines. . .

it matters little
very little love is not so bad
or very little life
what counts
is waiting on walls
I was born for this
I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.

Charles Bukowski

It came too, all of it

"When no one was left she would have to confront herself. Leaving home left nothing behind. It came too, all of it, and waited in the dark. She realized that the only war worth fighting was the one that raged within; the rest were all diversions. In this small space, her hunting miles, she was going to bring herself home. Home was not a place for the faint-hearted; only the very brave could live with themselves."

Orion, from The World and Other Places: Stories, by Jeanette Winterson

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