Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book of Hours I,14. by Rainer Maria Rilke

I, 14
You see, I want a lot.
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each assent.

So many are alive who don’t seem to care.
Casual, easy, they move in the world
as though untouched.

But you take pleasure in the faces
of those who know they thirst.
You cherish those
who grip you for survival.

You are not dead yet, it’s not too late
to open your depths by plunging into them
and drink in the life
that reveals itself quietly there.

Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours, 1905
translated from the German by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, 2005

There are moments
in moist love
when heaven
is jealous of what
we on earth
can do.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Welcome Morning, by Anne Sexton

Hello Poets,
One of the last poems from the troubled soul of Anne Sexton, a clear-eyed rendering of her about-to-end-world and a note on joy, her infrequent but true companion.

Welcome Morning

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

            by Ann Sexton, from The Awful Rowing Toward God, 1975

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Gift, by William Stafford

The Gift

Time wants to show you a different country. It's the one
that your life conceals, the one waiting outside
when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at
in her crochet design, the one almost found
over at the edge of the music, after the sermon.

It's the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways. (And sometimes it's turn about.)
You get tired of that. Long-suffering, you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come- maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more.
You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness.

It's a balance, the taking and passing along,
the composting of where you've been and how people
and weather treated you. It's a country where
you already are, bringing where you have been.
Time offers this gift in its millions of ways,
turning the world, moving the air, calling,
every morning, "Here, take it, it's yours."

by William Stafford, from My Name is William Tell, 1992

Monday, May 20, 2013

Retard Spoilage, by August Kleinzahler

Hello Poets,
Possibly the best poem about what's in the back of your refrigerator.
Kleinzahler's love sonnet to what we fear, fail to understand and try to kill -- the little things that run the world and make us who we are.
Please don't read at meal time.

Retard Spoilage

Animalcules heave their tackling,
ladders of polysaccharides,
onto the meatmilkshrimp&creamy emulsions,

sticking like putrefactive Velcro.
The refrigerator switches on in the darkness,
a murmuring, perfervid sadhu close at hand.

Turbidity, gases, a silky clouding over—
gray slime spreads across hot dog casings,
a sour reechiness transpires below.

However much by day we shore up our defenses,
darling, over time they find their way back
to slowly assail our dwindling larder.

Liquefaction, spoilage and rot—
mephitic flora spread apace,
leaving behind them a ropiness, butyric off-odors.

Ludamilla's prize-winning kraut goes pink.
Fetor of broken proteins—
the drumstick fluoresces, alight with Pseudomonads.

There has to be a music to it all,
I'm certain, if only one could hear it:
a Lilliputian string ensemble's low humming,

an almost inaudible cicada surge,
earwax hissing in peroxide solution,
sausage frying in a distant room.

Good, patient Leeuwenhoek of Delft,
having "partook of hot smoked beef, that was a bit fat,
or ham," of which he was most fond,

suffered a grave ruction below
and so put to work his celebrated lens
that he might better examine his troubled stool

and found there an animalcule, nay many,
but one especially, in the figure of an eel
that "bent its body serpent-wise,"

"a-moving prettily," he made thorough note
in a letter to his estimable coequal, Robert Hooke,
and "as quick as a pike through water."

Sleep, my angel, sleep,
though everywhere out there they are among us,
within, as well, wriggling deep,

they prosper into our dark complement, and by us dwell
in perfect equipoise: your inviolate sweetness
amidst that which is vile&writhing&smells.

by August Kleinzahler, Sleeping It Off In Rapid City: Poems, New and Selected, 2008