Monday, March 5, 2012

Could Have, by Wislawa Szymborska

Hello Poets,
Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) livedthrough "our worst century so far", according to ElizabethBishop, including the brutal Nazi occupation of her homeland and fourdecades of Stalinist rule.
When she died February 1, Katha Pollitt wrote in the Nation:"For Szymborska, it is always the one who matters—transient, blind,foolish, the plaything of chance that it miscalls destiny, but also urgent,insistent, full of its own meaning, alive."

Could Have

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.

You were saved because you were the first.

You were saved because you were the last.

Alone. With others.

On the right. The left.

Because it was raining. Because of the shade.

Because the day was sunny.

You were in luck -- there was a forest.

You were in luck -- there were no trees.

You were in luck -- a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,

a jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . . .

So you're here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close
      shave, reprieve?

One hole in the net and you slipped through?

I couldn't be more shocked or


how your heart pounds inside me.

by Wislawa Szymborska, from View With a Grain of Sand, 1996
translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Monday, February 20, 2012

Love Poem To America, by Catherine Pierce

Hello Poets,
Mining the roots of America with Catherine Pierce, a feminine view from the Whitmanesque heights. 
Oh my goodness, when do we catch our breath, how does this love story end?

Love Poem To America

America, teach me how to strut. Teach me
how to whistle with two fingers
in my mouth, how to pop off a bottle cap
with my teeth. You’re the one I want

to hate, with all your swagger and bravado,
and of course you take me home
every time. Who could resist? You’re the biggest,
blondest movie star of all, the Mr. Universe

of the millennium, your hands and feet
and everything so strong and mindless,
so rugged, yes. You’re buffalo blood and all things
forbidden, the prizefighter who killed

the favorite fair and square. In bed,
you fell me like a redwood. I’m lost
in your factory body – such perfect and grinding
machinery. Oh, America, you’re gritty

and glowing and I love the asphalt taste of you,
your acid smell and your hunger and I love
how, afterward, you roll over and snore
like a locomotive before I even catch my breath.

by Catherine Pierce, from Famous Last Words, 2008

Monday, January 23, 2012

For The Sake Of Strangers, by Dorianne Laux

For The Sake Of Strangers

No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waits patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another – a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a retarded child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them –
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.

 by Dorianne Laux, from What We Carry, 1994

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Way It Is, by William Stafford

Hello Poets,
William Stafford’s journey with words began most mornings before sunrise. This simple poem was written 26 days before he passed. The day before he wrote “Haycutters” and four days later on August 6, 1993 he wrote “November” in honor of Hiroshima Day.
One of his students, the poet Naomi Shihab Nye, wrote, “In our time there has been no poet who revived human hearts and spirits more convincingly than William Stafford. There has been no one who gave more courage to a journey with words, and silence, and an awakened life.”

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

By William Stafford, from The Way It Is, 1998

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sitting In The Orchard, by Jelaluddin Rumi

Hello Poets,
Rumi imagining more, the taste and scent of reality.

Sitting In The Orchard

A man sits in an orchard, fruit trees full
and the vines plump. He has his head
on his knee; his eyes are closed.

His friend says, “Why stay sunk in mystical
meditation when the world is like this?
Such visible grace.”

He replies, “The outer is an elaboration
of the inner. I prefer the origin.”

Natural beauty is a tree limb reflected
in the water of a creek, quivering there, not
there. The growing that moves in the soul

is more real than tree limbs and reflections.
We laugh and feel happy or sad over all this.

Try instead to get a scent
of the true orchard. Taste the vineyard
within the vineyard.

by Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), from Rumi the Book of Love, 2003
translated from the Persian by Coleman Barks