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

Monday, May 6, 2013

Planting A Sequoia, by Dana Gioia

Planting A Sequoia

All afternoon my brothers and I have worked in the

Digging this hole, laying you into it, carefully packing
            the soil.

Rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it
            over the Pacific,
And the sky above us stayed the dull gray
Of an old year coming to an end.

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first
            son’s birth –
An olive or a fig tree – a sign that the earth has once
            more life to bear.
I would have done the same, proudly laying new
            stock into my father’s orchard.
A green sapling rising among the twisted apple
A promise of new fruit in other autumns.

But today we kneel in the cold planting you, our
            native giant,
Defying the practical custom of our fathers,
Wrapping in your roots a lock of hair, a piece of an
            infant’s birth cord,
All that remains above earth of a first-born son,
A few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

We will give you what we can – our labour and our
Water drawn from the earth when the skies fail,
Nights scented with the ocean fog, days softened by
            the circuit of bees.
We plant you in the corner of the grove, bathed in
            western light,
A slender shoot against the sunset.

And when our family is no more, all of his unborn
            brothers dead,
Every niece and nephew scattered, the house torn
His mother’s beauty ashes in the air,
I want you to stand among strangers, all young and
            ephemeral to you,
Silently keeping the secret of your birth.

            by Dana Gioia, from The Gods of Winter, 1991

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Supple Deer, by Jane Hirschfield

The Supple Deer

The quiet opening
between fence strands
perhaps eighteen inches.

Antlers to hind hooves,
four feet off the ground,
the deer poured through.

No tuft of the coarse white belly hair left behind.

I don’t know how a stag turns
into a stream, an arc of water.
I have never felt such accurate envy.

Not of the deer:

To be that porous, to have such largeness pass through me.

by Jane Hirschfield, from Come, Thief, 2011

Monday, April 22, 2013

With Quevedo, In Springtime; by Pablo Neruda

Hello Poets,
Pablo Neruda called the Spanish Golden Age poet Francisco Quevedo (1580-1645) the greatest of them all, saying that reading his poems were a “lived experience” transcending words on a page.
With Quevedo, in Springtime was written as the gravely ill Neruda watched spring return while his own life reached its winter.

With Quevedo, In Springtime

Everything has flowered in
these fields, apple trees,
hesitant blues, yellow weeds,
and in green grass the poppies thrive.
The inextinguishable sky, the new air
of each day, the invisible shine within,
that gift of a wide and vast springtime.
But spring hasn’t come to my room.
Diseases, dubious kisses,
that stuck like the church’s ivy
to the black windows of my life,
and love alone is never enough, not even the wild
and expansive fragrance of spring.

And to you, what can these mean now:
the orgiastic light, the evidence unfolding
like a flower, the green song
in the green leaves, the presence
of the sky with its goblet of freshness?
External spring, do not torment me,
unleashing wine and snow in my arms
corolla and battered bouquet of sorrow,
just for today give me the sleep of nocturnal
leaves, the night of the dead, the metals, the roots,
and so many extinguished springtimes
that awaken to life every spring.

by Pablo Neruda, from Winter Garden, 2002
translated from the Spanish by William O’Daly

Monday, April 15, 2013

Saguaro, by Brenda Hillman


Often visitors there, saddened
by the lack of trees, go out
to the promontory.

Then, backed by the banded
sunset, the trail
of the Conquistadores,

the father puts on the camera
the leather albatross
and has the children

imitate saguaros. One
at a time they stand there smiling
fingers up like the tines of a fork

while the stately saguaro
goes on being entered
by wrens, diseases, and sunlight

The mother sits on a rock
arms folded
across her breasts. To her

the cactus looks scared
its needles
like hair in cartoons.

With its arms in preacher
or waltz position,
it gives the impression

of great efforts
in every direction,
like the mother.

Thousands of these grey-green
cacti cross the valley:
nature repeating itself,

children repeating nature,
father repeating children
and mother watching.

Later the children think
the cactus was moral,
had something to teach them,

some survival technique
or just regular beauty.
But what else could it do?

The only protection
against death
was to love solitude.

by Brenda Hillman, from Fortress, 1989

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Treasure, by Robinson Jeffers

The Treasure

Mountains, a moment's earth-waves rising and hollowing; the
            earth too's an ephermerid; the stars—
Short-lived as grass the stars quicken in the nebula and dry in
            their summer, they spiral
Blind up space, scattered black seeds of a future; nothing lives
            long, the whole sky's
Recurrences tick the seconds of the hours of the ages of the gulf
            before birth, and the gulf
After death is like dated: to labor eighty years in a notch of
            eternity is nothing too tiresome,
Enormous repose after, enormous repose before, the flash of
Surely you never have dreamed the incredible depths were
            prologue and epilogue merely
To the surface play in the sun, the instant of life, what is called
            life? I fancy
That silence is the thing, this noise a found word for it;
            interjection, a jump of the breath at that silence;
Stars burn, grass grows, men breathe: as a man finding treasure
            says "Ah!" but the treasure's the essence;
Before the man spoke it was there, and after he has spoken he
            gathers it, inexhaustible treasure.

by Robinson Jeffers, from The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, 1925

Monday, April 1, 2013

Notice, by Steve Kowit


This evening, the sturdy Levis
I wore every day for over a year
& which seemed to the end in perfect condition,
suddenly tore.
How or why I don’t know,
but there it was—a big rip at the crotch.
A month ago my friend Nick
walked off a racquetball court,
got into his street clothes,
& half-way home collapsed & died.
Take heed you who read this
& drop to your knees now & again
like the poet Christopher Smart
& kiss the earth & be joyful
& make much of your time
& be kindly to everyone,
even to those who do not deserve it.
For although you may not believe it will happen,
you too will one day be gone.
I, whose Levis ripped at the crotch
for no reason,
assure you that such is the case.
Pass it on.

by Steve Kowit, from Mysteries of the Body, 1994

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Anti-Preneur Manifesto, by Danielle Leduc

Hello Poets,
We are not our resum├ęs, nor will enlightenment be found combing through the online job market.
Danielle Leduc is one kid that gets it.

The Anti-Preneur Manifesto

I don’t want to be a designer, a marketer, an illustrator,
a brander, a social media consultant, a multi-platform
guru, an interface wizard, a writer of copy, a technological
assistant, an applicator, an aesthetic king, a notable
user, a profit-maximizer, a bottom-line analyzer, a meme
generator, a hit tracker, a re-poster, a sponsored blogger,
a starred commentator, an online retailer, a viral relayer,
a handle, a font or a page. I don’t want to be linked in,
tuned in, ‘liked’, incorporated, listed or programmed.
I don’t want to be a brand, a representative, an
ambassador, a bestseller or a chart-topper. I don’t want
to be a human resource or part of your human capital.

I don’t want to be an entrepreneur of myself.

Don’t listen to the founders, the employers, the
newspapers, the pundits, the editors, the forecasters,
the researchers, the branders, the career counselors,
the prime minister, the job market, Michel Foucault or
your haughty brother in finance – there’s something else!

I want to be a lover, a teacher, a wanderer, an assembler
of words, a sculptor of immaterial, a maker of instruments,
a Socratic philosopher and an erratic muse. I want to be
a community center, a piece of art, a wonky cursive script
and an old-growth tree! I want to be a disrupter, a creator,
an apocalyptic visionary, a master of reconfiguration,
a hypocritical parent, an illegal download and a choose-
your-own-adventure! I want to be a renegade agitator!
A licker of ice cream! An organizer of mischief! A released
charge! A double jump on the trampoline! A wayward
youth! A volunteer! A partner.

I want to be a curator of myself, an anti-preneur, a person.

Unlimited availabilities. No followers required. Only friends.

by Danielle Leduc, from March/April 2013 Adbusters

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Moth, The Mountains, The Rivers- by Mary Oliver

The Moth, The Mountains, The Rivers

Who can guess the luna's sadness who lives so
briefly? Who can guess the impatience of stone
longing to be ground down, to be part again of
something livelier? Who can imagine in what
heaviness the rivers remember their original

Strange questions, yet I have spent worthwhile
time with them. And I suggest them to you also,
that your spirit grow in curiosity, that your life
be richer than it is, that you bow to the earth as
you feel how it actually is, that we- so cleaver, and
ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained- are only
one design of the moving, the vivacious many.

by Mary Oliver, from A Thousand Mornings, 2012

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Three Times My Life Has Opened, by Jane Hirshfield

Three Times My Life Has Opened

Three times my life has opened.
Once, into darkness and rain.
Once, into what the body carries at all times within it and starts
      to remember each time it enters the act of love.
Once, to the fire that holds all.
These three were not different.
You will recognize what I am saying or you will not.
But outside my window all day a maple has stepped from her leaves
       like a woman in love with winter, dropping the colored silks.
Neither are we different in what we know.
There is a door. It opens. Then it is closed. But a slip of light
       stays, like a scrap of unreadable paper left on the floor,
       or the one red leaf the snow releases in March.

by Jane Hirshfield, from The Lives of the Heart, 1997

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Went Into The Maverick Bar, by Gary Snyder

Hello Poets,
Disguise, escape and connection. Gary Snyder stepping back into the timeless time, embracing our tough old stars and the real work that beckons beyond the bluff.

I Went Into The Maverick Bar

I went into the Maverick Bar
In Farmington New Mexico.
And drank double shots of bourbon
                              backed with beer.
My long hair was tucked up under a cap
I’d left the earring in the car.

Two cowboys did horseplay
                                  by the pool tables,
A waitress asked us
                                 where are you from?
a country-and-western band began to play
“We don’t smoke Marijuana in Muskokie”
And with the next song,
                                a couple began to dance.

They held each other like High School dances
                                in the fifties;
I recalled when I worked in the woods
                                  and the bars of Madras, Oregon.
That short-haired joy and roughness-
                                America- your stupidity.
I could almost love you again.

We left—onto the freeway shoulders-
                                under the tough old stars-
In the shadow of bluffs
                                   I came back to myself,
To the real work, to
                                    “What is to be done.”

by Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island, 1974

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Waterwheel, by Jalaluddin Rumi

Hello Poets,
On the mend from hacking cough and sore bones, likely picked up in East Texas protesting the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Friends, we're at that point between a climate on the edge and one that's over. So, stay together, raise a hue and cry, never look away and never, never forget what's at stake.

The Waterwheel

Stay together, friends.
Don’t scatter and sleep.

Our friendship is made
of being awake.

The waterwheel accepts water
and turns and gives it away,

That way it stays in the garden,
whereas another roundness rolls
through a dry riverbed looking
for what it thinks it wants.

Stay here, quivering with each moment
like a drop of mercury.

by Jalaluddin Rumi, from The Essential Rumi: New Expanded Edition,
translated from the Persian by Coleman Barks, 2004