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Sonnet 17

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

in which there is no I or you
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand
so intimate that when you fall asleep it is my eyes that close

              –Pablo Neruda

Soneto XVIICollapse )

Instant Recognition between Strangers

Just because we have birds inside us, we don’t have to
   be cages.

But until our names are called, we wait in the dark hall with the
   coat trees.

Kafka, Kafka, barks the dog.

The guards forbid kissing the statues lest their spell be broken and
   they too feel smothered with joy.

I wish I could have stopped you from getting that tattoo.

I wish I had grown up believing in a god with many arms, but no,
   just a lightning bolt.

Dandelion, the sky is burning out again.

They use silver clamps to pluck the bad heart out, then install
   the next.

Maybe a lamb’s.

Maybe a crazed motorcyclist’s.

Dread is a drum solo because something reaches out and whacks.

Flower house, flower house, no one can live there long.

               — Dean Young, Fall Higher (Copper Canyon Press, 2009)

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In the Airport Marshes

A kind of heaven,
this clamor, a lulliloo:
'to shout joyously,
to welcome with cries,

from a cry of joy among
some African peoples':
Webster’s New International,
1934, a foot-thick volume

deftly marbled
as this patch of marsh.
Today I require the term
and there it is — these definitions

wait to be lived,
actual as these frogs,
who chorus as if
there’s no tomorrow,

or else they’ve all
the time in the world.
We ruin the rain,
they go right on

this year. Hard to imagine
the eagerness of a body
which pours itself
into this — forms

you have to take on faith,
since all they seem
to be is chiming Morse
belling out long-short

over the patched tarmac
of the runway. I have never
till now needed the word lulliloo.

How do you reckon your little music?

                           — Mark Doty

(From Theories and Apparitions, 2008)

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Apple Dropping into Deep Early Snow

by Jane Kenyon

A jay settled on a branch, making it sway.
The one shriveled fruit that remained
gave way to the deepening drift below.
I happened to see it the moment it fell.

Dusk is eager and comes early. A car
creeps over the hill. Still in the dark I try
to tell if I am numbered with the damned,
who cry, outraged, Lord, when did we see You?

Midwinter

The speckled sky is dim with snow,
The light flakes falter and fall slow;
Athwart the hill-top, rapt and pale,
Silently drops a silvery veil;
And all the valley is shut in
By flickering curtains gray and thin.

But cheerily the chickadee
Singeth to me on fence and tree;
The snow sails round him as he sings,
White as the down of angels’ wings.

I watch the slow flakes as they fall
On bank and brier and broken wall;
Over the orchard, waste and brown,
All noiselessly they settle down,
Tipping the apple-boughs, and each
Light quivering twig of plum and peach.

On turf and curb and bower-roof
The snow-storm spreads its ivory woof;
It paves with pearl the garden-walk;
And lovingly round tattered stalk
And shivering stem its magic weaves
A mantle fair as lily-leaves.

The hooded beehive, small and low,
Stands like a maiden in the snow;
And the old door-slab is half hid
Under an alabaster lid.

All day it snows: the sheeted post
Gleams in the dimness like a ghost;
All day the blasted oak has stood
A muffled wizard of the wood;
Garland and airy cap adorn
The sumach and the wayside thorn,
And clustering spangles lodge and shine
In the dark tresses of the pine.

The ragged bramble, dwarfed and old,
Shrinks like a beggar in the cold;
In surplice white the cedar stands,
And blesses him with priestly hands.

Still cheerily the chickadee
Singeth to me on fence and tree:
But in my inmost ear is heard
The music of a holier bird;
And heavenly thoughts as soft and white
As snow-flakes, on my soul alight,
Clothing with love my lonely heart,
Healing with peace each bruised part,
Till all my being seems to be
Transfigured by their purity.

            — John Townsend Trowbridge

Poppies

by Jane Weir

Three days before Armistice Sunday
and poppies had already been placed
on individual war graves. Before you left,
I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals,
spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade
of yellow bias binding around your blazer.

Sellotape bandaged around my hand,
I rounded up as many white cat hairs
as I could, smoothed down your shirt's
upturned collar, steeled the softening
of my face. I wanted to graze my nose
across the tip of your nose, play at
being Eskimos like we did when
you were little. I resisted the impulse
to run my fingers through the gelled
blackthorns of your hair. All my words
flattened, rolled, turned into felt,

slowly melting. I was brave, as I walked
with you, to the front door, threw
it open, the world overflowing
like a treasure chest. A split second
and you were away, intoxicated.
After you'd gone I went into your bedroom,
released a song bird from its cage.
Later a single dove flew from the pear tree,
and this is where it has led me,
skirting the church yard walls, my stomach busy
making tucks, darts, pleats, hat-less, without
a winter coat or reinforcements of scarf, gloves.

On reaching the top of the hill I traced
the inscriptions on the war memorial,
leaned against it like a wishbone.
The dove pulled freely against the sky,
an ornamental stitch. I listened, hoping to hear
your playground voice catching on the wind.


(From Exit wounds, a series of poems commissioned by British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy for The Guardian.)

Invocation

Come out of the dark earth
Here where the minerals
Glow in their stone cells
Deeper than seed or birth.

Come under the strong wave
Here where the tug goes
As the tide turns and flows
Below that architrave.

Come into the pure air
Above all heaviness
Of storm and cloud to this
Light-possessed atmosphere.

Come into, out of, under
The earth, the wave, the air.
Love, touch us everywhere
With primeval candor.

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Jul. 24th, 2009

The Shriek by Renata Pallottini

If at least this pain helped
if it knocked walls
if it opened doors
if it spoke
if it sang and uncombed my hair

if at least this pain saw itself
if it sprung from the throat like a shirek
if it fell from the window if it would burst
if it would die

if the pain were a piece of hard bread
one could swallow with strength
and spit out after
stain the street the cars the space the other
that dark other which passes indifferently
and does not suffer who has a right not to suffer

if pain were only finger flesh
which can be rubbed on stone wall
so it hurts hurts visibly
painfully
with tears

if at least this pain would bleed

Crown

Crown, Kay Ryan

Too much rain
loosens trees.
In the hills giant oaks
fall upon their knees.
You can touch parts
you have no right to—
places only birds
should fly to.

Photo, Brownie Troop, St. Louis, 1949

I'm going to put Karen Prasse right here
in front of you on this page
so that you won't mistake her for something else,
an example of precocity, for instance,
a girl who knew that the sky (blue crayon)
was above the earth (green crayon)
and did not, as you had drawn it, come right down
to the green on which your three bears stood.
You can tell from her outfit that she is a Brownie.
You can tell from her socks that she knows how
to line things up, from her mouth that she may
grow up mean or simply competent. Do not mistake
her for an art critic: when she told you
the first day of first grade that your drawing
was "wrong," you stood your ground and told her
to look out the window. Miss Voss told your mom
you were going to be a good example of something,
although you cannot tell from the way your socks sag,
nor from your posture, far from Brownie-crisp.
This is not about you for a change, but about
mis-perception, of which Karen was an early example.
Who knows? She may have meant to be helpful,
though that is not always a virtue,
and gets in the way of some art.

                           — Margaret Kaufman


(From American Life in Poetry, a free weekly column for newspapers and online publications featuring a poem by a contemporary American poet and a brief introduction by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser.)