The world is a beautiful place 
                                                           to be born into 
if you don’t mind happiness 
                                             not always being 
                                                                        so very much fun 
       if you don’t mind a touch of hell
                                                       now and then
                just when everything is fine
                                                             because even in heaven
                                they don’t sing 
                                                        all the time

             The world is a beautiful place
                                                           to be born into
       if you don’t mind some people dying
                                                                  all the time
                        or maybe only starving
                                                           some of the time
                 which isn’t half so bad
                                                      if it isn’t you

      Oh the world is a beautiful place
                                                          to be born into
               if you don’t much mind
                                                   a few dead minds
                    in the higher places
                                                    or a bomb or two
                            now and then
                                                  in your upturned faces
         or such other improprieties
                                                    as our Name Brand society
                                  is prey to
                                              with its men of distinction
             and its men of extinction
                                                   and its priests
                         and other patrolmen
                                                         and its various segregations
         and congressional investigations
                                                             and other constipations
                        that our fool flesh
                                                     is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
                                                           for a lot of such things as
         making the fun scene
                                                and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
                                         and singing low songs of having 
                                                                                      inspirations
and walking around 
                                looking at everything
                                                                  and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
                              and even thinking 
                                                         and kissing people and
     making babies and wearing pants
                                                         and waving hats and
                                     dancing
                                                and going swimming in rivers
                              on picnics
                                       in the middle of the summer
and just generally
                            ‘living it up’

Yes
   but then right in the middle of it
                                                    comes the smiling
                                                                                 mortician

                                           

From A Coney Island of the Mind, copyright ©1955 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

translated from the Italian by Will Schutt.

I run into them in squares 
or coffee shops, most of the time 
I recognize them, and marvel at 
what they’ve become:
all those eyes and fingers.
Wrenches, suits. Some shy, 
others obnoxious. And the burnouts, 
the ones who lick the dirt.
Then there’s me,
carrying cucumbers and a roll of TP.

 


 

Allievi 

Li incontro sulle piazze 
o in qualche bar, li riconosco 
quasi sempre, e penso cosa diventano, 
adesso, tutti quegli occhi, quelle dita.
Carburatori, cravatte. Certi timidi, 
altri perfino odiosi. E i devastati, 
quelli che leccano l’asfalto.
E infine anch’io
che ho in mano cetrioli e carta igienica.

Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press. “Allievi” in Le cose senza storia, Fabio Pusterla, Marcos y Marcos, Milano 2007.

I am pledging allegiance to the flag
in the basement classroom when
my crewcut friend appears at the door
with a message. He whispers to the teacher

who motions to me and I learn that
my dog has followed me to school.
What an occasion, that above all the other
scents in the world, all the other

high-topped sneakers, he has found me out
I learn that he has already made it through
the first grade, where he has
muddied a teacher’s dress with his dark paws.

I imagine his journey as he runs down
the long corridors that smell of chalk dust
and institutional cleanser, cantering
past the principal’s office, the holy of holies,

where the records are kept. I see him sniffing
at the blunt toed shoes of the army
of teachers who find him.
He wags his tail when he sees me, but I am

overcome with my notoriety. Why did you
follow me, why single me out? I get the dog
and put him out the front entrance.
Go home, I tell him, go on home, ignoring

his optimistic eyes, shutting
the great wooden doors
on that part of me that is
without a collar and wild.

Copyright © Stuart Kestenbaum. From House of Thanksgiving (Deerbrook Editions, 2003). Used with permission of the author. 

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
     I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
     He did a lazy sway . . .
     He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
     O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
     Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man’s soul.
     O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan—
     "Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
       Ain’t got nobody but ma self.
       I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
       And put ma troubles on the shelf."

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
     "I got the Weary Blues
       And I can’t be satisfied.
       Got the Weary Blues
       And can’t be satisfied—
       I ain’t happy no mo’
       And I wish that I had died."
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that's dead.

From The Weary Blues (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926) by Langston Hughes. This poem is in the public domain. 

I fear the vast dimensions of eternity.
I fear the gap between the platform and the train.
I fear the onset of a murderous campaign.
I fear the palpitations caused by too much tea.

I fear the drawn pistol of a rapparee.
I fear the books will not survive the acid rain.
I fear the ruler and the blackboard and the cane.
I fear the Jabberwock, whatever it might be.

I fear the bad decisions of a referee.
I fear the only recourse is to plead insane.
I fear the implications of a lawyer’s fee.

I fear the gremlins that have colonized my brain.
I fear to read the small print of the guarantee.
And what else do I fear? Let me begin again.

From Selected Poems by Ciaran Carson, published by Wake Forest University Press. Copyright © 2001 by Ciaran Carson. Reprinted with permission by Wake Forest University Press. All rights reserved.

All day on all my days,
the lives I’m not to process wash in;

anxieties lullaby on
and quite like to be gotten among;

but now—and now—one old,
abundant flower just screws up the room.

Copyright © 2016 by Graham Foust. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.