the moon might rise and it might not
and if it brings a ghost light we will read beneath it

and if it returns to earth
we will listen for its phrases

and if I’m alone at the bedside table
I will have a ghost book to refer to

and when I lie back I’ll see its imprint
beneath my blood-red lids:

not lettered ink
but the clean page

not sugar
but the empty bowl

not flowers
but the dirt

 

*

 

blame the egg blame the fractured stones
at the bottom of the mind

blame his darkblue glare and craggy mug
the bulky king of trudge and stein

how I love a masculine in my parlor
his grizzly shout and weight one hundred drums

in this everywhere of blunt and soft sinking
I am the heavy hollow snared

the days are spring the days are summer
the days are nothing and not dead yet

 

*

 

worry the river over its banks
the train into flames

worry the black rain into the city
the troops into times square

worry the windows cracked acidblack
and the children feverblistered

worry never another summer
never again to live here gentle
with the other inhabitants

then leave too quickly
leave the pills and band-aids
the bathroom scale the Christmas lights the dog

go walking on our legs
dense and bare and useless

worry our throats and lungs
into taking the air

leave books on the shelves
leave keys dustpan

telephones don’t work where you were
in the chaos

 

*

 

and I couldn’t bear it
the children nearing the place
where the waves wet the shore

vaporous force
rising imperceptibly behind

we were talking about circumstance
horizon-gates swinging open
beneath the cherry blooms

wave rising in the background
impalpable and final
a girl in a white dress       barefoot

wasn’t I right to ask her to move in from the shore

 

*

 

this is the last usable hour

bird lured
through the window

a little sweet fruit

I could die here
and the hearsedriver
would take me out of this city

I’d say my name to him
as we crossed the Triboro

I’d say it softly         the way he likes it

it would be the last time
I’d introduce myself that way

Copyright © 2011 by Deborah Landau. Reprinted from The Last Usable Hour with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.

A CARAFE, THAT IS A BLIND GLASS.

A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.

GLAZED GLITTER.

Nickel, what is nickel, it is originally rid of a cover.

The change in that is that red weakens an hour. The change has come. There is no search. But there is, there is that hope and that interpretation and sometime, surely any is unwelcome, sometime there is breath and there will be a sinecure and charming very charming is that clean and cleansing. Certainly glittering is handsome and convincing.

There is no gratitude in mercy and in medicine. There can be breakages in Japanese. That is no programme. That is no color chosen. It was chosen yesterday, that showed spitting and perhaps washing and polishing. It certainly showed no obligation and perhaps if borrowing is not natural there is some use in giving.

A SUBSTANCE IN A CUSHION.

The change of color is likely and a difference a very little difference is prepared. Sugar is not a vegetable.

Callous is something that hardening leaves behind what will be soft if there is a genuine interest in there being present as many girls as men. Does this change. It shows that dirt is clean when there is a volume.

A cushion has that cover. Supposing you do not like to change, supposing it is very clean that there is no change in appearance, supposing that there is regularity and a costume is that any the worse than an oyster and an exchange. Come to season that is there any extreme use in feather and cotton. Is there not much more joy in a table and more chairs and very likely roundness and a place to put them.

A circle of fine card board and a chance to see a tassel.

What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it. The question does not come before there is a quotation. In any kind of place there is a top to covering and it is a pleasure at any rate there is some venturing in refusing to believe nonsense. It shows what use there is in a whole piece if one uses it and it is extreme and very likely the little things could be dearer but in any case there is a bargain and if there is the best thing to do is to take it away and wear it and then be reckless be reckless and resolved on returning gratitude.

Light blue and the same red with purple makes a change. It shows that there is no mistake. Any pink shows that and very likely it is reasonable. Very likely there should not be a finer fancy present. Some increase means a calamity and this is the best preparation for three and more being together. A little calm is so ordinary and in any case there is sweetness and some of that.

A seal and matches and a swan and ivy and a suit.

A closet, a closet does not connect under the bed. The band if it is white and black, the band has a green string. A sight a whole sight and a little groan grinding makes a trimming such a sweet singing trimming and a red thing not a round thing but a white thing, a red thing and a white thing.

The disgrace is not in carelessness nor even in sewing it comes out out of the way.

What is the sash like. The sash is not like anything mustard it is not like a same thing that has stripes, it is not even more hurt than that, it has a little top.

A BOX.

Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle. So then the order is that a white way of being round is something suggesting a pin and is it disappointing, it is not, it is so rudimentary to be analysed and see a fine substance strangely, it is so earnest to have a green point not to red but to point again.

A PIECE OF COFFEE.

More of double.

A place in no new table.

A single image is not splendor. Dirty is yellow. A sign of more in not mentioned. A piece of coffee is not a detainer. The resemblance to yellow is dirtier and distincter. The clean mixture is whiter and not coal color, never more coal color than altogether.

The sight of a reason, the same sight slighter, the sight of a simpler negative answer, the same sore sounder, the intention to wishing, the same splendor, the same furniture.

The time to show a message is when too late and later there is no hanging in a blight.

A not torn rose-wood color. If it is not dangerous then a pleasure and more than any other if it is cheap is not cheaper. The amusing side is that the sooner there are no fewer the more certain is the necessity dwindled. Supposing that the case contained rose-wood and a color. Supposing that there was no reason for a distress and more likely for a number, supposing that there was no astonishment, is it not necessary to mingle astonishment.

The settling of stationing cleaning is one way not to shatter scatter and scattering. The one way to use custom is to use soap and silk for cleaning. The one way to see cotton is to have a design concentrating the illusion and the illustration. The perfect way is to accustom the thing to have a lining and the shape of a ribbon and to be solid, quite solid in standing and to use heaviness in morning. It is light enough in that. It has that shape nicely. Very nicely may not be exaggerating. Very strongly may be sincerely fainting. May be strangely flattering. May not be strange in everything. May not be strange to.

DIRT AND NOT COPPER.

Dirt and not copper makes a color darker. It makes the shape so heavy and makes no melody harder.

It makes mercy and relaxation and even a strength to spread a table fuller. There are more places not empty. They see cover.

NOTHING ELEGANT.

A charm a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.

MILDRED'S UMBRELLA.

A cause and no curve, a cause and loud enough, a cause and extra a loud clash and an extra wagon, a sign of extra, a sac a small sac and an established color and cunning, a slender grey and no ribbon, this means a loss a great loss a restitution.

A METHOD OF A CLOAK.

A single climb to a line, a straight exchange to a cane, a desperate adventure and courage and a clock, all this which is a system, which has feeling, which has resignation and success, all makes an attractive black silver.

A RED STAMP.

If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.

From Tender Buttons (1914) by Gertrude Stein. This poem is in the public domain.

Next died the Lady who yon Hall possessed;
And here they brought her noble bones to rest.
In Town she dwelt:- forsaken stood the Hall:
Worms ate the floors. the tapestry fled the wall.
No fire the kitchens cheerless grate displayed;
No cheerful light the long-closed sash conveyed;
The crawling worm, that turns a summer-fly,
Here spun his shroud and laid him up to die
The winter-death:— upon the bed of sate,
The bat shrill-shrieking wooed his flickering mate;
To empty rooms the curious came no more,
From empty cellars turned the angry poor,
And surly beggars cursed the ever-bolted door.
To one small room the steward found his way, 
Where tenants follow'd to complain and pay;
Yet no complaint before the Lady came, 
The feeling servant spared the feeble dame; 
Who saw her farms with his observing eyes, 
And answer'd all requests with his replies:— 
She came not down, her falling groves to view; 
Why should she know, what one so faithful knew? 
Why come, from many clamorous tongues to hear, 
What one so just might whisper in her ear? 
Her oaks or acres, why with care explore; 
Why learn the wants, the sufferings of the poor; 
When one so knowing all their worth could trace, 
And one so piteous govern'd in her place ?
   Lo! now, what dismal Sons of Darkness come, 
To bear this Daughter of Indulgence home; 
Tragedians all, and well-arranged in black! 
Who nature, feeling, force, expression lack; 
Who cause no tear, but gloomily pass by, 
And shake their sables in the wearied eye, 
That turns disgusted from the pompous scene, 
Proud without grandeur, with profusion, mean! 
The tear for kindness post affection owes; 
For worth deceased the sigh from reason flows; 
E'en well-feign'd passion for our sorrows call, 
And real tears for mimic miseries fall: 
But this poor farce has neither truth nor art, 
To please the fancy or to touch the heart;
Unlike the darkness of the sky, that pours
On the dry ground its fertilising showers;
Unlike to that which strikes the sould with dread,
When thunders roar and forky fires are shed...

This poem is in the public domain.

erodes the line between being and place becomes the place of being time and so
the house turns in the snow is why a ghost always has the architecture of a storm
The architect tore down room after room until the sound stopped. A ghost is one
among the ages at the edge of a cliff empty sails on the bay even when a ship
or the house moves off in fog asks you out loud to let the stranger in

From Gravesend by Cole Swensen. Copyright © 2012 by Cole Swensen. Reprinted with permission of University of California Press. All rights reserved.

If you, Tom, could see this inflight video map

of the world turning wildly on its axis

you would not, I think, be mad, though it is not

on paper, and that is what you do, but it is

a useful thing to see the earth twisted up like this;

it is our minds that are twisted, and you

are twisted too around a spoon, and drunk, I’m sure

by now, like me, past Newfoundland’s shore

with other peoples’ wine and dotted lines

to Bruxelles where I will only be

to switch planes, but you, I think, first went

there of all the other places you’ve been,

gobbling up the light as you went,

sending presents wrapped in maps.

Copyright © 2013 by Matthew Rohrer. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 7, 2013.

A four-armed flutist took me
to the blue avatar: stone-blue
monkey, whiskers silver,
broken beads silver–
paint dashed by the artist on cheap paper.
Bought for a few annas, God
kneels, looks left. Intense concentration.
His ink hands rip open his chest,
pull skin aside like a velvet curtain–
Rama and Sita alive
at his core. And what devotion shall
my flesh show, and my broken-open breast.
His blueblack tail flicks upward, its dark
tip a paintbrush loaded blue.

Copyright © 2013 by Joan Larkin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 14, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

The dark sky opens and it starts to rain. I go outside
to stand in the stream, the longed-for gift of water
where it hasn’t rained for so long. I shout and dance
with the dog, who puts his ears back and licks my nose.
When we come back in, he shakes and I do too,
a few drops flying off my hair. I notice the Buddha
sitting on my desk. He’s a rubber Buddha
in a yellow robe. If you squeeze him he squeaks.
He’s got a radiant smile on his face, his eyebrows
happy half-moons over his eyes. As I stare at him
my wife walks by and with a cheery Buddha-like glint says,
“It’s raining.” In his right hand the Buddha’s got a cappuccino
and in his left a cell phone pressed to his ear.
His lips are closed so I know he’s listening, not talking.
One more thing—I pick up a little kaleidoscope
lying next to the Buddha and lift it to my eye to look outside.
I thought it would make the raindrops glitter
through the autumn-dry corn but instead what I see
looks like the ceiling of a great cathedral.
I whirl around and am presented with the image
of a thousand rubber Buddhas, each one
a drop of rain, falling, ready to hit the ground.

David Romtvedt, Some Church (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by David Romtvedt. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. www.milkweed.org.

I’ve lived my life as if I were my wife
packing for a trip—I’ll need this and that
and I can’t possibly do without that!


But now I’m about
what can be done without.
I just need a thin valise.


There’s no place on earth
where I can’t unpack in a flash
down to a final spark of consciousness.


No place where I can’t enter
the joyless rapture
of almost remembering


I’ll need this and I’ll need that,
hoping to weigh less than silence,
lighter than light.

From The Memory of Water, published by New Issues Press. Copyright © 2011 by Jack Myers. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

The psychotherapist has a sad dove 
dying in his eye. He looks at the light
like wood holding fire in it
reflected in small caves 
and tells me there is a window where love weeps
over what it cannot know. The dove's

trembling, flickering like a sun alone
in the dark nest of his face, and the psychotherapist 
is saying, there is nothing like losing your Self
for a Demon. We walk in to each other 
as into a museum, and our portraits gleam. This sounds
like he's saying our deaths are old, they
may not even belong to us. In the end, our meeting
is just the fantasy

we've been looking for all along. Yes,
Yes, I say, I've come here to burn for you 
all my illusions. Yes, I say, I can see
you for who you are like I can see
the mother huddling her chicks in the sea cliff
in your inkblot, before she pecks their eyes large 
as blood grapes and eats them 
alive, the storm 

clouds rupturing that purple 
slag of lightning. What I want is to hold you
like a bell holds space 
between the hours. What I want is to get back
one with the other, self 
with dove, desire with the storm

inside that destroys
absence like a murderous blood. What I want
is a therapy like a first love—merciless 
fascination—my eyes looking in 
like the crazed bells of silence
to startle the mortal 
coil. This 
romance of self

you can't escape, and you don't want to.

Copyright © 2011 by Miguel Murphy. Used with permission of the author.

We do lie beneath the grass  
    In the moonlight, in the shade  
  Of the yew-tree. They that pass  
    Hear us not. We are afraid  
      They would envy our delight,
      In our graves by glow-worm night.  
Come follow us, and smile as we;  
    We sail to the rock in the ancient waves,  
Where the snow falls by thousands into the sea,  
    And the drown'd and the shipwreck'd have happy graves.

This poem is in the public domain.

Huffy Henry hid    the day,
unappeasable Henry sulked.
I see his point,—a trying to put things over.
It was the thought that they thought
they could do it made Henry wicked & away.
But he should have come out and talked.

All the world like a woolen lover
once did seem on Henry's side.
Then came a departure.
Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought.
I don't see how Henry, pried
open for all the world to see, survived.

What he has now to say is a long
wonder the world can bear & be.
Once in a sycamore I was glad
all at the top, and I sang.
Hard on the land wears the strong sea
and empty grows every bed.

From The Dream Songs by John Berryman, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 by John Berryman. Used with permission.

There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart
só heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry's ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

And there is another thing he has in mind
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of.  Ghastly,
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late.  This is not for tears;
thinking.

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

From The Dream Songs by John Berryman, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 by John Berryman. Used with permission.

Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
twice.
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her

or falling at her little feet and crying
'You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry's dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.' I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.—Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.

—Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast . . . The slob beside her     feasts . . . What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes.  She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
—Mr. Bones: there is.

From The Dream Songs by John Berryman, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 by John Berryman. Used with permission.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
From a wild clime that lieth, sublime,
            Out of SPACE— out of TIME.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the tears that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters— lone and dead,—
Their still waters— still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.

By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,—
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,—
By the mountains— near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,—
By the grey woods,— by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp—
By the dismal tarns and pools


     Where dwell the Ghouls,—
By each spot the most unholy—
In each nook most melancholy—
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the Past—
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by—
White—robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth— and Heaven.

For the heart whose woes are legion
'Tis a peaceful, soothing region—
For the spirit that walks in shadow
'Tis— oh, 'tis an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not— dare not openly view it!
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.

This poem is in the public domain.

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a DOG,
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808.

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor's art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below:
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master's own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonour'd falls, unnotic'd all his worth,
Deny'd in heaven the Soul he held on earth:
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debas'd by slavery, or corrupt by power,
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye! who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on, it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend's remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one—and here he lies.

This poem is in the public domain.


            sell me a clip-on
bow-tie or a mock
fringe chapeau worn on
the collarbone—a
new style of “shoulder
hat,” a cape to
protect your shoulders
from rain and chill and
to prevent the wearer
from sliding (like
Mickey Mantle) into
a third gender
 
__________
 
            now I’ve
reached the “clinker” zone
of perforated opportunities
 
__________
 
 
            —perforated appurtenances
 
____________
 
 
but then Edith Piaf
suddenly thrilled me
 
__________
 
            a newly
discovered Venezuela, a
view—
 
____________
 
            a rendre compte,
a liar on the corner
(thirsty corner) of
23rd and 9th, a gazelle,
a rendezvous chapel
 
 
__________
 
             (a chaplet of
daisies around my
pleurisy brow)—

Copyright © 2014 by Wayne Koestenbaum. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 3, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

A mouse went to see his mother.  When his car broke down he bought a bike.
When the bike wore out he bought skates.  When the skates wore down he ran.
He ran until his sneakers wore through.  Then he walked.  He walked and 
walked, almost walked his feet through so he bought new ones.  His mother was 
happy to see him and said, "what nice new feet you have on."
—paraphrase of a story in Mouse Tails by Arnold Lobel

hey, listen, a bad thing happened to 
my friend's marriage, can't tell you
only can tell my own story which 
so far isn't so bad:

"Dad" and I stay married.  so far.
so good.  so so.

But it felt undoable. This lucky life
every day, every day. every. day.

(all the poetry books the goddamn same
until one guys gets up and stuns the audience)

Then, Joe Wenderoth, not by a long shot
sober says, I promised my wife I wouldn't fuck
anyone, to no one in particular and reads a poem 
about how Jesus has no penis.

Meanwhile, the psychiatrist, attractive in a fatherly 
way, says libido question mark.

And your libido?
like a father, but not like mine, or my sons'—

"fix it."

My friend's almost written 
a good novel by which I mean finished 
which means I'd like to light myself 
on fire, on fire
with envy, this isn't "desire" 
not what the Dr. meant
by libido?
                        I hope—

not, it's just chemical:
            jealousy. boredom. lethargy.

 

Books with prominent seraphs: their feet feet feet I am
marching to the same be—

other

than the neuronic slave I thought anxiety made me 
do it, made me get up and carry forth, sally 
the children to school the poems dragged 
by little hands on their little seraphs 
to the page my marriage sustained, remaining 
energy: project #1, project #2, broken 
fixtures, summer plans, demand met, request 
granted, bunny noodles with and without cheesy 
at the same time, and the night time I insomnia 
these hours penning invisible letters—

            till it stopped.

doc said: it's a syndrome.        you've got it, 
                                      classic.

it's chemical,
mental

circuitry we've got a fix for this
classic, I'm saying I can

make it better.

Everything was the same, then,
but better.

At night I slept.
In the morning got up.

Kids to school, husband still a fool-
hardy spirit makes
me pick a monday morning fight, snipe! I'll pay for that
later I'm still a pain in the 
elbow from writing prose those shift+hold+letter, 
I'm still me less sleepy, crazy, I suppose
less crazy-jealous just
ha-ha now at Jesus' no penis his
amazed at the other poet's kickass
friend's novel I dream instead about
the government makes me put stickers
on my driver's license of family members
who are Jews, and mine all are.  Can they get us 
all? I escape with a beautiful light-haired man,
blue-eyed day trader, gentile. 
 

gentle, gentle, mind encased in its 
blood-brain barrier from the harsh skull
sleep,  sleep and sleepy wake and want 
to sleep and sleep a steep dosage— 

            "—chemical?"

in my dreams now every man's mine, no-
problem, perhaps my mind's a little plastic, 
malleable, not so fatal now 

the dose is engineered like that new genetic watercress
to turn from green to red when planted over buried 
mines, nitrogen dioxide makes for early autumn
red marks the spot where I must 
watch my step, up one half-step-dose specific—


            The psychiatrist's lived in NY so long
            he's of ambiguous religious—
            everyone's Jewish sometimes—
            writes: "up the dosage."


now,
when I'm late I just shrug
it's my new improved style
missed the train? I tug
the two boys single file

the platform a safe aisle
between disasters, blithely
I step, step, step-lively
carefully, wisely.

I sing silly ditties 
play I spy something pretty
grey-brown-metal-filthy
for a little city fun.

Just one way to enjoy life's 
trials, mile after mile, lucky
to have such dependable feet.

you see,
the rodents don't frighten I'm
calm as can be expected to recover left to my 
one devivces I was twice as fast getting everywhere but
where did that get me but there, that inevitable location
more waiting, the rats there scurry, scurry, a furry

till the next train comes

"up the dosage."

Brown a first-cut brisket in hot Dutch oven 
after dusting with paprika.  Remove.  Sauté 
thickly sliced onions and add wine. (Sweet 
is better, lasts forever, never need a new bottle). 
Put the meat on onions, cover with tomato-sauce-
onion-soup-mix mixture, cover. Back in a low 
oven many hours.

The house smells like meat.
My hair smells like meat. 

I'm a light unto the nation.

I'm trying 
to get out of Egypt.
This year, 
I'll  be better.

Joseph makes sense of the big man's dreams, is saved,
saves his brothers those jealous boys who sold him 
sold them all as slaves. Seven years of plenty.  Seven
years of famine.  He insomnias the nights counting up
grains, storing, planning, for what? They say throw 
the small boys in the river (and mothers do so). Smite 
the sons (and fathers do it.) God says take off your shoes,
this holy ground this pitiful, incombustible bush.

Is God chemical?  
Enzymatic of our great need to chaos?

We're unforgivable. 
People of the salted
cheeks.  Slap, turn, slap.

To be chosen 
is to be 
unforgiving/ unforgiv-
en, always chosen: 
be better.

The Zuckers are a long line of obsessives. 

This served them well in war time saw it 
coming in time that unseeable thing they 
hoarded they ferried, schemed, paced, got the hell 
out figured out at night, insomnia, how to visa—

now, if it happens again, I won't be 
ready

I'm "better."

The husband, a country club Jew from Denver, American
intelligentsia will have to carry me out and he's no big 
man and I'm not a small girl how fast

can the doctor switch the refugee gene back on?


How fast can I get worse?  Smart again and worse?

Better to be alive than better.  

            "...listen:" says the doctor, "sleeping isn't death.  
            All children unlearn this fear you got confused 
            thought thinking was the same as spinning—"             
            Writes: "up the dosage."  
            don't think.  this refugee thing part
            of a syndrome fear of medication of being better...

Truth is, the anti-obsessional medicine works 
wonders and drags me through life's course...

About this time of year but years ago the priests spread 
rumors of blood libel. Jews huddled in basements accused 
of using Christian babes' blood to make unleavened bread.

signs and wonders.
Christ rises.

Blood and body and babes.
Basements and briskets 
and bread of afflictions.

I am calm now with my pounds of meat 
made and frozen, my party schedule, my pills 
of liberation, my gentile dream-boy, American 
passport, my grey haired-psychiatrist, my blue-
eyed son, my brown-eyed son, my poems on their 
pretty little fleet-feet, my big shot friends, olive-skinned 
husband, my right elbow on fire: fire inside deep in the nerve 
from too much carrying and word-mongering, smithery, bearing 
and tensing choosing to be better to live this real life this better orbit this Jack

Kerouac never loved you like you wanted. 
Blake.
Buddha. 
Only Jesus and that's his shtick,
he loves

everyone: smile! that's it,
for the camera, blood pressure
normal, better, you're a poster child
for signs and wonders what a little chemistry
does for the brain, blood, thought, hey,

did you know that Pharaoh actually wanted
to let them go?  those multitude Jews
but God hardened Pharaoh's heart against them [Jews]
to prove his prowess show his signs, wonders, outstretched 
hand, until the dosage was a perfect ten and then 
some, sea closing up around those little chariots
the men and horses while women on the far shore shook 
their tambourines.  And then what?  Forty years to get the smell
of slavery off them. 

Because of this. Bloody Nile. My story one of
the lucky.  Escape hatch even from my own
obsess—

            I am here because of this.
Because of what my ancestors did for me to tell this
story of the outstretched hand what it did for me this
marked door and behind this red-marked door, around 
a corner a blue-eyed boy waits to love me up with his 
leavened bread, his slim body, professional detachment, 
medical advancements, forgive me my father's mother's
father was the last in a long line of Rabbis—again! with this? This
rhapsody of affliction and escape, the mind bobbing along
in its watery safe. Be like everyone. Else. Indistinguishable but
better than the other nations but that's what got us into this, Allen,
no one writes these long-ass poems anymore.  Now we're
better, all better.  All Christian.  Kind. 

Copyright © 2012 Rachel Zucker. First appeared in Columbia Poetry Review. Used with permission of the author.

My mother would be a falconress,
And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,
would fly to bring back
from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize, 
where I dream in my little hood with many bells 
jangling when I'd turn my head.

My mother would be a falconress, 
and she sends me as far as her will goes. 
She lets me ride to the end of her curb 
where I fall back in anguish.
I dread that she will cast me away, 
for I fall, I mis-take, I fail in her mission.

She would bring down the little birds. 
And I would bring down the little birds. 
When will she let me bring down the little birds, 
pierced from their flight with their necks broken, 
their heads like flowers limp from the stem?

I tread my mother's wrist and would draw blood.
Behind the little hood my eyes are hooded.
I have gone back into my hooded silence,
talking to myself and dropping off to sleep.

For she has muffled my dreams in the hood she has made me, 
sewn round with bells, jangling when I move.
She rides with her little falcon upon her wrist. 
She uses a barb that brings me to cower. 
She sends me abroad to try my wings 
and I come back to her. I would bring down 
the little birds to her
I may not tear into, I must bring back perfectly.

I tear at her wrist with my beak to draw blood, 
and her eye holds me, anguisht, terrifying. 
She draws a limit to my flight.
Never beyond my sight, she says.
She trains me to fetch and to limit myself in fetching.
She rewards me with meat for my dinner.
But I must never eat what she sends me to bring her.

Yet it would have been beautiful, if she would have carried me, 
always, in a little hood with the bells ringing,
at her wrist, and her riding 
to the great falcon hunt, and me
flying up to the curb of my heart from her heart 
to bring down the skylark from the blue to her feet, 
straining, and then released for the flight.

My mother would be a falconress, 
and I her gerfalcon raised at her will, 
from her wrist sent flying, as if I were her own 
pride, as if her pride
knew no limits, as if her mind 
sought in me flight beyond the horizon.

Ah, but high, high in the air I flew. 
And far, far beyond the curb of her will, 
were the blue hills where the falcons nest. 
And then I saw west to the dying sun--
it seemd my human soul went down in flames.

I tore at her wrist, at the hold she had for me,
until the blood ran hot and I heard her cry out,
far, far beyond the curb of her will

to horizons of stars beyond the ringing hills of the world where
   the falcons nest
I saw, and I tore at her wrist with my savage beak.
I flew, as if sight flew from the anguish in her eye beyond her sight,
sent from my striking loose, from the cruel strike at her wrist,
striking out from the blood to be free of her.

My mother would be a falconress,
and even now, years after this,
when the wounds I left her had surely heald,
and the woman is dead,
her fierce eyes closed, and if her heart 
were broken, it is stilld

I would be a falcon and go free.
I tread her wrist and wear the hood,
talking to myself, and would draw blood.

From Bending the Bow, published by New Directions, 1968. Copyright © 1968 by Robert Duncan. Reprinted with permission.

To Arthur Edmonds

Geranium, houseleek, laid in oblong beds
On the trim grass. The daisies' leprous stain
Is fresh. Each night the daisies burst again,
Though every day the gardener crops their heads.

A wistful child, in foul unwholesome shreds,
Recalls some legend of a daisy chain
That makes a pretty necklace. She would fain
Make one, and wear it, if she had some threads.

Sun, leprous flowers, foul child. The asphalt burns.
The garrulous sparrows perch on metal Burns.
Sing! Sing! they say, and flutter with their wings.
He does not sing, he only wonders why
He is sitting there. The sparrows sing. And I
Yield to the strait allure of simple things.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 30, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Thy soul shall find itself alone
'Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne'er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

This poem is in the public domain.

(I)

February, peeved at Paris, pours 
a gloomy torrent on the pale lessees 
of the graveyard next door and a mortal chill
on tenants of the foggy suburbs too.

The tiles afford no comfort to my cat 
that cannot keep its mangy body still; 
the soul of some old poet haunts the drains 
and howls as if a ghost could hate the cold.

A churchbell grieves, a log in the fireplace smokes
and hums falsetto to the clock's catarrh, 
while in a filthy reeking deck of cards

inherited from a dropsical old maid,
the dapper Knave of Hearts and the Queen of Spades 
grimly disinter their love affairs.

(II)

Souvenirs?
More than if I had lived a thousand years!

No chest of drawers crammed with documents, 
love-letters, wedding-invitations, wills,
a lock of someone's hair rolled up in a deed, 
hides so many secrets as my brain.
This branching catacombs, this pyramid 
contains more corpses than the potter's field:
I am a graveyard that the moon abhors,
where long worms like regrets come out to feed
most ravenously on my dearest dead.
I am an old boudoir where a rack of gowns, 
perfumed by withered roses, rots to dust; 
where only faint pastels and pale Bouchers 
inhale the scent of long-unstoppered flasks.

Nothing is slower than the limping days 
when under the heavy weather of the years
Boredom, the fruit of glum indifference, 
gains the dimension of eternity . . . 
Hereafter, mortal clay, you are no more
than a rock encircled by a nameless dread,
an ancient sphinx omitted from the map, 
forgotten by the world, and whose fierce moods 
sing only to the rays of setting suns.

(III)

I'm like the king of a rainy country, rich 
but helpless, decrepit though still a young man 
who scorns his fawning tutors, wastes his time 
on dogs and other animals, and has no fun; 
nothing distracts him, neither hawk nor hound 
nor subjects starving at the palace gate. 
His favorite fool's obscenities fall flat
—the royal invalid is not amused—
and ladies in waiting for a princely nod 
no longer dress indecently enough 
to win a smile from this young skeleton.
The bed of state becomes a stately tomb. 
The alchemist who brews him gold has failed 
to purge the impure substance from his soul, 
and baths of blood, Rome's legacy recalled 
by certain barons in their failing days, 
are useless to revive this sickly flesh 
through which no blood but brackish Lethe seeps.

(IV)

When skies are low and heavy as a lid
over the mind tormented by disgust,
and hidden in the gloom the sun pours down 
on us a daylight dingier than the dark;

when earth becomes a trickling dungeon where 
Trust like a bat keeps lunging through the air,
beating tentative wings along the walls 
and bumping its head against the rotten beams;

when rain falls straight from unrelenting clouds, 
forging the bars of some enormous jail, 
and silent hordes of obscene spiders spin 
their webs across the basements of our brains;

then all at once the raging bells break loose,
hurling to heaven their awful caterwaul, 
like homeless ghosts with no one left to haunt 
whimpering their endless grievances.

—And giant hearses, without dirge or drums, 
parade at half-step in my soul, where Hope, 
defeated, weeps, and the oppressor Dread 
plants his black flag on my assenting skull.

Originally appeared in Les Fleurs du Mal, translated by Richard Howard and published by David R. Godine. © 1982 by Richard Howard. Reprinted in Other Worlds Than This, published by Rutgers University Press, 1994. Used with permission of Rutgers University Press. All rights reserved.

. . . Unquenched, unquenchable,
Around, within, thy heart shall dwell;
Nor ear can hear nor tongue can tell
The tortures of that inward hell!
But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.
But one that for thy crime must fall,
The youngest, most beloved of all,
Shall bless thee with a father's name —
That word shall wrap thy heart in flame!
Yet must thou end thy task, and mark
Her cheek's last tinge, her eye's last spark,
And the last glassy glance must view
Which freezes o'er its lifeless blue;
Then with unhallowed hand shalt tear
The tresses of her yellow hair,
Of which in life a lock when shorn
Affection's fondest pledge was worn,
But now is borne away by thee,
Memorial of thine agony!

This poem is in the public domain.

Part I

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
   Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
   His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
   Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
   The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
   Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
   (Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

Part II

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gipsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
   Marching—marching—
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
   And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
   She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
   Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
   Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it; She strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
   Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
   Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
   Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew gray to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
   The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
   Down like a dog on the highway, And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * *

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
   Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
   Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

This poem is in the public domain.

Only name the day, and we'll fly away
	In the face of old traditions,
To a sheltered spot, by the world forgot,
	Where we'll park our inhibitions.
Come and gaze in eyes where the lovelight lies
	As it psychoanalyzes,
And when once you glean what your fantasies mean
	Life will hold no more surprises.
When you've told your love what you're thinking of
	Things will be much more informal;
Through a sunlit land we'll go hand-in-hand,
	Drifting gently back to normal.

While the pale moon gleams, we will dream sweet dreams,
	And I'll win your admiration,
For it's only fair to admit I'm there
	With a mean interpretation.
In the sunrise glow we will whisper low
	Of the scenes our dreams have painted,
And when you're advised what they symbolized
	We'll begin to feel acquainted.
So we'll gaily float in a slumber boat
	Where subconscious waves dash wildly;
In the stars' soft light, we will say good-night—
	And “good-night!” will put it mildly.

Our desires shall be from repressions free—
	As it's only right to treat them.
To your ego's whims I will sing sweet hymns,
	And ad libido repeat them.
With your hand in mine, idly we'll recline
	Amid bowers of neuroses,
While the sun seeks rest in the great red west
	We will sit and match psychoses.
So come dwell a while on that distant isle
	In the brilliant tropic weather;
Where a Freud in need is a Freud indeed,
	We'll always be Jung together.

From Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker published by Scribner. Used by permission of the publisher.

A lily in a twilight place?
A moonflow’r in the lonely night?—
Strange beauty of a woman's face
    Of wildflow’r-white!

The rain that hangs a star’s green ray
Slim on a leaf-point’s restlessness,
Is not so glimmering green and gray
    As was her dress.

I drew her dark hair from her eyes,
And in their deeps beheld a while
Such shadowy moonlight as the skies
    Of Hell may smile.

She held her mouth up redly wan,
And burning cold,—I bent and kissed
Such rosy snow as some wild dawn
    Makes of a mist.

God shall not take from me that hour,
When round my neck her white arms clung!
When ‘neath my lips, like some fierce flower,
    Her white throat swung!

Or words she murmured while she leaned!
Witch-words, she holds me softly by,—
The spell that binds me to a fiend
    Until I die.

This poem is in the public domain.

Of course the tall stringy woman

draped in a crocheted string-shawl

selling single red carnations

coned in newsprint the ones

she got at the cemetery

and resells with a god bless you

for a dollar that same woman

who thirty years ago

was a graduate student

in playwriting who can and will

recite "At the round earth's

imagined corners, blow—"

announces silently amidst her louder

announcements that the experiment

some amateurs mixed of

white fizzing democracy

with smoky purple capitalism

has failed. We already knew that.

Her madness is my madness

and this is my flower in a cone

of waste paper I stole from

someone’s more authentic grief

but I will not bless you

as I have no spirit of commerce

and no returning customers

and do not as so many must

actually beg for my bread. It is another

accident of the lab explosion

that while most died and others lost legs

some of us are only vaguely queasy

at least for now

and of course mad conveniently mad

necessarily mad because

"tis late to ask for pardon" and

we were so carefully schooled

in false hope schooled

like the parrot who crooks her tongue

like a dirty finger

repeating what her flat bright eyes deny.

 

About this poem:

"In a New England city where I once lived, there is a well-known local "character," a former graduate student, now street person, who recites poetry from the canon. I put a Donne sonnet in her mouth for this poem’s purposes, because Donne is one of my touchstones and because, as I hope is obvious from the poem, she and I have so much in common. We are all of us only one or two steps away from the street."

April Bernard

Copyright © 2013 by April Bernard. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 28, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Help me to cross the bardo's dangerous pathway...(Tibetan Book of the Dead)

John Cage was a new or short or longer pause suppliant. John Cage was a friend to brains of the two sexes, to Buddha, to eat him, destroy him. John Cage as John Cage was, sat down. Rest not, Tetrapod! John Cage was for us as poetics arrived in pure perfection and turned and never stammered to listen, John Cage was metabolic twin listener. Staunch, dark doom that never rides. But he does. John Cage was a founder. Surprise is never barren, all over the timing world. John Cage was a culture, gaps in the cave to know Neanderthal. Hours with him, a boon. So much of a story. Fathomless medium of laughter across a dangerous pathway. He was a mosoipholon domos. And under the sun, a test of. Texts enlarge the world. Equilibrium he is good at. Pianos will teach your own intervention. Pianos will reside in silence, pianos will loom and close. John Cage was metabolism for up his mind as he called it, strength, and a case for lines. Deference no solemnity. And pluck the cactus needles. Out of reach? John Cage was and never. Then drew it out. The sign would be that, the sign would be as John Cage was and drawn. Down on the tatami. For his purpose was not purpose to be uttered outside or inside but under the sun. A cool chamber, then. Find it. Sources of comfort more abstract. John Cage was visiting. Help, a perfect abstract to a visitor all over the timing world. To have been there, you had to have been there and then not but flying. Utterly inside. Utterly outside. Are you listening? John Cage sat and then turned. Every domestic duty could be heard in and out of Japan. Everything at this season goes out so light. Did she have time? She hadn't a single minute. This is what she thought as him. Twelve thoughts before breakfast. One a companion ever so expected a moment of pride. Two a found text. Three, story where she guessed the next moment. Four more kinds of him to have thought. Five to call Merce in the bardo over here. Six does one have greater a right to scandal than one is prepared to pay? Seven a form of communication influenced by delay and death. But held in archive. It was eight and the thought had a glamor of receiving itself. Nine, an enumeration. Ten a sharper calculation. If eleven "doesn't he tell you things?" ever stop? Twelve is not a limit, eyes during the wonderful dinner ambitious of variety.

Copyright © 2012 by Anne Waldman. Used with permission of the author.

            and i was thinking about this while i was flying
 toward iowa and thinking about how everyone was going to be
trying to locate the avant-garde      and about how almost
 everyone was going to agree that it would involve either
shocking or making it new      and and that i was supposed to be
 talking about this too      and i realized i was going to be
  confused      because practically every role classically
attributed to the avant-garde has been preempted by something
 else      and i reflected that i myself have never really had
a clear image of what it was to be avant-garde      though ive
 been thrust into the role often enough to know what it feels
 like to be avant-garde

                             a friend of mine had written a book
  marjorie perloff had written a book dealing with american
poetry as a kind of french connection      as opposed to the
 english connection which is conventionally supposed for it
  in the schools      now i personally think there are many
roots to contemporary american poetry      certainly my poetry
 and the poetry i admire      but i also know what writing a 
  book means      in a book you have to organize your ideas
 pretty much one thing at a time      if its an important thing
and you want to really get it done      and this is a book
  designed to challenge what i have always thought of as the
 anglophiliac model of american poetry that is so dominant in
 those literary strongholds east of the mississippi      or the
connecticut river      north of the monongahela      that are so
 strongly devoted to an anglican passion      that they give
  the impression of some kind of outpost in a novel by huxley
 or evelyn waugh      where the people are sitting around on a 
veranda sipping their gin slings in the shade of the local
 textile factory or integrated circuit fabricating plant
  dreaming of playing polo or cricket or rugby in the greener
 older playing fields at eton or harrow      which they may
  never have seen      being often second generation eastern
european jews from brooklyn or queens      or lithuanians from
  indiana or lutherans from wisconsin      and somehow there
  they are gathered on the veranda in new haven or manhattan
in memory of the british empire      of which they are among
 the last supports      and several columns of which this book
  is probably intended to take away
                                             or maybe more precisely
      this books is only bringing the news to these outposts
that the british empire has long since passed away      and
 that the messages from england would no longer be coming and
 had not been coming for a long time      and that there was a 
french connection as there is a russian connection and a
 spanish connection      and for many a chinese connection or
japanese connection      there are lots of connections in this
 world      but in a book you have to do one thing at a time
  the world may not happen one thing at a time but in a book
you have to tell one thing at a time
                                              and my friend was invited
 to washington to be part of a discourse with some of these
english emigres and refugees      among whom were numbered
  harold bloom and john hollander and richard howard      who
are certainly distinguished members of the refugee community

            now marjorie was giving a talk based on the
 last chapter of her most recent book      the poetics of
indeterminacy      the last chapter of which happens to deal
 with john cage and with me
                                     and whatever differences there may
  be between cage and me      and these are considerable      we
 were both obliterated by the righteous wrath of harold bloom
    who had hardly heard more than our names      when he
 denounced the proceedings as ridiculous and us as nonpoets
and stormed off the stage
                                  i was told about this performance of
  blooms and though it was wonderful and forgot about it
    but it was not long afterward that i was invited out to
 the very same place to do a talk performance on the folger 
librarys little shakespearean stage      and it happened that
 when i came to do the performance i had something serious in
  mind      because a friend of mine had died two or three days
before      after a sudden and unexpected hospitalization from
 which we had all hoped she would come out alive      and i
 wanted to make my piece a kind of homage      a mediation and
speculation on the nature of her life and death

            so in the course of things i told her story
    or what i knew of it      and i tried to consider the
 nature of the fit      between the life we lead and the death
we get      and what i wanted to think about was whether there
 was such a fit and if there was      what kind it was      and i
 did the best i could      under the circumstances      of being 
there      then      which is my image of what an artist does and
 is      somebody who does the best he can      under the
 circumstances      without worrying about making it new or
shocking      because the best you can do depends upon what you
 have to do and where      and if you have to invent something
new to do the work at hand you will      but not if you have a 
 ready-made that will work and is close at hand and you want
 to get on with the rest of the business
                                                   then youll pick up
 the tool thats there      a tool that somebody else has made
    that will work      and youll lean on it and feel grateful
when its good to you      for somebody elses work      and youll
 think of him as a friend who wold borrow as freely from you
 if he thought of it or needed to      because there is a
community of artists      who dont recognize copyrights and
 patents      or shouldnt      except under unusual circumstances
            who send each other tools in the mail or exchange them
in conversation in a bar
                              though i had a couple of friends
 from whom i got a lot of things in the mail      who got very
nervous about exchanging things with each other because they
 had ileana sonnabend looking over their shoulders      and one
of them got so distressed because he had ileana looking over
 his shoulder forbidding him to collaborate with the other
  friend      that when he wrote the text for the others
 installation performance he never put his name on it      but
this is an unusual situation      and i only mention it because
 of that

From what it means to be avant-garde. Copyright © 1993 by David Antin. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey, 
And put my fingers into her clean cat's mouth, 
And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens, 
And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air, 
And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight, 
I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart, 
Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing 
In every one of the splintered London streets,
 
And was locked away in the madhouse at St. Luke's 
With his sad religious mania, and his wild gratitude, 
And his grave prayers for the other lunatics, 
And his great love for his speckled cat, Jeoffry. 
All day today—August 13, 1983—I remembered how 
Christopher Smart blessed this same day in August, 1759, 
For its calm bravery and ordinary good conscience. 

This was the day that he blessed the Postmaster General 
"And all conveyancers of letters" for their warm humanity, 
And the gardeners for their private benevolence 
And intricate knowledge of the language of flowers, 
And the milkmen for their universal human kindness. 
This morning I understood that he loved to hear—
As I have heard—the soft clink of milk bottles 
On the rickety stairs in the early morning, 

And how terrible it must have seemed 
When even this small pleasure was denied him. 
But it wasn't until tonight when I knelt down 
And slipped my hand into Zooey's waggling mouth 
That I remembered how he'd called Jeoffry "the servant 
Of the Living God duly and daily serving Him," 
And for the first time understood what it meant. 
Because it wasn't until I saw my own cat 
 
Whine and roll over on her fluffy back 
That I realized how gratefully he had watched 
Jeoffry fetch and carry his wooden cork 
Across the grass in the wet garden, patiently 
Jumping over a high stick, calmly sharpening 
His claws on the woodpile, rubbing his nose 
Against the nose of another cat, stretching, or 
Slowly stalking his traditional enemy, the mouse, 
A rodent, "a creature of great personal valour," 
And then dallying so much that his enemy escaped. 

And only then did I understand 
It is Jeoffry—and every creature like him— 
Who can teach us how to praise—purring 
In their own language, 
Wreathing themselves in the living fire. 

From Wild Gratitude by Edward Hirsch Copyright © 1986 by Edward Hirsch. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

The whirring internal machine, its gears
grinding not to a halt but to a pace that emits
a low hum, a steady and almost imperceptible
hum: the Greeks would not have seen it this way.

Simply put, it was a result of black bile,
the small fruit of the gall bladder perched
under the liver somehow over-ripened
and then becoming fetid. So the ancients

would have us believe. But the overly-emotional
and contrarian Romans saw it as a kind of mourning
for one’s self. I trust the ancients but I have never 
given any of this credence because I cannot understand

how one does this, mourn one’s self.
Down by the shoreline—the Pacific 
wrestling with far more important 
philosophical issues—I recall the English notion

of it being a wistfulness, something John Donne
wore successfully as a fashion statement.
But how does one wear wistfulness well
unless one is a true believer? 

The humors within me are unbalanced, 
and I doubt they were ever really in balance
to begin with, ever in that rare but beautiful
thing the scientists call equilibrium.

My gall bladder squeezes and wrenches, 
or so I imagine. I am wistful and morose
and I am certain black bile is streaming 
through my body as I walk beside this seashore.

The small birds scrambling away from the advancing 
surf; the sun climbing overhead shortening shadows; 
the sound of the waves hushing the cries of gulls: 
I have no idea where any of this ends up.

To be balanced, to be without either
peaks or troughs: do tell me what that is like…
This contemplating, this mulling over, often leads 
to a moment a few weeks from now,

the one in which everything suddenly shines
with clarity, where my fingers race to put down 
the words, my fingers so quick on the keyboard 
it will seem like a god-damned miracle.

Copyright © 2020 by C. Dale Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.