Luck is not chance—
Fortune's expensive smile
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
This poem is in the public domain.
may favor obscure brainy aptitudes in you and a love of the past so blind you would venture, always securing permission, into the back library stacks, without food or water because you have a mission: to find yourself, in the regulated light, holding a volume in your hands as you yourself might like to be held. Mostly your life will be voices and images. Information. You may go a long way alone, and travel much to open a book to renew your touch.
From The Second Blush by Molly Peacock. Copyright © 2008 by Molly Peacock. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.
Now when I walk around at lunchtime
I have only two charms in my pocket
an old Roman coin Mike Kanemitsu gave me
and a bolt-head that broke off a packing case
when I was in Madrid the others never
brought me too much luck though they did
help keep me in New York against coercion
but now I'm happy for a time and interested
I walk through the luminous humidity
passing the House of Seagram with its wet
and its loungers and the construction to
the left that closed the sidewalk if
I ever get to be a construction worker
I'd like to have a silver hat please
and get to Moriarty's where I wait for
LeRoi and hear who wants to be a mover and
shaker the last five years my batting average
is .016 that's that, and LeRoi comes in
and tells me Miles Davis was clubbed 12
times last night outside BIRDLAND by a cop
a lady asks us for a nickel for a terrible
disease but we don't give her one we
don't like terrible diseases, then
we go eat some fish and some ale it's
cool but crowded we don't like Lionel Trilling
we decide, we like Don Allen we don't like
Henry James so much we like Herman Melville
we don't want to be in the poets' walk in
San Francisco even we just want to be rich
and walk on girders in our silver hats
I wonder if one person out of the 8,000,000 is
thinking of me as I shake hands with LeRoi
and buy a strap for my wristwatch and go
back to work happy at the thought possibly so
From Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O'Hara. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books. All rights reserved.
oh lucky me I am of some use I am of some inspiration to the two men across the lunchcounter I remind them of the last Chinese restaurant they took their family to did you know that Chinese food was delicious?
From Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple by Frances Chung, published by Wesleyan University Press. Copyright © 2000 by the estate of Frances Chung. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.
Only chance made me come and find my hen, stepping from her hidden nest, in our kitchen garden. In her clever secret place, her tenth egg, still warm, had just been dropped. Not sure of what to do, I picked up every egg, counting them, then put them down again. All were mine. All swept me away and back. I blinked, I saw: a whole hand of ripe bananas, nesting. I blinked, I saw: a basketful of ripe oranges, nesting. I blinked, I saw: a trayful of ripe naseberries, nesting. I blinked, I saw: an open bagful of ripe mangoes, nesting. I blinked, I saw: a mighty nest full of stars.
naseberry: sapodilla plum with sweet brown flesh
From The Nest Full of Stars by James Berry, illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Copyright © 2004 by James Berry. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. No part of this book may be used or repoduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. All rights reserved.
Plow-piled snow shrouded in shadow from the abbreviating sun, snow frosted with the exhaust of tour buses. Pigeons shift in congress. Sun glints windshields & chrome like cotton blooms in the monitors. Surveillance here is catholic. From cornices cameras oscillate like raven-heads nestled along palisades. Cameras mind entrances, pedestrians, traffic, the landscape from land's end to Baccarat Boulevard. I tend the security station, notice briefly among these half-dozen screens, a phantom looping through the busy breeze-way & out of view. Unseasonable sparrows mating? Something clutched like a gambler's fist, keening a halo from daylight folded across the corridor like gift-wrap. Little tumbleweed, if you are sparrows, you are bishops of risk wrestling toward pain's bursaries. Jake and angel I believe I could have conjured that woman now entering the asphalt current to protect you. Mira! she might be saying. But she'd be speaking to me. Waving her cashier's apron against traffic, through the street like a banner out to where her good deed is witnessed. Out to where I interpret her behavior as censure. As if the pixels of light depicting the world she is framed in were impastoed by me to the monitor's glass canvass (to be arranged according to the obligation of my anonymous nobility), what good could I do to alter the facts of the world as it hustles around her? What odds do those birds stand to chance anyway? Prevention is akin to greed. Say recovery and a sermon salts the air. Consider the postcards here on the counter beside me. They'll do no more than carry the word of their senders, speak pictures: Jersey's domed capital looks like a junkyard of church bells, a reliquary of Sundays wracked and laid to rest. Noble martyr, Trenton fears no law of diminishing returns, says it "makes, the world takes:" Another prays the next wet pebble be the one that makes a beach. Paydirt. We should be so lucky.
From Totem, published by the American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2007 by Gregory Pardlo. Used with permission.
Pale gold of the walls, gold of the centers of daisies, yellow roses pressing from a clear bowl. All day we lay on the bed, my hand stroking the deep gold of your thighs and your back. We slept and woke entering the golden room together, lay down in it breathing quickly, then slowly again, caressing and dozing, your hand sleepily touching my hair now. We made in those days tiny identical rooms inside our bodies which the men who uncover our graves will find in a thousand years, shining and whole.
From Old and New Poems by Donald Hall, published by Ticknor & Fields. Copyright © 1990 by Donald Hall. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
If I could see nothing but the smoke From the tip of his cigar, I would know everything About the years before the war. If his face were halved by shadow I would know This was a street where an EATS sign trembled And a Greek served coffee black as a dog's eye. If I could see nothing but his wrist I would know About the slot machine and I could reconstruct The weak chin and ruin of his youth, the summer My father was a gypsy with oiled hair sleeping In a Murphy bed and practicing clairvoyance. I could fill his vast Packard with showgirls And keep him forever among the difficult buttons Of the bodice, among the rustling of their names, Miss Christina, Miss Lorraine. I could put his money in my pocket and wearing memory's black fedora With the condoms hidden in the hatband The damp cigar between my teeth, I could become the young man who always got sentimental About London especially in Las Vegas with its single bridge- So ridiculously tender--leaning across the river To watch the starlight's soft explosions. If I could trace the two veins that crossed His temple, I would know what drove him To this godforsaken place, I would keep him forever Remote from war--like the come-hither tip of his lit cigar Or the harvest moon, that gold planet, remote and pure American.
From Hotel Fiesta by Lynn Emanuel, published by the University of Illinois Press. Copyright © 1984. Used with permission.
As I was walking I came upon chance walking the same road upon. As I sat down by chance to move later if and as I might, light the wood was, light and green, and what I saw before I had not seen. It was a lady accompanied by goat men leading her. Her hair held earth. Her eyes were dark. A double flute made her move. "O love, where are you leading me now?"
From Selected Poems by Robert Creeley. Copyright © 1991 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in For Love: Poems 1950-1960 (Scribner, 1962).
If you are lucky in this life, you will get to help your enemy the way I got to help my mother when she was weakened past the point of saying no. Into the big enamel tub half-filled with water which I had made just right, I lowered the childish skeleton she had become. Her eyelids fluttered as I soaped and rinsed her belly and her chest, the sorry ruin of her flanks and the frayed gray cloud between her legs. Some nights, sitting by her bed book open in my lap while I listened to the air move thickly in and out of her dark lungs, my mind filled up with praise as lush as music, amazed at the symmetry and luck that would offer me the chance to pay my heavy debt of punishment and love with love and punishment. And once I held her dripping wet in the uncomfortable air between the wheelchair and the tub, until she begged me like a child to stop, an act of cruelty which we both understood was the ancient irresistible rejoicing of power over weakness. If you are lucky in this life, you will get to raise the spoon of pristine, frosty ice cream to the trusting creature mouth of your old enemy because the tastebuds at least are not broken because there is a bond between you and sweet is sweet in any language.
Copyright 1998 by Tony Hoagland. Used from Donkey Gospel with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved. www.graywolfpress.org
Only my mouth taking you in, the greenery splayed deep green. Within my mouth, your arm inserted, a stem of gestures, breaking gracefully. Into each other we root arbitrarily, like bushes, silken, and guttural. Palaver, we open for the thrill of closing, for the thrill of it: opening. The night was so humid when I knelt on the steps, wet and cold, of prewar stone. A charm bracelet of sorts we budded, handmade but brazen, as if organic. I cannot imagine the end of my fascination, emblazoned but feather-white too. The gold closure of this like a gold coin is, of course, ancient. Why can't experience disseminate itself, be silken and brazen yet underwater? A miniature Eiffel Tower, an enameled shamrock, a charm owned by its bracelet.
From HIV, Mon Amour by Tory Dent, copyright © 1999 by Tory Dent. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Sheep Meadow Press.
A large box is handily made of what is necessary to replace any substance. Suppose an example is necessary, the plainer it is made the more reason there is for some outward recognition that there is a result.
A box is made sometimes and them to see to see to it neatly and to have the holes stopped up makes it necessary to use paper.
A custom which is necessary when a box is used and taken is that a large part of the time there are three which have different connections. The one is on the table. The two are on the table. The three are on the table. The one, one is the same length as is shown by the cover being longer. The other is different there is more cover that shows it. The other is different and that makes the corners have the same shade the eight are in singular arrangement to make four necessary.
Lax, to have corners, to be lighter than some weight, to indicate a wedding journey, to last brown and not curious, to be wealthy, cigarettes are established by length and by doubling.
Left open, to be left pounded, to be left closed, to be circulating in summer and winter, and sick color that is grey that is not dusty and red shows, to be sure cigarettes do measure an empty length sooner than a choice in color.
Winged, to be winged means that white is yellow and pieces pieces that are brown are dust color if dust is washed off, then it is choice that is to say it is fitting cigarettes sooner than paper.
An increase why is an increase idle, why is silver cloister, why is the spark brighter, if it is brighter is there any result, hardly more than ever.
From Tender Buttons (1914) by Gertrude Stein. This poem is in the public domain.
Tonopah's the only place contour lines appear to rise between there and Goldfield the first Joshua trees beer at the Mozart Club from then on it's all downhill between Mercury and Indian Springs the light begins to change you wonder what you'll do when you reach the edge of the map out there on the horizon all that neon beckoning you in from the dark
From Driving to Vegas: New and Selected Poems 1969-1987 by Kirk Robertson. Copyright © 1989 by Kirk Robertson. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
Hotel-casino: lights flash, crowds tread
patterned carpets hoping for a turn
in fortune. Despite the ardent wishes
of the women you have left you are not dead.
You’re good at lively passing things
that happen here: at restaurants, in bed,
at tables tossing dice and cards. That smudge
at bottom right stands in for me, as you plunge
breathless into chance as into women, risk
like drink obliterating everything.
Studio: smells of linseed oil and turpentine. Brushes,
palette knives, mixing-sticks; bottles, jars, tubes. Paint
in daubs and gobs and smears and dots and slashes.
You left the window open and everything stained.
Greenhouse. Beneath little panes pocked
by time and dotted with mold and lichen, rot,
a riot of tropical effulgence, small framed portion
of the endlessness. Spiky plants blossom
like ideas; light glances off the glass and gleams
on the permanent hunger, steams. Everything
blooms or is green. You shrug into your coat.
Copyright © 2006 BOA Editions, Ltd. Used by permission of the publisher.
In Things of moment, on thy self depend,
Nor trust too far thy Servant or thy Friend:
With private Views, thy Friend may promise fair,
And Servants very seldom prove sincere.
What can be done, with Care perform to Day,
Dangers unthought-of will attend Delay;
Your distant Prospects all precarious are,
And Fortune is as fickle as she's fair.
Nor trivial Loss, nor trivial Gain despise;
Molehills, if often heap'd, to Mountains rise:
Weigh every small Expence, and nothing waste,
Farthings long sav'd, amount to Pounds at last.
This poem is in the public domain.
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee—and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
This poem is in the public domain.
1. O Karma, Dharma, pudding & pie, gimme a break before I die: grant me wisdom, will, & wit, purity, probity, pluck, & grit. Trustworthy, helpful, friendly, kind, gimme great abs and a steel-trap mind. And forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice - these little blessings would suffice to beget an earthly paradise: make the bad people good and the good people nice, and before our world goes over the brink, teach the believers how to think. 2. O Venus, Cupid, Aphrodite, teach us Thy horsepower lingam, Thy firecracker yoni. Show us Thy hundreds of sacred & tingling positions, each orifice panting for every groping tumescence. O lead us into the back rooms of silky temptation and deliver us over to midnights of trembling desire. But before all the nectar & honey leak out of this planet, give us our passion in marble, commitment in granite. 3. O Shiva, relentless Spirit of Outrage: in this vale of tearful True Believers, teach us to repeat again and again: No, your Reverences, we will not serve your Gross National Voodoo, your Church Militant – we will not flatter the double faces of those who pray in the Temple of Incendiary Salvation. Gentle Preserver, preserve the pure irreverence of our stubborn minds. Target the priests, Implacable Destroyer – and hire a lawyer. 4. O Mammon, Thou who art daily dissed by everyone, yet boast more true disciples than all other gods together, Thou whose eerie sheen gleameth from Corporate Headquarters and Vatican Treasury alike, Thou whose glittering eye impales us in the X-ray vision of plastic surgeons, the golden leer of televangelists, the star-spangled gloat of politicos – O Mammon, come down to us in the form of Treasuries, Annuities, & High-Grade Bonds, yield unto us those Benedict Arnold Funds, those Quicksand Convertible Securities, even the wet Judas Kiss of Futures Contracts – for unto the least of these Thy supplicants art Thou welcome in all Thy many forms. But when Thou comest to say we’re finally in the gentry – use the service entry. 5. O flaky Goddess of Fortune, we beseech Thee: in the random thrust of Thy fluky favor, vector the luminous lasers of Thy shifty eyes down upon these, Thy needy & oh-so-deserving petitioners. Bend down to us the sexy curve of Thine indifferent ear, and hear our passionate invocation: let Thy lovely, lying lips murmur to us the news of all our true-false guesses A-OK, our firm & final offers come up rainbows, our hangnails & hang-ups & hangovers suddenly zapped, and then, O Goddess, give us your slippery word that the faithless Lady Luck will hang around in our faithful love, friendships less fickle than youth, and a steady view of our world in its barefoot truth.
Copyright © 1998 by Philip Appleman. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.