when you send the rain,
think about it, please,
not get carried away
by the sound of falling water,
the marvelous light
on the falling water.
am beneath that water.
It falls with great force
and the light
me to the light.
From Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems by James Baldwin (Beacon Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 The James Baldwin Estate. Used by permission of Beacon Press.
I hear you wake before I’m up myself
and snap to ready now before my eyes
crack from their crud to face your face today.
I hear you blunder toward my door. I hear
you crash it wide. The loosened hinges shiver
their frame, and now the house itself, awake
to the world and you, complicit, pulls me hard
as thunder from my sleep. You beat the echoes
to me, blear-faced, awash with night sweat;
you drag a bunny by the ears to bed
and tumble graceless up the mattress, silent,
a drowsy rocket wanting, wanting something
I’m not awake enough to understand
but will be, soon, my son, and then we’ll go
to blaze the day, to stomp each puddle left
by the rain you never notice as you pull
me into the world, all leap and bowl, all grab
and fall. Today I’ll wake up better, call
the distance order, order it to be
a smaller thing. I’ll stand to make it so.
Copyright © 2021 by Dan Rosenberg. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
The grief, when I finally contacted it decades later, was black, tarry, hot, like the yarrow-edged side roads we walked barefoot in the summer. Sometimes we’d come upon a toad flattened by a car tire, pressed into the softened pitch, its arms spread out a little like Jesus, and it was now part of the surface of the road, part of the road’s story. Then there was the live toad I discovered under the poison leaves of the rhubarb, hiding there among the ruby stems, and if you ate those stems raw, enough of them, you’d shit yourself for days. It isn’t easy to catch a living thing and hold it until it pees on you in fear. Its skin was the dull brown of my father’s clothes, my grandfather’s clothes as he stood behind the barber’s chair, clipping sideburns, laying a warm heap of shaving cream over a bristly chin, sharpening his straight razor and swiping it over the foam-covered cheek of my father, who often shaved twice a day, his beard was so obstinate, even in the hospital bed. When I laid a last kiss on his young cheek, the scraping hurt my lips. Do you ever wonder, in your heart of hearts, if God loves you, if the angels love you, scowling, holding their fiery swords, radiating green light? If your father loved you, if he had room to love you, given his poverty and suffering, or if a coldness had set in, a cold-bloodedness, like Keats at the end, wanting a transfusion of the reader’s life blood so he could live again. Either way, they’re all safely underground, their gentleness or ferocity, their numb love, and my father’s tar-colored hair, and the fibers of his good suit softened by wood tannins, and grandfather’s glass eye with its painted-on mud-colored iris, maybe all that’s left of him in that walnut box, and Keats and his soft brown clothes, and the poets before and after him. But their four-toed emissary sits in my hand. I feel the quickening pulse through its underbelly. Hooded eyes, molasses-tinged, unexpressive, the seam of its mouth glued shut.
Saw you walking barefoot taking a long look at the new moon's eyelid later spread sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair asleep but not oblivious of the unslept unsleeping elsewhere Tonight I think no poetry will serve Syntax of rendition: verb pilots the plane adverb modifies action verb force-feeds noun submerges the subject noun is choking verb disgraced goes on doing now diagram the sentence 2007
From Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, published by W.W. Norton. Copyright © 2011 by Adrienne Rich. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
It was one of those mornings the earth seemed not to have had any rest at all, her face dour and unrefreshed, no particular place-- subway, park-- expressed sufficient interest in present circumstances though flowers popped up and tokens dropped down, deep in the turnstiles. And from the dovecots nothing was released or killed. No one seemed to mind, though everyone noticed. If the alphabet died-- even the o collapsing, the l a lance in its groin-- what of it? The question 'krispies, flakes or loops?'-- always an indicator of attention-- took a turn for the worse, though crumpets could still be successfully toasted: machines worked, the idiom death warmed over was in use. By noon, postage stamps were half their width and worth but no one stopped licking. Neutrinos passed, undetected. Corpulent clouds formed in the sky. Tea was served at four. When the wind blew off a shingle or two, like hairs, and the scalp of the house began to howl, not a roofer nailed it down. That was that. When the moon came out and glowed like a night light loose in its socket, no one was captious, cautious or wise, though the toes of a few behaved strangely in bed-- they peeped out of the blankets like insects' antennae, then turned into periscopes scouting to see if the daze that was morning had actually managed to doze.
From Post Meridian, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Ruefle. All rights reserved. Used with permission.