for Jason "Not gulls, girls." You frown, and you insist— Between two languages, you work at words (R's and L's, it's hard to get them right.) We watch the heavens' flotsam: garbage-white Above the island dump (just out of sight), Dirty, common, greedy—only birds. OK, I acquiesce, too tired to banter. Somehow they're not the same, though. See, they rise As though we glimpsed them through a torn disguise— Spellbound maidens, wild in flight, forsaken— Some metamorphosis that Ovid missed, With their pale breasts, their almost human cries. So maybe it is I who am mistaken; But you have changed them. You are the enchanter.
Copyright © 2010 by A. E. Stallings. Used with permission of the author.
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast;
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart;
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
This poem is in the public domain.
Everyone loves a story. Let's begin with a house. We can fill it with careful rooms and fill the rooms with things—tables, chairs, cupboards, drawers closed to hide tiny beds where children once slept or big drawers that yawn open to reveal precisely folded garments washed half to death, unsoiled, stale, and waiting to be worn out. There must be a kitchen, and the kitchen must have a stove, perhaps a big iron one with a fat black pipe that vanishes into the ceiling to reach the sky and exhale its smells and collusions. This was the center of whatever family life was here, this and the sink gone yellow around the drain where the water, dirty or pure, ran off with no explanation, somehow like the point of this, the story we promised and may yet deliver. Make no mistake, a family was here. You see the path worn into the linoleum where the wood, gray and certainly pine, shows through. Father stood there in the middle of his life to call to the heavens he imagined above the roof must surely be listening. When no one answered you can see where his heel came down again and again, even though he'd been taught never to demand. Not that life was especially cruel; they had well water they pumped at first, a stove that gave heat, a mother who stood at the sink at all hours and gazed longingly to where the woods once held the voices of small bears—themselves a family—and the songs of birds long fled once the deep woods surrendered one tree at a time after the workmen arrived with jugs of hot coffee. The worn spot on the sill is where Mother rested her head when no one saw, those two stained ridges were handholds she relied on; they never let her down. Where is she now? You think you have a right to know everything? The children tiny enough to inhabit cupboards, large enough to have rooms of their own and to abandon them, the father with his right hand raised against the sky? If those questions are too personal, then tell us, where are the woods? They had to have been because the continent was clothed in trees. We all read that in school and knew it to be true. Yet all we see are houses, rows and rows of houses as far as sight, and where sight vanishes into nothing, into the new world no one has seen, there has to be more than dust, wind-borne particles of burning earth, the earth we lost, and nothing else.
From News of the World by Philip Levine. Copyright © 2009 by Philip Levine. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf. All rights reserved.
You whom I could not save,
Listen to me.
Can we agree Kevlar
backpacks shouldn’t be needed
for children walking to school?
Those same children
also shouldn’t require a suit
of armor when standing
on their front lawns, or snipers
to watch their backs
as they eat at McDonalds.
They shouldn’t have to stop
to consider the speed
of a bullet or how it might
reshape their bodies. But
one winter, back in Detroit,
I had one student
who opened a door and died.
It was the front
door to his house, but
it could have been any door,
and the bullet could have written
any name. The shooter
was thirteen years old
and was aiming
at someone else. But
a bullet doesn’t care
about “aim,” it doesn’t
the innocent and the innocent,
and how was the bullet
supposed to know this
child would open the door
at the exact wrong moment
because his friend
was outside and screaming
for help. Did I say
I had “one” student who
opened a door and died?
There were many.
The classroom of grief
had far more seats
than the classroom for math
though every student
in the classroom for math
could count the names
of the dead.
A kid opens a door. The bullet
couldn’t possibly know,
nor could the gun, because
“guns don't kill people,” they don’t
have minds to decide
such things, they don’t choose
or have a conscience,
and when a man doesn’t
have a conscience, we call him
a psychopath. This is how
we know what type of assault rifle
a man can be,
and how we discover
the hell that thrums inside
each of them. Today,
shooting with dead
kids everywhere. It was a school,
a movie theater, a parking lot.
is full of doors.
And you, whom I cannot save,
you may open a door
and enter a meadow, or a eulogy.
And if the latter, you will be
mourned, then buried
There will be
monuments of legislation,
little flowers made
from red tape.
What should we do? we’ll ask
again. The earth will close
like a door above you.
What should we do?
And that click you hear?
That’s just our voices,
the deadbolt of discourse
sliding into place.
Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Olzmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 5, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.