If all you counted were tires on the cars left in driveways and stranded beside the roads.
Melted dashboards and tail lights, oil pans, window glass, seat belt clasps.
The propane tanks in everyone's yards, though we didn't hear them explode.
R-13 insulation. Paint, inside and out. The liquor store's plastic letters in puddled
colors below their charred sign. Each man-made sole of every shoe in all those closets.
The laundromat's washers' round metal doors.
But then Arco, Safeway, Walgreens, the library—everything they contained.
How many miles of electrical wire and PVC pipe swirling into the once-blue sky:
how many linoleum acres? Not to mention the valley oaks, the ponderosas, all the wild
hearts and all the tame, their bark and leaves and hooves and hair and bones, their final
cries, and our neighbors: so many particular, precious, irreplaceable lives that despite
ourselves we're inhaling.
Copyright © 2018 Molly Fisk. This poem originally appeared in Rattle. Used with permission of the author.
All in green went my love riding on a great horse of gold into the silver dawn. four lean hounds crouched low and smiling the merry deer ran before. Fleeter be they than dappled dreams the swift sweet deer the red rare deer. Four red roebuck at a white water the cruel bugle sang before. Horn at hip went my love riding riding the echo down into the silver dawn. four lean hounds crouched low and smiling the level meadows ran before. Softer be they than slippered sleep the lean lithe deer the fleet flown deer. Four fleet does at a gold valley the famished arrow sang before. Bow at belt went my love riding riding the mountain down into the silver dawn. four lean hounds crouched low and smiling the sheer peaks ran before. Paler be they than daunting death the sleek slim deer the tall tense deer. Four tall stags at a green mountain the lucky hunter sang before. All in green went my love riding on a great horse of gold into the silver dawn. four lean hounds crouched low and smiling my heart fell dead before.
This poem is in the public domain.
I looked and saw a sea
roofed over with rainbows,
In the midst of each
two lovers met and departed;
Then the sky was full of faces
with gold glories behind them.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 16, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
You came in out of the night
And there were flowers in your hands,
Now you will come out of a confusion of people,
Out of a turmoil of speech about you.
I who have seen you amid the primal things
Was angry when they spoke your name
In ordinary places.
I would that the cool waves might flow over my mind,
And that the world should dry as a dead leaf,
Or as a dandelion seed-pod and be swept away,
So that I might find you again,
This poem is in the public domain.
I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed. but all I could do was to get drunk again. worse, the bar patrons even ended up liking me. there I was trying to get pushed over the dark edge and I ended up with free drinks while somewhere else some poor son-of-a-bitch was in a hospital bed, tubes sticking out all over him as he fought like hell to live. nobody would help me die as the drinks kept coming, as the next day waited for me with its steel clamps, its stinking anonymity, its incogitant attitude. death doesn't always come running when you call it, not even if you call it from a shining castle or from an ocean liner or from the best bar on earth (or the worst). such impertinence only makes the gods hesitate and delay. ask me: I'm 72.
Copyright © 2005 by Charles Bukowski. From Slouching Toward Nirvana: New Poems. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Maybe a bit dramatic, but I light
candles with my breakfast, wear a white gown
around the house like a virgin. Right
or wrong, forgive me? No one in this town
knows forgiveness. Miles from the limits
if I squint, there’s Orion. If heaven
exists I will be there in a minute
to hop the pearly gates, a ghost felon,
to find him. Of blood, of mud, of wise men.
But who am I now after all these years
without him: boy widow barbarian
trapping hornets in my shit grin. He’ll fear
who I’ve been since. He’ll see I’m a liar,
a cheater, a whole garden on fire.
Copyright © 2019 by Hieu Minh Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I will think of water-lilies
Growing in a darkened pool,
And my breath shall move like water,
And my hands be limp and cool.
It shall be as though I waited
In a wooden place alone;
I will learn the peace of lilies
And will take it for my own.
If a twinge of thought, if yearning
Come like wind into this place,
I will bear it like the shadow
Of a leaf across my face.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
And was it I that hoped to rattle
A broken lance against iron laws?
Was it I that asked to go down in battle
For a lost cause?
Fool! Must there be new deaths to cry for
When only rottenness survives?
Here are enough lost causes to die for
Through twenty lives.
What have we learned? That the familiar
Lusts are the only things that endure;
That for an age grown blinder and sillier,
There is no cure.
And man? Free of one kind of fetter,
He runs to gaudier shackles and brands;
Deserving, for all his groans, no better
Than he demands.
The flat routine of bed and barter,
Birth and burial, holds the lot…
Was it I that dreamed of being a martyr?
How—and for what?
Yet, while this unconcern runs stronger
As life shrugs on without meaning or shape,
Let me know flame and the teeth of hunger;
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Sometimes what you need is a road
house, blast of laughter and warm air pouring
out the door, where the waitresses know
your name but the customers don't, shrill
on the third martini or fifth Blue Ribbon,
steaks searing on a huge propane-fired grill.
Two birthday parties in full swing—
mylar balloons leashed to a chair-back slowly
turning—tonight you're a few years shy
the median age, at your back-wall table drinking
iced tea because you don't spend time with
the person you turn into after a frosted glass:
chardonnay, dark rum & tonic, you remember
her well, that girl, that woman, with great
compassion: her loneliness behind the amber
liquid disappeared, or seemed to, she got funny
and affectionate, softer, sexually daring but
not a femme fatale, always more honey
than darling, her courage long-gone by morning,
that terrible waking into a stranger's sheets.
You don't miss any of it. Headaches, longing
that's miles easier to bear when sober,
wishing a friend would come along and love you,
even though you're just getting older.
Some nights you need a road house, boisterous
laughter and warm air pouring through open
doors, the kind of place where your choice
is simple: well-done, bloody, or medium rare,
and no one gives a shit that you're by yourself,
writing in a notebook. Nobody turns to stare.
Copyright © 2014 Molly Fisk. This poem originally appeared in The Lascaux Review, 2014. Used with permission of the author.