13 November 2013

Gouge, Adze, Rasp, Hammer

So this is what it's like when love
leaves, and one is disappointed
that the body and mind continue to exist,

exacting payment from each other,
engaging in stale rituals of desire,
and it would seem the best use of one's time

is not to stand for hours outside
her darkened house, drenched and chilled,
blinking into the slanting rain.

So this is what it's like to have to
practice amiability and learn
to say the orchard looks grand this evening

as the sun slips behind scumbled clouds
and the pears, mellowed to a golden-green,
glow like flames among the boughs.

It is now one claims there is comfort
in the constancy of nature, in the wind's way
of snatching dogwood blossoms from their branches,

scattering them in the dirt, in the slug's
sure, slow arrival to nowhere.
It is now one makes a show of praise

for the lilac that strains so hard to win
attention to its sweet inscrutability,
when one admires instead the lowly

gouge, adze, rasp, hammer--
fire-forged, blunt-syllabled things,
unthought-of until a need exists:

a groove chiseled to a fixed width,
a roof sloped just so. It is now
one knows what it is to envy

the rivet, wrench, vise -- whatever
works unburdened by memory and sight,
while high above the damp fields

flocks of swallows roil and dip,
and streams churn, thick with leaping salmon,
and the bee advances on the rose.

Chris Forhan in New England Review

(The Poetry 180 Project)


In the airport bar, I tell my mother not to worry.
No one ever tripped and fell into the San Andreas
Fault. But as she dabs at her dry eyes, I remember
those old movies where the earth does open.

There's always one blonde entomologist, four
deceitful explorers, and a pilot who's good-looking
but not smart enough to take off his leather jacket
in the jungle.

Still, he and Dr. Cutie Bug are the only ones
who survive the spectacular quake because
they spent their time making plans to go back
to the Mid-West and live near his parents

while the others wanted to steal the gold and ivory
then move to Los Angeles where they would rarely
call their mothers and almost never fly home
and when they did for only a few days at a time.

Ron Koertge, Geography of the Forehead

(The Poetry 180 Project)

13 August 2013

Iris Chase Griffen

Richard's friends were even older than Richard, and the woman looked older than the man. She was wearing white mink, despite the spring weather. Her gown was white as well, a design inspired--she told us at some length--by ancient Greece, the Winged Victory of Samothrace to be precise. The pleats of this gown were bound around with gold cord under her breasts, and in a crisscross between them. I thought that if I had breasts that slack and droopy I'd never wear such a gown. The skin showing above the neckline was freckled and puckered, as were her arms. Her husband sat silently while she talked, his hands fisted together, his half-smile set in concrete; he looked wisely down at the tablecloth. So this is marriage, I thought: this shared tedium, this twitchiness, and those little powdery runnels forming to the sides of the nose.

Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin, p.243

07 June 2013

The Astronaut

Acacia Lasita

The first time the astronaut came for me
I was hidden in the ribcage of a whale
I swore I would eat only the salt
Grazed from the tips of the waves
If he would only let me stay

But he returned

The second time
My palms were open

The white fragments fell

My hands could not contain every shard
of every bone
in my body

I tried to collect every piece
I knew I could keep them safe
If I could just find them

The last time the astronaut came
I let his huge hands envelop me
I could have cried out

But I was just so tired

(this poem appears in the 2013 Walrus, the literary journal of Mills College)

24 May 2013

The Last Wolf

The last wolf hurried toward me
through the ruined city
and I heard his baying echoes
down the steep smashed warrens
of Montgomery Street and past
the ruby-crowned highrises
left standing
their lighted elevators useless

Passing the flicking red and green
of traffic signals
baying his way eastward
in the mystery of his wild loping gait
closer the sounds in the deadly night
through clutter and rubble of quiet blocks
I hear his voice ascending the hill
and at last his low whine as he came
floor by empty floor to the room
where I sat
in my narrow bed looking west, waiting
I heard him snuffle at the door and
I watched

He trotted across the floor
he laid his long gray muzzle
on the spare white spread
and his eyes burned yellow
his small dotted eyebrows quivered

Yes, I said.
I know what they have done.

Mary TallMountain, Light on a Tent Wall

(The Poetry 180 Project)

The Rider

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn't catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

from Fuel: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

(The Poetry 180 Project)